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Our Cottage Foundation, Part Five: Pouring Concrete

by Tyler

At long last, the day has arrived—we're pouring the foundation for our cottage! Things kick off bright and early with Rick pulling in at 7AM. He's here to check on us before the cement truck, pump truck, and masons arrive. Right off, he spots that we don't have any corner braces on our form. He mentioned this a few days ago, but I'd completely forgotten.

Without metal braces, the corners of our wooden form would be responsible for holding together against thousands of pounds of concrete with little more than 3" decking screws, a dubious proposition. Anticipating this oversight, Rick produces some from the back of his pickup truck. After a quick explanation of what to do, Tara gets to work nailing them in place.

Concrete Form Corner Braces Tara Nailing Corner Brace on Concrete Form Tara Nailing Corner Brace on Concrete Form

Meanwhile, we need to get our hurricane straps ready. We'll be embedding these strips of metal in the concrete while it is still wet—they'll be used for securing our timber frame posts to the slab. As planned, Rick has brought a gigantic roll of strapping, left-over from raising his own timber frame home. While Tara is busy hammering away with the bracing, I cut the straps to size.

Hurricane Strapping Hurricane Straps Hanging

Our building site is a good twenty feet above the clearing where our camper is parked, and the location is barely accessible by truck. In order to get concrete from the cement mixer up here, we've hired a pump truck to churn it over the ridge. Rick and I have just finishing some stressful last-minute backfilling around the form when the driver pulls in and starts preparing.

Mayco Concrete Pump

Soon, we have a beefy 6-inch diameter hose snaking all the way up our bedrock outcropping, into the cottage form. Meanwhile, both the masons and the cement truck have arrived. At last, all of the players have been assembled in one place. Even the weather is cooperating! I can hardly believe it.

Concrete Pumping Concrete Pump Pipe Joint Concrete Truck & Concrete Pump Truck

With everyone ready, the concrete truck begins spewing gloppy cement into the pump truck's hopper. The cacophony of machinery reaches a fever pitch as the pump kicks in. Soon, the wet foundation of our house is splooging into its concrete form, spurting forth from the hose like a bloated cow relieving itself. The sight is simultaneously wonderful and disgusting to behold.

Concrete Pouring into Pump Truck Hopper Concrete Pump

There is some nail biting on our part as Steve (the guy with the pump truck) fills the deepest corner of the foundation. Thankfully, our form holds firm. Phew, we did it! In less than an hour, nearly eight cubic yards of concrete have reached their final destination: the floor of our home. When the pumping is complete, the masons take over, screeding, jitterbugging, and troweling the cement to a smooth, level surface.

Pumping Concrete Slab for Cottage Spreading Concrete Screeding Cottage Concrete Slab Screeding Cottage Concrete Slab "Jitterbug" Tamping Concrete Slab for Cottage

Now it's time to wait for the concrete to set a bit, once it firms up the final finishing can begin.

Concrete Slab Troweling

In the meantime, we chat with Pete and Chris in the shade. During the course of our conversation, we learn that Pete has done quite a bit of plaster work, and he is seriously interested in helping out when we finish our strawbales. He knows all about natural lime plasters, having done restoration work with it years ago in Massachusetts!

The serendipity keeps flowing as Chris tells us that his whole family is in the tree business. He's been running a chainsaw since he was ten years old, and he is an experienced climber, too! I've been looking at climbing gear lately because there are some trees we'd like to fell that should probably be taken down in sections. Chris has promised to come back to our land and show me the literal and figurative ropes. I can't wait!

Time has flown—the concrete is setting up, and it's time to get back to work.