House Update

Friday 1 December 2000

We are starting early -- 6.30 am and the day is already quite warm. I finish spreading the sand in the carport, but it's too deep. Michael arrives at 7 am and helps shovel out the excess sand. When we lay out the polythene film, there's only half what is needed. We are also short a piece of trench mesh and a piece of F72. Michael gets on the phone to Mitre 10 2.5 and organises the missing materials. He used to work there. The materials arrive within the hour.

Neville arrives at 7.30 and he and Michael fix the misaligned hole while I barrow some stone into the end of one of the sullage trenches that needed more. The steel arrives just ahead of the concrete pump. While Michael, Neville and Thomas finish placing the polythene and reinforcement, I discuss the placement of the concrete pump. It takes over half an hour for the concrete pump to negotiate the turn into our driveway and get set up. By this time, the first concrete truck has arrived and I am hoping we don't get into waiting time for which I will have to pay. Michael and I disagree on the amount of concrete required. I have ordered 18 cubic metres which is three and a bit trucks. Michael says it will be five truckloads.

At last we are pumping concrete. The pipe can reach everywhere it's needed and we have two hours or so of frantic activity. Michael and Neville use the screed to level the surface of the concrete and I rake and shovel to provide extra where it's needed or remove the excess. Sometimes the concrete pump operator is doing this and I help Thomas hold up the edges of the polythene and hook the reinforcement up into the concrete. The first half of the slab, the concrete is placed a little thick which means lots of raking and shovelling. The operator gets the amount much more accurately for the second half and it eventually needs only an extra shovel-full. The pier holes are quickly filled and the pump operator smooths the concrete off while the concrete trucks fill the pump.

I fortunately remember that the power pole needs an extra dollop of concrete and Neville smooths that off. I smooth the concrete in the last few pier holes. A rain shower comes, delaying the finishing and Michael phones to order the last 2.5 cubic metres, half a metre less than my original estimate. The last five holes are filled using the chute on the back of the concrete truck. And I smooth them off.

Neville and Michael work frantically at the concrete with wooden trowels as the concrete is going off rapidly. The final finish is with a stiff bristled broom and Thomas and I use an edging tool to finish the edge of the slab. After Thomas has finished washing the tools we drink some beer. It's 1.30. The last 7 hours have flown by. 

The most important part of the house is done. 

Monday 4 December 2000

The House of Steel team gained a new member yesterday. Tony Dunshea loves steel and is going to fabricate the special trusses for the gutter and the "feet" that will attach the pipe to the concrete. He had several sensible suggestions for making construction easier, cheaper and stronger. He also suggested I try another steel merchant for quotes. I had omitted them from my previous round as they were further away and therefore transport costs would add to their price. Some of their prices were lower and some higher. I managed to negotiate them down on the higher to produce a $A500 cost saving. That will more than compensate for the extra distance.

Yesterday, I used the laser level to compare the height of the carport slab above the lowest pier. On the plan, this is 2.9 m and measured is 2.15 m. I had intended to make the carport walls 0.75 m (2' 6") higher to compensate, rather than put the concrete slab on fill. I don't want the slab to crack! When I looked at the implications of the extra height, I was aghast! There would be enough room for an extra room above the carport that is larger than our current kitchen/living area combined. In reality, our 1400 square foot home has become 2500 square feet! We decide to kill the matching carport and go with a simpler, less expensive design. We are expecting the steel to arrive early next week by which time the concrete will be cured.

Wednesday 6 December 2000

The structural steel came to $A2,925.45. We expect it to arrive mid to late next week.

There is now a pictures page. Be warned, they will take a while to download,

Monday 11 December 2000

I'm trying to find someone to deliver the steel with no success so far. The longest pieces are 12 m (about 40') and this requires a semi-trailer. The only local carrier with a semi seems reluctant to do the job even though it would be a back load for him and he usually returns from Hobart empty.

Late in the day Malcolm returns with the excavator and commences cleaning up the spoil lying around the site. I have Peter on grass cutting and I split more firewood.

Tuesday 12 December 2000

Still no joy on finding a carrier. We will have to get the steel cut into smaller lengths and make more welding.

The plumber and health inspector arrive and we have approval for Malcolm to fill in the septic and sullage trenches. The health inspector notices a small bird flitting around one of the piles of spoil and we determine that it has burrowed into it to make a nest. He thinks it's a 40 spotted pardalote, a moderately rare bird, but later investigation reveals it's a diamond bird, a close relative. The diamond bird is actually more useful as its diet includes insects and grubs that are pests in the garden. I drive a stake close to the nest to remind Malcolm not to disturb that soil. Late in the day, I set the camera up on a tripod and after a quarter of an hour get a shot as one of the parents leaves the nest.

