Energizing Our New Off-Grid Home

How to run a freezer with solar power

Our temporary solar power tower.  We will need a much bigger system to run our new house.

We have been doing lots of research about off grid solar systems for our new home.  For the last three or four years, we have dabbled in small solar systems that run our temporary living quarters, and have gained a basic knowledge of how off-grid solar systems work.

Well…at least Ray has knowledge in this department!  I still can’t get my head around the difference between watts and amps, inverters and charge controllers, and……..

ugh……..

Anyway, we’ve been talking with sales reps from different companies about setting up and installing a system for us.  Quite frankly, we were shocked at how much their systems were going to cost!

As I mentioned above, we have installed our own small solar systems that run our freezer, small refrigerator, satellite TV dish, flat screen TV and a bunch of LED lights, and so we are aware of the general cost of solar panels and all the components to run the whole shebang.  Therefore, we had a general idea of what a whole house solar system was going to cost, but unfortunately, we didn’t expect them to charge twice the cost of the equipment to install the system!

That’s when we found a few companies online that sell solar system “packages” to homeowners that can then do the installation themselves, or at least most of the installation.  We zeroed in on two of those online/direct to consumer companies.

One of those companies, Wholesale Solar, was only a few hour’s drive from our homestead, so we decided to drive up there in person and see what they could offer us.  Their online store lists quite a few options according to kWh size, ranging from a small 1 kWh system for a tiny weekender cabin up to a 16 kWh system for a large ranch.  They were also offering a 10% discount on an entire system, so we were onboard with that!

We had a great trip!  It was good to get away from the homestead and see the sights.  Mt. Shasta (the mountain) is right behind Mt. Shasta (the town and where Wholesale Solar is located) and is absolutely gorgeous!

Our first trip to Wholesale Solar. Isn’t Mt Shasta beautiful?

During our scheduled meeting, we met with Cheyenne, System Design & Sales Technician for Wholesale Solar.  Although we were pretty sure which “package” would work for us and were ready to purchase the system that day, she insisted that we go home after our meeting and do some research to figure out which electrical appliances we would use and how much power they would require, then send her this list so she could evaluate how big (or little) our system should be.

A freezer run on solar power

We used the stated manufacturer’s numbers to figure out how many kWh we would need for our everyday living.  This one is for our small 5 cubic foot chest freezer.

We sent her a sheet of the electrical appliances we plan to install, along with their kWh rating and our hours/day of estimated usage.  We used a lot of manufacturer’s baseline amounts, such as 5 hours of TV a day (which is what they rate their kWh usage per year on), though I doubt we will actually watch TV for 5 hours a day!  We sent e-mails relating to our potential usage back and forth for a couple of weeks, and it was then that I was starting to feel that Cheyenne was being unreasonable.  You see, our future potential usage is really an arbitrary amount that can only be estimated!  How can we say how many hours our whole house fan is going to run next summer, or the summer after that?  Who knows how hot it will be?  It’s all an educated guess!

But, the truth is, we appreciated her nit pickyness because we certainly didn’t want to come up short in the energy department.  When we all agreed which of their “packages” worked best for us, Ray and I were pleased to see that the system didn’t need to be as big as one the “other guy” wanted to sell us.

I had sent the same usage amounts to the second online solar store, and  got a decent quote from them within one week, but it was only a “sample” bid.  So, when we got the final bid from Wholesale Solar, we sent that bid to this second company to see if they could do any better.  They replied that the bid was solar panel heavy and battery light, and then gave us another “sample bid”.  I guess they didn’t want to give us a “real” bid?

That’s okay.  We really like the people at Wholesale Solar, and we also like to spend our dollars as locally as possible, so we decided to go with them.  One thing we did decide to do, however, was to NOT buy our batteries…yet.

how to run a freezer off grid

Here is the charge controller, inverter and batteries for our small solar system that runs the freezer.

Why?  OMG.  If you look at all the different battery options for off-grid homes, I can guarantee that it will make your head spin.  Last year we were actually on the list to get the new Tesla Powerwall.  This is supposed to be the next generation of energy storage and we were excited to be one of their first customers.  UMMmmm…No.  When we were finally “graced” with a phone call from one of their sales representatives, he informed us that even though we were originally told this would be good for off-grid situations, they would not sell it as an off-grid battery.

Well.  Nuts.  Back to square one.

