This just a day off together before the pour we thought we were cruising – we would use this day to tidy up the trenches, place in all the steel which then gets tied together with wire, make steps where the land slopes and insert all the strapping needed to connect and hold all the concrete, bricks and bearers together (an additional requirement thanks to our N3 wind rating).
Of course the weather & construction gods had other ideas and we found ourselves in what seemed like an isolated patch of rain. Trenches and piers filled with water which we bailed when the sun cam out only have them fill again with the next front that came through. We grew 10cm with each step in the sticky slippery clay mudbath. Cave ins happened the moment you turned your back and it felt like a day of working in reverse. With the forecast for easing overnight we working into the dark (which starts at 4:30 – 5pm these days) getting rid of as much water as we could out to let the trenches dry a bit before the next day. The morning of the pour we were up before the sun, head torches on again, removing more water that had gone in over night. A little water doesn’t matter apparently as the concrete will displace it when poured (according to Steve they can even concrete under water!) but with large lumps of clay fallen into the trenches and some pier holes with 20L + water in them we chose to play it safe, get as much out so shovelling our anything would be easy without causing more damage. A big sponge on a stick proved a great tool for hauling up water for the holes over a metre deep – even if the concrete pump guys thought this was hilarious when they saw our contraptions later that day. We don’t have photos of this process… perhaps best lost in memories, entombed in layers of wet clay.
With the sun up and no rain on the horizon we got most of the trench mesh in when our helper Aron arrived to give us a hand. Having worked on building sites for years and with the design smarts too Aron helped reassure us and provide sound advice and encouragement just when we needed it.
Georgie tied the trench mesh together and attached strapping while Aron and Steve set about installing the steps. Using a laser level these steps were run in width equivalent to brick courses, so for ever step down the bricky will have an easier job working with bricks as they are rather than cutting them down and mucking about with mortar to make it level. Well that is the theory, we hope it pays off. The steps are also necessary to stop the concrete all flowing down hill into a big pool so through reading and advice we decided on the standard brick step to make the most of this.
Just as we were finishing these tasks the concrete pump truck rolled in. While initially we considered it was an extravagant piece of equipment to have on hand at $800 for the day the thought of barrowing in what turned out to be 20 cubic meters of wet concrete into narrow trenches and piers began to look like a nightmare. So far this is some of the best $800 we’ve ever spent! The boom pump simple sucks up the concrete the trucks deliver and squirts it through pipes directly into the holes.
Three trucks loaded with ‘winter mix’ arrived in succession from the quarry near Cygnet, getting us most of the way through.
Once the 3rd was done we need to make the call on how much more to order to finish the job off – the truck was waiting back at the quarry ready to be loaded for the final delivery. A quick calculation and estimation from us and the pump guys we ordered a final 5.2 cubic meters, the thought being if it wasn’t enough the deck piers were the last to go in and can always we filled with mix onsite later – their structural importance isn’t as great and they are only 600mm deep. However, this final load finished the job off beautifully with only about a barrow load excess. The total required of 20.2m3 was only 2.3m3 off our estimate of 18 – not too bad for first timers, but there must have been some luck involved!
And so after what feels like it must be the most stressful period of the build we have foundations! The project seems that bit more tangible, the process forward that little be clearer and the enthusiasm to be out of the ground and building up is exciting. Now we have the beginnings of our home.