Monday, May 23. 2011
More of a house than a construction site Posted by Susanne Ruthven in house at 12:30
Well, my plan of blogging every month about the progress on the house build was a bit of a fail.
Our house is now almost finished and our site has been transformed to look more like a house in need of decorating, rather than a construction site. It seems when people say that building is a time-consuming project, they are right!
Our build has come a long way since it kicked off last year.
The foundations went in without a hitch. Well, without any major hitches anyway. It turns out we needed more specific design engineered foundations than first anticipated but otherwise, it went much as expected.
We were pleasantly surprised to find the house looked relatively large despite having no walls or roof. But then I guess, by comparison to the house we're currently living in, it is twice the size.
The framing really... well, framed the house. The rooms were defined by the walls now so you had a sense of what the space would be like once it was built. We had forgotten about 2 windows in the house plan, so it was exciting to see those in place.
Before we knew it the windows and doors were in. Well, all of the doors, except the garage door. Muttermumblegrumble damn Specific Engineer Design Wind Zone muttermumblegrumble.
We expected the bricks to take 2 weeks to go up, but they took a record 3 days! The house was water tight... except for the garage door.
During first fix, Andrew started spending most of his spare time at the house running miles and miles of network cable and speaker cable and who knows what else (with some much appreciated help, of course), to ensure the house reached Ultimate Geek standard.
The insulation went in (including, thanks to some friends of ours, some silencer batts in some strategic places) and then we needed to take a short pause. The house build had happened so fast that the timber framing hadn't had time to dry out after getting wet before the roof went on. A couple of weeks and some sunny days later, we were back into it.
The plasterer is now finishing off, the painter is starting this week, and second fix will begin next week. We're mostly on schedule with only 2 weeks overdue, which is pretty good for a house build. And would you believe, we'll be moving into the house in 5 weeks time! Let the packing begin.
A few observations so far:
Would we do it again? Definitely yes!
When we build again, we would definitely use Keith Bullocks Contracting to excavate the site. They are The Best excavators. They turn digging into an art-form making the digger look like it's performing in a ballet. They are professional, reliable and are straight-up-and-down good guys. They know their business, they understand local Council and they work hard to ensure the job gets done to an exceptionally high standard.
We would also definitely build with Jennian Homes again. They really do make building an enjoyable and relatively stress-free experience. They know what they are doing. They've been in this business for a long time, and it shows. When problems arise, as is expected on any big project, Jennian takes the problems in their stride and finds a solution that works for all parties involved. They listen to the client and they work with the client every step of the way. The contractors they engage are hard-working and reliable, often working long hours and sometimes on weekends.
Although I'm not sure if I'd want to build with this local council again...
Wednesday, January 5. 2011
A new year, a newly formed building ... Posted by Susanne Ruthven in house at 21:37
It's an exciting start to the New Year for us, with our newly formed building platform, thanks to our earthworks starting just before Christmas.
So far this part of the build has taught us first-hand why having a contingency fund is so important when embarking on earthworks in preparation for a house-build.
It started with our engineer completing further geo-technical assessments of our land. That assessment came back slightly differently than expected, which meant that the cut and batter of the bank was slightly different than the original plan. As a consequence, our build platform is smaller than we first expected it to be.
Unfortunately this has had a knock-on effect. One corner of our house now has to be built right on the edge of the receding bank, which means that corner will now need to have its foundations specifically designed by an engineer. <Cha-ching>
With the house positioned there, we now won't be able to walk around that corner of the house, which decreases the amount of usable land we'll have. Not a problem, we thought. We'll just whack some of the dirt we're cutting away down the bank to extend the platform out the front of the site. After some discussion with engineers, surveyors and our site foreman, it turns out we'll need to build a landscaping fence to do that, which our engineer will need to design. <Cha-ching>
As the cut progressed, our engineer determined that there are two segments of the bank that are highly fractured, which he recommends we install some steel meshing to the area, or build a timber fence in front of the bank. <Cha-ching>
We were expecting our building consent to be granted before Christmas, but as with everything to do with the build, it too has been delayed.
Our section is zoned for Specific Engineer Design wind zone, which doesn't necessarily mean that it's windier than anywhere else in Wellington. It just means that the Council hasn't yet tested that area, so an engineer needed to determine the wind speed for our site, taking into account various factors, such as topography of the land, the direction the site faces, etc. Our wind loading is 53m/s, which is 2m/s more than the category 'Very High Wind Zone', placing our section in the highest wind zoning.
