Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pouring a New Footer

Earlier this month, on the last few warm days we had in a row, we finally poured our new footer.

You may recall that we've been digging.

And digging.

And digging.

And then digging some more.   

Footers are a lot of work. 

Once the digging was done, we had to put in the forms so the footer wouldn't fill up the whole hole.

If we were in a place where we actually had drainage, letting the footer fill the whole hole wouldn't be a problem.   But we don't have drainage.  

Southeast end forms
We have clay. 

Which means we have to install drainage.   And if we fill the whole hole with concrete, then we'd have to dig next to it - all the way down! - to put in drainage so that moisture wouldn't collect around the new footer and foundation and cause the same problems we're trying to fix now. 

And let me tell you, we're over the digging.   Over. It.  

West side forms
So,  Eric built forms in the holes to keep the concrete from filling the whole hole, leaving some space on the outside of the footer, so when it's all done, there will be just enough space to backfill with gravel [We love gravel.] and lay some super duper fabulous drainage tiles so that the moisture won't collect around the new footer and foundation and cause the same problems we're trying to fix now.  

Then we called the concrete guys and ordered 13 yards of concrete and George came and looked at the site to see if we could get the trucks close enough to the site to use their chutes.

There was good news and bad news.  

The good news was that we could get close enough in a couple of places.   

The bad news was that we couldn't get close enough in other places.    Which meant hauling concrete by the wheel barrow load to where we needed it. 

I don't know about you, but the idea of hauling six yards of concrete uphill in a wheel barrow just doesn't sound like my idea of fun.  In any universe.

Pulling the concrete down the chute with rakes
So Eric built a super duper concrete chute out of plywood and 2x4s.    And a super duper very tall sawhorse to support the chute as the concrete poured out of the truck's chute onto our chute, then down our chute to the hard-to-reach places in the holes.  

Then we crossed our fingers and prayed a lot that it would work because nobody,  No. Body., wanted to haul six yards of concrete uphill in a wheelbarrow.  

Not even the kids.   Weird, huh.

And guess what.   It totally worked!    The only concrete we had to haul with the wheelbarrow was the last tiny bit of the first load, which had been mixed thick especially for the steps in the footer where it changed levels.    Eric moved only 5 wheel barrow loads to the steps on the other side of the house, with Lily spotting and helping support so that the wheelbarrow and all didn't all pitch in the hole when they dumped.  

The rest was poured with the chute. 

We all helped.   Just so you know, one man, one woman and two teenaged girls can pour a footer if they communicate well and are willing to work hard and fast.   We hit a couple of tricky spots and both times, the driver of the truck [It took 2 loads of concrete to get it all done] hopped out and gave us a quick hand.  [I hope those guys have an extra special holiday!]

Mostly, it went like this:    We'd line up the truck chute with our chute.  When Eric gave the signal, I shouted to the driver to let it come.  Once the concrete hit our chute, K2 and I pulled it down the chute faster with rakes.  Lily and Eric raked it and smoothed it in the forms and let me know when to slow and stop.   I let the driver know when to slow or stop.    When one section was done, we moved the chute to the next section.   When we got to the lowest area, the truck could get up close and dump and that went a lot faster.    Once the east side was done, there was just enough left in the load to do the steps on the west side.  That truck cleaned up and took off.

Eric checks the level in the first section
We had an hour or so between loads.  Eric scrambled to get the rebar laid in the west hole and I scrambled to get the new concrete level before it stiffened up too much to move.    We had just finished when we heard the 2nd truck coming.  

We used mostly 4" slump (more on that in a later post) in the first hole and in the steps on the west side of the house.  Because we had already poured the steps on the west side with the thick stuff, it was pretty well set up by then and we could use 6 or 7" slump in the second load.    It poured a lot faster and set up a lot slower.   
Let me tell you this about working with concrete.   You think dirt is dirty?   It's nothing compared to concrete.   

Concrete is wet and dirty.    And it dries you up so that after a couple of hours you're starting to cough and get chapped.   But you can't stop working because that stuff starts to cure Right Now and you have to get it level Right Now if you want it level.
Smoothing with a 2x4

And we need it level.  So Eric leveled as we poured and then when we had to move the truck to a different area, it was my job to finish leveling, while Eric moved to the next section.

K2 and I worked together to do the leveling.  Luckily it only needed to be level, not beautiful.   

The bottom section of the east side was easy to level.    There were forms on both sides.  All I had to do was run a 2x4 across the top and make sure it was full, full, full.    Up the rest of the hole, there was a form only on one side.  This means there was nothing on one side to prop the board on to get a level.   Also, nothing to stand on, on that side.  

K2 checks the level.  I'm trying not to fall in.
To be honest, I was afraid I'd fall in head first.   The concrete was so stiff already on the east side that it wasn't a problem.   I laid big boards and plywood on the concrete and floated [rafted] backward as I smoothed.  The west side was wetter, but I had some experience by then.  Once I got in a groove, it worked well and in the end, it's all good and level.  It rained for the next 3 days and there is only one place that's about a 1/4 inch low on one side.  Nothing to fret over. 

It needed to stay above freezing for 7 days to cure right.   It was wet and well above freezing for the next 4 days, then when it got cold, we put some straw and plastic over the footer.   It's in the ground, which kept it warm-ish and the curing process releases some heat, so the blanketing was enough to keep it right for the rest of the 7 days.  

Footer done!   The first truck had arrived at 2pm.  The second left at 6:30pm.   It took a full hour and a half to clean up all the tools, wheel barrows, etc.  We were all done and in the house by 8pm.   Whew!

Foundation next.     Eric will build forms [no digging!] and get things so they'll attach to the bit of old but good foundation in the front.   There will be forms on both sides of the foundation [easy to level during the pour].   We already have the chute, but we might not need it.   There are no steps at the top of the foundation, so we can just pour it in one end and move it along to the other end.   With the four of us and a bit of experience under our belts, we should manage just fine.  It will be heavy work, but not back breaking.  

Now we need warm weather.   We don't want to risk goofy curing because of a serious cold snap, so if we have to wait a couple of months, no problem.    We want this foundation to last.  And last.


  1. I was wondering how this was going! I'm so glad it all got finished prior to cold snappage and snow. What team work! Congratulations!

  2. O.M.G. You guys are geniuses AND amazing!! If I were involved in that project, you wouldn't get a nice write-up like your blog post about it from me. It'd take me several months to recuperate. :P

  3. Girrrl. I'm going to send you a picture of my bare feet to show how much my socks are blown off by what you do in life. Also, I think you should move your "About" blurb to the top of your blog where everyone can see your gorgeous star-gazing mug. IMHO. :)


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