Monday, February 28, 2011

Bits n Pieces

This post is to clean up a few loose ends and catch up again. Before Dana and I changed over the bracing, I dug another hole. SW downpipe had a temporary drain that ran beside the slab. It was done in a hurry weeks ago but outflow was cutting into subsoil next to slab - not good. So, out came the pick and shovels and new pipe extended to underground ag-pipe drain.

dug another hole

filled it in before the water could

Forgot to include photos of our re-bracing efforts. Here ya go:

above head-banging height

oooooooh, curvy

like a wee forest really
I'd had an old mate on the case for some time regarding supply of strawbales. He comes from a long line of hay farmers and had a few people clued up on cutting and baling to our requirements (fully dry, no seed, well compacted). Unfortunately, we've had one of the wettest spring / summer periods on record and not just around our site. The entire Eastern side of Oz has been deluged constantly over the last few months. This picture (before cyclone Yasi in QLD and 800mm!!! in Darwin area) kind of sums it all up (apologies to original author - I don't know who you are but you're brilliant):

Anyway, the end result of this constant moisture has meant that almost all of the hay/straw crop this year is rubbish. OK for feeding to animals but not much good for building. Back on the phone for a while to try and work out where in this country we might find apt bales...even looking well interstate. Craig from Hunters (it sure pays to have good relations with the local ag shop!) put me onto a few farmers who might be able to help out. Most said sorry-all-wet-or-full-of-weeds but found one who was sitting on large pile from last season...YAY, we're saved. This guy John has even agreed to hold them for us while we get ready (read: finish internal blockwork, if not framing as well) to get them onsite. He's contemplating building hi own strawbale house, so I've offered to help him out with advice on that.

Me dang ol' leg has been killing me...this sciatica comes and goes but it is getting almost constant. When warmed up, I can keep going for ages but cooled down - ouch. Particularly bad is sitting in the I sat in the car for 2 hours to come back to Melbourne for a massage!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rockin on and falling apart.

So we got Steve all ready to go again and got on with rocking in along the western wall. Some errant project manager had forgotten (yet again) to pick up the electrical conduit and mount boxes for power and data points in my study and the lounge. Steve left gaps while I got my act together but mentioned something about poor workflow on the rocks. I could easily see what he meant. It's amazing how that (efficient work spaces) is something that I've long strived for in my various work environments over the years and here I was stymieing the building chi on my own place... Anyway, angst balloons released ("let it go, fella!"), we forged on.

note: holes in walls for eventual conduit etc :)

Had to head into the big smoke (Shepparton) next day to drop off template for roof flashings, so grabbed a couple of rolls of conduit, clips etc and also picked up a gas powered 12V camp shower. Washing in the dam while seizing up after a day of cement, lime and rock dust was getting ordinary and we looked forward to a hot wash. Got back to find the bloody box did NOT contain the required gas connection, even though I'd explicitly asked the salesman if it as all good to go...grrrrr... Lucky enough, Marijs turned up on the bike that night and offered to go get the hose for us next day. What a champ...

lounge walls have some nice rocks

looking sweet

lounge finished
end of lounge wall

Got a fair bit more done then poor old brickie broke again. Slipped on some rubble while hefting in a big rock and twanged a hammy. Bugger. I'd also been feeling the pinch a bit with some nasty sciatica kicking in so we slipped back a gear or two and hobbled on slowly like a couple of antiquarian invalids for a few days.
kitchen / bathroom plinth
keeping mud clear of steel pole


from outside

Heat and humidity were also taking their toll, so after work ginger beers at the Bogie shop sure went down well. Not going down well were sleepless nights for Steve - his new swag was turning out to be pretty crap. Various arrangements were tried but the final straw came when a storm hit and he awoke in 3" of water. R-n-r required for the rockie...

While Steve recuperated (and I took it slowly), I spent a day cleaning up around the work we'd done and then hired a 3000psi pressure washer for the next day to wash down the cement and rocks. 12 hours and 3 wire brushes later I was done. Hard work but F****N wow - these walls now look amazing. The colours in the various rocks vary far more greatly than I'd seen previously and all the little quartz chips sparkle like diamonds. Using a bright white light on them at night makes them come alive!

clean up before the wet mess

and how they do sparkle...

wet the poles down too to see how they might look

these photos really don't do justice - soooo impressive in the flesh


Dana suitably impressed... Not so impressed after several hours of screwing in internal diagonal bracing so that we could remove all of the external braces (workflow, remember!) but happy anyway. Weekend building relief after crappy workaday week sure seems sweet. I constantly appreciate the opportunity to hang out here. We can neither of us wait too long to get here together permanently.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Block Rockin Beats ... and how I broke the brickie.

