Thursday, December 18, 2008

45, The bays, done at last!

Wednesday, the seventeenth of December, I'm happy, much of my cursing is now in the past. The final block is placed for the bay windows, they are complete and so is the ground floor stonework. Next on the agenda is the raising of the scaffolding to enable me to install the string course and pour a reinforced concrete beam behind it to hold the house together.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

44, Yet more distractions.

That time of year had come around again, the grass had started it's annual migration towards the sun. With this part of the country suffering from a prolonged drought, water has been in short supply. With reticulated water not being available to us, we rely on tank water collected from our roof areas for domestic use. To help supplement this we had begun to pump water from our main dam for use in the toilet and for other external use. For this purpose I had laid out extension leads and a 1 inch poly pipe across the ground the 80 or so metres to the pump.
With there being no relief in sight from the drought, it was becoming apparent that this setup was going to have to be made permanent. Mowing the block with this stuff in the way was a pain in the proverbial and as for thepower leads lying in the grass, not a good idea.

In late October the digging started, I began with a trench from the house to the shed, in which to lay some poly, for dam water to be piped for use on the saw, enabling me to remove two lengths of garden hose from the grass. At the start of November I began the 600mm deep trench to the dam, in which to bury the conduit and pipe. The first 40 metres proved very easy work by hand, traversing the damp ground below our septic system. To make full use of this trench, I enlarged and deepened it near the house to pass below the footings to install some needed drainage pipes to connect to the cellar.
The progress came to a halt shortly past the mid point, nearing the eucalypt trees in the vicinity of the dam. The ground here, being so dry and full of roots, proved for it to be next to impossible for the pick and shovel to penetrate. I had no choice but to contract the services of a friend, armed with an excavator, to complete the digging.

Concurrently with this project, our attention was also preoccupied with the searching for a more reliable mower, our old MTD ride on, purchased new about 10 years ago was costing me far to much time in repairs and maintenance to make it worthwhile. We needed one that could take a bit of punishment. Happening across an hour old ad via the trading post online had me making a $50 direct deposit to secure a little? Kubota G5200, a sturdy ride on with a 3 cylinder diesel and a 44 inch cutting deck. This led me to my next problem, how to get it? it was located near Hobart, Tasmania.

Quotations from shipping companies varied upwards from about $300.00 with no insurance, so for a little extra I decided to pick it up myself. This entailed a 100km drive to the ferry terminal, a 450km overnight trip for my van and I aboard the "Spirit of Tasmania" and a further drive of about 270km to Acton Park, near Hobart airport. Impressed with the machine, I paid the balance of $2050.00, loaded up and began the trip home. On the return journey I stopped off at Hobart and posed the van at the "Queens Domain" for the above picture with the Tasman bridge in the background. I also took the opportunity to scout Hobart's streets and other various locations on the way to expand my photographic record of much of the beautiful Colonial and Victorian architecture this state has to offer. Another overnight trip saw me returning home the following morning, about 41 hours after leaving.

After a week or two's work on my return the mower was ready to roll and I was more than impressed, it runs well and cuts beautifully. The machine was in excellent condition for it's age but the deck was a bit sorry. I re-plated the entire front section with 3mm steel, turned 4 new "anti scalp" rollers and fitted them with new axles, fabricated new belt covers, installed new pins, clips and bolts, adjusted the angle of the tension pulley and cleaned and repainted the whole assembly.

Friday, October 31, 2008

43, The bays progress.

To ensure a neat finish for the lining and mouldings to be fitted to the sloped underside of the first floor balcony, I dressed a raked margin on the top of the face of the uppermost blocks. Having this done, I can now get on with it and work on finishing the ground floor stonework.
With these blocks ready to to be installed my next problem needed to be resolved, how could I lift them into position?. The heaviest of these was in excess of 100kg, they needed to be lifted about 1600 to 1700mm above the scaffolding and there was insufficient headroom to mount a winch.

