What is this obsession with 'Selfies'?

00:28, May 09 2013

In which I briefly discuss acoustics before giving an update on how much we've spent on the build so far. Our current house goes on the market. Then I present a diary of my first two days on the job as a labourer.

Oh, hello. I didn't see you there. Welcome to this posting of a blog called "We're Building a House" where I'm illustrating the story of our build in all its beautiful and scary detail. There's heaps of progress to tell you about, but this week I've gone all acoustic. Acoustics is my new obsession, and all I can think about is acoustics. I even love the word - I love the way it sounds.

I'm not going to spend too much time right now telling you what I've learnt about acoustics because I'm just a beginner, and all I know is that I don't know much. That's what they'll write on my gravestone. "All he knew is that he didn't know much. What a dick." I'm starting by ordering from Aussie some special joist tape to go between the joists and the plywood subfloor of the top floor to help soundproof it. More in upcoming blogs when I become an unbearable acoustic nerd. If anyone can recommend acoustic products or techniques they've used for walls or floors, let me know so I can pass on your experience.

Elastic, rustic, decramastic, spastic, acoustic. Great sounding words.

While I'm in the office researching acoustics, Gemma is designing some of the joinery elements of the house. Here is her preliminary sketch for the kitchen island.


She uses a 3D modelling program called Sketchup in which, over a hundred or so hours, she has modelled the whole house including a lot of the joinery items we will have to have made. Here's another 2D image export from the model.

And here, so far, is the pale imitation of that model, that we are making with concrete blocks and pieces of wood.

Picture courtesy of Jeremy Corbett, who occassionally stalks our site and sends me pictures.

Purchase Man Rides the Green Pony

Now it's time for the bit in Grand Designs when Kevin sits the struggling clients down and asks, "how is the money going?" and the couple look at each other and answer without mentioning any actual number or looking Kevin in the eye. Then Kevin gets it out of them.

Yesterday I tried to live up to my self-anointed nom-de-douche Purchase Man by paying the contractor another massive chunk of money. It seems like every month we basically spend another $100,000 on the house. (It seems like that because that's exactly what happens.) I say "we spend" but it's the BNZ that is actually spending the money. Here's how it happens. If you have a fetish for large sums of money get ready to touch yourself.

1. At the start of the build Grant at DCH, the contractor, provides us with a payment schedule. It lays out the full build and when we'll pay what. Here it is from the start to next month.

The idea is that with the schedule in hand, the invoices won't come as surprises. I don't actually think it makes much difference. Just like if I say "Now I'm going to punch you in the nuts" then I punch you in the nuts. The warning doesn't really improve things. (If you are a female blogee please substitute something else tender in the above laboured simile.)

2. Each month Grant sends us an invoice. Yesterday: $90,875.38 (being about one-eighth of the total contract). It is more than the schedule had planned because there are variations included which were not planned when the schedule was written. Variations, as I've said before, are our punishment for changing our mind and adding things not included in the original contract. In April's case underfloor heating pipes and some extra waterproofing. Notice in the schedule that part of the payment is withheld from the invoice. This is called the "retention". We pay all the retentions in two lump payments when the house is finished.

3.  Our architect (father in law Roy) checks the claim and issues a claim certificate saying "Yes, Purchase Daughter and Purchase Man, pay the contractor".

4. I forward the invoice to our helper monkey at the BNZ whose name is Daniel. He is an excellent fellow and always cheerfully pays the contractor. All he asks in return is that a number goes in a column on my internet banking. Luckily the BNZ mortgage rate is pretty sharp.

5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until house completion or bankruptcy. 


On the Market

How can we afford all that? By selling our current house - then still having a considerable mortgage at the end of it. Luckily houses are expensive - almost as expensive as cheese. Doubly lucky, our current house is made entirely of cheese.

So, after a lot of faffing about with decluttering, cleaning, tidying, mowing and general grooming, our Edwardian Villa on full section boasting a grand hallway full of old world charm, pressed steel ceilings and genuine doors leading to each room is for sale.

I'm glad you're reading this blog because the best way you can participate would be to show up and buy the place. In fact I strongly encourage you to do so please. Or you can just be nosy and look at where we live on the internet. Please don't look at our bed, that would make me feel uncomfortable. Of course you could be super-nosy and come to the open home this weekend and leave little notes around the place for me to find, you weirdo.

My Apprehenticeship

Last week I was all boastful about how I was going to turn up at the building site this week and basically take over the construction of our home. It hasn't quite happened like that. Here's the diary of my apprehenticeship.


I'm not going to the site today. I've got other things to do.


10.30am: I get up early. Nervous with excitement. How many people get to build their own house? It's a big day. I get on my tool belt and consider my look in the mirror.

Selfie #1 - Decluttering is evident in the background.

Somehow I don't look like Sam and Deek. I wear my least favourite shorts because I'll probably get building juice and suchlike on them.

11am: Arrive on site. Sam and Deek seem a bit sheepish when they say they have a job for me. My job is to remove the wooden forms from all the concrete that was poured last week. And there's a lot of it. They don't laugh at me, but it feels like they want to.

Some of the wood from the latest pour that has to come off.

