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!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 Dreaming -House Progress Report

This year we were going to get back on to the job of finishing off our owner built house. We have half-heartedly said this a few times before, but this year we have actually started. The first room to get the treatment was our bedroom. The job turned out bigger than we expected (don’t they always), because a close look our timber beams and wall cladding revealed that they needed further sanding before we could get underway. A full day was spent rectifying this situation before we could start the main game. Choosing colours is not one of our strong points so our bedroom was to be the site of the great colour “experiment”. We had a long chat with the folk at Grimes & Sons who are well known local manufacturers of stains and paints with a particular knowledge about mud brick construction.

We started off with a range of several “off the shelf” colours and these worked well for most of the room. However, it was not quite so easy choosing the wall colour and we ended up developing our very own tinted colour with the help and expertise from Alan Grimes. Our rather primitive method involved measuring out a quarter litre of the base colour and then adding drops of tint with an eye dropper until the colour was just right. The magical number was 50 drops. After that we used an old medicine glass to work out how many ml equalled 50 drops. As the final colour was a result of Heather’s experiments we have christened this colour “Heather”. Another colour that had a great name was the one that we used for the upright posts and main beams. It is called “beer”. We did not choose it because of its name, but because it is a rich mellow colour that makes the timber grain look really beautiful.

We have now finished our bedroom and are really happy with the result. Unfortunately the cooler weather is not conducive to painting and staining so we will try the next room when the warm weather returns. It is great that at last we have made a start.

Grimes & Sons have a web site
Free Hit Counter