Merry Christmas to all from your friends at Hobbit Hollow! I hope if you celebrate Christmas you had a great one. Santa always seems to rise to the occasion. We had a great day. Didn’t really have the time, or energy for that matter, to work at the house. Just wanted to enjoy the holiday with my family and forget about everything else for a few days. It was good for the soul….and we’ll get to everything else sooner or later.
Went over to my mother-in-laws Christmas Eve. She cooks up the big seven fishes Italian thing for the eve. She can’t count though. I think it was eleven or twelve fishes….but really, who’s counting? It was really, really good. If you’re into Italian food that is. She even put out a little super sod for me too! Gotta love that super sod…(nothing like chewing on something for a half an hour and raising your cholesterol level by 50 points.)
So we got home late on the Eve and sent the kids up to bed with the reprimand, “You know Santa’s not going to come if you all don’t go to sleep!”So everyone complied and Santa (aka: the Editor) and I started bringing the presents upstairs and putting them under the tree. Then wisenhymer son number three comes out of his bedroom and starts walking down the stairs!!! I stop him at the stairs, “What are you doing?????” It’s not a surprise if you see the pile before everything is in it’s proper place. I mean Santa has a pretty cool way of setting the whole thing up. Terence starts saying he knows what we’re doing. “I know what you guys are doing! And I need to get something downstairs!” That’s not the point son…capece? It’s all about principle at this point. Don’t ruin it. I sent him back upstairs. Geez. Can’t we have a little old Saint Nicholas fun???
The funny thing is, we collapsed exhausted into bed when we were all finished with the Santa duties. I said: Oh, I guess I should tell Terence he can go downstairs now.” The Editor said: “He’ll figure it out on his own when he hears it’s all quiet.” Poor guy. He broke his finger during football and he had been heading downstairs to get tape to bandage up his splint. Probably spent an extra hour upstairs waiting to bandage that finger!
Anyway, we had a wonderful Christmas morning opening gifts and spending time together. One of the best Christmases ever for me. I hope you all were able to enjoy friends and family as well. It’s not always as easy as it should be.
Have a wonderful New Years Eve and go easy on that spiked egg nog!
Best wishes for a wonderful and fruitful new year to all!!!
I think our cat is related to the Romans somehow. I guess over the years people have brought cats and pets from all over the world with them to their new homes in foreign lands. Our cat Tuco is definitely related to the Romans somehow.(Tuco…a strange name for a cat you say? ….Tuco was named after the ugly guy from the movie “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” starring Clint Eastwood. One of my all time favorite movies.) You remember the Romans and who they were at the height of their prominence back in the day. I hope your high school history senses are tingling. Anyhoo we all know the Romans got a little to full of themselves at one point and would have these huge parties where they would just eat and eat and eat and eat. And when they could not eat anymore they would ….well…you know what they would do. This is what our cat does every day. It’s fun having pets isn’t it? This cat is going to drive me to drink.
Do Hobbits have pets?
Well back to building a Hobbit house. I wasn’t able to do any work this weekend. For good reasons of course. My son Terence got confirmed in the church this Saturday. We were pretty busy all morning getting ready. After confirmation ( which was a really wonderful ceremony) we had my mother and that battle ax of a mother in law of mine over to the house for lunch. Jude had a football game after that and then we had a little dinner get together after the game with family. It was fun.I don’t have Columbus day off either like I usually have so that was a bust. Everybody at work was depressed when we found out we had to work Monday. Including yours truly.
So fortunately I had a comment from a woman named Sally who would like to see what the Hobbit house floor plans are like. So I thought that this would be a good weekend to do something a little different. Check it out.
Hmmm. Not really sure how in depth I should go. To begin with this is what we call an architectural floor plan. It is a cut away section of the floor showing the rooms and their wall locations etcetera…from a bird’s eye view. Just the basic rundown. Living and dining rooms are in the front of the house, galley kitchen to the right. Through the kitchen we come to a hallway with a desk next to the kitchen. Walking from the desk down the hall we have our mechanical room with a common bath next to it. (For visiting Hobbits) The back of the house has two bedrooms one with its own bath and one which uses the common bath outside its door. The architect who did this drawing mislabeled the center hall. ( I did all of the original drawings and in order for them to sign off on them they wanted to redo them with their CAD program) Anyway that label is supposed to say circular hallway not center hall. We all know that Hobbits love their circular halls and I really want to put one in here. If you look at the floor plan you can see that the circular hall seems to be taking up quite a bit of space. And it does. You have to keep in mind in order to get the right feel to the hallway you have to use quite a large radius to make a hallway this size. Although it’s not in stone yet I figured I’m going to need a hallway with a diameter of at least 8 feet in order to get the right height and feel I want for this house. So obviously one of the drawbacks to this is that we lose valuble floor space for either closets or the kitchen in this particular design. Just so you know a typical hallway is about 3 feet wide.
A few other things to note. The rectangles with the triangles in them are skylights. There is one in the living room, kitchen, and the back hallway. I wanted the interior of the house to be fairly bright with natural light. I’m not sure these are the final locations. I might add one over the desk area. I know quite a few people have seen the movie “The Hobbit” and will undoubtedly say that Bag End (The hobbits home in the movie) has no skylights and so on. If only I had an unlimited budget to work with. But alas I do not. Therefore we must make a few adjustments to make a real Hobbit house work for big folk. A lot of the things that are in the movies are done with especial effects and the like. We all know this. So some of the aspects we really like in Bilbo’s house aren’t really do-able or practical for that matter. Like I said all of the circular hallways in the movie house were unbelieveable but there was no real practical way for me to add another circular hallway.