As it turns out, there is a company in Germany that produces a battery very similar to the Tesla Powerwall, called the Sonnenbatterie, which apparently costs less anyway!  But wait.  Then we found out about Lithium IRON batteries. And salt water batteries. And then there is the old tried and true L16’s (fork lift batteries).  We haven’t made a decision yet, and that’s okay because the house doesn’t even have the walls up yet.  We have time.

So, what we purchased from Wholesale Solar was the solar panels along with the brains of the system (inverter, charge controller, etc.), mounting brackets and wire.  We also bought a Kohler propane generator as a back-up.  And, so far this company has been very helpful and “hands on” in terms of customer service.  They even provide all the information needed to get the solar permit!

To save money on shipping (and have the opportunity for another fun, short excursion) we decided to pick up the system ourselves. We have a flat bed trailer that has come in very handy lately.  We brought up all our Faswall blocks on this trailer and will soon be hauling up all of the concrete blocks (CMU’s) for our retaining wall.

On our first trip up to Mount Shasta, we stayed at a hotel in Dunsmuir called The Oaks, which was the cheapest hotel we have stayed in…ever!   After one night in a clean, quiet room with a king sized bed along with all the amenities (flat screen TV, microwave, coffee maker, ref/freezer) we had a wonderful breakfast – included in the price!  All for less than $70.

SERIOUSLY!!!!

Our “free” breakfast after a very pleasant night in The Oaks, all for LESS than $70.

We did some sightseeing, and then we had lunch in the town of Dunsmuir at a place called Yak’s.

When we saw Yak’s from the freeway, we laughed ourselves silly at the name.  Isn’t that what the kids call, um, regurgitation?  And it’s the name of a restaurant?  Of course, we had to check it out and I took this picture to prove to my family and friends that there really is a restaurant called Yak’s!   It was good, and, no, we didn’t yak. 😉

We drove 10 miles up the road from Dunsmuir to the town of Mt. Shasta and the Wholesale Solar warehouse, and met Shae.  Shae was a very polite and friendly young gentleman who helped us load everything onto our flatbed trailer. Within an hour’s time, we were on our way back home.

This was the view of Mt Shasta two months after the first picture above, when we were at the warehouse picking up our system. After a few snow storms, the mountain was gleaming in white…so beautiful!  Could you imagine living in that home?

The drive home was uneventful and we made it to our property in record time, not that we were in a hurry.  Whew – we were lucky because the weatherman was calling for snow that morning, but we had dry roads all the way home.

Our solar panels all stacked together, and the back-up generator.

It’s going to be fun to finally get the panels installed, but we have to get our walls up first!  My next post will be all about the rebar in the walls.

Spoiler alert… we just (yesterday) passed our first county inspection for the walls, including the electrical conduit, the gas piping and the rebar.  Next comes the special inspection and then pouring our first “lift”.

It’s starting to get exciting and it finally feels real!

Thank Goodness It’s MondayGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me Monday,  Over The MoonHearth and SoulShow & Share Tuesday;  Brag About ItTuesdays with a TwistThe Scoop;  Inspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;  Party In Your PJ’s;  Make, Bake and Create;   Wined Down Wednesday;  Fluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Waste Less WednesdayAIM LinkyTalk of the TownHealthy,Happy & NaturalOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking Party;  This Is How We RollNo Rules Weekend PartyBlogger’s Pit StopFriendship Friday;  Family Fun Friday;  Awesome Life Friday;  Home MattersTraffic Jam WeekendFriday FeaturesFlaunt it FridaySaturday Sparks;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;  Happiness is HomemadeAnything Goes Pink SaturdaySimple SaturdaysSaturday ShuffleThat DIY Party;  Snickerdoodle SundayDishing it & Digging It

 

Stuff For The New House

Over the past year I have been doing a lot of online shopping and keeping my eye out for things to put into the house.  It will probably be months before we have our walls up and a roof overhead, but we are on a serious budget, so when I see something I want for the house that is on sale or clearance… I pounce!

Like our front door.  I have a brochure I picked up from one of the local box stores a few years ago, with a beautiful picture of the front door I was dreaming to have for our new home.  Of course, it was a dream and I wasn’t sure it would ever happen because this house is costing much more than we expected, and the door is expensive.

But, hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

This is the picture on the front of the brochure that I have swooned over for a few years.