The solution came in the form of a heavily modified trolley. A pair of vertically lifting forks slide on a frame fashioned from 25mm square tube welded to the trolley uprights, this is lifted by a cable slung over a pulley and winched onto a boat winch (eBay again, $15!), secured on the back. A day and a half well spent (I think anyway!) and it works great.
The blocks are wheeled into position and raised to the required height, I then insert steel tubing through the forks and extending across the wall, along these the blocks can be slid. These tubes have lugs welded on the trolley end to prevent them pulling through. For added safety I also tie the top of the trolley back to the scaffolding. Once on the wall the blocks can be manoeuvred into position using short lengths of pipe.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

42, Another Distraction.

Just what I needed while I am trying to build a house!. My wife woke me early on the first day of October to tell me that water was seeping up from under the drive, Great!. Another three days wasted digging up and replacing the poly pipes. It was found that the roots from the "Sydney blue" gum tree, closest to the trench had crushed the low pressure B grade pipe I had used. Hopefully, replacing these with A grade "blue stripe" pipes should alleviate the problem. I had laid the two pipes, one for tank water and the other for dam water about a meter deep in a trench dug for power cables leading to an outlet in the front yard.
Also seen in the picture is our growing stack of welsh roofing slate, to the left beyond the shed, and some other procured slate pieces for fire place hearths (on the left of the shed) and coping's (on the right).

Friday, September 26, 2008

41, My inspiration.

Having had a great love of architecture and history from an early age I was always captivated by the older buildings dotted around our region, generally constructed from the mid to late nineteenth century, the era of major settlement into rural Victoria. I was mostly fascinated by the asymmetrical constructions more Gothic in style, with the plethora of geometric shapes and all the nooks and cranny's, but when it came to the design of my own house I opted for the more formal and proportioned look with Italianate features.
I am amassing a large number of photographs of buildings that I personally find architecturally significant. From this I have selected a small number shown here that are relevant to my own house.

Ingleby Homestead, between Winchelsea and Birregurra is very typical of the mid Victorian style homesteads found scattered throughout western Victoria, double piled, three bays wide and very symmetrical in appearance.
It was the stately formality of this style of house that was my main motivation when designing my own home.

For the type of quoining I selected, one of my main influences was "Point Wilson homestead", located on Port Phillip bay, south of Laverton. A pale green sandstone, from a source that I have yet been unable to identify, was used very attractively to contrast with the bluestone used on this house.

Another early influence was at "Wiridgil", a rambling bluestone house near Camperdown, where the quoining was rendered over the stonework.

"Narrapumelap" another bluestone house near Wickliffe in Western Victoria, was also very interesting, with what appeared to be limestone, used for the quoining and carved into very decorative arches.

St Georges Presbyterian manse in Geelong, Built of local "fine" bluestone and Barrabool sandstone dressings in about 1865. This is my favourite building in the local region and includes many interesting details, it was the main inspiration for the coursing and details on my own house. The random stonework includes many courses of multiple blocks of matching heights giving a more formal look with elongated horizontal joints, the style which I selected. Another feature that I adopted was the relieving segmental and horizontal arches above the window lintels.
Unfortunately, for many buildings in the Geelong area, the passage of time has proved the poor durability of much of the quarried Barrabool sandstone. On exposure to the elements it tends to de-laminate and erode, as can be seen, particularly in the plinth and string courses. Having this hindsight I was able to avoid its use, opting for the readily available Mt. Gambier Limestone. This is a stone that is almost identical to one previously extracted from the nearby Moorabool river valley, which was mainly quarried for the production of portand cement and was only available for building in very limited quantities.

The Uniting church, South Geelong, built from local bluestone and the aforementioned Limestone.

Another church in Western Victoria, using a different limestone for the quoining. The exact location of this I am currently unable to identify with the picture taken on a family trip to South Australia.

A very inspiring house on Victoria Parade, Melbourne. I plan to construct the verandah on my own house to a similar design, with the gabled centre section protruding forward of the main structure.