Another matter of practicality are the windows of a Hobbit house. I know…..Hobbit houses have round windows. The only problem with round windows is you have to be Bill Gates to afford them,,,,and I’m not Bill Gates I’m Hobbit Hollow Jim. But really the round window thing looks good in the movies but as far as letting light into a house and so on they really aren’t what you are looking for. I’m still not one hundred percent sure what I’m going to do with the windows. I drew about 8 million sketches to come up with something that would look good and still be kind of Hobbitesque. This next picture is an elevation view of the Hobbit house. It kind of gives you an idea of where we are going. Check it out.
I actually have changed this drawing a couple of times since I originally drew it but this is the nuts and bolts of where we are heading. I didn’t think the door looked right. I have a rough sketch of what I’m going to do. I actually made the door larger and changed the curvature of the windows. And I don’t think the circular window is going to work either. (Sorry round window fans.) The other problem from a passive house standpoint is that passive house windows are really expensive to begin with so I’m a little nervous about pricing out arched windows that are passive house certified. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Well I hope this post was informative at the very least. The Jets just lost and I think Tuco threw up again. I gotta go.
Interesting. Yes? Let’s face it home maintenance is a drag. I’ve never really been a good home maintenace guy. That being said I’m not going to go on a rant about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. On the contrary, I don’t want to do any maintenance at all. (I tried reading that book but really struggled with it. I guess I’m never going to be a Zen Buddist.)
So now that you know that I’m not such a great maintenance guy let’s get back to maintenance and Hobbit Houses. This topic all came to me when my master bath toilet sprang a leak last Monday. It’s summertime and sometimes your toilet sweats and me being a low maintenance kind of guy I happened to notice that this toilet seemed to be sweating quite a bit this summer. (Just so you know this particular toilet never really sweated in previous summers.) Ok so the toilet is sweating away. Then on Monday I noticed a small puddle on the floor next to the toilet.( Maintenance man senses are tingling.) I look under the toilet and see a stream of water coming out from the bolt that attaches the bowl to the tank. I’ve never seen a toilet leak from this spot before but here we go. Anyway the short version is it took me till Sunday to get around to fixing it. It’s a long story but lets just say there were complications getting the bolts out etcetera and some of my plumbing tools were broken.(The little hacksaw blade with the plastic handle). One day after work I tried fixing it but began to sweat profusely so I canceled and had butter pecan ice cream with whipped cream and two cherries.(With a little extra cherry juice on top). So I guess you’re wondering what this all means?
Well one of the aspects of this particular Hobbit house is that it will be a relatively low maintenance home. The structure is reinforced concrete. No rotting or deterioration. It should last about 1000 years. The roof is going to be vegetation. Just let whatever you plant grow and grow. No reroofing to worry about or gutters to clean. The small amout of siding that exists will be sheltered by the roof eaves and is only one story high.If you do want to repaint you’ll only need a step ladder. This particular Hobbit house will also have stone veneer siding as well which is totally maintenance free. Another huge aspect of this Hobbit house is that it will not have a conventional boiler or air duct system. The Passive house aspect of the home (Superinsulated and air tight) eliminates the need for a large conventional type boiler. No oil deliveries and yearly maintenance checkups on your boiler. All we are going to put into this house is what they call a ductless minisplit heat pump. This will provide your winter heat and your summer air conditioning. Where’s the hammock?…Lets take a nap!
The other reason I was thinking about maintanence was the stripping of the concrete forms which we started in earnest this Labor Day Weekend. I mean when you see these walls it’s just like a thing of beauty. Who has 16 inch thick concrete walls for their home? Its gonna take an M-1 Abrahms tank to knock this thing down. When I see concrete like this- it’s just like we’re never going to have to worry about this. Ever.
So I got started Saturday around 8 AM. Stripping is pretty simple. Begin where you finished, end where you began. More or less anyway. It can get a little tricky depending on the complexity of the formwork. But this was pretty straight forward. First order of business was to strip the top waler off and any form ties that were above the scaffolding. After that I took down the 2×4 protection and the planking. Here’s a picture.
I don’t know how it was over the weekend in your neck of the woods but over in New York it was disgustingly humid. I mean all you had to do was start breathing and you were sweating like a pig. Thank goodness I put in good drainage around the perimeter of the site. With the amount I sweated I think I would have washed most houses right off their foundations.
Forget about P90X, the Cleanz, Weight Watchers or whatever else you’ve been doing to lose weight. And totally forget about the gym.Stairmasters, treadmills,free weights. Just come to the Hobbit house and help me strip symmons forms and you’ll have the workout of a lifetime. Symmons forms weigh in at about 90 pounds. Move those suckers around all day and that is one hell of a workout. I was a mere shell of a man by the time I finished on Monday.
It is fun to see what is behind the forms though. I was especially looking forward to seeing how the retaining walls came out. If you remember we had some trouble getting the concrete to flow into this area during the pour. I was really happy with the way it came out. Check it out.
You have to look really close to see the joint where we poured the two lifts of concrete. The boys did a really good job.
One of the things I was worried about was air pockets at the top of the form here at this particular location. You might not think that air would create a void in the concrete but it does all the time. That’s one of the reasons you need a good vibrator man on a concrete job. But at this location it was hard to get the vibrator underneath the top form. So I drilled 5/8″ air holes 16 inches on center into the form to let the air out as the concrete filled up the form. I don’t know if you can see it but there are only very small air pockets in the topface of the retaining wall. Check it out.
If you look closely at the above picture you will see an outline of a little rectangle. I cut out that rectangle in the form to allow the vibrator to go into the form on the first lift of concrete. Once the concrete filled up to that opening we stopped and I screwed the little plywood block back in place. Hmmmm…smarter than the average concrete guy wouldn’t you say! The skewbacks on the edges were a nice touch too.
Ok I did forget one thing. I forgot to check all of the locations where I had the 4 inch styrofoam for our thermal break. I was supposed to tell the guys while we were pouring to put a little concrete on each side of the styrofoam. This will equalize the pressure on the styrofoam so we don’t have a blowout. I actually put a form tie 6 inches from the bottom to prevent this from being an issue but I forgot one corner. Look what happened.
