August 2010 – A day to remember…..or maybe, to forget.
About 14 years ago, I built this 12×12 tool shed off the back of my woodworking shop. Money was pretty tight back then so I made good use out of recycled siding and some old doors from a job site. I wanted to pour a concrete slab but it just wasn’t in the budget.
So instead, I built the floor out of treated 4×4s and 3/4 plywood, sitting on concrete pads and gravel. This worked just fine for awhile but eventually it started to sink and became a hotel for chipmunks.
I knew installing a new concrete foundation now was going to be a big job…..
Pull everything out, cut off the bottom of siding, attach big beams to the building and jack it up 3 inches. Then remove the old floor, dig a new trench footing, lay down wire mesh and rebar, and make the call for the concrete. No problem.
Thinking back, I’ve always been proud of my physical abilities…..a natural born athlete.
In high school, I could bench press 300 lbs. and I ran the 100 yard dash in 9.8 seconds. As a young framing carpenter on the jobsite, I could easily walk on top of a second floor 2x4 wall or down steep rafters without a care. I could sink a 3" framing nail with two swings…tap BAM, tap BAM! I worked all day framing and then afterwards, played sports like A league volleyball twice a week, dirt biking and water skiing on weekends, cross country bicycle touring, Street skating, and working out. Like a tightly wound clock about to bust…....
Lead, Follow, Or get the Hell out of the way. was my motto. (from the marines)
To be that young again…......I smile when I think about it.
I’m still in good shape for a 53 year old beat up carpenter but I have to admit, I think the last time I tried to bench press 300 lbs. was about 5 years ago. My shoulder hurt for a week afterwards but I did it ….barely. Never wanted to try it again.
Which brings me back to my story,
It just happened to be the hottest week in August when we decided to take on this nasty, ball busting project. I say WE…... as in me and my faithful apprentice/ gardener, Randy. I also hired a neighbor who was a concrete finisher that said he and his cousin wanted to help with the project. ”..Haven’t worked in a year!”, he told me. So we agreed on a fair price and set the date.
The new foundation required about 3.5 yards of concrete. I also wanted to pour a 6×12 slab on the left for the pool pump and equipment which I planned on doing after the shed was completed, seeing how everything was outside, sitting on the pool deck or inside my shop. One project at a time, right?
We did a good job getting everything ready. We put plywood down on the driveway, we planned on using two wheel barrows to get it around back, and I had all my concrete finishing tools ready. I’m no stranger to concrete and felt confident we could handle it. 2 or 3 guys wheel barrowing, 1 guy leveling, and 1 guy as a helper.
It’s been awhile since I’ve purchased concrete and I quickly discovered they have a minimum charge of 665.00 which is the cost of a truck load – 6.5 yards. If I ordered 3.5 yards…..same price.
Plus, they would only allow me 25 minutes to wheel barrow the concrete if I ordered 3.5 yards… for 665.00. Or, they would allow me 60 minutes to wheel barrow if I ordered 6.5 yards….. for the same price, 665.00. There was an 80.00 extra charge every 15 minutes after the allowed time. Are you kidding me? That’s 320.00 an hour!
I know…...I’ll buy all the concrete…..NOW. I’ll beat them at there own game.
So I called the man….....”Bring on the concrete!.........We’re ready.”
My plan was to pour both slabs at the same time...One giant 12×18 concrete slab.
At 3:45 on a Friday, the massive cement truck arrived. I could hear the concrete slamming against the inside as it turned. Wham, Wham, Wham! It was so dry,......like a giant dough ball. I asked the driver to add water but he only put in about 5 gallons which helped but it was still so thick it wouldn’t slide down the chute.
I asked again if he could please add water. He said he couldn’t get it too wet because it would spill out of the wheel barrow and he couldn’t fill it as much. Then he mumbled something about the time and the fact it was Friday.
It was blistering hot….the air was dead calm and not a cloud in the sky.
I helped wheel barrow the first 10 loads and then put on my concrete boots and started leveling it. Randy kept wheel barrowing and it suddenly became obvious... Jose and his cousin were a no show.
We were on our own.
