Concrete, that is. Nothing says commitment quite like a freshly placed slab. This house WILL be built.
The concrete supplier, S.D. Ireland, got waylaid on an overnight job delivering some 300 cubic yards, so the first mixer arrived on site later than planned, about 9:30. The subcontractor, Champlain, arrived about 30 minutes earlier than that with a crew of four, including Danny the owner. Turns out four is exactly the right number to rake and level a slab, so the business of mucking around in wet concrete was left to professionals and I never had to jump in. These guys work hard. The stuff is sticky and slow as molasses, and to work it you need to wade through in knee-high boots and push it into place with trowels and other tools… a punishing workout for all four limbs at once. I was perfectly happy to step aside and play reporter while these four did the hard work.
There’s a definite knack to getting a mass of concrete mirror-flat. As the mix poured out of the truck, the Champlain crew spread it with hoe-like tools to achieve a relatively uniform placement. (Generous swinging of the chute helped with this goal as well.) They used the same tools to rake the concrete level with the top of the form, then screeded the surface even flatter with a long 2×4. After checking elevation with a telescoping laser, Ronnie (with the Duck Dynasty beard) finished the surface with a float. Final adjustments were made with a trowel and a concrete vibrator.
Terry, the general contractor, supervised our placement of reinforcing around the load-bearing perimeter, plus an X through the center for crack control. No cage, no spacers, no hooks or stirrups… we simply dropped the bars into the semisolid concrete and pressed them to the right depth. Anybody who’s worked on a commercial project must be horrified, but rest assured we lapped the 1/2-inch bars at least a foot on all sides and (at my suggestion!) buried the primary reinforcing deeply to maximize tensile strength.
As the third concrete mixer emptied its load, we found ourselves just short. I had feared this scenario since my volume calculation came up so close, but Terry adapted fast – he and I estimated 2 cubic yards remaining, he called in the order, and within an hour the delivery arrived. The fourth mixer finished the job, barely, and had Danny shaking his head in disbelief. Depending who you ask, our estimate was either freakishly accurate or nerve-wrackingly tight.
The Champlain crew stayed on site through the afternoon; when we returned at 5pm the concrete had already set too hard for handprints. The lumber delivery arrived around the same time. We begin raising the barn tomorrow… I’m excited for a full day of carpentry!