The First Wall Pour

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Everything is going smooth. 

 Very smooth. 

 Too smooth really. 

And then we hear an odd sound. Not a loud one. More like a stretching sound. Like the kids are playing tug-o-war and suddenly they both yell, "I win!" at the same time.

Like a sound you aren't supposed to hear. But you heard it. And you know something is very wrong.

I run around the outside of the Momplex, and I see, the ICF blocks have just barely started to separate on the side, and concrete is just starting to leak out.

I turn to run back inside to get a drill and some boards to patch up the leak, but before I get anywhere, there's a loud KA-POW!

The blocks split open, and four truckloads full of concrete explode out of the walls . . . burying me, destroying our summers worth of work, hard earned savings, and ruining our dream of building the Momplex.
This is the nightmare that I've dreamed up inside my head, as we've built this house of foam. Can a foam house really hold 115,000 pounds of concrete?  If you put 10 grown elephants inside a box full of foam peanuts, who's going to win?  Can a giant foam coffee cup hold 14,000 gallons of water?  
Today, we are personally going to find out.

Beautiful Day

Although the day is beautiful, there's gusts of winds - up to 30 MPH.  We are already nervous, and knowing a gust of wind could put a wall out of square is far from calming.


While waiting for the concrete and pump truck, we decide that Mr. Real Alaska Man himself will be on the hose.  Grandpa will run the vibrator and his friend Nick volunteered to help today (thank you!) by assisting with the vibrator.  Uncle Bill and I are on the ground, helping with everything else and on the "oh crap kit" duty.
The pump truck arrives around noon, driving 100 miles so we won't have to personally haul, bucket by bucket, 115,000 pounds of concrete up to the tops of the walls, and hand pour.  

Pre Pour Checklist

I've gone through the checklist, and it's time to pour the concrete into 12 feet of hollow foam walls.  It is time.
The pump truck starts to expand out.
It's towering over the already tall Momplex.
Creating a massive and very fitting M in the sky.
The first concrete truck arrives.  Unlike when we poured the footers, this time the concrete truck simply pours concrete into the back of the pump truck.
The pump truck does all the work.  
Bringing the concrete up twelve feet, to the tops of the walls.  Ready?


We've got concrete.The first of the concrete falls out of the hose and into the ARXX blocks.  
We won't be pouring the whole 12 feet at once.  Instead, we'll be pouring two blocks high at a time as we go around, each time around, pouring another two blocks of concrete.  
That way when the concrete is vibrated to remove air pockets, you can be confident that you are removing all voids.  And the pressure will be significantly decreased as opposed to pouring the entire wall at once.
So around they went, pouring and vibrating. 
On the hose, the main responsibility is gauging how much concrete you are placing and communicating with the pump truck operator to control the hose.  The vibrator is the tough job, because you have to drop the vibrator down into the concrete - remember, that's 12 feet - vibrate - then pull back out and move over a foot or so and do it all over again.  Multiply that by a total of 176 feet of walls times several trips around . . . you get the idea.

Concrete Placement Under Windows

If you remember, all the windows have been built with an opening in the sill.  Concrete is placed in the opening in the sill.
Then the concrete is vibrated to remove any air pockets.
Then the concrete is smoothed out, flush to the bottom of the sill.
And Uncle Bill places a piece of precut foam in the opening.
Followed by a piece of precut 1/2" plywood screwed to the sill.  The plywood completes the opening, and now concrete cannot come out the window sill when concrete is poured above the sill height.
Then precut 2x4s are placed in the window to temporarily support the tremendous weight of concrete being poured over the windows.

Four Concrete Trucks

And the concrete trucks kept coming.
And we kept pouring,  This poor pour guy has been telling me all week as soon as the concrete pour is over, he's taking a long nap.  
He definitely deserves it.  And everyone else helping out.  Building a home is hard work. 
But thankfully on this beautiful day, not too hard work.  
I can't vouch for the elephants and Styrofoam peanuts or the foam coffee cup filled with 14,000 gallons of water.  But I can tell you this - the ARXX blocks are now holding 115,000 pounds of concrete - and they will be for many many years to come.
Sorry to scare you earlier  :) ARXX blocks have been poured in over 14 millions square feet of residential and commercial spaces, and with the bracing system and the check over by Phil, we were confident that the pour would go smoothly.  But since this was our first pour, there's always that "what if" thought in the back of your heads.  Turns out, we had nothing to worry about, and the day went as smoothly as the concrete we poured.  Yes, DIYers can build homes made of ICFs, and today we proved it!
After the pour, the walls are plumbed up by checking the string line we ran in this post with a block.
And then the braces are turned, either pushing the walls out or pulling the wall in, until the string line matches the block.  Then you know your walls are plumb.
Once the walls are plumbed, all that's left is to let the concrete cure.  We can't remove the braces for a few days.  Darn.  What to do with a few days off?
Sounds like a good time to do more than enjoy the mountain view of the Momplex.
Sounds like a good time to actually go to the mountains.
And forget about concrete curing, ordering trusses, the floor system and anchor bolts and the snow line dropping.
Even if fall does bring winter, no one ever said it isn't beautiful.
Thank you to our readers for their support, prayers and encouragement, we have completed a major hurdle in DIYing a duplex for our mothers.  
We are thrilled to be working with ARXX blocks to build the exterior walls of the Momplex.  To learn more about ARXX blocks, you can visit their extensive website here.
Money Spent So Far: 
$34,000 + Cost of Property
Time Spent So Far: 
530 Hours on Site + Tons of Planning and Prep work