Build Your Own House

Our project in the Adelaide Hills
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Author:  angelis [ Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

After a rather long 12 day fight with some bug my young fella picked up at playgroup, we were finally back to work last weekend. Finished off the other side of the power room walls and this time instead of lumping leftover mix into the next block it went back into the mixer to blend with the next load.

Result is a much more uniform block in colour and appearance and we are happy with the result. We still have air voids in the face of the blocks despite a much more scrutinsed tamping effort but they do add some character. Unless they get too large we will leave them as is, but I will attempt to fill some in earlier blocks with fresh mix to see if it will hold and "look right".

This week I moved onto the second layer of blocks and spent Monday working out how best to set the shutters and dividers without causing damage to the previous layer. That turned out to be as simple as laying lengths of 70x35 pine across the previous layer, assembling the mould and positioning it before removing the pine and allowing it to settle into place.

All the extra adjustments I built into the system came to good use and levelling the next layer was as simple as screwing in a few bolts until the spirit level reached where it needed to be. The only real hassle I had was with the void clamps which will hold the mix in the gap left by the dividers in the previous layer. I had made 2 to trial and have now worked out exactly what is needed and I am welding them up inthe backyard ready for this weekend.

One bum note is that the earthen concrete is not setting as hard overnight as expected and I will need to leave all the shuttering in place for at least 2 days to prevent damaging the still soft blocks. That has meant a rethink of the process, and rather than setting and pouring X blocks in a day I will now spend 1 day setting up all the shuttering. The rest of the week can then be used to make the pours allowing each set of blocks 2 days before being pulled down. Saturday is my rest day so blocks poured Friday can be pulled down on Sunday and the whole lot cleaned and reset ready for Monday morning.

More ramblings and some pics here -

Author:  shane [ Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

hi angelis
good progress :)
excuse me for not finding the answers in your blog :oops:
i read through it before and cannot recall....not being that familiar with the technique you are using....what do you plan on using to fill the void between the blocks ?
and it appears you will be tying the top plate with rods embedded in your footing/foundation....what size are they ? are they galvanized ? and will they be threaded at the top or will you be casting a continuous concrete lintel and embed them in that ?
were they a requirement specific to your site ?

Author:  angelis [ Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

The next layer is offset half a block, similar to stretcher bond you see in brick walls. When those blocks are poured they fill the void and tie the layers together.

The rods are galvanised and fully threaded M10. I found them at United Fasteners (Australia wide I believe) for $5.60 a 3 metre length for 120 of them which was about a third of the retail price from Bunnings and so on. They are an engineering requirement and they need to be added in the house from the second layer of blocks every 1200mm (positioned adjacent to trusses) and extras inserted so they can be passed through LVL lintels.

I have the choice in the engineering to pour lintels or use LVL and we will be using LVL.

Author:  Bluey [ Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

I just had another peek at your blog and it's good to see the power room taking shape.

I think that it was the right idea to seal the timber blocks that you set into the wall for the door frame. I trialled setting fixing blocks into my walls but found that when the wall was exposed to the rain the timber swelled and cracked the surrounding part of the wall. I was just using scrap pine framing without any sealing. At least you can see how it goes on your power room before committing to the house.

Another thought for the difficulty you are having with the finish of the voids, you could fix a thin void shaped piece of ply on the inside of your form system (make it a millimetre or so smaller than the void for a bit of tolerance) so that the voids are automatically recessed in the same way the horizontal joints are expressed. This would be more forgiving in regards finish as it tends to disguise gaps and cracks. I always find it tricky to get a good finish when I try to patch a flush surface. This would make the walls take on a different look, more like large blocks mortared together which may not be the look you're after, but it could be something to consider.

Keep up the good work! Hopefully you get some of the great weather that we have had over the last week.

Author:  angelis [ Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Hey Bluey, thanks for the input on the voids.

I think the cracking is being caused by the blocks of the previous layer sucking the moisture out of the fresh mix. When we get to pouring this layer we will try saturating the void faces and see if that has any impact. I will certainly take your idea on board if that fails to work.

