A Memoir On One Family’s Move To The American Redoubt- Part 3, by X. Liberal & China Doll

As the title indicates, my wife and I are outlining our family’s move to the American Redoubt. In part 2, we began with an overview of our finances/expenses of our move and property purchase and began detailing the build activities. Today, we are continuing with our log cabin construction process.

Concrete Pour

(We required one day for the concrete pour.) At this point, your first cement truck will arrive, with spinning bucket and all. Back them up to the corner that you want to start at, and have him extend the chute to boom over to line up between the footer forms. That’s your target for pouring the first batch of concrete. He’ll hit the lever and start pouring the concrete fast or slow depending on the mixture. The footer mix has more crushed stones embedded in the mix than you will have for your floor or wall pours and is for strength.

As he repositioned the truck after exhausting all the movement in the chute extensions, take your trawl and smooth out the concrete along the footer. It is imperative you do this, as the IFC blocks have to be attached to footer via foam cement and you want a smooth surface without obstructions to have a nice leveled wall when affixed.

Now you can back fill dirt in around the footer on both sides. However, on the inside of the footer, the backfill must be four inches lower to the tops of the footer boards due to crushed stone being inserted for the future floor pour.

Plumbing In Place Prior to Your Footer Pour

You also want to be sure that all your plumbing is in place prior to your footer pour. The PVC plumbing pipes should be secured under the footer due to evading frost. If this is a crawl space, then the recommended depth is four feet. Some examples of PVC pipes under the footer would be from your water cistern or well (usually two inches in diameter), basement/crawlspace floor drains, sump pump if utilized, any venting for solar panel batteries (usually two inches to vent the nitrogen buildup), and sewer if required by code (not recommended as the septic tank is peculiar in its placement with exact slope from crawlspace/basement wall into the septic tank).

Digging the Holes For Support Posts

(We required two days for digging holes for support posts.) Now that the footer is poured and hardened, crushed stone must be added over the entire crawlspace/basement floor. This strengthens the area, readying it for the floor’s concrete pour and also creates an adhesive for the concrete to be placed better than just pouring over dirt. You want to ensure that there is about four inches of stone in depth uniformly placed throughout the entire future floor area. For me, I needed to use a small digger, much like the picture shows, before adding the crushed stone as the floor. This is because I needed to remove some of the dirt inside the footer boards’ perimeter, ensuring an exacting four-inch depth.


There were posts to dig. As the picture connotes, I’ve spray painted large circles into the dirt floor. Once this was done, I used a Bobcat digger to create one-foot deep holes and two foot deep holes, which allowed me to add the #5 rebar to depth. The blueprints will give you all this information if you are unsure. However, essentially, when you pour your floor with concrete these one-foot and two-foot holes will fill up, creating nice pads for your future posts. Those posts are also on your blueprint and will support your log home structure in key areas that they already figure out for you. Essentially, the load bearing areas will now be supported properly.

Gravel Dumped

I called the gravel truck in as he dumped right in front of the footer. I didn’t want all that gravel going on top of the footer, so he dumped in one area and I dispersed it evenly throughout the floor to a depth of four inches.

Power Trawl

(It required one day to run the power trawl.) The next step was to secure the first row of the IFC styrofoam blocks all the way around the hardened footer. To do this, be sure the grooved portion is facing downwards and the tops (with the little locking dots) are facing upwards. Once you map the entire perimeter, re-square the blocks, and then use foam spray to secure them to the footer.

IFC Block

Here’s one note. It’s imperative that you square the entire IFC block structure right on your footer, as you will notice that the footer could be off a few inches (not likely if you did your measurements correctly), but the IFC blocks can not be off and must be exact as they are glued to the concrete footer base and must be square.


The last step, prior to calling the cement trucks in, is to place #4 rebar inside the IFC Styrofoam. There are plastic hooks already in place to hold the rabar snug about four inches down from the top of the unit. You want to be sure that you overlap the rebar with any seams from IFC block to IFC block, as it gives much strength at the seems.

Paid a Team of Masons, It’s an Art

I paid a team of masons to do the power trawl, as it really is an art. The day they arrived at just above sun-up, the cement trucks pulled onto the site the same time as the masons. These masons knew all the cement truck drivers. When one truck ran clean out of cement, they already had another on its way and pulling onto the property. As the trucks unloaded their cement, the masons used a long squidgy type thing (I know, I’m getting too technical) and pulled the cement towards them, leveling it with a laser.

