Saturday, August 27, 2011

Can You Spell E x h a u s t e d?

We sure know the meaning of the word! 

The first lift (wall pour) actually happened yesterday!  Went smoothly.  No speak of.  Our hard, sometimes manic, work this week paid off.  Except now we're too tired to work this weekend!  Not.  

The Pour Is On!

We love concrete trucks.  Especially when they're full of concrete for our projects!

Special inspector on the left, pump guy and driver at the truck.

Fred with the pump guy at the wall.
There's that special inspector guy on the left, again.

Side Note

Here's a picture of the rim joist bolts at the wall.

The cells and hole will be filled with concrete.  

Today's Work

Thanks to the help of Wes and Monty (friend, colleague of Gene's and Wes's dad) we got three more rows up today.  More work than anticipated, though.  Having to cut 1/2 blocks for the windows and rebar (that never ends!) slowed us down a little but once we got going it wasn't so bad.

Gene and I had a discussion last night as regarding whether this was easier, faster, etc. than conventional stick framing.  We went back and forth and decided that yes, in the long run it is.  While either way, he needed professional help, with Faswall it's been much faster than framing. For one thing, when this is up, it's enclosed.  No siding necessary, we'll (more accurately I'll) stucco it.  He'll leave the interior as is (without the blocks in the middle!), the insulation value is much higher than he could ever get with conventional building and most of all, he's anticipating a very comfortable 'clean' place to work/play.

Done For The Day

Gene and I are so tired tonight that grocery shopping consisted of, "If it's not at Costco, we don't need it."  The thought of going to both the grocery store and Costco, was more than we could bear.  And, OMG, my right hand is so sore I can't hold my gin and tonic!  ARGH!  Gene's right hand and wrist is also giving him fits.  My frozen shoulder is, well, still a big pain, but starting and ending the day with ibuprofen helps.  Hey, my doc told me I need to keep using it!  Little did he know...

Tomorrow...window bucks, testing scratch coat on the outside of the block (prep'ing for sealant) and then off the one of our favorite wineries (they're having a big case sale...our priorities are still in tact!)

And if you think this is a big project...check out what our son just finished building....

While Gene taught him a lot about building, he didn't teach him this!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


It's been a crazy week!  I've decided I'm past the point in my life where these glitches are a challenge...they've become exhausting.  It's just been one thing after another.  But I did get good news yesterday.  My orthodontist said my teeth look so good, he's taking the braces off early!  Hopefully by the end of October.  That's not only early, it's half of the predicted time!  My mood picked right up with that good news!  (Didn't need sky hooks to walk on air!)  I'll be able to eat again!

Back to the project...

Looks like the first lift get's poured tomorrow, Friday...if everything goes as planned today.  We have some county requirement special inspection details to iron out before it can be poured.  We were having such a terrible time finding special inspection services that Gene finally asked the engineers he works with if they knew of anyone.  The one we had contacted couldn't get to it for three weeks.  ARGH!  But, they gave us a couple names and we're good to go!  YAY!

We ordered foundation bolts that were too long.  When they're put in wall, they'd hit the insulation.  So, we had to find 104 of the right length in town.  Didn't happen.  Luckily Gene was overcome with a stroke of genius and he punted.  These are used on the rim joists and lay horizontally into 1.75" diameter holes in the wall.  They will then be encased in concrete.  I had a nifty picture of it, but somehow it didn't get recorded on the camera.  Whatever.  Here's a pic of the rim joist in place....

Once we got the rim joists on, it was on to setting up scaffolding for the pour....

Just have to get some hand rail on and it's set.
This evening Gene will make the bucks (forms to go on the inside of the doors to keep the block from shifting under the weight of the concrete) and we're ready.

We really aren't looking forward to the next 9 rows, though.  It'll happen, though.  It'll just be slower.

And...I'm afraid I've become quite the spectacle at Jerry's.  Don't know if it's the old beat up, torn, paint spattered shirt, the wild hair, the crazed look on my face or the stench (if they don't like it, walk in front of me!) but, quite a few heads turned the other day when I was in picking up a new drill.  (Gene's other one wasn't heavy duty enough).  All I can say is, now when I go for my daily trip for whatever we're short of, the greeter gives me a wide berth.  I'll shower when the projects done.  Don't have time right now.  Besides it's a great passive/aggressive anti-social technique.

