On falling on my feet….

21 02 2018

The formwork for the slab is finished, and I frankly can’t believe it….. sometimes the way things turn out has me baffled, even when things go all wrong…..

Lately, I’ve had cumulative problems that inevitably consist of spending money I had not planned to spend; although in the process I managed to get bargains. Like my Makita cordless drill blowing up. I thought it was out of warranty, but it turns out these things have two years warranty, not one…. which I discovered after replacing it with a better (brushless) unit for 60 to 80 dollars less than the shops sell them for, on eBay. Not only that, at the time of this purchase, I discovered you could buy (aftermarket) 6mAh batteries for less than half the price of a genuine Makita 3mAh battery. So I spent the dough…..

Then Ute II started overheating on me, driving back from Hobart with 1.3 m³ of compost in the back. I quickly established that it was all down to the thermostat, so I replaced that; only to discover that half the radiator was blocked as well! I don’t know why I even thought of looking on eBay, but I did, and there I found a brand new radiator for $130 delivered. I could have spent the money better, but the car is fixed. I still can’t believe how cheap it was.

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The dilemma…..  the bottom of each board had to be cut to conform to the profile of now hard concrete footings.

But the real corker was the arrival of my four Danish wwoofers. They’d booked ages ago, last year in fact, and because I’ve had an unbelievable number of requests so far this year, the old brain got a bit confused. I was expecting four young whipper snappers (as usual) arriving in a camper van. Instead I got four middle class grey nomads in a hired posh Commodore Station Wagon! Luckily, Matt next door came to the rescue again, and let me have his wwoofer caravan for three days…..

Talk about an interesting bunch though……  it turns out one couple were permies who live on an island in the Baltic Sea, and the other basically city slickers (my assessment…) this was even evident from their luggage……  two suitcases, and two back packs!

The really important part of this story is that the two men were very experienced,

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Kurt and Jens, problem solving…

cunning, and capable carpenters, and they saved my bacon. Because you see, when Caleb and I poured the house footings way back in June last year (already…..?), I forgot to engage my brain, and they were not even close to level or flat making the construction of the formwork, errrrr…..  difficult!

To cut to the chase, Kurt and Jens were shown the predicament I was in, and after much hahing and harring in Danish – making me concerned they thought the whole job could not be done I add – they got stuck in, and in their first afternoon had two boards up.

While they were doing that, their two wives assisted me in moving loads of long dead Macrocarpa branches cut two years ago to the market garden where more biochar was made. They all seemed to really enjoy themselves I might add……

By mid afternoon the next day, all the necessary formwork boards were up……  all scribed and cut millimetre perfect. I was truly gobsmacked at how clever and efficient these two oldies were (I can even call them that, because at least one was older than me it turned out….!)

Because the memory card in my phone must have got dislodged somehow, none of the photos bar one that I took of all this ended up being stored, and even then I only have it because I sent to Glenda as a MMS…. A real pity too.

The following day, the two city slickers went sightseeing, while the permies insisted they’d rather do manual labour……  can you believe it?

 

The three of us moved I don’t know how many ute loads of branches, and now the entire western side of the market garden has been biocharred. And the huge pile of dead branches has been reduced to a mere quarter of its original size, which means I’ll now just burn what’s left in situ once the bushfire season is over.

The good news is that I inspired Kurt and Dora to have a go at biochar on their own farm in Denmark, and that makes me most pleased.

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On their last day, I treated them to roast leg of lamb and veggies, all from the farm….terrible picture I know, but it’s the only memory I have of them unfortunately

Then yesterday, Caleb was back, and we straightened all the bowing boards and pinned them into place, making a 32m long dead straight, dead level, and dead plumb formwork ready for pouring in a couple of weeks once I’ve organised everything that that job entails. With any luck, I’ll have a slab for my birthday……. and it’s all down to Kurt and Jens, to whom I will be forever grateful….  I cannot thank them enough.

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Finished, ready for pouring……

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More pouring…..

15 06 2017

The owner builder gods have been smiling upon me…… since expressing concern about maybe having missed the boat with further concreting and Tasmania’s fickle weather, the frosty and rainy weather went on holidays long enough that I decided to persevere, and it’s all paid off….

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shower grates

Mind you, it wasn’t without the odd thing going wrong. As Glenda and I reinvented the bathroom layouts, I had to wait for several days for the new grates we are going to use in the shower area before I was able to finish the second spider (see above link). I ended up buying two of these online for $200, while Bunnings were selling them for $300 each…… always shop around!

While waiting, I made three of the four pipes that run into the riser. The riser was in its position, in the middle of the bathroom mockup in the shed, ready to go; once the fourth pipe was carefully glued together, I assembled the spider, only to discover later that the riser had been sitting for days on the floor upside down……… Sacré bleu! I thought I’d worked a way to get away with it, even dragging it up to the house site for installation, until I realised that the riser is moulded in such a way that all those pipes fall to the fitting (it’s only a two degree fall, but it’s important!) and that now all those pipes were going uphill…… and as we all know, water does not run uphill!

I really hate stuffing things up, but I had to go and buy another fitting (50km return trip and $35 later..), destroy the original one, and refit the entire thing properly. I’m getting really good at problem solving.

