Saturday, January 23, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The day after the cement was poured we went out to look at the new cement walls. Surprise!
They looked the same as they did yesterday. I kept thinking, "I can hardly wait until the forms come off so I can see how it looks.....oh wait...these forms don't come off."
What did come off was the braces and the scaffold supports. The scaffold boards are 2x12x14 (more or less) and wet. Do the math:
Really wide board x really long board x really wet boards ./.two guys working in the rain
= a slugfest of ugly hard work.
It's that new math. Every board and every brace had to be hauled out that opening and down the wet goopy road that had by then turned into a clay soup that would suck the shoes off a mule.
First of all, let me say that this was the day after the terrible earthquake in Haiti. I was not able to look at this cement in the same way that I had a week ago. Every piece that I picked up made me mindful that the work I was doing was without desperation, without despair or grief. I had gloves, tools, plenty to eat and a safe home. Each piece of cement that seemed too heavy was prayerfully placed in the back of the gator or in the bucket of the tractor.
We made countless trips back and forth through the field with load after load
of cement.
I picked up the little pieces, Ed picked up the heavy ones. The gator has a dump bed on it, and that thing is really a work horse. Once we got the pieces back up to the job site, we
started laying them down in the mud.

It's sort of like making a giant m0saic. Try to get the pieces to fit together. Only, you'd better put them down in the right place the first time, cause you don't want to have to pick them up and move them. The area right by the basement access door is where the cement guy dumped the excess cement, so we had it made there.

Since I'm a wimp, I wasn't able to haul much over the size of a laptop or a basketball, so the next day Ed had Taylor come down to help him. Now, we started to see some progress! Once the base of old cement is down, we can fill it with crushed rock and make a decent work surface.

The next sequence of events (more or less) will be to put in the drain around the perimeter of the building, put in the floor joists, pour the basement floor, and backfill the basement walls around the outside. But (and isn't there always at least one of those?) before that can happen, the vapor barrier needs to go up. This will be on the exterior of the basement wall, where the backfilling will occur.
Greg Prestegard, our supplier for the ICFs and the vapor barrier told Ed to be sure to put the vapor barrier up on a dry day. OK, but we get 100" of rain a year, so we won't have really dry-dry days until...well..July.
"Oh," he says, "and once you peel the paper off the back, do NOT let the sticky side touch itself, or you're done." Yeek.
Around here, if there is no rain actually falling and making dots in existing puddles, it counts for a dry day, so yesterday, Ed and Tyler primed the ICFs and started hanging it. Tyler cut the drops and lined them up ready to go.

There was a bit of a learning curve...ok, so it was a learning roller coaster because if you goof and let the sticky side lap over and touch another part of the sticky side, it's stuck like bubblegum in a 4 year old's hair.
Here's how it went: Ed took a roll, peeled the paper backing off about 15", hung over the edge from the inside, leaned over and positioned the drop. Tyler, in the trench on the outside, made sure it was lined up, and started peeling the paper in an even pull, and sticking it down. The trick is to keep it straight and not pull off too much backing at any time. Then once it's almost to the bottom, it has to go over the step of the foundation. Tyler brought the paper backing to the front, rolled it up and off, and pushed it in place.
Meanwhile the clouds were getting thicker and it was beginning to mist. This was not good.
By 2:30, Ed decided it was getting too wet, and they called it quits. We packed the cut and rolled drops in out of the wet, and went inside to dry off. Ed said "My worst nightmare is that all that work, and money, will slide off and be in a soggy pile in the mud when we get up tomorrow."
This morning we got up and it could have been better, it also could have been worse. The ladder they left leaning against the wall kept the whole thing from peeling off. Ed and I managed to get it back up and he tacked it in place with wood strips and screws. This afternoon is supposed to be sunny so we'll try to get up the rest.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let's Cement The Deal

Yesterday, the union stewards checked out the scaffolding before the big pour. Gotta make sure everything is shipshape and up to code. After bribing them both with a little piece of ham, they signed off the job.

Today we pour the basement walls. It's Washington, so it's raining. Since it's not freezing rain, it's not a 5" storm, and there are no gale-force winds, the pour will happen.
Ed placed some knock-out tubes through the ICFs for the sewer lines, water, power,phone and other utilities. The tubes are an inch larger than the conduit he will use. Once the cement is set, he'll knock out the tube (hence the name), which will leave a place to put his conduit or pipe through, then seal any remaining space with canned foam sealant. No struggling with jamming a pipe through a tight fit.

It was supposed to be relatively dry this morning with increasing rain in the afternoon, so Ed scheduled the pour for 8:00 a.m. We awoke to the sound of the rain dripping off the roof and knew things would be a bit damp. Everyone showed up on time, and the job was on.

It's sort of like that old song,"The kneebone is connected to the thighbone". The concrete mixer hooks to the pumper, which pushes the mix through the boom, and into the forms. Tom-the-Pumper, Greg-The-ICF Guy, Ed and Tyler and Tayler (not twins) from down the road scrambled
around like squirrels.

There is nothing more fun than a boy, some really messy mud, and a giant power tool. Since Ed was the one with the checkbook, he got to play with the biggest toy. He had the business end of that boom, and shot the wet concrete.
It's a little tricky. You have to be sure the concrete stays in the form and your feet stay on the scaffolding, that you don't leave any voids in the wall. By 10:30 all 45 yards were busy making a basement.

The pumper truck was still cleaning up in the driveway and Ed, Taylor and Tyler were going around the perimeter placing the rim joists and foundation bolts. Ed had pre-drilled these, lined them with the foam weather seal, and placed the j-bolts in the board. After that it was a matter
of turning them over onto the top of the forms, making sure they were in the proper place and seating the bolts.

Ed checked the walls for level and square, made some adjustments and called it good.