We got lucky here. The styrofoam didn’t break so our thermal barrier is still intact.Whew! It just goes to show you how important the little things are in a concrete pour. Oh yeah check out how the electrical boxes came out. This was sweet.
Jude had a football scrimmage Saturday and Terence was at a friends so I didn’t have any help. I asked Jude if anyone might want to work for two hours on Sunday popping pins out. He got a hold of RJ and they both came over Sunday at 11. It was great.There are literally thousands of pins that have to come out and it is time consuming and hard work to boot. You have to remember all the pins are now in tension after the concrete has been poured so you really have to bang the pins hard to get them out. Here’s a picture of them working away.
We got a lot done Sunday.Here’s a picture of the Northern retaining wall before I stripped off the top form. It kind of gives you a better idea of what we did at this location.
So the big picture this weekend was to try and get all the wall panels off and stacked. This way next Saturday we could load out the truck and get all these forms off the site and move onto phase 7 b of the project. I knew that was a tall order so I decided to just try and get the panels off. I figured if I did that I could probably stop by after work and stack panels for a half hour to 45 minutes a night. This way we would be ready for Saturday trucking.
I employed Jude and Terence Monday for about an hour popping pins and that was the trick. We’re all ready for next weekend….well almost.Here are a few pictures with all the forms off.
I’m sick of looking at these forms though. I can’t wait to get rid of them. Which brings me to another conundrum. Who’s going to help me put these panels on the truck? Jude and all his football player friends start playing next Saturday. Lightweights need not apply. This is heavy work so I just can’t use anyone. We’ll have to scour the Shire for some help. I’m sure we’ll find some. Hobbits are quite strong actually and are always up for a good days work as long as they’re well fed.
“It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”-Bilbo Baggins. The concrete business is a dangerous business…I hope I’m being swept in the right direction.
I met the building inspector Thursday afternoon at 2:15. I had to leave work early but this was the latest appointment I could get with him. It wasn’t too bad work wise because we had gotten rained out around 10:00AM so I really didn’t have to be there for anything special. I got up to the site around 2 and had a bunch of things I needed to finish for the pour anyway so I got set up while I was waiting for the inspector.
The inspector arrived promptly at 2:15 and proceeded to walk to the edge of the site. He turned and looks at me and says, “It looks like you know what you’re doing, pour away.” That was music to my ears. The final step before pouring is in place.I also asked him about the under slab plumbing. Did it really need to be cast iron pipe under the slab? He said no and that I must have gotten an old checklist from the building department. More music to my ears. That would have been such a pain to take on a cast iron job. At least for me it would have been. If you make a mistake with PVC you just cut it out and reglue a new piece on.
Once the building inspector left I really got into it. I started finishing off the little things I needed to do before this Saturday’s pour.I called the concrete plant and set up concrete for 8AM Saturday and called the pump company and set them up for 7:30. It takes about a half hour to prep the pump before concrete arrives.
One of the things that I really wanted to do was lock up this area where there is a step in the footing. I used #9 wire at the top of the footing and through the footing about 9 inches off the bottom. I put 3X4 stongbacks on either side of the forms and wrapped these with the #9wire. Once this is done you take your handy dandy lineman pliers and twist the #9 wire to tighten it up. Here’s a picture.
The other thing I did Tuesday after work was pin the rock where it’s exposed to the footing. I didn’t have my camera that day but basically what you do is take a Hilti drill with a 3/4 inch bit on it and drill 8 inches into the rock. Once the hole is drilled you take a vacuum blower and blow any dust that is in the hole out. I brought a tube of Hilti HY150 epoxy with me from work and using the dispenser for it you squirt the epoxy into the drilled hole and insert a #5 bar. On a warm day the stuff sets up in less than a half hour. (You can use non-shrink grout in lieu of epoxy.The epoxy is a snap though) It was raining when I did this so I just did one hole at a time. I also epoxied some 1/2 inch coil rod in place as well. I used the coil rod to help brace a couple of the forms for safety reasons.Here’s a picture.
By the end of the evening on Thursday I was pretty much ready for a Saturday pour. I had about two hours of work left to finish things up which I was planning to do Friday night or early on Saturday.
Then something happened on Friday that was most unexpected…and also quite unusual. We lost power to the placeing boom at work while we were pouring.This is a placing boom.
We actually lost power to the placing boom right before we started to prepour the columns on this job. As soon as I heard that I called the plant and told them to stop shipping concrete until they hear back from me. That part was fine. They had only shipped the grout truck that’s used to prime the pump and two ten yarders of 5950 psi concrete aka 5950 (pronounced fiftyninefifty in the business if you want to sound like you know what your talking about.) The electrician foreman Tony was working on it already so that was great and Johnny aka Johnnie Chiz, aka Chisel,aka Super Chiz was with him monitoring the situation. There was an electrical connection on the 15th floor that had gotten “fried” because water had run down into the fitting during the rain storm the day before. There was a slightly heated discussion about whose fault it was for not leaving a rain loop in the line but we were able to get past that. It took about twenty minutes to fix it and we were back in business and started to pump the concrete up the building. I called the plant back and released the balance of the concrete for the day which was only seventy yards. I also reminded them to put retarder in the last truck because it takes a while to clean out the line once you’re done pouring.( Retarder in a concrete mix slows the set time of the concrete once it is mixed. We use this in the summer all the time.)
Placing Boom 101:
For the uninitiated the concrete goes into a hopper in the street and gets pumped into a 5 inch riser pipe that goes straight up the building into the placing boom turret and into the placing boom itself. When you finish pouring you put a round sponge into the tip of the placing boom and blow it back down the riser pipe with compressed air into a box in the street. This cleans out the pipe for the next pour and you wind up with a box full of concrete that gets thrown out the next day.
What happens to the placing boom if the concrete starts to get hard? That’s when trouble really begins.
And things cease to be fun.
