New wood shop: That floor looks good enough to stand on! (pouring a concrete floor)

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CONCRETE DAYYYY!!!!! We sure do love pouring concrete around here. Concrete day means all the guys show up, bust their asses shoveling, skreeting, troweling, and finishing, and then we all get to the drinking, eating, drinking, chatting and drinking. Yeah! Lucky for our livers this pour ain’t our first rodeo. We’ve had to pour a lot of concrete out here. The pad for the wood boiler, the pad for the greenhouse, replacing drain pipes in the basement floor (that sucked), putting a new culvert pipe in the driveway, etc, etc, etc.  Today we’re converting an old ass pole barn into a wood shop.

Way back in the day, one of the previous owners of this farm built this little pole barn off the side of what is now our metal shop. It’s a pretty decent roof on cedar posts…and that’s about it. It does have some wood siding, but it doesn’t look like it was ever really painted or sealed right so its all warped and dry rotted to hell.  Seriously, a 5 year old on crutches could have kicked a hole in this thing. Also, judging by the soil in it, it defiantly housed some cattle for a good long time . Maybe it was a make-shift barn, we can only guess. At any rate, we’ve been using it as a place to store giant piles of stuff we wanna keep under a roof, but are to lazy to put where it should really go.  Admittedly, not the best use of the space.

But then see then, what had happened was…Dave, Nemo and Zach got to talking one day about how the “the material shed” or “shit pile” has got a real solid roof on it but that the rest of it is totally falling apart. They were all like…

“Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we just poured a floor in there and made it into a REAL building.” “Yeah man, that would be great” “The roof is already up, the hard part’s done.” “Yep, we would just have to pour the floor then slap up some walls.  Ohh yeah, walls are good” “Yes they are!” “Maybe it could be the wood shop we’ve been talking about.” “GREAT IDEA!!” “YEAH, 1-2-3-GO!”

That’s about how it went down. We’ve been talking about building some kind of wood shop for a long time now. Don’t get us wrong, we have a perfectly good shop that we use the hell out of on the daily. It’s almost big enough for Nemo to work in with wood building guitars, while Dave is also welding on scrap metal furniture or something else. However, having a metal shop/auto shop/wood shop in close quarters like that is a great way to catch piles of oily sawdust on fire…often.  Like, several times. Sometimes it was kinda scary.

During the off season/winter we build and refinish handmade furniture and musical instruments as part of our income. So having a well planned our place to work is very financially beneficial for us. As it sits now, we barely have enough room to work, much less to expand. We need to make a separate wood shop. So that’s what we did. However, this floor isn’t any ordinary concrete slab, this one’s a bit tricky. This is gonna take some planning.

Here's the inside of the old material shed. Just a dirt floor and some old rotting siding. However, the cedar posts and the roof are in excellent shape.
Here’s the inside of the old material shed. Just a dirt floor and some old rotting siding. However, the cedar posts and the roof are in excellent shape. In this picture, Dave and Nemo have dug about 6″-9″ of dirt out. Only another foot to go! Sheesh…

A lot goes into any concrete pour, especially a lot of that pesky planning stuff. All kinds of pesky planning. This job in particular was kinda unusual. First we had to remove about 18″ of dirt. Now, to the original builder’s credit, I’m sure when they built this little shed/barn back in the day, they probably didn’t put the rafters 6′ above the floor. But decades of cows pooping in it has raised the height of the floor VERY significantly. If we’re going to put down gravel, level it, and then pour 4″ of concrete on top of that, that means the ceiling rafters would be about 5’5″ feet above the floor on the low side. Nemo is 6’2″, Dave is 5’11″… so no dice. It’s time to dig!

Here's the tractor digging out the floor to make room for concrete.
Here’s the tractor digging out the floor to make room for concrete. A Bobcat would be really nice right about now.

