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Tuesday, August 28. 2012
More fittings appeared in April - I started fitting out the building's KNX automation system. Light switches were the most obvious evidence of this:
The loft floor had acclimatised for a while, so the boards were flipped over and nailed in:
The loft ceiling was getting finished too:
We had an amusing interlude getting our excessively wooly sheep penned up and ready for shearing:
Back at the house, the balcony was getting prepared - an extra little area we designed on the south side of the loft to capture views down the valley to Picton. The floor needed to be excessively waterproofed as it sat on top of the bale wall downstairs, while the railing is made from more hardwood posts:
The main bathroom finally got its bath:
But just at the end of the month, the most exciting fittings arrived - our kitchen cabinetry and the stairs!
The kitchen cabinets are your typical boring white ones, however the finish we now have fitted is anything but. Stay tuned for more details - especially if we are given approval to move in today :)
As the pace slowed a little waiting for some materials to arrive, progress was still being made throughout March.
The gyprock was set, making the roof especially take shape:
Outside the carport was being finalised - this is a separate structure on its own slab, but is tied together on the rear beams:
Other fittings were appearing - internal doors and the frame for the solar hot water:
By the end of the month the pine ceilings and simple cornices were complete:
Leaving a bit of time for relaxing on the land:
Monday, August 27. 2012
Throughout February 2012 the Hebel-ing continued in earnest, followed closely by the first coat of render:
While on the outside, we had the excitement of seeing what the finished product looks like - the final coat of render almost complete:
And then complete!
This grey colour ended up lightening up significantly, as you will see in later photos. There were some fantastic details that had taken shape - bullnosing around the windows plus a 'column' which marked the transition between the bale and Hebel walls:
As always, our little family loved walking up each day to see what was happening at the house:
Back inside, the second coat of the redder clay render started drying out, with a little assistance required due to the very wet weather:
Walking around the neighbourhood gave some opportunities to take it in from different angles:
Work inside then proceeded to the upstairs loft flooring, which was first layed wrong-side-up to acclimatise:
The next major step which really defined the interior was the installation of the gyprock, which we used in a reasonably conventional manner on ceilings and non-strawbale/non-hebel walls:
As the third and final interior render coat went on, by the end of the month we had what looked remarkably like a finished house:
However there was still plenty to do. We had originally hoped to be done by February, and as these photos show it may have been possible if we had have not had so many disruptions, but as I write this months later in August, maybe tomorrow is the day. Here's hoping!
Wednesday, May 2. 2012
January 2012 was a time when I used my break from work to get cracking with cabling. This was one of the few things I felt capable of doing in the house in a reasonable timeframe, and it saved us quite a lot of money.
Meanwhile the real trades people were getting on with things like the second coat of exterior render:
There was plenty of internal rendering to do - one coat was already done on the strawbale walls, but the main builder didn't have the other internal walls or the north wall ready so it was one coat behind. First step to rectifying that was insulation and plenty of it:
Even with one coat left to go, the house was looking rather handsome:
Once I had triple-checked that I'd put all the required cabling inside the roof and walls we'll never see again, I gave the builder the go-ahead to get started with sheeting up the areas weren't already embedded into either render or Hebel, and the roof:
Friday, April 27. 2012
Here you can see the Hebel panels which were used for the North wall, as distinct from the strawbale used on the other three walls (seen at left edge).
The reasons our architect designed it this way were that in our climate less insulation can be used on north walls to allow more winter sun in, without major risk of huge amounts leaking back out again, as well as gaining more interior space.
The final composition of this wall was (outside to in) lime render, hebel, hebel racks, foil insulation (seen in blue) then stud frame filled with bulk insulation. On the inside of the stud frame is villaboard (mounted rough side out) which is rendered with clay render.
Windows and most of the doors went in next:
Plenty of services needed to be run before the internal work could be completed:
All the while the living room was slowly taking shape:
The kids loved "helping" out too:
The internal walls were next - these are mostly Hebel again between the frames, and then earth rendered. After Hebel blocks were cut to size (builders got sick of this rather quickly), including channels for conduit, we had to install the services outlets for future power points:
Temporary laundry, kitchen and front doors were installed to achieve "lock up" while the picky clients dilly-dallied about what they wanted these to actually be:
Other doors - such as the back door that Phoebe models here - already showed very promising signs:
It's been a long while between drinks, but if you'd like one or two and will be in the vicinity of the Gong tomorrow night, come down to Ryans at Thirroul to see my band Jersey Kerb work through our mix of well-known classics and far less obvious pub rock numbers.
Sunday, February 12. 2012
Monday, January 23. 2012
I'm writing this - finally - from a train at Macarthur which heads into the CBD - where I start a new job today. It's a little strange, given I will be based at Central where I first started working with the RTA way back in 2001.
It's also quite odd to be able to avoid the mess which is the poor array of trains available from our way into Parramatta. For the last two weeks there were none - for some reason the standard of track on the South line is so poor that every year it is shut down for two extra weeks in the school holidays. Not so convenient for those of us who don't go to school. I view those two weeks as a nice farewell present from CityRail.
So, instead of getting so sick on the replacement buses I need to take a day off (this happened last week to a work colleague) I drove the whole way every day. I hate peak hour traffic, even more when I'm part of the problem.
When the trains are at "full strength", this just means two trains in the morning to choose from, and three in the afternoon. Not exactly a full service that most people are used to.
So from today, I'm back at my old haunt Menangle, getting the diesel train two stops to Macarthur, then changing for an electric all the way to the city - these run every 10 minutes or so, all day! What a novelty. This one just went past a station without stopping - wow almost an 'express'!
