Archive for June, 2009

A big thankyou

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

A very big thank you to Colin and Sarah for inviting us to see their formblock poured earth build over the weekend. It was great to actually touch and feel and get some “face” time with the finished product. They had chosen to go with a rough finish, giving their building some great character.

They were also full of advice on some of the pitfalls they had come across during their build. Things like knowing what mixes they had used. Being able to see the results of their blocks cast with both white and portland cement. Seeing the blocks they had experimented with finish and pour method and some of their other experimental blocks and the results of aggregate and so on was very interesting and informative.

Even though we were planning to start with the garage first, this advice and insight will cut down our own trial and error time – hopefully getting us to the result we want within the first couple of pours.

You can see some of their progress in the blog they have at Building Our Home.

So what are we building? Part 3

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

After much debate between ourselves about the pros and cons of each of the methods outlined in Part 2 we have decided we are going with poured earth, for the following reasons.

I can see Darren our draftsperson having a good ‘ole belly laugh at that one word appearing anywhere someone is talking about building. Poured earth is going to mean we can build the external walls and get the roof on without actually making any walling frames. While it won’t go up in 7-10 days like a shed would, here’s hoping to have a shell with a finished roof inside a month. That time frame is tight and is going to need a substantial window of great weather and material suppliers cooperating to deliver the windows, roof trussing and roofing steel on time as agreed.

Once we have the locked up shell, quality of life on site is going to be remarkably improved and everything will fall into place. Am I just dreaming? We’ll see if any of the project execution and planning skills I developed in a previous career can carry over to this, that is for sure.

Speed of Build.
This is so important. Being self employed (in a truly complicated way that does not tie our incomes directly or in its’ entirety to client interaction) the more time spent on the build is less time spent earning money. We’ve set a goal of 8 hours a day “on site” and 4 hours a night catching up with work. As weather and other unpredictables reduce building time we’ll use that to make up hours we should have been working on our businesses. Until we can borrow a caravan or camp under a roof we’ll have the highest tech tent campsite in the world 😀

Aesthetics and Finish.
We’ve seen a couple of these projects both in the flesh and through the good souls in the owner builder world who were happy to share their projects with us. What can be achieved is exceptional, ranging from a real earthy looking appearance to something so close to sandstone you’d need to look twice to make sure it isn’t.

If we’re going to put in all that sweat equity we sure want something to sit back and admire every time we have the opportunity to do so.

Poured earth is going to give us the look we want and meet other criteria we had set long before poured earth was even an option we were prepared to consider.

Update on costs

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Garden City Plastics sold me enough punnets, pots and associated trays to grow a small forest, costing $461.45
Paramount Browns modified a pulley for the cement mixer engine for $39
Sundry bits and pieces for all sorts of things cost us $13.90

Total Spend to date is now at $214 560.10

Updates on a few things

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Soil test for the foundations and footings are being organised. There will also be a percolation test done as we are not in an area serviced by main sewer and will need to install a septic system of some description. This same company will be asked to design the foundations and footings for the house and give me some pointers on footings for the shed as well. Once I’m happy with their service you know I’ll be happy to post their details on this blog.

Darren from Wise Drafting has been a great asset to our project. I’ve been firing off questions as we start to nail down details and he’s been firing back nicely detailed answers to help me make up my mind on aspects of the building.

When he sees the opportunity to involve some ideas I’m not aware of he fires off an email that explains the benefits along with links to the products for me to further look into. You have to appreciate someone with his attitude towards delivering us the best package he can and his willingness to set my thinking back on the right course.

I certainly appreciate his efforts and if you need a draftsperson who is a thinker and will give your project the best outcome, you should talk to Darren as well.

Post meeting with the draftsman

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Wow, this was money well spent.

Darren met us, on time, at the Tungkillo pub before we finished the final trek out to the block. My wife and I were both impressed from the get go. I like it when people start talking about processes and ticking things off the to do list, then produce the list and start doing just that. To me that means there is thought behind the process that has led to refinement of the way he conducts his business. No BS, no vague references, just facts based on our answers to his questions off of that list. Everything gets covered.

