NZ's ten top tradesmen turn up
In last week's post I was all worried about whether the house was going to be finished for our November 30 move-in date. The news is that it won't, not completely anyway, so we've decided we don't care. It's like we were swimming a length underwater, and our lungs were bursting and it seemed like the end was getting further and further away. Now we've popped to the surface, taken a deep breath and we're happy to dog paddle to the end. We'll get there.
And we're bloody lucky to be swimming at all on a beautiful day like this.
There are several parts of the house that won't be finished as you read this. We'll leave our moving in for a week until it's all ready. The stairs are one of the items not finished this week, but Gemma and I are sure they will be beautiful. Our project manager James, the magnificent stair company Continental Stairs and our steel engineer Andy are pulling out all the stops to make them.
We have to remember, they are an experiment. Our draughtsman Karl drew them from a concept we dreamed up. Then our engineer Bruce gave his input. Later everyone got involved again to redesign them slightly. Nobody can be entirely sure exactly how they'll perform when finished. Gemma and I have pig-headedly insisted the rods that hold up the treads be made from 16mm steel to give the structure a light feel, despite a general feeling that 19mm would be the safer bet.
Also not finished as you read this is the garage door. At the last minute Gemma and I decided we had to have it in cedar to match the cladding of the house, instead of the normal aluminium. So that's taking a while to make: 5.8m lengths of cedar aren't just lying around waiting for idiots like us to suddenly need.
And our heroic joiner Chin hasn't finished all of the interior units. As I write, he hasn't finished any of them completely. Most of them he'll get done this week, but the living room shelves won't be done until next week.
James reckons it is the busiest time for the trades in NZ that he can ever remember. Chin has 28 kitchens to make in December, and the electricians, plumbers, tilers and all are just as busy. Some of them have admitted to James that there aren't enough hours in the day and they despair as to how they'll finish everything. It's at times like this we're grateful for a project manager who can keep everyone on the job and bring this baby home.
Now it's time for a quick lesson on stormwater and how a proper system that satisfies the requirements of Auckland Council (may your holy inner sanctum the Ngati Whatua room soon regain it's sanctity) will cost upwards of $8000.
The Perfect Stormwater
(Btw the heading you have just read is normally the sort of thing you'd expect on a much more expensive blog than this, but I'm determined to give you nothing but the most luxurious reading experience.)
Stormwater isn't something I've ever given a lot of thought to. And it turns out that's because I'm a giant idiot: it's really interesting.
All the water that comes off the roof of the house has to disappear safely into the ground. In our area, because we are on a volcano and the ground is very porous, there is no need for stormwater drains as such, just a deep bore sunk into the ground beneath an underground stormwater soakhole.
On Tuesday I was lucky enough to meet our two stormwater engineers installing the stormwater system under our driveway.
Top to bottom, the cesspit (dark square grate on top of it), main soakhole and settling chamber.
I distracted them long enough to get an understanding of how the three tanks interact.
The downpipes empty into the settling chamber in which silt and dirt and dead mice and the detritus of a suburban roof sink to the bottom.
Then a pipe takes just water (no silt or mice) to the main stormwater soakhole - which looks like this:
I'm worried the ladder is going to attract annoying cave explorers and the like. "Get out of there you spelunking idiots!"
From the bottom of the soakhole, a siphon drain ensures that only water and no silt can get down the bore cavity and into the natural drainage, which can take all the water flow the biggest storms could ever throw at it. The engineers told me the drainage on Three Kings volcano is "the best you can get". I felt proud, as if I'd organised that myself.
The third chamber is called the cesspit, and I'm not entirely sure what it's for. Containing any cess that collects I suppose. All I do know is that if the settling chamber fills with silt, as it will eventually, then the runoff goes not to the soakhole but instead to the cesspit which will overflow onto the driveway. This will be our sign to a) clean out the settling chamber and b)gather up the cess and put it on Trademe. If there's too much to gather, it's called excess. (again, a higher quality of wordplay than you have any right to expect).
The rest of the time the cesspit gathers water from the driveway, which is NOT ALLOWED to spill onto the road, hence the need for this channel drain across the entire driveway,
The upshot is the whole system would cost about $8000 to install once you factor in all the digging. And that's if you don't hit any rock. Luckily for us most of the work was already done when we bought the section as installing stormwater infrastructure is a requirement for subdividing a section.
Just googling some of the above terms I'm actually not sure how much of that I've got right. Any corrections in the comments below would be very welcome.
