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This was the hardest part of the entire project so far — it was my first attempt at working with cement (other than using a couple bags of ready mix to set fence poles). To make matters worse, We were being filmed by a crew from Doomsday Preppers so we were on an extreme time limit (basically we had one day to do all the cement work), I only had one helper (Thanks Dad), and my mixer kept breaking (note to all owners of a harbor freight mixer — use locktite)…
All in all, I am pleased with the outcome, and learned a lot about what to do, what not to do, and how I would do it if I ever do it again….
What we did up to this point was to build out dome and frame in the door. Now we have to prepare for the cement.
Our intent is to cover the dome using a concept called ferro-cement (FC). In ferro-cement you don’t have to use as much cement to cover a structure because you are using more structural wire — the ideal is chicken wire every ¼ inch or stucco mesh.
In most instances of using FC workers use a thick mix of Portland cement and sand 1/3 ratio, and work against each other to press a low slump (little water) mix against the wire.
This is very labor intensive, and since I just did not have time, I contacted Nolan Scheid from Mortar Sprayer.com http://www.mortarsprayer.com/ and got his air powered sprayer.
I will say, that in my ignorance I did most everything wrong at LEAST once, but his Sprayer enabled me to complete the job on time (well, that and my Dad’s labor)
I don’t want this article to sound like an advertisement for his sprayer, but I cannot express how vital it was to this process.
That being said, since my budget was too small to afford stucco mesh or enough chicken wire to wrap it 4 times to get the ¼ inch between wires, and I did not know about spider lath http://www.mortarsprayer.com/spiderlath/ at the time of my project, I was worried about the sprayed cement blowing through the wire. (I learned later that it depends a lot on your technique). So I allayed my father and my fears somewhat by adding some surplus billboard tarps I bought online http://www.billboardtarps.com/ these tarps are old vinyl billboards and are extremely thick and durable. I originally got these for a pond project, but I was too lazy to hand dig it. I think I got them for under $30.
My original plan was to wrap the dome in welded wire fencing, then the tarp, then the chicken wire, but on site, we began over thinking and changed to covering the frame with the tarp, then fencing, then the 1 inch poultry netting. The thought was that this would allow the cement to get the benefit of the extra iron in the fencing. This caused problems when we started spraying (more about that later.)
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