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.
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!!!
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.
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