Of the Leveling of Gravel…..What’s with the Tissue Paper….and the Soap?

Greetings my friends and welcome to another edition of the Hobbit Hollow Construction Blog! I’m glad you stopped by.

Yes, my friends we got it back in gear this weekend for the first time in a long time! It was very satisfying I might add. We hit the ground running this weekend with a little help during the week from Ethan and his friend, Mike. They did the pre-leveling sequence for the gravel. This was a huge help for us Saturday.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what we did just a word or two on an unrelated topic. Soap. Yes, the good old Irish Spring, to be exact. Turns out I have been spending an inordinate amount of money on this product. Of course the logical question is why? I’ll tell you why. These sons of mine have some sort of cleanliness problem that’s why. The clincher is how I found out about it. Jude calls home after only a week back at school and tells his mother that he’s almost out of soap. I just happen to overhear this conversation and afterwords I ask my wife what’s going on with the soap situation? She said she sent him off to school with 2 eight packs of soap back in August. I mean I know he’s big but he has used enough soap to keep a whole herd of elephants clean. Then she tells me she bought an 8 pack of Irish Spring just three weeks ago for the three boys and there’s only one bar left. We are definitely going to have a family sit down with this one because the family soap expense is way off the charts. How did I not know about this? The Editor gives me some lame excuse about how they like being quote, unquote  “clean”. Okay these boys are going to have to go into their own pockets on this one. There’s no way I’m paying for that much soap! I mean this is ridiculous. (Jude must be really clean or else he’s handing out soap on the side.)

I kinda flipped out on that one. I’m gonna keep it at that and not get into a personal hygiene rant.

We’ll get to the toilet tissue later on.

Oh yeah, leveling the gravel, I almost forgot.

So, like I was saying we had a great day Saturday. It was cold though. I wanna say it was hanging around 6 degrees early on (That’s on the Fahrenheit scale people). So I wasn’t in a rush to get out into the cold. It actually turned really nice later on in the day. Like a balmy 21. I picked up the flat plate tamper Friday night on the way home from work. That was a score. The only problem was I couldn’t get it started because of the cold. (I took the air filter off and sprayed some starting fluid in it and it cranked right up 1-2-3) I didn’t need it till after lunch anyway so it all worked out fine. Well…I did get a little panicky for a moment.

Nobody cares about starting up the tamper Jim so just move on will ya?

Okay.

So the first order of business was to uncover the slab and have a look see and at how the big picture looks. Like I said Ethan and Mike did a good job. (Jude helped a bit way back a few weeks ago, as well.) The big picture is general leveling of the slab. They used the laser level to shoot the grade and I told them to try and get it within  .2 to .3 inches plus or minus.

Styrofoam removal Saturday morning.
Styrofoam removal Saturday morning.

Just for the record it has been pretty cold the last week or so. Below 20 at night and in the 20’s during the day for the most part. When we took the styrofoam off  none of the gravel was frozen. Actually there was water on the gravel side of the styrofoam and you could feel the warmth of the stone. Pretty cool. This is the whole superinsulation/thermal bridging concept at work. It was interesting because in the few areas where we weren’t able to put styrofoam down the gravel froze. So it’s going to be really important that we do a good job with the insulation and seal it properly.

So how did we fine tune the gravel? Like I said it’s important that the gravel bed is flat. What we did is pick out a couple of straight 2×4’s and use them as straight edges. We used the perimeter footing on the one side and the edge styrofoam as a gauge and used the laser level to set up another screed 12 feet in from the perimeter. Once you have these two points established you use the straightedge, moving it back and forth, to screed the gravel. Where there are low spots you add a shovel of gravel or two and where it’s high you take away a shovel or two. Here’s a picture of the straight edge to give you an idea .

Straight edge used for flatening the slab.
Straight edge used for flatening the slab.

As soon as we got started I realized we needed two teams working in two directions. (Myself working one way, Terence and Peter working another.) It’s tedious work but once you get into it, it’s not bad. I think we probably had to bring in about two to three more wheelbarrows of gravel to get it right. So that tells you what a good job the boys did doing the general leveling process. The couple of spots where the gravel froze weren’t bad. Most of them were low so we just had to put some gravel on top. There was one high spot and I had to break out the pick ax to chop the gravel down about a half an inch. Here are Terence and Peter going at it.