 

Then, a few days before Christmas last year we were at that big box store and I SAW MY DOOR!  There it was, on one of those dolly/cart thingys, and I just had to look at it closer.  Of course, it was someone else’s because it is a special order door and normally not one that the store keeps in stock.  Guess what?  It HAD been a special order door that someone was returning because it didn’t fit their front door opening.

And it was almost HALF OFF!

Our new front door… A dream come true!

As I squealed and did a happy dance, we bought the door.  And a few weeks later my sons helped us get it into our cargo container for safekeeping.  Isn’t she beautiful?

Speaking of the house, we seem to get something done almost every day. Here is a picture of where our front door will someday be installed.  I know it doesn’t show (there are a lot of things going on INSIDE the walls) but we are working every day on SOMETHING.  We still have a lot of brush to clear and trees to trim to make the house CalFire safe.  We also need to get some trenches dug to bring the water line from the well house down to the house, and another trench for the LP gas line. On rainy days we are doing a lot of research on things such as: where to put the heater vent, or how to install an outside switch for the Tankless Water Heater.  We thank God for YouTube!

Gloucester Collection from Elk Lighting

Then, one evening, I was browsing on Overstock through their lighting sale and found the perfect chandelier for our dining room.  Seriously!

You see, I had several “musts” for my chandelier.  I wanted one with an “iron” look and feminine curves to mimic the front door.  It also had to be quite large, so I was looking at chandeliers around 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall, as the ceiling height is something like 18 feet in the dining room/great room.  I also wanted the candle type of chandelier with a fairly large bobeche.  I enjoy changing my decor with the seasons and/or holidays, and with this chandelier, I can use those small mini lampshades, or glass globes, or nothing at all.  I had three different sets of mini lampshades in our old house and loved being able to change them out whenever I wanted.  The Chandelier (above) fit all my criteria AND it was on sale… SCORE!

We had a little bit of room left on the storage loft of our well house, and that is right where she is sitting right now.  Yes, she.  She is decidely feminine, which will contrast nicely with the hard surfaces of tile and brick in the house.

When we were getting the rough plumbing done a couple months ago, Juan (our plumber) said that he would need to see the installation instructions for my free standing bathtub, to figure out where the drain should be.  Whoops.  That meant that I would need to actually purchase the bathtub that I had been coveting for a while.  And where would we store it once we had it?  We won’t even have a house to store it in for months and months.  Well, we just figured that, for heavens sake, it’s a bathtub!  As long as we left it in the shipping crate and covered it well with a tarp, it should be fine to store it outside.  I googled around and found a great deal with free shipping at Wayfair.  Isn’t it pretty?  We only unwrapped it enough to see that there was no shipping damage, then rewrapped everything, Gorilla Taped everything, tarped it, then wrapped it with ropes and bungies. Then we tarped it again.  😉

It should be fine.

I can not WAIT to soak in this tub. Ahhhhh…

Oh yeah…I would like to explain why I chose this tub versus a claw foot tub.

You see, I’m not getting younger.  We are trying to plan for old age in this house and one thing I do not want to do is get on my hands and knees to clean dust bunnies out from underneath a claw foot bathtub.  Also, this is an acrylic tub with airspace between the wall of the inside of the tub and the outside of the tub, which can be filled with expanding foam for insulation, so the water will stay warmer longer.

Good reasons…huh?

We also had to buy a direct vent heater and our tankless hot water heater because we needed to have templates for installation and vents installed BEFORE the first pour into the walls.  Once the concrete is in the walls, there will be no chases or vents cut through them without specialized tools, so we are trying to get everything right first, and then checking and checking our lists.

We are considering this bathroom light/vent for the 1/2 bath downstairs

Ray and I are hoping to continue  buying things for the house like these as we find them on sale or clearance, but unfortunately we are running out of storage room!  However, I did find this really nice bathroom vent/light combo on sale at Wayfair, and I just might be able to squeak it onto the shelf next to the chandelier.

Maybe…

We are also starting to frequent antique stores and architectutal salvage places for corbels, doors, stair newell posts, etc., because even though we love having a new house, we want it to have some character and reflect our personalities. As you know, I also love shopping at ReStore.  In the meantime, my favorite websites have become places like Houzz, Build, Wayfair, Overstock and Hayneedle.

Do you know of a great website to shop for household items online?

