The Concrete Status of Cement

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Look at what I found on the internet, compliments of the Concrete Contractors Association of Greater Chicago:

“Although the terms cement and concrete often are used interchangeably, cement is actually an ingredient of concrete. Concrete is basically a mixture of aggregates and paste. The aggregates are sand and gravel or crushed stone; the paste is water and portland cement. Concrete gets stronger as it gets older. Portland cement is not a brand name, but the generic term for the type of cement used in virtually all concrete, just as stainless is a type of steel and sterling a type of silver. Cement comprises from 10 to 15 percent of the concrete mix, by volume. Through a process called hydration, the cement and water harden and bind the aggregates into a rocklike mass. This hardening process continues for years meaning that concrete gets stronger as it gets older.

“So, there is no such thing as a cement sidewalk, or a cement mixer; the proper terms are concrete sidewalk and concrete mixer. For more information check out the Portland Cement Association.”

Don’t we all feel so much more informed?

On Wednesday I spent my lunch hour (plus) watching concrete in action as our footers were poured. I didn’t really expect to be out there very long, but it was an interesting process to watch, and Dusty took time to explain things while supervising the cement (really, concrete) truck to make sure it didn’t go dropping any wheels into the foundation excavation. Which it came very close to at one point, poised on a narrow elevated strip. The driver ended up opting to go into the neighboring (vacant) lot, which Dusty said is an advantage of being the first in the vicinity to build.

Dusty said the concrete crew was short-handed because a slab pour that morning had gone awry. I didn’t catch all of the problems, but they were compounded by an addition to the concrete of 2% accelerant, which sped the drying up so quickly that the slab was hardening as it was poured.

Our pour seemed to be going well, and while the temperature I think was around 38 degrees, it was quite pleasant standing in the sun watching young people do all the hard work.

Dusty asked, “Can you see your house?” And then he pointed out where an opening would be and explained the square bump-outs that will serve various load-bearing functions, some for walls, some for the roof. He showed me where the electrical line has been run. It turns out, that box is only leaning against the tree until it gets pressed into service along a Someday garage wall to run power tools.

The sewer pipes are situated in the kitchen, so that the line itself, which won’t go in until spring, won’t run under the garage or the front sidewalk. That way, if there’s ever a problem, concrete won’t have to be torn up.

The well also won’t go in until spring, and it will be east of the house. It has to be 50 feet away from the sewer. Frank from Williams Drilling has assured Dusty we’ll hit water anywhere along there. Owner Dottie Williams had previously anticipated our well will be around 50 feet deep.

We also won’t get our driveway until spring, but right now the entire north end of the lot (the parts without trees) looks like a parking lot. The entire lot is fairly well covered by tire tracks of varying sizes.

I also learned about the grass fire ignited by a single stray spark from a saw cutting rebar. The workers quickly stamped it out, and Dusty said he and the concrete supervisor dumped dirt and snow on the area and waited to make sure all hints of fire were suppressed.

This puts Lynn and I in quite the dilemma. All of us here in Gunnison County (probably the entire western half of the United States) need it to snow and snow and snow some more — but Lynn and I are hoping to avoid adverse weather conditions for house-building.

The footers got poured and covered before yesterday’s little skiff of snow. More of the white stuff is supposed to arrive today and tomorrow, and then I think Dusty’s supposed to get another nice week in which to pour stem walls. As long as the stem walls get in and covered, then it can snow all it wants, he said. He’s the one who’s got to work in it, so I guess if he’s all right with it, then Lynn and I can be too.

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In the upper left corner are bump-outs that will support our complicated double-truss system. In the middle, just to the right of where the guys are working, are the bump-outs that will go on either side of an alcove into the east “wing” (we use that term very loosely here) of the house. The photo angle is closest to the guest bedroom you might use if you come to visit. If it isn’t full of desks.

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