October Construction Panorama


The most complex sections of concrete forms are up and in place with insulation and rebar going in. This house site panorama is actually from yesterday – more forms are up now. We are not a terribly fast work crew. Especially on this section there is much pausing and figuring as we blend the house foundation to the ledge of the mountain. With blasting and a lot of of compacted fill we could have a perfectly even starting area to place our forms but what fun would that be! Yes, this looks like a flat site to the eye, but a line level tells a different story. It slopes 43″ from the bottom of the southwest corner pin to the south east corner pin.

Instead of filling or blasting the world flat to fit our foundation, an expensive proposition, we are cleaning off the exposed solid granite & quartz ledge and then creating a series of three terraces, our foundation, that step down the remaining slope. The result will be three barrel vault structures a little bit like those done by MXSteve of Flying Concrete and the Ferrocement.net discussion list. Note that MXSteve’s beautiful designs are far more organic feel with exposed concrete that we’ll have up here in the frigid north. I fear the frost action would pop the concrete and age it a bit prematurely. Since granite is so readily available to us here we’ll use a lot more stone than concrete in our construction. Still, some of the basic ideas, especially for the barrel vaults, that he presents are very useful no matter where you are. We’ve been practicing these and other things on smaller structures over the last few years.

We are spending a great deal of time cleaning the ledge is so that we can attach the house right to the ledge so it won’t slide down mountain. I have this very bad dream where I live in the valley – or rather I start living on the side of the mountain, as we do now, and we slide downward into the valley like my wife Holly’s cousin’s house is doing in California. Not a happy thought! So we clear off the ledge, looking for natural bumps and ridges in the rock that will grip the bottom of the house like crampons. Then we drill deeply into the rock to set heavy steel pins in cement all along the upper cool side of the house. Tensor ring beams keep it all together. That combined with the concrete poured onto the rough ledge should keep the house from ever slip sliding away.

The problem with attaching to the ledge is that the mean annual temperature of the rock (think PAHS) is lower than most people find comfortable for living, including my wife Holly. I like a cool house in the winter, but Holly doesn’t and yes, she’s right, 45째F is like living in a giant refrigerator. That’s about the winter ground temperature around here. That does make for an excellent root cellar. What we have done is attach the house’s concrete foundation all along the west edge and north corner directly to the ledge. This locks the house to the mountain and provides a cooler section of the house for the root cellars. The rest of the house will sit on a layer of blue-board insulation above the undisturbed soil to thermally isolate it from our relatively cool earth. More about that later.

The usual puzzle rears its head: How many dogs can you count in the panorama? You’ll definitely want to click on the small panorama picture above in order to load the larger version to do dog spotting. Variations include how many pigs, piglets, sheep, chickens, ducks and dragons. Winners get a smore but they must come and pick it up at a future bonfire!

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“Gridlock is good politics. My wife and I specifically vote to try to mix up the government such that we have a wide blend of views rather than all of one mind set. This avoids the Borg Syndrome where bills are passed through the legislative digestive tract so fast the brains never get a chance to react to the bad taste that could indicate toxic policies. Grid lock makes the representatives think and research more.” -WalterJ

48째F/40째F Misty

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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6 Responses to October Construction Panorama

  1. karl says:

    just a little info that you might find interesting on frost protected shallow foundations. frost protected foundations

  2. Hi Karl, thanks for the link. That is very similar to what we’re doing and what we’ve done on two other foundations starting about sixteen years ago for the oldest one. As they say, drainage is key as is not having expansive soils like clay.

    A difference is instead of running the insulation down and then out I ran it down a short ways and then diagonally out. In the diagonal space below the insulation I placed sandy soil or crushed stone for drainage and a drain pipe with filter fabric over it. It works very well and is especially good in places where you just can’t go very deeply because of ledge, ect.

  3. Podchef says:

    I pinned my foundation to the rock of the island. It’s a bit interesting in that we never feel earthquake in the house, but if we step out into the yard where the ground is like jello we can tell the difference.

    One thing you can do where the concrete will meet the rock is run a bead of a bentonite clay caulking stuff. It comes with an adhesive back to stick it to the forms. You place it on the outside form. When the water starts flowing it swells and helps seal the crack between stone and poured foundation. It really help to keep water from running under the wall, unless it goes through porous volcanic stone like around here.

    Deep eves and a good water collection system go a real long way to keeping ground water from your foundation. Don’t neglect to bury some piping around the house to carry rain water from gutters away to a cistern or something. It’s cheap when you have the ground open and are backfilling, but real expensive to retrofit down the road.

  4. PV says:

    4 dogs 11 pigs!

  5. Mark V says:

    I get 9 pigs 6 piglets 3 dogs and a sheep. Seems like their should be more sheep.

  6. EllaJac says:

    3 Dogs, Pile o’ Critters, and a Deere!

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