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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


Concrete Acid Stain Slab

Gulf coast sunset over basement slab. Chalk line tool and tape.

It occurred to me that even though the slab is only the floor of the above ground basement, there might be some time when that room is used for a pool table, a party, craft workroom, etc... and I might enjoy having some sort of design or floor decoration.  I suppose it was just too much of a big blank canvas just waiting on some embellishment.

I bought a mason's chalk line and got out there and marked diagonal lines across the whole slab. The inexpensive chalk line tool is a spool of string with a wind up handle on the side. It has a case with a slide cover opening where you pour in the powdered blue chalk that comes with it. Shown is also a roll of blue painter's masking tape and a metal straight-edge ruler.

Measuring for stripes in concrete acid stain. Chalk lines for concrete floor design layout.

Popping a chalk line is a two person job. One person holds the end of the string while the other person pulls the wound up string in the chalk filled case across the distance to the point where you want your chalk line to end. The two of you hold tight to each end of the string right on the surface of the slab and one of you reaches out and lifts the tight string a few inches in the air and lets go of it so that when it pops against the slab, chalk dust flies off the string and leaves the long line across the concrete.  We first used a large draftsman's 30-60-90 degree triangle to make a pencil line off one edge of the slab to show us the angle we wanted our first chalk line to go. We decided to let the length of the triangle determine the width of the lines we marked off. Holding the small edge of the triangle on the first blue line, we then made a felt-tip marker dot at the tip of the end of the triangle. We did this in several places along our chalk line so that we could then hold our pulled-tight chalk string so that it lined up with the dots and popped it again to form the next line.

Pencil lines on basement slab Rain water puddles on basement slab.

What happened next, I didn't expect. My plan was to get up early the next day and start the concrete acid stain decorations. Unfortunately, at mid-day I was in a store in town and a downpour started... I knew this would wash off our blue chalk lines in no time so I rushed out the door and drove as fast as possible back home, hoping to beat the movement of the clouds. I got to the slab a few minutes before the rain reached us and had just enough time to quickly grab a pencil and start marking the lines with graphite pencil. Contrary to what concrete subcontractors have told me in the past, pencil lines do not wash off a bare concrete surface. If they weather away... I know from experience, it can take years.

I was having to work so fast to beat the rain that I kept a sharp kitchen knife in one hand to continuously shave off pencil wood to keep a point to draw with. Drawing a pencil line on concrete wears the tip down rapidly. I got soaked, but got enough of the lines traced to be able to connect-the-dots and recreate my lines the next day.

Summer storm clouds

Friday, August 10th - there was an overcast sky and what looked like storms out in the Gulf. This was a week when there were heat warnings all across the south, so the overcast sky helped keep the temp down and the stiff wind helped dry off the slab. But it was still plenty HOT !

Foam paint roller and concrete acid stain. Basement slab dring out in breeze.

I know that in an ideal world, I am suppose to let new concrete age and cure for a certain length of time before any concrete acid stain color is applied. I also knew that I did not have that time and that this is a basement floor after all... no big deal. Once the DAC-ART blocks get stacked around the perimeter of the slab, they will also react with the concrete acid stain and accept the permanent color. I wanted the residue from this design to be washed off the edges before any blocks were anywhere close by. This slab is about 10 days old I think, but it had been exposed to some good heavy rain during that time. I swept the water and pine needle debris off the concrete and the wind helped dry off the slab.

I used a small foam paint roller to apply an aqua blue color wavy stripe over my pencil lines. I tried to be cautious and not have any drips or spills, but I did have a few boo-boos. Concrete acid stain is a weak hydrochloric acid mix so be sure to wear plastic goggles when messing with it, and wear old clothes. I was working in intense heat, so my sweat kept dripping off my nose, chin and elbows while I worked leaning over. I thought it might be interesting to see if the chemical make-up of sweat combined with the actual stain product would result in any new color tones.

