A self build house project diary
by Oliver Cannell

Pouring the concrete for the foundations

Today was a very stressful, busy and loud day on site, as the concrete is pumped into the foundation trenches.

At 7.30 this morning, like a giant praying mantis stretching one of it limbs out across the site, from the higher level road above, the concrete pump lorry positioned itself ready for the arrival of the concrete itself.

An hour later, I'm trying to remain cool and calm - being frustrated that everyone has been up early for this big day but now things are already running late - but knowing everything is out of my hands, the concrete lorries turns up.

It takes a bit of time to get the pump set up - they have to hand mix a batch of concrete to put into the pump to get the suction started. It's a bit like starting to syphon liquid from one container to another I guess.... but I'm at a loss why they can can't just use some concrete from the delivery truck! Maybe it's just too thick for that job.

Once the pump gets going, the concrete splats and spatters it's way into our nice clean trenches, in a way that reminds me of when the squeezy ketchup bottle starts to run out. Concrete is going everywhere - including all over the guys who are trying to level it out - and a little over our nice new brick wall too. Thanksfully this will be cleaned off later, I'm told.

The pump is making quite a noise; the concrete is splatting away on site; the unloading concrete lorry is whirring and the previously emptied lorry is really loud as it's revved to the max, while they wash it out with a water hose, before it heads off home. I'm sure I've seen this done more smoothly and quietly on TV! Thankfully our two immediate neighbours are out - but there are still a lot of houses close around us. A few heads pop out of windows and doors to see what's happening during the day.

To add to all the chaos, some guy in a high-vis jacket turns up shouting at everyone, that we have to stop immediately as it's "all illegal". I thought it was someone having a joke and just smiled to start with (especially as I was filming the whole event at the time) and everyone else just looked at each other with confused expressions.

Apparently this was the local Highways officer (as in the roads and highways council department) getting rather upset that we were offloading from the road, without (what he initially considered) there being enough traffic management going on or public safety considerations. As it happens, there were two builders carefully directing traffic... we had a number of safety barriers in place... and the flow of traffic was being taken into full consideration. It was all a bit tense at first, that thankfully our site manager / lead builder was able to work his diplomatic magic and calmly explain what was happening. We were eventually allowed to carry on, after a short delay.

The pump's hose end worked it's way around our trenches, while the guys levelled it off to the top of the yellow markers. The concrete itself slowly flowed down the trenches like grey lava, as it's own mass became too much to handle in one section alone. The huge amount of steel reinforcing cage that was constructed, also disappeared eventually, but I have plenty of photos to prove it's there.

Overall we had seven lorry loads of concrete delivered - sometimes a couple were parked along the street at once, while they waited their turn to offload. It took most of the day to get the job done as the pump was quite slow. And as the concrete was "quick drying" the first few cubic metres that was poured, had pretty much set hard already by the end of the day!

Half way through the day, the heaven's opened and we had really heavy rain for a good half-an-hour or so. I though this would interfere with the mix of the concrete and weaken it or something but was reassured to find out that it actually helps cool the concrete (which gets warm as it sets) and helps prevent cracking on the surface, which can happen if it sets too quickly.

This was definitely a landmark day and we are truly building a house from now on. I was very stressed and excited all day - and I think everyone was drained after a busy day managing people, weather and traffic.

Next entry: Blocks are flying up fast towards completing the retaining wall (Monday 14th July 2014)

Previous entry: Foundation reinforcing steel cage ready for pouring concrete (Monday 7th July 2014)

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