Our Building Blocks

 

We have been spending the last month getting our Faswall ICF (Insulated concrete form) blocks from a yard in the valley where they were delivered, up to our build site.  We finally got all 30 pallets delivered so far (2-3 more are to be delivered soon) up to our build site.

Unloading the Faswall blocks on our building site.

One

Block

At

A

Time!

We were able to bring only two pallets up to our site at a time due to weight issues, so we had to make fifteen trips.  During the time we were getting our block, we have endured two flat tires on the trailer and an evacuation due to a wildfire near our ridge! This is one of the biggest reasons we are building with Faswall… they don’t like to burn!  

It was scarier at night when you could see the red glow of the fire.  The sparks made it look like molten lava.  The good news is that we are blessed to have some of the best firefighters around, so we only had to endure a couple of days of evacuation and everything turned out just fine… at least for us.  My heart goes out to all those who lost their homes.  We also bought construction insurance, because you just never know!

And here they are:

And here:

And over here too:

We separated the blocks into type, and put each type on a different location at the building site, so that when we are actually building the walls it will be easier to retrieve the proper block/blocks.  The whole Faswall system of blocks includes several different types.  We aren’t using all they have available because, for instance, we only will be using outside corners, no inside corners.

The “standard” block looks like this:Building with Faswall ICF

As you can see, it’s similar to a concrete (CMU) block in shape.  Faswall blocks are 24” long, 8” high and 12” width.  In the standard block, there is a 3” polyisocyanate insulation insert, which is the one pictured above.  We will be using standard blocks with 2” insulation inserts as well.  The smaller inserts leave more room in the voids, which means there will be more concrete, so you get an even stronger wall. You can see the ends of the block have an interlocking shape, which stabilizes the block wall and helps to prevent “blow-outs” when the concrete is poured into the forms.  The blocks are “dry stacked” on each other in a running bond fashion, to about 4-5 feet high, which is called a “lift”.  Once a lift is stacked, concrete is poured into the forms, which in effect creates a grid of concrete in the walls.

Cool, huh?

Building with Faswall ICF The picture above shows two standard blocks stacked on each other, so you can see the horizontal void where concrete flows to form the grid.  Of course, as we are stacking, we add rebar in the voids, which adds to the strength of the concrete walls.  The blocks will be placed in a running bond pattern, much like CMU blocks.  When the walls are completely done and cured, they will be extremely strong, fire resistant, pest resistant and energy efficient.

I truly believe this house is going to be standing for hundreds of years!

Then there are the end blocks.  These blocks do not have the interlocking shape on both sides, but instead just one side.  Building with FaswallThese are used at the windows and doors. When the walls are all done and it’s time to put in the windows and doors, they are installed just like you would install into a wood framed house.  You see, Faswall IS made of wood… just mineralized with concrete and a special process to make it very fire resistant!  That’s why when it is necessary to cut a form, we use regular wood cutting tools, like a circular saw or a Sawzall.  And when installing doors and windows, you can nail and screw right into the walls!

The corner blocks are used for, well, corners!

You can see there are the interlocking ribs on the end and one side so that the interlocking ribs from another block fits right in, making a perfect corner!

The last blocks that we will require are the all purpose blocks.  These can easily be cut in half and used wherever a half block is needed, especially around windows and doors as a half end block.  Since the blocks are set in a running bond fashion, we will need one of these half blocks every other row.

The all purpose blocks are made to easily be cut in half and used where needed.  For us, we will be using these at the windows and doors.

faswall ICF corner blockWe were happy to find, in the end, only seven blocks total that were damaged.  I think that’s pretty good considering the almost two thousand blocks that we got so far.  We were talking with a friend who recently build his “stick” house (conventional wood frame) and said he had to return a lot of lumber that was twisted and/or warped or just plain unuseable. We have already verified that these broken blocks will be added to our last shipment, which will be soon.

So far, I’m glad we are building with these ICF forms and the company we chose.  We’ll see how things go in the future.

When do we start?

The guys setting up the forms for the footings are supposed to be here today, but in reality we don’t expect to see them until next week.  Once the footings are poured, we can start setting blocks!

