Monday, July 28, 2008

July 28 - Update #2 - A Strong House

Here are three pictures of the concrete columns and bond beam now that the plywood forms are gone. It looks great overall - smooth and strong. There are a few spots where the concrete got damaged a bit by the forms coming loose during pouring. Willy and the CEB crew will attend to them over the next couple of days. Today they were working on the final rows of CEBs that go on top of the bond beam in the front wall of the studio (shown in the third picture) to bring up the height of that wall to match the of the rest of the room. The studio will have a higher ceiling than in any other part of the house except the cathedral celing in the Great Room.

July 28 - Update #1 - Now That's More Like It!!

Potomac Waterproofing made good on their promise and came back today to fix the basement water proofing that had to be left unfinished until the CEB walls were finished with the concrete pour. It looks great. The yellow board is a 2" thick layer of fiberglass board that's designed to allow water to preferentially pass down the plane of the wall rather than through the plane into the house. It's also insulative, and will help keep the inside of the basement wall warm so that no dampness occurs from condensation on the inside. Once we get the county to reinspect it, we should be able to backfill around the house. What a milestone this will be!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Udate July 25 - Pour on the Progress

It looked a bit like a carnival ride, but an extensive pumper truck combo came to fill the columns and bond beam today with concrete. The operation went pretty smoothly overall. Only in a couple of spots were the plywood forms that suspended rebar inside not quite strong enough to hold the weight of the concrete and needed extra reinforcement.

In the fourth picture down, you can see one worker steering the nozzle to fill the form while his helper smooths the top with a board. The workers set hardware anchors at pre-engineered spots which will receive the roof trusses. In the last picture you can see our two anchormen themselves, Chad Hackmann with UBuildIt Bethesda (project management services) and John Spears of Sustainable Design Group (our architect).

It's a relief to have this portion of the project finished. As soon as the concrete dries, the plywood forms can be removed. This will enable the waterproofers to come back and finish their job on the basement walls, and then they can be backfilled, so you won't need to cross a plank to get into the house. Our framer can then also continue his work on the second story area above the garage, frame the first floor and basement and install the roof. We'll get the lumber order for that ordered first thing Monday. It'll arrive by Wednesday or so. We ordered the roof trusses today. They will arrive in about a week and a half.

Lord, give us good weather to continue. Amen.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Update July 21 - Ugh

A week and a half ago we were encouraged by the parged basement walls and looked forward to getting them waterproofed and inspected so that we could backfill around the house. This, we thought, should enable the CEB guys to finish their last step easier - pouring the concrete for the bond beam and columns.

So the waterproofers came out, but didn't really finish the job because the wooden forms for the columns protruded down over the cinder blocks. So they left parts of the wall uncoated, and much of the insulating board only weakly secured. Then we got 2 inches of rain, and many of the boards collapsed and broke from the weight of the water. So in hindsight, we should have finished the upper walls first, and then done the waterproofing.

The waterproofing company has agreed to come fix everything when the upper walls are finished. We'll then have to get things re-inspected, since the county failed the inspection this first go-round (we weren't able to cancel the inspection in time - and of course the inspector showed up in the morning rather than the afternoon when we scheduled him to come) Double ugh!

We really pray to be able to finish the concrete this week. All we need is one good day with everything and everyone organized. We then can place the truss order with some confidence. It will take about a week and a half to get to the site. Meanwhile, Anilton Rezen, the framer, can work to put the second story above the garage and get everything ready to install the trusses when they arrive.

We're still collecting bids for the radiant heat/geo-thermal system. It's expensive, and it's been really hard to "pull the trigger" on a contract, but we must do this soon.

I'm reminded of the hardships that the Wright Brothers persevered through as they sought to be the first to master powered flight - bad weather, bad help, delayed hardware, broken parts, etc. etc. Yet they could see something in their mind's eye that kept them going. I can see a beautiful, functional house of creative energy, love, and fruitful ministry. Lord, protect what you've begun. Give us knowledge and wisdom in every new decision. Oversee and overcome our weaknesses. Send us those you've ordained to work on the project. Glorify yourself to all though your evident, supernatural help. Amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Update July 10

Here's a couple shots of the parged foundation. It looks really nice to see something that looks semi-finished! Tomorrow the water proofing company is scheduled to come and cover the parged areas with black water proofing goop and then some fiberglass drainage board that acts both to water proof and insulate the basement.

The middle shot shows Maureen doing her first inspection from INSIDE THE HOUSE (taken on Monday). She's standing in the master bedroom discussing the doorway to the back of the house.

The last shot shows the house as it looked this evening. The wooden trays for pouring the concrete bond beam and columns are nearly complete. The yard contains a bunch of CEBs that we plan to use later for things like raised gardens.

I can't wait until the foundation is waterproofed (tomorrow!) and inspected (Monday, I hope). Then we can begin to backfill the moat around the house. This will make everything easier and safer. Lord help us daily. Amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

CEB: A Day In The Life

Here's a short video mike edited showcasing a day in the life of a CEB (Compacted Earth Brick or Compressed Earth Block). Every brick in our new house has been made "on location" using the dirt from our very own land. Once the blocks are faced with some insulation and stucco, they form walls that carry an R value of 50 and provide "thermal mass" to the building to help keep the internal temperature consistent. They are also fireproof, pestproof, and soundproof -all qualities that attracted us to using them.

The day this video was shot a 6 person crew made a record 950 bricks! This coming Monday (July 7th), will mark the final day of CEB production. This is an important milestone on our way to a new home. The Green Machine™ has done its job.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July 2nd Update

Thanks for the earlier post, Lyd. Keep 'em coming.

I took these shots today. The first shows the base of one of the columns where rebar is anchored into the cinder blocks with cement. The rebar struture then comes up the column area and gets tied into more rebar that goes across the top of the CEB walls. Once all the rebar is in place, it will be surrounded by plywood forms that will hold concrete that will be poured into them, actually forming the columns and the bond beam.

The rebar has to be inspected before the pouring takes place. This should happen tomorrow, when Bob Fuller, the structural engineer, plans to visit the site. Conduit and wires for electrical switches must also be placed and inspected in the columns before they are encased in concrete. This way we won't need conduit along the inside of the CEB walls running to light switches.

We'll also start parging the basement walls with concrete so that early next week we can get the waterproofing contractor out to waterproof and insulate the basement walls as well as place draintile (really drain pipe) along the footers of the house. Once this all gets inspected by the county we can backfill the moat that's around the house right now making it much more approachable and easier to work around.

We ordered the windows yesterday which should be delivered in 4-5 weeks. By then the house should be under roof. Wow, it will really seem like a house then!

Meanwhile the barn swallows were swooping in, around, and out of the house today through every door and window opening (and of course over the roofless walls). It was cute to watch them land and glean a few crumbs leftover from the workers' lunches earlier in the day. Wow, how can they see those miniscule crumbs soaring and diving around as they do? God's given them remarkable eyes.

I'm reminded of Psalm 94:8,9 "Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?" Lord, I know you see everything that's happening on our project and that you hear our petitions for your help, favor and blessing. Be pleased to glorify yourself through all that's taking place there now and in the future. Our hope is in you. Amen.

p.s. The pump started working again, and no one knows why.

More Photos

Hey, it's Lydia (Kevin's daughter) writing for a change. Mike and I went to the property about a week and a half ago to document the progress in our own way - Mike with video and me with photos. They were making the good old earth bricks that day so I thought I'd go through a little photo tutorial of how they're made step by step. You can see that at the end of the post. First, here's us and a few higher quality images of house...aka not from dad's camera phone :) Remember this is from nearly two weeks ago so the progress is even farther now! Yay.

Oh and the top two images our from our yard. Umm, yeah, it's gorgeous.

our first picture at the new house!

And ta da!! That's how they're made. Go here if you want a more technical explanation...I prefer to speak in photos. :)