As you’ll learn in our about us section, our first huge project on our property will be to build a timber frame barn with an apartment as the loft. This is no small feat for first time homesteaders. Even the first task of the barn, pouring the footings and foundation, is a huge undertaking so it’s really in our best interest to get started with smaller concrete projects first.
A Short Video of Our Project!
Below if a short music video we put together of this project. If you enjoy it, we would appreciate if you would share this page on social media! It’s a small way of showing support for our blog!
Concrete Project Details: The Full Scoop!
We’ve been wanting to take on a concrete project for quite some time now. In fact, we bought our first few bags of Sakrete a few months ago! We also already had a cement mixer that we found from a man in a local yard sale Facebook group (learn all the ways we find tools for our homestead for great prices here).
This man had built his entire property from scratch as well with his wife and since his wife recently passed, he was selling all of his tools and home and is going to hit the road for Alaska where his children live. It was so touching to visit with him and get to see his property, and give the cement mixer a new home where it will be put to work!
First Concrete Project: A Door Step Slab
While we entertained building a root cellar or building steps to our new cedar hot tub , both of those projects seemed to be a bit involved. We weren’t yet ready to rent an excavator ($500+ for a weekend) so we decided to start with something more practical – a door step slab.
Since there is an extremely slim chance we will have the barn constructed and dried in by this winter, we assume we’ll be spending another winter in our travel trailer / cabin shelter. This is okay with us, but we do think we can make some small improvements to it to make it a little more comfortable. Also, there is no guarantee the barn will be dried in by next winter either – sometimes life happens, so it’s just safe not to make assumptions!
We thought that having a cement pad at the entrance of our cabin would be a great place to knock dirt off our boots and maybe even have a door mat. This should help keep the dirt level to a minimum inside the cabin.
Project Basics: It was pretty easy!
We have a lot to learn about concrete work, but this project was pretty easy.
First, we made some forms out of lumber we salvaged from a demolition last fall. Once again, we’re finding great ways to put scrap wood on the property to good use! We dug down a couple of inches, placed the form, leveled the form, and made it slightly higher towards the step so that when it rains, the water will run off away from the cabin.
We then filled up our concrete mixer with three bags of Sakrete. This was about the maximum amount of concrete we could mix at one time.
We added a bit of water (not sure if we added enough), plugged the machine into our generator, and let it go! I wanted to film this exciting moment and unfortunately, I learned the lesson of NOT standing close to the cement mixer when it turns on – especially with a camera! Somehow, Jesse was the one doing the yard work yet I was the one covered in concrete!
Once it was good and mixed we poured in the concrete. Then we leveled out the concrete. We then used a trowel to bring the fines to the top and push the aggregate down. We were able to accomplish this, but it seemed that there was a lot of aggregate in the Sakrete mix so our fines didn’t look so fine.
Once it set, we placed our hands in the mix for fun and memory’s sake. There was too much aggregate to attempt writing the year so we passed on that part, but on of our Instagram followers suggested that next time we put a penny with the current year in the concrete! What a great idea!
Today, the concrete has set quite nicely. I do think we need to keep it wet for a while so we have it covered with a piece of plywood and we also may wet it down with a hose a few times throughout the day.
Wrapping it Up: The Value in Small Projects
We again want to stress the importance of small projects (like this and even our saw horses)! On a daily basis we have folks on YouTube suggesting that we are wasting our time by not starting construction of our barn, but the truth that nobody wants to hear is that we flat out aren’t ready to build such a large structure quite yet.
People may think that you can quit life in the city and life in the cubicle and get started building a house but the truth is, doing so may be suicide. Jesse has construction experience but it’s minimal, and i have none, so every project that we do teaches us new things, builds our confidence, and slowly (or quickly?) gives us the skills we need to start construction of our home.
We are such concrete newbs… we’d love to hear your experience with concrete whether big or small projects! What are some things you’ve learned that you wouldn’t have otherwise known if you hadn’t had the chance to play with the stuff? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
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