Another grand house, Monivae, on the Port Fairy Rd. Hamilton. It features a similar style of verandah and has some impressive features, such as the intricate post plinths, but lacks a lot the finer, more delicate detailing.

The Gatehouse for "Werribee Park". With its neat stonework it is much more appealing to me than the mansion itself.

An interesting old church hall at Beeac, now a private residence. It is down the road from and using the same stone as the demolished church, from which I procured the bluestone.

A lovely double piled house on Kilgour St, Geelong. The Barrabool sandstone appearing to be well preserved, protected under the verandah.

And finally, the beautiful "Albert Hall", on the beachfront at Glenlelg, Adelaide, South Australia. It captivated my imagination with its exquisite detailing and form.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

40, Increasing the stockpile.

With my father facing retirement we needed to consider the ongoing costs of maintaining and running the truck. Before the inevitable parting we decided to make full use it and increase our stockpile of stone to ensure that we had enough to see my needs out.
A friend of mine owning a farming property on the southern side of Mt Porndon, near Stonyford over 100km away to our west, offered to us any stone that would be suitable for our purpose. On an initial inspection of the property the prospects were not looking real good, most of the more accessible stone was too brittle, however we did manage to locate some good, mostly submerged rocks and decided that it would be feasible to transport the loader down and dig them out. November of 2007 saw us on site, picking our way around the property.

The process of raising the rocks out of the ground proved to be very tough work with many shock loads taking their toll on the loader. The bottom of the bucket, suffering from the result of many years of digging salty sand and residing near the coast, virtually disintegrated after a couple of loads. Daylight can be seen through the many holes in the bucket in the above picture, shortly before it's demise.

After another couple of weeks of my spare time gone, we had the bucket rebuilt, ready to take back down to Stonyford and resume the operation. We removed a total of five loads of stone and decided to call it quits from this location as the remaining good rock was proving too hard to extract.

39, Bay Windows.

With the arches completed it was time to finish the bay windows. With a total of 56 rebated limestone quoins, cut at 45 degree angles needed to complete them, a number of weeks was devoted to the shaping of these. In order to maintain the stability of the mullions during construction I formed rough corbels in the stones below and above the fifth course to support temporary, removable blocks.

The quoins in place on the West bay, ready for the installation of the lintels.

The lintels installed and the formwork and reinforcing in place ready for the pouring of the concrete stiffening beam. This beam is tied with the steelwork to the concrete above the arch.

The concrete in place, I could now move onto the East side bay.

Mid June 2008 and the Limestone work is completed on both bays.

For the amusement of the kids, (and myself!) I tried my hand at a bit of carving in one of the temporary corbels. These corbels and the bracing blocks will be removed later to make way for the window frames.

With the Limestone out of the way I then needed to prepare enough Bluestone quoins for the infill over the bays to bring them to the first floor level. A total of 25 were needed to complete this, requiring another prolonged monotonous stint in the stone shed, cutting an chiselling the blocks ready. By now I have had enough of the fiddly work and have firmly made up my mind not to continue the bay windows up through the first floor.

Monday, September 15, 2008

38, Third and final.

March 2008 and the bay window arches were now complete. I could make a start on my last arch, spanning the front door. This one was similar to the two I had done previously over the french doors at the rear, segmental with stepped extrados. It also needed to be rebated on the inside to accommodate the door frame, requiring stepped formwork.
The earlier arches I had constructed entirely of limestone, but now, having the saw, I was able to cut accurate voussoirs from bluestone for the inside.

The inside complete and the keystone inscribed with Edward, my eldest.

The limestone face now in place. I inserted foam strips at the base of each bed to ensure a rebate into which I can key the finish pointing.

The front wall, with the arches complete. From inside,

and out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

37, Extra support and onto the next.

With the arch in place, the next step, for my own piece of mind, was to build in some steel reinforcing. I wanted to be sure that the whole thing would stay as one unit, should any movement occur. To achieve this I created a cavity in the stonework into which could be poured reinforced concrete. For the reinforcing I used galvanised 12mm deformed bar. At each side I formed a return where the steel could be tied to another beam, set behind the bay window lintels.