I am just over the moon excited!

I can’t wait to show you our progress!

In the meantime, I need to get a new pair of gloves.  These building blocks bite!  I have to say that the one downside we have found so far is that the blocks are very sharp and will tear your clothes and skin if you are not careful.  That’s the bad news…  which is also the good news!  The good news is that they are rough, which makes it much easier and cheaper to stucco the outside and plaster the inside!

What else have we been doing?  I’ll show you in the next post!

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We Got Our Building Permit!

Wahoo   🙂

It’s about time!  We finally got our building permit!

We can’t wait to get started!  Some friends of ours gave us a bottle of wine from their new vineyard (thanks Ronda and Leonard!), and as soon as we break ground for the footings, we are going to open that bottle and celebrate!

The Reynoso Brothers hard at work last year, getting our building site ready to build.

Right now we are in the process of finding our “subs”.  We decided to go ahead and build the house by ourselves, acting as our own contractor, and subcontract out the stuff we can’t or don’t want to do, including the concrete footings and slab, rough plumbing and electrical, interior wall framing and the roof.  Fastwall is supposed to be a DIY building project, and since we live on the site, have sound bodies, and are reasonably intelligent, we figured we should be able to stack the walls ourselves.  Paul Wood, one of the owners of Faswall, has been very helpful so far and has all the technical knowledge in his head, so we are hoping to rely on him when we get into any pickles… and I am certain we will!

In the meantime, we are trying to get at least three estimates for each of the above specialties… except for the concrete footings and slab.  We already signed a contract with the company who cleared our building pad last year:  The Reynoso Brothers. When they were up here last spring, they came on time, did exactly what they said they would (and more), and were reasonably priced.  So, we felt that it was a “no-brainer” to go with them again.

Some of our “raw” backyard that we are getting cleaned up to provide defensible space in the event of a wildfire.

While waiting for the estimates, we have been trying to develop our “defensible space” around the house site, which is required to get our final inspection approved.  This has been hard, dusty, sweaty work.  We need to rake up the loose “duff”, pull out a lot of trees and bushes, remove the dead wood, and cut off the lower 6-8 feet of limbs from the trees.  Once this is all done, we should have the “park-like” setting we have always envisioned around the house.

Finding a plumber has been quite a challenge.  Apparently, plumbers can make more money fixing leaky toilets and replacing water heaters than they can doing rough plumbing in a new house. Barry, the House Planner who did our electrical plans (since our architect or engineer wouldn’t do them) told us that the plumbing really wasn’t hard to do, and that we should just go down to the library and get some books to figure out how to do the plumbing ourselves and save a ton of money!  Hmmmmm… that’s a scary thought. Still, it would be nice to save some money.  I just wish we could find a plumber who (for a fee) would draw a plumbing plan and give us a list of all the stuff we would need, along with some technical advice, and then we could do it ourselves.  Are there any plumbers out there that do this kind of thing?

Our house site, ready to go!  We have wooden stakes at all four corners, and also delineating the back patio.  Unfortunately, we have pretty much given up on keeping these in the ground because our neighbor’s dogs seem to think they are sticks to “go fetch”!  😉

As far as the outside walls that make up the shell of the house, I am pleased to announce that they are on our build site… mostly!

Here are all the stacked pallets of our Faswall blocks… all 30 of them, in the yard at Endeavor Homes.  Faswall could fit only these 30 pallets on the delivery truck, so we still have 2 more pallets coming.

We are building our home with Faswall, which is a type of insulated concrete form (ICF).  The ICFs are 12 inches thick and 24 inches long.  Their shape is similar to concrete blocks (CMUs), but are made from shredded wood mixed with concrete, with a 3” insulation insert.  Once we stack the blocks about 4-5 feet tall around the entire perimeter of the house, concrete is poured into the center voids, which will make a grid pattern of concrete in our walls.  So basically, it will be a concrete house, which is good to have in a forest.

