Footers Part 2: Pouring the Concrete
*This post is the finale of our footer project. If you missed the first part, check it out here to start the fun.
At some point, we really truly honestly believed that after the hot work of building the footer frames, pouring would be the easy part. The fact that this small part of the process gets a post all to itself should probably give you an idea that it didn't turn out that way.
Since we can’t get a concrete truck close enough down our bluff site to reach the forms, we had to hire a line pump contractor and we had no experience with any of the local ones. We were able to get several recommendations for good contractors from both the rebar and concrete company, though and with one name in common on both lists, we felt pretty good about the line pump contractor we ultimately chose.
All of the arrangements were made and we were feeling great – we were finally seeing progress on building the house we’d been dreaming about for years. Since it was such a big deal for us, I wish I could tell you that it went off without a hitch. This, however, turned out to be one of the most difficult days we've had on this project so far. We have a running joke that Ashley brings the wrath of Karma down on us anytime she says something is going great.
Well... Ashley said she couldn't believe how great everything was going.
So, of course, Ashley ended up in the emergency room with an illness the day before the pour was scheduled and was out of commission all weekend. Since there was no way I could do the entire footer on my own, I requested an additional person from the contractor to make up the difference. He was agreeable and promised to send three guys to help make sure everything went smoothly.
The next morning found me waiting in the sun (we managed to choose the hottest day in September to do this) at the outer gate all morning as the agreed upon meet time came and went. I called the
contractor – no answer. After 30 more minutes, I called again and was told they were shorthanded but a truck was at least on its way. It did finally arrive.... with one guy. Now, instead of having three people working the concrete while one person ran the line pump, it would just be me working the entire footer alone. In addition, he hadn’t been told any of the details about the concrete order I’d just discussed with the contractor yesterday.
With no choice but to plow ahead, we got everything set up and before long we were pumping concrete. The first truck, eight yards, filled the entire form half-full. But things got really difficult when the second truck came. We were filling the forms completely full now and I was falling behind with screeding the top level. There was no way I could keep up with the pump on my own, especially trying to work around the frames and the vertical rebar. The pump guy did stop and help me at one point but he had to get back to pumping before long so the concrete didn’t set in the line.
After the hardest push I’ve made on the build so far, I finally got it all screeded before it set too hard. It was ugly, and I’m glad it’s not something anyone will see, but it still had to be level enough for the ICF blocks to sit on. I was also glad we’d placed the verticals already, because I don’t see how I’d have been able to do it while screeding like a madman.
Ultimately, despite the mad rush of the job, we still managed to end up with a solid and incredibly square footer, if a bit unconventional. Given the height variations across the span of the bedrock, that 12”D x36”W shape in some places ended up being nearly 20” high in some areas. It was a hulking piece of the house, of labor, and of planning. But it was done.
When you’re building your house on your own, there will sometimes be days like this. Schedules will conflict, materials will be broken, someone will get sick, the weather will turn on you... any number of things can happen that make the job ten times harder, or even bring work to a complete stop. You add in another element of potential complications when you are also reliant on contractors, though with no ill intent on their part.
Sometimes things just go wrong. But you know what? That’s okay. The important thing to remember is that you’ll always get through it. One day, when the frustration has passed and you’re at that finish line that had seemed so far away when you were mentally and physically exhausted and ready to quit, you’ll look on it with even more pride because this isn't simply something you built.
This is something you fought for.