Laser Beam

Their laser beam spun 360 degrees throughout the day, and they used a receiver attached to their metallic pounder, which beeped when the floor was level. That basement floor was spot on leveled and getting smoother as the day went on. The last truck finished off their cement load and the final touches smoothed out the last floor corner. Now, the floor was smooth, the postholes were filled with cement, and they were cleaning off their tools.


At this stage, it takes about two hours for the cement floor to dry in order for them to utilize their final step of placing a large fan onto the floor and smoothing it all out. If you recall at your home, the basement floor is really smooth and that is because of this final step of power-trawling.

Drilled Holes Into Footer

So in between this two-hour wait, they did something really nice that I didn’t even have to pay for. They drilled all the holes into the footer, down between the eight-inch gaps in the IFC block, about every four feet and placed freshly cut #4 rebar into those holes. The key was for them to stick out about two feet into the air. That would secure the wall to the footer much better, when poured.

IFC Block Building

(The IFC block building took five days.) The next day, your concrete floor is totally dry, and you can walk on it. Now comes a point in the project where your Lego building skills, from when you were a child, comes in handy. The IFC blocks should be stacked as high as the crawl space/basement floor requires. Remember that the IFC blocks are 18-inches in height, so if you’re required to have a three-foot high crawlspace, then you would stack two levels. If you have a nine-foot high basement, then you would stack six levels high. For an eight-foot high wall, you would need to cut one-foot off the top level. You can use a razor blade knife or even a sawzall.

Late At Night

I worked late at night each evening using my high beams on my truck. Remember that you are out in the wilderness and can hear coyotes howling off in the distance or even see predators cutting across your property, so have proper defense.

Snap the ICF Blocks Like Legos

You don’t need to glue subsequent courses, but just snap the ICF blocks in like those Legos building construction sets. It’s really that easy. Once the last course is on, you must level and square it again. If you can’t level the last course, then take your razorblade knife and shave off some of the Styrofoam. This will be minimal, if at all needed. If you taking inches off then you’ve made a huge mistake somewhere.

Re-Square the Entire Framing

Once the top course is snug and level, re-square the entire framing. You might need to slightly push or pull a wall here and there. It will give, and you should be exact.

Build the Scaffold Around Inside of the Wall

Next is building the scaffold around the inside of the wall. This helps support the wall, even in high winds, by screwing the metallic scaffold into styrofoam. The ICF blocks actually have durable plastic seams built right into the styrofoam and can hold up scaffold and the any number of people rated to stand on the scaffold.

Once the scaffold is completed, around the inside perimeter, the wall is sturdy enough to walk the scaffold. Be sure you place the last row of #4 rebar on the top course of the IFC, as you did every course up to this one. This will strengthen the wall horizontally.

Place Rebar Vertical

Now you want to place #4 rebar vertical right in the segments where your two-foot rebar was drilled into the footer. This will strengthen the wall vertically. You might want to tie the vertical rebar to the horizontal rebar with wire strips. Just cut a length off the wire roll and tie away.

Now you want to lay out your tools for the wall pour. Place the “L” shaped anchor bolts about every four feet, doubling them up at the corners, ready for placement after the pour the next day.

Pouring Walls

(It required about six hours for pouring walls.)

At this point, your IFC blocks are all constructed and leveled, and the scaffold is complete and tested to make certain it’s sturdy to walk around. Also, your scaffold legs are set and plumbed (that will change when the concrete is poured between the styrofoam), and the anchor bolts are laying out in the proper spot to insert into the poured concrete.

Cement and Pump Trucks

You will call in advance and line up both the series of cement trucks for the number of yards needed for your wall pour and also a pump truck. The later will pump cement between the eight-inch crevice into the styrofoam IFC blocks. Both must be on the site at the same time, because the cement truck will pour its cement into the pump truck, which then will pump the cement into the walls uniformly.

The pump truck driver will control the boom with a remote with the nozzle pointing downward around the perimeter of the wall as you walk around with the nozzle of the pump truck’s hose pointed in the correct direction. You might want to have another helper on hand to smooth the top of the walls, knocking all excess cement to the outside of the blocked walls (not inside onto the smooth floor you just poured a few days ago).

