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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/21/2010

Wow. Just. Plain. Wow.

I thought that getting the second floor poured “made” the house and it did make a huge difference—but nothing like getting the first floor done.

We started the day at 5:45 a.m. so we could get some donuts for the crew (always get donuts or some kind of similar treat for the crew—you'll make them very, very happy and happy people do good work for you) and get to Tanglewood before the first concrete pump truck was slated to arrive at 7:00. This mostly worked, though the pump-truck guy called as we were hitting the road to get the combos—turned out he was running a wee bit early as he wanted to get set up before the concrete trucks began to arrive.

We arrived in the middle of a light sprinkle, and since it had rained fairly heavily last night (around a half inch), we were worried that the roads wouldn't be safe for the concrete trucks. Turned out Mike the Concrete Foreman had driven the road at 4:30 and pronounced it fine, however, and we agreed wholeheartedly after our journey up. The only nasty part really was our driveway—since it's not poured yet, it's basically a mixture of the local clay and some leftover Red Canyon Breeze from the local gravel yard, and while it's packed fairly well, it's still pretty slick when wet (like now). This didn't cause any problems for the pump truck, but it did later when the first concrete truck arrived (more on that later).

Colleen and I had two things to finish up before the concrete arrived though, so while the pump-truck crew were busy unpacking their tools, rolling out concrete hoses, and building a form for the fireplace footer, we were trying to get our chores done. The first was to install part of the central-vac system—while working on the overall design for this, I realized that part of it was going to have to go under the concrete slab if I were going to have an outlet in the living-room area. I had tried numerous ways to get a tube over there without going through the slab, but the only other option was to run up to the second floor and back down again—not a good layout for a central-vac system at all, since you want to avoid as many 90-degree turns as possible. I'd decided instead to run a tube under the concrete with small 90 bends, and plan to install cleanouts just above these bends when I finish out the system so that I can get in there if something clogs at these locations (this is probably overkill, but I have never had a central vac system before, so I'd rather be safe than sorry).

The other task was to put down a quick-and-dirty thermal break along the footer. I've read in several places that it's always better to insulate the slab from the footers themselves so as to avoid drains on your radiant-heat system into the ground itself. While most of Tanglewood has its footers well below the floor such that the underslab insulation covers and  protects the slab itself from the footers, there are a few places where the footer was wide enough and/or high enough that the insulation didn't completely cover it. In order to avoid a battle with the Earth that I likely would lose, I elected to install thermal breaks--basically the same material as one would use on the sill-plate padding--that would prevent the slab from coming into direct contact with the footers. Overall this wasn't too difficult, though I had wished in retrospect that I'd bought more of the wider material than I did; I ended up overlapping several 6" swaths of thermal breaks along the footers and using duct tape to hold them together until we poured the concrete. It worked fairly well, and I was happy with the result.

We finished just in time too, with the first truck arriving slightly before the crew was actually ready for them. While they were getting ready, we had two more trucks arrive and Builder Dale began to worry about getting the mud out of the trucks before it got too old (you only have a limited window to pour concrete when you're dealing with ICF). Because it was the closest to the road, the first truck began pumping into the living room, with around a half dozen of the crew working to help spread the mud in order to maximize speed.

After that, the day was honestly one huge blur of activity. After the first-floor living room was poured the crews shifted to pouring the window wells and the patch that got missed up on the second floor way back in January. They then worked on the main house while other crew members began to smooth out the earlier pours. A hose got run up to the second floor to finish off the crenelations that had been missed, then they dove into the apartment pour itself. The last part were the garages themselves, since the crew could do them while "backing" out of the house with their tools. I followed along behind for most of the day, adjusting radiant tubing where it got kicked (they DON'T step very lightly sometimes) and watching for any accidental skewering of my tubing. If the tubing HAD been pierced, we would have seen an explosion of bubbles as the system would have depressurized into the concrete; but fortunately (thank Odin!) that didn't happen. And in the middle of it all, my tower windows arrived!

