Easter Weekend…..Can You Wiggle Your Toe for Me Please.

Spring is definitely in the air my friends and it’s about time. My motivation level is on high and I think we’ll soon be back on track again. Being outside  in nice weather without having to put on a winter jacket is really uplifting! The birds are back and I’m glad you are, too.

Welcome to another addition of the Hobbit Hollow Construction Blog.

So, one of the great things about having a blog like this (Which I had never really anticipated, I might add) is I finally get to get back at my sons for all the abuse they send my way. They make it so easy. It’s a little like taking candy from a baby. Or maybe taking a Ring from a Hobbit? Hmmm…. Bad analogy. It’s interesting because everyone’s home this weekend for Easter and there’s a little vignette about each one of them. Except for my darling daughter Georgia.

Vignette? Yeah, see what happens when you start working on Central Park South. You start taking on the attributes of the community. I actually polished my work boots the other day! Just trying to fit in. It’s a very high falutin’ crowd over there.

Oh yes, my three sons. I’m gonna try and keep this brief, some of it is visual as well as hearing related. I’m talking voice inflection here people. It really does make a difference. That being said I’m really not so sure how this next number is going to work out. In a vignette sort of way.

There are two types of garage brooms in the world folks. Those with stabilizers and those without. Now stabilizers were made so that people who push brooms don’t break said broom rendering them useless. Unless, of course, you like to sweep things up on your hands and knees. That’s a bit different. I sent son number one (aka Ethan) over to the house a few weeks back to, “sweep up”  and somehow he managed to break the broom with a stabilizer on it. I’ve been in construction for going on 30 years and I’ve never seen that happen. I thought the Editor and I went over “Broom Usage for Teens” like seven or eight years ago. I guess that lesson didn’t sink in too well. I think Ethan’s response was something like, “They don’t make ’em like they used too.” Okay, right. How the heck do you break a broom handle off a stabilizer? Here’s a picture so you get the idea of what a stabilizer is.

Broom with mangled stabilizer. Father in Law's broom.
Broom with mangled stabilizer. Father in Law’s broom.

I had to use my Father in Laws broom to finish the sweep up. ( He’s not supposed to find out.) That’s always a double edged sword. He’s a guy who has a place for everything and everything has got to be in its place. So me and him are like diametrically opposite. I brought the broom back the other day. It’s definitely in the wrong place.  I just left it out in the open. It’s something his son Tony might do. (I’m thinking maybe I can divert the blame when he gets back from Arizona. Gotta have a plan people!)He called the other day and asked if everything was alright. I panicked thinking he already knew I had taken it. I mean it’s as if he felt there was a disturbance in the Force! Very strange.

So onto son numero dos. (Aka Jude.) Yes people, I started taking Spanish lessons on tape. It’s a long story but I’m really liking it. So I was working a bit Friday and Jude shows up. I told the boys they didn’t have to work but he was bored and I think he forgot to get the Long Islander an Easter basket so he needed some quick cash. Anyway, I needed someone to drill a handful of holes in the concrete and epoxy a few dowels in. So I set Jude up and he was working away at it. Now the procedure is drill the holes, blow out the dust with the blower, put the epoxy in and insert the rebar. Done.  It had rained though and there were a couple of spots where there was some slime. (Not going to get into the minor details at this time.) Suffice it to say that he wasn’t just blowing out dry concrete dust. There was a little bit of everything there. Now this is where the voice inflection part comes in. “Hey dad! The blower isn’t working anymore!” I’m saying to myself: That’s weird, how could he have broken the blower? I mean it’s just a hand pump with a straw attached to it. I go over to take a look. No air is coming out of the blower when you push on the handle. I look at the end of the straw. There’s about one inch of slime in the straw! I tap the straw with my finger and the slime falls out. Problem solved. Hmmm. One year of college almost complete?  Jeez. Observational instincts are definitely not what they should be. Sorry Casey. That’s all I’m gonna say. He’s your problem now.

Son number three. Terence. Now this one takes the cake. That’s not even really that accurate a statement. It’s more like this one takes the whole refrigerator. So Terence goes over to his friends house one night during the week. (He’s off the week prior to Easter). The next day he’s supposed to go to Kolhs to get shoes for Easter. He grew out of the ones he had last year. He comes downstairs to go shoe shopping with the Editor and proceeds to tell her that he really doesn’t need shoes, he needs sneakers. His sneakers are way too tight. His feet must have grown. So they go to Kohls and they proceed to spend an hour looking for shoes and sneakers for Terence. Terence goes to the sneaker aisle and pulls out a size 10. The Editor looks at him and says, “What are you doing? You’re a size twelve.” Of course Mr. Wise Old Owl says “No Mom these sneakers I’m wearing are a size ten!” The Editor says: “A ten! You haven’t worn a ten in years.”Just then Terence’s phone rings. It’s his friend. You know where this is going don’t you? “Terence I think you’re wearing my brother’s sneakers.”(Anybody out there ever wear shoes or sneakers that are two sizes too small?) Not only did I have to buy shoes for Big Foot but the Editor let him get the new sneakers as well. That my friends is a true story. Oh yeah, and Buzz Aldrin called and put the Kibosh on the invite to Boston to the science convention. Something about shoe size and gravity on the moon. Can you wiggle your toe for me?

Nobody ever said life was fair did they?

Well, at least I don’t have to carry the Ring to Mordor and throw it into the fires of Mount Doom….. So I’ve got that going for me.

Oh yeah the Hobbit House…..and I apologize for the vignettes. I just couldn’t let that go. Sorry I had to put you all through that. It really was just payback. But I digress.

Well it really was nice working this weekend over at Hobbit Hollow. I straightened up a bit and built a workbench so we could finish up the formwork for the slab pour. Having a good bench to work on definitely makes a difference so that was the first order of business.

