Monthly Archives: November 2013

Day 149: Closing in

Should you be driving up Southgate Rd of a morning a glance skyward will present you with  this vision splendid:

Day149SouthgateRdOne might almost sympathise with the neighbours below who have been so worried that we’d loom dangerously over them.

While we’re steadily increasing the numbers of builders on site (up to 6 these days) I think we’re going to be stretching to get closed in by Christmas. In fact I know we’re not going to be fully closed in: in true Grand Designs fashion we’ll be held up by delayed window delivery. The windows for the lower floor are well on the way, but – something to do with Christmas,  glass suppliers and the merry merry month of January –  the next lot won’t be ready to install till February. Gah!

Well, I guess there had to be some set-back, and delayed windows seem to be de rigeur  among the architecturally designed, even though we aren’t sourcing them from Germany (nowhere more exotic than Lyall Bay in fact).



Lyall Bay: less exotic than it sounds

There’s still a chance that we can get the place sufficiently closed in to allow us to work on the interior over Christmas (my main goal; I’d hate for us just to loll about stuffing in ham and wearing paper hats), it all depends on how well we can keep the wet out, or the dry in, depending on your point of view.

At the moment  my main concern is to get as many trades through as possible without everyone getting in each other’s way. Tam and co have got all the wall framing sorted and most of the roof framing up so we can set the roofers about their work. There are three distinct roofs: a skillion roof each on the main house and the family room and a low, membrane roof over the laundry and porch that serves primarily to render the other two distinct. Thus the house has the appearance of two semi-connected boxes. Or, as Ben offered, slipping effortlessly into architect-speak, the big ship and the tugboat.

For those unfamiliar with the configuration of the house, this set of elevations might help:


Elevations complete with speech bubbles to help you identify the three roofs in question


Alternatively, here’s the 3D view; there’ll be more iron on the big roof though…

We will need to get the membrane roof on first as it will become inaccessible once the other roofs are on. Also, as Ian Biggs warned me many months ago, we’ll then need to get the soffits in over this roof before the longrun roofs go above them for the same reason: accessibility. The plan had been to get this membrane roof torched on today but the weather hasn’t been kind. We’ll have to wait till we get a dry spell. Daryl, the longrun roofer is all set up to come in on Monday next and put the other roofs on, though again, the weather might have something to say about that.

Because it’s going to be a bit of a gallop over December I’ve pushed to get the services started early, having my earthworks guys back last week to dig trenches for gas, power, water and sewer.


Gas trench with forlorn glasshouse frame


Services trench with a little bit saved for the weekend

I stopped the digger a few meters short of completing the task in order to keep intact the  existing sewer line that runs from the garage. This gave Tanea and me a worthy task over last weekend. As the sun beat down we worked away at the parched clay that has been very effectively compacted by the several concrete trucks. This required us to reacquaint ourselves with our old friend the steel bar. Even with this we struggled at times to break through the earth’s crusty crust, although it broke its way easily enough through the sewer pipe, the preservation of which was the entire point of all this hand digging in the first place.

Despite the trench now being half-full of water and the dug out mud making a swamp of all the area between the garage and the house (thanks, weather gods), the electrician came in today and ran the cable from garage to house and set up the meter box in the garage wall. Early next week it will be the turn of the plumber, and then, if we can cajole Telecom to have someone come and put the telephone line in (they seemed strangely reluctant when I spoke to them, as if the Christmas spirit was already slowing them down), we can close the trench up again and restore some order to the lawn area.

Since the roofing is being held up by the weather,  some of the builders have moved from the roof framing onto putting up the RAB (Rigid Air Barrier) board, a hard skin that goes directly onto the framing in the place of the more usual building paper. We need this up here because we’re identified as an Extra High Wind zone (you don’t say). It adds rigidity to the structure and minimises air movement through the wall, which in turn improves weather-tightness. This is satisfying to watch as it more clearly defines the spatial volumes of the house.

Tanea has, of course, been paying keen attention to the internal spaces and querying certain design details. Although we’re determined to minimise any amendments in order to limit additional cost, there are a couple we couldn’t resist. The most interesting is the discovery that there’s actually quite a nice view out to Cook Strait to be had from the family room through a small part of the western wall that extends beyond the laundry. We’re thinking of putting a window in there, though God knows we’d better get the order in soon if we want it ahead of Christmas 2014. Or maybe we could expedite it by ordering from Germany?

