Bob Bestler

Son-in-law faces trials in makeover

I'm guessing that in the week it took to build the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" home on S.C. 90, workers faced dozens of dramatic moments.

Here's one of them, offered by my son-in-law, Tommy Owens, the area manager for S&W Concrete, a Wilmington, N.C.-based company.

Tommy got word about three months ago that S&W would be pouring the concrete foundation for the Renee Wilson residence.

"The bosses said we really wanted to do this," he told me last week. "Give them everything they need."

The timing of the concrete pour posed several challenges for S&W.

The concrete had to be placed, finished and set within three hours so framing could begin on schedule.

Normally, it takes at least 12 hours for concrete to set under the best conditions - and midnight in January did not offer ideal conditions.

"Normally," Tommy said, "heat and sunshine are the two main ingredients affecting how quickly concrete gains initial strength."

This time, various accelerator chemicals had to be added to the concrete to hasten drying.

The company ran several tests until it got the mix it wanted - "a mix more commonly used on a high-rise construction on Ocean Boulevard, not in a residential house slab," Tommy said.

S&W started loading its trucks at 10 p.m., eventually sending 11 truckloads from its Conway plant.

"Horry County offered a police escort, but the trucks wouldn't all be leaving at the same time," Tommy said. "We'd have needed 11 escorts."

Pouring began about 11 a.m. and everything went as planned until the rain started, about 2 a.m.

It came down in buckets until about 6 a.m.

The rain didn't necessarily slow the drying of the concrete slab foundation, but it kept a wet film on the slab and prevented framers from laying chalk lines needed for alignment.

Eventually, 15 donated box fans were turned on the concrete slab.

Framers were finally able to begin their work after a delay of about two-and-a-half hours.

Tommy spent about 17 hours at the site, from 4 p.m. Saturday until about 9 a.m. Sunday, making sure there was nothing more to do.

"It was exciting being in on something this big, a national television program," he said. "It was amazing seeing how fast the whole thing went together and the quality that went into it. I'm really glad we were a part of it."

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