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 :)

The phone rang at twenty minutes past Sparrow’s Fart, although I was already up and cooking breakfast in preparation for the day. On the other end was the concrete supplier, asking if we were going ahead with the pour given the prior day’s rain. There was very little extra overnight, and the ground was still pretty sound so I gave them the go-ahead for the blindings pour at 0700.

The upper slab is positioned on the hillside above the garage, about 8 metres or so from the road down to the house site. Not far enough to warrant spending many hundreds of dollars hiring a concrete pump, but too far for the truck to shoot the concrete straight into the trenches. I had contemplated cutting an access “pad” from the road down to beside the slab, but figured that I would just have created a soft place in which to bog a concrete truck, so decided against it.

This meant wheelbarrows. For 5.2m3 of concrete.

The first few loads I thought I’d try filling the bobcat bucket and dumping into the trenches, but I ended up spilling as much as I carried and the very limited turning space on soft fill was just plain hazardous, so we decided against that idea pretty quickly. We were chasing wheelbarrows down hill towards the trenches in any case, so it wasn’t nearly as back breaking as I thought it would be and within an hour and a bit we had the truck unloaded and the trenches full. Not for the first time, I seem to have the knack of calculating concrete volumes pretty accurately as there wasn’t a drop wasted (aside from the little bit we spilled) and the levels are pretty much spot on.

With that job done and dusted, we turned out attention to moving one of the big logs I’d felled a long while ago down to the house site. This will form the basis for a bush-pole frame down the middle of the garage, supporting the roof trusses above.

I had toyed with the idea of putting this frame up this weekend, but I don’t have the necessary fixtures and brackets, or the means to safely lift it into place and so we satisfied ourselves with simply moving it down the hill.

Quite a job that was too! We had one end of the log (9.5m long, ~300mm diameter) ratchet-strapped to the tow bar frame on the Hilux, and the other end in the bobcat bucket and verrrry slowly manoeuvred it down the hill and onto a couple of pallets on the slab.

It was slow going, but we got it there. I’ll deal with it another day…

Shortly after lunch Alissa and the kids arrived, which dented our momentum slightly although we did manage to clean up the slab behind the rammed earth, in preparation for framing. It’s amazing how without all the clutter and mess it suddenly starts to look like the rooms in the drawings! Excellent motivation to get the frames up and the sandwich panel insulation-come-formwork installed :)

But wait.. oh, what’s that? It’s beer-o’clock already? Damn! :)

We bade Gareth farewell before 9am (I’ve heard that these northerners hold their Grand Finals in the evening, so I suspect he was hoping to make it home in time :) ) and I got stuck into putting the first frame together, which will support the suspended slab formwork.

Although I’ve drawn and measured these frames a dozen times in Sketchup, I found the actual physical walls are ever-so-slightly different in their dimension and placement to the drawing, so rather than cut to size from the drawings I cut to my measurements instead.

That was the basis for my first rookie mistake - I measured the height required of the frame, and cut my studs to this height not taking into account the top and bottom plates. D’oh! “Measure twice, cut once” is the old adage, but I think I need to prepend that with THINK FIRST :)

Following that minor adjustment the frame went up pretty smoothly, with No.1 Son lending a helping hand. My latest eBay purchase of a cheap Paslode-clone gas framing nailgun paid massive dividends - I love having the right tool for the job! (Famous last words when the “cheap clone” part of that expression comes back to haunt me…)

The final job for the day was to dig the plumbing trench for the kitchen drain upstairs. Plenty of careful measurement went into this one - I need a 1-in-60 fall, and the pipe must remain a minimum of 25mm below the concrete. However, this pipe needs to pass through the retaining wall to pick up the drains in the bathroom above and so rather than bore another hole, we’ve decided to use one of the holes intended for ventilation. This gives me a hard low-point which cannot be changed, so I had to very carefully measure the fall towards this point and hope that the pipe maintains enough depth.

Thankfully, it does - I set up a string line and with the (invaluable) help of the laser level, found that my closest approach to the underside of the slab is 30mm or so - just within the coverage we need but a miss is as good as a mile in my book :)

So with any luck I can have the plumber on-site next weekend to install the drain, and then begin boxing up the slab in preparation for a pour. For this job I’m enlisting the help of Peter (our builder/architect and Adult Supervision) - pouring a few dozen tonnes of concrete onto suspended polystyrene-sandwich formwork is something I think I’d like professional help with ;)

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