Construction Week 24
Note: This post was written at the end of May, and for some reason I didn’t publish it after doing all the hard work of putting the pictures in. Not sure what happened there… Lol! Posting it now so you can see where we were before we left for holidays.
My 7 year old is curled up on the couch reading a chapter book to herself for the first time ever. My 3 year old just made himself toast for the first time. Chris is starting to pack random things for our vacation and my brain is running all over the place with stuff. Vacation plans. Packing. Construction things. Stuff to order. Things that need to be done. School finishing this week for Olivia… Craziness!
I appreciate everyone’s patience over the past month or two. I was so inspired when I started the new blog and wanted to be writing all the time. Because things have been busy around here and my focus has been on other things I haven’t had the time to be here much, and I miss it. I’ve written a lot of blog posts in my head that have never made it into the computer, which makes me sad. But, I know it’s a season. A very busy season. And, sadly the thing that I love – writing – the thing that actually fuels my creativity, hasn’t had any of my time. The result is that I haven’t been feeling very inspired lately and have been having a hard time focusing on certain things, like a website revamp project I’m working on for the mission. Just a little spark of creativity and excitement is enough to get the juices flowing again though, and I’m starting to feel it.
It probably also helps that I know I’m in a time crunch now. You see, we leave on vacation soon, and when we come back the house is hopefully going to be in a stage where we can start working on the finishing stuff. For me that means all my months of staying home will become day after day of being on the building site getting stuff done. I’m so excited about it, a little bit terrified, and a teeny bit overwhelmed. There’s so much that needs to be built in the house – kitchen cabinets and counters, the office built ins, storage room shelving times two (one up, one down), bathroom vanities times two, hallway storage, three closets and stairs. Oh, and entry way stuff. And screen doors! Lol! I’ll see you in January!!
Things are definitely moving on the house and it’s been a long time since I updated anything about it. I’m crossing my fingers that the satellite internet will let me load pictures today…
At the beginning of May the guys started working on the form work for the ceiling. Our current ceilings are just under 9 feet tall, which is great, but the new house will have 9’5″ ceilings! When you live in a hot climate that translates into more airflow. It makes rooms feel bigger.
The process for forming the ceiling (or roof) to pour the concrete is actually interesting. In our case, we’re building all of our residential buildings to US seismic code, so there’s a lot of rebar in the building, and it all ties together. All of the rebar is cut and shaped, then tied by hand. Each floor has a “header beam” around the ceiling that ties into the rebar running vertically. From the first floor the rebar running vertically will be extended as the walls go up, and eventually tied into the roof bars when it’s time to form that for the roof pour.
In our case, that header beam is 16 inches deep. That’s 16 inches of solid concrete and rebar. The idea is that if there is an earthquake, the header beams that are tied into the vertical rebar running up through the walls will create a cage of sorts, and while the blocks that don’t have rebar running through them might crumble and fall in, the “cage” will flex, but hold the levels and roof up so that people can get out. It’s crazy to have to think about all of this, but a couple years ago after much research into the fault lines running under Haiti, it was declared that Haiti is an earthquake zone of high risk and people need to put measures in place to deal with that. So, we are. We would rather spend more money on buildings that are structurally sound, than cut corners and potentially lose lives.
When I went out to the site at the beginning of May I finally started to get a real feel for each of the rooms on the lower floor. As the walls went up in April, they did it by doing sections, with three crews working on different areas all at the same time. It meant that I would go out one day and all of the sudden there was an office room, then a storage room and bathroom, then the kitchen was becoming something while the living room was starting to take shape. But, until the formwork went up for the ceilings it was hard to really feel what the spaces would be like.
That first day of walking around with all of it up in most of the first floor made me let out a sigh of relief. You see, I’ve been working on the house plans for almost two years. It’s been a very long process, with lots of tweaks and changes along the way. It’s been a very creative and personal process for me. It’s been a process of taking ideas in my head and putting them on paper, then handing them over to others to make happen. And the whole time that we’ve been building I kept wondering if it was all going to work. Were the rooms going to be the size that I had anticipated? Would all my pacing out and measuring on the floor have translated into good usable space? Would the place flow well?
So many questions!
So yes, a sigh of relief as I walked around and saw it become what I’d had in my mind for the past two years. And then I started to get giddy. This is really happening!!