The concrete done, it's now time to move the formwork and make a start on the next arch.

The west end arch is on the go. I had made a small trolley to run in some 50 x 50mm lipped channel and carry the smaller of my electric hoists. This made light work of the lifting of the voussoirs into position.

The second bay arch completed, this one dedicated to my middle child, Julia.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

36, Back to the front.

The ground floor East wall, at the start of 2008, finally completed and ready for the string course. I could now make a start on the arches over the bay windows.

The arch formwork, made from mdf and melamine faced chipboard, propped in position. These arches, being elliptical, took a fair amount of working out and cutting. Using masonite templates, the voussoirs, each weighing about 75kg, had to be cut to a different shapes and angles. I chiselled frogs into the beds to help to key them together and it took a number of weeks for me to have them all prepared, ready for installation. The arch had to be assembled in one go, to ensure that it set as a single unit.

The completed arch, I was very happy with the result, it all went together without a hitch. The alternating textures of the blocks was purposely carried out.

Being one to do silly things on impulse, I couldn't resist having a go at carving an inscription into the keystones. There being three arches on the front wall, I decided to devote them, one each, to my three children. The youngest, Sarah, was to have the first.
All this work, ultimately, will be plastered over, a bit of a waste really but it creates a bit of amusement in the meantime.

Monday, September 8, 2008

35, Releiving Arch.

After pouring the reinforced concrete beam behind the lintel, the next challenge was to tackle the relieving arch over the three light window. This was, primarily, intended to be an architectural feature, but, being properly constructed it transfers the weight from the wall above outwards to the sides of the opening.
The first step was to lay the skew backs and position the infill, this needed to have the right curvature to maintain a neat joint with the intrados. I drew the profiles full size on some old masonite and cut out a template, seen in the above picture. With these in place, I then built up the walls on either side to ensure the arch had lateral support.

The voussoirs in place, ready for me to cut and lay the fiddly, wedged shaped blocks on top of them.

To support the first floor bearers, corbels are positioned in the stonework, these, to my inconvenience, needed to be formed in the backs of the arch. Alternate voussoirs were cut in 2 separate pieces to allow me to form the corbels on the back half, another tricky job, getting the angles right.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

34, The front goes up.

During 2007 I progressed steadily with the front, (south), and east walls. By September the bulk of the walls were raised to window head height, 2.7m, (9ft). The bay windows are to have elliptical arches spanning the openings to support the walls above and I have the springers in place. These I done in two halves and not being one to turn my back on a good challenge, I cut the outside stones in the complex shape seen in the pictures above to have them bond with the bay projections.
The slow progress I had been making on this project was leading to another problem, when the rain was falling and pooling on the tops of the incomplete walls, it was seeping through the mortar joints and causing efflorescence to form on the stone face. To help to alleviate this problem I extended the scaffolding higher to allow me to fix temporary roofing, this keeps the stone dry and also allows me to work on the walls during inclement weather.
The scaffolding planks appeared on eBay at the right time and proved to be a godsend, the only hassle being that they were just shy of 1000km away in Sydney. The $300.00 I had to pay to have the 95 of them shipped down, along with my winning bid, brought the price to about $12.50 per plank
The scaffold framework I have been accumulating, a bit at a time, since starting the project and are always looking out for more.

The East wall features a 3 light window, designed to make full use of the window cills I had procured. The lintel for this needed to be 2640mm long, four times the standard 660mm length of sawn limestone. The supplier reluctantly agreed to provide me stone of this length but warned me of the likelihood of breakage. For insurance I had him supply four of these, hoping to have success with one of them. With my luck usually requiring me to redo things a couple of times until I get it right, I was pleasantly surprised to dress and install this lintel successfully on the first go. It is shown above, upside down, with drip grooves and rebates carved out to allow clearance for the window heads.

The lintel, finished and in position. To maintain the stability of the mullions during construction I cut full blocks to bond these to the quoins three courses from the top. The waste section in the middle of these will be cut out later.