Build Your Own House

Our project in the Adelaide Hills
Page 1 of 3

Author:  angelis [ Sun Nov 21, 2010 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Our project in the Adelaide Hills

We are about to start building our poured earth home in the Adelaide Hills. It's a fair sized project with an uncomplicated design which when completed will have 575 sqm of roof space, half of that area being the actual house.

What we are building and the explanation of the layout can be found here:

Quick timeline of progress so far:

December 08 - we sell our house and move in "rent free" to a relatives house, rent being exchanged for labour and materials renovating the place while we live here.

January 09 - we find a block in small town out the back of the Adelaide Hills called Tungkillo. The price is not quite right and we start that negotiating dance with the agent and vendor.

March 09 - after 2 months of back and forth on this block, which at 45 minutes is close enough to Adelaide but "far enough" away from the rat race we come to a mutually agreeable price range. After speaking with council and doing other due diligence we make an unconditional cash offer at the lower end of that range which is accepted.

April 09 - settlement occurs on the block. We now own a susbstantial grazing property with undulating landscape covered in moss rocks with 2 winter creeks, one with permanent waterholes. Deal struck with neighbouring farmer to keep his animals on the block in exchange for his knowledge and machinery when needed.

June 09 - after having spent the better part of 6 months exploring and getting to know our piece of land we identify the most likely of housing sites. Once we had this pegged out we sit down and go through our scrapbook of plans to nut out just what it is we want to build and how we can fit it in this envelope.

We hire our draftsman who has considerable green/alternative/sustainable building design experience. He visits the site, offers ideas based on our plan and comes up with an intial drawing which we approve.

July 09 - engineer engaged and a site survey and soil samples for slab engineering and waste treatment take place.

August 09 - final plans are drawn for the planning application and engineers to do their math on the building and slab specs.

September 09 - all paperwork is submitted to council. Council raises 11 points of clarification within 3 days of getting the application.

November 09 - all clarifications are satisfied and we are granted planning approval for the development.

December 09 - engineering is completed and we can now start chasing all of the individual components that the engineers leave to the supplier to specify.

January 10 - tender packs are sent out to 3 plumbers, 3 concretors and quotes are sought from 3 frame supply companies, 3 steel suppliers and 3 verandah/pergola specialist suppliers. 2 plumber, 2 concretors, 2 framers, 2 steel and no verandah/pergola companies reply after much chasing and reminding. This process unbelievably takes us until June 10 to sort out. Certifying engineer is consulted and he gives us a list of things he needs to make the building consents approval.

Generous member of this forum is able to supply me with CSIRO Bulletin 5 which negates the need for any sample testing to be done of the walling materials.

June 10 - winning tenders are notified and engineering is sought from and supplied by frame suppliers.

July 10 - early in July we submit a box of papers to the certifier. He contacts me with 15 clarifications to the paper work we have. July 1st in South Australia brought in a raft of changes to the building code which a lot of our engineering now does not comply with. Engineers are contacted and they begin reworking to comply with the new codes.

August 10 - late in August the certifier calls to tell me his work is complete. Essentially we now only have to give council the paperwork for them to rubberstamp. When I submit the paperwork the Council Officer explains they simply check the planning approval matches what we are seeking building consents for.

September 10 - Approval is granted by council. I approach the plumber and concretor to have them requote the jobs to be sure we are not going to have an unexpected blow out in costs.

October 10 - farming neighbour cuts the house site and finds huge rock. He calls in a favour and the rock is smashed out at mates rates. 95% of the full cut depth to the site is achieved with around 110 cubic metres of dirt and rock being moved.

November 10 - a functional access driveway is made to the house site. Concretor begins a week earlier than agreed and the plumber follows soon after.

A lot of dominoes have been falling our way in the past month and things are happening quicker and cheaper than anticipated so far. It's been a long journey but we are finally getting real progress with the slab being poured this week.

I've been keeping a blog of the journey which you can read here - and a flickr account with progress of various bits and pieces which can be found here -

Author:  Bluey [ Sun Nov 21, 2010 6:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

What an excellent blog! I love the amount of detail you have gone to and it is interesting seeing the costings as they develop.
It must be a great feeling to finally start to see the house taking shape.
I look forward to watching your progress.

Author:  angelis [ Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Thanks mate.

I wanted to detail my thought process and I guess the result is you can see just how much my ideas and perceptions changed as I researched and learnt.

Author:  angelis [ Wed Nov 24, 2010 6:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Today we well and truly got the project out of the ground with the pouring of the slab.
One small hitch meant we mixed the final small pour in a barrow, otherwise all went like clockwork.
flickr history of the pour here - ... 332752203/

Author:  Bluey [ Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

I just had a look at the latest pic's on your blog. That shutter system looks very neat. I reckon the time spent getting it right now while be repaid many times over once you start on the walls.

Author:  angelis [ Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

I'm confident that will be the case.

Over the past 2 weekends we have got the beam and slab poured for our little "power room" which is a 2.7x3.6 metre shed. This will be constructed as a mini-me version of the house to allow proper in use testing of all the shuttering and other ideas.

Once it's complete I will have somewhere slightly more comfortable to camp and room to store a week or so of building materials. When the house is done this shed will become the home for all the batteries, chargers, inverters and other gadgetry of our off grid power system.

Author:  angelis [ Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

We finally have some blocks poured. This first run was really about learning how to use what we had created in a practical manner and after a few attempts at getting it all setup I have already made modifications to overcome usability issues. Formwork itself went together very quickly using a drill with a socket fitting to set the bolts. Bolting each set of shutters to each other to make a run is where we had issues.