Loading the pallet onto our trailer

We have been hauling the blocks up to our property two pallets at a time.  Unfortunately, we have to break them down (one block at a time) into half high pallets for a more stable trip up the mountain to our property, and once on site we unload each block individually, stacking them 6 blocks high, into groups of block type.  You see, there are the “Normal” blocks that make up the majority of the walls.  Then, there are the corners, the end blocks, and the normal blocks with smaller 2” insulation.  The 2” insulation blocks are for certain areas in the walls that need a bit more concrete for structural support, so the insulation is thinner.  And then there are the specialty blocks, that can be easily cut in half and used as end blocks.  I will get to the shape and purpose of those blocks in my next post. Special thanks to my youngest son, Michael, for helping haul a lot of pallets!

Unloading the Faswall blocks on our building site.

So far we have hauled 24 of the 30 pallets delivered up to our build site.  Faswall still needs to deliver 2 more pallets of blocks (only 30 fit on the truck), and apparently those will be coming soon.  The blocks were delivered to a large yard owned by Endeavor Homes, a company that sells lumber and “kit” houses, because we weren’t sure that the semi-truck delivering our block would be able to get into our build site.  Nor could we find a forklift to rent, so that we could off-load the delivery truck.  The guys at Endeavor unloaded our blocks and let us use their space for free!  Of course, we will be buying lumber from them, but these days it is so hard to find anything free and we are so grateful for their generosity!  Thank you so much Dell!

This is a stack of the standard block with 3″ insulation.

Lifting and stacking those blocks is really getting me into shape. You should see my biceps!   By the time we get done with the Faswall, we will have lifted almost every block by hand three times – once to get it stacked on the trailer, once to unload on the house site, and once more when we actually build the walls.  The best news is that so far we could find only six blocks that are damaged.  We will wait until we get the rest of the block up here, so that we can take a final accounting, but I am assuming Faswall will replace the damaged blocks.  Out of the hundreds and hundreds of blocks we have handled so far, I think only six damaged blocks is pretty darn good!

So… what’s next?

The Reynoso Brothers will be coming up in a few weeks to dig, frame and then pour our concrete footings.  Of course, that’s if we can get concrete.  Our new home is about a 45 minute drive above Oroville Dam, and you might remember hearing about the Oroville Dam spillway failure early this past spring.  So, the dam repair is getting first priority for concrete, which of course, they should!

And here we are trying to build a concrete house…

The truth is, however, that we have come this far and there is no going back now, so we will just have to take the concrete when we can get it.

I can’t wait!  I can’t wait!  I am so excited to be finally building our new home!

 

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A Homestead Without A Home

NOTE:  I have removed the names of our architect and the engineer from this post and replaced them with their initials.  The reason?  We live in a litigious society and some people, who I will NOT name, may not want to accept the truth about their poor business dealings.  I do not forgive them, nor will I forget, but I don’t want to spend time away from building our home while in court defending the truth.  So, if you read this post and want to know who I am referring to, let me know and I may get in touch with you in a less public format via e-mail.  Thanks

What’s a homestead without a home?

We have been working for two years… TWO YEARS, trying to get our architect and engineer to produce working and legal house plans.

Here’s the backstory.

Ray and I purchased five acres of mountain property fifteen years ago and have slowly developed it over the years, while we lived and worked in our home in the Sacramento Valley.  First was the septic system, then came the well.  We blazed a driveway through our property and brought in four truckloads of gravel. We planted our orchard.  We prepared a nice place for our travel trailer (you can see that post HERE), since we would be living in it while we were building our new house, and beefed up the solar system (see that post HERE) to minimize the need to run a generator, lessening our dependence on fossil fuels.  The house site has been graded and leveled for more than a year now.

This is our nice, level building spot! The orange tape on the stakes indicate where the septic tank is. This picture was taken in April of 2016 and our building lot has remained empty since!

We also built our beloved outhouse.  We built the outhouse for many reasons, some of which you can read in a previous post about the outhouse HERE.

how to build an outhouse

Our outhouse.

The summer before Ray’s retirement, we had a 20 foot long cargo container (read about that HERE) delivered to our property, to store the household items that we were keeping, and over the next ten months we decluttered our house, spruced it up and started filling up the container, getting ready to put our house up for sale upon Ray’s retirement.