To cut a long story short, we now need extra bracing, extra trusses, extra strapping, extra studs, and, you guessed it, extra engineering, particularly regular site inspections during the build. <Cha-ching cha-ching>
So, we enter 2011 behind schedule, with quite a bit less contingency money and nothing really to show for our spending of it. But, ah well, that's what building is all about.
Monday, November 29. 2010
And so it begins... Posted by Susanne Ruthven in house at 17:33
We've spent the last 6 weeks impatiently waiting for this day, and finally, the day has come! Today is the day the earthworks began. Yippeeeeee!!!!
The earthworks had to wait until the weather improved and being Wellington, that was waiting until after Labour weekend. Then there was a process of putting some of the work out for tender, receiving the tenders, and decided one of the contractors for the job, which took some time and a bit of negotiation.
The big digger arrived onsite today.
It dwarfs the bank it's cutting down, which is reassuring. It'll take one week to get the site prepared, including mulching the vegetation and setting up sediment control measures to ensure that the nearby waterways aren't polluted from the dust emissions.
The health and safety officer hooked us up with some safety gear so that we could go out onsite regularly.
Tomorrow, our surveyor will set out the site, which means he will peg out where the digger should be cutting into the bank. After that our engineer will come to complete what we hope will be the final soil testing on our site. But first the digger will need to create a path for our engineer to be able to access the top of the bank.
So in about two weeks time, our section will be transformed. We won't even recognise it. How super dooper exciting! After 7 or so years, it's finally happening, woohoo!!
In the meantime, we've applied for building consent, which should be granted any day now. Fingers crossed it will come through before the earthworks have finished so that it doesn't delay the build. If granted, it will be on the condition that the Engineer certifies our foundation design, which he can't do until after he's seen what the earthworks uncovers.
While we were waiting for the weather to improve, we met with the electrician. Despite having set aside over $2,500 more than the PC Sum for electrical work, we still came in $2,000 over budget. Yikes! So we've made the most of the sales and now have a wardrobe full of lights and 2 bathroom heaters. The search is on for the cheapest decent heated towel rails.
While we were shopping, we stumbled across a swing set that a shop used to entertain it's customers children. Naturally, our children loved it. So we took the liberty of asking if we could buy it. Turns out we could, at a very competitive rate. So we are now proud owners of 2 swings and some monkey bars. Who needs a security system anyway. They are so over-rated. Besides, the children's swings are much more important.
Thursday, October 7. 2010
Good news! The Council has granted our resource consent.
After getting partway through the consultation process with local Māori, we found out that the Council were wrong about our section being of cultural significance.
After completing some research on Google, we found the Council's District Plan, which listed Puketirotiro Peak as being of cultural significance. Puketirotiro peak is a nearby lookout point. The important words on this plan are that the property of cultural significance is "identified by a trig station." Our surveyor took a look around, and found the trig station, which is located at 157 Maungaraki Road. Our property is at 251 Maungaraki Road. The council then told us that we no longer needed to consult with Māori. Phew! One less thing to do.
Now all we need to do is wait until this weather improves for a decent period of time so that the earth dries out and the earthworks can begin. We thought that might be in a couple of weeks or so, but we've been told that, in reality, it's more likely to be late November. Yikes! Ah well, another month, another delay to the move-in date. We're now looking at moving in to the house in late April 2011.
The same day that the Council granted our resource consent, we received our working drawings, yippee!! All in all they look fantastic! There are just a few minor errors, which comes with the territory. But thankfully we asked to see the working drawings before they were lodged with the Council with our application for building consent, so those things are getting fixed up as we speak. We should be able to lodge our building consent application within the next week or so.
Next on the agenda is meeting with the electrician to decide lighting, power outlets, etc. That's the last major thing we need to do before the build begins. Exciting stuff!!
On a completely different note, Andrew and I have been nominated for an award in the New Zealand Open Source Awards for being Open Source Advocates in our role of Co-Directors of linux.conf.au 2010, which was held in Wellington earlier this year.
It's quite touching to have the hard work we put in organising linux.conf.au 2010 recognised by someone out there as being so significant that they actually took the time and energy to nominate us. Little old us! Ah, shucks
Sunday, September 12. 2010
The frustration of building Posted by Susanne Ruthven in house at 21:45
We've come to understand that the stress involved with building is not actually stress. It's frustration.
We've learnt that our section is zoned for specific design wind zone. This means our roof trusses need to be specifically designed by an engineer taking into account the wind on the site. The frustrating part: Instead of taking 2-3 weeks to be completed, our working drawings have so far taken 5 weeks. And they still aren't finished yet.
We're learnt that our section is of cultural significance. This means that we need to consult with Māori about the earthworks we plan to complete on our site. The frustrating part: Instead of the Council granting our consent within 20 working days, it won't be granted until we've consulted with Māori we understand this will take about a month. The even more frustrating part: The Council only told us this on Working Day 23.