Thank Goodness It’s MondayGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me Monday,  Over The MoonHearth and SoulShow & Share Tuesday;  Brag About ItTuesdays with a TwistThe Scoop;  Inspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;  Party In Your PJ’s;  Make, Bake and Create;   Wined Down Wednesday;  Fluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Waste Less WednesdayAIM LinkyTalk of the TownHealthy,Happy & NaturalOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking Party;  This Is How We RollNo Rules Weekend PartyBlogger’s Pit StopFriendship Friday;  Family Fun Friday;  Awesome Life Friday;  Home MattersTraffic Jam WeekendFriday FeaturesFlaunt it FridaySaturday Sparks;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;  Happiness is HomemadeAnything Goes Pink SaturdaySimple SaturdaysSaturday ShuffleThat DIY Party;  Snickerdoodle SundayDishing it & Digging It

 

Building the Walls – Part 1

To catch you up from our last post (click here to read)…  we were contacted right away by a very apologetic Paul, the technical guy from Faswall (stuff happens), but in the meantime, the Engineer who drew our plans came through like a superhero and answered our questions.

First course of block for FaswallWith the Faswall building system, you stack the blocks on top of each other, staggered (generally) without mortar, then fill the interior of the blocks with cement.  Except for the first course.  You don’t have to, but it is recommended to set the first course of block in mortar, and as you saw in the last post, we were able to accomplish our first course in mortar fairly easily.

When set in mortar, you can be sure that the first course is absolutely level and straight, so that when setting the next courses of block on top, you would be less likely to get a wiggy-woggy wall.

Well, that’s the general idea.

However, we found that a wiggy-woggy wall is inevitable because we discovered that the blocks aren’t all exactly the same.  Some are kind of hour glass shaped, just slightly, while others are a smidge wider, especially the end blocks.  Also, some blocks are much heavier than others, and it’s easy to see that some obviously have a bit more concrete content, which makes them heavier. A wet block is also a heavier block, and weaker if you have to cut it, so we seek out the whiter/heavier blocks to cut if it has rained in the previous few days.  Doing this is a “no-brainer” and has prevented any more Oops when Ray is cutting/modifying a block.

You can see there is a difference in color between these two blocks. The one on the right is much heavier and has a lot more concrete in the mix than the one on the left,

But a wiggy-woggy wall is okay.  We plan to stucco the outside and plaster the inside, and I like the “not perfect” look anyway.  Not quite all out rustic and not messy… just not perfect.  My mom once said that mistakes are less obvious in an imperfect world. I think she was right.

Anyway…

Getting the first few courses down was fairly easy.  But soon we could see that it would have made sense to build a 51 foot 2-1/2 inch long wall, instead of a 51 foot wall. Why?  Because the blocks do not fit EXACTLY together with a paper tight fit.  There are a few cracks here and there between the blocks no matter how hard we try to pound them together.  We tried redoing one of the shorter walls to see if we could get the blocks to fit perfectly, but it was impossible.  In fact, in the instruction manual provided by Faswall, they even admit that most walls will have to be cut to fit.

This is a page from the Faswall Installation/Information packet.

So, again, it makes me wonder why they don’t just advise that for every 10 feet you will gain at least an extra ½ inch, and then have the architect plan for that accordingly.

Just my two cents.

Cutting Faswall Blocks

You don’t need any special tools to work with Faswall. They cut, nail and screw into just like wood.

Speaking of cutting the blocks:  it really is easy.  The blocks cut, glue, screw and hammer just like wood. Here is how to modify a block to fit:

  1. Measure the opening for the size of block needed
  2. Cut off the end “fingers” of one side of the block
  3. Measuring from the opposite side, cut the block the length of the measurement minus 2 inches (that is how wide the “fingers are)
  4. Glue the now shortened ends of the block to the severed finger end (ouch, that sounds horrible!) with low VOC construction glue
  5. Place screws into each of the four corners
  6. Set into the wall.

    The modified block on top is easier to spot. The end piece that was added onto the other piece of the block is slightly a different color.  Our supervisor, Louie, leaving the building.

