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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 11/6/2009

There haven't been enough of these dang things lately, but today was a biggie--the footers were poured today!

The whole thing was pretty exciting.  We'd been hoping all week that the weather would hold and that the crews would be able to work fast enough to get the footer forms all done in time for a pour today.  There's weather moving in Monday (some drizzly rain from the forecast) and if we didn't get it done on Friday or Saturday we'd probably not get another shot until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.  The guys did fantastic, though, and at the conclusion of yesterday's festivities Builder Dale and Colleen got together and decided to get the footers poured today.

I got up there at the crack of dawn and started puttering around, moving a brush pile out of the way of the concrete trucks and generally getting things as cleaned up as I could before the crews arrived.  Colleen got there a bit later and had wisely taken the combo locks off of each of the gates--the last thing we needed was for somebody to lock the access gates when we're running trucks full of concrete up the road!

The biggest concern (and one which I can't stress folks work as far in advance as possible) that we had was whether or not the concrete trucks would have room to turn around.  These trucks are big (the ones that came up for the pour were 31' 8" long, and those aren't the largest ones around) and need plenty of space to turn around.  In our case, the whole site is relatively tight due to the layout of the land and my desire to keep a couple of trees that (to be fair) others wanted to take down.  I even went so far as to make a truck cutout and move it around on a map of the site (from the blueprints) to see if  a truck could actually maneuver effectively!  The whole issue was further complicated by the pumper truck, which was fairly lanky but at least didn't need to move once it was in place. While the concrete pumps typically have a 200' hose on them to move all around the pour, the truck still has to be able to discharge directly into that pump--and the combination of the two eat up a lot of space.  I was satisfied that the trucks would be able to turn around fine, though it would definitely be tight.  I think I was the only one not too worried though but that's okay--sometimes cluelessness works in one's favor.

So while Colleen and I ran around finishing the clean up of the area and making as much room as possible for the trucks to move around in, Builder Dale and the footer crew finished laying in the forms and tying in the rebar.  I then walked around with a set of plans and a tape measure double-checking the footers myself (something county code requires--YMMV) while Builder Dale and Colleen worked out how they would manage the trucks coming up and down the road itself.  It's not a very wide road--some places are better than others--and we didn't want these things to meet nose-to-nose anywhere if it could be helped. 

Finally things were ready at about 10:00.  Colleen took off down to the first gate to meet the concrete trucks (four were due for the footers, carrying 8-9 cubic yards each for approximately 34 cubic yards total) while the crew and I mostly just took a few moments to rest up, have a donut, and basically get ready for the fun.  We had a chainsaw on standby just in case we had to cut one of the trees so the trucks could get around it, and Builder Dale and the concrete foreman spent a few moments juggling vehicles to maximize space for the trucks.

And then they came!  Excellent timing, one after the other about 40 minutes apart.  Each of them pulled up, turned around, and backed in to the pump as sweet as could be.  The first couple carried the branches off a couple of trees that were just a little too low to the road but no harm was done and the drivers all thought it was great fun (at least they were all grinning ear-to-ear!).  The crew got straight to work, with about three men handling the hose itself while two or three others shaped and smoothed the mix into the footers.  They started at the "apartment end", which was the furthest away from where the pump was, and worked their way down and around with each successive truckload.  There was virtually no waste at all at the end (Builder Dale is very experienced at this) and I was duly impressed. After they got the footers all set they walked around and inserted the verts (vertical rebar) so the footers would "tie in" to the next pour.

I can't stress enough a couple of important points here, which fortunately, it looks like we'd done right:

  • Plan how the trucks are going to move in and out.  Don't wait until they're arriving to realize that there's not enough room for them to turn around. Plan it out on a map if you have to. In our case there were two complications--the long and narrow road (meaning we didn't want a truck going out to meet another coming in) and the relatively tightness of the construction site.  Colleen's coordination of a staging system with Builder Dale made all the difference in handling the road, and our moving of the brush pile that morning gave the trucks the extra space they needed to save that one tree and make their turns much simpler.  (When dealing with these big trucks, a couple of feet can make a lot of difference!) In retrospect, I might have tried to clear out a route around the "front" of the house (where the masonry brick is all stacked) so they would have had an option to pull through in a rough circle, but there might still have been problems with the relative steepness of that part of the hill.  Either way, make sure you've got a good plan, and it doesn't hurt to "game" it a couple of times so everybody knows what they're doing.

  • Make sure the concrete guys know what the plan is.  Builder Dale had briefed the concrete foreman when they were refining the plan, and then Colleen was able to explain it very simply to each driver as she met them coming up the road.  This helped a ton... they knew what was going on, they knew where they were going, and they knew where the concrete needed to be.  That's a big reason it all went so smoothly.

  • Have an experienced guy running the whole thing.  This goes back a bit to the interview process (if you're going with a builder) or an honest personal evaluation if you're planning to handle this yourself.  Builder Dale did an outstanding job in working with Colleen, the footer guys, and the concrete guys to get everything done in a "just in time" fashion, and it showed in the smoothness of the operation and in nailing the amount of concrete precisely. If this is something you don't think you can handle, or if you're going to get flustered coordinating a half-dozen trucks of time-sensitive material (concrete can't sit around), hire a pro to do this part--you'll be glad you did!
Many pics are below.  We're exhausted and planning to stand down for the weekend (the footers need to cure anyway).

Building is fun!

Steven in Colorado Springs

Photos

The site in the early morning. Finished footer forms are along the back, but as of this snapshot some forms still have to be set.
The trenches for the footers around the living room area. The crews finished this just before the concrete trucks starting arriving.
We wait for the first concrete truck to arrive...
Colleen brought up coffee and donuts for the crew.
The first truck arrives! He set up nicely over the concrete pump.
The crew begins working the first pour over on the apartment footers.
Working their way around the corner...
Going very smoothly....
The second truck arrives right on time.
The third truck. The tree in the center of the shot is the one we were worried about, but everything worked out great.
Another shot of truck #3. There was a minor problem when he showed up a couple of minutes before truck #2 was quite done, but we had made plenty of parking for him to pull off to one side, so it wasn't an issue.
The fill goes well... this is looking down the "master bedroom" wing (I hate that word).
Looking back towards the now-completed footers at the apartment end. The run in the foreground is the separator between the apartment and the garage.
Colleen heralds the arrival of truck #4...
...and there he comes!
Closeup of the truck and pump. These guys did awesome work; I can see why Builder Dale uses them.
One of the crew finishes moving the pumping tube around.
By the end of the pour (around 3:00) enough of the first batch had cured that the crew could start stripping the forms. This will help the concrete cure better and more evenly.
A not-terribly-good shot of the footer around the apartment garage.


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