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Block & Backache part III – Final Edition

October 18, 2006

Making use of the wordpress dashboard blog stats tool, I notice that a fair amount of this blog’s traffic comes from searches by people looking for information on concrete forms, poured concrete, or installation of insulated concrete forms.  Hopefully, discussion of my experience with these items in previous entries on Block and Backache parts I & II will help those wishing to tackle this on their own  (see archive).  Which moves me to the final installment today.

Previously, we covered foundation prep, stacking and gluing forms, installing rebar, building plywood forms for special bond beams and arches, and pouring from a pump truck.  Today, let’s cover precast panels.   As a design point on my house, I wanted 100% of the exterior to be concrete stucco over concrete forms.  Where exterior first and second story walls stacked, I used the 10″ concrete forms as I had bearing all the way down to the foundation for support.  However, over the master bedroom on on side of the second story, and the front of the upstairs guest bedroom and bath, over the garage, the walls were supported on top of interior walls and poured concrete was not an option.   I elected to use 4″ thick, precast concrete / styrofoam panels in these areas.  Working with my engineer, additional LVL girders were included in the framing of the interior of the house to carry and distribute this extra weight.  Triple rafters were added directly under these wall areas in the roof framing.  The stud walls were clad in 1/2 plywood, wrapped in Tyvek, and then the concrete panels were craned into position and affixed to the wall framing by use of long screws through the metal stud frame of the concrete panels.

june-2006-046.jpg Here, a friend and I work to assemble the wall section over the master bedroom, measuring, cutting, craning and installing one panel at a time.  The panels were ordered in 4 foot by 10 foot sections.  The sections were created from a 2X4 steel stud frame, with cross bracing, and then casting the concrete and Styrofoam mix into the cavities.  We cut the panels into the geometric shapes needed to follow the roof-line at apexes and in valleys, ect.  After cutting, we would re-clad the cut edges with fresh steel studs so that the perimeter of our completed panels were completely wrapped in steel for mounting with the screws.

june-2006-060.jpg  I rigged each completed piece on the ground with heavy web straps, and attached to the crane, then hoisted into place.   Visible just behind the panel is the 14″ concrete saw with segmented diamond blade I used for the cutting.  It sliced neatly through both the concrete and steel.

june-2006-066.jpg  Here is the same panel, on it’s way up over the garage for installation near the top of that wall section.  Pieces were cut and assembled to fit not only the roof lines, but any windows or other features.   These precast forms were a new development for the company that I ordered through, Amazon forms, at the time I ordered them.  As such, they were only available at the time in the 4 X 10 default size.  Subsequently, it is now possible to make detailed measurements and drawings and have them custom build wall sections, complete with window and door frame outs already in place.  This would dramatically speed installation time and reduce job site effort.  

Here in this last shot, we are assembling panels around a window.   With the company’s new made to order capability, these 3 seperate pieces could have been precast as a single framed and ready to install panel.  While these 4″ panels are not considered load bearing, they are quite solid, provide R12+ of insulation, deaden sound, and provide an ideal base to apply the concrete stucco.  Coupled with the blown in wet cellulose in the interior 2X4 wall areas which yield R13 value, these upper story sections provide a total of approximately R25, while the rest of the poured structure walls provide R33.  june-2006-056.jpg

Though it was decidedly physically demanding work, I have enjoyed working with these concrete products, and would recommend them to others as a quality product to build with.   With access to some equipment, and some patience, even a first timer can do the job.

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