A Little House at No. 18

The ins and outs and inbetweens of building a new house in Little Howard St, Fremantle


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Alice and Greg want your contribution to our new house!

As you may know or have already seen, we have laid a polished concrete slab for our new house which has materials like glass beads, shells, unique rocks, old bits of terracotta pipe and gin bottles “seeded” into it.     By chance we ended up with a few random bits and pieces that were given to us by friends, that ended up showing through in the polishing of the first slab.   Seeing these random items polished gave us a feeling that the floor meant more to us than being just OUR creation…. .. It’s hard to explain but we like the concept and the result so much we have decided we want  you to give us some little things we can put into our next slab we are going to lay.  Our main living area!   In the first week in April (so you only have a few weeks) , we are going to make preparations to pour the slab.

We would really love to have your little piece in the floor that we be there forever.

There are a few little criteria.  The items must be smaller than approx 25mm cubed but bigger than 10mm cubed (or diameter) and they need to be as hard or harder than the concrete.

So if you want to contribute, we would be delighted to receive your offerings.   Deliver them by foot, send them by mail, drop them off on your bike, just get them to us before 6th April or they will not be set in stone.

Many thanks, Greg and Alice.

Greg seeding the first slab

Greg seeding the first slab

P.S. If you have any questions on what you think would or wouldn’t be good in polished concrete, get in touch.

P.P.S. If you would like to see some photos of how the seeding went last time, have a look at the post ‘Watching the House Grow‘ and ‘Concrete Polishing – a teaser

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Walking the Plank

When we were designing our house, one of the features that we wanted was a shed/workshop where Greg could store his tools and work on creations like dining tables, book shelves, beds and other things made of wood. The original idea was to construct the floor above the workshop as a suspended concrete slab, necessitating a number of steel columns in the workshop to support it. Then one day, as we were riding to South Beach for a swim, Greg did a random halt at a building site on the way – he had spotted a Deltacore Plank.

A bit more research revealed that Deltacore make a precast concrete plank. It has hollow cores running through the length of it, making it lighter, and it could span the length of the workshop, meaning no more columns. Sold, to the man in the shed with the power tools and the really long piece of timber.

Our planks were made to specification and were cast last year. On the second Friday in February we were ready to have them installed. This was another one of those big days with big trucks and a big crane (well, relative to the street, it was a pretty small crane really) and lots going on.

First job of the day was to get the crane to move seven one-tonne bags of sand down into the workshop – really beats moving all that sand by hand. Then the truck with the planks arrived and the boys started putting them in place.

As the planks are made to specification, with cutouts where stairs and other openings need to be, it was important to get them on in the right order. Deltacore had loaded them on the truck in order though so that all went pretty smoothly.

Once the crane had lowered the plank down, it was up to Greg and his helpers (many thanks to Ray, Dan & Sam) to push them with crow bars and pull them with essentially a block and tackle (called a ‘come-along’) into place.

The crane driver did a great job and by about 1pm the last plank was on. We now had a roof over our head (of sorts) and the very first ‘room’ of our new house had come together. Greg had a little snooze on a bag of sand – it was a hot day and hard work and he was exhausted. We celebrated afterwards with a few sunset beers sitting outside in our new courtyard area.

Before we can really weather proof the workshop we will be pouring a concrete topping coat onto the planks. This fills in the gaps, connects it to the walls and gives us the finish for the polished concrete floors and the thermal mass for our underfloor hydronic heating. For those who are interested in thermal efficiency, the Deltacore Planks do not provide much thermal mass because of the hollow cores but they still transmit heat (i.e., do not provide any insulation) – in other words, not great thermally. Our solution for this is a slightly thicker than normal topping coat and we will also eventually install insulation underneath the planks, in the workshop.

The other slight hiccup is the 25mm camber that the planks have (that is, they touch the walls at either end but there is a 25mm gap between the wall and the plank in the middle as the plank bows up). Some of this camber will be taken out when the topping coat is poured, but not all, which has implications for the topping coat thickness and subsequently for wall heights etc. Nothing that can’t be overcome but is going to require some recalculating of first course heights for the walls above.