Information about design and construction of earth sheltered homes and a journal of my own progress

Setting up the office apse steel…

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Posted on November 19, 2016 by

 

The day after shotcrete on the perimeter walls, we got started on prepping the steel arches and setting them up for another round of shotcrete.  This particular apse is special because it will eventually be my office (where I will spend most of my waking hours), and because it needs to be in (along with its retaining wall) before we can bury the garage side of the house. The work was all pretty simple compared to the bedrooms, and I didn’t take much time to stop and take pics, so this post should be short.  But first, the video…

The video:

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Apse

An apse is the semi-circular end of a vault. They are pretty common in earth sheltered homes because they can hold a lot of load, but usually, they are at the back, completely buried.  I put mine up front and included a window.  Hopefully, it turns out to be a good idea.  This apse will also be my office, and I spend a lot of the time on video conference calls, so hopefully, the acoustics are OK.  At least my head will be near the window and not near the acoustic focus point.

The Gallery

Shotcrete of the central circle

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Posted on November 7, 2016 by

It was time to shotcrete the central circle of the house. This post is mostly a gallery of pics to tell the story, but first, the video…

The Video

The Gallery

Another round of shotcrete forms

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Posted on October 15, 2016 by

There was just enough decent weather left in the season to prep and shotcrete the walls around the perimeter of the central circle.  We had to start with the formwork, and since these walls had simple curvature (rather than compound curvature), we decided to use OSB board screwed to vertical steel studs.  Of course, rebar was added in and tied.  I’ll get into details and lessons learned later in this post… And there is always a gallery of pictures at the end, but first, the timelapse video.

The Video

Extra bits

Steel Studs

These MarinoWare steel studs I have been experimenting with are a bit of a mixed success.  They are great for holding the formwork, rebar, electrical, etc. And I like to think that they provide some reinforcement for the concrete.  On the negative side, the shotcrete crew were not always able to properly encase them and possible voids in the walls along these studs probably reduced the wall strength and provided a path for water to channel.  I wouldn’t call them a total failure, but I have decided not to use them in this same way for the central tower.  Instead, I will brace that formwork from the outside.  I will continue to use these studs for the South wall because the design there has these outside the concrete, supporting the rigid insulation formwork.

Screwing into Steel Studs

Pre-drilling would just take too long and it would probably drive you crazy trying to keep the boards aligned to get the screws thru the pre-drilled holes.  Self-tapping drill point screws are what you need.  They should be long enough to get thru the form materials (3/8th inch OSB in my case) and still bite in nicely to the steel.  In places where you put an extra layer of OSB (such as to thicken the joints), you will need an extra 3/8ths of length.  Also, to save money, you want to use the shortest and smallest screws that will work.  Finally, the key thing is the head…  I recommend the Hex-Washer-Head because it will be held securely by your driver without any slippage or cam outs.  Do not buy Phillips head screws, you will seriously regret it.

Personally, I ended up mostly using TEKs #10 x 1 in. Zinc Plated Hex-Washer-Head Self Tapping Drill Point Screws that cost about 4 cents each.  If you can get them in bulk, you can probably reduce the price to half that.

Plumb and Braced

For some reason, the camera kept moving on to the next area before we would complete the important job of plumbing and bracing each section of wall.  However, that step was important and worth a small section here. The walls had some natural stability because of the curvature, but we still needed to brace them against the force and vibration of the shotcrete and they were not always naturally plumb.  On dirt, we could just brace with a 2×2 or 2×4, screwed to a block on the wall and then screwed to a stake.  However, for most of this job, we had to brace on the concrete deck and didn’t want to attach the bracing to the deck and risk damaging our radiant tubing…  The solution was to place a board on the deck, screw the diagonal brace to that, and also screw a horizontal brace and tie it back into the wall.  This worked pretty well.

In one location, the wall was out of plumb and took some serious pulling to try and force it plumb.  Some combination of the boards, studs, and rebar was fighting against us.  I ended up just using a strap and a come-along to pull it.  Part of that strap is still embedded in the concrete wall, but at least it is plumb.

Welding Rebar

I get a lot of negative comments from people saying that it is “against code” to weld rebar.  In reality, the building code has about 85 pages devoted to welding rebar.  The code talks about what types of Rebar you can weld (mine has a little “w” on it to indicate that it is weldable), diameters (most welding rules don’t kick in until #7), what types of welds you can do (butt joints are not acceptable), pre-heating, exceptions based on engineering approval, etc.  I was going to get into it a bit here, but it is probably better to just suggest you read up on it yourself.

While I agree that the heat treatment that comes from welding does influence the ductility and other material properties of the steel, in certain situations (some of my situations), it does make things much better.  I know what I am doing, everything is inspected, no need to worry about it.

The Gallery

Here is where we put some of the pics we took during this period…

 

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