Monthly Archives: October 2013

Day 121: Long time, no blog

What is that: Red Indian? Anyway, it sometimes seems easier to dig trenches through rock and profile stairs than find time to write about it. Here’s what’s been happening in the intervening weeks.

When last we communicated the first level floor had gone down and the frames had been put into place. What followed was a long period of truing the frames up, securing them, then putting the next level floor joists in place. The builders take their time about this; if the frames aren’t properly square and the joists level then the irregularities amplify as we move up to the next floor. Interestingly they still use string to check most of their lines. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that every other day has seen winds in excess of 140 kmh. Don’t be surprised if some of the straight lines have a gentle curve in them….

Day121FrameTrueView from Betty’s room to the north. Lots of cross bracing timber holding everything square. We may want to keep that in even after the build’s finished. Just cos.

Day121BedroomSouthView from our bedroom looking south. We insist on less bracing so we can still enjoy the view during construction. After all: it’s our house.

To get the joists level the builders use packers of various dimensions. Where once you’d have a lad sawing bits of 4 x 2 off for this purpose, in these post-apprenticeship times the human element has been replaced by a box of pre-dimensioned, colour-coded plastic strips.


A pack o’ packers


You’ve got to admit, it make for a nice flat floor


Well, Betty thinks so anyway. Here she lays claim to the space above her room too…

As the floor joists go in you start to get a sense of the flow into the house from the lawn. You also get a pretty good idea of how well the current house (soon to be filled with renters) gets to see into our new house.


The view back. How far we’ve come only turns out to be about 40 metres.

Evidently word has got around that visitors to our site are put to work for extended periods. Visitors have become fewer and further between. They look at progress furtively then claim to have hairdresser appointments. And why not? Everyone needs their hair doing now and again, especially in this wind. I’m hoping, though, that once I finish the last of the digging through rock for the last slab people will return in droves. This last slab is for the tv/guest room that will open onto the deck. Its discrete size belies the resistance it put up. The further back into the lawn I dug the harder the rock got. It was back out with a Kango hammer for aptly named Labour weekend. There was considerable satisfaction once it was all trimmed and lovely.


Keys dug, the foundation of the slab sits ready for boxing

In the midst of all this Kango hammering we received a visit from a strange marsupial. Coincidence? I think not.


Don’t just hop about; pick up a hammer!

Feeling that I was less than sufficiently receptive to his bouncy goodness, Luka looked for a more appreciative audience. He found it in the two people who were  hitherto sitting watching me dig…

Day121TaneaAndBettyAt last: something worth watching


Day 101: What a difference a day makes



Day101NearlyFloorFloor of the front bedrooms almost thereDay101NogsNogging nogging noggingDay101CatSid tests out the new day bed.Day101FramesBlock work half completed, halted due to severe wind, frames onsite and ready to go up.Day101BlockworkDoneBlock work completed, site ready for a clean-upDay101SteelSteel goes up. This lot extending from Pearl’s room up to the dining roomDay101Steel2James surveying the steelworkDay101MudNot much to look at from the backDay101SkylineBut looking a bit more promising from the road belowDay101PanoramaA mash-up panorama of the lower floor showing the framework belted up in a day. It didn’t stop raining/hailing and there was a howling southerly all day. Betty made the boys a cake last night, so they must have felt obliged to stay and tough it out.Day101Betty'sCupboardBetty hiding in her cupboardDay101StudyPearl excited to discover the studyDay101SmallIsGoodTanea being reminded of the Zoolander model but smiling on the outside, James falling asleep standing upDay101James'sRoomThe basement combining water tank storage and ping pong room. Or as Betty has decided, the kid’s ‘hang out zone’. Just needs a telly and a couple of new beanbagsDay101Family

Day 100: the secret of great comedy

This one’s about timing.

Recognising that there’s a premium on time though, let’s begin with a rattle through (in pictures) of where we’ve been since the last post. Those with more time on their hands can then join me for a meditation on the temporal aspects of existence in general and building a house (did I mention we are?) in particular further down.

The short version (pictorial summary)


If there’s one born every minute, how come Wardsy was the only one to fall for the old “free gym pass” honeytrap?


We may never have tied the knot, but somehow having our names spraypainted on the side of a big old stack of frames seems to suggest a special level of commitment. Especially when the frames are 190mm thick.