Well…

We must have done a good job, because we put our house up for sale by owner before Ray actually retired, just to feel out the market, and sold it sooner than we expected.

Fortunately, we were prepared, the escrow went very well, Ray finally retired, and we moved up to live on our property permanently in late March of 2015.

The family room of the house we sold so that we could build a new home on our mountain property. Oh how I miss that house!

So, that’s the backstory.

We have planned to build the outside walls of our home with Faswall ICF (insulated concrete form), which is a mineralized wood product formed into what looks like a very large concrete building block. These are stacked much like Legos and then the voids are filled with rebar and concrete.  After studying several ICF systems and weighing the pros and cons, we felt the Shelter Works Faswall was a superior product and decided to contract with them.

This is a screenshot of an e-mail I sent to our architect, dated February 6, 2015. You can click on the picture to make it bigger and easier to read.

We were referred to an Engineer, D.S. (whom we will now call Engineer), who was familiar with the Faswall system and, although he lived in Oregon, had a California Engineer’s license.  In several e-mails we told Engineer that we were DIYers and were wanting to build on a limited budget, as we did not want to have a mortgage.  He assured us that this was definitely a DIY project and that in the long-run, the house would not cost more than a house that was stick-built.  He also said that his costs would be very reasonable.  But first, we would need an architect to actually draw the plans, and Engineer referred us to J.S. (now called Architect), also out of Oregon, to draw the plans.  Architect does NOT have a California license, but Engineer assured us that it was okay, because his California license would cover everything.

So, we signed a contract and sent a deposit to Architect TWO YEARS AGO this month.

This is the main floor plan I sent to the Architect, so that he could convert it to easily build with Faswall Blocks and also to bring it up to California Code.

I sent the house plans I had been working on for several years using a software package I had purchased at Staples. All Architect had to do was make them fit with the Faswall system (each block is four feet long) and make sure the plans passed California Building Codes.

In fact, other than the final dimensions, his preliminary plans almost exactly mirror the plans I sent him. Again, we emphasized to Architect in e-mails and phone calls that we wanted to build as cheaply as possible, and that we were planning to do the bulk of the work ourselves, though we were NOT licensed contractors!  Thank goodness we saved every single E-mail, in case this ends up going to court.

This is the plan the architect came up with. Not much different than mine, is it? So, why in the world would it take so long to come up with the final plans?

FOURTEEN months later, they finally had everything necessary to submit our building package to the planning department for inspection and review.

Why would it take so long?  We wish we knew!  We begged, we nagged and we pleaded, to no avail.  Is it because we made a lot of changes to our plans?  NOPE!  We had Architect remove two windows on the second story that HE put in and we didn’t want, and I had him flip flop the shower with the toilet room in the master bath on the preliminary plans.   That’s it.  Seriously!

Why am I naming names? Because these are the cold, hard facts.  I am not worried about slander, much less libel, because I am telling the truth, as hard as it is to swallow.  I have saved all our e-mails, and our local county personnel will back me up on all of this, and so since I refuse to sugar coat anything, I am naming names.  Perhaps I can prevent someone else’s heartbreak.

When we finally submitted the plans, we got the results of our first review back from the “plan checker”  within two weeks.  There were pages and pages and pages of things that were missing, incomplete or just plain wrong in our house plans.

🙁

UGGGGHHHHHHH!  This was in late July of 2016.

http://www.clipartof.com

In the meantime, we had a bunch of contractors up to our property to give us bids on the foundation work.  That was one of the only things we were not planning to do ourselves (besides the roof), because we wanted to have a good foundation to build on!

Contractor after contractor told us that just the basement alone was going to cost between $50,000 to $60,000.  Holy @%$&

WHY?

Because our home was essentially three stories (basement, first floor, second floor) some of the footings were to be seven feet wide!  And one of the basement walls had to be a solid concrete wall (filled with rebar) 35 feet long, 10 feet high and eight inches thick, to hold up the house above.

Did someone forget all the e-mails about this being a DIY project with a reasonable cost?  Why did they ignore our requests and communications?  Were we speaking Chinese?