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waterproof membrane in place

I re-hired Caleb to do my heavy lifting and unload another couple of tons of crusher dust off the ute to cover up all those bare dirt patches between the trenches while I went to work putting them together.

There’s a lot to think about. I almost forgot to glue the outlet pipe from the second bathroom, and had to dig it up, by hand. No major drama this time, but there you go. These outlets also have to be lagged with 40mm of foam where they penetrate the footing in case the highly reactive soil I seem to continually build on make the concrete move and break the pipes. It pays to know how

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lagged outlet pipe

to read an engineer’s drawings!

Once all the crusher dust was in place, we covered it with the thick plastic moisture proof membrane my supplier sold me, and before you know it, I was ordering another ten cubic metres of concrete.

On the day, I was training Caleb on how I wanted him to rake the concrete towards himself while he stood on the first footing and I inserted the concrete vibrator into the pile of the wet stuff that would land in the middle of the trench. To my amazement, and Caleb’s visible delight, as soon as the vibrator started doing its thing, the concrete came to the end of the trench all by itself, like water in a flash flood……  I tell you, that device is worth its weight in gold! It easily does the work of at least one other man, and maybe more. Mind you, I also had to deal with the end of the machine vibrating itself off, and having to work out the thread was mysteriously left hand – very odd, as left hand threads are usually used to stop things vibrating off! No pressure….  I only had a concrete truck waiting for me to get going again…….

We had two truck loads of concrete in place within just forty-five minutes……. and I had expected it to take twice this long with only two of us on the job!

Now all I have to do is pour a perfectly level and perfectly flat slab on top of the whole thing (after I return from another trip to Queensland to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary!), and we can start BUILDING! I really can’t wait to be past this stage; I didn’t want to do this in the first place, but I am saving so much money, it will all be worth it. And to be honest, it’s all turned out even better than I expected, and I am justifiably proud of my handy work……  watch this space.

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House slab update

3 05 2017

Nico has left. Boy, I will miss him…..  Since pouring the footing for the retaining wall, he and I quickly laid out the drainage behind the footing, and not a moment too early, because over the past couple of days, we’ve had 15mm of rain, turning the

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Sloping gravel ramp

entire site into a quagmire which will put an end to more work for at least two days. Or however long it takes to dry out. I was hoping to cut the last lot of trenches this coming weekend, but that simply won’t happen now……

The drain has to have a 1 in 100 fall to work effectively, so the first thing we did was, after removing the formwork, mark out this slope on the new concrete…. which was smoother than the proverbial baby’s bum, a testament to the effectiveness of the concrete vibrator. It looked like polished concrete!

The drain being 300mm deep, and the pipe 100mm in diameter, I decided to install the top of the pipe at the pointy end of the back of the building at basically footing level, while having it at the bottom of the drain at the other end, 20m away…. an exact 1:100 slope.

The way the drain works is that as water falls into it, the water level rises up through the gravel until it reaches the perforated pipe, filling it up. The water then follows the path of least resistance, which is down the pipe. The ‘sock’ around the pipe filters out any silt that may dissolve from the clay, stopping it from entering the pipe and clogging it. In theory it works, and I have to say I have seen it work in real life in Cooran where I did something similar, though not as high……

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Nico backfilling the drain

The drain was then filled at that slope with 20mm gravel to the marks laid on the concrete every 2.5m, and voila, one accurate slope all made ready for the drain pipes.

The engineer’s drawings call for one pipe, but having seen how much water can come down that slope, I went for two. $200 is cheap insurance, the last thing I want is water in the house!

Once the pipes were laid out, the rest of the trench was backfilled with more gravel – 5 tons of it, all unloaded from the utes by hand -, entirely covering the pipes. More hard work and expense that will totally disappear, never to be seen ever again…. and speaking of utes, they have really been earning their keep lately, with both of them simultaneously loaded with one and a quarter tons of gravel…

Having done this, we then went about on the following day – when the darn rain started – leveling the corner cleanout blocks that will be the formwork for the rear of the slab. This is critical work to ensure the slab turns out dead level. It took us half a day with rain interruptions to lay just six blocks (with waterproofing added to the mortar), but I now have cemented in starter blocks that I can use to string out the rest of them, and that shouldn’t take me more than a day if I can get Caleb back to help me mix mud. The levels were achieved using age old technology in the form of a water level, the design of which I got from Geoff Capper, an old peaknik friend who lives in Northern Tassie. It worked a treat, and even Nico who had never seen one before was impressed.

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At left, Nico leveling what is literally the foundation stone, the highest point on the footing. At right using the water level to ensure that block at the opposite end of the 20170501_143507house is at exactly the same height as the first. The front of the house will be on the visible stringline, and 200mm higher than the footing lifting the whole house about ground level.

We would have laid more blocks, but the rain renders that Dolerite clay into gloop that persistently sticks to your boots making just walking around really unpleasant and even difficult….. in any case, it’s not recommended to either mix or lay mortar in the rain.

We did however spend time between showers cleaning up left over concrete and gravel off the mud in an attempt to alleviate the piercing of the plastic membrane that will be eventually laid down under the slab, weather permitting. And I really want to get this done before the real rainy season starts in the next couple of weeks or so……. I just hope I’m not too late already!

Glenda also wants to rearrange the bathroom layout, and that has to be all finalised so we can pour over the underslab plumbing, which once done cannot be undone!