Pouring Cement in the Back Basement

With yesterday’s prep work, we were in a good position to pour in the concrete for the back basement area. Bob showed up early in the morning, and after a quick breakfast, we all settled in to the basement.

Bob quickly outlined the tasks: Liz and I would be manning the cement mixer, as he would be evening out the cement on the ground. Once we started, we couldn’t stop – and were looking to get about 2 bags mixed every 10 minutes.

The original estimate was for about 4 hours of work, starting at noon.

A view of the back area, ready for the cement. Given the large area we had to fill, we decided to do two pours (one now, one later) and focused just on the back area.

Liz and Bob, setting a barrier for the cement.

Liz, manning the mixer. We eventually got into a pretty good rhythm. As Bob was working the cement on the ground, Liz was responsible for filling the mixer with water. And I was adding in cement as needed.

We got a lot of practice trying to get the cement to the right consistency. At the start, it was too dry – then a little too wet. Eventually though, we figured it out (mostly).

Liz would fill the mixer with 1.5 gallons of water. Then I’d dump in an 80 pound bag of cement. We’d mix that for a few seconds, and then I’d dump in another bag. That got mixed for about 4-5 minutes, and then poured into the ground. As Bob scooped the cement in to the hole, we repeated the process all over again.

Note: The process for a single bag would be more along the lines of:

– Add 3/4 gallon of water
– Add 1 bag of cement
– Mix
– Add water as necessary

Bob, tamping down the cement with a custom contraption he made with pieces of wood.

Bob showed me a nice method of dealing with the cement bags. Using an exacto knife, you cut down the middle, and fold the bag up into halves. There’s some spillage, but this results in an easier half bag (40 pounds) that’s much more manageable.

Here’s a valuable tip that I learned through experience: when splitting bags of concrete, close your mouth. You never know when you might accidentally flip a handful of concrete into your face, resulting in a mouthful of dust.

Liz, watching Bob work. This was during one of the in-between moments where we were waiting for the cement to finish mixing.

Here’s what it sounded like, and what it looked like.

Concrete ledge.

Concrete poured and smoothed.

During the early phases, I assumed that we would need to leap over the concrete to get back to the rest of the house. Bob put down some planks, and they allowed us to easily move across from the back basement to the main basement area.

It even held up the weight of the mixer, as we moved it back to the dry area (where we cleaned and washed it).

A larger view of the concrete area.

We had about 38 bags for the job, and ended up with seven leftover. Which is no big deal, as we’ve got another area to pour.

Overall, we finished way ahead of schedule (needing only about 2.5 hours, as opposed to the original 4). Bob did a lot of the ground work, moving and evening out the concrete – but we all were in a pretty good workflow: prepping, mixing, pouring, and repeating. It was very enjoyable, and fun for us to all be actively working together at the same time.

In addition to all the concrete work, we also moved out one of Bob’s sheet metal brakes. So the front basement area is looking much more open, and the back basement area is looking closer to being complete. The feeling of seeing all this concrete down on the ground is difficult to describe – it’s very exciting to have additive tasks, as opposed to demo work.

I know there’s more work to be done, but today felt like a milestone for us. Instead of ripping things out or tearing things apart, we’re building and adding to the house. As dirty and tired as we were, it felt (and feels) really good.

Prepping the Back Basement
Digging a Very Large Hole in the Basement
Digging in the Basement, Continued
Filling a Very Large Hole in the Basement

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