Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 day weekend

So with Melbourne Cup Day coming up on Tuesday, I’m going to swap my usual one-day-per-week leave from Friday to Monday and make it an extra long weekend on site.

Now I have to decide what I’m going to get done!

There’s still half a pack of framing timber left, so I could easily make a start on the upstairs frames. I still need to cap the small section of retaining wall alongside the pump room with concrete, as I conveniently forgot to do this when we poured the slab. So that’s a start…

I’ve yet to settle on the design for the garage perimeter frames. Peter’s drawings specified “posts of 2 by 90x45 MGP12 at 1200 centers, affixed to galvanized steel stirrups” but with windows and doorways being 900 wide, I never fully understood what he was getting at since each would need additional framing support. I ended up drawing a variation of this in SketchUp with top and bottom plates, but I’m not terribly happy with this and so the garage framing will probably happen after I get the upper level done and I’ve had chance to digest the design a little more.

In any case, with the roof trusses scheduled for delivery in 3 or 4 weeks, and the possibility of the cartage contractor lifting them up to the top plates, it’s too good an opportunity to pass up and so I’ll aim to have the dwelling frames up before then.

If you told me I’d be aiming for this much progress before Christmas, I’d never have believed you! I’d been planning to spend the Christmas break building the frames, but it looks like I’ll be well into them before then, so I might have to find other things to do!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


It’s starting to look less like a building site, and more like a building! We now officially have our first room! :)

Ultimately this will be the “clean room” adjoining the garage, where I can set up a computer, sink, table, couch, coffee machine, etc. away from the dust and grime of the garage / workshop, but in the shorter term I can see one of the boys (or perhaps their parents) claiming this as a bedroom when we move in and begin building the house proper :)

But that’s not what I’ve been doing today…

I’ve been looking forward to this part of the build for a while now. Framing involves a few things I really enjoy - working with timber & power tools, my new friend the nail gun (seriously, how did builders get by before these were invented!?) and the results are immediately satisfying.

Damn, I love being out of the ground!!

SketchUp is an absolute boon here too. I spent half an hour sketching up a wire frame on paper from my model, worked up the cut list and had the generator off within an hour of starting it.

There’s only one thing better than the sound of the generator being turned off, and that’s the psshht of a bottle being opened at the end of the day ;)

Anyway, within a few hours I had all four frame sections assembled and erected. There’s still a little fettling to do to get everything perfectly plumb and bolted down, but thanks to the SketchUp model I was able to tear through the job with zero mistakes. Must be a record for me :) It’s especially gratifying when putting a frame up and the top plate matches the height of its neighbour perfectly :)

Friday, October 26, 2012


Today was spent unbuilding, oddly enough. All the effort which went into boxing up the concrete slab was undone today - so much work, gone in a day.

First up was the propping we installed underneath the coolroom panels. I noticed after we poured the concrete last week that the panels were definitely showing the weight of the concrete above. With their high gloss finish and the props removed, it’s easy to see a slight bowing in their surface:

With the bearers gone, it’s even easier!

The engineering specs clearly state a maximum distance between props of 1000mm, and I wouldn’t have wanted to exceed that even a little bit. Ours were at 900 centres, and you can see what the weight of the concrete has done.

Frankly, I’m actually amazed they only bowed this little; I was so hesitant to even walk on them initially, but they’re clearly much stronger than they appear.

With the vibrator being my responsibility during the pour, I was keen to see what sort of a job I did with the concrete flowing underneath the edges of the panels above the retaining wall. With no further ado, off with the timber!

Bugger! Most of the length is actually beautifully finished, almost perfectly flush with the blockwork and just about good enough to leave visible without hiding it with timber. Sadly however I must have been shooed away in one spot without getting in with the vibe, as there’s about half a metre which hasn’t flowed. A shame, but all this means is I’ll have to hide the joint with a nice piece of timber. It could be worse :)

The rest of the day was spent up on the slab, removing the rebate and edge timbers. With the kids and the dog running around the site I thought it best to denail the timber as I removed it, which slowed down the progress substantially but I’d rather take the extra time than perforate a little foot…

So the plan for tomorrow is to get stuck into the rest of the framing for the pump room and finish off that part of the ground floor, before I start on the perimeter and upper level. This involves making up four separate frame sections - a doorway at the end of the rammed earth, the two pump room walls, and a tricky little section which joins everything together and supports the first roof truss. In keeping with the rest of the framing so far (with the exception of the wall at the container end) this is all 90x45 MGP10 T2 pine, conventionally framed at 450 centres.

Pretty simple stuff, made more so by my new best friend the nail gun! :) If ever there was a “right tool for the job”, this is it…

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Aaand that's a wrap!

Now we’ve gotta race back to Melbourne, Ewan has a swimming qualifying meet to attend at Wyndham in an hour and a half!


Done, and done!!

It’s a thing of beauty :)

The guys have brought a little portable barbecue with them so while we wait for the slab to go off enough for troweling, it’ll be burgers and snags at 20 paces :)


Yay, we’re back into it!