Ray is getting pretty good at modifying the size of the blocks now.  The plan of our house is so that we have to modify at least two blocks on each of the four sides.  Unfortunately, easy as it is to modify the size of a block, it does take some time to do it. Sigh. And we are a bit worried now that we won’t have enough block to finish the project.  You see, the regular blocks (not the corner or end blocks) were figured on a square-foot-of-wall basis.  Well, since we have to cut blocks down to get a tight fit (as I said, inevitable with our plan), there is some waste.  I guess we won’t really know the answer to this dilemma until we are almost finished, and this is just one of the questions that is keeping me awake at night!

We had to hurry up and build this wall as the plumber was there. When he arrived, the wall was two blocks high, but we needed to build as he placed the plumbing parts and pieces. In the end it all worked out just fine.

After the second course of block was set, we had to start thinking about electrical chases and plumbing for water and vents.  Juan and his plumbers from Ace Plumbing came up and put the vents and water lines in the walls where we needed them, along with the two short gas lines that would be in one of the walls. Thank goodness my plan to place most of the electrical and plumbing on interior (wood) walls worked out and there isn’t much intrusion of these vents and pipes in the actual Faswall walls. The under slab plumbing had already been inspected, so the vents, water lines and gas lines that would be in the walls only took a couple of days to do.  We will be using liquid propane for our range, tankless hot water heater, and a couple of wall heaters within the house.  Ray is also planning to have a line trenched under the back patio to supply his gas barbeque.

This shows a photo of the gas line and water lines that will go to our tankless hot water heater on the outside.

I wish the electrical chases had been that easy.

Oy vey!

To save money, we decided to use the good old fashioned gray conduit pipe to run our electrical wires instead of the flexible “Smurf” tube…so called because it is blue.  We had Tony from Chico Electric come up to the house site and give us some advice about placement of electrical boxes, wiring, conduit, etc., because we contracted with them to do our rough electrical once we had all our interior walls up and the roof on.  Part of that contract stated that Ray and I would install all the electrical boxes and conduit in the Faswall. The first problem we encountered was that we could not use the “normal” electrical box… we must use “extra-deep” electrical boxes because the Faswall blocks themselves are 2 inches thick and a regular box would not stick out far enough into the cavity of the wall to be able to receive the conduit pipe.  No problem, we thought, until we saw the price of those extra-deep boxes.  Holy schiznitz!

They are   E   X   P   E   N   S   I   V   E   !!!!!!!

Second, we learned we don’t know how to properly bend conduit.  We thought we were done with the lower electrical boxes and conduit that would go in the Faswall before Tony arrived, but we were sorely mistaken.  After we had set all the electrical boxes according to our electrical plan, we used our propane cooker to heat the conduit until it was soft, and then bend it so that it would go around curves and corners. We thought we had done a great job and were ready for Tony to give us a pat on the back! Nope.  Tony looked at our work and informed us that any bend in the conduit could not be puckered, and there was absolutely no way that the conduit would pass inspection if it had scorch marks.

Well….. we were puckered and scorched.

$ & # % @ { %     (my rendition of off color words)

Okay.  So we regrouped.  Plan B: buy some 90 and 45 degree connectors and re-do the whole kit and caboodle, which is exactly what we did.  We should have done it that way in the first place because it was certainly a lot easier and the elbows are fairly cheap!  Boy are we glad we hadn’t put any more rows of blocks on the wall before Tony came up.

The boxes are in! Happy Dance!

Whew…dodged another one!

The last task for the electrical boxes was to string “jet” line (a type of plastic rope used for this purpose) through each run so that all the electrician would have to do is tie his wire to the “jet” line and pull the wire through.  Easier said than done.  We had 6 electrical outlets on one run, 5 outlets on another, and just 3 on two other runs.  The first two runs that had only 3 outlets each were easy to get the “jet” line through.

Block variation of Faswall

We tied some cut pieces of PVC pipe to the end of the jet line to make sure the lines won’t scrunch up and get lost in the conduit!

Each of those runs had only one corner and the “fishtape” slid right through.  Fishtape is similar to a very thin metal measuring tape, with a hook of sorts on the end, that you “fish” through a run of conduit. Most hardware and big box stores have these. But we struggled and struggled to get the fishtape to turn the corner in the opposite direction than the first corner.  Sure, the fishtape bends forward and backward, but not side to side.  At all.  So we tried using just regular old plastic coated copper wire that was fairly stiff but still flexible, fishing it from one box to the next.  Even that was difficult!  We couldn’t figure out what in the blazes was going wrong, until a piece of ice dropped out of one of the outlets while we were trying to push the wire through.

