Tag Archives: Plumbing

Rebar and lath for the bedrooms


Posted on May 6, 2016 by

Last year, we got started on the steel structure.  This year (2016), we got all the rebar and lath up in preparation for shotcrete.  First, the video…  Then some info, but mostly a larger picture gallery than usual.

The Video



This process took from 2016-05-05 to 2016-07-26, so nearly 12 weeks of the calendar.  Of course we also worked on other things during that time (such as the garage which will be a separate video). Specific to this bedroom wing, we worked (at least for a couple hours) on 26 different days.  The time-lapse camera (which I ran pretty faithfully) recorded 77,653 images.  At one every 5 seconds, that means it was running for 388k seconds, or 107 hours.  If we divided that into 8 hour days, it comes to about 13.5 days.  About half the time, I was there by myself, 1/4 of the time with Sherri, and the last quarter Sherri and I had other help (Hunter, John, Bonnie, Joe & Jessica (my parents), Dan, Ethan and the plumbers).

If I had turned all 77,653 images into video at 29.97 frames per second, it would have been a little over 43 minutes of video.  I edited that down to under 10 minutes (less than 1/4).  In some cases, I edited out scenes, in others (such as that last interior wall), I just ran the speed of the video up to x900.  You are welcome ;^)

Rebar Chairs

We added rebar chairs to stiffen up the assembly and prevent “bounce”.

It is important to leave some space between the rebar and the lath for the concrete to completely encase the rebar.  To achieve this, we made sure to tie the lath on loosely (leave room for a couple fingers).  this works pretty well for the roof because the weight of the concrete will push the lath down and away from the rebar, but no further than the wire ties.  However, in the walls, the concrete can “bounce” the lath and then fall off the wall.  After seeing my setup, the shotcrete guy asked me to stiffen up the walls by adding rebar chairs where the lath was bouncy…  I had these chairs left over from the quad deck floor and they worked perfectly.


Welding was great because it really stiffens up the assembly so you can climb it without fear… and it actually doesn’t take much longer than tying.  In many cases, I just tied enough to keep the bars in place and pull any wide intersections close enough to weld.  Then I would just weld the rest of the connections much faster than I could have tied them.

The downside to welding is that the heat can actually change the properties of the steel and make it more brittle if you try to bend against the weld…  However, in my case, the welds are really just there to keep the steel in place long enough to pour the concrete.  After that, it is really the concrete that keeps the steel together (and vice versa).  My welds are intentionally shallow, just enough to tack the pieces together without significantly weakening the rebar.

You may find some places have building codes against welding rebar, but if you read them more carefully, they are really talking about cleaning that surface crud off the steel.  You get that sort of thing with arc welding, but not with the MIG welder that I use.  But in any case, there are no such rules for residential construction where I am building.

Curving Rebar

When you curve rebar, it is always trickier to curve the first and last couple feet.  But the middle curves pretty easily.  So, I usually curve the full 20 ft long pieces and then cut the nice continuous curve into as many pieces as I can get.   If the piece has a 5 ft straight wall before the curve, then I just start curving the rebar 5 ft from the end.  I usually start by “over curving” the steel a little bit and then straighten it out to get the final radius that I want.


Here is a gallery of pics.  Some are just as people started or moved the go pro time lapse camera. Others are just candid pics that went by too fast in the timelapse.  There are also occasional cell phone pics in there also.  Thanks to everyone who came out to help.



Running Septic Lines


Posted on May 4, 2016 by

We needed to hook up the septic side lines to run from the bedrooms and garage to the main central line coming from under the basement.  The original plan had these running under the house, but the plumber suggested that it would be much easier to run the line outside the house completely…  At some later point, we also decided to run the bedroom electrical along this outside line.  Of course, this all required some digging.  Gota love that nice soft sand.

The Video

Some details

The Stack:

The bedroom septic line had a further run and needed to be below frost depth, so it connected at a lower point on the stack.  Then I connected the garage line at a higher point.  However, I thought it would be a good idea to slope it more and get deeper than I had to…  Some plumbers say that you shouldn’t slope too much because the solids and liquids will separate and you will have clogging problems.  I have done my research and determined that was not true (just a plumbers wives’ tale) so I didn’t mind sloping it more.  However, after making the stack connection with the Y-pipe shown in the video, I decided that I didn’t like the angle of the connection.  Basically, these pipes are designed to connect at closer to perpendicular or maybe 5 degrees off.  My original connection was maybe 20 degrees off.  It was probably sealed, but it didn’t look great and I didn’t want to take any chances.  I ended up cutting off that Y-connection and extending the stack so i could connect at a higher point with less slope.

The Shortcut:

The plumbing and the electrical in the bedroom wing both connect in the laundry room, very close to eachother so they can exit from the same hole and follow the same trench…  However, I didn’t measure conservatively enough and although the electrical cables could reach the panel, I was worried about being a few inches short of making final connections, so we ended up digging a short cut trench for the electrical cables. At least we could still re-use about 2/3rds of the trench.

The Electrical cables:

Earlier, I had experimented with other kinds of cable, running thru conduit. This time I was using cable that was certified to be directly buried.  It was still in conduit where it came out of the garage (because it is not certified to be encased in concrete and because I didn’t want a potential leak above the floor anyway), but then came out of the conduit below the footings level.  I basically wired it according to above ground code with the required depth below the footing and bushings, etc. After burial, it will only further exceed code.


Just some pics…

Quad Deck, Part 2


Posted on October 18, 2015 by


After the Quad Deck ICFs were installed, there was still a lot of work to do before we could pour concrete, and then still a bit of work after.

Before we could pour, we had to install the pex tube for the radiant floors, build a perimeter form to hold in the concrete, put in plumbing, electrical conduit and duct work, and generally clean up any mess from the previous steps.