Turns out our design was quite well suited to take advantage of passive solar principles. Standing on the block we were able to line up the orientation of the house. Darren was able to explain just what passive solar is and how the winter sun is able to be used with great advantage, conversely the summer sun is able to be kept at bay with clever use of shadow, even on the wall that will be facing straight into the morning sun. I feel the hours and hours of googling, reading and researching through owner builder magazines was now time very well spent.

We have exactly what we want and Darren can calculate sun angles and so on and tweak slight aspects of the design. This should end up giving us a home that is light, warm and comfortable during the winter and able to cope with the extremes of summer without monstrous cooling systems in place.

If you’re a South Aussie and looking for a clued in architectural draftsmen then I am happy to suggest you head on over to Wise Drafting Pty Ltd and see what Darren can do to help you into your dream.

As each job is individual, depending on complexity within the design, Darren prefers to quote each individual job. By using what we are paying as a guide you might be over or under estimating the cost for your job. Things like size of house, distance for him to travel for a site visit, 2 storey designs and so on all alter the quote. I’m therefore not going to specify his costs, instead you should contact him yourself and get a quote based on your own ideas.

I will however include his costs in some other large item, so rest assured the overall cost of this project will remain open for you to see.

Update on Costs

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Cement mixer has cost me $299 for the petrol engine, $13.20 for welding rods and mild steel to patch the holes.
I also was forced to buy a compass so we can get true north accurately on the block, that was a proper map compass (yeah I know, WTF is a compass and who the hell uses maps in the day of GPS) and cost $12.99 from Ray’s Outdoors.

Total spend to date is now at $214 507.20

Regenerating the cement mixer

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Well, since this is going to be such a huge part of whatever construction we end up going with I thought it needed a wee makeover. Originally electric with a belt driven pulley between the electric motor and the gear driven bowl spinning mechanism, I have fitted it with a 6.5 HP elcheapo Honda inspired Chinese knock-off 4 stroke engine with a 2:1 reducing gearbox with centrifugal clutch. Picked that up from Paramount Browns at Cavan.

I very carefully worked out the pulley sizes so the mixer maintains its 12 RPM bowl speed while the engine is able to rev at around 2500 RPM which is where it delivers maximum torque.

This mixer is old, made by Grosvener/Carpenter in Adelaide. It’s been in our family for 25 years after Dad picked it up for a sweet $20 way back in the 80’s. I spent the weekend with a hardened steel stake and a sledgehammer smashing out the years of build up in it and knocked out 3/4 of a builders barrow of old conrete, render, lime mortar and who knows what else this machine has mixed over the years.

Packed full with slurry it will now more than fill the Kelso builders barrow with each load, which makes a mockery of the calculations I did below for the poured earth walls. I took Dad’s word for it on the bowl size and have to admit I only ever measured the output with all the crap still caked to the bowl.

Having knocked out all the concrete I am now able to attack all the rusty holes with the arc welder and patch them up. I’ve made a dolly for it to sit on when in use, which lifts it about 30cm off the ground giving the bowl more angle to make it easier to empty. A fresh wire brush and a coat of rust killer and a nice top coat of coloured paint and this puppy should still be around when my boy gets to building his own stuff.

Preparing to meet with the draftsman/designer

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Darren from Wise Drafting and I have finally had a chat on the phone and we have set a meeting on the block for this coming week. The wife and I have spent a lot of this week going back over our design and wish list for the house, noting down questions we have about design standards, some BCA (Building Codes Australia) concerns about windows, doors and the like and of course the passive solar aspects that we still might be able to incorporate.

We want Darren to see what we are talking about when we tell him our design optimises the best of the views our block has to offer. Conversely Darren will now be able to point out to us just what he means when he talks about maximising certain aspects of our design (and consequently the budget) by making smarter choices on how, what and where.

I’m hoping for it to be a big melting pot of ideas from which our wants and his nous should give us a final design which is all about what we want with corrective design ideals to provide what we need.