Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Basement Walls -- Part I

Concrete block.
Four guys.
Lots and lots of concrete block.
Stripping footing forms.
Laying out the walls.
Mixing mortar.
Setting string lines.
Checking level.
Cutting block to fit.
Striking joints.
Receiving more block.
Building walls.
An amazing flurry of activity.
And a lot of progress.

The basement will have a total of thirteen courses [rows] of concrete block that will make up each wall.  Today the crew constructed seven courses of the East, South and West walls. Much of the North wall of the existing structure will not rest on concrete block foundation. Rather it will be supported by a 2x6 wall where the addition will be connected.  At the end of the day the crew was working on the short portions of the North wall on either side of the future addition.

Mortar is a mixture of cement, sand and water.  The guys mixed the mortar on site using water from the neighbor, cement brought to the site with the block and sand bought with the block. We moved yards and yards of sand from the basement....but it couldn't be used in the mortar mix.  Bringing sand to the beach...kind of like bringing coal to Newcastle.

The very first block was placed on the Southeast corner of the basement.  First, the crew painstakingly built accurate, level and square corners four or five courses high.

 Work continued methodically between the corners. String lines kept block level and straight. Mortar was spread between courses, and between each block.  And every block was individually tapped into place and checked for proper positioning.  Steel reinforcing was positioned between the fourth and fifth course.

Eventually walls started to take shape.

In general the work proceeded east to west along the south wall and south to north along the west wall.  Two of the guys worked laying block; one was mixing mortar and striking the joints; and the fourth was building the other corners of the walls.

The longest walls -- on the South and the West seemed to go the fastest. This was probably because there were no inside corners and no blocks needed to be cut to size. The East wall had both an inside corner and two sections of wall where each course of block had one block that needed to be cut to fit.

At the end of the day three walls were overt half their final height. Yet there were still a lot of block left to be laid.  I'm quite confident that tomorrow we'll have a basement under the cottage.

A Personal Note
Sometime early in my life...probably when I was in High father observed the way I worked on various assignments, projects, chores or activities. As a way of -- quite correctly -- noticing that I would never be good at any occupation that would require doing repetitive work he said "John, you will never be a bricklayer."  After spending one day just watching professional blocklayers I can say that his assessment was 100% correct.

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