The wife and I made 9 blocks with different methods and mix consistencies in each. Being the wall we are building is for an outbuilding this is a perfect time to experiment with mix slump, tamp method and so on for the finish we want. Mixing and pouring the blocks took us less than 2 hours which is a little less than I had been working on for setting a schedule for the build.

I have a blog post you can read here:

I apologise for not posting the pics here, seems my server admin has been tinkering with settings and I cannot hotlink images from it at the moment.

Author:  Bluey [ Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Great to see the start of the walls. I like the colour and finish. Looks like the idea of a trial run has paid off. I'm sure you will have all of the bugs ironed out very soon.

By the way I actually prefer to have the thumbnails in amongst the text on your blog. I find it easier to read.

Just a thought on achieving effective tamping, I bought an electric concrete vibrating needle on ebay for around $100 delivered. I have used it on all of the concrete but I also found it very effective on the poured earth sections of my garage. It is just like a large electric drill with a vibrating needle and head on it. Made in China but for $100 it has served me very well. If you are interested just search ebay under "concrete vibrator 240v". They are sold daily. The only concern is that it tends to spray a bit if you cant fully submerge the head (you also need to be really careful that you don't accidently put it down in water since it is electric! :shock: ).

Author:  angelis [ Sat Feb 19, 2011 6:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Bluey wrote:
The only concern is that it tends to spray a bit if you cant fully submerge the head (you also need to be really careful that you don't accidently put it down in water since it is electric! :shock: ).

I learnt the hard way about spatter when we were laying the slab. I actually have an elcheapo 4 stroke needle vibrator I picked up off ebay, however for it to be effective it liquifies the mix so much it actually leaks from places you wouldn't think possible.

I will make more of an effort to rod different mixes together as that layering is not the finish I am looking for. So long as we can keep the voids on the face small and the overall finish fairly consistent I'm liking the imperfect look of the finish on that bevelled end block to be honest.

A shovel full of mix with a quick tamp to settle it flat seems to be giving the desired finish. Next pour day is the other 2 walls of that power room and we will do that with entirely the same method to see if we can make it a consistent finish. If we can get it right then it's all systems go to get that room finished ASAP.

Sleeping in the back of the car on an air matress is not fun :)

Author:  shane [ Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

hi angelis
congratulations on your selection, settling and building so far :D
your blog is great and the detail combined with the pics is very useful to others like me
interesting method of building i dont think i have seen it before

you mentioned the white cement you purchased
was that the normal price or did you get a discount for the 80 bags?

one thing about sleeping or not sleeping in your vehicle :o
it helps you get on the job early.....6 am post still dark :lol:

keep up the good work

Author:  angelis [ Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

My brother works for Bianco so the price I am getting it for is slightly under retail. It's not the cheapest I could get but Bianco will split a pallet as per my instructions and they will then rewrap it and provide pallet bags and so on to keep it all nice and dry. My trailer legally can only carry a 1450kg payload so the pallet needs to be split and 10 bags end up in the back of the Pajero.

When I approached Bunnings about it they quoted $9.60 vs the $8.14 or something I have paid for it. Bunnings would not honour their "we'll beat it by 10%" promotion as they do not carry it as general stock, and my quantity is slightly commercial in nature.

I am really looking forward to having a proper bed in this room when it is finished, I'm too old to be pretzling myself to try and get a nights' sleep.

Author:  shane [ Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

hi angelis
it appears we have used similar materials in constructing our formwork :idea:
ie angline and formply
how have you attatched the formply to the steel frames?
i tried tek screws but was surprised how easy it was to strip the thread out of the ply
so opted for countersunk coach bolts right through then sealed flush with epoxy resin :)
are you using a release agent?

Author:  angelis [ Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Internally my shutters have a locating strip of 20x3 steel top and bottom. If you take a look at the blocks you can see the imprint at the base and partially at the top.

They have been fixed by countersinking the steel and then through bolting countersunk M5 bolts through the ply and the angle iron. They are fixed every 300mm and in hindsight every 150mm may have been a better choice as the steel does deform in higher temps although we are only talking half a mm.

Where I have clamping brackets fixed directly to the formply I have used the same bolts and simply pulled them into the ply to sit flush.

About a year ago we did some test blocks with motor oil and vegetable oil as release agents and left the results sitting out in the weather. The motor oil released blocks still stink of motor oil. I had concerns about the veggie oil promoting mould or going rancid even but that has not occured. We are using the cheapest bulk 20L veggie oil we could find as the release agent. For a while the house will smell like a fish and chip shop instead of a workshop :)

Author:  shane [ Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

thanks angelis
seems the bolts pulled in flush are the same method i used. 8)
when i picked up some form ply last thur from an old formwork contractor ... i asked him the same question regarding release agent and he told me they always just used deisle :o
i am not a big fan of handling diesle ...i am led to believe it is very nasty on human bodies :cry: (thats after half a lifetime of having it all over me working on diesle machinery)
so i am interested in a safer alternative :)

Author:  angelis [ Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Our project in the Adelaide Hills

Not on subject but an interesting observation on the toxicity of diesel - Back in the 60's when my parents and aunties/uncles built their houses they dispersed diesel around the strip footings once the concretors had pulled down their formwork. It's been enough to deter termites from touching any of these houses for 40+ years whereas the fences, sheds and houses all around have been attacked. Go figure.

Page 1 of 3 All times are UTC + 10 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group