Heather stood like this for hours. Right in the way. We had to work around her. It was less than helpful. Thanks Heather.

If we were better with  technology we’d make a stop-motion animation of the stack up top getting smaller and the stack down on the slab getting bigger. Pearl would probably set this to music and make the rising and falling stacks look like mixing desk LEDs bouncing up and down to the beat. Use your imagination. Or scroll quickly through the following pictures:


Day100StackSmaller Day100LowerStackSmall Day100LowerStackLarger



Heather stood like this for hours. Told us it was a real workout technique called “palleties”, a sub-genre of pilates. Tanea had to work around her. It was very inconvenient. Nice one Heather.


Despite having remained motionless for almost the entire time she was here Heather had managed to work up quite a sweat, and helped herself to our hard-earned beers. Cheers Heather.


With the blocks ready and waiting for them the blockies were straight into it on Monday morning. The wall flew up.


Meanwhile Tam and Stan cracked into nogging out the floor frame over the basement.


Stan is a keen advocate of “the colourful site”. “Builders are often surprisingly conservative” he tells me. “I try to liven things up a bit; you shouldn’t be frightened of colour. Brighten your palette and your heart will soar.” Cheers for the tip Stan.

“Had I the world enough and time”: the long-winded version

We’re 100 days in now and successfully (if not completely) “built out of the ground”. Building out of the ground is the bit that everyone warns you about: weeks pass and it feels like the only major thing to see is the money draining out of the bank account (“gouting” might be more apt).

We started on July the 1st with a general assumption that the house would be “sufficiently” built to move into in about 6 months time. Given that January is a non-working month in New Zealand, I felt it would be a good idea to shorten this by about a week. Home by Christmas indeed.

Ever the optimist, that conjured for me the mental image of a very large, colourfully wrapped box (measuring about 10m x 10m x 16m) with a big, festive bow,  perched at the end of the section with a tag on it saying: “To James and Family. Merry xmas 2013”. Despite my disapproval for the idiomatic contraction, this would be a present I think we would all unwrap with considerable gusto and unfeigned delight.

Now, over the half way mark and only concrete to show for ourselves, this is looking more and more, how you say, aspirational (in the political sense, i.e. not going to happen; a flagrant “upsell”). Then again, this was never going to be a turnkey project – us living in a swanky hotel until the builders came along one day to say, “the house is finished. We’ve allowed a couple of weeks for the landscaping to settle in and the paint to dry. Also we had to change out the blue-grey Harris Tweed wallcovering because they supplied one with the wrong ratio of grey to blue and it didn’t go with the bespoke art glass installation screen. But it’s all perfect now. Enjoy.”

Instead, we know that the project will be over (for the paid workers at least) when we run out of money. After that it’s up to us. My absolute requirement (= most fervent hope) is that work will be completed sufficiently for us to have our CCC (Code Compliance Certificate) signed off. For this we need all of the professionals involved (engineer, builder, subbies) to have signed their Producer Statements; this means there’s some stuff we can’t do ourselves to get to this stage. As a minimum then, the house needs the shell completed and weathertight, electrical and plumbing work completed, and lined.

There’s also pressure on getting in as soon as possible so we can start earning rent on the house we’re currently living in. We need this to help pay for the gigantic mortgage we’ve saddled ourselves with. Otherwise we end up in the unsustainable (there: I’ve wanted to get that buzzword in somewhere) position of paying off the interest on the mortgage out of the mortgage itself. I have good reason to believe (thanks for the tip, Greece and Spain) that this doesn’t end well.

So what I’m hoping is that we’ll be in a position to move in around Christmas even if we still have some things to finish off ourselves. What these “things” are will depend on how far along the guys have got us by then. They may include: decking, plastering, painting, wooden floor laying, architraving, landscaping, rudimentary joinery and bathroom fitout. (Actually, things like joinery and bathroom fitout are more dependent on cost than timing, a subject for another blog.)

Given that we will certainly have quite a bit to do over Christmas we’ve decided to stay in Wellington for the summer. I know: we’ll miss you too. But we’ll be sure to have the barbecue running (let’s face it, it may be our only means of cooking), so please, feel free to come for a visit. We’d love to have you. Just make sure you bring a paintbrush and some old clothes with you.