More tomorrow, after long as there's not hitch somewhere.

Party on!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


To start, this is the view from our house this morning as we got up and around.  
The sun is just coming up to the left...

Sunrise in the Mohawk Valley

Down To Business

It's done.  No, not totally.  The last row for this lift is in place.  YAY!  
This level is the bottom of the windows.  The floor level is the top of the third row.  

It's done.  Gene's taking a break.

Notice how straight and true this wall is...dang, we do good work!  

The rebar in the foreground is the electrical ground.

First Aid Needed

And...unfortunately, there was an incident on the job site this morning...
Darn rebar!  It just jumps up and gets 'ya!'s all fun and games 'til somebody get's their eye poked out.

People have always told me I'm a half bubble off level.  Guess they were right...

Before pouring the cells of the blocks, as I noted in yesterday's post, Gene has to get several things done.  The biggest is getting the rim joist for the floor along the perimeter.  The bolts will be set in the concrete.  The preparations may take a few days.  So, this may be the last post for a couple days.  Besides, I need to get in and get my head, I mean eye, examined.  A shower might help, too (to wash off the ketchup).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

One row away...

Well, there you have it.  Only one row to go until the first lift gets filled with concrete.  The openings are doors.  Still have a few end blocks to do for those.  We'll do it all tomorrow in the cool of the morning.  Have several other things to do before the pour.  Like corner bracing, electrical chase, inspection, etc.

Wes thinks it really should be a swimming pool.  Throw in a liner, turn on the  He also suggested a diving board on the roof off the existing building (which is directly to the left of the picture).  The 'bridge' kinda looks like a diving board already.

We've gotten this far since laying the first block Wednesday evening.  We just did a row per night the first 2 nights, then we got crankin'.  Did 4 rows today.  Gene's sister and husband stopped by today and helped with last row of the day.  Yay!  We quit for the day because of heat and the next row requires rebar be laid first, which means bending and getting it together.  Too hot.  Too hungry.  Too tired.  Tomorrow.

It's really like giant Legos.  There is also some straightening to do yet.  It's looking pretty good so far...corners are square and vertically level.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's nap time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Guy on the Block and Faswall 101

Great.  New guy on the job site and what's the first thing he does?......

So much for a clean safety record.  Neophytes, geez, what's a CM to do?

Faswall 101

The stars of the show....

Outside corner
1/2's...designed to cut in half and used
12" spacers and ends at openings.
Full ends - for openings at windows
and doors

ooopps....I forgot a picture of the main player...the standard block.  Ok, it looks just like the full end block only with a notch on the other end, too.  The notches are for rebar to go through.

Notice in the blocks, the white blocks...insulation.  It's what helps give these blocks an R30 insulating factor.

So, far, so good.  A couple things to keep in mind when choosing your foundation guy...there are a few things about working with this block they need to know.  One is that the footing needs to be level and smooth.  Like this:  

Makes the first course so much easier!  Also, very important, the rebar needs to be off center, front to back.  As the insulation in the block throws its center off true center.

Just make sure they are aware of it's idiosyncrasies before hand.  Fred has been a god send.  He's worked with Faswall before and knows what he's doing.  He does great work!  We highly and I mean HIGHLY recommend him!

There you go.  All you need to know.  Not.  But seriously, it's not that hard.  Our only issue at this point is foundation vents.  After much discussion and brainstorming we finally decided on a plan...tomorrow's post.

The young man irreparably brain damaged...Wes, is the calvary I called in today.  He helped us prepare for this project by moving up-teen cords of wood, thus proving his willingness to work hard.  I was out working this morning (more staging) and thought, "Oh, gawd!  I'm an aging woman...what the heck am I thinking?  I need help.  Wes, oh Wes, where art thou Wes?"  He heard my angst through the ethers (via phone lines) and was here by 2.  We moved block all afternoon and he started building by the end.  Being a second year engineering student, this is great exposure.  And he's invaluable.  He definitely has a future laying block.  As long as he hangs out with us for the next couple weeks, I'll be happy.  (We don't pay him enough, I just keep him in brownies, cookies and tomorrow, cinnamon rolls.)

