Casa de Tortugas - Stories

The Foundation

The preparation for our foundation work had to begin a few weeks before we arrived. We are so thankful that our builders Tyson and Jaime worked with us to make sure everything was ready when we arrived.

Remember that all of our materials have to be brought out by boat and then carried by hand or in buckets from the dock up the stairs we installed last year. The cement bags (100lbs) were stored in the shed until needed to keep them dry. This is also where one of the workers stayed each night to keep watch over all the equipment and supplies.

We chose to go with concrete pillars in the hopes that they last as long as we do!

Emotions were high as we got out of the boat and made our way up the stairs, hand in hand, knowing this was "real" beginning to our forever home. Our job was to figure out the exact location of the house, getting the angle just right for the best view to enjoy our lifetime of sunrises and coffee.

The worksite was set up and ready to go. Tarps were put up to provide protection from the rain and sun. The rebar was all cut and connected together on site to create the cages that go inside the concrete. As well as huge piles of gravel and sand.

After reviewing plans, we got to work! Since our deck is 10 feet off the ground, we climbed a ladder to locate the best view. Once we checked the measurements, we made quick work of removing two trees that were in the way of the build. Unfortunately, we discovered that part of the gravel pile needed to be moved as well. Finally we staked out the location for all of the pillars and the outline of the house. Let the build begin!

The ground we are building on is a hard clay. To make the dig a little easier for the crew we purchased a power auger. This helped to break up the first few feet of dirt, but the vast majority of the dig was done using picks, shovels and a lot of muscle. We quickly realized that we were not going to be able to help with this project like we did with the sidewalk, so we were only on site a day or two each week.

The digging went on for a couple weeks. As one part of the team dug holes, another created the rebar cages and put them in place.

Besides the auger we purchased, the only power equipment on site was the cement mixer, a generator, a water pump, a table saw and some battery powered screw guns. The water pump was needed to empty the holes after nights when it rained. The concrete was mixed one load at a time with a bag of cement, a few buckets of sand, gravel and water. Then it was hauled to each hole one wheelbarrow at a time to make the footers. There are 29 footers in total, each taking several loads to fill. If you are wondering how they got the mixer up the hill, several guys had to pick it up and carry it up the stairs because it was too top heavy and the hill too steep to roll it up.

As the footers were filled, the material got used up quickly. Between each footer a series of slots were dug out to connect the bases of the pillars together with seismic beams. These beams tie the individual footers and pillars together, making the entire structure very strong. The footers didn't need to have boxes because the dirt was cut into the correct shape. But the seismic beams needed hand crafted boxes to go around the rebar where they passed over the footers to hold the concrete as it set. The sections between footers didn't need boxes.

On our final day of our 29 day visit, we got to see many of the pillars filled with concrete. The scope of this project really didn't sink in until we were here watching this all come together. To feel the difficulty of carrying only a few loads of material and water up to the built site. To see how our small drawing wasn't so small in the real world. To see the skill and effort our team puts into action to make our dream come true. This is yet another amazing experience we are thrilled to be a part of and have our hands on.

Right at the end of our visit we were able to realize just how gigantic these pillars really are as Tina stood next to one that was opened up for us so we could lay hands on the concrete.

It's a little sad that we couldn't stay to experience the entire build. After 29 days we aren't quite half way done with the foundation. But our builder Jaime and his amazing crew will keep working as we return back to the US to prepare for our move in a few months.

Two weeks after we left the site, the crew has all of the pillars completed and the boxes are being removed. The cross bars are starting to get wired into place.

It's day 42 of the build and the cross bars are getting boxed in. Soon they will be filled with concrete.

Day 57, October 25: The crew is hauling the cinder-blocks that are used to ring the slab. These blocks go in the ground on top of the seismic beams. This helps prevent the earth from shifting and greatly reduces the chance of slab cracks once the ground is back filled and leveled.

Day 112, December 20: After the pillars went up, there was a long pause to let things cure. Cinder blocks were then placed between the pillars to prevent ground shift. Dirt is being back filled between the cinder blocks, compacted and leveled in preperation for the concrete slab that is coming next.

Day 135, January 12: The foundation and slab are complete!

We encountered various delays along the way including bad weather and a national shutdown due to protests. But in the end the job got done and had the delays had no impact on our total timeline. The work was difficult but the crew did a fantastic job. We are so happy that we got to see the final bit of work being completed.


Update February 4, 2024: Recently Google updated the satellite images for our area and our foundation shows up! Here is a link to the satellite view but that may change so I took a screenshot too.

Google Maps Link

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