We've chosen the flooring for the house, which was very exciting and is making the build seem more 'real'. We were prompted to buy the flooring before the end of August to avoid missing out on the 40% discount offered. Only to find, 6 days later, a brochure in the mail advertising a 50% discount from the same carpet company. Frustrating!
On the bright side, we've chosen all of the colours for the house.
We can now picture what the house will look like, and just can't wait till the house is built. The frustrating thing is that all of the issues we've had this month have delayed the build itself. Which means we won't be in the house until mid-late March at best. Sigh.
Saturday, August 14. 2010
Engineering, love it or hate it, ... Posted by Susanne Ruthven in house at 20:39
The resource consent application has finally been lodged with the council after many delays. One of which being the engineering.
Our engineer had already completed a Geotech assessment of the site, which consisted of digger pits, scala penetrometer testing and the like. The engineering came back as the bank being stable enough to build within certain parameters.
However, the earthworks plan, prepared by the surveyor, changes the building platform. The knock-on effect was that our engineer had to modify his original report to reflect the earthworks plan, before we could lodge the resource consent application with the Council.
Now that the earthworks plan has been drawn up and we know exactly where the house will be sited, the engineer needs to complete some more testing of our building platform before we can start the earthworks. Unfortunately the testing will only give him an indication of what the land will be like once the earthworks have been completed. So the engineer will need to be on site when the earthworks happens.
The unfortunate thing about all of this, is that all these things need to happen before our engineer will sign off on the house foundations. The upshot is that, only after the earthworks have been completed, will we know whether we need specific design foundations, a retaining wall or a stock standard concrete slab. The downside, of course, is that it pushes the build project out further, because we can't apply for building consent, until we know what foundations we need and until we have the engineer's big tick.
This makes us a touch nervous, having paid our deposit for the house and signed the build contract with our design and build company. But then, what is contingency money for? Worse case scenario we'll need some specific design foundations or a retaining wall.
Being ever optimists, we're trucking along with the house plans. This week we finalised our kitchen plans. I can't wait until we can cook in it.
We're meeting with a flooring company next weekend, and a colour consultant this week to decide all things colour related. And my goodness there are a lot of things to choose colours for: Garage door, front door, back door, walls, ceilings, hard wood areas, window frames, glass tints, roofing tiles, downpipes, kitchen cabinetry, benchtop.
Ooh, yay, what fun!!!
Saturday, July 24. 2010
It takes many people to get a project like building a house off the ground. We've been in contact daily with our surveyor, resource consent planner, engineer, designer, and more recently mortgage broker and valuer. After having had a frustrating few weeks, we are now, finally, making progress.
We now have a earthworks plan that will create the optimum space on the site. The site will be excavated so that the house will have a North North West outlook, which in Wellington, is the best angle for optimum sunlight. The best part about the earthworks plan is that we can now build using a concrete slab, which is much cheaper than having to build on piles or any other engineered foundations. So we have now finalised our resource consent for the earthworks, which is ready to be lodged with the Council on Monday.
We've heard back from a number of suppliers this week who have firmed up their quotes for us. The best one being from our digger driver, who has been very generous with his pricing. So now that we know how much money we have left in the kitty and the site dimensions, we've been having fun deciding which house plan we'd like to build.
This week's big milestone: Paying the deposit and proceeding to working drawings.
So exciting, so surreal. After all this time we're actually building our house. Yippee!!!
Thursday, July 15. 2010
Two Steps Forward. One Step Back Posted by Susanne Ruthven in house at 23:49
Since my last blog, we've learnt that building a house quickly turns from fun into frustration.
After getting confirmation from the Design and Build company, 3 times, that the indicative pricing for the house fits our budget, we handed the plans to our valuer to check that, after the house has been build, it would provide us with 75% equity. Luckily for us it came back as providing 74.5% equity. Phew! The bank is happy so we are happy.
Then the Design and Build company we were using (note the use of past tense), gave us 2 prices for the same plan which greatly varied from the original price, despite no changes to the plan. When queried, they told us they made a mistake with the first pricing. Although that doesn't explain the $8,000 variance between the second and third pricing, which they had no explanation for. Despite the house now being $18,000 over our budget, they suggested we pay to get working drawings anyway. But really, what would be the point in that?!?
So after going round and round in circles and banging our heads against a brick wall a few times, we've jumped ship. We're now using Jennian Homes, who have been wonderful and marvelous in every way... so far, and better still hasn't varied their quotes in the slightest.
