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  • Writer's pictureAtiqah Nadiah Zailani

House Building Diary: Week Two

Continuation of the house-building adventures.

Group photo week 2

The first week of building was exhausting, and I was starting to think that I had gotten into something that was completely over my head (and honestly, I wasn't even doing the hard parts!).

A typical day for me is usually spent glued to my laptop - both for work and pleasure. I’d be in a nice, cool room, with a very high probability of being sprawled in bed, and I’d get things done without really having to move much.

Building a house, however, was all about brawn (and brains too, of course, but mostly brawn). It was hot, hard work under a burning sun or threatening clouds, and it required a lot of movement and more energy than I was used to expending on daily basis.

It was almost like I'd stepped into someone else's life for a moment in time.

Day 6: Putting up the roof

It was a Tuesday, and I had lost my crowd of volunteers because of this thing called ‘jobs’ that tend to take place during weekdays. It was down to a few of us to carry on the work.

The builders put up the heavy roof beams, a lot more carefree and relaxed now that they didn’t have 20+ amateurs crawling underneath them, at risk of getting their heads banged by say, a falling beam.

Roof beams

Finishing off the last of the structural beams on the roof

While they did that, the rest of us (and by that, I mean the two of us), set out to finish assembling the wall panels that weren’t completed during the weekend. After accidentally breaking over 15 boards, we started to get the hang of how not to break boards while putting them together, and proceeded with the work a lot faster.

Drilling wall panels

Check out the mountain of broken boards on the bottom right

We then realised that two of the panels had been assembled upside down. So now we had to learn the opposite skill: how to not break boards while taking them apart.

The other team finished putting up the roof, and then guiltily confessed that they accidentally drilled a few extra holes. We made a note to make sure those get patched up.

Putting up roof

Enthusiastically drilling holes that they made a few extra

Day 7: Assembling even more wall panels, and then the floor

The wall panels had taken us forever and a day, and there was still just a tiny bit of it to finish.

Assembling wall panels

The never ending quest to finish wall panels

Once we completed the last wall panel, I was relieved to finally be able to move on to another task - surely cutting steel would be easier? At least the bloody thing won’t break so easily.

As it turned out, the steel didn’t break like the boards did, which was good, but it also barely yielded to the cutting blade, which was bad. For all the noise I was making with the machine, I wasn’t actually cutting anything.

It took several attempts, ten different poses at various awkward angles, and a lot of metal bits flying through the air, but this too I learned and got the hang of. Soon, I was cutting steel like it was butter (but the cold, frozen kind). I even had fun, until I finished the 20th one and felt my entire arm go limp.

Cutting metal

Call me IronWoman

In the afternoon, we were joined by professional floor installers. They arranged the floorboards in neat lines and wielded the staple gun to nail them all together. I didn’t participate, but merely watched in curiosity.


Bang! Bang! Bang!

On this day, we had lunch indoors for the first time on the semi-complete floor, sheltered by an actual roof. It was great.

Lunch indoors

Nom-ming under an actual roof on an actual floor

The view wasn't too shabby either.


On the new balcony floor

It then started to rain. The floor installers needed more time and would come back the next day to complete the job. The rest of us, in the meantime, would take a nice holiday before the start of the long weekend and the arrival of more volunteers.

Day 8: It's the Weekend! Clerestory and Gable End

This was the start of a long three-day weekend, and relieved from their daily jobs, the volunteers returned and new ones joined.

The floors were done, and it was time to put up the four walls around it.

Installing wall panels

Installing the wall panels was almost as difficult as making them

It was also time to start work on the trickier side of the house: the gable end, with the sloping roof that made it just a tad more complicated than a normal rectangular wall.

Gable end inside

The gable end from the inside

gable end outside

Working on the gable end from the outside

Up on the loft, there was a lot of trial and error going on as we hammered in the studs, only to find that some were too short or too long or that there was a pesky bolt or two in our way.

The only thing worse than expending all your energy to shove and drill in a wall stud is realising you did it wrong and have to take it out and do it all over again.


A soul in despair

It took a lot longer than expected, but hey, it got done.


Wall 'studs'

Day 9: Clerestory, Gable End and Gutter

This day was a continuation of the work from yesterday, along with additional work on the clerestory: framing windows and installing louvres.


Working our way up

Since we couldn’t put up scaffolding on one side of the house due to the slope, we had the tricky challenge of installing external louvres from within. This required some awkward flailing and hugging of the wall studs that were the only thing keeping us from plunging down from the loft to the ground.


Tricky bit

Some even got creative by appointing people to be their anchor, resulting in some questionable S&M-like action going on in one corner of the house.



I had only learned to drill a week or so before, and on this day, I had to learn the new skill of drilling from the inside out.


Halfway through installing the louvres, one at a time

We also installed the long gutter across one side of the house. As if to test our handiwork, the clouds let loose a short spray of rain. Happy to report that the water flowed down from the exposed end of the gutter as it should.

Gutter is working

Down came the rain and washed the spider out

Day 10: The Last Day? Internal dry wall cladding & Clerestory

This was the the last day of volunteer building.

We were still behind schedule and had ours fingers-crossed in hopes of finishing all that needed to be done. And we came so, so close!

The internal walls were done, except for 2-3 panels.


Putting up internal walls

The loft was almost there, but the polycarbonates were slightly bigger than anticipated, and had to be returned to the workshop to be trimmed to size, delaying the installation.

polycarb pieces

The slightly oversized polycarbonate pieces

There were also a million other little things that needed to be checked, and there was no choice but to do another building session.

Many kindly volunteered to come another weekend to finish the work. But when would that be? I myself was due to fly out of the country shortly after this...

So many things to figure out - but first, let's take a photo on the unfinished balcony!

hanging on the balcony


Go back to Week One.

Go to Final Week.

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