Add the Anchor Bolts

Once the wall is poured, add the anchor bolts. Again, anchor bolts should be placed with two in each corner, and about every four feet around the perimeter of the freshly poured wall. The anchor bolts will secure the pressure treated 2x8x16 sill plates to the tops of the concrete wall. The sill plate is eventually used to secure the subfloor, which will anchor the entire log home. Be sure the anchor bolts are in and spaced correctly before the wall is hardened.

Plumb the Walls Again

The next day, you must plumb the walls once again. Use the scaffold to screw in and out the walls utilizing an exact plumb line. It must be done the next day as the concrete is still not hardened entirely inside the IFC blocks, but it’s hard enough to not let the walls go back to its original “out of form” once tweaked.


(Putting in the subfloor required three days of effort.) After a few days have lapsed, to allow for the walls to harden, the subfloor lumber should be on site and at your command.

Do Not Backfill

Here’s a hint. Do not backfill until the subfloor has tied in the home, and it’s square.

Order Supplies From Lumber Yard, They Can Deliver

Usually you can order supplies from Home Depot or a lumber yard, and they can deliver with a fee. You would need a healthy supply of 2x10s for the floor joists, 4×8’ OSB wafer boards, glue for the subfloor, nails, any other supplies that would make your life easier.

Number of Floor Joists and Types of Nails/Glue in Notes of the Plan

You can count up the number of floor joists on your sub-floor blueprint. The architect should have placed the exact number along with type of nails/glue to secure the floor properly into the notes of the plan.

Before you start, use a long tape measure (the ones you roll up into a large disk), and square the sill plate upon the entire perimeter of the walls. You will find that when placing the sill plates (pressure treated 2x8sx16) onto the tops of the concrete walls, securing them in with anchor bolts, that it must be square for completion.

IFC Styrofoam Blocks Have Moved

Remember that the IFC styrofoam blocks have moved when the walls hardened over the past few days. So on one end of your sub plate may be two inches away from the corner. On the opposite end of the structure, the sub plate may be exact, butting to the corner as desired. Now your entire home is squared once the sub plates are bolted down onto the anchor bolts. (Nuts and washers come with the sale of the anchor bolts.)

Outside Joists

For my overall plan, because I’m holding up logs, it required double outside joists (two 2x10sx12) to support the rim. Once this was nailed and glued into place, lay out the floor joists from one end of the floor to the other, but don’t nail them yet. You can rest one end on the floor joists upon the outer wall and the other end upon the center beam (which you’ve set yesterday) until the entire floor area is covered with the correct number of joists.

These single 2x10s can overlap (by about a foot) on that center beam. This means, now you can just stand them up on end, and nail them in place at every 16-inch intervals. Nail the floor joist (2x10x12) to the outside first, butting the double plate you’ve just added, then on the center beam second, and again at every 16 inches apart. There’ll be overlap on the beam with the other joist protruding to the other side of the wall.

OSB Subfloor

Once the floor joists are nailed in place, then the OSB subfloor is next. You should have positioned the initial floor joists in such a position to catch the first piece of 4×8’ OSB to be exactly placed in the middle of one of the floor joists four feet out from the side wall. Now glue on top of the floor joists creating a little over a 4×8’ space. Place the OSB on top of the glue and nail it down. I used a nail gun and compressor that I picked up from a pawn shop and then sold it back when I was done. (It was cheaper than renting those items.) Do this for the remainder of the floor. Now it’s complete.

Tar Around the Styrofoam on Outside

The last thing is to tar around the styrofoam on the outside of the crawl space. This required special tar, which didn’t deteriorate (eat through) the foam over time. It was rolled on after opening the five-gallon buckets and given a thorough mixing. It took a day to dry thoroughly and encompassed top to bottom with an extra build up at the footer.

Tomorrow, I will begin telling about the logs.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

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  1. Did the author, X Liberal, have this construction knowledge & skills from his previous life in CA? Or did they have a general contractor guiding them thru the process? I ask, because this seems to go beyond what the average do-it-yourself’er can do.

    1. My thoughts exactly. I certainly wouldn’t attempt this for a first time. You are likely to cost yourself far more in mistakes than you will save from trying to DIY.

  2. Couple of observations: 1) no mention in the article about compaction of the substrate under the perimeter footings or the gravel beneath the slab itself. Utilize a non-organic substrate compacted with a vibratory compactor to a minimum of 95% of its’ maximum density. 2) vertical rebar should be tied into the footing prior to the footing pour, otherwise there is nothing (certainly not glue!) to resist the lateral pressure of the soil when backfilling of the foundation walls, and thereby pushing the block off the footings.

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