The new job is not a dramatic change. I was actually approached by two separate sections of Transport for New South Wales within a week to come and work for them. I've selected one and accepted the offer. My role sounds like a challenge - I'll update when I know more.
It was more than a little difficult to decide to leave the RTA (or Roads and Maritime Services as it's now known) where I have been working in one role or another for eleven years, but the time felt right. I've been getting offers here and there from recruiters so if the current role doesn't work out it seems the market is good enough to take on another role out there somewhere. But I'm determined to give this role my full efforts first - there's the potential to save taxpayers millions, which has always been my goal in public service. Time will tell, but looking back on my work with RTA I can see my and I team actually achieved this.
Wednesday, November 23. 2011
While the builders cracked on putting up our outdoor entertaining area:
The interior living wing was the last area to have the bales covered with the gorgeous clay:
I even found time to go for a walk:
Poor Dougal wasn't coping with the amount of grass in the field we had made for him, so we decided to give him some competition in woolly form.
Our neighbour has sheep, and also had a mate who had too many, so a deal was struck and the ute arrived one Sunday morning:
For the first couple of days the sheep stuck well together, and Dougal as far away from them as possible:
Now however they are on much better terms. They share the somewhat sheltered spots under the tree in weather like we are having at the moment. Plus Dougal now has yet another friend too...
Tuesday, November 1. 2011
The fifth day kicked off with the exterior render spraying continuing all the way around the straw walls. Being a Monday, the builders were back on-site to keep the overall build process rolling:
By the end of the day, the sun set over our beautiful exterior walls, lime rendered, scratched, and ready to dry out for a few weeks before their next coat:
The whole weekend I spent much of my time doing the conduit for electrical and data connections in the walls. I couldn't start this until the bales were in, but it did have to be done before the render went on, making for a fairly tight timeframe for me to learn what to do, make the obligatory beginner's mistakes, and then get it right before Frank and the team turned up to blast it all with the render gun, never to be accessible again.
We want to mount a TV on the end of the living room wall, so to handle this we needed to put a big plywood board on to the wall to take the weight. It used eight double-bale needles to push wires through the bales, and then was tied off on the other side. I then affixed lots of conduit for future power and data connections, and boxes to expose the outlets. The final result before rendering bore more than a passing resemblance to a sea creature:
The internal rendering then started in earnest. This mix was different from the exterior lime render - instead it was a clay render. We really liked the fact that clay from about fifteen meters down our hill had been tested and passed as suitable to use in the render mix. So that was literally shoveled in to the render machine along with some water and sand, then sprayed on the walls:
Once everyone left early to watch some horses run around in a circle at the local pub, Phoebe wanted to help out with the scratching:
At the end of the workshop we had all the walls up, all the exterior first coat of render done, and about half of the interior. A fantastic result which we thank everyone involved for. We learned plenty, and really hope all others did too.
Sunday, October 30. 2011
We awoke early on day four and noted that hot air balloons were rising up from where we used to live in Picton - along Fairleys Road:
After this I needed to drive to the hardware shop, and had the most amazing drive down Old Razorback Road in and out of the mist, and rounding corners to find myself underneath these balloons.
The morning was spent finishing the top bales, which was quite a slow process requiring the efforts of all on site:
The corner of the house between the two wings needed special treatment - the original frame left us requiring a V-shaped bale, which after few attempts we concluded wasn't really going to happen. So, carpenter Balin stepped in and created a frame which worked like the upright LVLs (we had run out of the actual LVLs). Once this was in, the far simpler task of two smaller bales one either side of this frame remained:
I spent most of my time on the site installing all the conduit and services into the walls. This had to be done once the bales were in but before the render went on. Given both of these were to happen in the one workshop, I didn't have too much time to learn the craft and then get it right before it was all rendered over, never to be seen again. Here we are working on an exterior light box:
Once the bales were all finished to roof level, the final task was amusingly to give them all a haircut with hedge trimmers. This meant that the house had a very clean look:
We were now all ready to start the rendering process. A mix of lime, sand and water was mixed for the exterior:
Then our chief chef for the workshop Liz was given the honour of spray the first render onto our home:
This first spray coat was used on each section of the house, getting the lime render deep into the bales. Afterwards, our team of ever-helpful volunteers smoothed out the render, using more traditional plastering skills:
Saturday, October 29. 2011
The sun rose over the site, heralding beautiful baling weather:
Guard dog Alina had done a great job of protecting our site overnight:
My first task for the day was to take a wander and some pictures of the state of the bales - the fantastic work by all had certainly paid off:
From 8am onwards the house was once again a hive of activity, finalising the bales in anticipation of the first coat of render the following day:
Sunset over the site was worth staying around for:
Friday, October 28. 2011
On the second day there was more work to be done on the walls:
The system being used to put them up is visible and partially explained here:
Bales were 'persuaded' into place, and carried all over the place as required:
Our living wing began to take shape:
Phoebe and William even assisted:
Thursday, October 27. 2011
From the 27th of October through to the 3rd of November, our house was transformed from a timber frame with a roof into something looking far more like a home, with the addition of walls of straw and then the first coat of render inside and out.
I'll let the pictures (and their descriptions if you click on them to view in Flickr) do most of the talking, with more time for words later. The full set can be viewed over here.
A huge and heartfelt thanks to everyone who turned out to assist us, whether it was for one day or six. We simply wouldn't have made the progress we collectively did without you all there to help. Liz and I certainly learned a lot, and we really hope you did too. We made new friends, and hope you did too. We moved closer to the house of our dreams, and hope you may have done in some way too.
It began simply:
Then bales were made into half-bales as the pace quickened:
And at the end of the first day we had what were starting to look like walls:
The builders had to get used to the idea of so many volunteers on site:
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