So now we have some plans we like, we need to sort out the building platform. Some months ago, we lodged a resource consent application to take earth from the bank on our site and use it to fill a hole on a different site nearby. After waiting 6 months for Maori to consult on whether or not that hole should be filled, the Council in their great wisdom decided to reject the resource consent application. They have asked us to instead submit two resource consents: One for our site; one for the other site. Muttermumblegrumble red tape muttermumble sigh.
In the meantime, we received our Engineer's report. Being solid rock, the bank is currently graded at a 15 degree angle. When we bought the site, we spoke to the engineer who originally determined the grading of the rock at 15 degrees. He said that we could take the bank back at the same gradient. Since then someone has put some loose soil at the top of the bank and over our boundary on to our land. At the time we discovered it, we didn't think it would matter much.
Turns out it does matter. It means that instead of a 15 degree angle, we need to a gradient of 30 degrees. The upshot is, we aren't allowed to remove as much dirt as we were able to, plus we cannot build within 2m of the toe of the bank, making the building platform smaller than expected. Consequence: the chosen house design doesn't fit the site anymore. Argh!
Back to the drawing board. So after chasing our tails some more and shaving a few yaks on the way, the man with a hole to fill has taken charge. Being a developer and a surveyor, he's working with the engineer to devise an earthworks plan which will allow us to have the optimum amount of space on our building platform.
Once we have their topography map of what the site will look like after the earthworks have been completed, we can then choose a house plan to suit the site. We then need to amend the resource consent to have the footprint of this house on the land, which we'd better do quick smart because the amended resource consent application is due back at the Council by the end of this week.Where does that leave us? Pretty much in exactly the same position we were in a month ago. No resource consent. No plans. No working drawings. We even need to get the valuer to value to new plans. Sigh, two steps forward, one step back.
Sunday, June 20. 2010
Beginning The Build Process Posted by Susanne Ruthven in family, house at 21:35
So Andrew and I have decided to finally build on the section we've owned since 2004.
We don't tend to take decisions lightly. So in coming to this decision, over the years we've spoken to: 2 Architects, 3 Designers, 1 Draughtsman and 4 Design and Build Companies. Not to mention the hours of online research, visits to suppliers, reviewing pamphlets and checking out showhomes etc. I've also had hours upon hours of fun coming up with 30-odd designs using Inkscape - The BEST free and open source vector drawing software available.
Having just spent 18 months project managing a major international 7 day conference, linux.conf.au 2010, we decided we would not project manage the house build. So, we've decided to go with a design and build company. We took their design and tweaked it (using Inkscape) to better suit our section, and came up with this:
Now we have the design, it's time to work out how we're going to pay for it. Thanks to our mortgage broker, we're now pre-approved to value x. The Design and Build company has estimated the pricing as x minus $5,000. The only way to get the actual price is to draw up the working drawings, which of course costs money. So here's hoping the Design and Build company is accurate in their indicative pricing!
So to help the build fit the budget, we've started looking into supplying some of the materials ourselves and getting in our own tradesmen...I find myself wondering, if something looks like project managing the build and smells like project managing the build, is it not project managing the build? Sigh. We may be in for a long 3 months (apparently the build will take only 3 months, but I will not hold my breath).
A while back, we were lucky enough to be introduced to a man who owns a subdivision down the road from us, who happens to have a hole that he needs to fill. Conveniently, our section is made up of the kind of rock that fills holes in subdivisions. So naturally, we struck a deal and lodged an application for resource consent to complete some earthworks on the site. The Council should be granting the application any day now. So we've had to move fast on the build process so that we'll know what earthworks to do as soon as the application is granted.
So to help us with the build so far, we have:
Next on the list, a surveyor, who will tell us the topography of the land.
Saturday, September 22. 2007
During the week I stumbled across a great write up of an awesome looking place called TechShop. Which is a fully featured work shop where you can buy day passes, monthlies or annual membership. If you haven't heard of this place, go and read the write up.
We so need one of these in Wellington. I've occasionally been tempted to sign up to a woodworking night course just so I can use the workshop.
A few of us at Catalyst had a little chat about what would be involved. Currently the list is:
Thursday, August 30. 2007
Hardware (?) Hacks Posted by Andrew Ruthven in catalyst, house at 21:25
A bit of a mess...
What do you do if the back of your stereo cabinet is a mess and you've been a network monkey in the past?
Ah, much tidier
Simple, you grab some cable management brackets from your good junk pile, some bits of MDF and you hack your stereo cabinet.
I think it came out much tidier, and now I can safely push it back without risking damaging cables!
