Win 7 Days tickets by guessing our finish date!

21:56, Mar 20 2013

In which I introduce a new video feature of the blog, compare the excavation quotes with the final excavation bill, announce a competition to win tickets to 7 Days, the ceiling goes on our garage and the backfill goes in around the bottom level and I succumb to pressure from pervy cougars.

Since Jeremy Clarkson has said such nice things about our country I have felt a lot better about almost everything in my life.


It is no coincidence that it finally rained in the North Island the very day his column was published in the London Oracle or whatever it was. His praise rains down on us like rain raining down and lo we are quenched.

Yes, some rain finally came on Sunday and the headlines annoyingly read "not enough rain".


But that was published only 10 hours after the first rain started to fall. If enough rain to repair the damage had fallen in that 10 hours then everyone would be drowned except the idiot writing the "Plenty of Rain!" headline. It's like watching a starving person take the first bite of the first course of their first meal and screaming out "THAT'S NOT ENOUGH FOOD!!" The world is so stupid I want to snap it. Then I remember that Jeremy Clarkson likes us and I feel better.

New topic. In last week's blogging postulation there was a photo of some of our subbies working on the midfloor before the slab was to be poured. It attracted this comment from what I can only assume is a rampant cougar hellbent on having her way with the fine men on our build.

This blog is not supposed to be Hustler for hungry ladies, but because it is my aim to please, Delphii, here is at least a manflesh closeup to fuel your most inappropriate dreams where the two of you make quite a twisted pair. (That's the only electrician-based innuendo I could think of at short notice.)

"When I think about you I touch my flex."

For those interested, the dachshund is pointing out where our sparky keeps his conduit.



Because, in my position as a semi-professional contract blogster, I am dedicated to bringing you a more luxurious blogular experience, I have invented a keen new feature in this blog which I hope to repeat. Having said that, most of my new features happen exactly once before I get bored. They should never have hired me to programme the Novopay system.  My plan is to introduce you, by sweet video edits, to the major players on our build one by one as they work their craftspersonship. Allow me first up to introduce James Hicks, our project manager, responsible for all the whole schedule, the building, the subcontractors - everything. He's one of the principals of our contractor - Design Construction Home

As you can see in the video, while James was speaking some significant works were going on. Last week the ceiling went on the first level of our build and Gemma and I were, for the first time, able to stand inside our house and shelter from the drought.

Ribbed - For Everyone's Pleasure.

Then, at the end of the week, some concrete-laying characters showed up and poured a whole load of 40mpa concrete on top of the rib-and-infill floor above the garage and gave our garage a roof. When interviewed (by me) the two builders, Sam and Deek, said of the concrete:

Deek: "I've never used concrete as strong as 40mpa before."

Sam: "I'd never even heard of 40mpa concrete before."

As I described in my blogging post where I detailed the history of concrete, normal domestic concrete is around 20mpa, or 25mpa if you want it tough. The footings of our garage are 30mpa and now the garage ceiling is stronger than Kim Dotcom's sense of justice. I figured that as long as our house is made of super-strong concrete I should boast about it because it isn't often you get something to really feel smug about, and I've finally got something.

Here is a photo essay I took. (Actually James took some of these).

We visited the site the day after the concrete had been laid, and we weren't the only ones.


He looked so good sitting there he reminded me of things I saw in buildings in Europe.

Luckily there was a bit of concrete left over so I concreted over this little rascal right where he sat and turned him into an awesome gargoyle. At first he wouldn't sit still and let me, but luckily Gareth Morgan showed up to help.

Speaking of cats, I believe I read somewhere that it is good luck for every building project to have a cat as a mascot. So far we have met three neighbourhood cats on our site: the one that's now a gargoyle, a ginger cat that doesn't like being photographed, and this one.

This cat is cross-eyed, which I think is adorable. It was the friendliest of all of them. But I'm a bit worried that having a sort of retarded cat like this on site will curse the build instead of bless it, and in the end the house will end up cross-eyed.

I have heard of this happening. I guess that's why we have insurance.

If you will allow me to take you back in time now - when we first got the tenders from our three chosen builders, part of the reason they were so high was that the builders had had to inflate the predicted cost of the excavation part of the work to account for unknowns. The rest of the build is mostly full of knowns - the cost of wood, how many cubic metres of concrete are in the house, how many man-hours are needed to complete the framing, etc. But the surface of our tiny piece of volcanic hillside was as mysterious as a Masterchef mystery box. Anything could have lain beneath it and our builders could have been faced with a loin of lamb and two parsnips and had to whip up a house.

Two of the builders chose a figure they thought would allow them to safely excavate the site no matter what, and quoted that. They quoted high and they had to because they were taking the risk. The other builder took the excavation out of their quote and gave us an estimate for it - if all went well.

