Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Art of Concrete Countertops...

So sorry for such a delay in updates. I am playing catch up and have lots of pictures to add to the blog, but for this post I will focus on the concrete counters... I have been traveling, but even so I've still managed to get quite a bit done on the cabin. I hope you enjoy! A big thank you to Matt Blocher, for coming out on several occasions to help me do the counters. I'm not totally sure why I decided to go with concrete countertops because I have had granite in my mind for several years, but when it came time to do it, concrete was my choice.

So, the first step was to take the measurements upstairs, then we began building the forms downstairs. We decided to pour the counters downstairs rather than in place so we could get them really smooth, but also because the wet sanding can be a mess.
Matt building the forms out of melamine board
Forms ready to go
Forms ready with foam board in place for sink holes

Matt getting ready to mix some concrete
Cheng's concrete mix. If it's good for Cheng, it's good for me

We built the forms out of melamine board which helps the counters to get really smooth. We also secured foam board in place to create cut outs for where the sinks would go.

Once the forms were ready, we mixed some concrete samples by hand in a wheel barrow to figure out which color to go with. I went with charcoal gray.

Now it's time to start mixing... My Harbor Freight concrete mixer has really come in handy!

From what I've gathered, Cheng is the man for concrete anything, so we went with his mix. I also went with his line of sealing products and got my hands on some of his books on the topic to get a good grasp on what to expect during the process.
Concrete poured and setting
Me vibrating the concrete to get the bubbles out

Once we mixed the concrete, we used a shovel to pour it into the forms. When poured into forms like this they are actually upside down, so what you see is the bottom of the counter.

After we poured them, I used an electric sander to vibrate each form. I had to keep vibrating and vibrating... While doing this you will see bubbles rise to the surface as it is getting all of the air pockets out of the mix and getting the bottom surface really smooth (which is actually the top).
Once the forms were smooth and no more bubbles, we pushed rebar and wire into the forms. Then let them set.

Once the forms had set for a week, I got a group of friends to come out and help me carry them outside so we could wet sand them. Quite a messy job. Carrying these babies is no small task! The biggest piece for the kitchen island weighs roughly 600 pounds! It took 6 men to move it. Some of the pieces that are not quite that heavy had holes cut out for the sinks, so they are heavy and delicate. But we did it. Thanks guys!!
Matt wet sanding the counters

Matt then did some wet sanding with a diamond pad to smooth them down. You pretty much have to keep it constantly wet as you do that.

So after they were wet sanded, we let them sit another week, then I gathered some friends again to help us carry them upstairs.... I was really curious how that was going to go and nervous about the 600 pound island!

But, I was very impressed when Bim Gill had the novel idea to use a dolly with some of the left over foam board to  pad the counters as we rolled them up the stairs... I wasn't sure if it would work, but it actually worked great! Thank you Bim, Janet, Jonathan, Tanner, Dan & Matt for your help. Below is a picture of the 600 pound island as we strapped it to the dolly to move it upstairs. That one was a beast!!
The awesome people that came out to help carry the counters
Up the stairs we go

All the guys setting them in place

Matt cutting off a knot so the counters will fit snug
All the guys helped roll them up the stairs one by one with the dolly, then we were able to set them in place. Matt had to do some cutting on the cypress knots so the counter could fit nice & snug. Watching him cut into that wood hurt. I think this cabin has become a part of my flesh. As he cut in that log, I was like, "ouch, ouch..."

The island in place!
We got the big island in first and after carrying that beast up the stairs, the rest were a breeze... For the most part.

Check out that concrete island... I love it. Below are just a few pictures to show the layout of the kitchen counters.

Looking good!

Sealing the counters

Once they were in place it was time to start the sealing process. I went with Cheng's sealing products. First I did two coats of a wash solution that seals the counters. Then I put a wax on them that I buffed out. That really makes them shine.

I'm loving the look of the concrete. It has a nice earthy and rustic feel to it. And apparently it ages over time and you kind of just have to go with it. Things will get spilled on it, water drops will leave marks, but from what I've heard, how that contributes to the evolution of it gives it character. Sounds good to me...

Where the kitchen sink will go

Bathroom counter sealed and ready
The counters are sealed and have a nice sheen to them

I'm very satisfied with the way the counters have turned out... Up next, I'll be catching you up on more photos of what I've been doing over the past few months. Trim, trim and more trim... Everything needs trim. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Truckin' Right Along...

