Cats: Do they understand limericks?

23:57, Oct 31 2013

This blog is called "We're Building a House" but of course we are not building a house: we're paying someone to build a house for us. Building is the only activity where you can be a lazy slob and take all the credit. If I fund an expedition to Mt Everest, I don't say "I'm climbing Mt Everest".  And I certainly wouldn't expect you to claim to be reading this blog if you'd only paid someone else to read it.

Welcome to the 54th postallment of this bloglication. If you have just joined us, my wife Gemma and I feel like the luckiest people in New Zealand. We are building a choice house and we've just had a little baby - and it's all going pretty well. I find myself recommending to everyone to build their own house (and to have their own baby). Building does have its tough moments, and when they come around, it's time to get philosophical!

Greek Philosophy

Many commentsters have noted, this blog is "ok, but doesn't have enough Greek philosophy". I hear you. Our house has so far taken nine months to build. The estimated completion time when we started was nine months. It seems like the closer we get to the end, the slower time is going. Somehow the end now seems just as far away as it was when we started, two years ago. There is a very real chance that we will never get there. Why do I feel like that when we are clearly almost there?

Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea (near Masterton) said "Hey, dudes, imagine Achilles was chasing the tortoise". He didn't say why Achilles would be chasing the tortoise, so let's fill in that oversight: the tortoise has most likely stolen Achilles' sweet "The Block NZ" souvenir postcard, and is hoofing it. Ok. Now imagine Achilles runs to the point where the tortoise was at the start. Good, but in that time, the tortoise has moved on a wee bit. Now Achilles runs to the place the tortoise moved on to, but in that time the tortoise has moved on a bit more. No matter how many times Achilles runs to where the tortoise was, it has always moved on. The paradox is that although we know Achilles can easily catch the tortoise, when you look it like that, he can't. Paradox! Philosophy! Pow!


And that's how it feels at the moment with our house. We are Achilles, and our house is a tortoise. The annoying thing is that we named our baby son Zeno so we've only got ourselves to blame. We named him after my great grandfather, not the philosopher, who I am not related to. We should have named him after someone who had a theory about houses getting built very quickly. Signature Bridges? G-G-G-Gerarrd Bridges?


Our current tortoise is getting the scaffolding removed so that concrete in the garage and on the driveway can be poured, the garage stairs and upper stairs can be built and landscaping can begin. Scaff removal was supposed to be last Friday, then moved to Tuesday then to Thursday but hasn't happened yet. Our scaffolder of course is former all black Walter Little.  I can't help thinking if he could just get Frank Bunce to help him, just like the old days, they would go to work with clinical brilliance and our scaffolding wouldn't stand a chance.

Wicked Photo Essay

But Sam, Deek and James the project manager are working their butts off to get the house done for us to move in by the new estimated finish date of November 30th. I turned up on Friday to find the place was subbie central.

The good thing when you sign a fixed-price contract with a contractor who project manages the build for you as we did, is that you don't have to book these subbies, worry about their skills, have them turn up on time, manage any problems or sort out their parking. It's all taken care of in our case by James. For people like Gemma and I with no time, contacts or understanding of building it's the only way we could have done it. 

Inside I found Neil installing the wires under the bathroom floor to warm it up on cold mornings.

Neil's name fits his job perfectly.

Maybe this electric underfloor kind of thing isn't too PC - it's a fairly brutal use of electricity - but for about $500 for each small bathroom it is so luxurious. Neil took the time to take me through the steps. He laid out a 300 Watt wire, which was about 15 metres long.

And finally the whole floor gets another layer of scree on top of which the tiles will be laid.

Note the shower cubicle all waterproofed ready for the Council (may our shower be acceptable in thy sight) inspection. 

Millimetre by millimetre all the surfaces of the house are approaching being finished. Layers are being applied. The next layer to be applied is the wooden floor upstairs. Meet Jeff.

Jeff has Auckland's coolest sander/vacuumer and he's stoked about it.

Jeff is from Prime Floors and he's got wood for our house.

You'd think Jeff's job was pretty simple if it wasn't for the fact it has to be absolutely perfect from one edge of the room to the other, ten metres away. After sanding the whole plywood substrate to make a good base for the engineered oak flooring, Jeff laid the planks one by one, cutting them perfectly to length and gluing them down with a special glue. You know a guy is serious when he turns up and the first thing he does is sharpen a whole new builder's pencil.

