A Little House at No. 18

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


Paving the Way

Last week we celebrated the 2nd anniversary of receiving our building permit. Looking at the building around us, an amazing amount has been achieved, and when the rain falls, it already has a homely feel. There is a roof to shelter us from it.   Our recent focus has moved to finishing off the back wing to enable us to move back on site.

It seems like many years ago we studied and researched, so well, the various attributes of our build relating to rainwater catchment, finishing layers, wiring and plumbing arrangements and finished ground levels that recently we have been working to a recipe which appears it has been written (and proved) by somebody else.   At the end of a day’s work it is good to look back and realize that something we had put so much thought into was again, coming to fruition.

In the last few weeks we have started on the finishing phase. A very new and different phase of the build that we always knew was coming but has previously been unconsidered and with great uncertainty with the long term view that the little hurdles would be overcome when we get there or “we’ll see where we are at and take it from there”.   The major construction of the “house” is all but completed.

This new phase has brought the need for an entirely new approach to how things will move ahead from here. Day to day, we are no longer seeing significant structural “bulk and scale” changes but are spending a great deal of time on finishing touches and minor fiddly details.

Before the paving down the west side of the house could begin there was an enormous amount of sand to move. Previous to now, final levels had not been accurately completed and if they had, some sand had found its own way to the area by means of water, wind or building by-product and was also occupied by a large amount of scaffolding for the last twelve months. We spent a few days with shovel in hand. Moving enough sand to fit in two soak wells, piping for storm water drainage, gas and water piping, access to the low point drainage of the “wet” rainwater catchment system and spoon drain in front of the basement entrance.

On the afternoon of my birthday (and a Friday afternoon) we were enjoying a few celebratory beverages (also to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the build) when a truck arrived with a loose load of half bricks from a demolition site in East Fremantle, promptly dumping them on the minute available space in front of the house. 50m2 of recycled red broken bricks was the order. (much cheaper than whole bricks). And there begun another week of sorting, cleaning, stacking, carting, selecting, laying and finishing.   Of the many visitors that passed by the site that week, I learned that the style of paving we were doing is called “crazy paving”. To us the style is commensurate with that of the building and a means of finishing the area with up-cycled materials (rather than to see them go to land fill!). In reflection, paving of this style certainly took longer than expected but being hands on and creative with the randomly shaped broken bricks certainly gave way for the scope of making a more unique example of the common “paved area”.

“Crazy paving” is like a big jigsaw puzzle. There are an infinite number of types of shapes available, but what you have to work with is the pile that are stacked before you. We started with a few large quarter-circles scribed into the sand pad and went from there. With a little sorting and searching, the irregular broken ends have a “partner” that fit quite neatly in place. A few milk crates of tiny size pieces help to finish off the gaps. Some dry yellow sand (we laid ours out in the sun on a black tarpaulin to dry out) swept into the cracks and a compactor with a piece of carpet zip tied to the compactor plate does a good job of holding the pattern in place.

What do we have to show for it?   A few sore knees and a few sore hands and a final result that looks great. The sore knees and hands will go away but we are pretty sure the paving will be there for a few many years to come.

And one final thought…. If we had taken all the ingredients needed to build this house and made a big pile of them, they certainly would not have fit on our site..