Pouring the footings

I had about 10 minutes sleep last night and spent most of the night wondering if I heard the rest of the pit collapsing, or if the concrete pump would arrive, or will the pipe be long enough, or if the cement would turn up, or if enough people would arrive to help, or, well you get the idea!

At 5.40 am I’d had enough of worrying and got up to prepare for the 7 am arrival of the concrete pump.  I opened the site and laid out the necessary tools ready for them.  At 6.50 am the concrete pump arrived and two perky blokes hop out.  They have a look at the site and nod agreeably.  ‘You do have the 6 bags of cement for priming the pump don’t you?’ they ask me. So, I shot over to Wickes to get them while they set up the pump and lay out the pipes.

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While at Wickes I get a call from Cemex the concrete company asking if I’d be ready for the concrete at 7.45 am instead of 8.30 am.  No chance!  I said, we need it at 8.30 am as booked.  Just to confirm I checked with the pump guys and they agreed.

8.30 am on the dot and the pump is ready.  Minutes later the first cement truck arrives and backs up to the pump.  The belly of the cement lorry stops turning and reverses the other way forcing all the concrete to pour out and in to the yellow concrete pump lorry.

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Success!  Concrete is pouring out of the pipe and into the footings.  The pump is powerful and there is a serious kick on the pipe.  Unfortunately while watching the pipe tip we didn’t notice that the kick back was snaking the pipe backwards.  At that exact moment the pump operator decides to take a leisurely stroll to the front of the house.  Now the concrete is starting to pour down the back of the Claymaster and push it away from the sidewall.  Disaster!  Matt and I tried to move the pipe back to position but it must have weighed over 200 Kg as neither of us could move it.  By now the pipe had snaked back so far that the concrete was pouring on to the mud!  NO!

I caught a glimpse of the pump operator wandering around and screamed ‘OFF! Turn IT OFF!’  with hand signals.  He ran back to the pump and minute or two later it stopped and Matt and I collapsed in the wet mud and concrete.

OK, time to think fast!  Matt had a great idea and fetched as much steel as he could find.  The pump operator and I relocated the pipe back to where it should be and Matt hammered some steel pegs in to the ground to hold the pipe in place.  Given the strength of the pump we also decided to sit on the pipe to stop it moving too much.

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After that the trench filled nicely.  Each lorry load of 13 tonnes (6 m3) of concrete was discharged into the pit within 10 minutes or so.  After 2 lorry loads I thought we’d be done by 10 am!  Alas, though, no more lorries arrived.  After 45 minutes I called Cemex to find out what was going on.  I discovered that they only had 2 drivers today and both were reloading for the next load so we had no choice but to wait.  And so it was that from now on Cemex were only able to send about 1 lorry per hour.

After 6 lorry loads it was clear that we were getting very close to full.  We calculated the depth remaining and I estimated that we would need about another half a lorry load.  We decided to empty the 7th lorry before making that final call.

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Sure enough after the final load I measured the depth of the remaining gap and estimated that I’d need about 2.5 cubic metres of concrete.  The pump guys said there was about half a cubic metre in the pipes so I ordered just 2 cubic metres of concrete and crossed my fingers!

We repositioned the pipe and waited for the last bit of concrete to arrive.  When it finally arrived we filled the trench and quickly set about levelling the concrete as much as possible before breaking off for a late lunch while the pump team cleaned their equipment and packed up.

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After lunch all that was left was to vibrate the concrete with the petrol vibrators.  This was much more tiring than I had expected.  The vibrating pokers are incredibly heaving and fatigue set in pretty quickly.  Matt did an excellent job while Dad and I worked the other one.

Lastly we needed to tamp the concrete using the contractors rakes I’d purchased the night before.  We all worked our way around the entire site tamping the concrete and levelling the last little bits.

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All that remained was to clean the tools, pack them away, clean the road and return the hired pokers.  That’s enough for today, time for a well earned bath!

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