Sunday, September 25, 2005

In the Trenches

Yesterday after the raising of Allan & Michelle's timberframe Jennifer and I stopped by our site and hung out for a while. I used the time to constructively play in the largest sand pit ever marking and digging the trenches for the drain lines and other pipes that will have to run beneath the slab.

It's quite amazing how much infrastructure goes into a house. The pictures above show trenches for for the following elements:
shower drain, toilet drain, utility sink drain, main waste line, kitchen drains, floor drain to holding tank and pipes to bring the electrical supply lines (DC and potential future grid AC) in.

Rain is Good (Special - This Weekend Only)

Usually you don't really wish for rain during a construction project*. But we've reached one of those few days during our construction project where rain actually is quite helpful.

*Unless of course you're building a rainwater collection system and have the roof hooked up to the cisterns. Then we'll want lots of rain to get the cisterns full for the winter ;-)

On Friday the crew from Clark Construction filled the floor of the lower level with sand to prepare for the pouring of the concrete slab next week. And the rain that we've gotten this weekend will help to pack the sand down (although it's been raining off and on for about 24 hours now and I'd be fine if it stopped now - it's getting too slippery on the clay around the house).

The picture to the left shows the lower level with the filled-in sand. The two lonely walls in the center are the support for the poured concrete ceiling (the cDeck) to leave an opening for the stairs. The concrete slab to the right is the support for the masonry stove. Left of the support walls you can see a shallow trench which is for the drain of the kitchen sink and dishwasher.

So the rain will do a good job of packing the fill-sand down for the pour of the concrete slab next week.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's pouring!

Concrete that is...

Well after our "community stacking" event on Sunday where Deb, Tom & Boom, Sangeetha & Chris, Mark & Alex and Bonita helped, the crew of Clark Construction finished the stacking of the lower level walls on Monday and Tuesday. So on Wednesday they were ready for the first big pour.

I took the day off and came in the morning to help get the penetrations ready that I had marked the previous evening. And at a quarter past twelve the pumper showed up - unfortunately not the nice guy we had for the footings on Thursday but a rather "different" individual (they couldn't get the nice guy again)...

Then, at 12:55 PM, the concrete trucks showed up (Tony had ordered them for 1 PM and from what I understand last week they were late showing up for the pouring of the footing). Tony created some motivation by letting us know that all the concrete trucks are lined up at the bottom of the hill... A few minutes later, while Lyndon Lee, the ICF form distributor from Mabel, Lyndon Clark and Paul Hynes were still laying hands on last minute preparations, Tony was pumping away starting in the 9" wall between the studio and the storage room. All walls were filled about half-way with the first pour.

After that, Lyndon hooked up his Vibrator backpack and together Lyndon and Tony worked the concrete - I think they looked like Ghostbuster chasing away the airbubble demons ;-). The Vibrator that Lyndon is holding helps the concrete to settle all the way done. Actually the scientific way to test whether the concrete is all the way down to the bottom is to take a short piece of 2x4 and bang it, carefully and with the flat side, against the wall. If it sounds hollow, there is no concrete in.

Radio Licht 'n Stein

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Our First (American) Giant Puffball (Riesenbovist)

Jennifer holding the puffball (click to view a larger image)
Last week Jennifer and I picked up some nice big mushroom heads at the Good Food store in Rochester and ate them on Sunday. Jennifer ground up the stems with some bread crumbs and parmesan and olive oil and garlic, then baked the heads in the oven for about 30-40 minutes with some nice cheese on top - yummy.

Eating a mushroom as a whole meal reminded me of my childhood where I used to find quite a few Giant Puffballs on a meadow near where we lived. The biggest one I found weighed about 10-12 pounds and had a circumference of almost 5' (1.43 meters) (that's a diameter of about 18 inches or 45 cm). So I was mentioning to Jennifer that I wish we could find some "Riesenbovist" here.

Next day when we went up to Licht 'n Stein I was mowing our little "yard" and on one of the paths, wouldn't you know it, I found a small to mid-sized puff ball!!!

Maybe I should wish for some money next time?? ;-)

We tried to slice it and sautee it in Olive oil last night, but it just soaked up all the oil and became all mushy - not very tasty. So tonight we'll try to batter it first, then fry it...

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More Blogging

What good is a diary if there are no entries?

Well, as our project has now officially moved in to the construction phase, I will try to take 10 minutes every day to summarize accomplishments, events, successes and challenges.

Enjoy the reading!

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's a High Way!

Yesterday, Labor Day, we arrived at Licht 'n Stein and were surprised to find Lyndon Clark and Paul Hynes "laboring" on our driveway!

They had made quite some progress since Friday and especially turned the lower part into quite a wide highway! It now looks much less scary than last week.

(The problem with this part of the driveway is that it is really narrow, the bank to the north is about 8-10 feet high and it drops of sharply to the other side, which would make it especially "interesting" if the road is icy and you're coming down... Also, most of this part of the driveway is almost completely shaded by the bank to the north...)

Over the weekend I had made a quick calculation on how much crushed rock they would need - Tony was saying that they'll put at least 6 inches at the bottom, where it is already pretty rocky and up to 12" in the middle part where it is very sandy and gets pretty muddy after a good rain. So I estimated an average of 9" for about 1,500 feet, 12 feet wide or about 13,500 cu.ft. or 500 cu. yd. On one website I found that there are about 2500 lbs in one cubic yard or rock, so that's about 625 (short) tons of rock...(562,500 kg))

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The Ground is Broken

On Labor Day afternoon we had our little informal groundbreaking ceremony. The building permit was approved by the Fillmore County Zoning Inspector Norman Craig and is currently for signature at the township.

Tony, one of the guys from Clark Construction, currently plans on excavating the site by the end of this week - that would be quite some progress.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

cDeck Forms and Heavy Machinery Arrived

Today our cDeck forms arrived (oops - don't actually have a picture).

The cDeck are basically T-shaped EPS (expanded polystyrene) forms with a thick vertical line that will form (pun intended) the basis of the floor between the basement and the main floor. The forms are about two feet wide and I guess 10 inches high. The vertical "line" of the T is about a foot or so wide. The forms are placed "horizontal bar of the T" down and are shored from below. Then, concrete is poured, forming beams between the foot-wide EPS beams. The concrete then extends another 4" above the forms.

The reasons we went with a cDeck rather than a traditional framed floor are two-fold: primarily we wanted to get a good thermal mass for our passive solar design as well as our masonry stove heating. The 4" concrete floor (and up to 12" where the beams are) will provide a nice thermal mass that will heat up either through the sun or when the masonry stove is on and will provide a nice, even-tempered and slow-changing environment. The mass should also help with keeping the house cool well into the summer. (In the summer months the overhang on the south side will prevent the sun from entering the living room and heating up the mass).
(See our floorplans for more detail (you need to be logged in to our photo gallery for the link to work - ask us for userid and password))

Today also the bulldozer and loader/backhoe arrived for the driveway construction. Our current driveway is somewhat narrow in some places, pretty muddy for the most part, and it has pretty poor water management. So the crew from Clark Construction is going to make it wider, put in about five smaller culverts, dig out a ditch along the north side, grade it and fill it up with 6-12 inches of crushed rock (1-3/4"). That should give us a nice 12-foot driveway.

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