Terence and Peter fine tuning the gravel.
Terence and Peter fine tuning the gravel.

I’ve gotta work on my picture taking skills. I always seem to get a bad picture of Peter. Sorry, Pete.

So it took us about two hours to fine tune the gravel and then we broke for lunch. After lunch we started up the tamper and did one last pass on the whole gravel bed. Actually two passes one in each direction. I had Peter start this while Terence and I established the lower gravel level for the shower stalls. The shower areas are a bit different. I want to pitch the concrete there to the drain for one but I’m also not 100% sure how I’m going  to do the waterproofing detail there either yet. So I figured I’d hold the styrofoam 4 inches lower here to give me plenty of room to do what I have to do later on. I wanted to keep the depth of styrofoam the same throughout the slab so that’s why I held the gravel low at these points. Once the styrofoam is set at the two shower locations we have to “backfill” around the styrofoam to level it off. Hmmm. You’re a little lost aren’t you now. So’s the Editor. A picture’s a thousand words. Check it out.

Backfilling around the shower stall styrofoam.
Backfilling around the shower stall styrofoam.

Ethan showed up after lunch and gave us a hand as well. I had him and Terence backfill the styro while Peter was tamping the slab.

Ethan and Terence backfilling the shower stall styrofoam.
Ethan and Terence backfilling the shower stall styrofoam.

So once this is done I had Peter tamp the gravel they installed and then we were ready to put the rest of the field in place.

First 4 inch layer of styrofoam installed.
First 4 inch layer of styrofoam installed.

It’s really starting to look like something wouldn’t you say? The next step is to spray foam any gaps in the styrofoam and then put a vapor barrier over it. Once this is done we’ll seal the vapor barrier and then add another 6 inches of styrofoam. This will give us an R-value of 50 under the slab. Okay, so that doesn’t mean anything to you? For you folks in the United States 2×6 exterior walls on current house construction  yield an R-value of 19! Pretty dismal compared to 50!  And on top of that there’s the thermal bridging issue that reduces the R-value as well. Nobody likes to talk about all this though. But I digress.

So we are really close to finishing up the underslab insulation issues next weekend if the weather cooperates. That would really be a home run. Anyway I’m glad you all stopped by and I hope you are weathering the winter okay.

Just one other thing before I go. I get a call from my wife the other day and she asks me if I can stop by her mother’s house and bring some stuff in from her car. Okay…what am I gonna say, “No!”  Like I have a choice? So I head over there and she’s got a case of water bottles in the back seat of her car. She’s a little old lady whose got a bad shoulder that she complains about, so I bring the water in. I happen to notice something else in the car so I went back out and there’s a 12 pack of toilet tissue paper out there. I mean we are a family of six and I think we’ve only gotten the 12 pack one time in the last 20 years. So I bring the 12 pack inside and I ask her what’s up with the twelve pack? She starts yelling at me. Correction: talking extremely loud, about minding my own business. (For the record: to most humans my mother in laws talking would constitute yelling.) Anyway, I go to put this 12 pack in the pantry and look what I find!

Hording Scott tissue paper.
Hording Scott tissue paper.

She’s got a 12 pack already and three spares! You’ve got to be kidding me!

Must be one of those things that haunts Depression Era children or something right?

I guess if there is ever a run on toilet paper in town I know where to go.

See you next week!

Oh yeah, one more picture:

End of the day Saturday.
End of the day Saturday.

Take care!

Jim

2 thoughts on “Of the Leveling of Gravel…..What’s with the Tissue Paper….and the Soap?

  1. Well I guess I won’t run out of t.p.any time soon.So I guess I’ll start to buy soap for my darling boy”s since you seem to object to their use of it.All kidding aside the place looks good, and after all the work they do my boys need soap. love ya mother-in-law

    • If you run out of t.p. anytime soon I’m calling the Guinness Book of World Records. On top of that the boys need soap to clean themselves with not as a side dish for a hunk of super sod! Geez, gimmee a break already!

      Anyway, if we hit that super bowl box I’ll see you in Jamaica! Thanks for writing!

      Love always, Jim

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