Ten Subcontractors in One Day
Meanwhile there has been a storm of activity around the house. An army of subbies seems to be at the house every time we visit and details are being polished off very quickly. I said last week James the project manager deals with 30 subcontractors. I think there have been at least ten on site this week.
1. The Builders and Painters
The stairs from the garage up to the midfloor were installed last week. Since then Sam and Deek have been busy framing in the wall beside them.
It was then their job to insulate and GIB the wall. Well, most of it.
Even though time is tight on the Bridges build, it's never too tight for a bit of joking around.
The next you know it the wall is insulated and the sliding door installed (foreground).
Finally the painters arrived to gib stop Sam and Deek's handiwork.
Then just to keep themselves busy Sam and Deek quickly knocked up a little deck and a bench for the sink I got on Trademe.
2. The Floor Technician
Because gravity ensures everything that's brought into any room ends up on it, flooring is just about the last thing to be installed in the house. Jeff from Prime Floors came back on Monday, lifted and biffed out the cardboard then began sanding.
He then had to get down and carefully do the edges with the matching mini-sander.
Wednesday was the big polyurethane day, when the floor was given the old matt finish (not to be confused with the 'mat' finish where the floor is covered with five year olds waiting for you to read them a story).
Now we have to walk around on it in our socks until the polyurethane properly hardens which is Saturday. But in actual fact Gemma and I have decided the house will be a 'shoes off house'. Is that anal of us? What do you think when you have to take your shoes off in someone's house?
When I visited again on Thursday James had put new cardboard over the finished floor to protect it. This wee bit was poking out.
Shoes or no shoes, I hope you agree this is a super sweet floor.
C. The Carpet Layers
Downstairs there is polished concrete in the hall and carpet in the bedrooms. On Monday the carpet layers came. They swept and vacuumed the rooms, then began nailing these weapons to the concrete around the edge of the room.
Sean the carpet layer told me that conventional wisdom suggests you get used to handling these spiked sticks but that in his experience you don't and they hurt every day. Here he is getting them back.
And here is the final result.
In the middle distance you can see two people defying our no shoes policy. One has gone completely the opposite way: they've come inside bringing ONLY their shoes.
I would tell you what sort of carpet it is, and where we got it etc, but we got the last bit of it in the country and they aren't making it any more, so there would be no point.
IV. The Electrician and Home Automation
Luke the electrician continues his mammoth task of fitting of the house. He's been really good and phones often to clarify little things like the height of the pendants in the living room, the position of the sockets on the island etc. He's finished the fuse box,
The message has been translated into Sleazebag in case Luigi Wewege visits the house.
And the Fibaro home automation system is being installed piece by piece as well. It goes on after the normal electrical fitoff and allows the normal switches and dimmers to be controlled by a central wifi hub, which is in turn controlled by us using our smartphones, iPads etc. Here you can see the black units which will end up in the walls inside the flush boxes.
The good thing about this is that you can install it easily into an existing house, and expand it to include things like sockets, heating, appliances, garage doors, music - even watering plants, opening blinds etc. More on the Fibaro automation when it is up and running and I can show you what it does. Meanwhile on Thursday the bank of switches was nearly complete.
One great thing about our whole experience has been how awesome it has been to meet all the characters who have come to work on the house. The only annoying part is the way they swan around in boats when they aren't on site. Sparkie Lukebo continued the wonderful tradition of subbies taunting us with their lifestyles by sending photos like this one that arrived on my phone on Sunday:
5. The Plumber
Our plumber has been on deck fitting things off as well. He was missing a shower and a sink. We found the shower in the office of the house Gemma and I are staying in (it's in Ponsonby don't you know?) and James found the sink in their office in Albany. You know you are a real Purchase Man when you buy so many things that some of them just slip through the cracks. Gemma was very excited Saturday to find the things he'd installed:
It wasn't really Gemma excited about the underneath of the sink, but me. I was very keen to see the neat pipework and the sweet bit of F&P kit.
I turned up just in time to photograph the plumber and Sam trying to carry this 100kg cylinder up the hill.
They of course needed my enormous physique to help. We eventually got it up to the back of the house where it sits equidistant from the ensuite and the kitchen - both of which back onto this outside wall.
This placement means not only do we not waste space having it inside, but also the shortest possible distance for hot water to travel to the shower and sink, meaning we save water because we won't have to run the tap for ages waiting for it to heat up.