You hire professionals to work for YOU, to listen to YOUR problems, to understand what YOU need and to provide that service!  Wouldn’t the Architect and Engineer know that the basement with the huge footings and that concrete wall were going to be extremely expensive and certainly NOT a DIY project?  If one of them had warned us of that in the preliminary stages, we would have nixed the basement right away! But after the preliminary plans were done, there was very little communication, other than the bills they sent us.

Which we always paid with a week of their receipt.

So, after realizing that a basement was not worth a huge chunk of our budget, we asked the architect and engineer to remove it from our plans, along with correcting the pages of errors the plan checker had sent.  Oh, and we added a small retaining wall across our back patio and removed the fireplace.  It took more than six months for them to do this.  SIX MONTHS!  Because of that, we missed out on another building season.  And then they had the audacity to charge us thousands of dollars more!  Oh, and I forgot, since Oregon does not require electrical or plumbing plans (apparently those inspections are done in the field), Mr. Architect and Mr. Engineer refused to do ours. But wait…  we were assured by Mr. Engineer that since he had a California license, he would make our plans California compliant.  I have that in an e-mail and told him so, but they still refused. So, we had to hire a house planner who is licensed here in California to do this! 

Do you see a theme here?

We finally were able to turn in everything for our second review in February 2017.  Were we good to go?  NOPE.  Again, errors and omissions. To top it off, now WE have to pay more than $160/hour for the next building review (the third), for mistakes and omissions our Architect/Engineer are responsible for!

What a scam.

This past winter was brutal.  If you have been following this blog for very long, you know that we moved from our travel trailer into our “cottage” over a year ago.  See the post of our cottage HERE.  Travel trailers are not meant to be lived in 24/7, and we were burning way too much propane just to keep warm.  We were having to drive 45 minutes to get to town just to buy more propane!  It was insane!  Hey…  that rhymes.  😉

Living in a tiny cottage

Our saving grace this past winter has been our tiny wood stove.  Thankfully, it heats our little cottage really well…  sometimes too well!

Anyway, this past winter here in Northern California was the fourth wettest since recording began.  While living in the cottage to stay warm, every time I had to use the bathroom, I had to go out into the cold rain and sometimes snow. We were still showering and cooking in the trailer, so I was having to constantly go back and forth between the cottage and the trailer, oh, and the outhouse.

In the rain.

And snow.

The truth is, this is not what we signed on for.  I thank God that Ray and I are best friends, because this has really been a strain on our marriage and I wouldn’t wish this situation on our worst enemy.

So far, we have wasted two precious years, our retirement years, waiting for Mr. Architect and Mr. Engineer to do their jobs. When Ray sent ANOTHER e-mail to them to see what the status of our plans are, essentially they responded that they were working on them.

Yeah.  Right.  If you believe that, I have a bridge in Taiwan I will sell you cheap for $10,000!

We need a house.

One that we can call home.

If it takes any longer just to get plans to build a Faswall home, it’s not going to happen and we are truly heartbroken!  The Faswall folks have had our money for the blocks for a year and a half now (we made our final payment December 2015), and we will be asking for a full refund.  Luckily, Faswall won’t lose one cent, because they don’t manufacture the blocks until arrangements have been made to pick them up.  The truth is, they probably MADE money through interest over the past year and a half!  Luckily, our contract with Faswall states that if we don’t get a permit to build, and we haven’t (through no fault of our own), we will get a full refund. We are talking almost $24,000 here, folks!

We are also considering whether we will sue J.S. and D.S..  We have contacted quite a few architects in the area, and have been told that two years for a residential house (nothing fancy here, just a normal, everyday house) is not even fathomable…  It’s insane!  It’s unheard of!  In fact, ONE year (according to EVERY contractor we asked) is crazy!  So, I don’t think we will have a problem winning that one.

If you have made it this far in the story, I would really like to have your opinion.  You, my faithful followers, have given me great advice in the past.  What do you think?  Should we give Mr. Architect and Mr. Engineer another month to get the plans right and hope to get our Faswall dream house, knowing that it will be ANOTHER year before we can get started?  Or, should we cut our losses (time), go to court to get all of our money back, and start again from scratch?

