Super Insulated Slab

Animated Footage of Super Insulated Slab Prep

√ Sub-slab cured hard,
√ Outer and channel forms secured,
√ Foam Insulation placed,
√ Steel rebar and 661010 Welded Wire Mesh in place and tied,
√ Leveling strings strung,
√ Leaves changing…

We’re ready to pour concrete for our super insulated floor slab for our new refrigerated:
– Dance Studio?
– Concert Hall?
– Art Gallery?
– Secret Mad Scientist Laboratory?
– Nuclear Power Plant?
– Hidden Missile Defense Control Center?
– Ice Cream Storage?
– On-Farm Butcher Shop?
– Swine & Sheep Dairy & Cheese Cave?
– Agri-Tourism Maze?
– Apartment for Wife Swap?
– Ice Cube Machine?
– Ice House?
– Ice Rink?
– Home Expansion? (Least likely)
Interrogation Facility (Hey, they’re closing GitMo! Opportunity! )
– More guesses???…

This upcoming concrete pour will give us a floor insulation of R-55 (so far). That’s almost 60 cubic-yards of insulation which, had I bought it, would have cost almost $8,000. Fortunately I’ve been saving insulation for decades. And everyone thought I was a fool, a miser, a horder. Ah, but I had a secret – I was investing in plastics! I’m sure it must have been just for this project. I just didn’t know it yet. I did know that someday I would want a lot of insulation for some Big Project and that day is today. Holly’s glad to see it out of the attic and gone. Although truth be told I have another warehouse full of it for another Big Project.

Recycled insulation is nothing new to me. Almost twenty years ago, back before being Green was so in, I had insulated our manufacturing facility with styrofoam end blocks and packing peanuts. Why? Because it was cheap and I had them. At the time it was so innovative that Inc Magazine sent up a reporter, photographer wrote about it. Nearly forgotten memories. That insulation and double stud walls kept the building so warm that it took almost nothing to heat it. Over kill but it saves on the heating bill. With our business BlackLightning we got a lot of foam end blocks back before the packing industry switched to cardboard. That’s where much of my insulation stash came from. As Holly will testify to, I have issues with throwing away perfectly good junk. I blame it on my parents – they taught me to be frugal and it pays off. Waste not, want not.

The wooden forms in the middle of the slab make it look like we’re putting up walls. Actually its just the opposite. First realize that there can be no wood in our final structure. It is a regulatory issue related to safety and I’m not referring to OSHA. I say they’re the opposite of walls because those forms are defining channels down into the concrete pour. Channels that will not receive concrete but will rather be void spaces, at least for now. Think of the canals of Mars, or perhaps Venice. Or maybe this is more like Darth Vader’s huge ship. And no, they are not feeding troughs.

The movie above is the result of stringing together a lot of still photos. In the first part the camera is secured on a post south of the slab. When we were done for the session I walked around the job site to give an inside out 360° pan of the construction as well as a bonus view across the new east fields, marshes and Hannah Hill.

The movie starts out with a view of our son Will passing up 20′ sections of rebar to me which I’m laying out along the stress lines of the slab. Will had pre-bent these the other day so they would be all ready with hooks on the end.

The insulated areas I’m walking across are bounded by concrete blocks. These blocks keep the insulation in place when the concrete comes whoosing down the truck’s chute. The blocks also define beams where the concrete will be thicker down to the sub-slab which is insulated from the ground as well with a unified layer of pink foam and foil. The rebar I’m placing runs above the beams. This gives pairs of rebar, one down in the sub-slab and one above in the super slab. This forms the base pair of rebar pieces for the wall beams as will become apparent later.

On top of the insulation are two inch spacers and on top of them rests the 661010 Welded Wire Mesh (WWM) with the rebar tied to that. 1010 refers to the size of the steel – it is 10 gauge in both directions. That’s a heavy enough wire that it is difficult to bend short sections. The 66 refers to the spacing of the wires, that is to say 6″ on center in each direction. Where the rebar provides major structural strength in the beams the WWM controls cracking in the slabs. Additionally we’ll have fiber in the cement, just like we did with the cottage. That might seem like overkill but it only costs a little more and you only build once – You hope.

The massive amount of insulation serves two purposes. First and most obviously it is to keep the heat out of the refrigerated building. Transfer of energy equates cost, money lost, as it should. By insulating we’ll keep our long term energy costs down. Even if we were paying full price for the insulation it would pay back in a few years of electric use. In fact, our electric company is increasing their rates as I write this so that further accelerates the pay back period. I want to keep my long term energy bills down. The fact that it is PC, Green and all that is an added bonus.

The second purpose of all that free recycled insulation is that it is a lot cheaper than buying concrete. Full price pink foam insulation is about $130 per cubic-yard. Concrete is $110 per cubic-yard. Free insulation is $0 per cubic yard. I might even get Karma points for recycling. So not only did I save almost $6,000 on insulation, not only am I going to save more each year on my electric bill but I’m also saving over $4,000 in concrete costs. As an extra bonus this saves our backs as we won’t have to push an extra 150,000 pounds of concrete around at 4,000 lbs per cubic-yard.