Once I had the bench set up I went about building the formwork for the shower stalls on the bench. Hmmm. You’re wondering what I’m talking about right?  I thought so. Well so the new thing in bathrooms is the linear drain detail. The linear drain is a shower drain that runs the length of the drain wall at the low end of your shower stall. There is only one pitch so you can use large tiles on the shower floor if you want. It’s a very cool idea. Anyway, originally I was thinking that I would just pitch the  concrete right to the drain and be done with the base of the shower stalls in one fell swoop. I thought better of it though. Setting the drain and pitching it just right during a concrete pour isn’t as easy as it sounds. So what I’m going to do is hold the concrete low at the shower about an inch and a half and later on do a mortar mix to get everything just right after the linear drain is set. We’ll probably get into the linear drain next year but I have it all worked out.

So like I said I need to create a form that we will “hang.” When we pour we will start at the shower stalls and take care of these pitched areas first. The pitch is the usual quarter inch per foot. So the first thing I did was rip a couple of 2×4’s the length of the shower stall at that picth angle. Check it out.

Snap the pitch on the 2x4.
Snap the pitch on the 2×4.

Once this is done you nail up your frame and square it up. I did this by checking the diagonals to make sure they are the same length. If you secure one long side of the frame you just have to pull or push the corners until both are the same length. Once they are the same you just get out your handy dandy triangle and secure it.

Checking the diagonals on the shower frame.
Checking the diagonals on the shower frame.

In the upper right hand corner you can see the triangle I made to secure the frame once it was square. I put one in each corner.

Like I had mentioned earlier Jude showed up looking to make a few bucks so I got a few pictures of him doing his ting. No big ting!

Jude cutting rebar for the slab pour.
Jude cutting rebar for the slab pour.

He should have moved the gas can out of the way. (Editor’s note: Oh.My.God.) Once he did that I had him “hickey” the dowels on the knee walls into the slab. This helps tie everything together for the pour.

Jude bending the knee wall bars back into the slab.
Jude bending the knee wall bars back into the slab.

This is actually a dangerous job. When bars are bent way over and you have to straighten them and then re-bend them into a slab like this they can snap off. I had heard of a guy doing this on the edge of a building once. He was pushing out over the edge with the hickey tool and the bar snapped. He went over the edge too. Very serious work. I told this story to Jude. One of the bars did snap off on him as well. Like I said very dangerous and you wouldn’t think it was.

Here's the look we're going for.
Here’s the look we’re going for.

So hanging the form is quite the trick. Every situation is different and there are different limitations for every situation as well. I didn’t get a chance to get everything done but I did sort of a rough hanging of the form. I used what we call brick ties to set the form at the right height. Brick ties are used to tie brickwork to concrete. We’ll use them here to help us hang the form. Here’s what they look like.

Brick ties cut to the height of the formwork. Make sure you take the styrofoam stuffing out of them!
Brick ties cut to the height of the formwork. Make sure you take the styrofoam stuffing out of them!

Just use a pair of tin snips to cut them up with. So the initial installation was get the frame in basically the right spot and then nail the brick ties in the four corners to hold it at the correct elevation. Check it out.

Shower stall formwork rough installation complete.
Shower stall formwork rough installation complete.

Hopefully you get the idea.

One other thing before I go. Sally, I did take a couple of pictures of the house to help explain what is going on with the structure. I may have to work in the city next weekend and if I do I’ll go into a more detailed explanation.

Take care!



6 thoughts on “Easter Weekend…..Can You Wiggle Your Toe for Me Please.”

  1. I’ve seen those linear drains (well, pictures of them.) I’m thinking one might be a good idea running the length of the bathroom (or other water-intensive space.) If you had one in a mud room, for example, you could just hose down the floor instead of mopping. I appreciate that they do have a limit, but there have got to be a multitude of applications.

    Spring is absolutely springing around here – daffodils are done, day lilies on the way. The animals are grumbling because all they want is new grass and there isn’t enough of it yet. Pigs come back from the butcher this week — I like pigs much better once they are in the freezer.

    • Sally! How’s everything? Yes the linear drain thing is pretty interesting, I can’t wait to see how it all comes out. I have seen pictures of these drains running the entire wall length in the bathroom. No shower curtain or enclosure. I guess that’s the thing in really high end homes. Hobbit’s like a little privacy when they’re showering.

      It is nice to feel spring springing again. For the record I don’t know too much about pigs but I do like my bacon on the medium to well done side!


      PS: Was super busy last weekend but I’m going to try and get the pictures I took of the side walls into the next post. It will help explain the structure a bit better I think.

  2. Hi, Jim. I caught your little Star Wars reference, so I have to throw in an old one myself — Q. What do duct tape and the Force have in common? A. They both have a light side and a dark side and they hold the world together.

    I noticed on your shower form that some of the brick ties are inside the form, and some are outside. Any particular reason for that? Given that you are planning on setting a mortar bed in there, I would think inside the form would work better. Once the forms are stripped you could cut the ties flush with the concrete. Then the mortar bed would cover the ends completely. You’re the pro at this stuff, though, so I have to defer to you.


    • Hey Frank thanks for writing!

      As I was saying in the post there are a lot of different ways of doing this sort of thing. When we hang forms we usually put the brick tie on the high side. The outside in this case. This way when you pour the brick tie fills up with concrete and there is no cutting.(That’s why it’s important to take the styrofoam out of the brick tie.)

      I had to get somewhere the day I did this and was running out of time. It was just faster to nail it up the way I did. (I needed to get a picture of the form in place before I left is the real reason.) Getting the form in exactly the right place will take a while and a little imagination as well.

      We’ll see what I come up with next post.

      May the Force be with You!


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