Basement floor and stem walls

Last time I thought that not much would happen except to start digging for the geothermal fluid tubing. Boy, was I wrong!

It rained over 4 inches last weekend and neither Lance nor I expected the ICF crew to return on Monday. They needed to continue cleanup from building and filling the ICF for the basement and all the remaining stem walls. There was leftover rebar, ICF blocks and some scrap from the assembly process, plus all the scaffolding that was still in place. Cameron and Andy showed up Monday and were slogging in the mud doing the cleanup. Fortunately the mud wasn’t very deep and was drying out quickly so it didn’t slow them down too much. In the afternoon more trucks with fill dirt starting showing up to help level the area around the stem walls. Then gravel arrived for the fill between the garage floor shale and the ICF basement wall. More cleanup needed to be done in that gap since the rain had caused some collapse, but not too much.

Removing ICF leftovers

Lance giving me an overview and the schedule

Plumbers weren’t supposed to show up until Wednesday afternoon to start the rough-in for the pipes in the basement, the outflow pipes for the rest of the house, and a floor drain and condensation drain for the mechanical room. But when Lance arrived Wednesday morning, they were already at work figuring out the dimensions for the sewer lines. By mid-afternoon more gravel had been poured into the basement, the pipes had been placed and secured, and the floor was ready to be poured. This is a one-chance operation with no room for any significant error.

Mechanical room drains

Bathroom and two drains from upstairs

Once the plumbing was in, gravel was dumped in over the piping and to cover and level out the basement prior to pouring the floor. The above photos are the piping in place and ready for gravel.

The gravel is in and leveled

Footers first, then block stem walls for the garage

Pouring in the gravel and leveling it results in what you see in the above left photo. If you double click the photo, you can also see the gap between the garage floor and the basement wall has been filled with gravel. Water can only flow down through the gravel and into the Form-A-Drains below the basement walls. Pretty secure method for keeping the basement dry no matter how much rain we get here. The photo on the right shows the trenches that will hold the concrete for the garage footers. The basement floor and the footers all get poured at the same time to avoid having to pay for additional trips.

I’m impressed by the coordination Lance puts into the process. As we’ve spoken, I’ve come away with a knowledge of his competence level and the attention to detail that keeps this project running very smoothly. Lance also tells me that if we had tried this five years ago it would have taken eight to nine months because the construction industry was booming, and we wouldn’t have the level of energy efficiency we’re getting now.

It seems like I picked the right time to retire and start this project. I’ve always found that no matter how bad things may look during the process, with some direction and confidence they always come together. The result is at least as good as I’d hoped and usually better than I thought it was going to be. As I look back on my history of possibilities, things have always worked out better than my fear led me to believe it would. I thank whatever spirit is watching over my shoulder to make life run in a such a positive direction. Every new adventure brings another level of learning about how to get out of my own way and simply go with the flow. A tough lesson that I never seem to fully accept.

Putting plastic sheet over the gravel

Experience and youth starting the pour

Friday morning the pour began with spreading a plastic sheet down help keep the concrete from seeping through the gravel. And off they went with a long process of creating a basement floor – “they” being a very experienced man with many years of concrete work under his belt and some much younger workers. Pour in concrete, level it to a blue line around the ICF blocks. Level all the concrete to have an even surface, then let it cure for as long as it takes to harden enough to work with and smooth the entire surface. The concrete must be even with the drains so no water can ever stay very long should it ever make it inside the basement.

Concrete and rebar for the garage footers

Barbara looking at the finished floor on Saturday

Friday afternoon showed plenty of progress, and the crew was still working. The next step for the garage was building the stem walls on the footers. The goal for the day was get the stem walls done and the piers for the front and rear decks. That’s a lot of block to lay in one afternoon, so we’ll have another look-see Saturday morning to see if they completed it.

Garage stem walls ready to frame

I can see it now!

Monday morning the crew will be back to complete the piers since they ran out of time and energy for the day. Since this is a basement, the sun didn’t get to help dry the concrete, so it took longer than hoped for to bring the basement floor to the quality level they wanted. Looking at it Saturday morning made us smile; the job appears to be excellent. On the left above, the garage stem walls did get done, but not the deck piers. All next week is forecast to be dry and mild, so work should continue without any of Nature’s delaying tactics. On the right I’m standing in my new shop space and doing a bit of layout dreaming. It feels great to know where my shop stuff is going to live.

The framing is scheduled to begin on next Wednesday afternoon, so it really will begin looking like a house. The geothermal excavation crew could show up anytime, so their schedule is a bit of a mystery.

I’m going to go get some leather gloves and a rake so I can begin my task of being the cleanup crew. Eight weeks of vacation and I’m back at work. Admittedly the work will bring me lots of satisfaction since I’m working on Barb’s and my mutual dream. Talk to you next week.


About Ken Willingham

I retired from an excellent job in Tucson and moved to Newburgh Indiana. My bride, Barbara, is from there and wanted to return, so we have. Now we're building a home to enjoy our later years, teaching journaling for her and doing woodwork for me.
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2 Responses to Basement floor and stem walls

  1. phil says:

    lookin good pops!! probly alot like when u built ur house in AZ?? one day itll b done… (can u tell i text alot? lol) looks like a small shop! haha

  2. Phil,
    It’s coming along smoothly now. Next week I’ll be showing the framing as it goes up. By the end of October we should have what looks like a house from the outside.
    Love, Dad

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