Chronicles of the Design & Construction of Two Waterfront Hurricane Proof Dry Stack Modular Green Custom Homes
1. Villa Lagoon, Wilder Italian Style Home
2. Nasello Italian Style Home

Grout Mix Problems &
Concrete Acid Stain on Exterior Blocks for Frieze (Continued)

March 13, 2008

To start with the first page on the concrete acid stain of the frieze, go to March 3, 2008.

Grout Mix Problems

I was noticing that the white Portland cement that our guys were using to make up the grout mortar mix had lumps in it and I got alarmed. My experience in the past has been that if the Portland cement mix shows any signs of clumping together besides what they call packaging lumping or something, then no matter how well the stuff mixes up during application, you are gonna have problems down the road.

I called Dan about it, who in turn spoke to Mike and his guys. They had been storing the large bags of Portland cement in the tall plastic trash cans with molded lids that slid down over the top. But we have a ton of humidity in the air, and white Portland cement does not sell as quickly as the regular grey (that everyone is used to) so it tends to sit around a while in open sheds at the local concrete products places. We opened a brand new sack that we had and sure enough, it had hard clumps in it.

We called the supplier who immediately got involved, putting us in touch with the tech guys at his supplier, etc... I told our guys that we might have to have this stuff sent in from further inland and just get it on an as needed basis. Meanwhile, we got new sacks and Mike came up with a grey rubbermaid type container with a better fitting lid. We now keep it inside the guesthouse where it is climate controlled. Our grouters make up several five-gallon plastic pails of the dry mix that they keep closely lidded. Then when they need to, they get more mix from inside and mix up more of our recipe and fill the re-pails.


New and now kept indoors.

Now the first row of concrete acid stained blocks are being set. It is pretty exciting and we are all pleased at how they look. We, hopefully, have gotten winter out of the way and are having good days for both setting and painting the acid stain frieze.

The first two blocks set were the lintels over the windows on the top floor. You can see how New Stone Age Builders have been so precise in measuring that they can set these heavy, solid lintels and know that they will be perfectly placed when they add the adjacent hollow blocks.

Even tho the green concrete acid stain never turned green and I went back over it with black because time was running out. The effect is pretty good. The colors look soft and worn. Even though the base color of the concrete is pretty different and takes the stain differently, the overall effect is harmonious. I am glad that I started with this "back" wall as I learned a little that I can use to do a better job on the highly visible east wall.

It was fun to watch the cane lift and place the big decorated DAC-ART block. The crane is so awesome, the boom can reach all the way over and across the house, and Mike and Ryan can do really precision work.

This wall faces West and gets the late afternoon and sunset colors.

As you can see in this photo from afar, the acid stain decorated row of blocks doesn't really jump out at-cha. It is pretty subtle. We have lost most all of the ultra tall Italian looking pine trees due to the hurricanes. This lone tree stands in the undeveloped property next door. According to the tax appraisal office hearing guy that I met with a couple weeks ago, this property may be vacant for quite some time. Suits me.

I never dreamed that I would be able to build before I was looking at the back-side of a bunch of homes on small lots. Getting this house up first is a miracle and will be such a great barrier from building noise and dust.

Big solid lintels are now being moved into position to be lifted onto the porch columns to support the deck above.

Sat March 15, 2008

I got over to Villa Lagoon as soon as I woke up to finish painting the concrete acid stain onto the blocks that are the eastern course of the frieze. It was still very foggy and the blocks were very damp. Some had slight standing water. I took out some older towels and dried them as best I could. I had put the first coat on the day before. Today I went back and made adjustments on  some of the blocks where the colors did not take as planned. It is amazing the variation of the final results in the concrete blocks that were poured at all sorts of different times. We have been using some blocks and lintels that have been lying in the 'bone yard', in storage for various lengths of time. Some were probably poured for jobs where something in the plans changed and the block was no longer needed.

The colors of the concrete acid stain designs look more harsh in these photos that the finished product will be. Here they are still wet and have a lot of acid stain residue on them. Plus I had only just finished painting it on and the colors take some time to develop into the final hue.

