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 shop.
Money was pretty tight back then so I made good use out of recycled siding and some old doors
from a previous remodeling project. 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 the siding, attach big beams to the building and jack it up a few inches. Then remove the old floor, dig a trench footing, lay down wire mesh and rebar and pour on the concrete.
Storage stuff on the pool deck.
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 sec.
Working during the summers as a young framing carpenter, I could easily walk the top plate of a second floor 2×4 wall or walk down steep rafters. I could sink a 3 1/2” framing nail with three swings – tap, Bam, BAM!
I could carry 8 studs or 2 – 3/4” plywood sheets at a time. We stick framed multi pitched roofs and stood walls all day long and I loved every minute of it.
After work, I played sports like A league volleyball twice a week, dirt biking and wake boarding on weekends, cross country bicycle touring, street skating long distance and I worked out in the gym.
Like a tightly wound clock about to bust. Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the way. That was my motto.
To be that young again…. I smile when I think about it.
I’m still in good shape for a 56 yr. old, worn out 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.
Which brings me back to my story.
It turned out 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/ garden helper, Randy.
I also hired my neighbor, Jose, a concrete finisher and his cousins. ”Haven’t worked in a year!” , he told me.
So we talked price, shook hands and set the date.
The 12×12 shed foundation required 3.5 yards of concrete. But, I also wanted to pour a 6×12 slab on the side for the pool pump and equipment.
I had planned on pouring that slab later after the shed was completed, seeing how everything was outside sitting on the pool deck or all over inside my shop…. One project at a time, right?
We did a good job getting everything ready: plywood on the driveway, two wheel barrows to get it around back and all the concrete finishing tools were in place.
I’m no stranger to finishing concrete and I felt confident the four of us could handle it. Three 3 guys wheel barrowing and one man leveling and finishing. But, it’s been awhile since I’ve purchased concrete.
When I called to order it, I found out they have a minimum charge of 665.00 which is the cost of a 6.5 yard truck load. If I ordered 3.5 yards – same price…. What?
Plus, they would allow me 60 minutes to wheel barrow if I ordered 6.5 yards. If I ordered 3.5 yards, they would only allow me 25 minutes to wheel barrow the concrete … for the same price – 665.00.
PLUS, – There was an 80.00 extra charge every 15 minutes after the allowed time.
Are you kidding me? That’s 320.00 an hour!
So, I decided I’d buy all the concrete NOW. I’ll beat them at there own game.
I called the man, ”Bring on the concrete!.... We’re ready.”
My new 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. He was 45 minutes late.
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 6 loads and then put on my concrete boots and started leveling it. Randy kept wheel barrowing and it suddenly became obvious to both of us – 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 used a hoe to pull the concrete across the 12 ft. floor but – like a panic attack, I could tell I was in trouble.
I yelled at Randy to tell that guy to put more water in the mix, and he yells back, ”I did, but he won’t do it!”
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 but it was so dry, I could barely move it.
Randy dumped another load of concrete in to the growing pile and looked at me with these big wide eyes
and said, ”Man, this is kicking my butt!”
I said, ”We’re almost there! Five or six more loads 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 keep up with. I knew it didn’t have to be perfect – it’s just a shed, but it at least had to be flat.
We had worked through lunch trying to get the 2nd slab formed and ready at the last minute. Bad idea.
The sweat poured into my eyes and burned to the point where I could barely see but I didn’t stop until suddenly, 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 immediately 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? You look like shit!”
I was sinking faster than a big rig on Ice Truckers. NOOOooooooo…….!!!
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 surprisingly, felt pretty good.
We didn’t get home from the hospital until midnight. I can’t believe what this little 6 hour visit cost.
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 of the tools were cleaned and put away. The plywood was picked up off the driveway, the wheel barrows and concrete tools were washed and both 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 jokingly 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?
Should a got decent help, should a ate lunch and I definitely should a called that concrete guy’s boss.
”You’re no spring chicken.” my wife told me.
My favorite: ” Time to wake up an smell the coffee, you old fart.”
What ever the message, I know one thing – I have completed my last concrete job, thank you.
3130.00 6 hour hospital tour – ouch!
..240.00 extra wheel barrow time – %$#@&!
+250.00 12 bags leveling concrete – Doh!
3620.00 total additional costs – one more lesson paid for.
But, at least I got my 665.00 worth of concrete.
added Saw – A recent find from an antique store.
-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.