Steve finally made his way over the mountain and we started by running some lines and setting up profiles to lay 140mm concrete blocks for the core of the wall. As we ran these lines it became apparent that the concretors had done nothing less than a superb job. Measurements over 20m were only a mm or two out, if that. More kudos to Col for his fine work. I then moved every single one of the blocks (all 4-5 tonnes of them!) off the pallets and arranged in stacks on the slab ready for laying. Next day we got about 1/2 of them laid but spent a fair bit of time faffing around the temporary bracing. Our old friend hindsight would have got bracing set up higher so that work on the base walls could progress with better flow. However, we overcame the hassle and removed only the worst offenders (soon, I'll be temporary bracing inside to allow removal of head-bashing external bracing).


first course

second course
what's for dessert?

Second day saw all blockwork completed. 110 PVC pipe has been embedded at strategic locations for low vents on the south wall. With the roof curving towards the North, this should provide pretty good natural ventilation without added fans. We were definitely never going to have aircon (and both despise it) but feeling the way the air now flows on the site, we could not have made a better call.

looking good...

...verrry good

As previous posts showed, we've been collecting rocks for a while. Conversations with Steve over XMAS break suggested that whatever we rock have at hand, it's a sure bet that we'll need to double it. Quote: "those walls will EAT rocks!". He took a good look at what we had laid out for cleaning and said "not bad but you'll definitely need twice that". How prophetic...

We'd specified Granitegard treatment system for termite protection around the building envelope. I'd had a rough estimate to do this some time back but when I contacted the installer, they no longer used this product (and apparently never had...not what I first heard but arguing the point would solve nothing here!). So, we started by laying a rock skin around the external face of the slab. This was to allow later installation of granite particles. Further investigation the next day then also revealed that a membrane is required below external cladding (rocks) before installing granite particles...I don't recall ever seeing that detail...mmmmm, either my memory is shot (quite possible) or someone is less than truthful (equally possible!). Bugger, rocks already laid and cement gone very hard. Did I say bugger? Well, I meant BUGGERPOOBUMCRAPetc. So, we did what all builders need to do often - make a quick design decision / reschedule and get on with it.

our neat clean slab gets messy

rear doorway

first row

pre-pointing on East wall

We then moved on to internal rockwork while the designer / project manager / site manager / (mis)leading hand / labourer (me!!!) got a straight answer on what to do with termite treatment. Council building inspector is only part time (the original F/T inspector that I'd spent so much time 'tuning up' to our approach had recently left) but I got a prompt response that 75+mm of exposed slab edge is all that is required by regulation (AS2870 if you're interested). Pheww...that's easily achieved, heaps cheaper than membranes and totally non-toxic compared to some available treatments.

I'd mentioned to Steve that we had a couple of collections of nice big rocks that we a bit beyond my weight limit. On the way up to the shed for lunch, we stopped off at one and the response was "fark me, there's some huge great yonnies that would fit in just perfect and fill up massive spaces that would otherwise need 100s of little rocks." Quick revision to the day plan followed and we hitched up the trailer to go collecting the big fellas. We lifted a few in together but Steve is pretty heavily muscled and started picking up the bigguns on his own. Deep breath, loud grunt and 100-120kg yonnies were in the trailer. Pretty awesome to watch...

poor little trailer under enormous load

no way I could have lifted these!

Fortunately, we had only just started on internal walls, so I chose a couple of nice nuggets to go into Dana's study. Steve mudded these in as I pointed up the first section. Standing back to check on the new style big rocks I was more than impressed - this wall is gunna look fantastic.

corner of Dana's study

ditto...with vent

rocks yet to be eaten up by the wall
230mm thick rocks n mud n rubble

Several days of rocking out, mudding up and pointing off saw us up to the SW corner (my study). Dana was now up for the weekend and was suitably impressed.

study walls

SW corner (my sudy)
It was now getting pretty hot and, ironically after the previous 6 months, we now prayed for rain. How a few weeks can change your aspect, eh??? Nasty 30+ day meant time off from rockwork but we used a cool late afternoon to go hunting for the stash of pink quartz that Dana & I had seen deep in the bush on our block. Well, we've now found some gorgeous crystals that will be embedded for good.

Next day, Steve pulled up pretty sore and needed to head off for some deep tissue knot unlocking. To date, I'd been keeping up pretty well with the big guy and I think that I'd secretly impressed him with my stamina. If nothing else, the last 6 months has seen me get quite fit and strong (skinny though I still am!).

I'd broken the brickie... :)