Information about design and construction of earth sheltered homes and a journal of my own progress

Gunite for the south wall


Posted on November 2, 2018 by

In this episode, the gunite crew from S.A.M. Gunite Pools comes back to shoot our south wall.They had just finished the roof on the Friday before, so the equipment and materials were already in place. The form work was lath covered rigid XPS insulation over steel stud framework. Easy-peasy…Easy to watch anyway.

The Video

The Forms

We started with a steel stud framework and attached 2 inches of XPS rigid insulation (Pink Board) to that.The window bucks were treated wood, cut to match the curve of the wall.We also had some 4 and 6 inch tube steel in the wall to take loads from the earth covered awing that we will add in a later step.Then we covered the XPS with lath to hold the shotcrete and we were ready to go.You can find more details and pics on the formwork here

This is a pretty easy and robust way to form a wall, and includes built-in continuous insulation already in place from day one.The steel studs also leave a 4 inch deep cavity that I expanded out with some furring strips on the inside so I could fit 5 inches of additional insulation.

The Tools

For more on the difference between gunite and shotcrete, please see this other comparison page.

The Bat’Lath was used a lot in this job to trim down the walls to the correct thickness before troweling.This did create a fair amount of waste, but I am sure it was worth it compared to trying to push around that much concrete.

Carlos using the Batleth on the wall…


A picture is worth a thousand words, but these pics also have captions, so bonus words!

Shooting a Gunite Roof


Posted on October 30, 2018 by

This one is the long awaited shooting of the gunite roof.As per usual, we’ll start with the time lapse video and end with a gallery.If I am up for it, I’ll post some lessons learned in between.

The video

Lessons Learned

Gunite vs Shotcrete: This topic was already covered, but I’ll link to it here.I’ll also add that it is all in the mix.If your gunite is just a basic sand and portland mix, it isn’t going to be as strong as a shotcrete mix with some fancy additives, heavier aggregate, etc.

Lath and Screen vs Hardboard:For the shotcrete, the lath and screen worked well.None of the shotcrete passed thru the screen because it uses a pea stone aggregate.However, the gunite used sand as the aggrigate and did pass thru the screen.The hardboard was great in some ways, but the weather really beat it up and gave it a rippled surface.

Shooting and finishing: Both are important.My shotcrete crew could have done just as good a job as the gunite crew, but they didn’t.For shooting, you want someone who understands what you need to get done and is just putting up what you need.If they are paid by the cubic yard, they may put up more than you need, etc.You definitly want enough finishing people to finish the surfaces adequately.If your crew is strong on shooting, but doesn’t have enough man power to finish, you will be sad.

Cleanup…If the crew treats cleanup as an afterthought, you will be sad.There will be mess.Make sure the crew has enough man power to deal with it.Beyond that, you probably need to keep your eyes open for things the busy crew may miss.For instance, I wish I had better covered some of the near by boulders to prevent them from getting gunite on them and I really wished I had better cleaned off the polished concrete ribs before the gunite set.That mistake cost me many many hours.

Do it yourself?My rule of thumb is that if a job takes tens of thousands of dollars worth of specialized equipment, you probably shouldn’t be doing it yourself.Add the experience, skill and stamina required and I would double down that you probably shouldn’t be doing your own gunite or shotcrete.That said, I do know of some who have and kudos to them.


Digging for Fresh Air


Posted on October 10, 2018 by

This is an in-between event where we dug in some ventilation ducts to transfer fresh air to the rooms that need it.

The Video


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