Archives for posts with tag: Building in Johannesburg
Spires in the small town of Wellington, viewed across vineyards.

Spires in the small town of Wellington, viewed across vineyards.

Last Monday, the 27th of October, I took a break from flying around Parkhurst on my broomstick and went wandering around the vineyards of Wellington in the Western Cape instead.  Along with a group of 10 friends, we did, not for the first time, the Wellington Wine Walk (wwwwinewalk.co.za) which involves three full days of walking and three nights staying at different wine farms.

Wide Open Spaces

Wide Open Spaces

This time we walked 16kilometres on the first day and 12 on day two and three.  The walking is punctuated with several stops on different estates, tasting wines, having lunch and generally getting some idea of life down in that part of the world.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

It could not be more different from life in Johannesburg and it offered a complete break from all things building-related.

Far From the Madding Crowds.

Far From the Madding Crowds.

A day or two before I left for the Cape, I popped in at the house to check on progress following my previous  not-too-happy visit and found quite a lot of activity.  It seems that the occasional broomstick dive-bombing exercise can be quite effective…

Stair window and front door frames were in place.

Stair window and front door frames were in place.

Living room door frames in place.

Living room door frames in place.

 

Ceiling of cottage veranda with street boundary wall behind.

Ceiling of cottage veranda with street boundary wall behind.

Rhinoliting started in the cottage. And paint samples on the walls.

Rhinoliting started in the cottage. And paint samples on the walls.

Painting undercoat on the garage walls.

Painting undercoat on the garage walls.

The wall bordering on the park  taking shape.

The wall bordering on the park taking shape.

Production Line

Production Line

Bird's Eye View from upstairs balcony.

Bird’s Eye View from upstairs balcony.

Up to now, I haven’t really tried to explain what is supposed to happen in the front garden which is what the chaos above is eventually supposed to be.  And the main reason for that is that I’m not sure where to begin…  Firstly, there is going to be a swimming pool somewhere in this space.  It is designed to run parallel to the park wall.  A vast quantity of ‘filler’ has to be delivered to the site to bring the level of the front garden up to just two shallow steps lower than the finished house.  In effect, the pool has already been dug.  The filler will be packed in around it.

On the left of the pool, close to the gate that will open onto the park, there will be an underground room, housing – among other things – a generator and a couple of water tanks.  For those of you reading this in First World Countries, this might come as a bit of a surprise but having back-up electricity and a supply of stored water is becoming almost a necessity in Johannesburg and seeing we’re building from scratch, we decided to factor that in.  Power outages are increasingly common and every now and then we turn on a tap to nothing more than a burp of fresh air.  This usually happens without warning and with no  information forthcoming as to how long it will be before services are restored.  I never thought that having a swimming pool in one’s garden would prove to be useful in such a variety of ways…

And so it is that landscaping the front garden is not as simple as one might have thought and at this stage, quite a lot of energy and time is being expended there.  But having put up with no fewer than 3 power outages in the last 3 days, I think the effort will eventually prove to have been worth it.

Arriving back in Johannesburg after a full month away in Cape Town is always something of a shock.  We drove back, covering the 1200 kilometres two days and breaking the journey at one of our favourite Karoo farm stops.  One of the benefits of the long road trip is the opportunity to change up a gear from the more laid-back (and much better organised) Cape, to the frenetic, unpredictable energy of Gauteng.  But despite all those hours on the road, exiting the motorway and finding oneself back on Oxford Road in Forest Town still pulls one up short.  The traffic lights are malfunctioning and the challenge of trying to avoid all the potholes brings one back quickly to the reality of Johannesburg.  This time we drove in under looming, threatening thunder clouds which lent a disconcerting sense of impending doom to the afternoon and one of my first thoughts was ‘Why on earth are we building another house here?’

But you’ve got to live in Johannesburg to love it.  It has its own unique and stealthy charm and within a day of getting back, I’m happy once again to be here and this year is no different.  By Tuesday morning we were ready to inspect our building site and to check on any progress that may have been made in the builders’ first week back at work.

