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Posted by Rich in Suffolk, VA on 4/2/2011 1:47:38 PM

Since the fill was brought in last October, it has settled nicely. I had plans for our family to re-level it with rakes and wheelbarrows, but it was too much. Thankfully I had my fill guy bringing two truckloads of crush-and-run and a tractor with blade so I had him take the tractor onto the building pad and level what would have taken us 20 hours in 30 minutes. Only God could have worked that one out!

Following the morning of the driveway, I had hired a guy with a backhoe off Craigslist for the afternoon. He showed up, began digging, and I had footings within 45 minutes. Since I had hired him for three hours minimum, I also had him tackle a few "nice-to-haves" around the rest of the property. Based on the recommendation of both contractors on site, I did not rent a plate compactor. I did use a tamping plate which I had bought for a driveway repair last year. To level the slab finally we checked the formboards with a water level and laser, and then ran a string from the center stake to the form boards. I spraypainted with red or green where sand needed to be removed or added.

During all of this and afterward, I was working on my 2x10 formboards. I had calculated the angles beforehand to be either 24 degrees or 36 degrees (anything touching the long entryways). This allowed me to precisely miter each board. Afterward I drilled each end for five 3" screws. In the middle of the long entryway boards (>18') I scabbed two cut 10' boards. Before the trip down, I had constructed a fixture for my drill press that allowed me to precisely drill through the width of the board with a 3/4" spade bit. I did burn up a couple of bits, but only messed up one hole (out of 30 or so). These holes allowed me to pass my 3' concrete stakes with locking collars. This system allowed me to precisely level each board independently when we installed the formboards. I did mess up the installation the first time as I was placing the strings from the batterboards across the exterior of each formboard instead of the interior. Once I corrected that I had no problems. Pretty long process. This item was the only one I felt I really underestimated. I also attached 3/4" EPS insulation on the inside of the formboards, allotting 6" from the top for termite inspection.

As soon as the formboards were up and level, I began digging the interior trench footings. For this I had to dig by hand and toss the sand over the formboards. We finished this item on schedule and got an inspection fairly quickly. I passed the inspection and quickly began digging for the plumbing. The plumbing went fairly quickly until the last three fittings, which were very close to the slab. I was short on time and afraid I would mess it up, so I hired a plumber. The plumber cut one of my old pressure fittings and replaced it with a drainage fitting (which would later be my only leaker!). He didn't bother with a 1/4" drop for these last three fittings, which, if I had known, would have allowed me to solve the problem myself. Even after a 30-minute discussion about my desired shower location, the plumber incorrectly stubbed up my shower drain line. I'm hoping to bring it over later with a combination of 45-degree fittings with the 6" of tub-box altitude. If not I may have to install a different shower pan or even a custom...  My conclusion here is that I should have just done all the plumbing myself. Either way I had to rapidly cut out the leaker later and re-install one of my pressure fittings (which received no comment from the inspector).

Even before the plumbing inspection had passed, I had already installed my combustion air for the wood stove. My wife and children installed the 6-mil vapor barrier, caulked and duct-taped at the seams. I had previously created templates of 24, 36, and 77 degrees to help me bend the rebar to the right angles. Bending #5 and cutting and bending #4 was easy. Cutting #5 was crazy, and it was easier to just overlap extra. I had also got my 8-year-old to paint marks on the rebar to show the correct 40 times diameter overlap (25" for #5). My wife tied almost all of the rebar and commented that hers was much nicer than the ones I had tied. She also taped cardboard around all the plumbing fittings in case I need to budge them later.

I had done a lot of research on mesh chairs and had selected one I was confident would keep my mesh in the lower third of the 4" slab for strength. However, they were crazy-hard to install, and I think I messed up my wrist installing the 900+ chairs. And it was so cold the chairs didn't rebound like they should, and some shattered. Pretty miserable failure, so I can't recommend the product.

I had made a great effort to deconflict the pour and kit arrival, but failed due to weather and a delayed inspection (caused by my out-of-sequence house numbering). Both started within 15 minutes of each other. Thankfully, my neighbor showed up to shovel sand against my formboards (which had kickers every 4' with plywood backing the insulation in the deeper areas, up to 2.5' on one side). This prevented blowouts. Later I found one where the insulation had cracked, but the sand stopped it immediately. Regardless, the concrete crew had a lot of negative comments about my formboards. However, doing it myself saved several thousands and I'm happy with the result. My calculation of 38.1 CY of concrete was met with 38 CY required on the day of the pour. I used a spreadsheet found on this site.

Unloading the kit took longer than anticipated, but the truck driver was very helpful. I spent all of my time with the forklift, running over only when I needed to insert rebar into the slab.

The concrete crew was my lowest bid. I had a better and cheaper crew lined up, but they got taken by a commercial job that overran due to bad weather. The crew I used did an okay job, but the slab wasn't burnished to the finish I had hoped. I can also see some of the aggregate where they should have used a jitterbug. Thankfully, my wife and I have low expectations and don't mind. My 7-year-old daughter spent the next three days keeping the slab wet. The cold weather also helped here.

Pulling formboards wasn't too bad, although we had to dig deep to get the plywood out. I also had to use my Hi-Lift farm jack and a chain to pull up some of my kickers on the deeper footings one one side.

Overall an exhausting process. I worked sunup to past sundown for 9 days straight. I owe my 8-year-old for 50 hours of work and my wife contributed 20 hours as well. Knowing what I know now and with a different mesh support, I think I could do it in less than a week with good weather. Thankfully God answered 6 months of prayer with perfect weather.

As for costs, my best bid for the whole pad (minus plumbing) was $11,800. I did it for $8,860 which includes paying the excavator $300 and the pouring&finishing crew $2,350. Also, some of my $8,860 is recoverable such as the rebar bender I purchased ($280), my formboards which can potentially be re-used for joists ($400), my concrete stake setup ($120), and the unused portion of the 6 mil plastic ($80).

Photos

Rebar bending setup with 36-deg template
Mesh chair
Slab ready for pour
Worst case timing
Unloading the kit
Formboards removed



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