After a few minutes of giving it a go with picks and shovels like morons, we decided to get in there with the tractor. This went MUCH faster! However, it was a tight squeeze. We were only able to dig out the center of the room. The sides still had to be dug by hand.

Our good buddy Greg of the Cassilly Crew gave us his two cents on how he’d pour this floor. Back when he and Dave worked at Cementland they did lots of crazy atypical concrete pours and Greg really knows his shit when it comes to working with concrete.  Basically his thought is that this wood shop floor pour will consist of three pours: 1) The back wall to keep water from entering the building from that side. 2) The floor to stand on. and 3) The side wall tying it all together and  in to the existing concrete foundation of the shop next to it. Sounds like a plan, Greg.

Here's the forms we built for the back wall. We also started to lay down the gravel bed, so we'll have a nice level slab.
Here’s the forms we built for the back wall. We put down the gravel bed, first so we’ll have a nice level spot. We also left rebar sticking out of the face and the end of the side wall to help connect in the next two pours.

The first of the three pours was the back wall. This wall needed to have rebar sticking out of the bottom to connect it in to the second pour, the floor. And it needed a 90 degree turn in it to connect it into the third pour, which is the side wall. Greg also had the good idea to pour that 90 degree transition from the back to side wall together as part of the back wall so the corner wouldn’t have a seam and would be strong.  Good thinking! Here’s some pictures of the forms and us pouring the concrete for the back wall.

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Here’s that back wall post-poured.
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Here’s that 90 degree turn in the forms. Dave and Nemo bent these with an oxy-acetylene torch.
In this picture, you can see the rebar that will tie the back wall into the floor and the side wall when they're poured next.
And here are those forms Pre- pour.  In this picture, you can see the rebar that will help tie this back wall into the floor and the side wall when they’re poured next.
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We poured this back wall bag by bag. 57 bags to be exact. About 1.2 yards of concrete. WORD TO THE WISE: you get more concrete for your dollar buying 60 pound bags instead of 80 pound bags. It also saves your back. ALWAYS, buy a few extra bags better to have a few bags left over, then to run out before your done. That totally blows!
Dave and Zach mixing concrete.
Dave and Zach mixing concrete.
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Thick and sloppy, just how we like it!

One pour down, two more to go! The best part of pouring concrete is popping the forms. Here’s a few more pictures of the back wall once we took off the wrapping paper.

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The last step is to put on the “cure and seal.” Cure and seal is a sweet product that basically coats concrete with a thin layer of plastic while its still drying allowing it to both “cure” and “seal” better. Genius name.

ONWARD to the floor pour!! This pour was the biggest of the three, so we’re not messing with mixing bags for this one. Hell no! A total of 5.75 yards of concrete. We ordered a truck for this one. We always get our concrete from Arnold Ready Mix, they’re great!  Also whenever possible, we always opt to get fiber reinforced concrete if it’s available. It’s a bad ass material.  It is basically just concrete with lots of little fiberglass hairs mixed into it. The hairs act as a reinforcement, strengthening the slab, thus no longer needing rebar. Ask anyone who has ever spent hours tying rebar with wire, this is an amazing development. The only thing that sucks about it is breaking it up if it ever needs to be torn out. It is a real bitch, that stuff is tough!

The floor slab was kind of a non-typical set up. The edge of the floor needed to be set off from where the side wall would eventually be. The reason being, if we poured the floor right up to the existing wall, we wouldn’t be able to skreet the concrete. For those of you who aren’t familiar with concrete lingo, skreeting it is basically like leveling off a cup of flour with a knife. Except the cup is the forms, the flour is the concrete, and the knife is a few 2X4’s. Got it? But since this slab is in an existing building this was more like leveling off the flour in a cup that’s in a Tupperware container. Unless we left some room on the sides the spatula would just hit the walls and we would never get it level and flat. Kinda hard to explain. A pictures worth a 1,000 words. Here’s pour #2, the floor.

