I have dirt with seeds…

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Memorial day weekend was rainy and cold followed by a very nice New England spring day.  My progress on the Bodega was not hampered too much by weather although I did shuffle around my task list to take advantage of the weather.

My primary goal is still to get the outside 100% so I can begin inside work.  I had 20 yards of screened loam delivered for my lawn.  I visited the Home Depot (several times) to get supplies to fuel my task list.

Saturday was lightly raining/sprinkling so I spent some quality time on my tractor raking up rocks with the landscape rake.  After a couple of hours of riding in circles with the rake making awful screeching noises as it went over rocks, I had most of the big rocks turned up.  I followed up by hand with a metal rake and stacked the remaining rocks into small piles and collected them with the tractor.

The topsoil I turned up is not too bad for grass growing.  I would say its a mix of sand and forest floor remnants.  With a nice layer of screened loam on top I think it will morph into a very nice well-drained lawn.

By days end Sunday I realized that I was going to need another load of loam.  I had it delivered Tuesday and got it all spread out just in time to take advantage of some rain.  Note, the pics show only half the loam spread…i’ll post more later.

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I used Scotts EZ Seed for the main part of the lawn and a Scotts sun and shade mix for the rest.  I had prior experience with the EZ-Seed at my last place and it worked out very nicely but its really expensive.

Battery Box

My Lowes job box got a final coat of forest green paint and I made a wooden form so I could pour a cement pad.  I used some plywood strips on top to very accurately line up the mounting holes.

The form was about 18″x36″x5.5″ and really needed about 5 bags of cement.  I only had three, so I put a bunch of rocks in the bottom to make up the difference.  If there’s anything I have in good supply its rocks!

With the cement somewhat cured I dropped the box on to the J-bolts I installed and hand tightened the nuts.  I will torque them down when the cement is fully cured…don’t want to risk cracks.

I ran a 1.5″ conduit from the box to the disconnect on my house.  I ordered some wire and battery terminals from eBay that I will run thru my conduit.

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Slab Insulation Covering
Building code requires that the foam insulation on your slab be protected in some manner.  I suspect this is to prevent people from hacking it away with the weed whacker.  I bought a roll of flashing 24″x50′ and cut it down the middle with tin snips to produce strips of 12 inch wide material.

With a garden hoe, I pulled back the soil next to the insulation and cleaned it with a broom.  Next, I applied some beads of liquid nails (foam board formula).  The flashing was “stuck” to the insulation and dirt was used to hold it in place.  It was a little awkward by myself but I managed.

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I left the corners open rather than attempt to bend a long strip of material in place.  I made corner trim pieces using four inch strips bent into “L” shape.  These strips were attached using Lexel and held in place with dirt.

Bonus Task – Back Door Landing
With the flashing installed I realized that there was a strip of pink showing under the back door.  Since it looked pretty ugly and I really needed a stair or something under the door I decided to build a small landing.  I had some leftover composite decking from the porch.  Combined with some 2×8 pressure treated boards and some Timberlok fasteners, I made a nice little landing.  Its a little narrow, but I wanted to use decking scraps and had to settle.

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Whats Next?
I have to run a conduit for my telephone/DSL lines about 70 feet to the utility pole.  The screen door which is 2 weeks old is already sticking due to the humidity rise (wood expanded and it was a tight fit to begin with).  I will just plane down the high spots and it should be fine.  I need to finish up my electrical wiring and have the inspector come over.  Then I need the building inspector to come over again for final framing inspection.  After that I will start insulating.

Rainy Weekend

Sorry for taking so long to post, things have been busy.  This past weekend it rained on and off which limited what I was able to accomplish. One long dry spell I was able to install the skirt insulation around the slab.  The remainder of the time I worked on getting a bill of materials together so I could visit local lumber yards for lumber quotes.

Slab Skirt Insulation

The slab has 4 inches of foam insulation attached to the sides.  To fully meet code and protect the slab from frost I need to install insulation horizontally for 2 feet around the slab.  I used 2 inch foam and a 3/4 inch foam which provides an R factor of 14. The foam is sloped away from the house to encourage water to flow away from the slab. All the seams are taped with sticky back window sealer.  I used Owens Corning Foamular 250 which is extruded XPS foam which maintains 100% of its R value even in moist underground environments.

