It’s not quite the Somme (though there are trenches, deep (fox)holes and generous lashings of mud) but the last few weeks have felt like a bit of a battle: lots of work and only turmoil and tears to show for it.
When last we spoke we’d completed cutting the basic shape of the foundations out of the hillside. This was followed by careful trimming of the lower cutting to ensure that the slab sits in space exactly where we told the council it would. A centimetre higher and we would be poking that much further through the sunlight access planes and our neighbours would be reaching for their lawyers (well, I know a least one lot who would).
The house needs to be anchored in bedrock so we were watching closely to see whether the cut would expose it or we’d need to dig deep to find it. The answer was a bit of both: at the back of the cut we were digging into very solid rock, but at the front we had to drill some whopping holes (450mm diameter by 2.6m deep for the deepest; times by pi r squared for a decent volume of concrete). A “key” – a trench dug about 300mm deeper than the rest of the slab runs round the outside of the slab; the digger couldn’t get close enough into the bank, so I took up my trusty old steel bar from farming days and spent a happy couple of evenings chipping away at Wellington greywacke, conditioning my soft office-worker hands, watching sparks fly as the light failed. Good times.
Steel arrived. Sand and aggregate was dumped on the drive. Timber was stacked in the garage and Tam came round with Stan and Ian: capable looking men with low-slung tool belts. In went the boxing, then the sand blinding, plastic, and finally the steel. Having done this myself for the garage I could only admire the fact that they knew the right way. And there’s a power of steel in there. Thanks to the earthquakes there has been a major escalation in engineering specifications. Where once there would have been D12 rebar, now there are double D16s. As Tam said: we’re building an airstrip, not a slab.
Today was the pour and my damn day job kept me away! How I miss the days when I could bring my postgrad students home and have them work on my projects. These days they’d want to be paid, refusing to accept this as a legitimate part of their research experience. Their loss.
By the time I got home shortly after midday, they were pumping in the last of the concrete and the placers were suggesting good furnishing options for my man cave (a giant tv and a fridge apparently). I had to wait until later for the girls to come and apply the finishing touches, scoring their names and credentials into the setting concrete. It’s all true of course: Betty rox; Pearl is pretty rad, but will they still be in a thousand years? Because that’s how long that slab is going to last.