6.0m is going to be more than enough, probably to the tune of half a metre or so. Better to have too much than too little at this stage ;)

We’ve planned ahead a little and have somewhere to put the excess - the void behind the shipping container and the hillside allows water to pool up under the container which is not the best, and so we’ll pump the excess down there and form up a little spoon drain to divert the water away.


It’s been a nervous half hour, but the depot just called and they’ve found me a truck. Our last 6m is on its way.

Thankfully it’s still pretty cool, not like January when we poured the garage slab and one of our trucks was delayed at the Vicroads weighbridge. The concrete doesn’t look like its at risk of going off this time :)


Well, that’s it for the nineteen metres and yep, it’s a long way short of enough. Normally at this stage I’d be calling the depot for a “balance” load, usually a couple of metres at the most but we’ve just run a tape measure over the hole and by my calculations we need just under another six!

Well, I’ve just called the depot for the “balance” and their reaction:

FAAAAARK!! It’s madness down here, I don’t have a spare truck to send you 6.0m! I’ll have to get back to you!

Awesome. I guess that means I’m off the Christmas card list, then…


That’s the end of the second truck, and the third (and .. err .. last) is here. I’m beginning to think 19m3 isn’t going to be enough…


We’re into the second truckload. So far so good :)


The pump is all set up, the crew is here and the first concrete truck just arrived! There’s no turning back now :)


Hanson’s have called to confirm that the job’s still on (my response: Hell yes!!) and the concreters have begun to arrive. Scotty is first having come up from Melbourne, and his crew is on the way from Echuca (!!!) and will be here shortly.

I can’t believe these guys, they’ll have been on the road since 5am in order to put in a hard day’s labour, and they love it. I mean, I love coming up here into the bush to work as well, but it’s my place. I’m not sure I’d drive for two hours to get here though, especially at 5 in the morning.

Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person? ;)


One of the things about being up here is that you can hear someone coming from miles away, especially if they’re driving a truck :) No sooner than I hop out of bed, and I can hear someone coming. It’s not concrete yet - I haven’t had the confirmation call from Hanson’s, so it must be Brad with the concrete pump.

Ten minutes later, and sure enough:


That didn’t take long! The first truck is empty, and the second will be here shortly. The guys are a well oiled machine, each has a role and the job’s getting done fast and well.

I’m on vibrator duty, and it’s all I can do to keep out of their way! My primary focus is to get the concrete to flow under the edge timbers we have in place (which form the rebate into which we’ll slot the Hebel panels later) but I’m not sure the concreters know what I’m trying to do as they’re shooing me out of the way all the time :)

I have to admit at this point a small amount of relief - the sandwich panels are holding up under the weight of the concrete. Not that I ever doubted it of course… says he who was hesitant to walk on them only a week ago!

Friday, October 19, 2012

All set. All the bar chairs are in place, all the steel is wired up.

I’ve pinned the mesh to the edge timbers at the right height so they won’t sag under the weight of the concrete, and the plumbing penetrations have been cut, pipes installed and lagged.

The concrete is confirmed, the concreters too, I have the vibrator and helicopter troweller, so if there’s anything I’ve missed I don’t know what it is.

The first concrete truck is due to arrive at 0730 tomorrow, so it’ll be an early night for an early start :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

All good plans...

So like all good plans, this weekend’s went out the window a little bit. I had planned to install the slab edge insulation but instead, found that Peter had placed but not yet wired the steel mesh for the suspended slab.

Forgetting how much fun this job is, I thought I’d better get it done.

I’m not as badly sliced up as I was last time, but it’s all done, and I even managed to get the bar chairs installed so that probably saves Peter a full half day today, so he can install the insulation himself :)

The slab inspection is booked for tomorrow, I’ve ordered the concrete, booked the concrete pump, the concreters are organised and all I need to do now is pick up a vibrator and helicopter on Friday!

Not long now :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's a date!

Peter has made good progress setting up the slab ready for the pour, and it’s just about finished. All that’s needed is the edge insulation installed which I’ll do over the weekend, and it’s ready to go.

The plan is to pour concrete on Saturday week, the 20th - we have the concreter booked, the pump organised, and I just need to measure the slab and work out the concrete volume before I place the order.

Very exciting! We’re —><— this close to being out of the ground! :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's a roof! No, it's a floor!

A flurry of activity today! As I put the finishing touches on the first frame alongside the rammed earth wall, Peter showed up after having dealt with his other job - just in time to help lift it into place. Here it is with the second frame in place too, along with the timbers which will hold the sandwich panels at their correct height above the retaining wall.

With the additional propping in place, we could start installing the sandwich panels! Very exciting :)

The panels are cut very easily with a thin angle grinder disc - they’re only 0.5mm colourbond steel bonded to 50mm polystyrene, so once they’re cut on both sides they just snap apart. Very easy to work with and instant slab insulation!

The rest of them came together very quickly…

The stairwell opening in place…

.. and shortly thereafter, the finished product!

These things are a lot stronger than you’d think. I was very unsure about walking on them given that they’re just 50mm of polystyrene and a couple of thin sheets of tin, but they’re surprisingly stiff. I can walk over them and they barely deflect at all, and the engineer’s specs say that they’re perfectly suitable for concrete when propped at 1m intervals (which we’ve bettered, below) so my fear seems to be well misplaced.

