Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wire; retaining; gallons of water

When I decided to build an earth sheltered house, with a green roof, I did a lot of reading. I understood that when there is a leak (no matter what you do, at some point there will be a leak) it can be tricky to track down. My leak seems to have a mind of its own. I know there is a leak, since water does come in, at least some times, when it rains. We tried redoing the flashing around the roof box, which seemed to be the logical place where water should be coming in. That seems to have reduced the leaking significantly. However, there is still a leak somewhere.This past weekend, while we were working on running electrical wires for the generator (more on that in a bit) we filled jugs with water from the well, and systematically worked our way out and south from the roof box. Logically, we should have been able to get the roof to leak, when we poured water in a location where the upper layers of the waterproofing are failing. We tried all afternoon and into the evening, and probably dumped 50 gallons or more over that time, onto where the leak should be. However, the roof didn't leak! I have lost track of what plan I am on, but the next plan is to put another layer of plastic down, and a tarp over that, to cover the area to the south of the roof box and about 20 feet wide. This isn't the ideal fix, but the ideal fix most likely would involve having to tear off the dirt, the drainage layer, and then put down a new waterproofing layer over the whole roof. I can't do that right now. Hopefully the additional plastic and tarp will prevent the water from being able to get to where the leak is, and therefore prevent it from getting in.

Last Thursday, the 23rd, we started running wires for the generator. We had fished string through the underground conduits previously, and now we used the string to pull a rope through. We tied the rope to each wire that we needed to run, and while dad fed wire into the one end, I pulled the rope and wire through. We got the wiring started and then continued with it on Saturday, while we were trying to make my roof leak. Mom helped on Saturday. She kept checking on whether the roof was leaking, and also relayed instructions between dad and I. I was out in the field, and dad was in the garage. With that, and the fact that we had the generator running, dad and I could not shout to one another to stop pulling wire, or to indicate that the wire was all the way through. We got the wires for the generator all run. There are 3 black wires to bring power in from the generator, and one green one for the ground. Then there are two gray cables going to the generator. One to carry power to the generator to run its battery charger for the starting battery. Then a second to connect to the starting circuit to tell the generator when to start and stop.

Power into the house

Last night, Matt came out with mom and dad, and we worked on getting the junction boxes put in place out in the field. The first junction box takes the wire and cables from the generator, and provides an enclosure on the entry point for the first underground conduit. We finished working using my work lights out in the field. So the picture was taken this morning.

We still have a couple more conduits to run over to the generator from the junction box. We are also going to put in some supports for the junction box rather than having it just be supported by the conduit. Hopefully tomorrow night we can get the other junction box installed.

The stone retaining walls didn't turn out quite the way I wanted them. They are too short, and steep. However, having them extended out further, would have added quite a bit of cost, and they were well more than had been budgeted already. It has been difficult to keep the dirt behind them from washing down the slopes. The weeds are now helping, but I wanted to lengthen the walls and reduce the slope. Adam had gotten me the rock that we thought we would use for this purpose. However, looking at what it was going to take to lay up all that rock safely, high enough to do what I wanted, I started to think that wasn't the way to go. I started looking for railroad ties, and I found that there was a greenhouse nearby that carried them. It wouldn't be too difficult to take Adam's trailer and go pick up a load of ties. I talked to Adam, and he was quite willing to help me build retaining wall extensions.

I started by looking at the existing walls to get an idea of how the extensions should be shaped and sized. The nice thing with using a material that is "relatively" easy to move and cut, and fairly inexpensive, is that it lends itself to having the plan get adjusted as you go. I had a rough sketch of what I thought I wanted to do, so I had a count of how many ties I thought we would need. I bought 24 to start with. My original estimate was that we would need 25 for both of the front walls. We have completed the first one, and have used 13 with some scraps left that may be used in the second wall.

Here is a picture of the wall on the east end of the house.

Before excavating and extending the wall.

We started last Friday. It rained multiple times during the day, and was actually chilly. However, we just kept going. Adam excavated with the Bobcat, and we used a shovel to clean off dirt on the blocks. Then we laid down a base of gravel. I had ordered a load of gravel, but the truck hadn't shown up by the time we were ready to get the base in, so Adam scraped some gravel off my driveway so we could keep working.

When the gravel truck showed up, they tried to back up the driveway. Adam had regraded it that morning, but you can't get a big truck up my driveway backwards. To top it off this driver had been the one to deliver my last load and knew they hadn't been able to go up backwards then. They said that when they were told the delivery was on my road, they were hoping it wasn't the place they remembered. Looks like my driveway is getting a reputation. Though they had difficulty turning around at the top, they managed. We put filter cloth down on the dirt, to keep most of it from getting into the gravel.

Using a level and the board we checked to see that the gravel was level before we set a railroad tie on it.

We started by going out about 12 feet from the end of the block wall, to see how it would work. We cut the ties and fit them in. Then we drilled holes down through them and put re-bar in to tie them together.

Starting the third coarse.

End of the day.

By the end of the day, we had a pretty good part of the extension done. But we had a couple changes to the layout. Looking at the ground, we decided we were going to need to take the wall out further. I also decided that we needed to take the wall up a few more coarses, and that I was going to want to tie the tallest part of the wall back into the hill behind it.

Today, we continued the wall. Adam started out by moving more dirt out of the way so we could lengthen it.

Digging out about another 7 feet.

We added on another set of 3 ties, and decided that wasn't enough, so we put on a 4th.

We put in the tie back to help keep the extension from leaning out. Then we put up another two coarses on the first part of the extension, and decided that looked pretty good. So then we finished putting gravel behind the extension, and Adam regraded the hill.

I am fairly pleased with how this one turned out. We should be able to do a little better with the rest, having learned some lessons from building this one. I am hoping that next week we can get started on another one of the extensions. Adam thinks that with the extensions in place, he will be able to reduce the slope on the south west berm, and be able to drive the Bobcat up it, and dump and compact dirt. Hopefully he will, that will save a lot of time over if I have to haul dirt over there in my wagon a couple hundred pounds at a time to bring the top of the berm back up to roof level.

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