OOOOOOHHHHHHHH.  So THAT’s the problem!  The conduit was clogged with ICE!  Haha… so we had spent hours trying to push ICE through the conduit, and it only gave way in the afternoon because it was melting!

Well, at least we didn’t have to re-do anything, and we finally got the electrical “jet” line strung.  Whew.  Done with the electricals.  At least the electricals for the first pour, which will be 6 blocks, or four feet, high. One pour is technically called a “lift” and I use these terms (lift and pour) intermittently.

A big part of building our walls is the placement of rebar.  In the next post about building our home, I will go over the massive amounts and strange shapes of rebar we must place inside the walls.  You won’t believe how we are bending the rebar!

Until then, have a wonderful day!

My party list:  Thank Goodness It’s MondayGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me Monday,  Over The MoonHearth and Soul;  Show & Share Tuesday;  Brag About ItTuesdays with a TwistThe Scoop;  Inspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;  Party In Your PJ’s;  Make, Bake and Create;   Wined Down Wednesday;  Fluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Waste Less WednesdayAIM LinkyTalk of the TownHealthy,Happy & NaturalOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking Party;  This Is How We RollNo Rules Weekend PartyBlogger’s Pit StopFriendship Friday;  Family Fun Friday;  Awesome Life Friday;  Home MattersTraffic Jam Weekend; Friday FeaturesSaturday Sparks;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;  Happiness is HomemadeAnything Goes Pink SaturdaySimple SaturdaysSaturday ShuffleThat DIY Party;  Snickerdoodle SundayDishing it & Digging It

Footings – Our House Has Feet!

I must say, it’s quite strange to actually see progress on our new home.  We waited so long to get our plans drawn and approved (almost 2-1/2 years) that we can’t believe it’s actually happening!

We pinch each other periodically 😉

Building with faswall

Ray used his blower to remove the leaves and pine needles that had drifted into the footings before anyone arrived to the build site.

As mentioned in a previous post (breaking ground), we contracted with The Reynoso Brothers to do the concrete work for our house, and after our first inspection of rebar in the footings we passed with flying colors!  I’ll talk about our “Special Inspections” in a future post, but for now we were good to go for the concrete pour!   Yay!

Building with FaswallWe were scheduled to have the footings poured on a Friday.  The perfect ending to a great week.  The first truck came around 12:30 in the afternoon and ended up driving right past our gate.  Oh no!  Driving past our gate wasn’t his biggest problem.  The biggest problem is that we live at the head of a private dead end road, and down the lane are a couple of fairly large marijuana farms!   The cement truck driver would have to basically turn around in a marijuana grow.   Luckily, it’s toward the end of harvest season and most of the crop is already in the drying sheds, but still…

The driver made it back up the road just fine, but laughed about his “adventure”.   That’s California for you!

Anyway, they eventually got the cement truck backed up to the concrete pumper, and soon enough concrete from the first truck was flowing into the footings.

This is the moment the first drop of cement went into the footings! So Exciting!

Speaking of the concrete pumper…Building Faswall Footings

I had to laugh about it’s name.  Putzmeister.  Hahaha, who came up with that one?  I’ll tell you, though, it did a great job.  So did the Reynoso Bros!

Faswall Footings

This is what the footings looked like before the guys smoothed over the finish.

Then came a slight hiccup.

Five trucks of cement had been ordered, but it wasn’t enough.  We needed another truck!  Five truckloads of cement with 9 yards in each truckload wasn’t enough for the footings!  Luckily they realized they would need another truck, and ordered it right away, even before the fifth truck was being off-loaded, so although we live 1 hour from the concrete plant, the wait for the final delivery of concrete wasn’t too bad.

Faswall Footings

The delivery driver from Spec West delivering some of the rebar. Three tons of it! Whew!

Now, I will say that everyone who has been to our build site and has seen these footings – how deep and wide they are and the amount of rebar in them – have said that it is total over kill.  Everyone.  We have also studied other Faswall builds with on-line blogs and pictures that have far smaller footings and a lot less rebar in both the footings and the walls and have wondered why ours requires so much more. But, we have to trust what our engineer calculated and designed, and the building plans inspector approved.  If you can’t trust the work of licensed professionals, who can you trust…right?

Anyway, here they are in all their glory!

