studio building - a smooth studio floor

Just yesterday, our studio floor got a whole lot more hospitable to actual pottery making.  It wasn't very long ago, though, that the first floor of our studio looked like this:

Yikes.  These days, it's easy to forget how much ledge we worked around to get this building out of the ground!  A couple of weeks ago, it was looking like this inside:

And then Nathan and the guys got busy with the sub-floor foam insulation and tubing for our eventual radiant heat, and things started to look like this:

With the tubing installed atop four inches of insulation, we lined up the crew to manage the pour, and waited for the timing to be right.  As it turns out, by the time we were ready, our road had been "posted" - prohibiting trucks over a certain weight limit- most definitely including concrete trucks- for travel.  (During mud season, as we call it in New England, the messy thaw between winter and spring can make the unpaved roads downright impassable, with ruts so deep, you could lose a small car in them.) Gulp.

Fortunately, we were able to work with our town (thank you, Bethel, VT!) to get a temporary waiver for a very cold morning when the ground- and our yard, for that matter- would be frozen enough to handle two 80,000 pound concrete trucks.  We were good to go.

The crew was here by 7 am, and the two trucks got across the yard without a hitch, thanks to a nine-degree night.  The heavy loads were emptied and the trucks were gone before even the slightest thaw began that day.

The crew was great.  It didn't take long for the initial leveling and scree work to be done.  I set the anchor bolts for the sill plates around the door in the front, and the waiting began.  The crew spent the entire day smoothing and polishing the surface in several intervals as the concrete set.  They didn't pull out of here until 8pm, with a light snow falling all around.

The building stayed warm enough over night, and by morning, we had a hard surface showing good signs of drying and curing.  We'll score the floor tomorrow (to prevent cracking), and start work in the building again on Tuesday.  Having this piece finished is HUGE - now we can proceed with the lower door, and connect the two levels with stairs.  Needless to say, I am very excited about this . . .

~Becca

 

studio walls are forming . . .

The past couple of weeks since our pottery studio footing pour have been epic.  (Wait, I've been using that word a lot lately . . . hmm.)  The work of forming our foundation walls with the heavy aluminum forms we borrowed from a friend was just plain hard work!  The learning curve has been steep, to say the least.  Wrapping our brains around form ties, re-bar patterns, slumps, drops, release agents, you name it, it's all been new.

Fortunately, we got off to a good start because our footing was lovely and level and square (we fussed around a lot to get it right!) making the job of marking out the form placement, holes to be drilled for vertical re-bar, etc, an easy one - but that's where 'easy' ended and the real work began.

We chose to use a relatively unknown form of foundation insulation, where the rigid foam, or "blueboard," goes INside the concrete, rather than outside or inside the building.  It's sort of like a structural insulated panel (a.k.a. SIPS), except with concrete.  They- being Thermomass, the company we used- call it "concrete sandwich technology."   I love that - gets right to the heart of it.  Four inches of concrete, four inches blueboard, four inches concrete.  Nice. And. Cozy.

We worked for many solid days on this - in the end it was about two weeks between pours.  Thankfully, we had at least two extra pairs of hands on any given day - there were so many pieces of this puzzle to keep a handle on.  It was sort of like a very large erector set, with a lot more weight - and a lot more at stake.   We were also working against a deadline - that of our builder (more on George a bit later!)  - oh, and WINTER.  No big deal. ;)

But we got it all put together in time for a mid-November, Friday morning pour.  (There were, at times, truck headlights and headlamps needed to get the job done.  Daylight savings is tough on outdoor work!)

On the morning of the pour, our good friends Zane and Alex, from whom we borrowed the forms, were on site to coordinate and assist, as was a new friend, Jim the irreverent and entertaining concrete pumper extraordinaire.  (A title he gave himself, but that we would not refute.)

One of the most interesting parts of doing this ourselves has been learning about the consistencies (or slump) of the mix.  Concrete is basically a mix of sand, stone, water, and Portland cement, and is not unlike what we used in places on our kiln's exterior.  I suppose we love these malleable, mold-able materials, and the mix needed for this wall - given all its narrow channels and re-bar and fiber spacer rods - was one that would move well in and around all the gaps, but remain strong once cured.

In the end, it took about four hours and eighteen cubic yards of concrete to fill the walls;  the pour was a big success.  There were no blow-outs, the forms didn't even creak, or pop, or send the steel wedges that hold in the pins - that hold everything together - flying through the air.  Everything remained as it should.

When the forms came off three days later (concrete is happier and stronger when it can cure slowly), the wall was a beauty.

Phew, what a job that was.  Of course we say now that we'll never do it again . . . we very well might eat our words someday.

I'm also pretty sure that someday, we'll be amazed that we pulled this off.

OK, let's be honest, that 'someday' is today . . .

~Becca

 

a solid concrete footing

This was a big day. A very big day.

We woke before sunrise, and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I was very, very nervous. You might even say I was scared. Yup. After weeks of prep work, there would be two large and heavy loads of concrete in our backyard. We considered having someone more seasoned here with us, but we felt confident we could do it. (Well, confident BEFORE the nightmare I had where all the form boards burst open and collapsed and we were rebuilding frantically while the concrete continued to flow . . . fortunately, things went much smoother than that.)

We had two very nice truck operators, willing to accommodate us rookies, and as soon as things were underway, we were breathing a sigh of relief. (There's nothing like the need to work QUICKLY to keep a girl from worrying about the truck getting stuck, or the chute taking off one of our heads.) Nathan worked with the hoe and shovel, directing the truck and the flow, while I followed behind with the scree boards and trowel.

We got into a rhythm, and I might even say I enjoyed myself! (There was plenty of adrenaline, that's for sure.) Our forms were holding really well and the mix was stiff enough that it wasn't seeping through all the drops (step-downs). When the first truck emptied his load, the second was right behind him, and in position before we knew it, pouring the remainder of the north wall

It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?! A solid foundation from which to build our dream studio.  (Lego approves - although not as happy about the having-to-be-leashed part - but we didn't want our dog stuck in our footing.)

Now, maybe a nap before the next big phase. We'll be form building next week, and this will start to look more like a studio before we know it . . .

Happy Weekend! ~Becca