Pouring the cores of the foundation walls

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.

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