Monday, May 30, 2005

Day 54 - squaring, truing, leveling completed

Post recovered by Gerry! Many thanks, Gerry!!

Monday May 30th.

The bottom few rows of the ICF are now installed. The corners are now all squared, the walls are leveled and straight, and bottom row and footings are foamed at the join.

You can see that the doorways into the cold-storage are cut out now. The first few rows were placed before cutting out the openings, otherwise it would not have been possible to get the length of the wall correct.

The new construction banner.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Day 51 - squaring, truing, and leveling....

Progress to week ending May 27th was a bit slower this week as Chris was sick for 3 days, and of course Monday was a holiday (Victoria Day).

Most of the walls are squared. Next week the crew will finish squaring, truing, and leveling. Kickers will be installed on the corners (to hold the walls in square), and the bottom edges of the blocks will be foamed to fill any gaps and glue the blocks to the footings.

The new crew members: Brian & Steve

The new crew members who joined us this week: Brian Breton and Steve Molson.

Brian has signed on for the ICF portion of the construction. Steve is signed up for the full meal deal. As you can see from the rust stains on Steve's attire, he's been working hard shifting rebar on the job site.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

How to have real fun!

Tawny - showing some of her prizes that she got from rolling on a dead porcupine. Tawny had 46 quills in total, some were really embedded (on the back of her neck) and others came out easily. We took her to vet where they gave her an anaesthetic and removed 45 of the quills. We took her home, and found another quill while washing the stench of the dead porcupine out of her fur. Tawny just stood there quietly while we pulled on the quill to try to get it out. After 3 attempts, we decided to take her back to the vets to let them take it out.

The sad thing is, dogs never learn not to tangle with porcupines.

Update - one week later: three more quills worked their way through the flesh of Tawny's nose and neck. Total quills: 49.

Day 49 - ICF construction begins

View of building site with ICF under construction.

Closeup of ICF under construction. As you can see, ICF has a significant amount of rebar in the walls. Typical basement walls have little or no rebar.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Day 48 - ICF forms arrive

The first delivery of the ICF forms arrived today. This should keep the crew busy for a while. Will see if I can get some pictures shortly.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Designing for energy efficiency

A major focus of our new house is energy efficiency. This is clear by our choice of ICF construction, and high mass hydronic radiant heating. This was all inspired by these stories of an ICF house that uses 45% less energy than an R-2000 house: here, here, here and here.

Besides winter heating, summer time cooling is a huge energy cost. While our house will have air handling ducting designed for potential future air-conditioning, we are not planning to install an air conditioner initally. Anyone who grew up in western Canada (or US) knows that if you keep your windows closed and curtains drawn until the heat of the day is past, your house will be cooler. I am sure that in this case the house actually heats up from the heating in the attic.

So what did we do to minimize any potential cooling requirements?

First, our house faces south west. This means the front facade and right side (if you're on the road and facing the house) get the heat of the sun in the summer. We placed the garage on the southern side (right side of house). Besides this being the obvious location for easy access for driving in from the road, we avoid having lots of windows to heat up the house.

Second, we have a wide porch (7 feet deep) across the front of the house. This is over the front door, stair window, dining room window, and laundry room windows and door. I wanted to check that the porch design of our new house would provide maximum shade in the summer and let maximum light in during the winter. I searched on the web for tools that I could use to verify that the initial design would do this for us. I came across a sustainable design site with some tools that are quite useful. If you click the Design Tools link, you will find a number of tools including the Overhang Design tool which I used. In order to to compute the sun's position accurately when you use these tools , you need to know your city's latitude and longititude. In Canada, you can get degrees/minutes accuracy from this site. I used 45° 19' N 75° 40' W in my calculations for Ottawa.

Third, our house is at the top of a hill at the side of a lake. There is almost always a breeze here. If the house gets warm, and there is a breeze, all we will need to do is open the windows at the front and back of the house to cool the house off. Another big advantage of the constant breeze is that it keeps insects away! Bonus!

Energy efficient lighting
I should also mention, the sustainable design site mentioned above has a tool to calculate the economics of compact fluorescents (CFL). If you're interested in saving money, check out this CFL tool to see how much $$ you can save. CFL bulbs are now much improved, and you can even buy dimmable bulbs now (with electronic ballasts, which also means they work better in cold weather).

The first CFL bulbs I purchased about 13 years ago were expensive - cost about $20 each, were limited to something that produced less light than a 60W incandescent, gave an unflattering "cool white" light, and were a clumsy long tube (about 6" long) that was designed for commercial fixtures and didn't fit many residential light fixtures. Today's CFLs are much cheaper (I recently purchased some 23W CFLs, equivalent to ~100W incandescent, for just over $5 each), are brighter (e.g. the 23W units mentioned), give off a more flattering "warm white" light, and are more usable with shorter spiral bulbs.

We have considered using DelphiTech LED lighting for exterior perimeter lighting, but that may not be in the budget...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Day 42 - looking ahead (revisited)

Time to look at the plan that we talked about on Day 26 - Looking ahead....

Update on major components...
main floor joists - ordered.
trusses - not ordered yet. smart move, due to schedule slip.
windows - reviewing the sizes, etc, this evening. Order should be placed tomorrow.

