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  • Steven and Ashley

2,000 lbs of Styrofoam

Of all the difficult jobs we’ve done so far, we thought accepting the delivery of the Styrofoam blocks and beams that will make the forms for our house would be the easiest yet.

We were so naïve.

The amount of materials and insulated concrete forms needed for an entire house, even a small one like ours, is no laughing matter. Everything arrived on a 57’ tractor-trailer that stood no chance at making it down the twisty dirt road to our build site, nor even to the edge of the timber company land where the county road ends. That meant we had to take delivery at the top of our county road on the side of the highway since that was the only place with a large open area for the truck to turn around. Since the materials had to be unloaded a couple of miles from the build site, we had to rent a small U-Haul truck to transfer it all down in small batches.

We confirmed with the contractor the day before that the ICF delivery was scheduled for 3:00 PM and we planned it all out perfectly: We would leave work at 11:00, go home to change and load up, get to the U-Haul place to pick up our reserved 15' truck, and be at the designated spot well before the delivery arrived to make sure we were well ahead of the game.

But you know how it goes with plans: Don’t get too comfortable with them.

On the day of, I got a call while I was still in a meeting before 11:00 from the driver letting us know he was only *30 minutes away* from the delivery location, which, by the way, is an hour away from where we live and work. So much for our confirmed time, and definitely so much for our carefully laid plans. I had to scramble to leave work to head straight there while Ash left separately to go home for our bags and coolers before getting the U-Haul.

By the time I finally got there, the driver had already started unloading, but there was still a lot to go considering our house completely filled the truck. The ICFs weren’t heavy but we were right in the middle of one of the hottest Septembers on record, and the only shade was in the trailer where it felt like a pizza oven.

We were making fast progress despite the heat and—silly me—I started to think this wouldn’t be so

bad. At least, until I saw the roof panels for the first time.

These bad boys were 24' long by 2' wide solid blocks of Styrofoam with large angle iron strips embedded in them that were left sharp and jagged on the ends. I cut myself twice, and Ashley managed to rip her pants wide open on one later on. They were also a PITA to unload from the trailer which was around 5 feet off the ground. From there, they had to be carried and stacked away from the road just to make room for the rest. If we’d been able to start with the roof panels it might have been easier, but at this point I was already pretty fatigued. It was 1:45 or so before we finished and the driver got on his way.

Ashley showed up with the rental truck around 20 minutes after the trailer left. While I was dealing with the freight, she’d had her own issues just getting the truck we’d reserved. The business listed on the reservation didn’t have the truck, and after the owner ranted about the U-Haul system and the “trashy” other U-Haul place down the road, the owner then sent Ash down the road to the same one she’d been ranting about. When Ash arrived there, that one also didn’t have her reservation and had to start from scratch after a long round of explanations and confusion. They also had a few choice words about the competitor that sent her down there that they were dying to share. At length.

Pro-tip: Don’t forget to plan for expositional local franchise feuds in your build schedule.

We started loading the ICF blocks into the truck after a much-needed break for me to cool off. The U-Haul thankfully held a lot, but it was apparent that it would take us a few trips to get everything

transferred. The blocks at least packed really efficiently in the space, though half the length of the roof panels stuck out the back of the truck and were hanging close to the ground, making for some really nerve-wracking trips down our rough gravel road. It ended up taking us four trips total, and we drank about half our body weight in Gatorade in between each load trying to stay hydrated in the 100+ degree heat index.

Oh, and did we mention this was also Ashley’s birthday weekend?

Unfortunately, handling the blocks broke off a ton of Styrofoam bits all over the ground at both the delivery site and where we unloaded them. We got the larger chunks, of which there were plenty, but the little individual balls that broke apart were too small and numerous to even begin to get under control. It looked like we’d been flocking Christmas trees out there.

Even with everything else we’d endured that day, that was probably the most disappointing reality check for us in this part of our build. Given our desire to be stewards of our land, the last thing we want is to leave micro-plastics all over our property to enter our creeks. What we were envisioning to be such a “green” construction technique was suddenly not shaping up to be very much so.

It was getting close to dark at nearly 6:30 when we finished unloading, and then we spent most of an hour trying to clean up the Styrofoam mess from the ground and from the box truck. But we still weren’t finished. We had to take the U-Haul truck back since all our gear was in Ashley's car and, given the sketchy experience she’d had getting it, she didn't want to leave it there overnight. By the time we made the switch and got something quick to eat, it was after 9:30 and we had spent most of the day moving an entire house’s worth—literally—of Styrofoam forms.

The next day we got up early and.... Nah. I won’t lie.

We crashed. We crashed so hard. And Ashley ended up sleeping the majority of her birthday away in the camper the next day while I studied the blueprints. At this point we were just putting the finishing touches on the footers and if you read our post about the *exciting* concrete pour we had coming up for that, I think you’ll agree that we deserved the break.

Stay tuned for the next part of the build where we finally start getting something that resembles a house!

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