I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting new pictures of the progress... I have gotten so much done since my last blog post but have had ladders & scaffolding & stuff everywhere! I decided I needed to do some cleaning up first before I took pictures. Well, I was finally able to do that (thank you Ted!) so here you go...
American Clay Earth Plaster
After the drywall was complete instead of just painting the walls, I decided to go with an earth clay plaster as my final finish by a company called "American Clay." I chose this for a number of reasons... I have seen a lot of pictures of homes with the earth clay & it gives the home such a cozy feel and adds a softness to the room. There are great health benefits to the plaster as well! It is a totally natural clay & the pigments used to color the clay are made from minerals in the earth. It is mildew & mold resistant and it helps to balance the humidity & temperature levels in the room. In dry environments the clay releases moisture & in humid environments it absorbs moisture. It is low maintenance and easily fixable if needed. It also absorbs the unhealthy positive ions given off by the electromagnetic radiation of computers & such, and converts them into healthy positive ions. People believe the good feeling you have at the beach is due to the positive ions that are given off in the sand when the ocean washes up on shore. It's the same effect, so it is believed the clay can actually help to increase a feeling of well-being. But besides all that, it looks really cool and of course I LOVE playing in mud, so it is definitely my finish of choice...
My dad & I applying the first coat of earth clay
I actually went to a class to learn how to apply the earth clay & I took my dad and Glean with me to learn as well. We actually put a coat of primer on the wall first with a special sand in it so the clay has something to adhere to. Below we are applying the first coat of clay.
First coat of clay going on
First coat of clay drying
My dad applying the second coat of clay
The second coat of clay went on a bit thicker
Second coat of clay finished & drying

After the second coat of clay was dry, we started the compression coat. For this I used a garden sprayer to spray the walls down with water, then used a plastic trowel to compress the wall. This actually compresses the two coats together for the final finish. It also keeps the wall from shedding. After we finished the earth clay, we got the interior doors put in. I need to figure out what color to stain them! I've added several pictures of the earth clay walls from different angles.
Earth Clay walls complete
Bathroom & closet doors in
Me in the loft
View of the gable wall from the loft

Glean did a great job grouting the tile in the shower 
Tile grouted & ready to be cleaned & sealed
We tiled the stain glass as well
Bathroom wall with stain glass almost finished!
Light shining through
Lance installing my cabinets
Lance Boswell is the owner of Tekton Cabinetry in Georgia. He did a fine job building the cabinets for the kitchen & bath. We decided to go with rustic cherry. I wanted something rustic looking but also elegant. I am very pleased with them. I found these really cool hand forged iron knobs & pulls for the cabinets too which look nice.

Kitchen cabinets in, ready for the countertops
Backside of the kitchen island
That's where the oven/cooktop will go
Sliding door cabinets built into the loft for extra storage
My plan is to put a rolling ladder along that beam
View of the kitchen from the living area
Nice view of the earth clay walls
Another view of the kitchen
Bathroom vanity in
The electrical is also almost completely finished & is coming along nicely. An electrician has come into my life that has a lot of experience with log homes. It's amazing what a difference that makes when having to get creative with the wiring through logs & exposed beams!
Loft lighting in

Recessed lighting in
The next really fun & exciting project that we started & have now finished is the rock work... I was told about a company out of Oneonta Alabama called Lamb Stone. They are the only place in Alabama you can buy REAL rock that has been mined, but cut like veneer so it is lighter & easier to work with. Pretty cool... I decided to go with the cottage mosaic pattern. Each rock weighs roughly 15 pounds.
I sure had fun picking that rock up with the truck & trailer! I got 3 1/2 pallets of rocks at 1200 lbs each + 10 bags of stonemix cement at 75 lbs... All went well, but I did run about 3 red lights hauling it to the cabin because the light kept turning yellow & I was afraid to stop! This was a project completed by me, my brother Jackson, & my concrete guy Billy. It's a good thing he helped, because I was pretty slow being it was my first rock job ever.

My brother Jackson posing for the camera
Kitchen island rock finished
I had to add this picture of my thumb, because I'm proud of it... I used to always say that Stewart & I have put blood sweat & tears into this cabin. The truth is it was Stewart's blood, our sweat & my tears that had gone into the cabin. Well now I can officially say that MY blood, sweat, tears, love & toil have gone into this cabin...
Blood, sweat & tears...
(Be careful when dealing with metal lath. It can act like a cheese grater to your fingers)
Rock work on the outside is complete
Close up of the cottage mosaic rock work
Rock wall complete AND the awesome door finished
Another project finally complete is the awesome cypress barbarian door that David Boswell built. What a fine job he did. David came back & we got the hinges painted & the rest of the lock & handle completed. Thank you David!! He's got amazing craftmanship...
David finishing up the details
How about that for a cool entrance door to a log cabin?
Exterior view of the entrance door

 Up next finishing the grout & tile in the shower, concrete countertops, finishing up the plumbing, etc.... Stay tuned!!

The cypress trees for the main house are still in the swamp because it is still too wet to get in & cut them.
Pray for God's perfect timing & provision for these trees to arrive at my land...