July to August 2010

Week of 5 July 2010

Garage door fitted. Garage is pretty much done now – just a few small cosmetics to be finalised when next on site – a leaking window, sticking doors, faulty handles, and weatherstripping on doors.

One day on site this week (three days rain).

Brick footings

In late June the brickies came in to do the 80+ piers and retaining walls.

I marked the finished brick pier height on the temporary power pole, which has nearly 2 metres in the ground and is not likely to move! I checked, and checked, and checked again – as we are bulding right on the limit of the lowest height we can. This meant working back from the FFL, which had to be at 3.4o AHD.

The survey point was at 3.43m, minus 30mm over our 3.4m, minus 290mm (20mm floorboards, 20mm particleboard, 150mm joist, 100mm bearer) = 3.11m AHD for top of piers.

Some lessons were learned. Firstly, cover your bricks as soon as they arrive – ours were left uncovered and we had a lot of rain just before the brickies started. As a result, the bricks were loaded with water, which was sucked into the drier mortar making it runny and difficult to clean neatly. Conversely, in very hot and dry weather, the bricks may need to be lightly misted before they are laid to stop them sucking all the moisture out of the mortar. Also, check the bricks each night yourself – after telling me I should have kept the bricks covered, the brickies then left them uncovered – and we had more rain!

Three days on site over a two week period (interrupted by rain).

Footings and piers in progress

House floor structure

Having done such a great job on the garage, I approached Lucky about getting the house to lock up for us. He agreed, but made it clear that it would be on a ‘as can fit’ basis, as he is already booked in for other jobs. So we may have him for a few days at a time, which suits us fine as there will be lulls between things like frames and windows being ordered and them arriving on site. The aim is to have the house at lock up stage by mid-late September (allowing for 3-4 weeks leadtime on frames and 4 weeks on windows).

Weeks of 19 July and 26 July 2010

F17 untreated hardwood bearers (100 x 75mm) and joists (150 x 50mm), as well as 19mm untreated particleboard flooring and compressed sheet delivered. Bearers laid, Air-Cell Permifloor insulation drapped over bearers (R1.2 summer, R1.9 winter), joists are laid, EXPOL polystyrene insulation fitted between(R1.4). Double joists are fitted at all walls parallel to joists.

Joists made up of two 4.2m sections, overlapped in the middle, to span the 8.2m area. Every 3.6m, two adjacent joists are laid inline (not overlapped) to provide continuous support (and staggering) for the particleboard flooring.

Some bearers were severely warped and required ‘crippling’ – a slot is cut more than half way through the upper side of the warp to allow the timber to settle flat.

'Crippled' bearer

Lucky and Nathan started on Tuesday and finished the structure on Friday. They returned with two labourers to lay the particleboard flooring in one day. I insulated the garage loft walls and roof with Polymax (R2.0), and the boys lined it with ecoply.

Six days on site.

Loft lined with ecoply
Flooring structure

We also got around to the smaller jobs we could do ourselves – painting and staining, external garage staircase, drainage, loft insulation.

My main challenges over these two months were timber framing, windows and insulation.


Our window area to floor area ratio is high, at around 45% – 127m2 floor space and 60m2 windows! As a result, we always knew the quotes were going to be high, especially as we wanted double glazing. Now, before you say the same thing so many other windows salesmen said ‘You don’t need double glazing in Newcastle’, let me just expand a bit. Double glazing does more than just keep the heat in if you live in cooler climates: it helps keep the heat OUT in warmer areas, it insulates against sound (and yes, all the walls are insulated too!) and reduces the need for window coverings. Apart form privacy in sleeping areas, we are hoping to get away without any curtains at all – after all, the overriding design criteria for this house was LIGHT.

As with a few other things, I really started on this WAY too late! I have now learned that it takes a few weeks to get rough quotes, then you have to choose a supplier, after which it takes a few more weeks before the FINAL quote is sorted. And then leadtime is about six weeks!

I initially went back to Fin Aluminium, who I had used for the windows on the garage, after realising that my dream of timber framed windows and doors was just not going to happen. I went through the whole sizing and quoting process, which took a week or so, and then asked the question ‘Okay, how much to upgrade to double glazing?’. ‘We don’t do double glazing’ was the reply, which meant I had to start all over again. I settled on a local firm, Langford Windows, who gave me a quote that included the options of single glaze low-e glass as well as double glazing, powered opening of clerestory windows, flyscreens and one security screen, The total with the options came to $31,000 – the upgrade to double glazing being only an additional $3000. (We later added a huge matching front door double glazed unit with sidelights, for another $4,500). All in all, it took a month from my first visit until all details were finalised enough for them to go ahead with production.

Aluminum framed double glazed windows

Timber frames

The floor structure proved challenging. I had originally indicated that I wanted to use untreated hardwood, so F14-17 kild dried (KD) hardwood was specified on the plans. I decided to investigate the possibility of using LVL (laminated veener timber) as it is very stable and makes use of a waste product. I made enquiries about which LVL was FSC certified and LOSP treated rather than CCA. Even though some sites stated this option was available, when I made enquiries they a) weren’t quite clear what I was talking about and b) then informed me it was a ‘special order’ and would take anything up to 6 months! As the equivalent strength LVL can be a fair bit smaller, the sizes also proved a problem as the brick piers had already been built taking into account a bearer/joist combined height of 250mm. The timber was ordered from Hudson Building Supplies and delivered to site.

I sent out to three companies for quotes on the house framing, and only one came back to me – after chasing! I went with Trussted Frames & Trusses, who had done the framing for the garage. I started talking to them at the end of June, eventually got the order to proceed late August, and took delivery of the frames on 8 September!

Untreated pine framing


EVERYTHING is insulated! External and internal walls (PolyMax R1.5), ceiling (PolyCeil R2.5), floors (as detailed above). Air-Cell was also used in the walls and roof, adding another ~R1.5. See May to June posting. TOB 160 August/September 2010 Building Diary for more information on insulation decisions.

See The Owner Builder 161 October/November 2010 for more information on these stages.

TOB 161 October/November 2010 Building Diary


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