Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good feeling..

I can’t describe how good it is to have a flat, dry, dust-free surface to walk on after all this work :)

We’ll leave it to cure for a week or so now, then get stuck into the next stage - masonry walls to support the next, upper (suspended) slab.


About an hour or so now to trowel finish the surface with the helicopter, but we got there!!

The excess concrete in the final truck we decided to use up the hill, as a pad for our main water tank.  One quick scrape with the bobcat and smudge bar, and then we spread the concrete out level.  We paid for it, at least we managed to find a use for it :)

That was close!!!

Our delayed truck has been and gone, and there was an incredible burst of activity to get it unloaded and screeded. Another fifteen minutes delay and it wouldn’t have been usable, it was that stiff.  If the slab is compromised in any way, VicRoads are going to hear about it…

That leaves us with our last truck about to arrive, but it turns out we only need about half a metre of concrete to finish the slab.  So much for estimates…

55.0m3 was my guess, looks like we’ll pump 55.4m3.  Just as well we ordered a bit extra, shame it’s so much extra… 

Still waiting.

Apparently VicRoads have decreed our truck to be a few hundred kilos overweight, and are booking the driver.  There’s talk they want to send him all the way back to Kilmore to unload, he’s insisting he deliver the load.

I’d love to know how a concrete truck can be overweight.  They can only hold so much… but evidently the young inspector is eager to make an impression on his boss and is taking his time.  Meanwhile, the load is going stiff, and so is our slab…


I think I may have spoken too soon. Work has ground to a halt…

The concrete trucks are coming up the Hume from Kilmore, and at Broadford there’s a VicRoads weighbridge.  I think I’ve only seen this place open once in the past 12 months, and naturally they’ve decided today, of all days, to stop and weigh every truck passing by. We just got the call from the depot to let us know that our next one is stuck in the queue.  He could be there for a while…

They also want to know how much more we need. I’ve got no idea!! The original estimate was 52m3 if all the trenches were 400w with no blow-out or collapse, so I ordered 55m3 to cover us.  They want to know if we need more!

I’ve asked them to send another 3m - the concreters have done some measuring and their guess is we’ll need it. Hope they’re right…

It's coming together!

It’s suspiciously starting to look like a concrete slab! :) So far so good, at this rate we’ll be finished in an hour or two!

The well-oiled machine

I'm losing count..

.. of the number of trucks we’ve used so far.  I think it’s 5, or 6…

It’s a pleasure watching Scott’s team work - this is the way to pour a slab.  Each of them has a defined role, and they’re working like clockwork. Much of the time they’re standing around waiting for something to happen, but as soon as the concrete arrives they spring into action and there’s a flurry of well-oiled action.

I can’t imaging trying to do this myself…

Starting to look good!


Scott’s team has arrived, and the pumping is underway.  The first truck is empty, and the next should be here soon.

It's all happening

The first concrete truck is here! Scott the concreter is here, although his team has yet to arrive (from Echuca!!) No matter, we can empty a couple of trucks filling the trenches before they’re really required.

The pump!

Brad and the pump are here finally (finally, at 6:15am!? Who am I kidding?)  Turns out he was given the wrong address, and very nearly found himself at the end of a very 4WD-only track with no way out.  That would have put a dent in the day’s proceedings…

Anyway, he’s here now and I’m happy! :)

Concrete's on the way!

The depot just rang, they’ve despatched the first truck of eleven… and I’m still the only one awake here.  No sign yet of the concrete pump, the concreters, or Peter.

Me, worry?

Sparrow's fart

Actually, it’s earlier than that, even the kookaburras have the sense to be asleep still. Alissa and the kids came up last night so they could be here to witness the pour this morning, and it’s been a shocker of a night’s sleep with everyone packed into the caravan.

Today’s the day though, we’ve been working towards this since we broke ground in .. September, was it?  So much work, and most of it we’ll never see again once the concrete is down.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I didn’t think we’d get here earlier today, but the inspector has just given us the all clear to pour in the morning!

Everything’s wired up (although my hands and knees are a mess), I have cold beer and cider at hand, and relief is an understatement!

The first concrete truck leaves the depot at 6am tomorrow, it’s going to be a long day…


Massive thanks to Richard for agreeing to come up and help today.  Wiring steel sheets together isn’t a fun job at the best of times, let alone in the baking heat on top of a black heat sink.  Without his help, we’d be stuffed - he helped us break the back of the job and now we’re almost done.

All that’s left to do is wire up the rebars for the retaining wall, and install a few more bar chairs.  That’s a fun job all by itself - because the mesh is so heavy at 100mm squares, we can’t get our boots underneath it and lift it up.  So, Peter’s knocked together some “stilts” - 90mm square wooden blocks upon which we balance, then with the pinch bar and a load spreader, lift the mesh up high enough to get a chair under. It’s a bit comical to watch, but we’re getting it done.


This mesh has taken longer to put into place than we’d hoped.  It has to be wired together at 400mm intervals, but it’s midday and we’ve only managed to get about a quarter of it done and we’ve not yet started installing the bar chairs.  The building inspection still has to happen today at some point before we can pour tomorrow, so it’s starting to look a bit desperate.