This isn't what I was expecting. This seems more like, how do I put this... the s**t job that nobody else wanted to do? I suspect I've been given this assignment because in my blogular postulation last week I said that Sam and Deek got a digger to dig this trench:

When in actual fact the digger couldn't get in to dig it and they spent a whole day digging that trench themselves with spades and a wheelbarrow.

I start removing the wood with a crowbar, a hammer and a massive metal bar with a flattened end that weighs 353kg. It's a tool so ugly and brutal it doesn't have a name. I call it the bastard bar. I forgot to take a picture of it.

11.05am: First Blood.

12pm: It's too hot. And these shorts are too tight. I wish I'd worn some baggy shorts like everyone else. What a loser.

2pm: There really is a lot of wood and it's really hard to pry and bash and wedge it off. I don't say anything out loud, but inside I'm whining like a little bitch. Whining isn't brave or honest or patriotic but it helps. I take a break and smile for a "selfie".

(When I was at university, before any of us had girlfriends, we had "selfies" but they were something else.)

4pm: I have finished pulling the wood off the steps and end up with two massive piles of wood with nails poking out of them. Satisfying.

Some of the wood is still on because it was too hard to get off by myself. So sue me.

While I do all this, Sam and Deek are building the house. My job isn't glamorous but at least I know it's helping get the house done quicker. And there really is something actually marvellous about just working hard on the site. Sam and Deek say next time I come to site I will be helping with real building.

6pm: I show Gemma how my hands are all roughed up but she can't tell any difference. I voice the opinion that I'm probably quite a bit sexier due to the raw physical nature of the work I've been doing. She can't tell any difference there either.


12.02pm: I leap out of bed excited about building the house. It's a beautiful day. I put my toolbelt on and ride my bike to Three Kings. My bike looks good next to Sam and Deek's new vans. I'm quietly excited about today's actual building work.

12.30pm: Sam, Deek and James give me the job of denailing all the wood in the piles I made yesterday, then putting all the wood on to one big new pile at the front of the site. There are two big piles like this.

Each full of bits of wood like this.

12.40pm: I start denailing. I'm not sure if "denailing" is even a thing. I suspect they are laughing at me. "How's that 'denailing' going, Bridges? (tee hee hee)" It feels like I'm just moving wood around and around the site. I strongly suspect tomorrow they'll tell me they really need me to nail that wood back around the concrete.

Meanwhile Sam and Deek and James are climbing around on the framing putting in the large beams that will hold up the top floor of the house. They've got nail guns and masonry saws and electronic levelometers.

I can hear them talking and laughing from where I am taking nails out of a pile of wood. Remember when you were a kid and you could hear your parents having a party while you were supposed to be taking nails out of a pile of wood? It's like that.

Every now and then I come out of the trench, pretending I want a glass of water, but really just wanting to see what they are doing. A man called Andy arrives on site in a fantastic leather welding smock.

He's a delightful, softly spoken and really friendly guy. He's tagging together the beams. In a post a few weeks back when the steel first appeared, a commenster had this to say.

I asked James and he assured me these welds are just tagged together temporarily and they'll be rewelded properly in the fullness of time. I trust Andy - his work is top-notch.

I ask Andy what sort of welding he's doing. It's arc. I say "tig" then I say "mig" because I know those are two other sorts of welding. Andy says he'd love to be able to be doing these with a mig welder but that requires a much cleaner environment. I'm not sure if he means a clean room or if he's talking about New Zealand's ecology.

3.20pm: I finish the denailing and stack all the wood into a neat pile. It's taken me ages. The only real labouring I've done in the past is labouring under a misapprehension. But it's done now and there's a big pile of wood ready to be used as boxing and props and what have you.

3.30pm: I return to the midfloor of the house and James gives me another job. This time a choice one. My job is to waterproof the little shed Sam and Deek have built in the spare bedroom to house their nails and bits and pieces.

Sam, Deek and James practise poses for their upcoming Hallensteins photo shoot.

I find a bit of polythene 1.8 x 2.4m, a 2.4m bit of 4x2, and a staple gun. Then Sam says, "use this", and hands me the nail gun. After a cautionary tale about how Sam had once "put a nail through his right tit" with it, they give me a quick lesson and I use it to nail the 4x2 to the plywood roof of the shed to give it a bit of fall before I lay the polythene over it. Done.

With the Paslode heavy in my hand I feel more like a builder - and with Auckland's recent history there could be no more important job than waterproofing.

6pm: Still not sexy.


Thank you for reading, and special thanks to all the commensters. Next week I will bring you more of my apprehenticeship and give a first examination of acoustics.


And of course a few more selfies.


Until then I remain your,

Purchase Man.


As usual please feel free to "Like" this blog's page on Faceingbook, which will bring you all the joy of an alert when a new posting is blogged. And email me whenever you feel like it for no reason at all. Thanks for your emails - I'm behind on my answering but I will get there... Check out today's page of The House that Beebo Built by Philippe Fix and Alain Gree.

("A pile of scrap" and "Worked non-stop for two days" would be what the Quantity Surveyor estimated. In actual fact it would take four days and require three entire piles of scrap, bankrupting Beebo and Mop.)