This insulation helps to insulate the 50 degree subsoil from freezing outside temperatures.  a 24 inch skirt around the slab keeps frost about 12-18 inches from the slab depending on the temperature.  It also works by keeping the ground around the slab dry this eliminates any chance of frost being created.

Porch Attachment

An issue that I had not fully solved until late last week was the attachment of the porch to the house.  As you can see from earlier posts I embedded “J-bolts” in the face of the slab that the porch ledger would attach to. This solution makes it super hard to properly insulate the slab in the area of the porch.

Some Google research brought me to a product called a Maine Deck Bracket.  This bracket makes it possible to attach the ledger and place 4 inches of foam insulation behind the bracket!  A fantastic idea, and at $25 each a pretty cheap solution to a difficult problem.  I’ll post pics of my install.

Tiny House “Stuff” Reshuffling

Now that I am in the tiny house full-time I’m becoming sensitive to clutter and things that are not serving a useful purpose.  I took this rainy weekend to complete some projects that will help make the space more efficient.

Slide out Table: I was using a folding TV tray as a table but it was a pain to fold and unfold.  So I installed a slide out table similar to a keyboard drawer on a computer desk.

Radio Shelf: I installed a small shelf that holds my radio and other stuff.  This frees up the space around the wood stove which will soon be seeing some action.

Clutter removal: I would not have guessed that I could have things to junk but I do.  Throw pillows for the couch…gone! why do I have two shower carpets…gone?  This box of papers that I really should keep but will most likely never use…barn.  Small refrigerator that I don’t use…barn.  Cleaning products, windex cleans most everything the rest can go.


The mice have found their way into my tiny house and I want them gone!  I drilled holes in the flooring under the sink and filled it with expanding foam.  During my cleanup I found the hole where they were coming in and filled it and everything around it with foam.  With all the holes plugged I put out the live trap and caught a mouse within 10 minutes.  With him/her relocated, I have not heard a peep from the mice. I am also putting all food in mouse proof containers…no food = no mice!

Lumber Quotes

I got back two quotes for lumber.  The cheaper quote was about $7500 which was a little on the high side.  I decided to replace the plywood for 7/16 OSB which brought it down some.  The unexpected cost was MA sales tax of 6.25% which added nearly $500 to the bill.  I will be visiting the lumberyard this Sat to approve and pay for the order.  I will have it delivered next week sometime.

This Weekend

I will be attaching my deck brackets and moving 20 yards of fill to complete the slab.  If time permits, I will begin laying out the sill plates in preparation for framing.  If things go really well, I want to install the framing for the porch floor.  Its going to be a busy weekend!

Random Thoughts Post Slab Pour

Its been a couple of days since I poured my slab and I thought it would be good to share some observations that might save others trouble with their own builds.

Concrete trucks are really heavy

No I mean really heavy.  The driveway that I drive on all the time with my small pickup truck is hard packed and my truck tires leave little if any impressions.  The concrete truck left 3 inch deep ruts in a couple of places!  Additionally, when the truck delivers material the driver needs to drive forward and back to deliver it to the correct spot.  Make sure your ground is solid.  The driver makes you sign a paper saying you are responsible if he gets stuck.

Rakes and Hoe’s Suck

Moving concrete around in the forms can be done with a normal garden rake but a concrete rake is much better.  Unfortunately, it’s a specialized one use tool but worth the extra money IMO.

Some people may also consider a bull float a necessity.  If you are looking for a shiny smooth slab then it probably is.  In my application where there will be a sub-floor over the cement, I think the skreet I used would have provided a suitable (but rougher) finish.  Since my brother in-law had access to a bull float I used it but it was not needed.

Bagels make lousy feed for your helpers

I bought a bunch of nice bagels and OJ and no one ate them.  My brother in-law arrived an hour late with a dozen donuts and everyone devoured them.  Lesson: Donuts not bagels!

Attaching foam to your slab

You will want to attach the foam boards to the slab with some type of mechanical fastener.  Had I used 2 inch thick foam there are commonly available concrete fasteners at the local home store.  I am using 4 inches of foam and there’s nothing available so I had to improvise.

Building codes now require AQT compatible fasteners for deck construction.  Timberlok makes all sorts of fasteners to fill that need.  There are also a number of generic options at the local home store.  I found some green 5 inch epoxy coated lag screws with a star drive head.  These fasteners are not rated for use in concrete, however in this application they do not need to hold very much load.  You just need to hold the foam against the concrete.  I paired these fasteners with some galvanized roof tin washers to do this job.