After filling in the trenches, Malcolm puts sand where the water tank is to go and I level it out around 50 mm deep. The tank has holes through four of the eight ribs on top and I pull rope through them and tie off in the centre of the tank. I hooked that onto the excavator's arm and a short while later the tank is in its final position. The dark green of the tank against the dark green of the trees means it's not immediately noticed.

With the spoil out of the way, I use the laser level to determine the exact levels of the piers through the middle of the house where the gutter will run. We have 2.54 m from the top of the slab to the piers in the workshop area under the master bedroom. Here's the profile of how we intend to erect the house:

Profile through house

Wednesday 13 December 2000

Tony Dunshea has succeeded in bending the 50 mm square section pipe to the required profile for the gutter supports. The experts said it couldn't be done; the pipe would crumple. He has been duly commissioned to make them! Well done Tony!

There was intermittent rain on this cool day, so I spent most of it indoors.

Friday 15 December 2000

Purchased various tools for the job today: an impact drill to bore the holes in the concrete, a 7" circular saw, a power screwdriver and a bench grinder to sharpen tools. Tasmanian Power Tool Centre in Hobart gets full marks for service without servility. Unlike some other companies I have had to deal with recently, they didn't treat me like an idiot because of my ignorance.

Saturday 16 December 2000

The plumber phoned to say he was coming by to place the pipe to the sullage and septic trenches this morning instead of Tuesday. The client he expected to be available this morning wasn't there as arranged, for the third time!

Monday 18 December 2000

Today I ordered more trench cloth for the subsoil drainage around the carport and more 20 mm stone for putting in trenches. That brings the amount of stone to some 40 tonnes. Some will be left over from drains, but not a lot. I had enough cloth to make the drain at the entrance to the carport which was just as well; the steel arrived and the truck needed to reverse onto the carport. 

I spent most of the day gardening; digging sand and compost into the soil ready for the winter brassicas and a late sowing of carrots.

Tuesday 19 December 2000

A long hot day that started with the council inspector looking into my holes again. This time it was to be sure we had pipes leading from and to where they were supposed to go. Since they do, I spent the rest of this hot day putting stone over the pipes and then backfilling with soil. Peter came to do some brushcutting and lopping of trees around the cottage. Late in the day he helped Thomas put stone over the agricultural drainage pipe in the trench around the carport slab.

Ian Rudd from Certainteed rang to discuss the front and back door design. 

Ian was concerned that the sidelights would be too narrow or the door would have to be made too narrow. I asked what if we had sidelights on one side only and Ian said that would work just fine. We can't make the doors any wider as they are already the full width of the corridor.

Tony Dunshea rang to announce the availability of the plates that will attach the poles to the piers. He made them from mild steel, rather than galvanised. The weld would entail the removal of the galvanising and we will cold galv them afterward.

There is uncertainty over the availability of timber for the framing and floor joists. In a place devoted to mostly forest, this is bewildering. Having much of the state locked up as World Heritage, the greenies opposed a flitch mill that would have provided some saw timber from logs to be chipped. This makes life extra hard for the small sawmills. The greenies are now opposing tree plantations, though once upon a time they said that was what they wanted. The trees I am growing are far too young at 16 years to cut for sawlogs, though I am cutting some for firewood. I take a perverse delight in this as one of the leaders of the green movement is vehemently opposed to Bluegum (E. globulus) being cut for any reason. 

These trees, many of which I grew from seed, will be mature at 80 years, long after I am gone. Bluegum is considered a weed tree in many of the parts of the world where it is now grown since the oil content of the leaves make it a great a fire hazard.

If the worst comes to the worst, I can use steel for the wall framing. The floor joists will need to be timber though as we need to nail the tongue and groove flooring to them.

Thursday 21 December 2000

The stone is all placed in the trenches and Thomas has covered them over with soil. Late in the day, Tony brings some of the plates by and we arrange to commence the cutting and welding of steel next Thursday. Until then, it's holiday time.

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the Summer solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, with respect to the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all, and a successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2001, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other great cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Australia great (not to imply that Australia is necessarily greater than any other country), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.

Friday 22 December 2000

Now I know you don't make silly mistakes, but I seem to specialise in them. The threaded rod for attaching the plates to the concrete arrived very late in the day. And I then realised I had ordered the wrong size! The original engineering was to have used four 10 mm rods, but the amended specification was for two 16 mm rods. Of course the engineering shop where I purchased the rod and the tool shop where I purchased the 10 mm drill bit are closed for Christmas. Maybe I'll end up having a Christmas holiday after all!

How the poles are attached to the piers with threaded rod embedded in the concrete

Wednesday 27 December 2000

It has rained, poured and blown a gale for several days. The building site is a slippery, sticky mess. It would have been worse had we not filled all the trenches. But it does mean no work on the site until it dries out.

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