Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The BIG POUR, Day One

At first glance, the 6:30 a.m. scene is chaotic.  Today is the start of the “big pour” of concrete beams for the addition to our cabana.  The important issues to bear in mind that are imposed by our remote location:
  • No such thing as cement mixer trucks in this part of Belize.
  • No road to our place in Englishtown even if there were cement mixer trucks!
  • All sand (loose), gravel (loose), and cement (bagged) was delivered by truck to the Monkey River dock area, then transferred by boat to our place where it was off-loaded in wheelbarrows.
  • We have a small, gasoline-powered cement mixer.  Other than that, all work is manual.
Lots of action for 6:30A.M.

Organization transcends chaos - the production work is done by four teams working simultaneously. 

Team one feeding the mixer while team two waits for the next batch of concrete.  The water is in the black vat and is fed from our supply of captured rainwater.

Team one, the Mixer Team, feeds sand, gravel, cement, and water to the mixer and dumps the resulting concrete into the shovel box. 

Team two, the Shovel Team, shovels the concrete into 5 gallon buckets sitting in wheelbarrows.
Team two shoveling concrete into the buckets for team three as yet another batch of concrete is dumped into the box.
Team three, the Barrow Team, transports the filled buckets to the pour site and the empty buckets back to the Shovel Team. 

Team four, the Pour Team, lifts the buckets and pours the concrete into the beam forms.
Richard positioned on the scaffold to pass the buckets up to another team four member to pour the concrete.
The action is so fast, buckets (emptied!) were flying through the air.

Today is a perfect day for a large-scale pour like this.  It is cloudy and relatively cool.  This will keep the concrete from setting so quickly that it cracks and is also more comfortable for the teams.  The beams amount to a total 450 linear feet and are 10x10 inches in cross section.  The beam forms are made from 12x1 inch emery wood boards fashioned into a contiguous 3D matrix.  The beam forms are supported by sticks (the local terminology for saplings cut for single use) with a top brace.  The supports look careless and casual, but they are custom constructed on site and measured and shimmed so the resulting beam will be level.
The beam forms with the rebar skeleton and supported by "sticks".

Great care was taken in constructing and supporting the forms to have them level and matching the height of the beams of the original cabana that the addition ties into. 

Fishing line is used to monitor the height of the strap hangers and forms.
Inside the beam form is a structured quadruple rebar skeleton (also created manually) tied into a single unit for strength.  Hanging down into the beam forms at 3 foot intervals are steel “straps” that will be used to bolt the wood 4x4 inch beams to the concrete beams.
Straps positioned on hangers spaced at ~3 ft. intervals.  4x4 wooden beams will be bolted onto the straps.

At intervals, a fifth team, the Finish Team, comes along to make sure concrete completely fills the corners and that no voids exist around the steel straps hanging down into the concrete.  The Finish Team also smooths, flattens, and levels the surface so that the 4x4 wood beams will be supported at the correct height and orientation.
The rebar skeleton is tied together at each junction.

On this first day of the BIG POUR, about 60% of the work was completed.  Forty-two bags of cement were used.  The first part of the pour has 5 concrete “ends” where seams will be.  The ends are positioned over cement columns that were poured about 3 weeks ago and were left with rebar quads sticking up.  The horizontal rebar skeleton for the beams was tied into the exposed vertical rebar quads.  The 5 concrete “ends” were kept with an irregular surface going across the intersection of vertical and horizontal rebar skeletons so that the resulting seam is reinforced with lots of rebar.  The ends were kept wet overnight by packing them with used cement bags soaked in water.

The crew consists of Francisco and his 2 helpers from the village of Independence.  Francisco is the contractor we hired to mastermind the foundation of the addition.  Richard is our caretaker/righthand man.  He and his wife, Joy, live here on site in a cottage; they came over from Monkey River Village about 8 years ago.  Lloydie and Pasqual are caretakers from our 2 neighbors here in Englishtown and also hale originally from Monkey River Village.  In addition, we have some strapping young lads from Monkey River Village who worked tirelessly doing the heaviest work.  Dennis even joined in, rotating through the teams so the fellows could take a breather now and then.  By heritage, there is a mix of Central American Latinos, Belizean Creoles, Belizean Mayas, with Dennis as the token minority American gringo.  I heard Spanish, Creole, English, and maybe a little Kekchi Mayan spoken during the course of the day.

All this heavy work generates big appetites for the crew of 10.  Joy cooked a hearty lunch for them and I baked 3 ½ dozen southern biscuits (similar to scones), half with cheese and half with guava jam, for their afternoon break. 
First batch of southern biscuits for the hungry crew.

And so ends Day One of the BIG POUR.


  1. Hi Wilma,
    Have the piccies for this post gone walkabout? Nothing shows in Firefox and just blank rectangles in Opera.

    1. John - thanks for letting me know! I have reloaded them and hope they stay put this time. Cheers.

  2. Hi Wilma,
    Wow! Your big pour was huge by comparison with ours. Nice job on the rebar. That really looks substantial. Your process for getting the raw materials to your site is very similar to ours, even though we're in the 'big city.' We don't have mixer trucks, etc., unless they come up from Belize City. Everything is done either with small mixers, or by hand on the ground. We still do most things by hand and on the ground. You and Dennis have a good looking project.

    1. Thanks, Dave. We may have poured more concrete, but you have those great concrete block walls! Part of the fun of living, and building, in Belize is rising to meet the challenges. ;-)


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