F. The Joiner
The joiner is also one of the final trades because he needs everything else to be finished so he can accurately measure the spaces he's building things to. This week he has to try and get the vanities finished, the bedside tables, all the shelves and drawers in four wardrobes, and of course the kitchen which looks like this so far:
7. The Tiler
One of the last things Gemma and I have organised is the final lot of tiles. These are also our greatest luxury. To be honest by the time we came to choose these we were at the end of our tether. With a tetchy baby on a hot Saturday we had to choose tiles for our ensuite and laundry splashbacks.
The first one we found that we liked we bought. No shopping around, no being sensible about prices. Does it need to be airfreighted from Australia? Yes? Is the minimum order twice what we need? Yes? Are they stupidly expensive at about $1000? Yes? Great, we don't care. We can't be bothered finding ones we like that will be cheaper, we'll take them, thank you.
Showing are the backs of the tiles. The lonely tile in the foreground is what they look like on the showing side. I did make one trip back to the shop claiming they were the wrong ones, before being told 'that's the back of them'.
But the good thing is that I really love these little Italian glass babies.
8. The Excavator
Last Saturday a digger showed up on site and the small boys of the neighbourhood came out to watch as Tony from GlenRock expertly transformed the front of the property from a right mess to a sculpted masterpiece. The retained area outside the midfloor first had to be filled.
Then Tony sculpted the area in front of that wall into a graceful curve, and finally worked the driveway area and removed the existing crossing - the bit that connects the road and the driveway. In all two or three huge truckloads of dirt and concrete were removed to leave this magnificent scene ready for concreting.
IX. The Landscape Designer
Gemma and I have not got green fingers. Quite the opposite: I'd say our fingers are pink if anything. Luckily on an early bloggypost I noticed that Xanthe White (well known garden legend, two-time silver medal winner at the Chelsea flower show (the Olympics of garden design) and tv celeb) had made a comment, welcoming us to her neighbourhood Three Kings. Belatedly last week Gemma and I contacted her, and on Tuesday we met her at the house in the hope she'll guide us towards a presentable garden. Xanthe is extremely charming, was very patient with our idiotic questions, and we're sure she'll come up with a plan that might get even us interested in the garden.
Neither Xanthe nor Gemma will thank me for this picture but it's the only one I took. I'm sorry.
10. The Blacksmith
On Wednesday while the floor inside was receiving polyurethane, these guys showed up with this thing.
It isn't that the railing is all that heavy, it just gets lonely easily and needs a lot of company from these four guys. No hang on, there are six! I seriously did NOT SEE those two on the outside - it's so DANGEROUS to dress like that!
Our contract originally showed just wooden balustrades around the deck, but we didn't want them. We also shunned glass balustrades as being "too 2004", and decided on these, which had to be designed by our architect (father in law) then detailed by the draughtsman (new father - congrats Karl), checked and re-specified by the engineer (no relation), then manufactured by a blacksmith, and which have therefore cost us about $8000 more than wooden ones would have. That's a lot of money eh? We don't care. We're not caught up in your love affair.
While Sam worked on the wooden railing for the retaining wall below, the six highly visible blacksmiths carried on until the thing was in good and solid.
I hope you like our railing. We modelled it on classic verandah railings of 1960s New Zealand houses, though due to modern rules (gaps between railings must be small enough to prevent suicidal Chihuahuas from flinging themselves off the balcony) we couldn't get exactly that look.
11. The Client and his Colleague
Finally for today, on the weekend my TV3 mate Shane and I took once more to the house to fit off the data/tv/audio cabling. You might remember the how-to video I made when we first attacked the place to run cables through the walls before the insulation and GIB went on. Now it was time to put the plates on in each room to allow internet, tv and speakers to be plugged in, and for Shane to make all the connections in the data hub.
Instead of taking a whole lot of photos and video, I just got down and did what Shane told me. So there are only a few pics, but they give you the idea:
And here's a shot of the repair that had to be made by the gib legends after I had to have two gos at cutting the hole for the kitchen speakers because my first hole had a ceiling rafter through the middle of it. What a dork.
And that brings you up to date!
A reminder. Please comment below if you:
- know more about stormwater and can clear things up a bit.
- have an opinion or story about shoes on/shoes off in a house. Is it rude to ask people to remove their shoes?
This time next week the house should be all but finished, and we'll be poised to move in. Please join us again then for another post from the heart of
If you can be bothered, please take 30 seconds and go to this page and vote this as the best blog in the nation. Even if you think this is New Zealand's worst blog, you can still vote for it - in fact I'm counting on it. If enough people vote and this blog becomes a finalist I will announce an open home for all and sundry to visit once the house is finished.