You need a 6 inch long 5/32 masonry bit and a hammer drill to make this work.  First you drill a hole thru the foam boards into the concrete.  Using an impact driver, you drive the fastener into the drilled hole being careful not to drive too deep and strip out the hole you drilled.  You may find that applying a 5 minute epoxy to the threads will produce a stronger bond to the concrete (I did not use it however).  I did this on a 3 day old slab which may have helped just a bit with the concrete being softer.  I would also say that an impact driver is needed to complete this job.  With a depleted battery I was not able to drive the fastener in all the way, but a fresh battery worked fine.

The Bodega has a new slab

It was a beautiful fall weekend in New England this weekend.  Perfect weather to go out for a hike or stay home and pour 11 yards of concrete.

When it comes to pouring concrete its a real good idea to have some extra bodies to lend a hand.  I several family members come over to help out with this job.  The next door neighbor also needed a small slab poured so he helped me out and bought the remaining concrete that was left on the truck after my pour.

The pour went really well, during the pour the only mishap was some of the vapor barrier making noise as some of the rebar poked thru it.  I also had a small amount of bowing on the sides which I will need to deal with during framing (not a huge deal).

the wooden holders I made for the J bolts worked as expected, but left impressions in the concrete that I will need to seal when I put down the sills.

The slab was poured at 9AM and was hard enough to walk on by about 5PM.  We pulled a couple of the boards off to see how it looked and it looked like a large concrete block.  I decided to leave the forms on overnight because the cement was pretty soft still.  I took the opportunity to shave off any ridges using a brick like a sanding block.  I wet the top of the slab and put a tarp on it to help slow the curing which makes it stronger.

The next day (Sunday) I created a nice pile of wood to recycle and some nice camp fire wood as I removed all the forms.  The two forms in the center for the well tank and shower were pretty difficult to remove since I overbuilt them.

The next task in this project is to attach the foam insulation to the concrete in a more permanent manner.  I will then lay down 2 feet of foam 3 inches thick on all sides to keep frost from getting under the slab.  I’ll have pics…

Bodega Slab Ready To Pour

Well almost ready.  The building inspector still needs to look at it.  Provided there are no unforseen issues I will be calling in a concrete truck to drop off 11 yards next Saturday.  As a treat I decided to put together a video tour of my completed slab (not my finest work, I’ll try harder next time):

Saturday Adventure

Saturday we had the plumbing inspector scheduled to come over in the afternoon and there were a couple last-minute issues to attend to.

First off, the pipes that would be run thru concrete needed to be wrapped with insulation to keep them from breaking should the slab settle.  The plumber brought over a roll of light blue sill insulation that we applied generously to all the pipes that might come into contact with concrete.  This was a bit overkill since code only requires it at the point where pipes come vertically thru the slab.

Next, we needed to prove that there were no leaks in the drain pipes.  A device that plumbers refer to as a “dildo” or more correctly named a “test ball plug” (not sure which term is worse) gets inserted into the outlet pipe at the clean out.

Using an air compressor, you blow up the plug so that no liquids can pass by.  For the first time I removed the cover from my new septic tank and made sure that no liquid was coming out of the inlet when water was poured into the drain pipes.  Basically you just make sure that the level inside the drain pipes stays at the same level for several hours.

The Inspection

The plumbing inspector stopped by mid afternoon and carefully looked over the job and declared that it passed.  I brought him the building permit to sign and we chatted about local politics for a while and he left to enjoy his weekend.  Very easy process overall.

Finishing Touches

With the plumbing inspection out-of-the-way I filled in all the missing dirt, added insulation on top, and covered the remaining 25% of the slab with vapor barrier.  Now that the top drain pipe is wrapped and covered with vapor barrier, it’s not the big problem I thought it would be.



Naturally its going to rain this week.  A completed slab with vapor barrier makes a great swimming pool so I need to keep it protected from the rain.  I attached 2 pieces of wood and strung some fencing wire to form a bit of a tent.  Hopefully I can keep most of the water out.

More Slab Detail Work

This weekend was very quiet compared to weekends past.  I have been very stuck trying to get a plumber to do my slab work.  This Saturday I finally found a reasonably priced plumber that says he will start Monday (today).  I did manage to work on some details between rain showers.



The porch of the Bodega sits atop three concrete piers.  To install them I dug three holes 48 inches deep and filled the bottom with about 6-8 inches of hand mixed concrete.  Before the concrete hardened, I stuck 4ft pieces of 1/2 inch rebar to keep the piers shear strength.

