In Chapter 1, we'd found and acquired our lovely block in Lilli Pilli NSW.  In Chapter 2, we at last found ourselves a design we like and a builder to build it.  We concluded Chapter 2 hoping that the Council would like our submitted design ...


Yes, that one magic word suddenly appeared on the Council web page against our Development Application number.  But it appeared weeks earlier than we expected.  Could it be real?

So I rang the Council to check.  Sure enough, it was real.  The Development section officer I spoke to was himself surprised it went through so quickly.  "Must have been a really good application" he opined.  "Of course", I purred, with characteristic modesty.  We had really worked hard to make the house the very best we could afford - nice to have that reflected as easy passage through Council.  The Council officer himself dealt mostly with the difficult cases, and commented that he had some that were still struggling to gain approval after a year!  Whew!

Fire Risk

The only change made to our Application was to increase the bushfire risk classification to "Extreme" on our northern flank and "High" on the others.  Sounds scary, but it's a long way better than "Fire Zone" which is the next category!  In practical terms it just invokes a set of sensible precautions such as toughened glass on all the windows; screens on guttering, weep holes etc; flame-retardant timbers on the deck, etc.  We'll feel safe even if a bush fire does ravage the forest at the bottom of the garden.

Destruction before Construction

Of course, before you build anything you have to clear away the vegetation that was there before, and that did cause some pain, especially when you see how mighty those trees were.  Needless to say the biggest trees were all where the building had to go!

Jesse & Roisin enjoying one last walk among the trees

Before 22 tonne of excavator moves in.

So we have a lot of replanting to do to make up for the loss in carbon-dioxide processing these trees represented.  We'll do it.  And to make a start to our new garden, we were able to get the excavator to lift out the native burrawangs (a prehistoric cycad that colonises the region) for replanting.  We were able to keep three fine young trees - spotted gum and stringybark (already about 25metres high!) - and of course our block adjoins the nature reserve where there are any number to walk among.

Footings and slab

With the block cleared, the excavator dug out the trenches for footings and the lower floor area needed for the workshop.  Because they hit rock first and not clay, the engineer required a change in plan, holes under the footings and for each pier to be drilled down to rock, and filled with concrete, to form a firm foundation for the house.  We're definitely here to stay!

In the foreground, the "footings" - trenches filled with concrete and reinforcing steel.  The brickwork for the outer walls will be built up on these. 

The round patches are holes drilled down to the rock and also filled with concrete  - these are the foundations for the brick piers that support the floor bearers.

Down on the right, a thick concrete slab that will be the floor of the workshop.  Behind me, the forest reserve, and to the left of me, one of the burrawangs (cycads).

The Burrawangs are interesting in that they have seed cones which are high in starch but toxic to humans.  Aboriginal people found ways to leach out the toxins without losing the food value.

The workshop walls

Once the footings are down, things really start to happen.  Our next trip was to see the timber stud frames of the workshop up and the bricklaying up to workshop ceiling, house floor, level.  Here we're looking in through the workshop door, and out again through the big windows on the northern face of the house and workshop.  The temporary diagonal braces hold the timber frame vertical until the ties to the brickwork take over when the mortar is set.

It's a frame-up!

Then suddenly the floor is down and the walls are up.  In my young days, framing was done on site, using the hand saw and hammer.  Power saws came in a bit later - I remember Dad saying "Thank God for the Black & Decker, we couldn't have done it without it".  Nowadays, the frames are constructed in the comfort of a workshop, and delivered by truck.  It takes next to no time to frame a house.

The roof trusses arrive

And "cut" roofs were the go in my youth, built on site by the carpenters.  Today, one man lifts them off the back of a truck.

A roof over our heads

The roof up is a milestone in any building project - indeed in my younger days in Canberra I saw many a public building with a small tree seeming to sprout from its newly applied roof - a custom of Italian builders I was told, celebrating reaching the highest point.  Now we start to get an appreciation for how each room will feel.  Looking northeast, through the sewing room windows.

Hey, looks like a house!

And indeed, now sporting a roof, eaves and gutters, and with brickwork starting to enclose the frame, we can at last start to appreciate what all those lines on the plan were trying to describe.  Garage to the left, bedrooms in the middle and the living areas facing the forest at our right.  All the top floor comprising the house, and the workshop door peeping out at bottom right.

The best laid plans ....

Now you'll remember from previously that the builder had hoped to get us in by Christmas 2006.  And it was looking good, almost too good.  And sure enough, nothing in the building industry goes that well.  Just as the painters were finishing up painting the skirting and architraves, we were shocked to see that ghastly modern profiles had been installed instead of the "colonial" style Jesse had ordered.  So, off they came, new ones were ordered and fitted and the hapless painters started all over. 

Other problems surfaced too - a kitchen cabinet unit had been installed in the wrong place, and the chappie installing ducted vacuum cleaning had managed to drill his hole through the lovely timber floor well away from the bench it was supposed to come up under. 

All relatively minor stuff, but timewise, the damage was done - the delay pushed us into the no-mans-land of the Christmas break, when every building subcontractor makes good his promise to spend some time with the family.  So December 21 became January 8, then January 15, and might well have become something in February, had not other matters intervened....


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