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

Construction of Concrete Steps, Theft, and Waterproofing

November 2008

Our beautiful Dac-Art concrete steps are now in and grouted. It is interesting how they were attached. Small holes were drilled thru the top of the steps into the holes where the short pieces of rebar are epoxied. The epoxy is squirted into the hole after the steps and in their exact spot. Jose and Juan have gotten them all grouted now.

The narrow steps leading down to the north.

The steps to the south are wider than the ones on the north. There has been a lot of cutting and grinding to get these precast concrete steps to align perfectly. The tolerance in the Building Inspector's book is very narrow. Only 1/4 inch difference can exist in the rise height of any of the steps.

The epoxy squirt gun has a long mixing nozzle on it, very clever.

The CMU blocks that the steps sit on have pieces of rebar inserted into holes drilled into them. The next step down also has a hole drilled into it to slide onto the exposed rebar. Additionally there is a tiny hole drilled in the step into which the epoxy gun is placed and epoxy is squirted into the hole to secure the rebar and the step. Our seams are then grouted. The guys sued some caulk in the more open seams before they grouted, lets hope they got enough grout in there to really stay put.

We are suppose to get some beautiful column caps from Dac-Art, but in the meantime, we have attached some sloped pieces of Dac-Art that were delivered to us by mistake I think :o) We needed something to stop the rain from entering the open ends of the columns and possibly traveling down into the grout lines of our blocks. If we get our final column caps, we set these pieces of concrete in a way that leaves us plenty of room to slide a reciprocating saw up into the grout and cut the temp. cap off. They could be used again and we could then attach our mobetta and fancier column caps. Meanwhile they look fine and low-key.

Getting Ripped Off

Well what you see above is the cut line or our A/C Freon lines. Some sonuvabitch cut our copper lines right after they were installed and stole then. They also cut and stole some rolled up romax wire up in the main bedroom where it was awaiting it's installation into the bedroom after the roof was on. It is really sickening that someone would do this to us. They broke the plastic copper line holders in the basement and seemed to have just taken the easy to grab stuff. It is usually an inside job when this happens. So now we have a higher level of security and a gun in the guesthouse.

Here is a tip: do not let anyone use plastic mounting holders, this fellow would have had a much harder time removing this pipe if the mounts had been METAL and screwed in well. It might have aroused some attention if he was yanking against metal mounts. Metal straps are a lot less expensive than getting ripped off.

Back to the Waterproofing Issues

We think that the biggest problem is in the grout lines. Try as I might to get the workers to be precise in their measurements and to use only certain products, over and over I found that they mixed grout that did not look at all like what had been used the day before, etc... I will add some close-ups of grout lines to show you what I mean. We went round-and-round discussing grout formulas in the early days and I thought we had it all figured out. But it is very obvious that what we got was not always what it should have been. And the worst part is that many places in the wall seem to have grout that lets water in easily. The only solutions is to use one of the high-tech sealers on the walls. It is not like it is a really hard thing to do, it is just extra expense and more work. I figure that it is gonna cost me at least an extra thousand dollars to do the sealant. This is no where near what it would cost to have the 'Pros" come do it and from what I hear, the results might not be as good.

Look how very different these bone-dry grout lines look. Pretty clear that different mixes were used. And see the little white dots in the grout....I told them over and over not to use ANY grout mix that had been exposed to moisture enough to form little hard deposits in the bag, but the Mexicans just did not seem to be able to understand what the big deal was. The other workers didn't seem to think it was important either. I only knew from past experience that if the grout mix had been exposed to humid air, then the BB size clumps formed and even if you pulverized them or removed them and mixed your grout, no matter how normal it looked, later on, you had problems. The big thing down here is that no one stocks the best grout mix, they know that they can't keep it for long at all before it is absorbing air moisture. The stuff weighs a ton and distributors further inland don't want to fool with shipping it a bag or two at a time, but that is best. And keeping it in a climate controlled place after delivery is imperative. I think Thoro DriJoint in white is best. Very hard to locate. And when you get it from out of town, you may open it and see clumps... if you REALLY want the best joints, drive to B'ham or where ever YOURSELF, put a bag or two in your back-seat (open one there to be sure it is not at all clumping) and bring it to the humid coast and store it in air conditioning. And do that for all your bags of grout mix.

These three photos were taken a couple weeks ago the day after we got 8.5 inches of rain in one long rainy day. The top two show the interior wall pretty much in the center of the house, where the stairs go from first floor to second. (We still have temp stairs). You can see that most of the water looks to have come thru the grout lines. But also, on the outside of the house, it looks pretty obvious that some Dac-Art blocks may be more absorbent than others but I have not seen moisture migrate thru a DacArt block. Plus, we don't want that gloomy Count of Monte Christo cell look after a rain, so sealing them is our best choice. And we sure don't want any moisture issues inside from grout lines.

We are suppose to get a rain on Friday of this week, so we will be able to see the effects of our Miracle 511 spray sealing, and where we missed, etc.

I sprayed from the ground as high as I could reach without a ladder and went all the way around the house. We have the man-lift for about one more week, so we have to be sure we get all our spraying done while we have it.

Here Dave is spraying the porch area on the first floor. It would really not be necessary to seal the columns, but it would look better, for consistency sake, when it rains.

We had Jose come out on the weekend to power wash the blocks, to remove loose sand and powdered dust from all the sawing of concrete that we did, but he kept getting the wand too close to the wall and it was removing the exterior color on the blocks. It was scaring me. I could see engraved wavy lines where he had passed the wand. We sent him on home and decided that since we had power washed the lower 4 or 5 rows of blocks ourselves, that was enough. Backsplash tends to deposit grime on the lower surfaces anyway. We had already had a good, strong rain against the upper blocks, so that is good enough for us. Didn't want to risk marring the face of the blocks.