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.....

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