I’ve been trying to take pictures from the same place as we go so you can get an idea of the progress. The first picture is from the north corner when I last updated you in the middle of April, then progressing:
Week 21 – Chris is walking by what will be the office.
Week 22 – Doesn’t look much different outside from this angle. Lots going on inside and on the other side of the building.
Week 23 – Plywood is the formwork for the 16″ header beams. And yes, I know Alex has no shoes on. We’d have to crazy glue them on to keep them on.
And that’s pretty much what it looks like from the ground right now. Let’s go inside…
Week 19 – Just inside the office. To the left you can see a small space – that’s the pantry/storage room/brew closet. To the left of that is the kitchen.
Week 21 – That same office corner with the formwork and “potos” (jack stands) in place. The jack stands will support all the plywood as tons and tons of concrete get poured on top tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow is pour day!!!
And, let’s look at things from a different angle that I haven’t really shown you yet…
Week 18 – North East corner and what will be a covered deck and house entrance area. We have an office door for work use, and a private entrance for, well, private use :) The guy in the trench was compacting things to get ready to pour the foundation for the deck area.
Week 19 – One week later and the foundation, floor and bottoms of the support columns have been poured. The second floor will also have a deck area right above which will be mostly for laundry use. This lower deck will be where we receive guests and the first thing you see as you drive in. We’re already tossing around ideas to help it make a nice first impression.
Week 20 – The walls are getting higher! That’s the living room area to the left of the deck.
Week 21 – Looking from the living room side. You can see the form work going up in the living room here.
Week 23 – We skipped ahead a week because things didn’t look much different while we waited on details from our structural engineer friend.
And that’s where we are now! I was out there on Friday and did take some pictures, but from a completely different angle than anything I’ve shown you yet, because it was the first time I got to go to this particular spot…
Ta da!! In case you were wondering what all the form work looks like from above, this is what it looks like :)
All of the “trenches” are actually the lower walls and the trenches are going to be the header beams I was telling you about. Like I said before, solid concrete and rebar. All the PVC pipe is electrical lines running through the ceiling for light fixtures and fans. The big grey pipe right here in front is going to go to the roof to run all the electrical lines from the solar panels down to the inverters, charge controllers and batteries.
To help you get your bearings, I’m standing on top of the living room in the above picture, looking towards the north corner and what will be the office. Going slightly left of that will be the storage room/pantry/brew closet that I mentioned before, and to the very left of the picture is the beginning of the kitchen.
Standing in the same spot as the above picture I turned slightly to my right and that, my friends, is the top of the deck. Right after I took these pictures the guys came up and started tying the rebar frames in place for the deck railing support posts. I’ll get a picture from the ground tomorrow so you know what I mean. Basically we need to have something to hold the metal railings in place, so we’re putting concrete railing height posts in to tie the railings into. That way we don’t have to worry about a railing giving way on anyone leaning on it.
Little fun tid bit for you… the space to the left of the deck at the top edge of the house is going to be the laundry room. Right now our washing machine is in our bathroom, and it’s been fine, until it hasn’t been fine and we get a flooding machine because it needs some love. We decided to put a laundry room off the deck area so any leaks would just drain right out side, and it was close to where the clothesline will go, so more efficient than packing a basket of wet clothes through the house. I’m not going to lie, when I was standing in what will be the bathroom and sizing up the space where the vanity will go, I got giddy because we’ll actually have counter space and drawers for every member of the family!
Speaking of bathroom! Hello there my little friend. Not a great picture, but that’s one corner of it, in case you couldn’t guess from all the plumbing pipes.
Don’t fall! I’m standing right at the top of what will be the stairs going from the first to second floor. After the form work is taken off one of the bosses will be working on the stairs. Then we’ll be able to take the stairs to the top floor instead of a ladder.
So that’s where we are now! And the next time I show you pictures everything will be concrete again. And maybe there will be walls to the second floor going up!
While the guys are busy out in Kan Marie, Chris and I have been working on some detail stuff on our end. A couple of times this past week our kitchen table has looked like this:
Chris has been working through square footage calculations for things like foam sheets to go in the roof to help cool the building, and floor tile, which I get to go order this week!
As I said, tomorrow we start doing the ceiling pour. It’s going to take two days. I’ll be sure to get pictures to share with you.