Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New kids on the block

The concrete footing cured, we can now begin building the CMU (concrete masonry unit) retaining and bearing wall on top of it. Friend and fellow scavenger Bob has been taking apart and salvaging an abandoned bowling alley in Lapeer (which we also took advantage of last fall). Going through Bob not only comes in at about half the price of buying new, but means energy and material doesn't need to be wasted in manufacturing new block - and supports his noble efforts as an unbuilder.

After a very long afternoon hauling them inside, the blocks still need some minor cleaning. Getting the old mortar off only takes a few seconds, and they're good as new afterward.

400 8x8x16 concrete blocks

Borrowed cement mixer for our mortar

As Tim and I begin laying the first blocks, the Onufry family - trowels in hand, sandals on feet - volunteer for the day. Daniel's experience in laying CMU's is a welcome addition, and we're able to get through a significant portion of the wall just in our first day.

Pieces of steel rebar run vertically every 4' throughout the wall to help tie it together and give it better tensile strength. Shorter pieces are drilled into the ends of the wall to anchor it to the existing foundation.

Once built, the rear addition of the house can be dismantled and removed, leaving a large void in the ground (the former addition's basement) adjacent to our new wall. This space will be taken advantage of as a place for our rainwater collection cisterns. After installed, they'll be covered with dirt and be below the frost line and out of danger of freezing during winter months.

Because large cisterns are expensive, we look for alternative options. Many companies use 275 gallon IBC's  (intermediate bulk container) to transport liquid goods, from soda, syrup, and olive oil to various chemicals. It's important we obtain food-grade containers if we plan to store water which will be used for growing edible plants, showering, or consuming - and even second-hand these are a costly $100 a piece.

With a few phonecalls and well-placed words to craigslist posters, I find Jeff - who happily agrees to deliver from Grand Rapids eight IBC's at the wholesale price of $40 each. This gives us a 2200 gallon storage system for $320, while a conventional cistern may cost $1000-2000. Approximate time to recupe this cost via water bill savings: 1-2 months.

Special thanks to Jennifer, Ben, and Daniel Onufry for their hard work today.

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