There was a large beam holding the shed up while we poured the floor which meant we couldn’t wheel barrow the concrete inside exactly where we wanted it. It was so thick, it wouldn’t flow in to place and started piling up at the door opening.
I had a concrete hoe to pull it across the 12 ft. floor in to place but I could tell…..like a panic attack…..I was in trouble.
I yelled at Randy to tell that guy to put more water in the mix, and he’s yelling back: ”I did! but he only puts in a little!” I quickly ran around to ask the guy to PLEASE put more water in and he says he did already.
What am I supposed to do? Call him a liar? Grab the hose and squirt him?
I looked at Randy and told him: ”We have to finish this or we are screwed.”
I grabbed a wheel barrow full and headed back to the hole from hell. I hosed it down to keep it from drying out and pulled and pulled with the hoe as best I could. I grabbed a trowel and tried to force it down the rest of the way but it was like pushing silly putty flat through flower.
Randy dumped another load of concrete in to the growing pile and looked at me with these big pie eyes and said: ”Man, this is kicking my butt!”
I said: ”We’re almost there… 5 or 6 more barrow full’s and we’ll have enough. Hang in there!”
I hammered at the concrete, refusing to yield to its hardening cancer which spread faster than my trusty trowel could handle. I knew it didn’t have to be perfect…it’s just a shed, but it at least had to be flat.
I had been drinking water all day but we worked through lunch trying to get the 2nd slab formed and ready at the last minute. The sweat poured into my eyes and burned to the point where I could barely see but I didn’t stop until I felt woozy and had to lie down…...just 2 minutes, I’ll be fine. I drank more water and suddenly…....lost it all.
My lips were tingly…. I saw stars and immediatley recognized the signs of dehydration. I’d been drinking water all day…...how could I be dehydrated? I drank more water and within minutes, threw that up too.
Randy comes over and looks at me and says: ”You OK? Dude!....You look terrible!”
I was going down faster than a big rig on Ice Truckers. NOOOOOOooooooo…....!!!
After throwing up the fourth time and my legs started shaking, my wife insisted on taking me to the emergency room. I refused at first but then the room started spinning and I decided maybe she was right.
Alas…...The mighty Titanic was neither.
After being given 3 bags of Saline intravenously, I was back to normal and felt surprisingly pretty good.
We didn’t get home from the hospital until midnight. I can’t believe what this little 4 hour visit cost. Thankfully, I had good insurance.
The next day, I went out to see the damage and discovered it wasn’t that bad and with a skim coat, I could level out the low spots and you would never know. Well.....I would after all that.
The best part was, all the tools were cleaned and put away. The plywood was picked up off the driveway, the wheel barrows and concrete tools were washed, and the shop and work truck were locked. It was 6 pm on a Friday when I left in a hurry, but Randy stayed late until the job was done. I was very impressed.
To show my appreciation, today we built a 4×4 sand box for his 5 yr. old niece out of the old treated 4×4s from the original floor and some 1×6 cedar I had in stock. We belt sanded the 4×4s and then routed all the edges. We made a smooth 1×6 cedar cap for a seat which really made it look nice.
Randy was very pleased with his handmade gift and couldn’t wait to get home to assemble it and fill it with sand... just in time for her birthday on Sunday.
We joke about it now and everyone has a good laugh at my expense. I don’t mind…a little.
When we work in the gardens or on the house, we call ourselves The Reed and Randy Show. We do nice work together and have fun…...and that’s all that matters to me.
So what’s the message? Shoulda got decent help…..shoulda ate lunch…..Shoulda called that guy’s boss…. ”You’re no spring chicken.” my wife told me.
My favorite: ” Wake up an smell the coffee….you old fart.”
Whatever the message, I know one thing..I have completed my last concrete job thank you.
3130.00 for the 6 hour hospital tour – ouch!
240.00 for extra wheel barrow time – %$#@&!
+250.00 for more leveling concrete – Doh!
3620.00 total additional costs – one more lesson paid for.
But….... at least I got my 665.00 worth of concrete.
Veteran tilesetter Tom Meehan mixes modern materials and time-tested techniques to install a durable floor in a... read more