Saturday, July 2, 2011

Building Formwork

If someone had just said "do it the easy way", I would have started with that :P

Excavating went super quickly because of the skid steer and neighbor Kevin's speed and one-ness with the machine. The formwork for the footing is another story! In part because it was so hot on Thursday and Friday.

This is how it's gone so far in the first week of the Root Cellar project:

: Kevin excavated the slope

: Kevin excavated a little more (always measure multiple dimensions before you tell someone it's good to go!); bought all my formwork materials from Maple Lake Lumber (Daryl is so helpful!) also had 13- 20'@1/2" rebar delivered; started working on leveling the clay soil... this is not an easy task! Got in touch with the CMU company and ready-mix concrete company to figure out costs and lead times, I can pretty much call the day before I need a delivery (2 yards of concrete and 440 CMUs)

Wednesday: Went to town and bought a string level which doesn't work very well- it's not the particular string level's fault, it's the string level itself- if you need to level something across a long area get a long board, put it across and set the level on it. The string is never accurate in the center I think because the two arms it hangs off of make it level where the string is, it only works right up next to your board. (see sketch below). K2 and I spent a good 2 hours working on leveling the formwork by removing soil from below the formwork, we got 3 boards level with a plan for how to level the rest of it. I also ordered the remaining materials for the root cellar and they will be delivered next Friday!

Thursday: Oh.My.Hot... Most frustrating day... it was super hot and when I went out in the morning to continue leveling I checked the boards we'd leveled on Wednesday and they were no longer level. After much frustration I sat in the garage for a while to pet Turnal whose purring helped calm my frustration a bit. I'd missed a call from the ready-mix concrete place so I called back to let them know we wouldn't be pouring today. I was trying to figure out how to build the formwork and what needed to be level and the best practices and I realized I should ask the concrete guys!
Oh, I'm so glad I did, they put my mind at ease! Gaps under the wood formwork are fine, as long as the top of the formwork is level that is what is important. Wow, that made things so much easier!
Moral of the story, figure out what your problem is and then ask the right people (and sometimes, this means NOT using the internet *gasp!*)
It was still really hot out, and just sitting down barely moving I was sweating like crazy so decided to take a break until the cooler hours of the evening. I ended up taking a nap and not feeling super so I stayed in the rest of the night. It gets dark around 9:30pm which means it's really easy to work late when the weather is nice!

Friday: Went outside in the morning to try to work but it was still way too hot. I decided that I would just wait until the evening rather than wearing myself out in the daytime without being very productive. This was a good idea! I then went shopping to antique and thrift shops with my Aunt Marienne in Buffalo and I got some sweet stuff including more cassette tapes for my car ride! We left after lunch and started heading back around 5 and looking South the sky was really dark. We got back just in time to move the cars into the garage and secure/stow what we thought might blow away. There was a wall of storm heading NE and we were on the SE edge of it. It was kind of scary, all the cats were inside. We were upstairs and the wind was whipping by, the weather channel in a computer voice was saying "This is a dangerous situation" and saying tornado warning and 4" hail, so we all went in the basement and emptied out the closet under the staircase god-forbid. The first small bit of storm passed and as the bigger system worked its way Northeast we got the skirting edge of it. Some of the fence around the girls (dairy cows) knocked down so when the storm cleared a bit my aunt and uncle went to fix it. No major damage on our farm or on the news, so that's good. The weather has been particularly rough this year. My grandpa, who will be 89 in a couple weeks, said this is the worst weather he's ever seen and he's been farming this land since he was 19. When farmers can tell that the weather is changing, city people oughta pay attention I think. Oh, it was also K2's birthday yesterday! So we had a lovely meal with K2 and Brandon, they are good guys. After the first storm bit of storm passed, I taught them to play Settlers of Catan. They enjoyed it which means when it rains or they have some freetime, I'll have more gaming buddies! Hooray!

Saturday, Today: It has cooled off so much since Thursday! Now my pit is super muddy and nice and cool so therefore the hangout of many a fly. Anyway I go the formwork leveled this morning and piled soil around the bottom edge of it. Now I am waiting for it to dry out a bit more so I can clear the disturbed soil out of the bottom of the formwork and get to laying rebar!

This evening is K2's birthday celebration so I will be heading out for that. I will be introducing him to the wonderful game of Pictionary which I picked up for a mere 50 cents at a thrift store, classing dark blue box and everything! If he enjoys the game, it will be my gift to him, along with the sweet card I made.

To sum up, Formwork basics (check back later to learn how well it actually turned out, should be pouring Tuesday!) :
  1. Get the ground relatively level (like within a couple inches)
  2. Lay out your formwork (1 by stock is standard for formwork, I'm using 1x8 so the footing will be at least 7.25" high all the way around)
  3. Pound in stakes every 4 feet all the way around (inside and outside walls!), pound them in so they are super sturdy! We got 50-18" stakes that were already cut of 1x3s and cost .50 a piece.
  4. Hold a level along the edge of your formwork at the lowest place in the soil, when it is level clamp to the stake. When you have leveled the board on both ends, attach with screws to your stakes (from the outside if you want to be able to remove them!)
  5. Work your way around the outside formwork using clamps and double and triple checking for level and attaching when you are confident it is level. Digging out where the soil is too high.
  6. For a footing, level the inside formwork second, based off the perimeter holding a level across and another along the board. Be sure to clamp before you screw! You can potentially pound the stakes in further once attached but pulling them up will compromise the soil in which they are stuck, so try to avoid this!
  7. When the whole formwork is level, pile and tamp sand or soil on the outside of the formwork to cover any gaps. You can also attach additional boards on the outside.
  8. Remove any loose soil in the bottom of the formwork. This soil should all be virgin, undisturbed soil so has to help prevent shifting and therefore cracking, in the footing/ building.
If you have questions when building, ask people at hardware stores and concrete companies! Well, depending on where you live, I never had much luck with people working in big box stores, but if there is a small local lumber store, hardware store or concrete supplier- go to them! Support local businesses and they'll support you!

Some websites I found useful as a first-timer:
  • Do It Yourself this site is awesome, there is a forum where you can get answers from people who know what they are doing as well as articles that cover how to do things:

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