This is the short version: We lost power to the pump when we were almost done pouring 60 yards. The electrician was on it right away. He was on the deck. I met him on the 13th floor.”I found the problem and it will be fixed in ten minutes.” OK. You should have power. We still don’t have power. ..Let me try something else. It’ll take 5 minutes. I call Johnny Boo and tell him we have to get ready to move fast if this doesn’t work because the concrete is going to start to set up in the line.The next thing Tony the electrician tried didn’t work either. The placing boom can’t move we are totally screwed now. I waited too long to make a move. So much went on in the next half an hour I could write a book on it. (I keep forgetting that this is the short version.) When we went to blow back the line they couldn’t switch the diverter valve over.( The diverter valve is used for the blowback so the concrete goes into the box I mentioned before.) I broke open the line in the street before the diverter valve and the concrete started to come out of the line like 5 inch diameter sausages two to three feet long.(It really did look like sausage albeit concrete sausage) The concrete really started to pile up. I thought we were going to be a able to clear the line. At that moment I thought we were going to be fine.
Why didn’t the sponge ball come through at the bottom? Because the concrete in the boom never moved. The concrete that I had gotten in the street was all from the 22 stories of concrete in the riser pipe(It was a lot of concrete). Gravity had forced it all down the line. The last position of the boom was completly horizontal. The worst possible position. We lost the boom. We were doomed. I couldn’t believe it. We were done, finished, game over. What a mess. I called and cancelled the footing pour for the Hobbit House for Saturday. To say I was upset is an understatement…so were my wife and kids.
Saturday was spent taking the boom down to the street replacing all the lines and then reinstalling the boom. It took six hours. There were a couple of gliches during the day but we got it to work and everything seems to be OK. Here are some pictures.
Well, we are ready to rock and roll for next weekend. Hopefully the weather will cooperate! (And my day job will go a little more smoothly!) Enjoy your week!
Most of you have seen “The Hobbit.” Remember the three trolls who stole the ponies? If you do, then you’ll understand this a bit better. If you haven’t seen the movie, imagine the ugliest guy you’ve ever seen and make him about 12 foot tall and 900 pounds. With bad manners as well…and bad breath too.
Bilbo’s trolls arrived today. They put me in a sack, tied it to a tree and then proceeded to use it as a human punching bag. This went on for approximately 8 hours. That didn’t really happen but that’s what I felt like after tying rebar all day Saturday. Man am I beat up. I’m just not used to that type of work. I crawled home and took two ibuprofen. I didn’t finish but I’m getting closer.
Ethan helped me out today. Actually quite a bit. He cleaned up and spent about 2 hours cutting the odds and ends rebar I needed. He also cut up this I beam that I forgot to get rid of when we demolished the original house. We’re going to take that and any left over rebar scraps to the scrap recycling center up in Wingdale. Hopefully we’ll get a few bucks for the stuff. Here’s a better picture of Ethan using the demo saw.
We got a visit from our first tropical storm of the year. Andrea raced up the East coast this week. We took some heavy rain Friday into Saturday morning. By the time I got started it had all cleared out. Thank goodness. Earlier in the week it was predicted that it would rain all day Saturday into Sunday, and I almost started to cry. The strean and waterfall were really raging. I got to thinking about water wheels and hydroelectric turbines. The site here isn’t well suited for solar power but maybe hydro power will work. It would be pretty cool to generate your own electricity. I mean look at this waterfall. There has got to be a way to get power out of something like this.
I talked to Brian and Tim (aka “The Flash”) about fixing the wall rebar so it stays in place better.These guys are the wire lather foremen for the company I work for. They made up some U’s to spread the top of the vertical rebars. It worked really well. It helped spread the vertical rebars the proper distance apart. This way when we go to stand up the verticals for the walls later on everything is in the right place. I put them about 8 foot on center. Here’s a picture.
I was by myself all morning and one of the things I had to do was tighten the banding wire around the East footing form. Like I said this stuff when it’s tensioned is super strong. This picture shows the banding wire biting into the footing form.
I have about 4 hours of rebar work to do. I’m hoping to get it done Sunday. Even if I get done, I still have to come back Monday to pin and epoxy some rebar into the rock on the Northeast corner before I can call for an inspection. I forgot the Hilti drill at work on Friday. Would you believe I brought that Hilti drill home the last three weekends in a row and never used it? Oh well.
Sunday: My wife is so sick. She has some sort of 24 hour bug that she thinks she got at work. Everyone else is fine though. I hope she gets better soon. I miss her and the happiness she brings into the house. I wish I could do something for her. I thought she would be feeling better by noon on Sunday but she really doesn’t seem to be much better.
I went over to the house early today. 5am. I slept on the couch so my wife would have the bed to herself while she was sick. When I woke up I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep so I just figured I would go to the house and finish the rebar up, which I did.
What I had to do was install the rebar for the retaining walls at the corners of the Hobbit house.The one corner was a little tricky. It also encompasses a retaining wall for a set of stairs. The picture is a bit confusing but the stairs are going to go up the side of the house to a small side yard at the roof level. I think I’m going to put a grill up there someday. There’s quite a nice view of the front yard as well. See if you get it.
For those of you who are familiar with commercial construction you might have wondered why I was using such heavy rebar. The drawings for this design pretty much call for all #5 rebars in the footing mat as well as the verticals. I used #8s because I got them for free. There was a mistake on the job I was on and all the #8 rebar had to get replaced with epoxy coated #8s. Tons and tons of rebar had to get taken out. What we could reuse we did but all the Z-bar #8s were going to get thrown out so I took them. I had Ethan cut them up for straights and L-bars. Believe it or not the Z-bars actually worked perfectly for the step footing rebar detail.
Here’s the site at the end of the day Sunday.
I’m hoping I can leave work a little early on Monday. I really need to take care of the rock drilling detail before I can call for an inspection.The traffic from Queens is horrific but last Monday wasn’t so bad. If I do the drilling maybe I’ll add it to this post. Next weekend I would really like to pour this foundation. I need to schedule a concrete pump and concrete delivery for next Saturday. I have to set that up by mid week if I’m going to do it.
