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MacArthur in Nampa, ID's Journal Entries

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Posted by MacArthur in Nampa, ID on 5/11/2008

April 29, 2008: Another milestone! We started stacking the walls.

As soon as we started on the wall stacking, I realized we had a serious problem with the straightness of the front wall. See my earlier post about the crooked front wall. I just could not bring myself to continue the wall with that kind of 'snake' curve in the wall. What to do? I hit upon the idea of cutting a groove into the bottom of the first course of blocks that would allow me to shift the blocks side to side, thus being able to get them into a straight line. It worked.

We made the first change to the plans as I have them drawn that affects the cosmetics of the house. When we installed the side bucks of the master bath glass-block window and then laid the top buck on them we could readily see that it just didn't look right. I planned for the bottom of the window to be even with the bottom of the bedroom windows. But because the block window is only 40" high compared to 60" for the bedroom windows, the tops were way out of line, too much to look good. We raised the window about 5" to bring it up to about the same elevation as the glass block window we had in our Louisiana house, which we liked the looks of. Now it looks much better.

One difficulty we've encountered is oversized corner blocks. After struggling to get some corners plumb, and trying to figure out why we were having gaps between courses near the corners, we finally discovered that the corner blocks we have are slightly oversized. This causes the corner to be about 1/2" higher than the straight wall after all 6 1/2 courses are laid.

For a complete review of the problem review my thread on

In one corner of the garage when we plumbed the wall we ended up with a gap between the bottom course of blocks and the foundation course. I put canned foam in there to fill in the gap. We'll end up doing much the same thing in every corner. The top course of blocks will be trimmed as necessary to create a level top all around.


If you look closely, you can see how the front foundation wall is crooked. I didn't catch it before we poured the foundation wall, even though I had taken this photo.
Here's the groove I cut between the two rows of nubbins on the first course of wall blocks.
Here we have a nearly 1/4" offset in the block alignment. The foundation wall was up to 1/4" out of alignment. I will have to do some fudging of the wall plane along the floor, but rasping and spacers will take care of it. This area will be covered by baseboard inside and is at ground level outside, so in the end it should not be noticeable.
This is on the other side of the doorway from the photo above. I had to shift the blocks here almost a 1/4" the opposite direction.
Much straighter now! Sure makes me feel good how well this fix worked out.
Master bath glass block window opening located per my drawing. It just didn't look right being that low.
Master bath block window in higher position. Looks much better. So far this is the only real cosmetic change from what I have on the drawings.
Two full courses of wall block are in. At this point we installed the bucks for the window sills.
We used 2x6's for the window bucks placed inside the form. Because the 2x6 is only 5 1/2" wide and the form space is 6" we need to fill in the gap. I started out using 1/2" Styrofoam but it proved to be more trouble than it's worth to stuff it in the crack.
Here's the gap filled in with canned foam. A lot easier to use, and is surprisingly stiff once it's set up. The bucks are fastened with 4" screws and plastic washers spaced 8" apart on both sides. After the concrete has cured, the screws on the outside will be removed and used to screw through the flanges of the windows.
We are using Doug Fir for all the bucks. Because this is close to the ground, you aren't allowed to have untreated wood in contact with concrete. We have blue sill foam on the back side of the 2x12 to protect it from the concrete in the form. Here you see a 1 1/2" square strip of pressure treat on the bottom of the DF. The OSB is a temporary support flange until the pour is done.
I hate the looks of electrical service conduit on the surface of the wall. The best place for the meter worked out to be right here on the garage wall that is visible from the front. The meter base is flange mounted. I have the conduit inside the ICF with its front surface flush with the foam. Canned foam fills in the gaps. This will be covered by OSB for strength during the concrete pour.
This is where the walls are today, Sunday, May 11, 2008.
Sometimes even the most mundane of material goods will yield a bit of art. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a little art out of this project!

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