Off-Grid Water and the New Pumphouse

As we get ready to build our new home, we are trying to get the infrastructure in place before all the REAL construction starts.  The septic tank is in place, as is our well.  We have an orchard that is already producing fruit, a temporary garden site, a place to live on site while we build the house, and a gravel driveway with lots of gravel.

One of the last things we need to do is build a house to enclose our well head, the water storage tank, a booster pump and a pressure tank.  A lot of people don’t enclose these components, and that’s okay, but we want everything to last as long as possible and we also want a safe, clean water supply. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors are a bit shady, so we don’t want any of our equipment to go missing.  We also won’t have to worry as much about someone or something fouling up our well.

Ray built this water tower a few years ago, and it works very well giving us enough pressure to run a hose, flush a toilet or take a shower. Unfortunately, California Code Book says we can’t use it for our new home. 🙁

Being off-grid, we have had some challenges figuring out a system that is both energy efficient and will also pass California’s over-bearing and unnecessarily strict building codes.  You see, we really wanted to just use gravity fed water drawn from the wonderful water tower that Ray built some years ago. Unfortunately, we are required to install fire suppression water sprinklers in our home, which requires that a certain water pressure be maintained for a certain amount of time, and the water tower cannot supply this requirement.

Not only do we have to pay for this unwanted fire suppression water sprinklers (about $5,000 is the cheapest quote we have received thus far), but we also have to pay for the booster pump, pressure tank and all the necessary extra solar panels, batteries and wiring to support them.  Harrumph!

Why don’t we want the sprinklers?  Because, so far, we have heard of more insurance claims from damage caused by frozen sprinkler pipes (we live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains) bursting in the winter than we have heard of homes saved by the fire sprinklers.  Besides, we are also are required to have a fairly expensive smoke detector system that is integrated within the system.  Also California Code. Also a lot of money.

A lot. 🙁

We decided to build the pump house just like we built our tool shed (which we turned into our bunk house), with a concrete slab upon which two levels of concrete brick will be mortared, then the rest with framework of 2 x 6’s, and finally a metal roof.  Of course, the first thing we had to do was figure out where the building would be built!  We knew we wanted to include the original concrete slab that surrounded the well head.  It took a while to figure the best orientation: where a window would go and which way the ridge of the roof would run.  We also needed to decide how big the building would be.  We didn’t want it to be too big, but at least big enough to be able to move around inside to work on components and turn on/off switches and/or faucets.

Building an Off-Grid Pump House

Figuring out where to put the pump house, and how many concrete blocks will be needed.

We started out framing with 2 x 6’s for the concrete slab, because we wanted about 2 inches of gravel with about a 4 inch thick slab for the floor.  Ray figured out a system of Off-Grid Pressurized Water Systempipes and faucets and such, which were all imbedded into the concrete slab.  Since the slab was going to be fairly large, we decided to pour half of it one day, wait a day for the first pour to set up, then finish the slab with another pour.  So glad we did this because we hand mixed in a wheelbarrow a total of 52 bags of cement!  My back is aching!  As you can see in the picture to the left, we set rebar into the concrete along the edges, that will tie into the concrete block and make the block wall more sturdy.  Pressurized Water Off-Grid

The PVC pipes for two faucets and the household water supply pipe, along with electrical conduit for two wires was buried in the gravel under the concrete.  With everything either being in walls or underground within the building, we are hoping none of them freeze. One of the wires goes from the solar panels to the pump, and the other wire is actually a sensor wire. The sensor wire will be placed inside the water storage tank and trips the solar pump off when the tank is full.  Our pump is a really cool brushless pump, with a direct current motor that we bought from Advanced Power Inc. (previously called Robison Pumps) and runs on solar, batteries or generator.  Perfect for off-grid applications.

Cool, huh?

Once the entire concrete slab was poured, we next needed to set the concrete block.  We used 6 inch wide block (it also comes in 8 inch wide) because we plan to use 2 x 6 lumber for the framing, which would make the whole building look more uniform.  At least that’s the plan!