There was one moment of panic, though. While all of the concrete was poured with expansion strips embedded in them to minimize cracking due to the natural expansion and contraction, the crew wanted to do a bit more in the big garage. Colleen and I were walking back around to the front of the house after admiring the work behind the house on the window wells, when one of the crew walked over to ask if it would be okay to cut a secondary expansion joint into the garage floor.  Since I had just finished putting about a thousand bucks' worth of radiant heat tubing into that floor I was naturally a bit excited over the word "cut" with regards to it, and after making sure they stopped! for a moment, we found out more about what they were up to. Turned out that they wanted to cut a very shallow (1/4") joint along each primary garage bay and another down the length of the garage to help provide further expansion control over and above the expansion strips that had been installed during the pour. Garage floors get a lot more direct sunlight and cold exposure than the interior of the house typically does, and this was something they normally did to help control cracking. They showed me the tool they were using (it sort of looked like one of these) and how the depth setting for the cutting blade was only 1/4"--barely getting below the surface, and (most importantly) nowhere near my tubing. After seeing it demonstrated, I agreed that it was okay for them to proceed with the cuts, and they did so in just a few minutes while I watched my gauges very, very, very carefully in the event of any accidents. There were no problems, the floors were nicely etched, and we all (okay, maybe it was just me) breathed a sigh of relief when they were done cutting.

In all there were 12 trucks totaling some 86 cubic yards of mud. The pours themselves took most of the day, with the final smoothing lasting until well into the early evening. All in all, it was quite a day.

Pics below. We're exhausted. More posts later.

The first floor is done! YES!

Steven in Colorado Springs


The early morning boded well in the lower part of the canyon, though there were light sprinkles at Tanglewood itself.
Me walking along the garage installing the thermal break (that pink stuff along the footer).
Closeup of the thermal break material. that red line on the wall shows the planned height of the concrete pour.
The crew begin pouring the living room. Here they're waiting for the second truck to get into place.
Getting ready to pour the water break between the deck and the interior.
That nasty bit upstairs all filled in nice and smooth.
Looking down on the crew working in the second load in the living room from the library.
Pouring in the master bedroom and working their way back towards the center of the house. I think I was more worried about this part of the pour than any other, since there's SO MUCH tubing in here.
Changing out trucks for a new load of mud. They did a pretty good job of keeping the trucks arriving at a steady clip, I thought.
Working towards the center. The survey equipment to the front right was used irregularly to make sure they had the mud level throughout.
The mud got a bit ahead of the crew at this point, and they had to wave off one truck for about a half hour.
Looking across the kitchen area into the living room. Very sunny over there, ain't it? :)
Colleen and I stepped down to the trailer to get a "long view" of the festivities.
Closeup of the truck getting ready to pour.
Pouring the window wells!
The wells were too far back to reach with the concrete hose, so they used a bunch of buckets.
Filling in the big window well. This took a fair amount of mud, as it turned out.
The crew carefully shaped the tops of each window well so they would shed water.
Some of the tubing got a bit kicked out of place here, so with some handy zip ties I quickly fixed them.
Long shot of the crew finishing up the main house.
Closeup of the crew finishing up the main house.
Looking at the window wells being finished off through the main apartment window.
While other areas were being poured some of the crew was busy smoothing the earlier sections.
Closeup of the smoothing work. That fan thing kinda "floated" on the mud; it was pretty neat.
Pouring mud into the apartment garage. Compared to the other areas, this went very smoothly.
Good shot of the mud smoothed (ahead of this worker) and not smoothed (behind him).
Pouring into the main garage.
For the garage, they were able to get the truck right up next to the doors.
Dang, this looks goodly.
Smoothing out the garage floor. You can see some of the irregular swirls the initial pass of their smoother made in the background; those were eventually all gleaned out.
Towards the end, they were able to work from outside the garage.
There was a bit of hand-troweling at some points. If you look closely, you can see the big snowshoe-like pads he was wearing to move around on the concrete.
That's a nice, sharp edge on the garage floor, ain't it?
The apartment bathroom window well. Nice work here!
The large apartment window well. We'll be pulling those plywood scabs off in a couple of days once the concrete has properly cured.
The apartment kitchen window well pour. That torn window seal in the upper right will be repaired by the stucco guys before they do their work a couple of weeks from now.
The expansion joints in the main garage! The crew hadn't quite finished them all at this point, but you can see how they work.

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