Other milestones since last time:

  • Completion of the wall framing
  • Scaffolding erected
  • All structural steel in place
  • Bought some lovely elm from an outfit called “Plyguy” (the boss signs himself “The Plyminister”) milled from a Masterton park
  • Ran elm through Brett’s thicknesser and wrecked the blades on an unidentified foreign steel object
  • Owe Brett lots of beer/money

Day 132: Spring growth

Let’s keep this short and sweet.

Floor down, frames start to go up. Skywards. On the upstairs platform you can really feel the up and out of the whole edifice. The frames are like a jigsaw puzzle, but Stan has the clues and has written them on the floor. A quick scroll through these photos will give you a sense of the stirring teamwork on site, particularly in our re-enactment of the Iwo Jima flag raising…



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Day 130: Yeah, nah

Well I know I was pumped for today (even if Sid wasn’t): the final concrete pour that would give us the slab for the family room and complete the various remaining stairs and paths that provide access around the house and into the garden. And the concrete, well it would be (pumped that is) first thing this fine Tuesday morning.


James, pumped. One more time with feeling James


Sid, freaked

The usual mad rush ensued to get all the boxing and steel reinforcing in place. I made myself useful by tying up all the remaining offcuts of D16 steel (the heavy grade stuff) into a mat for the last bit of path at the bottom corner of the house. So much steel did I use in such a small space I can imagine this little corner remaining long after the next earthquake has knocked the rest of the house into a cocked hat.


Little garden stairs and path, ready for concreting


Bigger, lower garden stairs, likewise ready (I love the way they do the boxing for these)

The usual suspects – concrete pumpers and placers (a real rogues gallery) – assembled on site around 7am. Their hawking and cussing joined the dawn chorus when they discovered that the concrete truck was going to be delayed, limping southwards in fits and starts. I tried to imagine a truck dragging along one gammy wheel, though in truth it turned out to be an overheating problem.

The boys seemed to be overheating a bit too, but then, it was a lovely spring morning and they would insist on wearing dark hoodies. When the truck finally arrived –


And you certainly couldn’t miss it

– Tam poked his nose into the gurning barrel. Not good enough. The delay had meant that the concrete was starting to go off. “Be ok with a bit of water?” suggested the driver. Yeah, nah: Tam was having none of it. He sent the truck away and told them to send a fresh batch (remind me never to offer him day old cakes). To do otherwise, he explained, was to risk compromising the strength of the slab, something we certainly didn’t want in a family room where all sorts of rumpus is likely to occur.

Eventually some satisfactory concrete did arrive and everyone relaxed into their tasks (although when this sort of thing is going on I always seem to scurry; I have so much to learn).


Hoody-wearing concrete placer (shot from above to get the best of the hoody)


All hands to the pump, the remote control, and the vibrating thing that helps the concrete settle


Screeding off the garden path


Stan contemplating what sort of wild rumpus the family room floor will be capable of enduring

It has been said that we favour a lot of concrete, and it’s true, we love a good firm path more than most. In this case it feels justified. We get so much damn weather up here that it seems necessary if we’re to get out into the garden at all. And besides (as Tanea keeps reassuring her self out loud) once we get some planting around it it’ll soften the edges a bit.

With the concrete workers busily concreting, Sef and Stan were free to get back onto the real job in hand: laying the ply floor on the top level, the last task before the frames can start to go up. Now this is exciting.


First few sheets

By the day’s end, we had about half the floor down. Tam put up a handrail to prevent people tumbling to their deaths (a good idea given that we’re surrounded by a good deal of concrete) just in time for the family to arrive and marvel.


Maybe we should just retain it as a viewing platform?


Proud parents

Only Sid seemed inoculated against our infectious enthusiasm. He registered a silent protest by leaving a trail of footprints right up the middle of the garden path and a trail of concrete over the carpet.


You can just make out the paw print dimples in the concrete. Extra Rugasol has been applied to try to dissolve them away