Taking Shape, Part II

Though Saturday was rainy and cold,  Jeff and I managed to get a lot accomplished this weekend.  The West and South retaining wall arches have been completely covered with two overlapping layers of 1 inch foam form boards and we got a start on the East wall.



Jeff was kept busy cutting foam boards on our cutting table. The sunlight shining through the rebar made a cool pattern throughout the house. but I’ll be happy when the whole structure is covered.






Ahh, the last piece secured on the South side.  Now to run down to the end of the driveway and get a shot from the road.





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Barb, can you tell that my hair’s already growing out?
Monday, April 26, 2010 – 05:31 PM


Win-Day One Day, Perfect Day the Next Day

Yesterday (Saturday) proved to be a challenging work day.  Randy and Ginny came from Salem to help out and, while it was great having the extra hands,  the wind made if difficult to work with the foam.  The 4 X 8 boards are light and easy to handle but with the wind gusting to 25 mph or more, they became big sails.  After getting only a few layers of foam up on the West end, we had to call it a day.  More foam boards were being broken in the wind then we were using.  I hope this day didn’t discourage Randy and Ginny from considering to build an earth sheltered home themselves.


Today however was perfect.  Sunny, warm and hardly a breeze all day.  Jeff and I managed to finish off the West end and started on the South.pastedGraphic.pdfpastedGraphic_1.pdf


The 4 x 8 rolling table  is working out great for cutting the foam.  It’s just the right height to work comfortably.




Here I am putting up that last piece of foam on the West end.  It’s a bit like a big jigsaw puzzle.  There are two layers of foam board and care must be taken to ensure that all the seams are overlapped.




Tie wire is the wrapped around the rebar, through the foam and then secured to wood lath boards.  This will help support the form when the concrete is applied.




Here is an interesting perspective of the finished arch forms on the West end.


And below is the start on South arch.  We are trying a different tack by running the first layer of foam on an angle (following the arch) and the second layer is placed horizontally on top of the first.





I am so impressed!
Monday, April 19, 2010 – 04:34 PM
Thank You, Mysterious Anonymous Person.  We enjoy sharing our experience of building this unique home and love to get comments on our blog
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 – 03:02 PM
I sincerely hope you got everything fastened well before the bad weather today.
Monday, April 26, 2010 – 09:51 PM
Wow is all I can say. Kevin has been talking about this since you guys were in High School together. I am so happy to see you following through with your dreams.
Sunday, May 2, 2010 – 09:19 AM
Hi Lee, I’m glad you checked out our building blog. Kevin could build one of these down in Florida.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 – 01:14 AM


Taking Shape

Today was a beautiful day.  We made some progress on the West retaining wall arch forms.  The 4 X 8 sheets of 1 inch foam boards are very light but sometime unwieldy when a breeze picks up.  Beckett was out helping for a bit today cutting wire and helping to hold the foam in place while it got secured..




We are hoping the good pastedGraphic_1.pdfweather will hold out tomorrow.  Some people are coming from the Salem to help out because they are interested in building a similar type of home and want to get some experience.  Kind of like what I did going down to Dixon, California to help Nigel Walker on his earth sheltered home.



There Be Foam In Them Thar Hills

After helping Nigel Walker with his home in Dixon, California, I was anxious to get working on our project.  Today proved to be decent, weather wise.  First we finished putting the support J-bolts in the North wall.






The wall acts as sort of a permanent form for the concrete behind it. The J-bolts will ensure that the wall, built with steel studs, will stay connected to the concrete.  If there is any shrinkage, we will be able to tighten the bolts to draw the wall into the concrete.


Also, in preparation for working with the foam boards, we built a 4’ X 8’ table out of an old pallet and some scrap lumber.   This will make it easier to cut the foam at a comfortable working height.  We added locking casters so we can roll it around easily.




At the end of the day, we only had a few pieces of foam up but I feel that work will progress rapidly if only Mother Nature will be a bit more cooperative.


Long Day (& Night) In Dixon, California

Time for another trip down to Eatwell Farm and the future Formworks home of Nigel Walker and his family.  I took the train, arriving early Friday morning.  Lorraine picked me up at the station in Davis, not to far from the farm.  After some of their famous fried eggs and tortillas for breakfast, we waited for the concrete crew and equipment to arrive….and waited….and waited.  Apparently the shotcrete truck got held up at the inspection station with some faulty lights.  They were not allowed to proceed until it was all fixed. When the equipment finally arrived around II am,  everybody got really busy.  Nigel chose to have the concrete mixed on site.   This involved piles of sand, gravel, and a supply truck carrying powdered portland cement.  The benefit to this is a constant supply of fresh concrete which gives you more time to “work” with it.  We might try to do this too but I’m not sure if we have the space for all the required equipment.pastedGraphic.pdf


This skid loader was kept busy all day filling the hoppers of the portable processing truck which mixed the ingredients into fresh cement that was then fed to the concrete pump.pastedGraphic_1.pdf


Add a bit of compressed air and Voila!






It was dark by time they got to the last section of the house.  The work area was lit up with headlights and one of those big portable jobsite lights.




Unfortunately I had to head back that night on the train before they were finished. but it was great to be there to see the shot-crete process.  I even did some of the concrete trowling so I could get a sense for what we will be doing on our house.  Also,  Dale from Formworks Building Inc. flew out from Colorado to be on hand for the big event.  It was great meeting him in person and getting more pointers on how to proceed with our project.  I can’t wait to get back to work.

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UPDATE:  Heard from Nigel that at 11:30pm, they ran out of concrete.  They will finish up on Monday
Monday, April 12, 2010 – 09:25 AM


Inspector Gadget

Yesterday, while I was awaiting the electrical inspector, and during a brief moment of sunhine, I built this jig to cut wire.  When we start putting up the foam boards that will act as the concrete forms for the shell, they will be secured with these short pieces of wire. (see the previous blog entry for more details)


Now that we have the “sign off” from both the electrical and building inspector, we can proceed with this next step in preparation for spraying the concrete shell.  However we are still a slave to Mother Nature.  As I am writing this blog entry,  I am sitting in our leaky trailer being buffeted by 60 mph winds and horizontal rain.  I think that the only thing that will get accomplished this weekend is cutting lots of wire with this handy “gadget”.




Next weekend, I’ll be heading back down to Dixon, Californina and the Eatwell Farm, where they will be spraying the shotcrete on their Formworks home.  I look forward to seing that process take place.