Small spill of concrete acid stain. Painting the year date on concrete.

An accidental spill, no big deal here. In the overall scheme of things it didn't make any difference.

I painted the year in a place that will later not show at all, but I figure it will help or amuse the archeologists when they dig up the ruins a few thousand years from now.

After the wavy lines were painted on using the Aged Copper color, I went back with Palmetto Green concrete acid stain in a small plastic squirt bottle and made scroll-ie lines freehand between the lines. I just made the designs up as I went along.

Test area before I began the design. Freehand scroll work on concrete

I did a small test in a spot that would be covered with a DAC-ART block later on.

My name in palmetto green concrete acid stain Finishing up the painted on acid stain design.

I added my own name amongst the scrolls and the house name.

When I was finally at the last spot I wrote "Last 1" instead of the usual flourish.

Concrete acid stain floor design.

The finished basement floor. I didn't bother to rinse it since I imagine that there will be numerous pop-up afternoon showers before any blocks get stacked around it. If I seal it with a clear acrylic sealer, I wont do that until the house is roofed and the concrete has had plenty of time to cure. I don't want any residual trapped moisture to cause bubbles in the seal finish.

Sept 5, 2007

The final footing (garage) finally got re-dug and inspected before another rain came and filled it with water again. Dan went to rent a sump pump and they guy told him that he'd sell him the thing for just about twice what the rental was, so he bought it for under $50. We will probably need it again since the above ground basement will be totally walled around and will collect rain until it is roofed. We pumped all the collected rain water out, messing about in the mud, digging little traps in the low spots for the pump to sit on a couple bricks.

The footing had to have the steel lifted out and all the mud that had run into it during rain removed. Dan had to get an engineer out here to do a soil compaction test (to suit the inspector). The big steel rebar was put back in place and it was re-inspected. The surveyors came back since the footing had gotten larger and a bit out of shape due to the rain and re-digging. We have to make sure of both height above the mean high tide line and the distance from our property line. Anyway - it finally got poured and that is good, so it can't fill with water again... little tip here, since no one can predict the rain, don't create a situation where you end up with your dug out spots filling with water that has no way to escape. On the coast, pop-up showers can happen at any time and often do every single summer afternoon for days in a row.

We have had a bit of a slowdown while we shopped for a crane, found one and waited while some minor repairs were made. Then came the matter of delivery and getting insurance on it. Seems it is a larger crane than Dan's usual insurance carrier wants to insure. I have made lots of phone calls, my usual insurance company, Ben Castleberry in Foley has and so has the agent at Ebert Agency in Foley. We are waiting to hear back from several people at the moment.

We looked all over the Internet and at the same time, Mike Rode got crane rental prices from several agencies. Buying one was the only thing that made sense. And, buying one that was close enough to go inspect and close enough that the delivery was reasonable was a big factor. We will want to sell this one at the end of this job, so all you potential DAC-ART clients out there reading this... remember to get in touch when you start crane or boom truck shopping. If you have a tall house, one can easily spend up to $75,000 on crane rental, so buying and selling at the end of the job is a huge, huge savings.

I sure do want to learn how to operate that crane. At least a little bit. We all talked about what to do if a hurricane really was headed this way... I told them that the little subdivision house across the street and down about a half mile came thru the last two big ones with only a couple missing shingles, so I would drive that crane over there on high ground and then put it to immediate use after the storm. I wouldn't haul it out of here. Everyone has debris and trees that need moving after a storm so it would be in the right place at the right time if we did get a storm during construction.

Yesterday, Mike our block stacker was here with some of his men. They were measuring and marking the blocks with a big fat magic marker on top where it will not be seen. Dan was here too and today Dan called and said that the crane will be delivered on Friday about mid-day. The seller, Willard Suggs or Coastal Truck and Equipment  is coming back down here mid-week to have eye surgery, then he will be back in Alexander City to have it shipped out. I plan to be here with my camera.