Pink Piggy Palace

Foam Insulation Inside Forms

Our old farm house, to the right in the photo above, is pink. It was cheap siding as Lloyd, the previous owner, had explained. Our tiny cottage was pink too for a while from the outer insulation around its thermal mass. Now it is grey and blends a bit better with the background. Stonework, even faux, looks better than pink.

The butcher shop is inside out right now. We’re building a large mold into which we’ll pour the building. As part of that mold we have insulation. We’re insulating the forms so that the concrete will be instantly and automatically insulated, tightly binding to the foam. It’s a technique I developed about 20 years ago and have used since then for a variety of projects. Simple and effective with the added benefit that the forms peel easily and the concrete is insulated eliminating the need to wet it or warm it – key in our typical cold weather pours.

Washers Holding Foam in Place

To hold the foam in place we use large washers made of recycled cream cheese container lids and a sheetrock screw. This matrix of attachments will help to bind the whole together as well once the concrete cures.

Our butcher shop has a lot of insulation in it. We spend the money now to save it for decades later on our energy bill.

Outdoors: 48째F/26째F Misty
Tiny Cottage: 62째F/51째F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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12 Responses to Pink Piggy Palace

  1. Great idea! looking forward to seeing how this project comes together.

  2. Anonymous says:


    It occurs to me more every day that you are raising pigs, vegetables (and a family) as was done many, many years ago. But you do this with knowledge from the 21st century. What comes with this, unfortunately, is 21st century rules and obstacles ie government oversight of slaughter alongside corporate rules re money ending.

    I mention this because I recently had read some absurd challenges of your approach by other farmers who do other things. It's too bad that what was common knowledge in a community in 1850 has now been so lost that people have no idea where food comes from or how animals live and grow.

    Just keep doing what you do, thank you for posting so much information about how things are done.


  3. Aye, we have some great benefits from modern day too such as electric fencing and 1" black plastic water pipe. Wonderful inventions right up there with Duct Tape. The key is to pick and choose the best of each era. Fortunately we were given the opportunity to learn and do.

  4. trillium says:

    I have researched insulating high thermal mass walls over the past few years in preparing to build myself a rammed earth home. I've read that putting the insulation on the outside is more efficient. One study: The concrete would then hold the heat you supply inside the building. Concrete on the outside stores outside temp next to the building, which is colder during the day than the outside air. It is pretty efficient if you also insulate the exterior of the building. Perhaps you plan to do that.

    Your blog, and this project, inspire this beginning farmer every time I check in!

    Thank you!

  5. Yes, Trillium, That is how we are doing it on the Butcher Shop and how we did it on our tiny cottage. This has worked very well. The insulation goes outside the thermal mass of stone and concrete and then outside the insulation we have a thin parge of about 1/2" of fiber concrete to protect the insulation.

    The butcher shop is actually a little more complex with boxes within boxes each at different temperatures following a gradient. In the deepest, most inner most circle it will be a constant 40째F below zero. I'll leave it to your imagination as to what the sign will say over that door. :)

  6. jtbartlett says:

    With all of the available stone have you considered slipforming the walls of your project? Reinforced stone/concrete walls can be built at a fraction of cost. The process is much more labor intensive however the savings are significant if you have the material (stone) to work with. =)


  7. As you note, it would take longer, actually a lot longer, but more importantly to achieve the same structural strength the walls would have to be several times thicker than poured concrete steel reinforced walls. We're dealing with a small starting foundation.

    By building on that foundation we were able to get permits faster and at much less cost. This means I must optimize the wall thickness to get as much interior space in each room as possible so the walls must be as thin as possible.

    The USDA lists the concrete as one of their preferred construction materials so getting our certificate of inspection is easier. A detail.

    I would love to do stone walls but concrete it is.

    Also see this.

  8. Paul says:

    Concrete is great stuff. It lasts far longer than wood and even longer than slip form walls. I have done walls in our house as thin as half an inch. Shelves too. They are strong and solid and asthetically pleasing. I love the pourability and smoothability of concrete. Stone is fun but I can't get it to do what concrete will do. I noticed your house roof is ferro cement which is a tech I love. Did you use ferro elsewhere and will you use it in the butcher shop? Keep on updating us on all your great projects. I love following along your blog!

  9. Hi Paul,

    Yes, we'll have FC (Ferro-Cement) in the butcher shop as well as RC (Reinforced Concrete) and there someday may even be an outer layer of stone work if I get enough time. I've designed it with that in mind so it can be added later. The building would be one face of the form and a slip form would ride up outside of that.

    I enjoy working with each material where it goes best, each technique and material has its strengths and weaknesses. Finding them and exploiting them is fun.



  10. Jason says:

    I can give you another reason not to do slip form if Walter is doing this like his cottage and that is his outside wall is covered with insulation so the stone wouldn't be even seen. Concrete is easier and faster. Times money. Besides the slip formed stone would be impossible to keep clean for the kinds of standards you want in a butcher shop. Think clean, clean, clean, clean!

  11. Farmerbob1 says:

    Two things Walter.

    First, a typo:

    “It was cheap siding as Lloyd, the previous owner, as explained.”

    I think you meant ‘has’ or ‘had’ instead of the second ‘as’ but you could remove that second ‘as’ completely.

    Also, I’m curious as to the concrete you are using. Did you go back to basics and use the Roman concrete formulation that will last thousands of years? The Pantheon is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, 2000 years or so after it was built.

    • Thanks for the typo catch! Got it. I always appreciate the extra eyes, especially since I often write late at night.

      We use a high cement concrete that makes it stronger, thicker pours than conventional construction that prevent atmospheric intrusion that corrodes rebar, fiber reinforcement, basalt, stainless steel rebar in critical areas, reduced water and a high stone mix (local granite) among other things. These factors should all make for far longer lasting concrete. The Roman concrete formulations are a bit of a mythology – much of what they did are some of the above factors. Part of the anti-myth is because back in the last century so much concrete was put in sub-par by lowest bidder government contractors who have given concrete a bad name. It also doesn’t help that for a long time salt has been used on roads – salt used to be respected and used for food, where it belongs, and not on roads, where it definitely should not be. Environment helps.

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