Monday, December 31, 2007

Putting Up Floor Joists

I've started putting up the floor joists in the kitchen area. In the photo below, you can also see one joist on the other side of the beam. That one will provide some lateral support while I'm installing all the joists on this side.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Planning Early For The Roof

The house will have open ceilings, with a large ridge girder supporting the entire roof structure for the main part of the house. Of course this means that the walls that support each end of the ridge girder will have to be strong enough to support that weight.

At one end of the house the ridge girder is supported by an outside wall, which is concrete, so support isn't an issue. However, at the other end of the girder, the support will have to come from interior walls only, which are not made of concrete. In order for those interior walls to carry that weight, we need to go right down to the basement pad footings with a big column.

To build the column - which also supports one end of the main floor beam - I've started with two 2x10s with a 3/4" plywood spacer between them. That gives me a column that's 3 - 3/4" wide; the same width as the main floor beam. Then I added two more 2x10s to the outside of the column. (This gives me the equivalent of an 8x10 column that - according to lumber specs - will support 40,000 pounds.) This second pair of 2x10s extend up beside the main floor beam as well. This makes a nice saddle for the beam to sit in, and also gives me the large bearing area I need to continue with similar columns on the main and second floors. On the main and second floors, the columns will be part of the walls, so they won't be visible as stand-alone columns.

When I'm all done, the weight of one end of the ridge girder will basically be supported by one "virtual" column that goes all the way down to the pad footings in the basement.

On one side of the main floor beam I've also padded out the width of the beam with double layers of 3/4" plywood; so that I could attach the side-by-side joist hangers for the double joists required to support the wall above.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Merry Christmas.

Back in a week or so.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Snow & Beams

Its been snowing like crazy so I spent most of the morning on the tractor. I did manage to get another beam up in the afternoon though, and also got the joist hangers installed on the last piece, so it's ready to go up too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Installing The Main Floor Beam

The main floor beam is made up of four pieces; each piece 16' long and 2" thick. Two pieces go back to back for each half of the house, so the entire beam size is 32' long and 4" thick.

I've installed temporary support posts that will only be used until I get the beam up. Once the beam is up and I have some joists attached to it, I'll install the permanent teleposts and remove the temporary ones.

I attached the joist hangers to the beam before I put it up... it's just easier to install them when the beam is flat on the ground.

The beam is a bit cumbersome for one person to handle, so I put some temporary stirrups on the posts so that I could lift the beam up on to them first. Once the beam was resting on them, it was much easier to lift it up the rest of the way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

All Ledger Boards Up

I installed the last of the ledger boards today. I've been using a laser level to ensure that everything is straight and true. During the daylight hours, the laser will show up fine when you are within about 12 feet of a wall. The problem with that is, when you are that close to the wall, the laser line isn't wide enough to extend the entire width of the basement. But, if you move the laser farther away from the wall, it becomes impossible to see. The solution is to wait until it starts to get dark. This picture was taken about 4:15 in the afternoon. By that time, it's dark enough to see the laser all the way around the basement; and I can get a much better idea of how level everything is.

You can see the laser line at the top of the ledger boards. It's important to check the level and alignment at the top of the board, rather than the bottom, because the boards can vary in width by up to 3/16". If you align them at the bottom, they may not line up at the top. (I learned that lesson the hard way.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Installing Long Ledger Boards

I'm back to installing the ledger boards again. I've started with the two longest ones first so that I can get them out of the way. They're not overly heavy... maybe 120 lbs... but because they are 27' and 30' long, they're very cumbersome to move around.

My plan is to lift them up on to the top edge of the basement wall, then lower them down into place just below the top of the wall.

I started by getting one end of the ledger up on the edge of the wall. I've placed a scrap of aluminum C-channel on the top of the wall for the ledger to sit in. This will protect the top of the ICF and will also allow the ledger to slide easier.

Now it's just a matter of sliding the ledger all the way along the top of the wall. The rebar that's sticking out of the top of the wall prevents the ledger from falling to the outside, and I've got 2x4 braces attached to the inside of the wall to prevent it from falling into the basement. The braces also provide a base for the ledger to sit on until it's attached to the wall with the steel brackets.

Once it was in the right spot, I just stood on the outside of the wall and gave the ledger a little shove at the bottom with a 2x4. Amazingly enough, it fell into place with a thunderous crash! (Actually more of an anti-climactic thud.)

Now that it's in place, all I have to do is shim it to level and attach it to the wall permanently.

This is the other long ledger... at the front of the house. The steel brackets are partially installed.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Foundation Waterproofing Finished

Time to celebrate! The foundation waterproofing is done. Yay!!!!

(Okay... celebration's over. On to the next project.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Drainage Rock

There's 12 cubic yards in a load of drainage rock and I'm just about at the end of this load. I've got two spots where I can get the tractor fairly close to the basement excavation, so I load up the bucket and dump the rock over the edge into the hole, then I shovel it into three-gallon pails and dump it where it's needed.

I've got about 12" of rock over top of the pipes here. Another 6" to go.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Shovel Gravel Shovel Gravel Shovel Gravel

That's all I've been doing the past couple of days.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Another six inches of snow arrived today. This is so much fun!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Conduit And Gravel

I had someone come out a few weeks ago to put in the electrical and water lines to the well. I wanted to get that work done before freeze-up because they had to dig trench from the house to the well. If I didn't do that work now, I'd have had to wait until spring. Now, once the house is enclosed, all they have to do is lower the submersible pump down into the well and hook up the controls in the basement... and I'll have running water. That work can be done anytime of the year, it's not weather-dependent.

