Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting the Timing Right

The last few blogs have outlined our dreams for 2011. Over the past few days we have learned how important “timing” is, to successfully completing complex projects. Saving up the pennies, developing a design, planning the details and organising different facets of a construction are important steps, but when the work actually starts, timing can be a critical component too.
At the moment we are focussing on building our verandah, and setting up a clay pad for our garage slab to sit on. All the contractors (concreters, excavator and builders) were lined up well over a month ago, but  our bad timing started months earlier. Foolishly we thought that if we put our planning application in at the start of summer, we would be working on the projects in autumn (normally a dry time of year). However the wheels of the planning bureaucracy move very slowly. When we finally obtained the “magic piece of paper” 4 months later, each contractor then had to slot us into their work schedule. The builders were able to start quite soon, but the concreters had a backlog of jobs. Day after day of fine weather passed by, until at last the concreters were ready to do their thing.

The weather on 11th May, 2011 made it a memorable day. As storm clouds gathered, light rain began to fall. Kevin, our excavator driver, was going flat out to finish the clay pad before it became too sticky. Whilst trying to retrieve a log for part of a retaining wall he discovered a boggy patch that quickly turned into a substance like quicksand. The more he tried to “claw” his way out with the machine, the deeper it went. Using all his skills with the scoop, and by embedding the sought after log under the tracks of the machine, he managed to avoid becoming a permanent feature of our landscape. After this lucky escape, he did a bit more work to make sure rain would drain off the site and then shared lunch with us before packing up for the day.

The concreters turned up late (during the earthmover drama) because of two flat tyres on their machinery. They got to work setting out levels and using an electric jackhammer to chop back excess bits of the house slab that were in the way. As the cloudy conditions were putting very little solar power into our system we started up our generator. Unfortunately there was so much noise from the jackhammer and the excavator that we did not notice the generator cut out (due to low oil levels). For the next hour or so, the jackhammer happily ate into our precious store of power until the rain got too heavy. By now the concreters had had enough. So they packed up and went home too and we had to run the generator all afternoon to get some power back into the batteries.

The third minor disaster occurred in the afternoon. A glazier arrived to repair the windscreen (broken on another job) of Kevin’s Drott. He not only accidentally broke the new sheet of glass, but due to the wet slippery conditions dropped the original badly cracked pane on our drive. It took about an hour for us to pick up all the small slivers of glass.

By now the rain had really set in. We had also had enough of the conditions and retreated inside. Three days later it is still raining and work has ground to a halt.

The moral of this saga is to try and make allowances for all the potential holdups that could delay a project. In other words, “get the ball rolling” early, so wintry conditions won’t throw a whole lot of “spanners into the works”. With a bit of luck and good timing, holdups and muck-ups won’t be a big problem. At least for us, current predictions are for reasonably fine weather for most of this week before the next weather front moves in with an extended period of heavy rain. We’ll be flat out making the most of the blue skies if they do come our way!!!


Samantha in Oz said...

Hi! I'm a long-term reader but first-time commenter here. I just had to drop you a line to say I feel your pain! My partner and I have recently finished building a tiny strawbale house, so I relate very strongly to your building adventures (and misadventures). Thanks for sharing your story!

Andrew and Heather said...

Thanks for the comment Samantha. Those people who buy a "house off the shelf" and have it built for them by a company that just turns them out "en mass" don't know what they're missing out on.
Even though the misadventures can be painful, at least they provide plenty of stories to talk about later on - after you have got over them.

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