Setting concrete blocks is not easy work, but Ray had a bit of experience from being a hod boy for his step-father when he was young, and we have completed several projects over the years with concrete block and also clay brick.  Working with the concrete blocks and mortar, I must say, is nasty stuff – especially if you don’t have good gloves!  I ended up losing the skin on some of my fingers when it was all said and done, from the lye in the mortar mix!  Seriously…  I could rob a bank because I don’t have fingerprints right now!   Hahahaha…

Fortunately, we were able to get the two rows done in just a few day’s work.Water Systems Off-The Grid

Once the block walls were up, we had to fill the voids with concrete.  Not only does this make the walls more stable, but the concrete holds in the J-bolts, which will eventually Pressurized Off-Grid Waterhold down the sill plate, which holds down the framework.  In the picture above, you can see a loose J-bolt, and another one imbedded into the concrete.  You have to leave enough of the J-bolt above the concrete so that the sill plate will fit over, and the bolt will have enough room to tighten down.  You can see in the picture to the left how we filled each void in the concrete block with cement.  It’s not pretty, but it works, and the sill plate covers everything anyway, so you will never see this view again!

The best part?  All of the cement/mortar work on the pump house is done!  Wahoo.  Now I can grow my fingerprints back again.  😉

Finally, Ray set the sill plate.  He had to drill holes for all the pipes and bolts that intruded through the board.  The boards were put on right after we had finished filling the concrete voids of the wall, so that the pipes would be held in the correct position as the concrete cured.  With the sill plates attached, we are now ready to start framing the walls.

We were so excited when John at Precision Pump and his two apprentices placed the rest of our equipment!  These guys are professionals and had the entire system up and running in no time!  We got a Gould Booster Pump and an Amtrol Pressure tank – both American made, which is important to us.  You can see the schematic of our system in the picture below.  As always, you can click on a picture for a better view.How to get pressurized water off-grid

The water is pumped from the well by a solar pump, and flows into the water storage tank.  You can see the blue ball valve in the line between the well head and the water storage tank.  That stops the flow of the water into the storage tank so that the water can flow through the faucet in the picture that says “unpressurized water from well pump to faucet”.  Of couse, there is a little bit of pressure, just not a whole lot.  The upright PVC pipe at the upper left corner is where the electricity comes in from the solar panels and powers the solar pump.

The other faucet is fed by the pressurized tank.  Now look at the square of rock in the lower right corner of the concrete slab, where two PVC pipes disappear.  The skinny pipe is the one that leads to the pressurized water faucet.  The larger pipe will lead down the hill to our home.  We don’t want to trench and set the line for that until most of the heavy construction is done, for obvious reasons.

Building off-grid water system with pressure

The upper red circle shows where the electricity for the booster pump comes in from under the concrete. The electricity will come from the household solar system. Follow the red line to the pressure switch – the gray box – inside the second red circle. This controls the booster pump turning on and off, based on the pressure within the pressure tank. Following the red line around brings you to the booster pump, the blue thingy.

What happens is the booster pump will be fed by electricity from the solar system that will be placed on the roof of our house.  It pumps water from the water storage tank into the pressure tank, the big off-white thing next to it.  The pressure tank is what gives us enough pressure for household use and brings up to code for our future fire suppression sprinklers.  The booster pump runs on 110 and is 1-1/2 horse, which was important to us since we are off-grid, and keeps the pressure tank between 30 to 50 pounds of pressure.

household off-grid pressurized system

This picture shows where the electrical comes out (or goes into) from under the concrete in the pump house. The line on the left is from the solar panels that power the actual well pump. The one on the right is coming from our future household solar system, that will be on our roof. Once the heavy work is done on the house, we will trench and place the conduit with the wires, along with the 2″ PVC pipe for the water for the house.

In the meantime, as we are living in our travel trailer and small bunk house, we hooked up this system to the trailer and – WOW.  The pressure is absolutely wonderful!  I can actually rinse all the shampoo out of my thick hair now!  Whoopeeeee!

Now…   on to framing!

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