Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Construction - Summary of the Dirt and Concrete Phase of Construction

Reminder:  A click on any photo enlarges it for closer inspection.  Also, for details on the phases of construction discussed below, click on the appropriate links to previous posts.

Broke Ground
We broke ground on August 3, 2014.  It took about a month's worth of track loader digging for me to rough out the excavation into the side of the hill --  a lot of trips up and
Pre-made French drains:  Wrapping perforated culvert
with specialized geo-textile fabric
down the hill to carry the dirt to storage behind and to the side of the building site.  Rain and cold weather pretty much put a stop to the dirt work leading up to and during the winter.  Meanwhile, I used the time away from the dig to fabricate French drains that were of custom design and to begin assembling exterior wall trusses in my workshop.

French Drains and Solar Collector
 Installing AGS conduit after the French drains were backfilled
April of '15 was an unusually dry month for April which allowed a excavation contractor to smooth and grade the footprint for the house. Then, as he dug trenches for the French drains,  a crew of volunteers snaked the long drains to the trenches and lowered them to place with ropes.  Once the trenches were backfilled, the contractor began trenching for the conduits for the AGS system* and dug the pit for the solar collector.  With the help of volunteers, the conduits were installed and backfilled just before a rainy May and early June.  Between frequent rains, I, with occasional help from friends and family, managed to get the solar collector built using dry-stacked concrete blocks parged with fiber-bonded cement. By mid-summer we had the conduits connected to the collector and associated backfilling done. 
Solar collector:  Notice pipes exiting the back wall that connect to the
conduits under the house which, in turn, connect with the pipes
running to daylight behind the house; when the collector is finished,
heat from the summer sun will course through the conduits and warm
the soil under the house; heat from the soil will conduct through the floor
 and the concrete back wall to condition the house in lieu of conventional HVAC

Footings, Concrete Walls and Shallow Frost-Proof Foundation
The concrete work was begun in late summer of '15 and barely completed before freezing
weather.  The contractor dug the trenches for footings to support the north and west concrete walls and
Concrete walls in place; shallow frost-protected foundation poured inside
of insulated concrete forms; waste plumbing roughed-in
 the foundation under the stick-built walls. I did what forming needed to be done for the wide footing for the concrete west and north walls and the contractor poured the footing then poured the wall.  With some help from volunteers, I formed up and poured the narrow footing for the foundation under the stick-built walls.  A friend and
 I erected the insulated concrete forms for the shallow frost-protected foundation over the narrow footing and several of us poured the foundation inside the forms.  All that remained of the concrete work were the floors for the house, garage and screened porch. However, they had to be put on hold until the electrical and plumbing rough-ins, situated below the floor, were done. 

Plumbing and Electrical Rough-Ins; Slab Floor; Partial Backfilling
By mid-October, I had the plumbing and electrical rough-ins ready for slinging the gravel sub-base and pouring the slab floor.  The contractor poured the floor but only for the house
Supply plumbing and electrical rough-ins done; gravel sub-base and
plastic sheeting in place; house slab in process
-- the garage and screened porch were put on hold.  A few weeks later, I damp-proofed the concrete walls and installed a footing French drain at the base of the walls and ran it to daylight in front of the house at both ends. Then I backfilled the north wall to about half its height and sloped the grade behind the house for efficient surface drainage in preparation for upcoming rainy weather and winter freezing.  As recommended by the concrete contractor, I coated the fresh slab with a sealant to prevent damage to the fresh concrete from freezing and covered the exposed footings with 2" EPS (styrofoam) for the same reason.  That was about all we could do towards construction until Spring so I turned my attention to several upgrades to the old farmhouse in which we live next to the building site.  Also I was able to finish building the wall trusses that we will need this summer for the exterior walls and to erect a temporary enclosure in which to store them.

Retaining Wall
West wall of the house insulated and partially parged with
stucco; retaining wall in place with insulation and two layers
of plastic behind and under it as part of the
insulation/watershed umbrella for the AGS system*;
partially backfilled
The first project for the early Spring of 2016, was building a retaining wall running west from the west concrete wall.  However, as part of the umbrella for the AGS system*, I had to insulate the outside of the wall first using a DIY method described in detail in a recent post, as well as insulate the ground on which it would be resting. With the help of many volunteers, a formidable wall went up in about two hours time using foundation stones salvaged from a 19th century barn.  Then, while waiting for the Spring rains to subside, I shop-built the exterior wall sections that will house the windows and stored them on the house slab under cover.

Screened Porch Slab; Garage Slab; Retrofitted Concrete Wall
A lot of June and July was spent on the screened porch and the garage.  I formed up and
Footing, foundation and slab completed for the screened porch
poured the footings and foundation for the screened porch in preparation for the pouring of the porch slab by the concrete contractor.  As part of the umbrella for the AGS system*, I also worked on insulating the porch floor and insulating the garage floor so that the contractor could pour them as well.  I had miscalculated on the design of the east wall of the garage and ended up asking the contractor to add four feet of height to it in conjunction with his pouring of the porch and garage.  I recently spent a couple 
Pouring the garage floor; addition to the east wall of garage already poured
of weeks between rains insulating the new east wall of the garage.
  Also, I added one more layer of backfill to the north wall to bring it up to the top of the previously-installed damp-proofing membrane -- to a depth of about 8' -- (only to learn later through a comment submitted to the blog that I had installed it backwards).

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *  

In a nutshell, it has taken me two years to be reach the carpentry phase of construction partly because the dirt and concrete phase has been so weather-dependent.  I would guess that it will take another two years to have the house ready for occupancy -- maybe 6 mos to get it under cover and 18 mos to finish it -- but the weather will be inconsequential by comparison since the work will be done on the slab floor and soon under cover. 

There will be more dirt work to do before winter of this year, principally, completing the umbrella for the AGS system* in front of the house, and more to do in back of the house next year but all of the concrete work and most of the dirt work are history.
* For information on the Annualized GeoSolar system, click on the "Featured Post" in the left column above which is the first of three posts on AGS.

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