A note on the wood in case you're looking to try something similar. When we cut the sleepers they were stored in racks and allowed to air dry for around 30 days. They were then sealed by sitting them in a bath of linseed oil and allowing them to absorb it to saturation, then sat in wire racking until they were dry to the touch.

Author:  Terry [ Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Hey Angelis - been getting this message when trying to get on your blog: "Error establishing a database connection". Know the reason why??

Author:  angelis [ Thu Jul 28, 2011 10:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

My servers have been under attack for the past few days and unfortunately sometimes the best way to stop these aholes from doing what they do is to isolate certain functions of those servers as they escalate their brute force attacks until they get bored and stop.

Author:  angelis [ Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

We finally have some blocks down for the house. Nothing spectacular to see at this stage, but I will grab some photos of the little bits and pieces we are doing to make the final internal fit out and finish of the house come together with little fuss.

Author:  angelis [ Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Just a quick update on progress. I've switched duties at work to a job that allows me roughly 3 six hour and 3 ten hour days a week of building with Sundays off. I'm overnighting 3 days a week on the block which is saving me 5 hours of travelling nevermind the 300km of fuel and wear and tear on the ute.

All is coming along very nicely with all the work on the power room and overcoming the bugs encountered there paying off in a big way now. The blocks we are pouring are drying to a nice consistent colour with an even level of imperfection in the finished faces of the blocks.

For now we are only working on 2 sides of the house, there is a need for extra pairs of hands to get the final 2 sides started and organising that extra help is complicated. These 2 sides have a 25mm slab rebate we need to work around where the full thickness walls become 2/3 thickness to allow for an internal veneer wall in the wet areas.

This coming week we'll be trialing the mortar and boom lifts as we begin moving to the fifth level of blocks. At 1500mm that is getting too tall to be able to shovel loads from slab level.

More details and some pics are up on the blog - and

Author:  Bluey [ Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

The walls are looking great! You must be really happy about the change in job duties and the extra time on the block.
Things are really starting to move along now.
Keep at it,

Author:  angelis [ Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Thanks Bluey.

It's awesome to finally see the dream become reality. It is some serious physical labour and I'm hoping the body will last the distance. The helpers are starting to become less frequent in their visits as they realise this themselves so I've started to set a realistic schedule for them and myself of what I need to complete on the 6 and 10 hour days which keeps things moving but gives time to pace themselves/myself rather than trying to accomplish too much in too little time.

Author:  angelis [ Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

It's been a while since I got around to updating progress here.

Currently the house is just under 60% of the walls complete. When the weather is being kind we are able to set and pour 15 blocks per day and you can really see things flying along when those rare days are back to back.

Our biggest problem at the moment is wind. As the walls get taller and we use the crane to lift the formwork into place the wind grabs it and it quickly gets dangerous when 40kg+ sections are swinging in the breeze.

You can see the most recent pics of the build here -

Author:  sgc [ Thu Mar 01, 2012 11:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Oooh! Hadn't seen this, I know what I'll be reading tonight :D

Author:  sgc [ Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Just finished reading through the blog - I have to say, the extent of your planning and research is impressive! You make me look like I'm making it up as I go along :lol:

You do seem to be having a rough time with the weather, though. How badly has the weather caused your schedule to slip?

I am liking the aesthetic of the poured earth blocks though - I'm not a big fan of mud brick, it's a little too rustic for my tastes (straw bale too) and I do love rammed earth, but your poured earth walls are looking very appealing :)

Early on in the piece when you decided on poured earth vs. other earth building techniques, you suggested that rammed earth would be much more work (and cost) than you could undertake. Having done as much now as you have, has your opinion on that changed at all?

Author:  angelis [ Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

It's very likely the cost and the amount of work involved would be on par.

I worked out fairly recently the walling materials are costing us roughly $30 per square metre for the 300mm portions. I imagine mixing would take the same effort, where you guys are tamping as you pour in your mix I'm settling it with a small tamping block to knock out large air voids. Formwork still needs to be stripped, cleaned and reset.

Perhaps Bluey can give a comparison for what his walls set him back per square metre. I am adding a lot more sand than first intended but the cement is the major cost.

I like the look Bluey achieved with his walls, but I do love the obvious imperfection in ours.

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