Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Batts in the Belfry

 As we insulate our house with a certain pink kiwi icon, it seems an apt time to re-examine our ‘mission statement’.
Mich, our Plumber, steps into the 'pink palace'
 The project management triangle is often raised when planning an endeavour, or excusing a result which doesn’t meet with universal satisfaction.  The three points of this triangle are cost, schedule and scope and they constantly maintain pressure against one another throughout any project.
In building our home, this model naturally applies, but could also be interpreted as cost, schedule and environmental responsibility.  Our commitment to sustainable living has tugged constantly against our timeframe and particularly our budget, threatening to turn our triangle into a point of singularity and become our own time and matter-engulfing black hole. 
Rose and Ed examine the Gib board waiting to become our interior walls
 Another pressure is the well-intended expectations of others, whose encouragement has been more sustaining to us than they realise, but whose sense of scope isn’t constrained by the practical factors which our vision must meet.  For example: so that we stand a chance of moving into a mostly-completed house by Christmas (THIS year), without financially crippling ourselves, we’ve chosen to insulate our home with fibreglass Batts.
Other, more exotic and arguably more environmentally-friendly options exist (including natural wool) but Batts isn’t the pink peril it’s sometimes claimed to be, either.
Firstly, it’s made from up to 80% recycled glass, utilising huge quantities of a waste product to actually benefit sustainable living. Batts has earned an accreditation from Environmental Choice New Zealand which assesses every aspect of the manufacturing process and end product in relation to our environment.  But most importantly, it has a proven track record since 1961, guaranteed to keep our home warm and dry by preventing airflow through interior and exterior walls, therefore conserving our preciously earned energy for the next 50 years.

Dean cuts and places the gib board (seen here in our study),
ready for us to ‘glue and screw’
 The next few weeks are going to be a flurry of activity, with electricians, our builder, plumber and waste system installer all scrambling over one another to fit out our almost completed home with the services it needs.  By the time we move out of our container and into our new house this adventure will have lasted almost exactly nine months – a full gestation period!

While all this has gone on I’ve been responsible for hammering
in 20kg of nails to keep our new floor in place.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Down to the Wires

Our floor is now covered in matai boards, and the walls sprout electrical cables like multi-coloured jungle vines. This is apparently called ‘first fix’.

We no longer have to pick our way carefully across the exposed floor joists, risking life,
limb and under floor pipes. Now we could waltz across this flawless floor if we wanted to.

The spring weather continues to be somewhat indifferent, but with the focus now on the inside of the house this hasn’t affected progress at all.
Dean somehow managed to lay our floorboards in record time, so now it just remains for me to nail them all down. It will be a long, tedious and uncomfortable process – time to reach for the iPod...

Our under-floor black polythene sea begins to disappear as the ‘Planks from Palmy’
start to line up.
Meanwhile the housing for our solar tubes is mounted on the roof. We altered the angle
and position slightly (from 40 to 35 degrees) so it won’t interfere with our roof line too much.
The wiring is installed in the areas we indicated with our ‘symbols of power’
a couple of weeks ago.  Don't ask me what goes where...
As the weather warms up Rose discovers that the ‘solar heated shower’
she bought at the beginning of the year does actually work.
(Basically a big rubber bladder with a nozzle attached, it gets filled with water,
left out in the sun all day and is apparently very refreshing.)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Floor wheel drive

The travelling floor show hits town as we bring floor boards from another province all the way back to their new home.

The trailer looked perfectly capable of carrying our floor, but the little
Suzuki vitara inspired less confidence.
 As Dean fast approached the point where he’s ready to begin laying our floor boards, we realised we’d better make actually getting them on site our priority.
Back in August, we ordered some recycled matai floor boards from a disused factory in Palmerston North, and also decided that we would collect them ourselves. In the meantime, a little apprehension had begun to creep in regarding whether we’d actually be able to achieve this – having no idea what kind of load we’d actually be expected to carry until we saw it for ourselves.  The possibility only being able to bring some of it home ourselves, and then having to pay to freight the rest was just too galling to contemplate.

Borrowing our neighbour’s tandem trailer, we set off for Palmerston North, and returned to the factory which our timber originally adorned.  The poor building was in even more of a derelict state now, the roof thieves having turned their attention to the guttering down pipes, which had caused even more interior water damage.  Fortunately our boards were fine and we had the help of Jason and one of his workers to help us load up.  Jason approved of the trailer, which manfully soldiered the considerable load of timber, but had misgivings about our little Suzuki Vitara’s ability to pull it all the way home.  Commonly known as Barry (he’s white, get it?) this humble vehicle has been the best car we’ve ever owned , triumphing over everything we’ve thrown at him, so we still clung to some hope.

Enduring some mild ridicule over the washing line rope and bungee cords we had expected to tie our load down with, we purchased a ratchet cord, grabbed some lunch, and then made an assault on the hill leading back to the Wairarapa.  
Crawling up the steep incline while trying not to let traffic build up behind us, we nervously watched the temperature gauge all the way.  But once we reached the summit, things got easier and once again, Barry came through.  It was a very slow trip home, with our rapidly emptying petrol gauge becoming the one to watch but our mighty load didn’t budge a millimetre - must have been the washing line rope.

Rose relaxes in the sun after the floor boards are safely stacked in our bedroom
 After the floor was unloaded another important job beckoned before the boards could be laid.  I’ve mentioned our high water table often, and this can result in a house’s underfloor becoming very damp as the moisture as drawn upwards by the warmth of the rooms above.  Some cases have even reported constant dripping water as if a pipe has burst.  A solution is to cover the ground under the house with heavy black polythene, which acts as a very effective moisture barrier.  Obviously the time to do this was while we still have easy access beneath the floor, so I donned my boiler suit and once again became the ‘under-floor monkey’. As I slithered about in the cramped semi-darkness I recalled a news report I’d heard about emergency services in Turkey using particularly thin people to locate and rescue survivors buried in earthquake rubble.  Perhaps I’ve missed my calling…
Within a couple of days, a smooth sea of black plastic covered every centimetre of our under-floor space, painstakingly cut and fitted around piles. And as of next week – we’ll be floored!

The ‘under-floor monkey’ begs to be let out into the light