When installing piers you normally need to be concerned with three dimensions (left, right, and elevation).  Since I poured footings, I did not need to worry about elevation when setting the tubes.  I simply aligned the tubes to the side of the slab and the correct distance from the slab.  When in the correct location I backfilled each tube and compacted the soil.  With the tubes securely in place, I can use a board and level to mark where the tubes need to be cut.


New Tool

I bought a new laser level a couple of weekends ago.  It’s the GPL3T made by Bosch and it cost me about $100.  It made installing the sonatubes much easier than using a piece of string and measuring 3-4-5.  I simply aligned the base of the level with the side of the slab and “presto” I had a dot on a place near where the tube should be set.  It’s a well constructed laser and it’s already made my life easier….$100 well spent!

“J” Bolts

Every slab needs “J” bolts installed to fasten the walls to the slab.  The IRC says you need to have the body of the bolt inserted 7 inches into concrete.  You must also install bolts 12 inches or less from board ends and every 6 feet.  My sills will be 3 inches thick, so I need to use 12 inch “J” bolts.

Personally I feel that “J” bolts provide a great deal of strength to your structure in wind loads and I want to do better than what the code requires.  Since I have my house in CAD, I drew up a sketch to locate the “J” bolts in every stud bay which comes out to about 24 inches give or take.

One problem you have is getting the “J” bolts in the right location, depth, and plum.  To ensure that this job is idiot proof I built some wood brackets that will be screwed onto the forms once the concrete is poured.  These brackets will set the bolt in the perfect location (if all goes according to plan).

This Week

I’m off to babysit the plumber who hopefully shows up.  I should be able to complete the slab details this week so I can call the cement truck for a Saturday pour.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

Big pile of dirt and other random thoughts

I was in need of quite a bit of fill for the middle “hump” of the slab and backfill for after the slab is poured.  I called up Graves Stone and Gravel and had a 20 yard truckload sent over to the lot

Last night I double checked the top of my slab forms to make sure they were still level.  I placed my water level on one corner and checked the top every 2 feet.  I would say that I am within 1/16 of an inch from level on the forms.  The next step is to attach the bracing to keep the walls from bowing inward or outward during the pour.  After that I will begin building up the hump in the center of the slab.

As part of the inner slab work I have an interesting thing that I am doing so that my well water tank will be below the floor so it won’t take up space in the house.  It involves building forms for a pocket in the middle of the slab….hope it works.

I have made the call that my concrete pour will be on Sept 8th in the morning.  I still have tons to do including inspections and finding a plumber.  I will have lots of pics on Monday…have a nice weekend!

Completed Slab Forms

This weekend I completed the forms for the slab.  The forms are made from 2×6 lumber that I will recycle back into the house.  I will be pouring cement against the foam insulation so the lumber will not get very dirty.  The gallery at the bottom of this post has the pics from this weekend.

Form Base

I created the base of my forms by nailing a 2×4 to a 2×6 to create an “L” shaped footing.  Every 2 feet there is a place for an upright and a hole drilled for a 1/2 inch piece of rebar.  A 2 foot length of rebar is driven into the ground to help keep the bottom from moving.  The upright will be used to support the rest of the form.

Also notice that I have installed a nail in each corner to measure for squareness.  I used a clothes pin style clamp to hold one end.  I typically work alone and since my dog has not yet learned to hold one end of my tape I need to use the clamp.

After squaring the base to within 1/16″ I drove in my rebar stakes checking the squareness after each stake.

Form Uprights

I cut a bunch of 21 inch tall uprights out of 2×4 for upright members.  I sized these members short to keep them away from the top lip of the slab.  To get started I nailed these pieces in place on the footer board with an air nailer.

Top Rail

With the uprights in place I began attaching the critical top plate which will set the top of the slab.  This piece must be 100% level and straight or your slab will not come out good.

I use squeeze clamps to hold one end of each plank as I attach it.  I had the laser set up and I would line up each plank to hit a 1/2 inch mark I had made on each. As I went along I verified each plank with 4ft level and the water level.

I used 3 inch screws to attach the top plank so I can adjust it should I find something wrong.  At this point I believe that my top is within 1/4 inch of being correct, possibly better.


I installed corner and mid bracing on the outside of the slab although I have not yet nailed it down yet.

