First Blocks

Today we peeled the inner forms and laid up the first course of concrete blocks on our tiny cottage. This photo I actually took tomorrow morning when there was light since we finished up after dark when I could no longer take photos. We completed 18 blocks in about 4 hours. That sounds pretty aweful on the face of it but those were the first 18 blocks where we worked out a lot of details as well as corrected some minor problems in level (1″ off along the front edge). The first dozen blocks took most of that time with the last six laying up very quickly.

Here we have Charles and Walter intently discussing the intricacies of the first block of the day. E.g., who gets to lay the blocks and play with the fun toys and who’s going to be the assistant. Very important negotiations!

Charles and Will butter the ends of a stretcher block before setting it into the first course of the south wall. You might remark on how rough the floor is. That’s okay, it is a sub-floor upon which we’ll pour another layer of cement once we have the luxury of an interior to work in. Doing it this way also will further bond the walls to the slab and the rough unfinished slab will make sure we get a good bond with the pour of self-leveling concrete.

Ben the mortar master kept up, and even ahead, of us. Consider this math, chemistry and cooking lesson all rolled into one. Ain’t homeschooling grand! Ben applied formulas, learned to gauge the mix and pace the machine. Ben is using the Husky brand mortar mixer from Home Depot. Honest, I don’t get a endorsement payment!

Here we have Will splitting concrete blocks in half to make half blocks for the ends of courses beside windows and the like. He split about 44 end blocks in two hours or so producing 86 half blocks – only two broke. End blocks split neatly and out of all the ones that Will did he only broke two halves – that’s pretty remarkable! It is a lot of work and the reason I had ordered the ill-fated missing cube of half blocks. I had hoped to avoid splitting blocks but we made the best of it working with the materials at hand.

And what construction site is real without a calendar girl working on her spiffy sports car? Hope with her favorite power tool!

55째F/28째F Sunny

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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4 Responses to First Blocks

  1. Kristianna says:

    Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

    Great photos, Walter. I love to see what you are all up to and I can see you’re working hard. Your kiddos are so cute and I love your daughter’s sports car. :)

    Thank you!


  2. jessie says:

    I’m really enjoying the progression of this project and everyone’s involvement in it.

    My husband is a builder and I have seen a lot of structures go up. Lucky for you, the framing goes fast (not so much with the finishing….). Can’t wait to see you all cozy in your new home.

  3. David B. says:

    Hi Walter!

    I was trying to find the post on pouring the foundation and floor but couldn’t find that one, so I thought I’d ask here. Did you insulate the foundation or floor below the slab? I know you were building basically right on top of the ledge (at least in one corner) so I would think in your climate being thermally connected to the ground would be a bad thing. On the other hand it would add to your thermal mass… though perhaps never returning any heat in the winter, but would be nice in the winter.

    If you didn’t insulate, how do you feel about it now, would it have helped to keep the heat in more in the winter?

    • Yes, we scraped down to the bedrock, laid drainage pipes pointed downhill in clean crushed stone, put insulation and a vapor barrier over that and then poured the slab plus the west knee wall and half the south wall with reinforcing steel. You can see it on this post Cottage Slab Poured. Several spots are keyed into the ledge. There is dirt cover over them, berm, such that they don’t get too cold. Since most of the slab is insulated it stays a good temperature and is more part of the thermal mass of the cottage rather than being part of the thermal mass of the mountain.

      The result is the floor, and the cottage, stays a very nice temperature year round. Without any added heat it floats in the 45°F range even in our cold winters. This is due to the solar gain that gets soaked up by the 100,000 lbs of thermal mass inside the insulating envelope. With just a little boost of about 0.75 cord of maple hard wood in our tiny wood stove the cottage stays up in the 60’s to 70’s during the winter which is what Holly likes.

      Currently the roof only has R-7 on it. Increasing the roof insulation is a project for the future when we further berm the cottage. Meanwhile we have a few other projects before snow flies. :)

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