These things are to builders as wands are to Harry Potter. Installio Oakus!

Each row has to be pressed against the previous one using a special tool. 

By the weekend he'd done a fair chunk, and we were really happy with how it looked.

And by the middle of this week it was done, but not dusted.

The cutout square is for the living room carpet. 

Don't forget the wood still needs to be sanded and then finished with some sort of polyurething. But it's amazing to me the skill of the subbies on our house. To make something as beautiful as that floor, so perfectly and seamlessly laid out, and only take two days!

While Jeff was adding layers to the upstairs floor, Chris and Terry were removing layers from the downstairs floor. First they had to lug a massive grinder up the stairs. Then Chris sprayed the floor - with a hose inside our house!

This photo upset Gemma quite a bit. The GIB is getting wet! I trust they know what they're doing...

Then Chris takes the machine around, while Terry does all the edges with a hand grinder.

I wanted to know what the actual grinding surfaces looked like. This was the answer:

Then Chris vacuums up the wet grey muck with an industrial vacuumer leaving it like this for a few days

Note the bright steel of a reinforcing rod in cross section.

Finally they turn up again and seal it with another sort of polyurestuff.


The fine characters from Metro Roofing are hard at work putting the last flashings and downpipes on the house before the scaff is removed. The new skylight for the ensuite needed a major flashing:

And the downpipes required some careful fixing.

Herman wins the prize for best face so far made on our build.

In this scene Herman, Ryan and Sam raise the downpipe on Iwo Jima.

While inside they have expertly flashed around the steel beams above the ranch slider.

Notice also the lovely soffit (outside ceiling) over the deck - beautiful work by Sam and Deek, and the painters.


The tiler Blair has been on site as well. There are five sorts of tiles in the house and he's already started with the basalt stone tiles for the fireplace.

I like these tiles because basalt is a volcanic stone and we are building on a volcano. This basalt is from Mongolia, but I got it from a lovely crowd in Christchurch

Tiles are one of the things Gemma and I are sourcing ourselves rather than the contractor sourcing (along with the carpet, wooden floors, appliances etc) and of course I estimated wrong and got five tiles too few. I am an idiot. Now they are sending the extra five tiles. 


And outside, the blockies have come back to finish the back part of the deck with these sweet 1970s nostalgia blocks.

Without realising it, one of the finishing touches has caused controversy. The chimney for the gas fireplace is all very well.

Traditionally the chimney is not revealed until the day you move in. Then the box is removed and given to an albino child for good luck.

But what we didn't realise until it went up so very tall was that it pierces the height covenant which protects the view of the house behind us by sticking up above the ridgeline of the roof. Luckily the neighbours have been very understanding and kindly let it pass as long as no other appendages poke up there. There goes my awesome "rooftop basketball" idea.

As you can see little by little things are being finished. Outside this was what it looked like:

With luck this is the last photo you'll see of the house with scaffolding on it. If it's still there next week I'll photoshop it down, pipe by pipe.

While I was taking this photo a neighbour stopped his car as he drove down the street and wound down his window to tell us that our builders had been extremely considerate and respectful all year and he was very grateful for that. I haven't mentioned that to them yet as I don't want them to get all bigheaded before they finish the house.


"We're Building a House" Open Home announcement marred by shameless bribery!

There is a competition for the best blog in New Zealand and I would like you to vote for 'We're Building a House'. Not because I think my blog is the best (it's possibly the worst) but because if enough people vote it will fool everyone into thinking my blog is the best, and then I will be the King of Three Kings (probably the most annoying royal position you could hold because you'd be like "who are those other two kings?!?")

And as a bribe, we will give an open home at our house when it's finished that all readsters can attend - but only if the blog becomes a finalist. Gemma has kindly consented to this (mainly because she thinks it's laughable that anyone would vote).

So if you like the idea of an Open Home, a tour of the place, a free Raro and Round Wine once it's ship shape (or if you just like the idea of me having to make small talk with a bunch of people taking the chance to tell me everything we did wrong with the house) then spend 30 seconds clicking here and pasting "We're Building a House" (without quotes) into the 'Best blog' box and clicking on the tick.


Next week with luck: The scaffolding comes down - exclusive timelapse video here! Also, Cats: Do they understand limericks?


That's all next week from me,

Thank you for reading. From your humble,

Purchase Man.


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