The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Root cellar: the floor is poured

The ready-mix truck arrived about 8:30 this morning with 4.5 yards of concrete for the root cellar floor and footers. I figured it would be simplest to do a monolithic pour rather than separate pours for footer and floor. Besides, doing so would’ve involved smaller batches of concrete and extra hauling fees ($75 if I received less than 4 yards at a time).

ready-mix truckconcrete pourThe driver was able to get the truck right up to the edge of the root cellar excavation and pour it all from one point. I had made sure ahead of time that there would be access from two different sides so that the driver could decide the best point(s) for unloading the concrete. It took less than 15 minutes to dump the concrete into the forms. I then spent five hours finishing it.

The excess concrete was not very much, and it was screeded over the forms at the far end of the pad. My dad helped spread the concrete as it was unloaded from the chute on the truck and then helped me with the screeding.

small bull floatbig bull floatI constructed two bull floats for floating the surface of the concrete after it was poured. They worked well for this purpose. One was made out of an old mop, a board screwed to it’s end, and an extra handle attached. The other used a 10 foot long piece of 1/2 tubing and a larger board attached to its end.

rebar insertedI inserted sections of rebar with a J-bend into the concrete along the back wall and the side walls. These are spaced to fit within some of the block cavities. In these cavities, I will insert more rebar once the walls are up and fill them with concrete. I’m going to dry stack the concrete blocks and then use surface bonding cement on both sides. This method is supposed to be stronger and easier for a novice than traditional mortar masonry.

troweled surfaceOnce the concrete set up enough, I was able to trowel the surface to smooth it out. This went quite well. The cellar was in shade while the concrete was poured and floated. Then, the sunshine worked its way across the floor gradually. The area in the sunshine set up faster while that in the shade took longer. This was good because it gave me plenty of time to trowel the surfaces that were drying faster rather than having the whole thing setting up about the same time.

tarped slabAfter finishing with the trowel, I covered the slab with plastic and an old tarp so that I won’t dry out too fast and will hopefully cure better than it would otherwise. I’ll leave it alone until Monday or Tuesday. The blocks for the walls are scheduled to be delivered Monday afternoon. So, if the weather permits, I may be able to start laying some block on Tuesday.       


Heather said...

Is your root cellar cut into the side of a hill? will you be able to enter the cellar from inside your house?

dp said...

The root cellar is dug into the ground several feet and is on the north west corner of the house. It is accessible from inside the house, having part of the house above it. I was going to build a detached cellar, but we changed our plans to make it more convenient from inside the house.