Archive for September, 2008

Putting SBC on the foundation exterior

September 29, 2008

I had arranged to travel to Windsor on Tuesday Sept 23 to pick up my son Rafael, who was auditioning for the Assistant pricipal cello position with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (He won the position) and brought him back to show him the project, fed him supper, and put him on the train in Glencoe to get him back to Toronto by 10:30 PM. I then spent the next two days doing stuff in London, and attending Ed Brown’s presentation at University of Western Ontario.

Finally on Friday I was ready to begin to work applying surface bonding cement to the walls. This is part of the drystack building technology, the stacked blocks are cemented on both sides of the block with a special mortar made up of portland cement, lime, fiber (in my case special Polyvinyl Alcohol fibers) and a polymer additive Acryl 60, which waterproofs the layer even more, and adds to the bonding and flexibility. Rather than buy ready made SBC. I made up the batches ahead weighing out the dry ingredients putting them in plastic bags, which were then mixed with water and and the liquid additive and the mixture sprayed on the walls. The initial 2 batches were made without sand added to the mix. This was one of the options in the literature for SBC. However, I found the mixture was hard to handle and get on the wall evenly. Decided to try the formula for adding sand to the mix and see if it worked better. It did and now that is my default formula for the SBC. I have enough brick sand left from mortaring the first course of blocks to do my SBC for the foundation.

Sunday afternoon, I coated the long wall on the north, and all but 4 ft of the west wall before running out of SBC. I will have to run into London Monday morning and get more cement additive, I misjudged how much I would need.

Finished SBC on outside of garage foundation

Finished SBC on outside of garage foundation

Me, with mask, goggles, rubber gloves, and mortar sprayer.

Me, with mask, goggles, rubber gloves, and mortar sprayer.

Close-up of the mortar sprayer

Close-up of the mortar sprayer

The working edge of SBC application moving along the wall

The working edge of SBC application moving along the wall

 Tuesday, Sept 30, finished the SBC on the house foundation.   Need to keep it moist for a few
days of curing, and then line up the people for insulation spray, backfilling and plumbing-wiring work.
  The time window is getting short for finishing the slab before it gets too cold.
East foundation wall with SBC

East foundation wall with SBC

North foundation wall with SBC

North foundation wall with SBC


South foundation wall  with SBC

South foundation wall with SBC

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3D House Model

September 15, 2008

I have been modeling my house plan in 3 dimensions using Google Sketchup. This lets me evaluate the shadowing both exterior and interior of the at various times of day and months of the year, specifically for my location in Newbury. The first two pictures show the shadowing at noon June 21, from the north and from the south side. Notice there is no direct sun entering the south windows of the house or garage.

North side of house at noon on June 21

North side of house at noon on June 21

South side of house at noon on June 21

South side of house at noon on June 21

The last two pictures show the shadowing at noon January 1, from the north and from the south side. Notice there is direct sun entering the south windows of the house and garage well back into the interior.

3D model of the house viewed from the south in January at noon

3D model of the house viewed from the south in January at noon

3D model of the house viewed from the north in January at noon

3D model of the house viewed from the north in January at noon

Pouring the cores of the foundation walls

September 13, 2008

Ater getting the first layer of sand inside the foundations and getting the earthtubes in place, I began to get my ducks in a row for pouring grout/cement into the cores of foundation blocks. This involved 1) getting the resmaining portland cement from my friend Craig’s house project (18 bags) 2)getting a dump truck load of cement gravel (12 cu yds) deposited on the driveway base gravel 3) doing the fine tuning on the corners and small irregularities of the garage foundation wall with the diamond saw and grinder, and 4) setting up ramps for the wheels of the mini-crane to facilitate the loading of cement into the wall.

I thought I had some volunteer help coming on Saturday, but nobody showed, except a surprise arrival of my colleague Ed Brown from Newfoundland who was beginning a month of sabbatical at Univ of Western Ontario in London. So put him to work, and waited for the others, who never came. I did a trial run of the mixer and mini-crane with a full load of cement, and then used it to make bit of sidewalk next to the front door of my trailer.

Sunday it rained, and Monday I decided I would go it on my own, with help from a young fellow who lives nearby. However he turned out to have gone off on the weekend and was not back, so it was a one-man operation. Len Macdonald the block salesman had recommended a continuous pour with the whole foundation in one day. I optimistically thought I might do that for the garage, and was at it from 8AM to 8PM, with about a half hour break for lunch. I was one tired puppy when I crashed.

I mixed just under 40 cement mixers of concrete, and put them into the wall with my mini-crane. That’s about 7000 lbs of cement, moved twice, once when I put the gravel, water, and portland cement into the mixer, and again when I wheeled it to the mini-crane and put it in the wall. Finished half the garage, one long and one short wall. Observing the way the cement migrated laterally between the block columns, it became clear to me that with my low-pressure filling technique, the continuous pour issues were really not relevant.