When I poured the basement, I had put in wall penetrations just above the footing to accommodate the power and water lines to the well. Now I've run a conduit for the electrical line from the basement to where the wires begin to run underground to the well-head. The connection where the conduit is attached to the wall penetration has been thoroughly sealed up with waterproof caulking. The water line (on the right; below) has yet to be sealed up. When the rest of the drain rock is put here, the waterproof membrane will sit flat on top of the lines... like their own private little roof.

I also did a bit more work on the gravel bed around the foundation drainage pipe. I cleared away the snow, then put gravel underneath and around the pipe as explained a few days ago.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Home Stretch

I'm on the home stretch for finishing the foundation waterproofing. Just the long front wall left to do. (I didn't want to bore you with another picture of a basement wall, so here's something else instead.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Where Did I Put Those Pipe Elbows?

We got five inches of snow on Monday night, so I think winter is here to stay now. It took me just over two hours to clear the yard and driveway with the tractor. Hopefully as I get more practice I'll be able to cut that time down some.

I have a bad habit of leaving little piles of stuff around... a couple of 2x4s here, a pile of stakes there... that sort of thing. Now that the ground is covered, I can't find anything! So, I spent most of the rest of the day doing some organizing around the building site.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Uh-oh. Winter has arrived.

I'm about half done the waterproofing now. The tent n' heater idea is working out very well, except that I can only do about 12 feet at a time before I have to let the next section warm up.
In the meantime, I've been spreading a 4"-10" layer of drainage rock around the perimeter of the foundation. This gives the drainage pipe a nice level bed to lay on, up off the ground; thereby preventing the pipes from clogging up with silt. It also allows me to create a nice, even slope for the pipe from the front of the house to the back of the house. (There is crushed rock underneath that snow, really!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Working Inside

I've found that if I put up some temporary hoarding, I can put a small electric heater inside for a two or three hours and it will take all the frost out of the ICFs. Then I just crawl inside and apply the waterproofing membrane to a nice dry wall.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Foundation Waterproofing

This is turning out to be a time consuming process because I have to try to get most of the moisture out of the ICFs before I can apply the waterproofing membrane. I've been doing this with a heat gun and lots of paper towel. Rather tedious, but I've got one wall finished now.

The final grade around the house will be higher at the front than at the back, hence the reason that the membrane is higher up the wall at the front of the house.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mother Nature's Request

Lots of rain today. I'm taking that as Mother Nature's way of telling me to take the day off.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Waterproofing The Foundation

Before I can backfill the basement, the outside of the basement walls have to be waterproofed. The traditional way of doing this was to spread (or spray) a thick, black, tar-like coating on the foundation walls and footings... a very messy job. With an ICF foundation, that process can be greatly simplified by using a peel-and-stick waterproofing membrane. It's basically tar-on-a-roll, with a layer of tar sandwiched between a plastic facing on one side and a peelable backing on the other side. In very simple terms, you cut a piece off the roll, peel the backing off, and press it into place. The tar-like substance sticks to the ICF block very well and it's relatively clean to work with.

You start by putting a short piece at the bottom of the wall and down overtop the footing and the plastic footing bag. Here's where the plastic footing bags that I used for the footing forms tie in nicely with the waterproofing membrane; any water that comes from the soil or comes down the side of the house in a heavy rain can't make it's way into the house because now the entire basement is encased in plastic. At least that's the theory.

After the footing piece is done, the walls can be done. You simply cut a piece about six feet long, hold it up against the wall, start peeling the backing off, and press it to the wall as you go. There are lines scribed into the ICF blocks that you can use as a reference to get everything straight. When you get down to the bottom, you overlap it right on top of the footing piece applied previously. Once it's all attached to the wall, you go over it with a rubber roller to make sure that it's really stuck well. Each subsequent piece overlaps its neighbour by about three inches and the corners will get a double layer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pouring The Pad Footings

Where's the big read Easy Button? Once the pump truck was all set up it took less than 10 minutes to fill the all the forms. If I would have rented a cement mixer and mixed it all myself it would have taken me days.

I've covered them up and have the heater running again. I'll let them sit that way overnight. By tomorrow night they'll have cured enough that the risk of freezing isn't a problem anymore.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hoarding The Pad Footing Forms

We're scheduled to pour the concrete for the pad footings tomorrow. It's supposed to get down to minus five degrees tonight, so I've covered the footing forms with tarps and put a small propane "torpedo" heater at one end. It's best not to pour concrete on top of frozen soil, so hopefully this will keep everything from freezing.

This is looking in from the far end of the tent. There's lots of warm air here, so I think this will work okay.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pad Footings

These are the forms for the pad footings in the basement. The pad footings will support the posts that support both the main floor and the upper level floor. The posts will be spaced at eight feet apart in order to provide the strength required to support both floors above.

The two smaller footings will support the floor above and around the stairwell to the loft area.
The forms don't have to be pretty, they just have to be square (more or less) and level.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Floor Joists In The Dining Area

I've finished putting up all the floor joists in the dining area. This area has only a 14' span, so there isn't a need for any additional support in the center of the joists.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Installing The Floor

Now that the basement walls are up I can start putting up the ledger boards and floor joists. The ledger boards are attached to the walls by means of two-piece steel brackets manufactured by Simpson Strong-Tie.

The inside bracket piece is the octagonal shaped one. It has two fins that were poked through the ICFs before the concrete was poured. The fins extend through the ICFs about four inches and are embedded solidly into the concrete. The ledger board is then sandwiched between the inside and outside brackets, and the everything is held together with eight - 3" bolts.

Once the ledger boards have been attached to the walls, the joist hangers can be attached to the ledger boards, and then the floor joists are set down inside the joist hangers.