My editor is sick in bed so we’ll have to chaulk up any mispelled words or run on sentences in my column this week to me. I love my editor…get well soon!
Memorial Day weekend 2012: Saturday morning 3AM. It’s raining so hard I think the skylight in my bathroom is going to implode. Here we go again,. Best laid plans of mice and men, right? I thought I was going to hit a homerun over here this weekend but I’m getting the feeling that’s not going to happen. I went back to bed. I actually fell back to sleep so Saturday wasn’t so bad after all. I did go over to the house late Saturday with my son Ethan. He cut some rebar up for the footings for about an hour while I did some miscellaneous stuff. It was productive.
The water was pouring into the site. The footing drain is working like a charm though. You would never know that it rained like over an inch here.
Best part of Saturday: We all went to see “Star Trek:Into the Darkness”. It was great. Everyone in my family liked it. We all highly recommend it. You gotta love Spock.
I’m supposed to be building a Hobbit house. Ok, so Saturday was a bust. How did we do Sunday–> much better. I started the day insulating the footing forms. I’ve never insulated footings before so I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. I just put a general note on the drawings about insulating the footings. I thought that if I got a little too detailed it might get a little to confusing. Like I said, I didn’t even know how I was going to do it so why bother. Experience has taught me over the years that once you start, usually a good idea becomes apparent or somebody comes up with a good way of doing it. Why the heck are we insulating the footings to begin with? That’s a good question.
The dwarves of the first age began experimenting with footing insulation and eventually passed their knowledge of footing form insulation on to the Hobbits. So that’s why I decided to do it. Pretty simple.
Behind door number three we find the real answer to this question. This is one of the main facets for passive house compliance. No thermal bridging. If the footings are not insulated they could create a huge thermal bridge into the house. The short version: This would allow the warmth of the building to pass through the footing and into the cooler soil during the winter months. The same holds true for the slab. That will be insulated as well. What we are trying to create here is a huge thermos. Whatever is in the thermos be it hot or cold will have no egress to escape or be influenced by the temperature outside of the thermos. Another positive of footing insulation is it prevents condensation from forming on the walls. Just like a cold drink on a hot summer day water condenses on the outside surface of your glass where the cold glass and warm air meet. The same holds true for your basement. That’s one of the reasons why people have moisture issues in their basements.
So back to Sunday. How do I begin? The Hobbit house we are building is basically two long parallel walls that are supporting a concrete arch. So it’s important that the footings for these walls are insulated. This is where I began; keeping an eye on the thermal envelope of the structure is critical. Here is a picture of where I started. Notice the string line. That line represents the outside edge of the slab. I need to have my insulation on the outside of that line. (Just so you know I transferred the batter board lines to the footings…it makes things easier). It’s hard to see from this angle but the line is right over the inside edge of the foam.
There really is so much to talk about and I know I’m going to leave something out. There are two different types of insulation that we are using right now. The insulation that is directly under the footings is 60 psi (pounds per square inch) extruded polystyrene or XPS insulation. This is critical because the weight of the house is going to be bearing on this insulation. If you put the 25 psi insulation in there it might crush which would lead to settlement issuses. 60 psi translates into 8640 pounds per square foot of footing. I own a Toyota Corolla. It weighs about 2700 pounds. So just for perspective you can park three Toyota Corollas on every square foot of this footing and the insulation will not crush. Impressive…most impressive. (Say it the way Darth Vader said it in the Empire Strikes Back and you’ll get my meaning.) The other insulation is 25 psi XPS which I used on the sides of the footing. Here there is really no strucural issue it is solely thermal.
Once I had the tricky parts done the hired help arrived and we went into production mode. Sides first then the bottoms.
The next step (which I’m not sure was entirely necessary) was to tape the seams of the insulation. At the very least this keeps the individual pieces together and hopefully keeps moisture out if I complete the rest of it properly. I don’t know if any passive house people are out there but some feed back would be nice (and educational as well). It was pretty windy out on Sunday and boy is this tape sticky. Once Georgia and Terence got going though they motored through it.
Just a quick note on footings. I don’t know if you’ll be able to see this from the picture I took. The next picture is of a step in the footing. This occurs when there is an elevation change in the path of the footing. When I was digging the footing on the East side I hit solid rock. That footing is about 16 inches higher than the footing on the west side. To connect the footings I had to step it down from east to west. I’ll try and take a better picture later on.
When we lock up the footings prior to the pour this will be a critical location. This has blowout potential written all over it. We will pour it a certain way when we make the pour.
Monday was my wonderful wife’s birthday. I did a small amount of work in the morning with Ethan and then spent the rest of the day with my lovely wife and family. Grilled for the first time for dinner. Burgers were excellent. Happy birthday Jo! …Love, Jim.
Welcome back. I hope all the free folk of Middle Earth are doing well. It sure seems like a long time since my last post. At least for me it does. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in the United States and we had two birthdays as well last weekend. My son Jude on Friday and Terence on Monday. So it was quite busy here last weekend and I didn’t really have a lot of time to spend on writing a post.(It really does take me a long time) Oh yeah, I almost forgot,we also had my wife’s family over for Sunday brunch. About 16 of us altogether. I cooked the eggs and bacon. I thought two pounds of bacon would be more then enough. I was wrong. Three pounds would have been more like it. I could not believe how much bacon these damn kids ate. I bit my tongue and said nothing. I mean it’s Mother’s Day. I mean the last thing I need is that battleaxe of a mother in law of mine yelling at me for not letting the kids have what they want. And bacon isn’t cheap either! This post is really starting to spiral downward. So let’s get started shall we. (And actually get along really well with my mother in law, I just had to throw that in there to break chops a bit.)