Peter’s going to see if he can call in some help - without it I seriously doubt we’re going to get this thing set up in time for the pour tomorrow.  I part-paid for the concrete this morning too.. $10,000 out the door in one phone call!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not quite enough

Trench mesh is pretty much done, but it turns out I’ve short-ordered and we don’t have enough.  I think I didn’t take into account the amount of overlap we need.. oops!

We’ll pick up another couple of lengths in Seymour tomorrow, then we can get stuck into the slab mesh.  We’ve already dragged a couple of sheets onto the slab so we know whether or not we’ll need help — these things are SL81 (8mm bar in 100mm squares) and 100kg each so manhandling them into place is hard work, but possible with just the two of us.

So all we really need to do tomorrow is get the mesh into place, wire it together and get the bar chairs under it.  I’m glad now we’ve got the extra day.. I’d originally planned to have the set-up pretty much finished today.

More plastic

Finally the plastic is done, and we’re starting on the trench mesh.


Lunchtime, and things are moving along steadily, if not as fast as I’d like.  We still need to try and get some steel laid today, otherwise time is going to run out on us.

This plastic is a bastard to put down, and every time I put a hole in it I’m supposed to patch it up with tape.  Supposed to…

It’s HOT, too.  We’re pretty lucky and have shade until about 10am, but after that it heats up quickly to around the 30ยบ mark.  This black plastic is horrible stuff to work with when it’s hot too.. it won’t do what it’s told and every time I sit down on it I burn my arse!

Australia Day!

It’s Australia Day, and while we’d prefer to have been sitting back on our freshly laid slab enjoying a cold cider and a lamb chop, instead Peter and I got down to work setting up the site for the pour on Saturday, to the tunes on the Hottest 100.  Peter had been onsite most of the week setting up the forms, but we still had the heavy work to do in setting up the steel.

This is what we started with this morning.  All the sand is packed, and nearly all the form work set up.  We still have a little to do around the container and along the cutting wall, but that shouldn’t take long and then we can get into laying the plastic and steel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Back on track!!!

Peter, our architect and adult supervision found a replacement concreter at short notice, so it’s been full steam ahead getting ready for the pour on the 28th. Still lots to do beforehand, but it’s a short week with Oz Day so I can spend a couple of extra days on site. 

Friday we got started packing the sand on to the pads, to form them up for the concrete. 


We got about that far before realising that my trenches were not quite wide or straight enough for the 300-wide reo to fit with the required clearances. So we had to down tools and break out the crow bar, and widen every one of the trenches by hand! I have six blisters on one hand, two on my fingertips… 

But progress was made, and by the end of Saturday it looked like this: 


Another day on site today, and the pads are (almost) finished. 



Formwork gets built tomorrow, the last of the trenches widened and the last (small) pad packed. Then Thursday we lay the steel, with a day up our sleeve as a contingency before the pour on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Fair bit going on at the moment:

  • Trenches are all done.

  • Sewer plumbing is in the ground and backfilled.

  • Sand for the pads is onsite, reo steel arriving Friday.

  • Formwork timber acquired, cheap.

And the best bit - the concreter we had lined up for next week has pulled the pin and now says he can’t do the job until mid March!! Not Happy, Jan. No matter, there are other concreters.. but the schedule is starting to slip a bit now…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pressure's on

The pressure has been on the past week or two, with the (self-imposed) deadline for the slab pour coming up fast (Friday 20th) in time for a slab-warming on Australia Day. 

Lots more digging… 


Most of the ground on this side of the slab is hard packed clay, and the going has been really slow. I’ve had to resort to using the rock breaker along the trench line before hitting it with the backhoe, in order to make any progress. 

In addition to the rib and edge beam trenches, I’ve also had to put in one more for the sewage pipe out to the spot we’ll install the worm farm tank. It was while digging this, that one of the backhoe rams went POP! 


I’ve had one ram seal blow out on the backhoe before, but that one I was able to coax back into place and get another hour or two’s digging in. Not so this time, this one was less rubber than plastic, and wasn’t going to play ball. That’s put an end to the weekend’s work and therefore our Oz Day plans!! 

Just to rub salt into the wounds, in my distracted state I also managed to do this to my birthday present…


Doesn’t look as bad in the pic as it really is.. Not Happy, Jan! 

Anyway, once I got the ram apart back home, this is what fell out. I’m stunned it actually managed to seal for as long as it did, given the hard work I’ve been putting it through. 


One trip out to Dandenong South with the bits and two hours later, and new seals have been acquired. All back together again!


So I’ll be back on site Thursday night for an early start Friday, to get all the digging finished. And I do mean finished, even if I have to do it by hand!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

More trenches!

The ground here is rock hard, and the bobcat backhoe isn’t all that heavy in earthmoving terms, so I ended up using the rock breaker first to fracture the ground, then the digger to form the trenches. 




I am grateful that I discovered how to side-shift the backhoe attachment though, digging alongside the container and cutting would have been … tricky!

One thing I did discover though was that it’s tricky to recover a skid-steer which is straddling a trench with no way out. It took a 1200x800x10mm steel plate (which I had just lying around…) and some careful manoeuvring, but at least I know now that I can just dig in a straight line and not worry about where I end up.