While we had the pump truck there, I also wanted to pour a couple 7 ft tall columns, so we also prepped those.  We also poured a section of ICF wall, but I will save that for another post…

After it was all over, we had to remove all the forms.  We gave the concrete a couple weeks to cure (and gain strength) and then we removed the scaffolding and shoring.



You can find the Video here:

Experienced workers and new technology

Pour_01They workers are used to pouring concrete on stable ground, so they were quite nervous about pouring on the ICF forms.  They started out walking very carefully and there was a lot of nervous laughter.  I made sure to pass along the pour instructions I had received from the Quad Deck installers. After the grooves were filled, the guys appeared to forget what they were standing on and began stomping around as usual.  We had no problems with the Quad Deck system.  Everything held up and there was only a little bleed water in the basement.

The blow out

During the column pour, the weight/lateral pressure of the concrete blew out the forms.  To be clear, these were my column forms, that I built, not the Quad deck forms.  My heart sunk as concrete spilled into the basement.

Next thing I knew, the guys from Dysert concrete, who were working on finishing the slab, jumped into action and helped strap the form and re-level it.  This was really going the extra mile because they were really only there to look after the floor.  They also went another extra mile and helped me scoop some concrete out of the basement.  When it was all over and guys were packing up, I tried to give them some cash for their extra efforts, but they wouldn’t take it. If you are in the SE Michigan area, I recommend these guys.

Pour_08_ColumnsIn contrast, the pump truck operator (not my usual guy who is very helpful, so I won’t blame the company), clearly did not want to be there. He was grouchy from the start, perhaps not a morning person?  When the floor was finishing up and I told him the columns were next, he complained a lot because he thought he was only there for the floor.  He threatened to charge me extra.  At that point, we were not even half way thru the minimum 4 hour window that I had to pay for.  Also, I had specified (in writing) the volume of concrete and listed the columns and the ICF wall when I booked the truck.  I didn’t bother arguing all these details with the driver, but I simply ignored his threat and told him it needed to be done before he could pack up.

Amateur legal note:  If a contractor tries to change the price part way thru a job without sufficient justification, you can safely ignore the threat.  Legally, if it would be even more expensive to switch contractors at that point, the threat of a work stoppage amounts to extortion and puts you in financial duress to agree with their unjustified price increase. In this case, I didn’t verbally agree to the extra charge, but I did tell him to continue on, which could be considered implicit agreement.  However, even if I had agreed verbally, or in writing, I would still be able to contest the extra charges in court later due to financial duress making the amended agreement invalid.  In order to increase the cost mid project on a fixed bid, the contractor would need to prove that the scope of the work increased significantly beyond a reasonable expectation.  For instance, my septic field guys found a 1940’s garbage dump almost as soon as they started digging.  The health department got involved and ended up raising the cost of the installation by about 30%, which I agreed to and paid without an argument.










When the columns failed, he was even more annoyed at the extra delay and kept saying he had another job to get to.  I reminded him that he had been there less than half the minimum time I was paying for.  A moment later, he started dumping concrete on the sand, we suspect it was intentional so he could leave. Sherri got mad and yelled at him until he stopped. However, as a result of the waste (intentional or otherwise), we did not have enough concrete to finish the ICF blocks in the north wall, but that is another story.

This pic is just one the time-lapse caught as I was moving the camera.  It shows Sherri trying to clear the dumped/wasted concrete off the footings.  Definitely not princess work, but I never asked her to do it…  I was running too much to even think about it, but she separated it into smaller piles that I could move after it hardened, so I am glad she did.




AaronYou can see that a few of my friends in this and other videos and in the gallery below.  Some of them actually like this sort of work, others come out and help anyway.  I appreciate them all.

Working with friends makes the work go faster and the day fly by.  Some of them have also taught me some good tricks based on their respective experience, or mentioned tools that would make the job easier. I will definitely have to have a big party when this thing is all done.

Pex connections

LeakingSharkBiteIn the video, you might have caught that the pressure test dial didn’t hold the pressure when I filled it.  I ended up using some dish soap from the camper to find the leaks.  I had one easily fixed leak in the manifold, but most of the trouble was with the Shark Bite connections.  Basically, I had not left enough extra length to reach down to my manifold (oops), so I needed to connect some short bits to make the final stretch.  The SharkBite connectors are individually expensive, but easy to use without any tools, and I only needed a handful.  However, try as I might, I couldn’t stop some of them from leaking.  I talked to the plumbers (who use Pex for everything) and they said they prefer the crimp connections.  I figured I would eventually be putting in a bunch more radiant, so I decided to spend the money on the crimp tool and it easily sorted out my issues.

Fibonacci Spiral

Fibonacci_01I had long planned to insert 1 ft long glass rods thru the Quad deck to let light thru in both directions.  When it came to the layout, I went with the points of a simple Fibonacci spiral, centered in the room and leading around to a spiral stair case around the corner.  Later, I can etch or mosaic in the actual curve if I want to.

These are sorts of fun little extras that make building your own home fun.

To keep the glass rods from being pushed thru the floor by the workers stepping on them, I screwed boards up underneath to hold the bottoms in place.  This is why the lights turn off just before the pour in the video.



Rented Scaffolding

IMG_20151031_170822546 (Medium)The scaffolding that I rented has been stacked nicely and ready for pickup for more than 4 months with no responses to my monthly texts to the builder to come and pick ’em up.  You will see it in the background of various other videos ;^)  It was actually quite labor intensive to remove it from the basement, so I hope the builder appreciates that that free labor.  I wonder if I could surprise him with storage fees?  I had to move it again recently.


Here are some pics with descriptions