Where were we.The last post showed the begining of the footing forms etc. For all intents and purposes last Saturday was just a continuation of the same thing. I worked a full day last Saturday but boy what a miserable day it was. Overcast light rain on and off right from the start. I probably could have gotten more done if it was nicer out.Around 3:00 o’clock it started to rain pretty hard. When I heard thunder I knew it was time to wrap it up.
This weekend I wanted to finish the footing forms.. I was up early and got a good start. I was pretty much done by 10:30. I had my daughter Georgia go to the rental store and pick up the flat plate tamper again. Why? Well as I was setting the footing forms I noticed that in a lot of spots I had to excavate some of the gravel to get the form to the correct elevation. This means we placed the gavel too high. So what we had to do is remove gravel in some spots and add it to others. Once that was done we raked it level and then had to retamp the whole thing.
My daughter just returned from college this past week so it was her first day back at the site. She was pretty surprised at how much we had done since she was last here. One of the reasons I started this construction blog was to show people what building a house is really like. Most people just don’t know or understand how a house is built. So my daughter gets to the site and I had her and her brother wrap up the string lines I had up. She’s walking inside the formwork and says, “Wow this is so cool! So what are these things? Is this like where a hallway is going to go? ” Here’s a picture of where she was walking.
I don’t know if that was a location joke (You had to be there.)but I got a kick out of it. Even though I thought it was funny it gets back to people really not understanding how things are put together. There’s a lot of dirty work to do out there and somebody has to do it. This is one of the functions of this blog.
One of the things I spoke of in a previous post was the problem of bracing the forms to withstand the pressure of the concrete.We are going to be doing a number of different things but as I said before we want to make sure everything is secure so we avoid having a “blowout ” during the pour. Some of this “securing ” is going to seem like overkill but I want to sleep well the night before the pour so we are going to be extra careful.
I used D-stakes to brace the forms but I don’t have enough of them to brace everything I need to. I used #5 rebar instead of them in other areas and clinched two 16 penny double head nails around them. At the bottom of the form I put a block and wedge to make up the space difference where the plank didn’t extend to the ground. This is important because this is where the most pressure will be when we pour the concrete and the plywood will move outwards until it hits the stake. Here’s a picture.
Securing the top of the form is imortant as well. I’ve seen a number of forms bend outwards as the concrete was poured. We are not going to secure the top just yet. What we are going to do is set up for it now. Before we put in the insulation and the rebar we are going to place perforated banding wire on the bottom of the footing and leave enough overhang so we can loop it around the whole form. After we do all our work we will take this loop and tension it with what we call a banding machine and clip it tight. This is a picture of what it is going to look like when we use the tensioner.
Banding wire is really strong and great in tension. There are a couple of other areas we will use this later on.
Here’s a picture of the site at the end of the day Saturday.
Next weekend I’m hoping to install the insulation and get the rebar going! Have a great week!
Well this Saturday wasn’t a complete bust but it’s one of those days where you feel like you have nothing to show for 7 hours of work. Let’s begin with where we ended last time. Oh yes my second breakfast last saturday. Yes, two eggs on a roll with bacon. Simple, concise, easy to remember, something that every deli in the greater New York metropolitan area has heard of about eight million times. Yet this must be something quite unheard of by the men of Bree. Or at the Inn of the Prancing Pony for that matter.
Have you ever seen something coming at you and you know what it’s supposed to look like but you know something looks a little strange about it. Well this is one of those times. As soon as my son gets out of the car I can tell that there is something larger than a egg on a roll in the bag. I know they had breakfast at home so as they’re walking to me I ask “You guys got something as well?” They say no. I open the bag. One egg on one roll and another egg on another roll…no bacon on either…… I mean these guys are good students too. Where did I go wrong? Of course after that the denials and blame game begins. Somewhere in all of the bickering it was somehow my fault.???????????????? There will be other second breakfasts.
Like I was saying before, Saturday felt like a bit of a bust. I picked up a flat plate tamper and spent the better part of an hour and a half pushing this thing along. Very boring work. The exciting part was getting it off the truck. I should have taken a picture of how I got it off. That would have been a bit more interesting.Here’s a picture of what one looks like.
The rest of Saturday was spent re-establishing the batter boards around the house. It took quite a while. I had to make a few adjustments here and there. If the batter boards are set up correctly and the string lines set right the footing forms go in a lot quicker. After I had everything set we checked the diagonals to see if they were the same length. This goes back to your high school geometry. I think the proof goes something like this: If the diagonals of a rectangle are of equal length then the sides of that rectangle are perpendicular. Our diagonals were close, within a half inch over 58 feet or so. That is close enough for now.
I forgot about another thing I did: I also backfilled the footing drain trench that I dug by hand. I capped the end of the drain pipe so critters wouldn’t go into it.
I don’t know how many of you have been reading these posts but I harken back to :This Lot is Soaking Wet. When I bought this property the water would run down the hill and kind of stop on the lot. Wherever you would walk you would get that squishy sound of water getting mushed into the dirt. Well it wasn’t everywhere but it sure seemed like it was. Anyway this place was like a breeding ground for mosquitoes. That is why I put the curtain drains in. The mosquitoes aren’t that bad this year but I had looked into putting up a bat house for insect control.
I went on the internet and found www.batmanagement.com. these guys have done the research and make bat houses that you can buy. I bought the three chamber bat house. All you have to do is paint it, put the roofing shingle on and the landing screen. Once that is done you have to mount it on a post,dig a hole and plumb it up and backfill. It was pretty simple. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have a couple of bats on pest control. They say a single bat can eat up to 3000 insects a night.Maybe I should offer a free toaster oven for the first resident. The sucess of a bat house is very dependent on it’s location. It has to get a lot of sun so I didn’t have a lot of options as to where I could put it. Here’s a picture of the installation.
