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We pour concrete

This article is part of a series on how we built our concrete hollow block fence or wall in the Philippines. More information can be found here: Perimeter Fence Philippines: Index

In this post, I’ll talk about how we blessed the concrete wall project and began pouring the perimeter fence footers even without the fence building permit in hand.

Schedule Change

A chicken on the floor of the tricycle.

We were waiting to hear from the architect that the city government had issued our fence permit. We needed the permit to pour concrete. To this point, the crew was doing everything they could do that didn’t need a permit but were starting to run out of things to keep themselves busy.

Anticipating the permit and pouring some of the column footers, we took a tricycle to a vendor down the road and bought a couple of old layer hens.

Why the chickens?

Well, there’s this thing called padugo that Filipinos do before starting a serious construction project. It involves sprinkling animal blood around the project.

The chicken plan was that the crew would do the blood blessing and then eat the chickens. Only, it didn’t work out that way.

Without the OK from the architect that the permit had gone through, we couldn’t pour concrete and the poor chickens were held for three days. Finally, the crew ate the old gals as the chickens were getting weak and the crew didn’t want them to suffer.

Padugo Denied

A pot of turkey adobo.

We were late to the site the day after the crew ate the chickens. When we arrived we learned that the city had approved the permit  and, though we didn’t have it in hand, the architect had called the foreman and given the crew permission to start pouring the concrete fence footers.

That meant the crew needed at least two more animals for the padugo ritual. Luckily our neighbor, Boy, raises turkeys. The crew purchased two young turkeys, did the blood blessing, and immediately started to mix and pour concrete. Without us!

I really wanted to see and photograph the Padugo ritual. All I was able to photograph was the aftermath: turkey adobo!

Mix It Up

pour concrete, photo 6Instead of using a one-bagger gas-powered mixer that’s sized to mix one 40-kilo bag of cement, the laborers mixed the concrete on the ground with shovels.

It’s backbreaking work. The guys we had during this first part of the wall project were animals who attacked the piles of sand, gravel, cement, and water with gusto. I admired their work ethic, for sure, but that doesn’t mean I was happy with how they were mixing my concrete!

The first thing that the laborers do is to scrape and sweep clean a flat piece of ground.

The guys then get old cement bags and fill them with sand. They dump the sand in a pile on the flat spot and make a well in the middle of it. Then they add gravel in the same way.

The number of bags of sand and gravel corresponds to the amount of concrete you’re making and the strength of the mix you’re shooting for.

Supposedly. No one really knows, though, because your “sackful” isn’t my “sackful”. The sand had gravel in it and the gravel had sand in it so that made the mixture amounts even more uncertain.

pour concrete, photo 7With the sand and gravel in place, the workers plop a bag of cement on top and split in half with a shovel. They remove one-half of the bag with the cement pretty much still in it and dump the other half into the well in the sand. The laborers then mix the sand and cement with shovels.

Later on in the project, we had some questions about whether the crew was using enough cement in these batches. A long-time worker told us one thing, the architect insisted on another and… Well, that’s a discussion for another blog entry. For now, I’ll just say that once the laborers mix the first half bag in, they mix in the other half.

pour concrete, photo 8

After the crew mixes the dry ingredients, they add water. I’m not sure how much water they used for any of the batches over the life of this project, except that “too much” is a good description.

You can see in the photo at left that this particular batch is lumpy gray soup.

Many times, one batch of concrete became two batches with half set aside. They worked that half and passed it to the masons in buckets.

Then they worked on the other half. It had begun to set up and harden, of course, and to make it workable the laborers would add even more water to it, chop it up, smash it around and mix it again.

Pour It Out

pour concrete, photo 9

The column footer.

This is what the deformed bar “bones” inside the columns look like attached to the footer mat.

The plans called for 4-inches of gravel in the bottom of each column hole. It’s clear from the photo that it isn’t 4-inches here.

The footer mat is being leveled out with some pieces of broken concrete taken from the demolition of our old pig sty. 

The columns were offset on the footer by design. The plans called for the footer concrete to be poured to 3cm all the way around. It was not. You can see in the photo how the pour slopes off, making a wedge shape. A lot of things are simply eyeballed here in the Philippines.

The foreman had another job site to monitor and left much of what passes for quality control up to a couple of long-time workers. We were repeatedly assured that everything was fine and had been done this way since the end of the last Ice Age.

After the laborers pour the footers and the concrete begins to set up a bit, one of the masons squats down in the hole and smooths off the top of the footer.

It seemed like it took forever to get to this point in this perimeter fence project but the project really took off when we began pouring the fence footers. For more information on our Philippines concrete hollow block fence project, check out the project index.

 

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3 Responses to We pour concrete

  1. Jason Cook February 13, 2015 at 5:26 PM #

    Thanks, honey ko Menchu.

  2. Jason Cook February 13, 2015 at 6:31 PM #

    Thanks, Mike. The last entry was the most Liked entry so far.

  3. Mike Beatty February 13, 2015 at 6:46 PM #

    Oh, yay! O:-)