Aren’t they glorious?  We had to keep them moist for the next few days so that they would cure without cracking, and so we watered them three times a day for five days.  We were watering our footings more than we watered our garden!

On that fifth day, we couldn’t wait to start putting up the walls!

From everything we have read on the Faswall instructions and other Faswall builds, the first course is the hardest but the most important.  Why?  Because the first row needs to be absolutely, positively, perfectly level.

Luckily, Ray is good at that sort of thing.  Yay!

First we had to determine where the high spots and low spots on the footings were, and which corner was the lowest and which was the highest.

Guess what? The footings were perfectly level.

I mean to say, there couldn’t have been more than 1/16th of an inch difference over the entire course of footings!  The skill of the Reynoso Bros and their crew made our lives so much easier!Faswall stemwall

We bought 10 sacks of mortar mix and started at the southeast corner. It wasn’t long before we got into a rhythm and had half that wall done.  When laying Faswall, you MUST start in the corners and work your way toward the center, so when almost we reached the center point, we started setting the Faswall on the other corner working in to meet at the center of the wall.  The second corner didn’t go as quickly because this was where we have one of the structural walls engineered into the build.  You can see in the picture above that we cut the end out of the corner block. More would be cut later when we started working on that wall.  We then used a high strength, low VOC glue and glued all the ends together as we set them into the mortar.  I will post pictures soon about cutting and glueing and screwing Faswall.  We also had one of these structural walls (called SW2 in the plans) in the middle of the wall, but that one didn’t seem as difficult because it wasn’t on a corner.  When this section of wall is infilled with concrete, we will have to support these walls with plywood and 2 x 4’s.

How is it to cut the Faswall?  Well, let me tell you, we were worried in the beginning about how we were going to do some of these cuts, but we were promised by the Faswall guys – Tom and Paul – that the blocks cut just like regular wood.

Cutting Faswall Blocks

You don’t need any special tools to work with Faswall. They cut, nail and screw into just like wood.

They do.  Maybe a bit easier.  Ray used his Sawzall and cut through these blocks like butter!  But, the truth is, once the blocks were cut, they became fairly fragile. This may become a problem later in the build, because we also noticed that the blocks seem to be a bit more fragile when they are wet, also, and we hoped to get our walls up this winter… rain or shine.  So, the jury is out on that one.  One caution:  You MUST wear eye protection when cutting the Faswall!  Look at the all the debris in the picture above…’nuf said.

We ended up getting all four walls done in four days.  Boy were we sore and glad to see that last block set!Faswall Footings

Our next task is to get the second row on, then call the plumber back so he can get the stuff that needs to be in the walls (vents, water lines, gas lines) set, so we can build the blocks around them.  We will also have the electrician come up and give us some recommendations about where to put everything.

Footings for Faswall

First layer of Faswall Done! This is actually the Stem wall and once the concrete slab and perimeter porches and sidewalks are poured, you won’t even see it!

One final note.  As my readers know, I have always tried to write down EVERYTHING in this blog, including the good, the bad and the ugly, so I must say one thing.  It’s a bit difficult to say, because I have had so much faith in building our home with Faswall.  But, I have to be honest because I know several of you who have written to me and have stated you are considering also building with Faswall, so here goes…

It looks like Faswall has dropped us off their contact list.  You see, Paul is supposed to be the “go-to” guy for any questions while building, but Ray and I have each had a question in to Paul – one by text and one by e-mail – and we have yet to hear back.

It’s been more than a week. :-/

We’ll see what happens and I’ll let you know.  Until then, have a great Thanksgiving!

My party list:  Thank Goodness It’s MondayGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me Monday,  Over The MoonHearth and Soul;  Show & Share Tuesday;  Brag About ItTuesdays with a TwistThe Scoop;  Inspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;  Party In Your PJ’s;  Make, Bake and Create;   Wined Down Wednesday;  Fluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Waste Less WednesdayAIM LinkyTalk of the TownHealthy,Happy & NaturalOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking Party;  This Is How We RollNo Rules Weekend PartyBlogger’s Pit StopFriendship Friday;  Family Fun Friday;  Awesome Life Friday;  Home MattersTraffic Jam Weekend; Friday FeaturesSaturday Sparks;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;  Happiness is HomemadeAnything Goes Pink SaturdaySimple Saturdays; Saturday ShuffleThat DIY Party;  Snickerdoodle SundayDishing it & Digging It

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...