Another big day planned tomorrow.  Gene will be cutting ends/spacers and foundation vents and Wes and I will build.  At least that's the current plan.  Who knows, plans can change...especially after the cinnamon rolls arrive.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Faswall time!

The block arrived!  YAY!  Only one hitch...his lift gave out with two pallets left, so he had to leave them at the bottom of the driveway.  But, not a big issue, Gene just loaded them in the little trailer that he pulls with his little 'tractor'.  Took 6 loads, but it wasn't too bad.  (I can say that because I just watched.)

The load of 16 pallets. 
Up the driveway.
This lift wasn't designed for inclines, so the drive mechanism overheated with 2 loads left.

Laying Block

After figuring out some critical staging strategy, we're off!!
This stuff is as easy as we thought.  Had the first course done in about 90 min.  That includes some schleppin' of block and figuring out what went where and what to cut or not to cut*.

Gene's thrilled with the first block down!

But, realllllly thrilled with the first course done!

Now, we get to bend some rebar, schlepp more block into the swimming pool and go up another course.  Good thing I'm really buff and can bend the rebar with my bare hands.  But first things first, it's time for dinner and a martini to celebrate!  I'll bend the rebar tomorrow (after Fred brings the better rebar bender).

* Clarification - Yes, there are instances where a block needs to be cut.  At the dimensions of our building there is one half block per side.  The blocks cut are specifically made to be cut.  A circular saw with a carbide blade is used.  It's really no big deal.  Not much more than cutting a 2x8 board.  A reciprocating saw can also be used on these block.  They can also be drilled into easily.  This is some of the beauty of this block over regular masonry block.  The other big one is that it's dry mortar between blocks or courses.

Getting Started, August 2011

Gene's dream is finally going to happen.  After 30+ years of doing his woodworking out of a garage, he finally is building his dream shop.

While he is quite familiar with wood framing (we built our home) when we found Faswall ( at our local Home and Garden Show a couple years ago, he quickly became enthused with it's attributes.  The ease and speed of building with it was quite enticing.  Since it was going to be pretty much just him and me (his dear supporting loving wife) we decided this would be the way to go.  Not to mention it's a recycled product!  We've always lived 'green'...long before it was even fashionable.  So, Faswall was a perfect fit.

It will be a simple straight forward building.  24'x32', attic trusses, wood floor (for comfort) connected the the existing garage with a breeze way.  Hopefully, we'll be under cover by mid to late September.  We're also replacing 2/3 of the existing garage roof structure with trusses, then roofing both structures with metal roofing.  We're thinking hot pink and purple.  Alternating colors creating a stripe affect.  (To scare off alien space ships.)

With tight quarters on our 1.3 acres, we had some serious work to do before the block could even be delivered.  The site for the shop had to be cleared of firewood (and 'stuff') from five previously fallen trees.  This turned out to be a five week project, even having to hire a college student to help.  Thank you, Wes!

Tree Falling

And he's not even all the way up!

Then it was cutting down three trees on the site, seven more at the top of our driveway.  More space was needed for future deliveries.  Thanks to Kyle King, Certified Arborist, and his amazing crew, they were all down without incident.  It was tight quarters.  All the trees had to be climbed and taken down in sections.  Whew!  Not for the faint of heart!  I wimped out and closed my eyes a couple times.


Stump removal and then we can get crankin'!

Of course, the next step was excavation...for the shop and widening out the driveway.  
Gad, that was a lot of dirt!  Good job Clayton!  Another man who loves his work and therefore is quite good at it!

The swimming pool is coming right along.
(That's what it will be if we don't get the building permit!)


And foundation.  We decided to hire that out.  Gene's just not a fan at this point in his life.  Fred came highly recommended; his reputation obviously precedes him.  As he is amazing.  Easy going, good natured and nothing ruffles the man.  Not even my momentary, albeit fake, hysteria.  (I was imitating some general contractors.  He didn't buy it. ) 

Building permit in hand, we can proceed.

(Said while running around frantically waving my arms in the air. )

Pump and truck.
Fred, Randy and pump operator.
Only a footing is needed because the Faswall blocks will be used as the stem wall.

Tomorrow the block arrive.  Another tricky delivery.  The truck will have to park at the bottom of the driveway and bring them up with the forklift.  16 pallets.  We'll see....