Atiqah Nadiah Zailani
House Building Diary: Week Two
Continuation of the house-building adventures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The gable end from the inside
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Go back to Week One.
Go to Final Week.