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Posts Tagged ‘foundation’

Every spare second of my time over the last week has been spent moving around pieces of concrete.  I wore holes through the fingers of my gloves, and then wore my fingertips raw.  When I laid the last chunk of urbanite today I almost didn’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day.  I just hung around the house site for a while, walking some on the foundation to test the stones, and make sure they didn’t move.  Now that the foundation is finished, the wall is ready for some cob!  I can’t wait to get some mud on my feet.

south wall

west wall & entrance

north & west walls

So, today I did use a little cement to mortar the bricks in the threshold.  The guy at a local building supply store gave me a free bag of concrete that had busted open. Here’s some mortar action:

And the threshold:

threshold

And here I am gloating over my beautiful, beautiful stemwall:

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The south wall of the foundation has grown to stand 18″ above ground level, which means that part is finished.  Once the wall was up to ground level, I started stacking the urbanite on it’s side, instead of laying it flat.  I feel like this method allows for more creativity, and I’ve been having so much fun dry stacking lately.  The wall is also going up much faster, partly because stacking them on their sides means I get more height with each placement, but also because I’m using much smaller pieces, which I can pick up and use quickly, instead of struggling to slowly drag some massive chunks of concrete onto the wall.  The different shapes and sizes of the pieces make a more interesting wall, too…

south wall

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So much of my time over the last month or so has been spent digging deeper and deeper into the earth, I had forgotten that there would one day be an end to it.  I’ve really come to enjoy and appreciate digging, and have found the mattock to be one of my favorite tools.  But I won’t get to spend as much time with it for a while.  After lots of lonely digging and shoveling, I had a bunch of friends show up and do in one day what would have taken me a week.  I turned around and when I looked back over my shoulder the rest of the trench had been dug and graded.  I blinked and drain pipe was laid and cradled with urbanite rubble.  The trench is filled and almost ready for the stem wall.  I’ve just got to cover the rubble with some old grain bags we’ve got in the shed, and then put some sand on top of that before I can start dry stacking the urbanite.

I love how this picture makes the site look so teeny:

All the time we’ve spent scavenging concrete rubble has paid off, and we were able to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on gravel.  I fell asleep last night feeling so satisfied.  Satisfied not only with the completion of one phase of the project, but satisfied with a life full of hard work, good food, beautiful weather, and great friends.

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I have to admit that I haven’t been able to devote as much time to the trench as I’ve wanted the last couple of weeks, but I have been able to get some good work in.  Here’s a picture of the current state of the rubble trench.  The part of the trench in the top left corner of the picture is 12 inches deep, and is sloping at about a 5 percent grade.

We have had some serious rains lately, and so far I’ve decided on not having any kind of roof, or tarp, covering the site.  So the site has been pretty muddy a lot of the time, and full of standing water some days.  But it hasn’t been too much of a problem yet, and it does make the digging easier, giving the mattock the ability to take out large chunks of earth with a single swing.  I’ve had the opportunity recently to help a friend of mine dig the foundation trench to his future cob house, and it was great to see and experience someone else’s building process.  He started roof first, and his site sits in contrast to mine with its dusty dryness.  There seems to be pros and cons to each.  His ground was rock hard, and much more difficult to dig.  But it was easier to maneuver around at times, and I did appreciate the ability to wear shoes without quickly having 5 inches of mud stuck to the soles.  I’ve been too annoyed with shoes at my place, and have been digging barefoot, except when I slip a croc onto my left foot when it’s time to shovel the clay out of the trench.  As I get into more grading work with the trench, though, I might decide to cover the site if some heavy rains are in the forecast.

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The permanent position for the foundation has been staked out.  The first afternoon Noel and I went out there we started out by marking some key points on the house plans, and then transferring those points onto the ground using triangulation.  It was boring, and frustrating at times, and took forever.

The next time we went out to work on flagging the foundation, we decided to use our own methods.  We had enough marked already that by looking at the plan and the existing points we could figure out the rest, checking our measurements as we went along.  To figure out how dramatically the rounded “corners” of the space should curve, I would just mark a curving line in the clay, stand back and study how it made me feel, and then keep changing it until the space felt comfortable.  Each of the “corners” has a somewhat different curve to it, with a more dramatic curve to the southeast corner, and more squarish curves on the northern corners.  In what in the end amounted to around one full day of work, we had it all staked out, and felt really satisfied with our results.

Here I realized we could add another 2 inches to the width of the house.  It’s going to be so spacious:

Check out that nice curve:

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topsoil cleared!

Stevie & Noel stake the site

After moving around a lot of stones and bamboo, we decided on the exact location for the house.  A stake was placed marking the center point of the building, and from there we marked some other key points.  And then finally…time to dig!  Noel, Stevie, Gray, and I had a topsoil clearing party to celebrate one of the warmest days we’ve had in weeks.  Now that all the topsoil is gone, next we’ll be leveling the site, and then the rubble trench!

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