Wednesday, July 13, 2011

57, Front Steps, part two.

Back to the stairs themselves, next, one step at a time, I set up boxing on the substructure and, again in small batches, mixed enough concrete to form each tread. I concentrated on the upper flight first, as the area below the central landing proved to be of a height suitable for a working platform and about the limit for comfortably pushing the loaded wheelbarrow up to.

The work progresses, most of the top flight is done as well as the side landings.

Ready for the Concrete for the central landing.
Being a typical Victorian winter, (which we hadn't seen for a number of years, owing to the drought!), there weren't too many days that were free from precipitation. This made it necessary to keep fiddling around, arranging temporary covers to work under and to protect the uncured concrete.

With the upper parts done I could then fill in the bottom section. A change of plan, (how unusual for me!), now included outward curves to the lower outer wing walls. This pushed the structure beyond the existing footings. To accommodate this, I excavated more footings alongside, epoxied a number of starter bars into the main mass, heavily reinforced the lot and formed it all together with the lower steps. I don't think that there will be any differential movement.

The concrete structure, all completed, after about 4 months of toil. A tally of the used 20kg cement bags came to 135. This does not include any that may have been blown away by the wind, into the dam or onto the neighbours properties. The conservative guesstimate for the total amount of concrete used, is in the order of 14 cubic meters.
There is much work still to be done, the bullnosed bluestone steps, about 350mm wide and 170mm thick, are yet to be cut, shaped and fitted. This will be done at a much later stage, but, I now have good access to the ground floor, making it a lot easier to work on, for the fitting of flooring, window's etc.

Monday, June 13, 2011

56, Front Steps, part one.

Most of my time from late October until March was spent doing internal work, altering the girls room to give them more space. With this taken care of, and with my holidays approaching in late March, I sat down and came up with a final design for the front stairs for the house. The access to this area has been a bit of a problem during the build, as the ground level at the front lies about 2.3 meters below the house floor level. The original plan was for a single flight but it became fairly apparent that this was not going to be practical or aesthetically pleasing.
My inspiration for the design was from a house that I had previously photographed in Hobart, Tasmania in 2005;

In 2008, when I headed over Bass Strait to purchase my little Kubota mower I relocated the house and gained permission from the more than helpful owner to take a closer look and get some better pictures.
The design, with the incorporation of three landings, resulted in a fairly large footprint and not wanting to risk any future movements to cause any breaking of the, yet to be sawn, stone treads, I over engineered the foundations and substructure.

When my holidays arrived, I got underway. The trenches, I dug by hand to more than a meter deep to ensure a solid foundation in the clay subsoil, the spoil being carted well out of the way to a low spot elsewhere in the yard. A lot of backfill will eventually be required when retaining walls have been constructed, but would be a nuisance and in the way at this stage.

With my intention to mix the concrete by hand, I poured the main footings in two stages. Firstly, I partially filled the trenches, to within about about 450mm of the ground surface, with blinding concrete. Next, I fabricated the reinforcing steel work, bending and welding the 16mm bar into sections ready to be tied together in situ.

As 3 to 4 cubic metres of concrete required for each of the 2 stages of the footings, (blinding and main), sufficient supplys of aggregate, sand and cement were required. I am fortunate, to have in the area, quarries that supply the local Gherang Gravel directly. The gravel, which normally contains a lot of clay is generally used for roads and driveways. However, when it is extracted from the pits, some pockets are found which are free of the clay. This is suitable to be used with only the addition of cement to form a good mix. Costing about 15 to 25 dollars for a loaded trailer, depending on the mood of the operator at the time, it is also very economical.

At the end of a long day, after mixing on my own, over 3 meters of Concrete, the foundations are done!.

Rising out of the ground, more concrete was mixed, this time in smaller doses. I formed a series of criss crossing beams, still being heavily reinforced to ensure the structures rigidity.
The Verandah, I had also redesigned to incorporate a central gable, stepped forward to enhance the whole shape of the structure. This necessitated the rebuilding of a portion of the base stonework to accomodate the offset. To support this work, I formed a heavily reinforced concrete beam, set into the existing wall and bearing on the original foundations.
By now, my holidays were over and the above photo is what I had to show for them!

Stone quoins were required for the offset. This occupied a considerable amount of my time in their preparation, owing to their size and the dressing of the margins.

With the stone ready, I was then able to get on with the job of reconstructing the wall. I used concrete bricks below finished ground level and in the infill area, which will be covered by the steps. Although dismantling already completed work is very frustrating, the existing stonework on this wall was among the earliest that I had laid, therefore it was also among the roughest. So, replacing this with much neater work was certainly a consolation.

To be continued.....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

55, Where have I been?.

In the months since my previous post, most of my "computer" time has been spent working on the digitising of my slide collection. This was made possible following my acquisition of a good quality, dedicated slide/film scanner, purchased from the U.S.A. via EBay.
The subject matter of the vast majority of my accumulation of images is rail related, ie. trains!. From an early age I was captivated by the atmosphere of the Australian rail systems, with an ambiance of a working museum along with some fascinating architecture.
As I could see the decline in the network accelerating, it was obvious that the future was not going to be too kind with this part of our heritage. I photographed extensively from the mid '70,s to the mid '80,s, when corporatisation and rationalization took a firm hold and "sterilised" the whole scene. I was particularly interested in the vanishing branch lines, their very nature, through reasons of economy, prevented them from much modernization. My travels, with camera in hand, took me to all Australian mainland states, with the exception of Western Australia, but my heart remained in Victoria. Here, I gained employment with the "Victorian Railways" at the start of 1977 and, with the exception of a sojourn in the Building industry, I am still there, currently working for the current suburban franchise operator; "Metro trains" as a Train Driver.
I regularly upload some of my better pictures to; pending a decision on a more permanent site. Other images, more related to the rail infrastructure, I have submitted to the "When there were stations" site, an ongoing work in progress.
An interest has also been shown to have some included in a couple of publications, the first, soon to be released by Nick Anchen, from Sierra publishing, is about Victorian Enginemen.

A more relevent posting, detailng my progress on the front steps for the house, will be up soon.