ICF House Project in Central Oregon

January 28, 2015 Leave a comment

This is one of the ICF (Insulating Concrete Forms) houses I worked on last summer. It was a cool project to be a part of. It’s located in this really nice development sitting right next to Smith Rock and having views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters, with lots of green grass, and a vineyard.

This was my first time building in Central Oregon. It definitely provided some interesting experiences. First off, the geology over there is unique with a wide variety of rock types in a relatively small area. We literally had to rotary hammer holes into the rock to sink our concrete stakes into. Once they’re in, forget about moving them. We either had to drill new holes, sink new stakes, or bend over the existing stakes to keep our forms for the footing nice and straight.

The other excitement happened when we poured the footing and first couple courses of block. We told the concrete pump guys to only fill it about 24 inches high and even pointed, “fill it up to about here”, but for whatever reason they wanted to fill it all the way up.

When they got about halfway around the house, all the sudden a couple screws broke that were holding up one side of the form. About a 10 foot section of the wall tipped over and everyone started scrambling. I ran and grabbed a couple big rocks and some 2×4’s to lever the broken side of the form back up, but there was too much weight, we couldn’t get it to budge.

We then proceeded to use the concrete vibrator to help get the mud to flow down the form to a section that wasn’t broken. I was on my knees digging in the form like a dog to help get the concrete to move. All the while the pump guys kept pumping and the homeowner was watching us with a very concerned look on her face.

Finally we get it to where it was light enough we could lever it up, level it and put some more stakes and screws in to support it. At this point we didn’t have to worry about driving the stakes into the ground, they would be fine just sitting on top of the rock and being supporting horizontally by the hat channel we run on top of the forms to support the block.

When it comes to pouring concrete you can’t stop and take a break, especially when it’s a 100+ degrees (Fahrenheit) and 0% humidity like it was on that day. You can try to delay the next truck to buy yourself some time, but depending on the travel distance it isn’t always practical. The other option is to add water to the concrete, but the more water you add the weaker the concrete becomes.

Pouring concrete is always stressful, even for the guys that have been doing it for 20+ years. There’s no CTRL+Z with concrete, only concrete saws, sledge hammers and jack hammers. Busting up and hauling off concrete is no joke, take my word for it! Fortunately I’ve only had to do it to fix other peoples mistakes, or for remodels.

I’m just glad in the end, everything turned out okay. All in all it was a fun project. Plus, there’s tons of good beer over there in Central Oregon! One day we managed to go to 10+ of the 15 or so breweries in Bend, I gotta say it was a good day!

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