Friday, August 26, 2011

Time in a BlogSpot

For those of you who don't get the pun in the title, click here.

So, it's been a really long time since I updated this damn thing, nearly two months. And I know I've been letting down all of you die hard fans out there. All six of you.

There's been a lot of progress over the last two months. This post will cover that. There are another two technical posts on the way and some shots of other people's houses.

Here we go, in somewhat chronological order, the progress at the site.

This is the start of our sewage treatment system. They're starting off on the two settling tanks here. In the back ground you can see the baffled reactor and beyond that is the driveway under which we will have a gravel filter pit.
It's always fun to have visitors.
 We also started the form work on the outside staircase.
Plastic bags with tiny holes in them are placed on top of columns to keep the concrete wet.
Within a week, the settling tanks had been finished. Doesn't look like much, but then this is only going hold some shit.
 At the start of the July, there was a lot of work going on and the site was full of movement. There was still space for a quick nap.
We've made one major change to the house plans: We've put in a provision for a hydraulic lift. This is because we may have a wheel chair bound person staying with us. In order to do this, we had to move one non-load-bearing wall south a bit. Right now it's just a pit.

By the 8th of july, we had started work on the first flight of stairs. This is pretty much the same as all the other concrete work that's been done so far. They create a mold, put in a steel frame work and then pour in the concrete.
We also started on the lintels. I'll talk about this more in the next update.

 This was the first picture I took from the top of the first flight of stairs. YAY! This was on the 17th of August.

Doggy time!
On the 20th of August, there was a brief discussion on the site between our architect and us about how the wall to the swing verandah should look. This involved moving some piles of bricks around and staring at them for extended periods of time.

 9 days later there was another site meeting to review the progress made. Maitri took this artistic picture of me, framed by the wall of the swing verandah, which was already 6 or 7 bricks tall.
 The walls were going up quite fast, and the site looked different everyday.
 Georg, our architect, and Maitri discuss an article in the Deccan Herald that included a small paragraph on coloured cement flooring.
 Because the house is full of odd angles, a lot of the bricks need to be cut to shape.
 I'm not entirely sure what was in this thing, since there was no painting going on.
In more good news, our rain water harvesting tanks are working! Hurrah!

 By the 12th of August. Almost all the walls were at full height. This is the swing verandah wall, with the openings in it.
 This was one of the few times I've been on the site at dusk. So I took a couple of nice pictures with monsoon clouds in the background.
 That doesn't look entirely comfortable to me, either.
Here's the site from the back. They started the shuttering work for the first floor. As you can see, almost all the walls are at full height.

 By the 22nd, the place looked like a forest had sprouted in it. All these poles were holding up the shuttering for the first floor.
 It was quite difficult to walk through between the trees and the puddles and the possibility of pieces of wood falling on your head.
 This is what the shuttering looked like from on top. See what I mean about pieces of wood?
 Georg and his team talk about the specifics of some beams and other structural issues.
 He had sprained his foot earlier that week. So he's areal trooper to be walking around a construction site.
 A whole new team of people were brought in to work on the metal word.
 There was some concern about the shuttering work for the sajjas (overhangs) around the building.
 Saw this fellow on the site that day. He was tiny and barely able to move. I don't think he made it. maybe the dogs ate him.
Or this dude.

Just kidding. This is a cement head to keep away bad luck or something like that. My father-in-law bought us this one.

 They started pouring the 1st floor on the 23rd of August. They started with the Sajjas while they finished off the electrical conduits.
 They had to bring in special equipment for the pour, because it needs to be done quickly.
Maitri asked me if they hosed the concrete in. I laughed. It was mixed on the ground, hauled up by a temporary lift and poured into wheel barrows. These were then walked across planks to the place where they were needed.
 Because of the time limitation, you also need a lot of labour when you are pouring.
 This is basically a vibrator. A giant industrial sized vibrator.

Get your head out of the gutter.
 This is what you need to do to start it.
At the end of day of the first pouring.

Here are some long shots of the site over the last couple of months. This really gives you an idea of the amount of work that's been done.

 June 23rd.

 July 8th.

August 12th.

So, that's the update. More coming soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another Brick in the Wall

This post has two parts: Pouring Flooring and Brick Walls

Pouring Flooring

The first thing you need to do is fill up your foundation and plinth with earth.
We didn't have much earth on the plot, so we had to truck some in, especially since we're well above ground level for most of the plinth. The quality of the earth doesn't have to be anything great.

Once the plinth has been laid, the earth is tamped down (yes, that is a real word), and left to settle. This is usually done in layers. It's also kept quite moist to drive out any air and to allow it to pack tighter.

This is what it looks like when all the earth has been packed in properly.

It is left like this for a few days to a coupe of weeks while people walk all over it to allow it to settle even more.
Once they're ready to pour in the concrete, a little more earth is spread over it to fill in any undulations.

The concrete is poured in and tamped down. They keep two bricks on the plinth and stretch a string between them. This defines the level of the floor. You can see one of the bricks near the tampers right foot.

So, what starts off looking like this...

Becomes something like this. It's flatted and smoothed out even more later.

This is the layer above which your tiles will go. So it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth.

Bricks and Walls

Before you begin building a house, you need to choose your bricks properly. Quality costs money, so be prepared to pay more for better bricks. You can see what kind of tests are done on bricks over here.

Our house is going to have exposed brick walls as well as plastered walls.

For the exposed brick walls, we need to get a higher quality brick, both in terms of shape as well as in terms of water absorption. That's this bunch on the left here.
The other bricks are still strong, but aren't quite as pretty.

We did this to save on costs. All the plastered walls will have these bricks inside.

The more expensive bricks were paid for at one shot and delivered in batches and the less expensive ones get paid for as they are delivered.

Before the are used, the bricks are given a good soaking. I think this is to allow the cement to cure more evenly. These things are basically sponges and tend to suck water out of the cement unless they have been soaked already.

When a fresh batch gets put in, you can see the air escaping through tiny tiny bubbles.

 After soaking, they are transported in small batches to the particular wall that it being built.

Usually, this is done the old fashioned way.
But sometimes, they use The Force to levitate the bricks. This is actually a lot more tiring than it looks, which is why they use the old fashioned method.

The first row sits directly on the plinth. It is measured and laid very carefully because this will define the rest of the wall.

The first step in laying a row of bricks is to slosh some cement on top of the row below.

The white thing over here is used to make sure that the thickness of the cement is consistent through out the wall.
The first brick on either side is placed vary carefully, after level the cement. These are then used to guide the remaining bricks with the clever use of some string.

The bricks are then lined up, keeping an eye on the row below. The spacing in between each brick is important. You want enough space for the cement and you need to have it be uniform with all the other rows.

To make a wall, you need to crack some bricks.

The bricks are then checked for evenness and nudged this way and that until they are perfectly in line with the bricks below and flat.
Cement is then poured over and worked into all the spaces.

And then you start the process over with the next row.

The process is the same for both types of walls, but a lot more care is taked with the exposed brick ones when it comes to use of cement.

On the right here you have an an exposed brick wall.
And here you have a wall that's going to be plastered.

Phew, I made it through the whole post without making any jokes about getting plastered or laid!