On an experimental note. I’ve been meaning to test the strength of a 2×4. When we pour the roof slab of the hobbit house the maximum thickness will be about 16 inches. If the 2×4’s are set at 12 inches on center and are supported at four foot centers we have a load of about 798 pounds on that one 2×4. I made a small mach up and brought it to the gym. My son loaded it up with 760 pounds of weight. I’m going to add some extra support when we pour but I was glad to see the 2×4 take so much weight. It didn’t seem to deflect much either. Here’s a picture.
That’s all from Hobbit Hollow this week. I hope to start the footing forms next weekend.
Oh yeah, career day. They have a career day at my sons school for seveth and eigth graders so they can get an idea of different things people do for a living. The teacher thought that I had an interesting career path so I got the call. What follows are just a series of pictures of the job I am currently working on in Queens, New York. It’s right across the East river from Manhattan.
I forgot all about my Hobbit calendar for April. April is the scene where Bilbo opens the door and the dwarves come falling into Bag End. Gandalf is behind them laughing. It’s an interesting picture architecturally. The door is much bigger than it needs to be for a Hobbit. I would say Bilbo is about half the size of the door, yet Gandalf is leaning over to see in through it. It’s interesting to me because my original doorway for this Hobbit house was basically a typical 6 foot 8 inch door, rounded over to make it look circular. (We’ll get into the door later this year I suppose if all goes well) But every time I looked at the drawing I could tell something was not quite right. So I oversized the door on paper and it really made quite a difference in the look of the front of the home. I think you are going to like it.
Well, if you are keeping score you will remember I had to make some phone calls after my last post. I had really made a disaster of the site with the excavator I had rented. There’s just something about operating an excavator that is very compelling for me. I called Steve who owns an excavating company in town here. I tell him what happened and that I need some help. He calls me back when he’s at the site and asks me who made the mess. I confess and say I need him to bail me out. I wind up meeting him over at the site after dinner and he comes up with some great ideas. He fixes the site digs the rest of the foundation and makes a ramp so that when we put the soil on the Hobbit house a year from now we’ll be all ready to go. He did it in like one day. It was unbelieveable. Here’s a picture of the excavation. It had rained the day before so it’s a bit flooded.
Saturday April 14 6:30 AM: I begin the dreaded ditch digging for the footing drain. For those of you who are not learned in the ways of footing drains I will explain. The footing drain is basically a 4 inch diameter perforated pipe that runs along the side of your typical house footing. The drain is installed usually after the footing is poured on the outside edge of the footing. Builder’s usually pour the foudation walls and after that install the footing drain and then put crushed stone or gravel over the drain. A good builder would then put filter fabric over the gravel. The fabric allows water to get through but not soil this prevents the drainage system from clogging.So what we have in place is a gravel bed that allows water to travel through the dirt and escape into this layer of gravel. The 4 inch diameter perforated coil pipe I used is a facilitator for the water. If there is a lot of water in the soil it will drain much faster going throgh the pipe than just through the gravel alone.
The key element of the footing drain system is running the pipe to daylight. Which is the task I had to start with on Saturday. The key to this task is getting the right pitch for the drain to daylight. I set up the laser level. I take a reading at the low point of the footing excavation which happens to be in exactly the place I need it to be. I don’t know how that happened but it wasn’t by design. (I guess the gods of Hobbit housess were watching over me.) I figure I need about a 6 inch difference in elevation to make this work and I find my starting point.
6:45 AM. I get my digging tools: long handled shovel, pick, tree branch cutters (for roots), long pry bar (for rocks). It had rained the nite before and was kind of misting out when I started. I was soaking wet by 6:50. As my wife would say “I’m sweating like Paddy’s pig”. They say the human body is made mostly of water, this body had significantly less water by the time I was finished. 452 roots later I reach my destination. Thankfully it wasn’t too rocky.
I had some 6 inch perforated coil pipe left over from the curtain drain so I wrapped this in filter fabric and set it in the trench shown here.
You can see in this picture how much water there is in the excavated area just from a little rain. I always liked watching water flow from stuff like this. I waited till my sons got there before I broke the dam. It took about 10-15 minutes for all the water to drain out. The pitch I made worked ot really well.
After the draining of the excavation I got into the real work of the day, the foundation sub-base. One of the issues the engineers brought up was differential settling of the two main support walls for the Hobbit house. One wall is sitting on solid rock the other is sitting on soil. What they wanted me to do was put down stabilization fabric before putting the gravel sub-base down. What this does is put a barrier between the gravel and soil so that the gravel does not separate and get mixed in with the soil.They use stabilization fabric for roadwork. You have to purchase it by the roll so I decided to put it down wherever I didn’t have rock. It really is such a good idea especially for a house like this where there is going to be heavy loading. It kind of makes everything act as one unit and will really help minimize settling. What we did was layout the fabric and then install the footing drain around the entire perimeter before adding the gravel. We wrapped the 4 inch coil pipe with filter fabric as well so it won’t silt up in the future. Here’s a picture.
During the week I had Mike the local trucker bring over the washed gravel to the site. I originally figured I would need about 80 tons of material but I had him bring exta because I need it under the slab as well so it wouldn’t go to waste.He brought about 93 tons of stone…we didn’t have any left over. We used a Kubota skid steer to move the material.
What we had to do is work our way aroung the foundation with a rough gravel grade. Once we got all the way around we backed our to the begining with a finish grade. We did this using the laser level and a benchmark that I had set on the telephone pole where the electric meter was.
What is the benchmark? The finish floor elevation as per our drawings is 506 feet. The original house first floor elevation was at 504 feet. So our finished floor height will be 2 feet above the original floor. So before I chopped out the first floor slab I took the laser level and transfered the original floor height to the telephone pole and put a 16 penny nail there so I wouldn’t lose the spot. This is our benchmark. Our bottom of footing elevation is 502. The laser level spins so you can get a 360 degree reading around the level once it is set up. The laser level comes with a reciever that picks up it’s signal and tells you if you are high or low. Here are the young men of Bree using the laser level to get the final grade for the subase.