This is a quick photograph update for interested faraway family and friends:

Surveying the Situation...  After a month away.

Surveying the Situation… After a month away.

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Standing on the downstairs patio, looking west.

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Taken from the laundry, looking through the scullery into the kitchen.

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Taken through the ‘front door’ looking north over the Treetops – which is a word that comes to mind whenever I think about the new house and which might become its name.

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Seven of the nine builders who were on site yesterday.

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Taken from the kitchen looking out through what will be an informal seating area and a bay window.

The walls are now just higher than ground-floor ceiling height and overhanging branches from the neighbours’ properties will have to be drastically cut back soon.  Watch this space…

It’s more than a month since I last wrote and I wish I could say there was a month’s worth of visible progress to see.  Sadly, that is not the case.  When anyone asks me how the building is progressing, I have only one response; ‘slowly’.

We definitely did not anticipate how long the site preparation would take and adding that to the  ponderous process of getting permission to demolish and then getting the plans approved and passed, more than a year has passed since buying the site and we have little more to show for it than a footprint.

Exacerbating the situation is the weather:  We’re now well into the summer storms and torrential rains.  More than 83 mm of rain fell on the site during one storm alone about 2 weeks ago.  We had anticipated this problem which was why 6 months ago we had naively hoped that the roof might be on before Christmas.  That particular storm delayed the compacting of the soil that had to be done before concrete could be poured and it was days before the engineer felt that the process could begin.

But under the surface of things – literally – quite a lot has happened.  The foundations for the house and garage are finished and a lot of   attention has been paid to waterproofing.  Our consulting engineer is proving to be a stickler for detail and although it can seem frustrating at times, I know in the end I’ll be grateful for the attention to detail he’s shown so far.  With so much excavating and backfilling we need to have confidence in our damp-proofing.

The electricians have been on site to make provision for conduits that will run under the concrete slab of the ground floor so we have had to give careful thought to the position of wall plugs in the downstairs area.

We also had a very welcome visit from our ‘Off Shore Consultant’; an engineer who now lives in Australia.  It was lovely to take someone onto the site who not only just ‘got’ exactly what we’re trying to achieve, but who also asked lots of searching questions, made practical suggestions and with whom we compiled a list of little things to check with Bernard.  Thank you Fred!  You’ll have to visit again when there is a house to see.

Fred; Friend and "Off Shore Consultant!"

Fred; Friend and “Off Shore Consultant!”

The site itself still looks chaotic to me and this is something I find irritating.  It is an awkward site in that it is long, narrow and on a slope.  There is very little storage space for building materials but I can’t help feeling that if they could get further ahead with the driveway and garage, they would create an easy and practical area for piles of sand and stacks of bricks.

There have been a few minor grumbles from ‘neighbour on the left’:  A truck clipped a piece of her electric fence and she objected -with reason – to building sand being dumped in the road.  We’ve managed to sort these issues out without drama.  Every complaint comes with a tagline threat of legal action. It’s not a line of approach to which we’re accustomed….

A few weeks ago I started to feel a little discouraged with the painfully slow process but following a good meeting with Bernard on Friday, my enthusiasm has been renewed and I’m sure that in the New Year we will start to get onto more interesting things.  Builders, contractors and all related services take a month-long break in this country, from mid-December to mid-January, and like many other professions, there is a strong sense of winding down from as early as the end of November.  So we’re putting the building process on a back burner for now and instead giving some thought to other aspects like bathroom and kitchen layout and finishes.

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Checking details

Checking details

At this stage, Mark – the contractor – hopes to get the concrete poured throughout the ground floor of the house and garage and the screeding done.  We have a new foreman on site now.  The original one fell out of a tree.  Fortunately that did not happen on our site.  He is recovering but it seems he will be put on another project once he returns to work.  Now we have Rupert and so far I have felt that he pays close attention to details raised at the site meetings and follows up on them.  He hopes to still be able to make a start on the brickwork of the garage over the next two weeks.  But we’re not holding our breath.