If you're wondering why some of the power cords aren't plugged in, they belong to devices we don't use very much, why have them plugged in and drawing power if we aren't actually using them?
 "Good junk pile" every geek should have one, it is that collection of odds and sods that you don't really need, but which - just might, one day - come in handy. It should be noted however that they don't tend to have a very high Wife Approval Factor.
Monday, July 9. 2007
(almost) Whole House Audio Posted by Andrew Ruthven in catalyst, house at 09:25
In our house we have a server that does a number of tasks, one of which is playing a jukebox (using MusicPD) it is hooked up to an amp that has speakers in our study and in our family room. This rocks, turn on the amp, have continuous music that we want to listen to and no chatter.
Unfortunately this doesn't extend to the lounge. Which means that if you sit in the lounge you can only just hear the music (unless you turn it up too loud). I've thought off and on (mostly off) about extending the jukebox to the lounge, the other week Susanne asked about having this, which meant it was finally time for me to really look into possible solutions.
Warning, geeky bits follow...
Since we used to use Icecast2 to stream the jukebox to Susanne's computer in our old flat I tried that first. We have a PC in the lounge that is a MythTV frontend that we could play the stream on, so that aspect is covered. Unfortunately the 5 second lag which was acceptable when Susanne's computer was a long way away from the main jukebox in our old flat was too annoying when the speakers were only a room apart (yes, I could have reduced the buffers, but it would never have been quite right).
So fall back to plan B, stick another soundcard in the jukebox computer and run line level audio to the amp in the lounge. We managed to dig up an old soundcard in the good junk pile (every geek should have a good junk pile), stuck it in the computer and then proceeded to try and configure ALSA to drive it. The plan was to duplicate the same audio stream out to both soundcards. After a bit of researching and a bit of tinkering with asound.conf and it not working I decided not to waste any more time on that path.
I vaguely recalled that PulseAudio was incredibly flexible and allowed all sorts of things. A quick apt-get install pulseaudio pulseaudio-module-hal and bit of reading, and I found that adding the following line to /etc/pulse/default.pa:
load-module module-combine master=<sound card 1> slaves=<sound card 2> set-default-sink combined
Would create a new virtual soundcard output (PulseAudio refers to this as a sink) called "combined" that would replicate the audio to both soundcards. Awesome. (The master and slaves settings were determed by using paman to inspect the PulseAudio devices.)
Then after recompiling MusicPD (to add PulseAudio support, the version in Debian unstable already has it, but stable doesn't), telling it to use that sink and voila, both soundcards are playing the jukebox.
To actually get the line level audio to the lounge I've used some Cat5 we already have running there (with suitable audio flyleads) and we have the jukebox playing in the lounge, in sync with the family room. The sound quality is pretty good, so I won't worry about balanced audio or anything else fancy like that. Gotta love structured cabling.
Another benefit of PulseAudio is we will be able to configure our Linux workstations to use the jukebox soundcards as audio sinks as well, which will mean no more tinny little monitor speakers. w00t!
Update: Say which file to add the load-module line to, and fix a typo.
Thursday, September 7. 2006
In UPS Proven Useful I gave a score card which showed that the UPS was a good thing. The situation now is:
Circuit Breaker: 2
A sparky mate came round this morning and installed an additional two circuit breakers.
It turns out there are actually 5 different circuits in the house, but they are shared over 2 circuit breakers. And one circuit breaker has all the power outlets we put high loads onto (heaters, dryer, computers, microwave, A/V gear). One of those circuits is only an external RCD protected power socket.
Now we have 5 circuits on 4 breakers (the outside power socket shares a breaker with an internal, low use, circuit).
Hopefully we won't have any further issues with breakers blowing!
Wednesday, August 23. 2006
In a follow on from Power Issues and Power Issues - Part 2, we managed to blow the circuit breaker yet again last night.
But this time we had the UPS in place. It started beeping on cue about not having any power, and I was able to reset the breaker without the server going down. Fantastic. Unfortunately the ADSL router isn't on the UPS yet (I need to modify a power strip to have an IEC plug on it so I can plug in the ADSL routers wall-wart).
The score is now:
Circuit Breaker: 2
Tuesday, August 8. 2006
To continue on from Power Issues we discovered today that 4x computers, 2x heaters, the drier and the toastie sandwich maker are enough to blow the one and only circuit in the house. The toastie sandwich maker was the straw that broke the camels back.
Of course I didn't have the UPS that was bought after the first occurance hooked up (I was waiting until I had a serial cable for it), so I had to spend quite a while nursing the server back to health again.
This time the server is running off the UPS... I figure that if the power goes off, I'll be home and can hopefully reset the circuit breaker before the batteries run out.
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