Hall Trench Cover

Butcher Shop Hall

Yesterday we finished parging the ferro cement cover of the plumbing trenches, our basement, in the butcher shop. This hides the complexity of all those pipes, sleeves and conduits so that cleaning will be easy and the rooms will be sanitary.

It took longer than I thought to get to this point but now it is done right. This means that for years, for decades to come, we’ll have an easier job maintaining the facility than if we had exposed wiring, plumbing and such with all its nooks and crannies catching dust. It is also maintainable and replaceable should we ever need to go down in the trenches.

Foam Form Fabrication

The half inch to one inch ferro-cement trench cover was formed over a build up of sheets of pink foam insulation with pillars and joists just like constructing a roof or deck. The foam created a strong enough scaffold for us to use basalt mesh and a parge of sand cement mix.

Hall Trench Cap of Half Inch Foam

Once that cures it will act as a form for us to pour the much heavier final fiber concrete floors from a readymix truck.

For comparison, the roof of our cottage is a 1.5″ thick ferro-cement barrel vault. It gets its strength primarily from its shape. In the case of the hall floor I used very short spans and then subdivided them with pillars of foam in the middle. Strength is important as we’ll be bringing a three quarter ton hog scalder through this hall someday in order to install it in the abattoir. We’ll also be bringing in the inspector’s desk this way – that is an approximately 700 lb slab of granite. Think like an Egyptian.

Running down the middle of the hall you can see some of the basalt mesh sticking up out of the parge. This was an extra set that will bind the cold joint between the two layers creating a truss of the floor.

In the middle of the hall is a square of pink foam where the stainless steel access plate will go for the plumbing. We’ll do polyurea seal right over the hatch to eliminate cracks where bacteria could grow creating a seamless floor to ceiling coating for all the rooms.

Should we ever need to get down into the plumbing that is our first point of entry. Clean outs are clustered under access plates to make this easy.

In the event that we have to work on the plumbing in a major way we can run a diamond bladed skill saw along the concrete to remove the middle of the hall floor exposing the plumbing, rigid non-metallic sleeves for gas lines, rigid non-metallic conduits for incoming lower electrical conduit and such. The pink foam form acts as a spacer to protect the pipes from the diamond blade.

I don’t think that will be necessary in the next fifty years, the published lifespan of PVC, but if we have to do so we can. This is the reason for doing the thin floor like this over the plumbing trench – future potential access while still having it all sealed away.

There is one area we will be cutting up, in the smokehouse. I did not install the smokehouse plumbing at this time as it is too far out in the future and I still have things I want to think about on that. Instead I just left a blank trench that links up to the rest of the plumbing. When it comes time to install that I’ll understand it better and we’ll just cut up that small section of floor, do the smokehouse plumbing, report that little bit of floor and coat it with polyurea.

By building the floor in layers of ferro cement it makes for a very strong thin floor that we can cut up if necessary. Technically ferro-cement is steel and cement but in this case we’re actually using basalt mesh and fibers instead of steel as these reinforcing materials are not prone to corrosion.

In the middle of the top photo next to the pink foam square of the hatch you can see the red granite sill that leads to the left into the initial meat cutting room. The inspector’s office is to the right at the far end of the hall and their bathroom is to the right at the near end of the hall.

Ben has now cut and carved all of the sills for the administration and initial cutting room. I still need to get the design for the front door sill to him – that goes in at the far end of the hall.

There are actually two drains in the hall floor, one at the entry to catch dirt from the outdoors and one at the abattoir end so that we can slope and wash each in its respective direction. This will fit the traffic patterns and help with sanitation.

Admin & Initial Cutting

Previously the hall had looked very narrow and tall at 4′ wide, 16′ long and 10′ tall. Now that the trench is closed and we’re close to the final floor height it looks proportional.

With just a little more work we’ll be ready to pour the floors. This will happen in two stages. First is the deep portion that covers some bits of plumbing, conduit and the trenches. Then I’ll lay in the final screed line boards and PEX pipe for warm floors and we’ll pour the final hard coat. Dividing it into two stages means it will be easier to properly lay the PEX lines and get the drainage slopes on the floors. Then thirty days later we’ll be able to seal the floors with polyurea.

It’s coming together and we are nearing the end of construction of this section of the building. Soon we’ll be able to apply for our inspection and begin cutting meat from our own pigs here at Sugar Mountain Farm.

Outdoors: 64°F/41°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 61°F/57°F

Daily Spark: Elegance hides complexity.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to Hall Trench Cover

  1. Cary says:

    Exciting to see it come together. With all the attempts by government to drive out the small farmer it gives me hope seeing operations like yours carving out it’s own niche.

    I’m concerned with the latest power grab by the FDA. It’s really targeted at the small organic farmer much like their attempts at making free range chicken producers RFID chip every single chicken where as commercial growers only have a single chip for an entire barn. Also free rangers are supposed to account for every chicken. They might as well ban farms under a certain size! Sad because true organic farms are only something like 3% of the market but the corporate farms even see that as competition. Pure greed.

  2. Julia says:

    This is so exciting–I can’t wait until you can do all your processing onsite.

    Pssst–I think the word “published” belongs in front of “lifespan.”

  3. Someone wrote me and was concerned about the various lines being all together and under concrete. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough with the photos and description. Nothing is buried in concrete and it is all in rigid nonmetallic conduit and sleeves which is encouraged, by code.

    Here’s the explanation in more detail:

    Each of the lines are in separate nonmetallic sleeves and nonmetallic conduits which is allowed by code. Electric lines and gas lines are no more in the same space than if they were in the same room of a house and double protected by conduit. That is to say they are not actually ‘together’ but rather each is in its separate space. This is above and beyond the requirements of code.

    Part of the reason for sleeving all the future pipes that will be put in is that currently all the sleeves and conduit are empty. This will allow us to feed flexible pipes in such as PEX when needed. Each sleeve and conduit leads from the exterior interface point to the destination location completely separately just like it was in a underground trench or such. For example, the electrical main comes in through 3″ conduit and then up to the panel which you can just see at the far end of the hall by the doorway.

    None of this is ‘buried’ under concrete although burying is allowed by code. The whole area is hollow below the thin coat top layer. The foam frame was then fiber and mesh cemented so that if necessary everything is accessible. Think of the trench as a very short basement or even a manhole and tunnels like under city streets.

  4. Wendy M. says:

    Very impressive. I like how you think everything out so carefully. What are the dark spots on the ceiling?

  5. David Davidson says:

    Are you using energy efficient lighting? That looks like a incandescent bulb.

    • Yes, we’re using LED lights. The bulb at the top of the photo is a warm (light color rating) LED light. I think that one is from CREE. If memory serves it is this one from Home Depot. They look a lot like the old round incandescent lights but use about 1/10th as much power. Unlike florescent bulbs and old LEDs these newer LED bulbs do not flicker nor do they have problems with cold weather.

  6. Patrick says:

    Wow. Always impressed with these posts. You need to write a book on this project. As if such time is something any of us have laying around…

    I look at the local farms here and realize that we drive all livestock out of state for USDA processing. Crazy expensive. There are no commercial processing stations here that are not owned by the corp-farms (our state is a big producer of poultry).

    Maybe you’ll franchise, someday. ;)

  7. stephen says:

    Sorry if you mentioned this elsewhere, but where did you get the basalt mesh? I’m very intrigued and would like to try it instead of metal mesh for future projects.

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