Before the end of the afternoon, the block crew had all the painted concrete acid stain row stacked. It looks good. I will have to take another photo in the a.m. as the sun in the western sky, behind the house, makes the colors look dark when photoing the east wall. The decorative cornice will go directly on top of this permanently painted row.

Concrete cornice blocks

Cornice blocks lying face down on the ground in front of the wall they go on.

Italian style windows and over window ornament

Screw-ups: When Don of New Stone Age Builders stood up in the master bedroom area to show me where the location of the window sills would be if we place the windows were they are drawn on the plans, I realized for the first time that they would be ridiculously high. Don held his hand up to his chest to indicate how tall the window sills would be and I am a lot shorter than he is, so they'd be even higher on me. I am grateful to Don and Mike for noting this and bringing it up early on.

So we all got together real quick and took a look at the plans. I told them that they were right,  I wanted the windows lower but that also meant overall taller windows in 6 locations. It would not look good to just bring down the windows in the size planned. They need to start up high in line w/ the decorative panels. This is gonna add $ to the cost of the windows of course. But good that we caught this in time before the blocks were stacked.

But in the course of figuring this out, I noticed that I already had plain blocks in the row that goes under the decorative panels where some special under-panel things are suppose to go. Mike started counting courses, and sure enough, they had to remove a block where these pieces that we do not have yet are suppose to go.

Then when I was looking at the drawings of the house I noticed that the horizontal banding decorative effect that was suppose to go all the way around the garage/bedroom tower part was missing !!! I called Mike down out of the crane. He said he thought we had discussed it and decided not to do it, Un-Uah... I have no recollection of that decision as I have always felt strongly about wanting horizontal banding as it so very typical of just about all urban Italian architecture. Plus, otherwise it is one plain big ole tall block wall without it. Sooooo, Mike got on the phone with the DAC-ART plant and found out that they have plenty of poured decorative band material that we can drill out on the back to epoxy in short lengths of rod to epoxy to my walls.

It is true that i have been here on the job site most every day, but I just wasn't paying attention to those details. I barely noticed it in time. We had not yet back-filled the block that had to be removed so it was no biggie. But if we had, whew... it would have been a whole-nother story. Wonder what the correct spelling of "hole-nother" is ? Anyway, going forward, I and builder Dan told Mike to bring it to out attention if there are any notions of veering from the plans as drawn.


We have a new piece of rented equipment. Our grouters, Juan and Jose have been working on tall ladders but we are not higher than that is a safe method. Our man-lift is controllable from the bucket and is cool. They can work in it alone and control everything. In an effort to minimize the destruction of soil surface and sod, Mike has laid out some half sheets of under-layment plywood they he is putting under the tracks on the outer tires. I asked him if he could remove the tracks on this job. He said that while we could rive ok on the east side, the west side is very uneven and he is right. On that side the thing could easily become stuck. He told me of another job where the lift got stuck repeatedly and had to be pulled out by the crane.

Man lift rental equipment on the job Man lift adjustable arm track rental construction equipment

Grouting way up in the sky.

We got two loads of blocks this week. Here you see lintels and cornices being delivered from the DAC-ART facility in Theodore, AL. Our crane is able to unload these truck shipments rather quickly. It picks up a block and with the long boom, it just turns on the 360 degree swivel base to the area of the property that the block needs to be set down.

The second truck load today.

Second truck arrived right after the first. It was warm and sunny and the truck driver was shirtless. The truck brought our second load of blocks from the DAC-ART facility.  When the driver saw me with a camera, he started doing muscle-man poses. I didn't quite 'get' this one, where he folded his arms toward his chest, but what do I know about body building ! Nothing thankfully.

Roxie hangs our with us every day. I will miss her when construction finishes, I might have to get a dog the of my own then. Roxie has some blue paint on her forehead but doesn't seem bothered by it. She usually has a stick in her mouth just as our old dog 'Sam' did. You can see a bit of her stick on front of her. Just like Sam, Roxie either wants you to throw it for her to retrieve or she chomps on it. Roxie belongs to Don. Somehow her tail got chopped a bit short I think.