Builder 1 Quote: $52,350 (down from $65,000 initially quoted)

Builder 2 Quote: $50,300

DCH Estimate: $14,890

We ended up choosing DCH, and taking the risk on the excavation ourselves, hoping it would end up nearer their estimate than the other quotes. But in our budget we included $50,000 for excavation anyway.

Here's the near-final invoice from the excavator.

There is still a small amount of excavation to come when the footings are dug for the upper levels of the house, but you can see that the total comes to about $18,700. Significantly more than estimated but still nowhere near the ballpark of our other quotes. I can't even tell you how stoked Gemma and I are about this. We inch back just one inch from the precipice of poverty!

It was more than estimated because of much higher tipping costs in the Winstone Burglar Aggregates Quarry. And what hurts is that the next step in our build was backfilling the chasms around the sides of the garage. Here is what the chasms looked like a few days ago.

Idiot tries to look nonchalant standing between a volcano worth of rock and the hardest place that man has ever constructed.

Hats off to the geotechnical engineer for dictating a safe working place in these wee chasms. There was concern that falling material could make this a hazard, but the correct slope on the cut, combined with the poly and the lucky fact that the hillside is geologically quite stable (especially in a drought) meant that there have been no issues so far. To his credit the geotech predicted this stability from before we had begun to dig and the success so far of our project depended on him being right. Thanks Bill. 

If we could have kept some of the material we dug out it would have been perfect. But the site is so small there was nowhere to keep it, so the Glenrock trucks came back and delivered a few truckloads of new fill - a "basecourse" called AP40, which is gravel with a maximum size of 40mm. They get this by sieving the gravel through holes that are 40mm across.

Returning to the site after work yesterday for a quick visit before I came home to file this bloggy post, I was excited to discover that the gaps between the garage walls and the walls of the hole are now filled.

It took two days, one truck, and the two twin sons of the excavator Glen each with a wheelbarrow. The digger scooped the fill from the truck and dumped it into the barrows on the midfloor slab.

Then Nathan and Other Twin (I didn't get to meet them) wheeled the barrows across the slab and tipped them into the chasm where Sam and Deek were waiting.

Every 30cm of the 3m depth had to be compacted with two slow passes of the 100kg compactor. On and on, one wheelbarrow load a minute, compacting layer after layer, for two days till they had loaded nearly 90 cu m, until it looked as though there had never been a hole and the garage had been there forever.

The white tubes sticking up are for the plumbing on the midfloor, where there is the bathroom, toilet and laundry.

The garage walls are waterproofed with this system.

A layer of fabric lets water through but not silt and dust. The water is then blocked by a layer of plastic shaped with indentations that are designed to let water flow down the plastic to the bottom. Then, a rubber or bitumen sealant layer is stuck on to the wall. Further, going around the walls at the very bottom and halfway up is some piping like this.

I think it's called "Novoflow" (though I hope it isn't because I don't want it to completely screw up the draining of the water away from the house. I certainly don't want Steven Joyce coming around in a few months and fixing it).

Sam and  Deek the builders are getting excited because soon they are going to get to start what they really enjoy, the building proper. No more waiting for concrete slabs and blockies and excavation and backfilling. Just good old framing and actually building the house. It won't be long before the midfloor level takes shape. They have already basically installed the bathroom and the kitchen.



Last, I'd like to announce a competition suggested by another commenster.



Why not, Lady Owl? Here are the rules and the prize pack:


1. The winner is the person who guesses the date closest to the date of the first night Gemma and I spend in the new house.

2. Guesses are lodged by putting a date into a comment on THIS blog post.

3. You don't have to guess right now. The competition will be open for a good long while, but there will be a cutoff date announced later.

4. Dates are first-in first-served. If two people choose the same date, the person who chose it first is the only one who has really entered the competition. So check your date before you post.

5. One entry per person please. You can't change your entry because I'll take the first one you post. You could get a friend to enter another date if you want to get tricky. I can't stop that.

6. I might change any or all of these rules any time I want to. 

Prize pack

1. VIP tickets for four people to a 7 Days recording (date is the winner's choice) in Ponsonby, Auckland - including the chance to meet the "stars" and have a photo etc. (Is giving this away a massive misuse of my pull as the producer of the show to benefit my own private blog? Yes.)

2. Other prizes to be added to this prize pack as the weeks go on. I'll try to source some pretty cool free stuff.

Now - to level the playing field: The build started on January 30. And the builder, James, told us a couple of weeks ago that he has projected the house to be finished in mid-October (though one smartypants commenster pointed out it was a slick move that he didn't mention which year). But he later said to Gemma and me that he had built in six weeks' contingency to that date. Since then we have lost a few days due to little things like to trucks hitting overbridges, but probably gained a bit of time due to a drought. What's your guess?

With all the episodes of Grand Designs we've all watched, I'm sure there will be people guessing well into next year. That would be pretty depressing, but of course we will be able to take solace in the knowledge that no matter how tough it gets, there's a mighty someone up there that loves us very much.


We love you too Jeremy Clarkson.


Thank you for reading!


Purchase Man.

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