We had difficulties with the concrete mix for the footings, so that in conjunction with the weather(!!) caused just over a week's delay. So here is the updated plan, with a 9 day schedule slip.. We also have a few days delay as the next delivery date for the ICF blocks is Tuesday, May 24th... (schedule updated again below)

Week starting:
May 24th (day 48), new: ICF blocks delivered
May 24th (day 48); was May 9th (day 33): start on basement ICF walls (1.5 weeks)
June 2nd (day 57); was May 20th (day 44): basement walls complete, start to install main floor (1 wk)
June 9th (day 64); was May 27th (day 51): main floor complete (includes plumbing & electrical rough-in), start to install main floor ICF walls
June 21st (day 76); was June 7th (day 62): main floor ICF walls complete
June 28th (day 83); was June 14th (day 69): trusses installation complete.

Rain again!

Well, it's pouring rain in downtown Ottawa... I wonder what the weather is at the building site?!? Probably another weather day, blech!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Day 41 - concrete podiatry

Minor footing surgery.

Freda studying the plan (on another cold, wet, windy day).

Friday, May 13, 2005

Day 37 - squaring the walls on the footings...

Today started out by completing the insertion of the rebar in the footings. This would normally have been done when the footings were poured, but this was impossible because the concrete set up too quickly. As a result, holes needed to be drilled in the footings every 32 inches and the rebar epoxied in. The result, as you can see, is a forest of rebar. Compare that, if you can imagine, to the way footings are formed in typical house construction. There, the footings only have a key (a groove marked in the concrete while it is workable). This approach is clearly significantly better for earthquake, etc, resistance.

The next step was marking out where the exterior walls of the ICF will be located on the footings. This is a critical, but somewhat tedious task, since it involves computing the Pythagorean Theorum over and over for ever corner - checking, double-checking, and triple-checking the calculations.

Charles and Dave figuring out the Pythagorean theorum. This proves that math and geometry are very important no matter what line of work you're in!

Charles and Dave measuring angles to ensure the walls will be square.

Once the calculations are made, the footing is marked, and then a screw is inserted into the footing as pencil marks will wash off.

This picture shows 3 things: first, you can see how the footings were capped to make the surface smooth and level (critical for ICF walls). 2nd - you can see the rebar inserted at least every 32 inches. 3rd - the blue screws indicate where the outside of the corners will be located.

In other news, a new crew member will be starting on Monday.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Day 36 - Numbers

Speaking of numbers... 193 tonnes of gravel delivered and placed today...

Pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Day 35 - concrete stories...

Charles called the concrete company about the speed at which the concrete set up. Others had complained also, as well as their own guys. Charles has never seen such rapid set up, which was at least partially due to the heat.

The concrete company is now adding retarder to the mix to give more open time.

Perhaps they should pay the cost of cleaning up our footings too!

PS: Discovered that sugar can be used as a retarder for concrete. But too much can turn it into an accelerant. Pretty nifty.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Day 33 - Pouring the footings

Setting up the concrete pumper

Starting to pour

Levelling the top of the footings

A view of the (mostly finished) footings with rebar sticking up from the middle.

Some of the concrete set up in the footings before it could be levelled and rebar inserted.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Day 30 - footings are ready for concrete

Day 30 - Friday May 6, 2005 - Day 30 - the footings are ready for concrete!

In this photo, you can see the fastbag has been installed. Fastbag is an environmentally friendly way of making footings. #1 - it holds the concrete with less lumber than required by typical form construction. #2 - there is no leakage (waste) of concrete with the bag. #3 - helps prevent "rising damp". (Rising Damp -- sure sounds like a British expression to me...)

Other things to note from this photo...
  • You can see the footings are placed directly on the bedrock. You can't get a better foundation than that!

  • Note how the footings are stepped to follow the contour of the bedrock. This will save on the concrete required for the footings. You can see the plywood at the end of the upper level of the form where it steps down (left foreground). The basement floor will, of course, be flat. It will be about 4" above the form level by the basement stairs - rectangle at center of photo is the frame for the stairs to the basement from the garage.

  • The three black squares in the centre back of the photo are the support posts pads. These transfer the load from the beam that runs down the center of the house to the footings.

A lot of care was taken to level the footings and get the measurements and placement of the footings correct. An absolute level base is required to install ICF walls, otherwise there will be trouble later with concrete blowouts when pouring the walls.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Day 29 - levelling of footings completed

Day 29 - Thursday May 5, 2005 - Completing leveling of the footings.

Oh look, here's Tawny playing just in front of the garage! Let's see what she's thinking....

"It's so hot, fortunately here's a muddy little hole I can get filthy in!"

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Day 27 - preparing the footings

Dave and Chris leveling the top of the footing frame.

closeup of method of leveling footing frame

Monday, May 02, 2005

Day 26 - Looking ahead...

Charles, our builder, talked with us about ordering the trusses. The plan, assuming no further weather delays, is as follows:

Week starting: Plan
May 2nd (day 26) - complete and pour footings
May 9th (day 33) - start on basement ICF walls (1.5 weeks)
May 20th (day 44) - basement walls complete, start to install main floor (1 wk)
May 27th (day 51) - main floor complete (includes plumbing & electrical rough-in), start to install main floor ICF walls
June 7th (day 62) - main floor ICF walls complete
June 14th (day 69) - trusses installation complete.

Now to figure out when the house will be closed in so we can have a good idea on when we can put our current house up for sale.

Did I mention that it rained again today? Figures...