The first thing I do is install a 2ft 2×3 stake in a spot where there are no rocks.  I use a landscape bar to “drill” a pilot hole and then drive in the 2×3 stake.  I used the chop saw to make the ends of the stake pointed.

With the stakes in, I cut to fit a 2×3 piece to brace the bottom of the form.  Then I cut the diagonal pieces and lay them in place.  The diagonal piece has the corners chopped off to make them fit better.

The final step will be to nail in the braces and double-check the top rails.  The top rails can bow in or out so you need to run a string from each corner and correct any curves using the bracing.


The last step is to cut and tape the 4 inch foam pieces that will make up the insulation for the slab.  I am using the insulation to create the form.  The wood on the outside just supports the foam so that it does not collapse from the weight of the concrete.

Bodega Weekend Update

Lots of work on the bodega this weekend.  I managed to install my water line and get the base layer in for the slab.  As always it was a lot more work than I expected and I didn’t complete everything I wanted to.

Water line

Heavy rains made my trenches a sandy wet mess.  Of course wet sand weighs more than dry sand.  I spend a couple of hours digging out all the sections the backhoe missed (by hand).  mY goal was to keep the pipe 4ft below the surface and remove any rocks that might poke thru.  I then cut into my existing water line:

After removing sand from my shoes socks and everything else, I took a road trip to get some 1 inch XPS foam to cover the pipe.  Fortunately my lot has naturally occurring sandy pockets that are free from rocks.  I dug these sandy deposits out and covered the water pipe and laid the 1 inch foam over the pipe.  I then covered the foam with as much clean sand as I could scrape from the walls.

With the hard work out-of-the-way I spent the next 2 hours on the tractor moving 30+ yards of sand back into the trench.

Slab work

After double checking my slab elevation with the laser I marked out the areas that needed to be dug up for my gravel underbase.

I maneuvered my small tractor into position to loosen the dirt that needed to be removed.  I suspect that the dirt I removed would have made better slab base than the gravel I added.  Even with the tractor I spent a lot of time digging some of the hardest ground I have seen yet.

With the trenches dug, I moved about 7 yards of my bank gravel into position and ran the compactor over the trenches.  Here is the result of my days work:

I would say every spot on this footing is within one inch of being to the correct elevation.  I have another yard of gravel I will use to fill in the low spots.  I have a liquid level installed on one side of the slab (green clamps on the left), I just need to work my way around the perimeter.  I expect that another hour or two and I can start laying out my forms.

Lesson Learned

I learned a $90 lesson this week.  I needed 8 yards of bank run gravel delivered.  The gravel yard is not too far away so I phoned them and the lady told me the price was ~$150 delivered and I gave her a credit card.  The bill showed up in the mail and I learned that $90 of the bill was for delivery.  Had I known that I would have had them deliver a full truckload instead of 8 yards.  Lesson: Always ask about the delivery cost.
In my next post I will show you how my tiny house almost blew up!

Bodega Septic System is Complete!

Arrived home last night to find the lot completely graded and the hole for the slab exposed.  He also dug a nice trench for my water line which would have taken hours with my little BX25 tractor.

Last night I visited my storage bin and located my laser level under the piles of crap I have stored in there.

Setting the Grade

First step is to determine where the top of the slab will be located.  My septic engineer had the slab at 104.5 and a nearby marker that was listed at 105.75.  That means that I need to make the slab 1.25 feet lower than the marker.

I set up the laser level set up and set the red dot to hit the nail in the tree which is the test point.  I installed a stake and used a tape to measure a point on the stake that was 15 inches lower than the laser beam.  Pretty simple I thought…this is one of those measurements I will double check another day just to be sure.

Marking the Slab

Next I wanted to mark the slab outline so I can level the ground and dig out a 12 inch trench which will contain the gravel base for the slab.  This is the part I really don’t like because its a pain in the ass.

I set up 2 stakes 14 feet apart that would be the front of the house.  Then I added the 18 foot right leg using the 3-4-5 method to get the stake in close to the correct position.  I then added the other 2 sides and made a set of corner to corner measurements which are the gold standard for making sure you have a square box.

Naturally I was off by about a foot or so.  I then spent another 30 minutes fiddling with the sticks back and forth to eventually get the two corner measurements to be equal.  This is an important step and you need to take your time with it.

Next step will be to level the area where the stakes are using a liquid level.

Todays Panoramas

Gallery of Todays pics: