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!

 

This is where the party is:Thank Goodness It’s MondayClever Chicks Blog HopGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me Monday,  Homemaking MondaysShow & Share TuesdayThe Gathering SpotBrag About ItTuesdays with a TwistThe ScoopTwo Cup Tuesday;  Inspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;  Party In Your PJ’s;  Show Me YoursMake, Bake and Create;   Wined Down Wednesday;  Fluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Wonderful Wednesday;  Waste Less WednesdayAIM LinkyOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  The Handmade HangoutThink Tank Thursday;  Homemaking Party;  This Is How We RollNo Rules Weekend Party;  Friendship Friday;  Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five FeaturesAwesome Life Friday;  Home MattersTraffic Jam WeekendSaturday Sparks;  Dare to ShareScraptastic SaturdayShare It One More TimeHappiness is HomemadeAnything Goes Pink SaturdaySimple SaturdaysThat DIY Party;  DIY Sunday ShowcaseSnickerdoodle Sunday;   Best of the BlogosphereSmall Victories Sunday

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