Hats and Boots (part 2 of 2…we hope)

It’s been some time since the last post, and this is all due to the distraction and troubles with getting the foundations done.

The piers went in reasonably well and fast. And the steel has gone up for the roof. That’s the good news. The bad news is we’re still dealing with the forms for the stem wall over the rubble trench.

Wood for FormsWe were able to get a lot of salvage wood. This is great for both the pocket book and the environment, and we plan to reuse this wood again to make some outbuildings for the horses, chicken coops, and other projects. That’s one thing we’ve learned–it’s always handy to have extra wood around.

We’ve also been able to get the steel up–this went fast and fairly easy. The side trusses went up and attached to the piers that we’d poured with expanding bolts.

The building has six supports on each side–all made from recycled steel. These will support the roof, meaning the walls are actually not load bearing. This is a good thing in that New Mexico code requires straw bale houses to be non-load bearing walls.

Rising SteelOnce the trusses were all in place, the next step was to assemble the top joists on the ground. Everything bolted together–the Worldwide Steel Building folks say that an entire building can be put together in about four days. That’s a little optimistic, since it assumes ideal conditions, and we haven’t had that.

Thankfully, what we do have a neighbor with a small forklift.This allowed us to lift the joists into place and bolt them down. You can do this with pulleys and ropes, but that is a lot more work (meaning it takes more time). And this stage left us with a building that was actually starting to take shape.

The supporting girts were also added to the roof–they’ll hold up the metal roof, and underneath we’ll have insulation.

Steel frame in placeWe also have wind rods on the sides of the building to provide additional strength.

While all this has been going on, we’ve been having rainy season in New Mexico. Now, mostly this is rain at night, which makes for wonderfully green land. The horses and donkeys often don’t bother to show up to get snacks and are getting ridiculously fat on late summer grass. But sometimes the thunderstorms roll in around two or three o’clock, which means a short day of work–you really cannot work on a steel building with lightning flashing nearby. Well, maybe you could, but it’s not a wise idea.

This was what extended the “couple of days” to get the steel in place.

The other factor is that we do not want the forms to “blow out.” We had this issue with the forms for the piers. Concrete is very, very heavy stuff. And if the forms are weak, we’re going to have another tough day’s pour. That’s added time to making the forms correct.

Then there’s the factor that what works on paper sometimes does not work when you move it from two dimensional space to three dimension. We’ve already decided that, when you look at the real size of the bedroom, a fireplace is just not an easy fit. Much better to put in a smaller wood burning stove, as we’d already planned for the other bedroom. And we’ll just keep one kiva fireplace for the grand room (the living room/kitchen area).

This means we’re looking at the plans with fresh eyes, and looking to file amendments to them as we adjust expectations and fit things to a better reality.

And all this takes more time than expected. About now, this is when you realize why contractors love to pour a slab and build on that–it is easier. You don’t have to worry about measuring widths and getting those right. However, it’s also expensive, and the rubble trench does provide better drainage, and it’s going to leave us with a softer floor (concrete is tough on anyone’s joints, no matter what you put on top).

The plan is now to try and get the forms all in place this next week, so we can have the foundations inspected and the pour done right after. And then we’re going to be able to start putting the adobe and straw in place–and that’s going to be a whole other story of its own.

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