The following pictures show the trenches being dug in preparation for the concrete foundations that will support the outside walls of the house. The foundations were complicated by the fact that the building sits on a deceptively steep slope. The first pour of concrete was therefore done on two different levels with a ‘step’ between the two sections. A second pour will be done later, once shuttering has been put in place to support it, to form a level concrete wall above ground level on which the straw bale walls can sit.
First ground broken!
Digging out the trench for the south-east corner. The trenches had to be dug down to stable undisturbed soil.
Completed trench for the south facing wall at the bottom of the site. As the foundations at this bottom section will also act as a retaining wall, the concrete has to be wide. The trench here is dug up to 1200mm wide compared to only 900mm at the top of the slope.
The gradient of the slope is more apparent in this photo. To ensure that the concrete didn’t just flow around the trenches to the bottom of the slope, the site was divided into two separate levels.
The different layers in the soil are quite visible in this photo. As the soil here is clay rich, it will be filtered and used later for rendering the walls and in the earth floor.
Topsoil was scrapped off down to the subsoil. As it is very fertile it was placed here for the future garden.
Once the trenches were dug they were fitted with a steel framework that the concrete will then be poured over. This steel was put in place to strengthen the wall and prevent it cracking. This will ensuring that it is strong enough to act as a retaining wall when the interior is infilled later to create level floors. The two good helpers in these photos are Jacob Lueke, who helped in his school holiday, and Nadia Le Cointe, a WWOOFer from France who came for three weeks.
Nadia takes a well deserved breather from building the steel lattice.
The steel lattice was raised above the trench floor with bricks so that the concrete surrounds the steel.
It is easy to see how much shallower the top trench is here. Even though it will not be holding back so much soil it will still be filled with reinforcing steel bar.
View east over section of completed steel lattice
The strings indicate where the future walls will be built on the foundations.
Here you can see the trenches prepared inside the house for the pipes from the toilet and the kitchen. These pipes will have to pass through the concrete foundations to the manhole outside the house (foreground). The manhole will allow an easy access point for any blocked pipe to be cleared with a rod.
The soil gets sticky after rain!
Even though Nadia lost her entire right leg in a workplace accident she insisted on carrying on. What a leg-end.
Jacob and Nadia lift one of the final pieces of steel into the top trench.
Ready to pour!
Unfortunately there are no photographs of us pouring the concrete for this stage (it had to be done under the cover of darkness, away from the judgmental eyes of any environmentally conscious Forest Row locals). For lovers of heavy duty concrete pouring action (we know you are out there!), don’t worry there will be a second pour of concrete soon, so stay tuned.
To read the reasoning behind our decision to use concrete click here.