Missouri Herbs

Missouri Herbs
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Footer forms

In this picture, the primary interior mass wall footer is not shown.  The house building is moving at a slow steady pace.  There have been equipment problems, but we are back on track and the weather has been wonderful.  We're at the footer stage.  I made a drawing outlining and numbering each board length for the inside and outside track of the footers.  While Jeffrey made sure the rubble trench foundation, that the footers will sit on top, was well tamped; I cut and numbered each board for the footers.  I used 4x6's laying side by side on the ground to lay the wood on for cutting and made sure the end being cut off could fall freely to the ground so as not to bunch up the blade.  Thanks to my friend Anastasia for showing me that I could get over my fear of power tools that can cut off body parts. 

The top of the footer forms have to be the same level or elevation all the way around to form a level base for the concrete blocks.  That is easier said than done.  Our forms are old and slightly warped so we did the best we could and will fix the rest with the mortar that goes under the first and 7th course of blocks.  There are different ways to setup the footer forms so that the building is square.  There is the 3, 4, 5 method, batter boards and the pytagoras formula I found on p. 52 of "Earth Sheltered Houses".  Having tried the math solution before when getting the lines square for the trench excavation, we thought we'd try another method.  Just put up the corners and see if we can get it right by chance.  We'd resort to math if we had to.  So we formed the corners of the outter footer form track, put them generally in the right place and moved them around till their diagonal measurement from one corner, across the house to the other corner, was the same.  That worked for us! Then we staked them with rebar so they didn't move around as we screwed the remaining boards together. 

We hammered in short lengths of rebar about an 8th of an inch from each corner and ran string so that it would be easier to get the forms straight.   Using a transit is so incredibly easy and a fun job.  We originally tried getting each piece of wood at the correct elevation, then screwed the next board in - thinking that the whole run would be too heavy to lift repeatedly.  That didn't work so well, screwing in the next board almost always changed the height of the prior board.  Having the whole footer form track, outer track first, screwed together then lifting (or digging down as the case may be) each section we were working on was much easier.  

We've seen where people have attached rebar to a footer form with nails and moved the rebar up or down to get it to the desired height.  Maybe it's just our very rocky sub-base, but that didn't work at all for us.  Pounding the rebar into the ground for one was incredibly hard and for two made getting the form to an exact height almost impossible.  It also almost always messed up our square or elevation.  Using different sized rocks which are all over was much easier to temporarily get the inner and outer tracks to their correct height.  We also used little wooden legs in some areas.  Then we jammed rocks in under big spaces under the forms all around the track.  Since we made sure the pad where the footers are was basically level first, there weren't any huge gaps under the forms.  We did this by using the transit and shooting all around the pad and correcting before the footers were put up. 

After the outer track was at the same height all the way around, we could use the level to get the inner track close to the correct height.  We then did shoot the inner track with the transit to double check.  It's better that the footer forms be level with each other for a nice flat base.  So using the level, I'd hold the board of the inner track up till the bubble read level with the outer track, then would lift it up a hair more than I needed to.  Jeffrey would screw on little wooden legs (or we'd use rocks).  When done and I let go of the board, it would read level. 

To brace the footer forms against the weight of the concrete that will be poured in, we pounded rebar a couple of feet from each corner and every place two boards join together.  We are using 2 foot length rebar pieces so that they can be pounded down below the top of the forms.  Pounding that rebar in was not done in one day, this was very labor intensive.  Having the rebar below the forms (in most cases) will make it easier to use the top of the forms to screed off the concrete.  

Some pieces of rebar would just not go down anymore and we'll just work around that.  We may do some additional bracing, however pounding wooden braces into the ground as is suggested in the books just isn't happening at our site.  If thin rebar doesn't want to go in, there is no way wooden stakes are going in.  We'll use boards and concrete blocks at ground level.  We thought about putting a bunch of dirt around the forms, but then it would all have to be removed to install the footer drains. 

In the drawings, the house is symmetrical with an interior mass wall being exactly in the middle and two sheer walls on either side of the house lining up exactly, I've learned that exact and perfect are two words I need to let go of on this project.  They are all close enough.  The footer has plenty of room on either side of where the blocks will go to make minor corrections. 

Next we'll pound rebar in vertically where the cavity of the concrete blocks will be and lay 3 courses of rebar horizontally.  That will be another post.


Anastasia Shilling said...

Wait. What does it mean to be over your fear of power tools? I'm still scared and you gave me credit for you getting over your fear ! I am smiling.

I'm leaving this note here because there might be girls/women reading this and thinking that we are no longer scared. Maybe that is true as I do work with the skill saw (circular saw) a bunch now, but I am still keenly aware of the fragility and vulnerability of my body if it were to meet the skill saw as are you.

I wear eye protection, do you?

Do you think about how it would be to cut the lumber by hand?

The reason I ask that question is that I am reminded about how we have so many carpenters hurrying with power tools to build houses so that a nation can sit inside and watch television.

That is not going to be you. That is not going to be me. How do I know that is true? We both have visions of a future that does not include Tv.

I do want to cut wood by hand. I do not want to cut wood by hand at this time. Right now, I soooo appreciate having power tools. I'm not sure why I am in such a hurry to cut wood though. Maybe it's because I need to get a few things done so that I can turn my attention to making some money.

I'm learning how the blade of the skill saw removes wood. In other words, the blade does not cut a paper thin slice through the wood and that matters with building. I'd like to be more efficient and do my measuring at once and then do my cutting, but I don't dare do that as I am not good enough to know exactly how much wood on a piece I am going to lose with the skill saw. I am getting better at it.

Gosh, I am remembering now when I first arrived in the Ozarks, I did not know how to change the bit in my power screw driver. Again, I leave this comment for other readers who might have a misconception about how knowledgeable we came to our building and homesteading projects. I don't write this for inspiration with one of those, "if I can do it, you can do it" sentiments. I just have to make sure that I represent myself as not being an expert. This allows me to exceed my expectations, because if I start thinking of myself as knowing what's going on, I don't learn as well.

Isn't that interesting?

Love your blog, Jamie ! Really glad you are writing it. It's fun to watch your place being built and I find myself reading older posts as I read down the current one. What a resource. You should get paid for this.



Ja-Co said...

I love you Anastasia and thanks for bringing this up! No I'm not over my fear of power tools, shouldn't have worded it that. But I am over my fear of turning them on ;-) I am over it enough to use them. I'm still sooo careful though.

When I can I use hand tools and I do prefer that. I wear eye protection, watch my posture and am very mindful where all my body parts are. Years of being in workmans' comp will do that to you.

If we weren't so behind in building the house, I can see using hand tools. After the house is built and we have a sturdy and secure roof over our heads, then I can relax and build other things more slowly.

I've got so many plans for greenhouses, planting sheds, winter lettuce stone "shack" (like the Nearings had), a small stone guest cabin, animal housing, and I'll never stop on the gardens.

It would be so nice to make some money. On my third shift (at night after chores) I'm trying to build a website for my herbal products and learn about this affiliate marketing stuff. But it has to be only companies I actually buy from and like their products. That really limits me. But that's OK.

I just so appreciate you, your support, friendship and never ending encouragement. I love how we help each other figure things out. I'd say Girrrl power but then I'd have to smack myself (smack!)