We really got a lot done in a day. The only thing left to do is tamp the subase with a flat plate tamper. Then we can begin the footings!
Before the “Men of Bree” got to the site I called and asked them to pick me up “Two eggs on a roll with bacon”. I want you to think about that for a moment mull it over and think what did I mean by that statement? Next week I will explain what I actually got in the bag from the deli. I think you will find it a tad interesting. Till then enjoy your work week.
Welcome! I”m glad you stopped by again. I hope everything is going well in your part of Middle earth. Yes, the Pass of Caradhras. Do you remember that scene from the Fellowship of the Ring? We’ll talk about that a bit later. Apologies for the delay of this post as well. I worked all day Saturday and part of Sunday on the foundation. I started the post sunday but then this site crashed and I’ve been busy at my day job ever since. This Saturday my wife and I and our two oldest sons went to look at colleges. So I’ve been “delayed” as Gandalf would say. (Having trouble adding pictures for this post as well. Will add them as soon as possible)
So here we are about to start digging the foundation. I had a carting company drop off a 20 yard container to put the slab concrete into and rented a Komatsu Pc 138 excavator with a hydralic hammer. Here’s a picture of the site before I got started.
I had the rental company put the hammer on first so when I got there on Friday night I would be able to chop up the slab while it was still light out. This worked out great.I think I was pretty much done in about one hour. I’m thinking this is going to be a home run. All I have to do is take off the hammer and put the bucket back on and I’m going to be good to go! The guy from the rental company said that the PC 138 is equipped with a “coupler”. And I quote ” The coupler makes it easier to switch out the attachments”. Did you ever notice when someone says something like that it never seems to work out the way they describe it. Well this is one of those times. I even You Tubed a video on changing a bucket with a coupler Friday night after I got home. They just showed a guy hooking one up though with no nuts and bolts explaination so I knew that wasn’t going to help.
Saturday morning 6:30 AM I begin the dismantling of the hydraulic hammer. I’ve never used a hydraulic hammer before let alone dismantled one. I go to the operators manual. I’m not kidding this thing is 800 pages long. Frustration level, mild. It’s 6:50. Chapter 3 page 179. Dismantaling attachments. Funny thing about this chapter… it doesn’t show removal with a coupler. Oh boy, here we go. The coupler has two hands, if you will, that grab the two pins of whatever you are attaching. The hands spread apart to grab the two pins and retract when you have to remove the attachment. Like the hydraulic hammer shown here.
So I’m looking at this thing saying to myself there has got to be a simple way to get this thing off. I try a couple of things. I see this little thing. A square bolt that is attached to the coupler.
I turn it one way a few turns and it stops. I turn it the other way (counterclockwise???? ) and it stops. I know this little thing is the key to getting the hammer off. It’s 7:45. Frustration level mounting rapidly. I cant believe I’m paying for this aggravation. I pick up the phone and call the rental company. They don’t open till eight but they have a 24 hour emergency service number. I call and leave a desperate message. Then my phone runs out of juice. Is this really happening on my day off? I go to my car and plug in my phone. What is it denial, rage, acceptance. I think for me it was rage,denial, rage, acceptance, rage one more time and throw a rock at the excavator. I realize I cannot work on this while my phone is charging so I go to the deli. I get two eggs on a roll with bacon. Sorry, but it’s not an egg on a roll without the bacon. Apologies to all pig lovers. (You’re not going to believe this but the emergency service guy calls me Monday morning at 8:30 and asks if I’m having trouble with the machine. This is like right out of the movies.) I’m really going to try and keep this a clean family friendly blog so I won’t print what I was thinking when this guy called me two days later.
8:20 AM. I call the rental company back. I get Joe. I think I woke him up. I explain to him my situation. I tell him I think I have to remove a pin in order for the hands to retract. He tells me no you shouldn’t have to remove anything. I know he’s wrong. I don’t tell him this though. We actually had a pretty good conversation. I think I just needed a little moral support. I finally figure it out. Pull the pin turn the little thing clockwise, junp into the excavator and disconnect the attachment put the new one on. Joe was right about the coupler though it was pretty easy to change the attachments once you get the hang of it. Here’s the machine with the bucket attached. By the time all was said and done it was 10:00AM before I started loading the concrete into the 20 yarder.
As all of this was happening (Over the course of four hours)there was this tingling of fear and doubt about what I was doing. I’m saying to myself did I make a mistake trying to do this? What if I can’t get it to work? What if I don’t have time to finish this weekend and have to rent it for another weekend? What if I damage the machine trying to take this thing off? What about the money I spent on this damn thing? And about a million other what ifs?
It was only later that I looked back and thought about the “Pass of Caradhras”. For those of you who don’t remember . The Fellowship has taken to walking over the mountain Caradhras after being seen by spies of Saruman. As they are walking over the snow covered peak Frodo “the ring bearer” falls and rolls down the hill a bit.When he gets up he realizes that the ring is not where it was. Boromir has picked it up. He holds it up to his eyes and says “Tis a strange fate that we must suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing…this little thing.” I really did suffer a bit of fear and doubt over that small thing.
Now I’m an expert at changing attachments. The rest of the day was spent digging the foundation and moving dirt. The footings for the Hoobbit house are called “Frost protected shallow foundations”. What this allows us to do is dig a shallower footing that is insulated to protect the footing from frost heave during the winter months. I thought this would yield less dirt(which it did) and I would have plenty of space to store the soil that I was excavating. Wrong again Jim. All of a sudden I realized I really don’t have that much room and I really don’t have great access around the site either. In fact I have access on only the front side of the site and that’s it. I get this crazy brain storm to build a ramp with the soil and pile it up so I can stockpile it up on the eastern slope of the site and out of the way. ( This way when I backfill the Hobbit house later I will just use this material). I build the ramp but when I drive up to the top of it I realize yet again that I’m making a mistake. This material has to be hauled out of here. There’s just no other way. I have to make some phone calls.