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

 

Breaking Ground!

After years of waiting, worrying and wondering if we would EVER get our building permit, we are proud to announce that we have finally broken ground!

Building an ICF house

First things first… removing this cute little tree. I really wanted to save it, but unfortunately it would have been in the way of the heavy equipment and probably too close to the house.

                            WAHOO!       YIPPEE!        HOORAY!

The first step in building our new home is to form massive concrete footings for the foundation of the very heavy concrete walls.  We are using the Reynoso Brothers as our concrete contractor because we have been extremely happy with the work they have done on our building site so far.  Last year they prepared the building site quickly and efficiently, on time and at a reasonable cost, so it was a no brainer to have them back.

building a Faswall home

These footings will be three feet wide and two feet deep, with lots and lots of rebar!

The heavy equipment they brought seemed to be overkill at first, but then when I saw the size of the trenches they were digging, I understood.  The footings will be massive!

The tractors made digging through our clay dirt seem like a knife through butter.  Well… almost.  Until they hit a huge rock right at the back corner of where our patio will be.  Luckily, it was a soft rock (sedimentary?) and the excavator was able to actually scrape most of the rock away.

Once the trenches were dug for the footings, they began defining the upper edges with some 2 x 6’s.  They used a laser on a tripod to get everything perfect, and the picture on the left shows what they were able to accomplish after just one day of work!

Then the rebar was installed.  Holy cannoli… 3 tons of rebar!

No joke.  Really.  Three tons!

Building a Faswall house

These are two guys from Reynoso Bros bending rebar.  Can you see the pile of rebar next to them?  Let me tell you, their work was cut out for them!

With all the concrete and metal that is going into this house, I truly believe it will last

F.  O.  R.  E.  V.  E.  R.

Once all the footings were dug and most of the rebar installed, it was time to set the rough plumbing.  For minimal intrusion into the Faswall itself, we decided to set the plumbing for the kitchen sink, the toilet in the 1/2 bath and the urinal in the master bathroom under the slab.

“Urinal?” you say?  Why yes!  No more fretting about poor aiming and no more seat up/down wars! Can you tell I’m a mother of four boys (including my husband). 😉

Building a Faswall ICF House

I designed the house so that all the plumbing would be in one area. Originally I was going to have the kitchen sink closer to all the bathrooms, but I wanted to have a window over the sink, so it ended up being the only plumbing that was not in a 15 foot square area. Oh well.

Juan from ACE Plumbing and his crew did most of the work in one day, which was impressive.  Except…

The toilet was put in the wrong spot, and so was the freestanding bathtub.  You see, building a house with ICF is a lot different than building a stick-built house.  In our ICF home, the blocks themselves are exactly 2 feet long, with 1/2 blocks being 1 foot long (well, duh).

A Faswall Block. This one happens to be a corner block, which is why the insulation is in an “L” shape on one side. The blocks are 2 feet long, 12 inches thick and 8 inches high.

Anyway, because of that, when designing an ICF house, windows and doors are placed exactly on whole feet and not partial feet.  So, when the two foot wide bathroom window will start 14 feet from the corner of the house, with the toilet centered right underneath, the toilet needs to be centered on 15 feet.  Get it?

Well, only having built stick houses before, they figured they would center the toilet on the wall, and the window could be built centered over the toilet. That’s the normal thing to do.  But we needed to have just the opposite.  They needed to center the toilet under where the window will be!

So, when we explained this to Juan, he had his crew up that very afternoon to fix the problem!  Yay!

One thing dear hubby and I have been doing is testing and checking, checking and testing everything!  That’s how we knew the toilet wasn’t right.  We put the Faswall block exactly where it will be placed on the footing, then measured twice from corner to corner, and toilet to corner, then bathtub to corner, etc.  I know that sounds a bit nit-picky, but the truth is that WE are acting as our own contractor and in the end WE are the only ones responsible.  So, it’s better to check and make adjustments now, before any concrete is poured!

Insulated Concrete Form building

The Southeast corner of our future Faswall home temporarily in place.

So, now you ask… what’s next?

Inspection!  Yup.  Our first inspection.  We are a bit nervous, though I don’t know why.  The two contractors we have had on site so far are experts in their field and are fully licensed, so we shouldn’t have any problems.  (Famous last words?)

Insulated Concrete Forms

When we pass our first inspection, we will celebrate with this bottle of wine our good friends Ronda and Leonard gave us. Cheers!

In the meantime, I have been moving my green plastic chair around in the house, pretending I am looking out this window or that window, getting a feel of what it will look like, and dreaming…..

Faswall ICF building

The chair is where our covered, screened in patio will be. Ahhhhhhh

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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!

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

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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