That was probably more numbers than you ever wanted to know about concrete and foam. Still, these numbers are important because they keep down the price on our Big Project. Keeping the price down makes it more able to happen which means we’ll save time, gasoline and stress in the future. More Karma and dollars in the bank.

As the Matrix like bullet pan spins around the work site you may notice a short retaining wall at the north west corner of the building. I needed a retaining wall there so the concrete truck can make the corner. This gave us the opportunity to do a test pour of a new technique for doing taller forms. It is only a 4′ wall but it was a complete success – it didn’t budge at all when the 1,600 lbs of concrete was poured into it fast. Good news indeed as we’ll be doing that over and over again. More details to come.

Some might note that the “huge pile of logs” is gone. I got video footage of the monster chowing down on the pile for breakfast. Those were tree tops and wood too junky for firewood from clearing the new fields. It was very impressive to watch. And loud. I will make a movie of it some time. When I have time. When boredom is closing in during the long dark ni
ghts of winter. Well, hopefully before that! Until then, we are headed upward with concrete.

Outdoors: 62°F/29°F Sunny, First Frost (about a month late)
Tiny Cottage: 72°F/60°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Super Insulated Slab

  1. Brian says:

    I hope you do a video of the reactor as they truck it up the mountain! that would be a show

  2. Before we can truck in the reactor core we need to replace the bridge at the end of the road and cut a pass over the mountain in front of our neighbor's house about a mile up the road as the grade is too steep. The engineer also says we'll need to widen the road and it would be best if we pave the whole thing due to the weight of the load. I'm reading up on the smaller reactor cores that might be a better solution but they only put out 10 MegaWatts, not nearly enough for our next Big Project after this one.

  3. Fan says:

    Wish I could see your video; the source is blocked where I am.

  4. Fan, the video is hosted on Where are you located?

  5. Alice says:

    Hows about a bed and breakfast? But why so insulated? Your summers arent so hot you need that much air conditioning. Your winters are cold but you said it was insulation for refrigeration. Okay, maybe not a bed and breakfast but it is an idea. Love the charly chaplin like video!

  6. Ryan says:

    Maybe just maybe it is a big smoke house and you are thowing us all off talking about cooling insulation.

    But then why did you not keep the wood pile…?

    Maybe you are getting into factory farming and keeping the pigs cold improves their growth rates.

    What ever it is it is so much fun watching your building projects.

  7. Dave says:

    Awe some project there! Cant wait to see it rise up.

  8. Jason says:

    Haven't been on in awhile. I think it is gonna be a USDA-approved butchering facility.

  9. Hi there,
    Very cool page. I was just reading about sub slab insulation and the Passivhaus standards. The other blog and your post left me with a few questions I think maybe you can help me with.
    1) Are the stratum as follows? Ground, moisture barrier, foam insulation slab?
    2) Does the foam bear the weight of the home without deforming?
    3) I think you said the beam insulation is different than the flooring portion of the slab, is all the weight generally carried there instead of across the slab?

    Thanks a ton. I'm a realtor by trade, but have been getting into construction basics as I'd like to build my own house someday.

    Thanks in advance

  10. Hi Joe,

    Yes, that is essentially the correct layering. It is a little more complex since there are areas that are more structural beam and areas that are super insulated along with air gaps because they'll be sustained cold. This is also going to be a layer of fluid heat transfer pipes. I'll write more about this in the future when I have time.

    Yes, the foam will hold the weight. See this post in the comments for where this question also came up and I did the numbers. In addition to the foam being able to hold the weight there is the factor that the entire slab is a structural beam. We could bridge it over the road and it would hold big trucks. Just what we need, a piggy over pass to the east fields! :)

    In addition to all of the insulation that is in the super insulated slab we'll actually be adding more to the outside of the building to protect it from the thermal cycle of our climate (86째F to -45째F plus wind and sun effects). The interior refrigerated rooms (reefer area) where we work will also be thermally isolated from the structural mass of the building with additional insulation. The math shows that we get a quick payoff vs paying for electricity to keep pumping the heat out of the building. This effect is accented by the fact that much of our insulation was free since I've been collecting it for decades.



  11. Joe Cline says:

    WoW! That is some pretty cool foam. Maybe we should just build slabs out of it. :)

    Thanks for the help. I'm looking forward to catching up on the rest of your posts and following your projects. Keep on keeping on my friend!


  12. Adam S. says:

    I find it fascinating, amazing and inspiring that your family built their own house. Way to go Jeffries!

  13. John says:

    G’Day! Walter,
    Thanks for the above, Industrial properties and residential properties are not mostly crafted alike. Most of the time varying components and totally different methods are employed to construct residences in comparison to a industrial center. But, there are making strategies that can be utilized to assemble both equally styles of properties. A person generating method that will work nicely to assemble giant buildings as nicely as solitary family unit households is insulated concrete forms. This new establishing technological innovation has recently been used to set up buildings like warehouses, educational facilities, buying malls, condominiums, and family unit houses. Home owners researching to assemble a new and pleasant your home should really take into account this new kind of construction.
    Good Job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.