Here's our form set off from the wall. We cut the Skreet bar at an angle so we could get a longer stroke.
Here’s our form set off from the wall. We cut the Skreet bar at an angle so we could get a longer stroke.
We scored the back wall so the floor would have something more to bite than the rebar
We scored the back wall so the floor would have something more to bite than just the rebar we also marked out where level was so we would know when to stop.
Concrete truck driver worke'n hard.
Concrete truck driver work’n hard.
Denny, Aaron, Nemo,and Dave pouring the floor.
Denny, Aaron, Nemo and Dave pouring the floor. in this pic you can see the area in the back that we have already skreeted and where were going.  We’re just working our way forward.

After the slab is skreeted and the truck leaves, you’re not finished yet. You still have to, uh…finish the slab. Put a finish on it. We decided to put on a slick finish instead of a brush finish like a sidewalk. A brush finish is is better for traction but a slick finish would be easier to sweep, and it is a wood shop.  We started off by hitting it with Big Red.  Big Red is a bull float that we borrowed from his Kurtness, Kurt of the Cassilly Crew. Big Red has poured a lot of concrete at Cementland with us back in the day. Thanks Kurt!  A bull float is a big trowel that is used to smooth a large flat area. Perfect! Here’s some pics of us putting a slick finish on the slab.

BIG RED!
BIG RED!
Dave hitting the slab with big red the bull float.
Dave hitting the slab with big red the bull float.
Denny and Aaron on knee boards with finishing trawls
Denny and Aaron on knee boards with finishing trowel
Nemo and Dave finished the side while Denny and Aaron hit the middle.
Nemo and Dave finished the sides while Denny and Aaron hit the middle.
look at that slick finish Robbie Dixon would be proud.
Look at that slick finish!

Now its time for pour #3, the side wall.  This pour needed to be keyed into the floor and the old foundation of the metal shop next door, as well as the back wall.  However we didn’t want to have to drill into our nice new slick floor to mount our forms, so Nemo came up with a clever way to brace the forms so no drilling was needed. Check out pour #3.

The forms for the back wall, braced off the cedars that hold up the roof. No need to drill into the floor to anchor them.
The forms for the side wall, braced off the cedars that hold up the roof. No need to drill into the floor to anchor them.
For this pour we moved the mixer as we went down the line.
For this pour we staged our bags of concrete and moved the mixer as we went down the wall.
Fill'er up!
This is the connection to the 90 degree angle on the back wall. You can also see the edge of the foundation of the metal shop that is about to be incased in concrete.  Fill’er up!
Leveling off the top
Leveling off the top

That’s the end of the final pour. It all turned out great.  Here’s some pics of the final product.

The floor all tied in to the back wall.
The floor all tied in to the back wall.
The side wall all tied in to the 90 degree section of the back wall.
The connection between the side wall and the 90 degree section of the back wall.
All's well that end's well.
The forms are popped off, and all’s well that end’s well.
The side wall also helped key in our railroad tie retaining wall. Bonus!
The side wall also helped key in our railroad tie retaining wall. Bonus!

Well, that’s how we went about pouring the wood shop floor. It came together pretty nicely. Only one last thing to do. Ever since Rob passed away, we always carve his initials into any concrete we pour at the farm, because if he were alive he would have definitely been there working with us.

A pour that Robby (RCD4) can be proud of.
A pour that Robby (RCD4) can be proud of.

2 Responses

  1. June 27, 2013

    That looks like soooo much work, but it was definitely worth it! It looks awesome and so professional! It’ll definitely be more useful to you guys now that there’s an actual floor. Great way to remember your friend by carving his initials in the concrete 🙂

    PS – I didn’t know you made instruments – how cool!

  2. cathy morrison
    June 27, 2013

    So much fun seeing the progress that has been made on the Workshop. Love it that Steve and I saw the “before”. Now, to see these cool pics chronicling the process and finished product. Love IT!!

    Cathy and Steve Morrison

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