Here’s hoping :)

So that’s about where we left it for the day. I need to be back in Melbourne for the rest of the week, but Peter will continue working to box up the slabs and place and wire the steel ready for the concrete pour.

The framing begins

Peter called yesterday to let me know that he may not be on site today after all, as he has another job in Tallarook which needs his attention. Not a big drama really, although it would have been good to know this ahead of time so I didn’t run around like a madman on Friday getting supplies organised. Never mind :)

So my priority today was to get stuck into the framing of the walls underneath the suspended slab, as these frames will form the basis of the propping we need, that being support under the coolroom panels at no greater than 1000mm intervals. Since the space between the walls is 2.7m in width, it turns out that my wall frames plus one other row of props will suffice nicely, at a 900mm spacing.

So as far as frames go, this is what I’m planning to get done:

Three individual frames, in between which we can place additional bearers and props to achieve the max. 1000mm span between supports.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


The weather on Saturday was pretty awful, raining for much of the day which kept me from getting much of anything done. So, the first job on Sunday was to get the sand packed down on the upper slab pads in readiness for boxing up and the placement of the steel reinforcement later in the week.

I went from this:

.. to this:

With only two smallish pads to form up, this shouldn’t have taken all that long but in the end it occupied most of the day. Access using the bobcat was tricky, as the steel mesh delivery had been placed right in the way so I had to manoeuvre around over some very steep bits, holding my breath every time. But the real reason it took so long was because I still haven’t learned to think and measure twice before getting stuck in, and I’d levelled and packed down one pad, and half done the second before I realised that I hadn’t taken into account the thickness of the sandwich panels when calculating my final height, so I was 50mm short!

I got there in the end though, and it’s a good result so I’m happy with that.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Panels sorted

After giving the sandwich panel vendor a serve over the phone for allowing my panels to be sold to someone else, they’ve come to the party. I gave them a list of the spans that I need, with the stipulation that I’m happy to accept supply of shorter panels but I am not paying extra for the offcut waste, since the 6.0m panels produced none whatsoever.

So in the end I’ve got a bundle of shorter panels which cover a larger area than I need, supplied for the same price as the longer ones. Happy with that, as it actually means fewer cuts and joins.

After much running around today I finally have all the materials I need to form up the upper slab!

I had plenty of help from Rhys throughout the day too, he helped unload every single panel from the trailer, then got busy cleaning up the space behind the rammed earth in preparation for framing over the weekend. Little champion!!

Son of a !!!

The cool room panel supplier just called to let me know that his wife sold MY 6.0m panels to somebody else yesterday.


I’ve given him my cut list and he’s seeing if he can supply me using shorter lengths for the same price. Not holding my breath…

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Preparation, preparation, preparation

The three P’s of building :)

We discussed a few weeks ago that Peter would assist with the boxing and set-up of the upper slab “in a couple of weeks”. I subsequently got an email on Tuesday in which Peter announced that he’d like to start on Monday next week.


This means that I’ve needed to organise everything necessary to prepare for the slab pour - sand, steel, plastic, edge insulation, form ply and the polystyrene cool room panels we’re using as in-situ insulated formwork for the suspended slab - all in a couple of days!

My preferred cool room panel supplier doesn’t have stock, so that means I have to pick up 6.0m panels myself from Melbourne, in addition to form ply and edge insulation. All on Friday, in addition to being on site to get the plumber started with the kitchen drain installation, and to take delivery of the sand & steel orders.

It’s going to be a craaaaazy day…

Monday, October 1, 2012

Big weekend!

I had a lot planned for this weekend, partly because during the school holidays I can spend three days on site, but mostly because my brother Gareth offered to miss the NRL Grand Final and drive to Tallarook instead to help out on the building site :)

I still say he’ll thank me for it…

I’d been watching the weather forecast even more vigilantly than usual during the week, and Friday was shaping up to be a complete disaster - the Bureau forecast an 87% chance of 5-16mm rain, which would have put an end to most of my plans as they involved the passage of heavy trucks. Thankfully, while Melbourne got an absolutely belting with storms during the morning, up on the hill I saw very little of it until just after the Bowens truckie rang to ask if it was safe to come up and deliver his load of framing timber. Even then there was only a few millimetres of rain, certainly not enough to keep the trucks out.

So making the most of the dry I spent Friday morning cleaning out the slab trenches in preparation for the inspection scheduled for that afternoon.  Good thing I did too - Mr. Inspector came by early, having had much of his workload for the day cut short by the weather. A couple of photographs later, and we’re all set to pour the footings!

Gareth arrived mid-afternoon from Sydney, in his very low-slung new toy MX5. Getting it down to the house site was .. interesting, with him cringing most of the way at the bangs and scrapes to the car’s underbelly. It was never in doubt really, I’ve driven my Mini (the 1960’s vintage, not these bloated new things) down there several times and only ever bogged it once, and that was before I had the Hilux and bobcat so worst case I could dig him out if he beached it :)

The rest of the evening was spent catching up over a meal and a few cold thirst quenchers at the Tallarook Hotel :)