On Monday night there was a heavy rain, so a late start Tuesday, about noon, so only one short wall finished. Then on Wednesday, I finished up the pour for the garage. I am adding PVA fiber to the cement, and with my out-take for sidewalk, and what I see at the top of the cores and the splatter, it is very strong even with a short curing period. On Tuesday Terry, a guy who heard about my project came over to observe and chat, and picked up another archeological bit lying in the dirt. An old silver 5 cent coin minted in 1881. In very good condition, so likely lost very near its mint date. Wednesday morning Dugald MacCallum from church, the guy who pulled me over in this direction by responding to my land hunting ad, came by to inspect my handiwork. He seemed to be impressed 🙂 He is an interesting guy, still an active farmer at 85, has seen a lot of water go under the bridge. I get a fair bit of traffic of rubber-neckers, and some who stop and chat.

Cement mixer setup next to pile of gravel, and pallet of cement bags.

Cement mixer setup next to pile of gravel, and pallet of cement bags.

The garage wall, water barrel on top of block pile, mini-crane by the wall with full hopper.

The garage wall, water barrel on top of block pile, mini-crane by the wall with full hopper.

Close-up of the full hopper over the wall core.

Close-up of the full hopper over the wall core.

After finishing the garage foundation and a day of recovery, the rains came the remnants of Hanna and Ike. In 48 hours over Saturday and Sunday I meaured about 4.5 inches of rain; it just kept coming. When it was done there was water in the trenches around the foundations, but especially around the garage, which is the lowest of the two by 8 inches. It didn’t help that the runoff from the road went right down the driveway to the trench and that the piles of topsoil behind it were also shedding water into the hole. There was just so much rain that the water table filled right up and there was no place for it to go.

The great flood in the front of garage foundation trench.

The great flood in the front of garage foundation trench.

Flood at the back of garage, well up on my track for the mini-crane.

Flood at the back of garage, well up on my track for the mini-crane.

Anyway, a bit of rest time, to give my back some R & R, and then on Thursday I put in a full day fine-tuning the top row of blocks to make them level and plumb. A bit of diamond blade in the right angle grinder, and some leveling wedges to true up the blocks. So on Friday morning was ready to roll, and to my delight, Ed Brown came out to offer his body for the day. We filled the cores on the long wall of the house.

Ed Brown, the 'mudman' for the day, speeded things up a lot!

Ed Brown, the 'mudman' for the day, speeded things up a lot!


On Saturday and half a day on Sunday I was by myself, and finished one short wall and about 20 ft of the the south wall. On Monday I put in a really long day, finishing by flashlight, but finished filling the cores on the house foundation.

Playing in the dirt

September 1, 2008

The task at hand this past week was to prepare for the first layer of sand in back-filling the foundation. After the water lines connecting from the mechanical room to the garage/workshop were insulated I called the excavator to arrange for the first layer of sand to be put in. On Thursday, a wet misty day he showed up with big shovel and dump truck. Delivered 8 truck loads of sand, and then placed about 6 of those into the respective foundations, to bring the base up to the top of the footing. I had drilled 3 – 4 inch holes in the house foundation, and one in the garage for the earth tubes which will temperature condition air entering the living space. There will be a total of over 400 ft of thin wall sewer pipe buried in the sand to cool outside air in summer, and warm it in the winter as it enters the living space.

Perry placing sand in the house foundation

Perry placing sand in the house foundation

Placing sand and leveling

Placing sand and leveling

Sand all in the foundation

Sand all in the foundation

The cement finisher was supposed to come on Thursday afternoon to level and compact the sand, but there was apparently a missed signal, and he didn’t show up on Friday morning so I hustled off to Craigs place and we finished the final bits on the mini-crane, and I loaded up and brought it to the site. This device is to be used to pour cement into the cores of the cement blocks, and to move heavy stuff into places like the foundation wall. Anyway, on Saturday morning Perry showed up to move his big shovel back to its usual location, and when I told him I was planning to rent a compactor offered to loan me his. So I headed to his place a little later and picked it up bringing it home in my trailer. It weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 lbs. So dragged it over close to the mini-crane and hooked up the chain for the cement hopper to the lift handles on the compactor, and with the electric winch on my crane, lifted it and swung it over the wall, to set it down gently on the inside.

On Sunday I shoveled and leveled the sand in the house foundation and did 2 complete circuits of compacting it before calling it a day. This morning, Labour Day, Michael Montgomery, the son of my neighbor Richard across the street, who is in construction trades came over and gave me a hand. He is very experienced at compacting and so we leveled the sand in the garage foundation and moved the compactor over there. Then wetted down the sand to improve compaction, and did it over 4 times. Then moved the machine back to the house foundation, wetted that sand, and did the final two times over. The water supply from the well petered out just as we got enough into the sand for the house to do the job. Now waiting to see how quickly the level recovers. May be a problem with heavy water use in construction.

Final compacted sand layer in Garage

Final compacted sand layer in Garage

Minicrane in another setting for moving compactor back to house after completing work in Garage.

Minicrane in another setting for moving compactor back to house after completing work in Garage.

Final compacted sand layer in House

Final compacted sand layer in House


We then set about installing the earth tubes which will bring fresh air into the house and the garage/workshop. We finished the job after supper on Labour Day.

Partially completed earth tubes in the house from the west end.

Partially completed earth tubes in the house from the west end.

Partially completed earth tubes in the house from the east.

Partially completed earth tubes in the house from the east.

The finished earth tubes with the risers to the utility room of the house.

The finished earth tubes with the risers to the utility room of the house.

Mike Montgomery with the final earth tubes in the Garage/Workshop foundation.

Mike Montgomery with the final earth tubes in the Garage/Workshop foundation.