Good progress on Unit 2 with walls wrapped
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Progress on three units

While looking around our worksite recently, I took the opportunity to pause and look at the big picture.  We’ve reached that exciting point where something is happening on all three sites. Time to share news about our progress.

Steady progress on Unit 2.

Living next door to the Unit 2 site means we can easily see the progress of the build, just by looking out the kitchen window.  It’s like watching a Grand Designs episode on a giant TV screen.

Soon after the Zincalume roofing went onto the frame, David and the team wrapped the building.  Wrapping accentuates the curved walls on the front of Unit 2. It also blocks our view of the rest of the worksite.  Now we have to visit after-hours to see what’s happening inside the Unit and on the other side.

Good progress on Unit 2 with walls wrapped
Front wall of Unit 2 wrapped and ready for cladding

Out the back, the large glazed areas stand in stark contrast to the membrane.  I was surprised at how suddenly the frame morphed into a recognisable house.

Wrapped wall on north side of Unit 2
Wrapped wall on the north side of Unit 2

Wrapping and roofing enables work on internals.

Keeping the weather out of the structure allowed the electricians to run internal wiring. Although it appears a mad spider ran trails of web everywhere, there is a plan for lights, switches, power points, etc.

Electrical rough in means wires running everywhere
Wires dangling from the ceiling after electrical rough-in

Not to be outdone, the plumbers took the opportunity to install pipes in the wall spaces.  Decisions about plumbing fixture locations were easier this time because we essentially copied the Unit 1 design.  No sense in reinventing the wheel given the Unit 1 bathrooms and kitchen turned out so well.

Pipes installed in wall cavities
Water pipes running through the wall cavity

The concrete polisher arrived right after the plumbers and electricians finished.  He ground away at the special low-carbon concrete mix. Since the concrete contains all sorts of reclaimed materials, it’s always a lucky dip for the final appearance.

Making good progress with first go at polishing Unit 2 floor.
Unit 2 concrete floor revealed after first polish

I think this floor has even more character than Unit 1.  There are granite and bluestone flecks, along with quartz and some brownish coloured rock. As an added bonus, the floor didn’t need as much time and energy to expose the aggregate.

Interesting flecks of colour in the polished concrete floor
Variety of colours and shapes revealed in the concrete aggregate

Mixed progress on Unit 3.

After the experience of Unit 1 and 2 foundations, I thought Unit 3 would be more of the same.  Little did everyone know about the surprise in store for us.

Things looked a tad untidy at the start with mounds of fill to relocate and compact to the correct level.  Bits and pieces like the old tree stump were piled up, waiting to be cleared away.

Site looks untidy before foundation preparation begins
Some tidying required before serious work on Unit 3 foundations begins

With the site levelled, Frank began drilling the holes for the bored piers. Surprise!!. Drilling at this end of the site revealed an unwelcome underground feature.  There was an old creek bed down there. Going down the required 2 to 2.5 metres put the base of the piers in an unstable zone of wet clay and sand.  “Go deeper,” said David so that’s what Frank did. He swapped to his “commercial” grade drilling equipment and away they went, deeper and deeper.

Northern edge of Unit 3 site conceals an old creek bed
Old creek bed lurking under the northern edge of the Unit 3 site

Every hole on the path of the old creek bed is about 5 metres deep.  That’s way beyond the planned depth but necessary to ensure a stable foundation. With every deep, dark hole drilled, David became increasingly concerned that our foundation budget was about to blow out spectacularly.  That’s so much more drilling time and concrete for each hole. Fortunately, the creek bed isn’t too wide so the drilling depth decreased as the team moved away from the edge of the slab. Whew!  Sighs of relief all round.

Back on track.

Pouring the bored piers with several deliveries from Vic Mix capped off a terrific effort by all concerned.  I was impressed with the team’s willingness to postpone other work commitments in order to see this job through.

Vic Mix concrete delivery
One of several concrete deliveries to pour the bored piers

But, one more surprise.

I thought that was enough drama for Unit 3 foundations but apparently not. While David was preparing to start on the slab formwork, Council contractors arrived on site to make the final tie-in for the Scenic Avenue flood mitigation storm water drain upgrade.  Parking their excavator next to the slab location, and storing equipment on the earthworks, delayed our project. It’s a fine example of Murphy’s Law in action.  Who would have thought two completely separate multi-year projects would need the same patch of earth at the same time?

Storm water drain connection slowed progress on Unit 3 foundations
Drainage contractor needed to put a couple of things on our site

All going well, the deeper bore holes and storm water drain connection issues are behind us.  We’re ready to make more progress. Excavators have gathered, ready to dig trenches for the underground pipes and continue working on the slab foundations.

Excavators ready to start on Unit 3 foundations
Waiting for the all-clear to restart work on the foundations

That’s a lot of work going on behind Unit 1. I wondered what the neighbours at the back of our property can see.

View from the next street shows progress on Unit 2
View of Unit 2 and 3 construction from the next stree

Preparing to landscape Unit 1 front garden.

The hot, dry start to the year prevented any meaningful landscaping of the front garden in Unit 1.  However, we used the time to refine indigenous garden ideas with our landscaper (Dan). The aim is to create something to complement the house facade at an affordable cost.  Indigenous plants will feature heavily. I expect the potted eucalyptus trees waiting patiently at the back of Unit 1 are looking forward to being released from their confinement.

Unit 1 front garden ready for progress on landscaping
Bare front garden waiting for the landscaping to start

Now that the weather is cooler and slightly wetter, I’m hoping to report some landscaping progress in the near future. Waiting for the right time to start hasn’t been a hardship as we enjoy the comforts of Unit 1 in the meantime.


  • Graham Sexton

    May 19, 05 2019 08:09:40

    Love the updates and pictures and I sincerely hope that all goes well.

    Your build and the way that many in which you have shared your progress is very inspiring.

    I am contemplating building a sustainable house on the back half of my own property should the proposed rezoning go through.

    My problem is that to get a northerly facing house on a sloping block will either require a mammoth cut and retaining walls (if it is at all possible) or more likely a semi cut and putting the house on stumps which I assume will make it impossible to build in thermal mass to the house.

    Any words of advise?

    • Libby & Howard

      May 20, 05 2019 04:37:21

      Hello Graham – Thanks for the kind comments. I like sharing our experiences and it’s good to know you are enjoying the blog posts.

      Interested to hear that you are thinking about a sustainable build. Fasten your seat belt, the design and build will be quite the ride.

      That’s a tricky question about how to get thermal mass into a house on a slope. I recommend you read what the experts recommend at two of my favourite sites.
      Your home –
      Renew magazine – (This article is a good place to start and there will be others when you search for Renew magazine and thermal mass).

      I find these websites are reliable, useful references. Hope they help you get started on resolving your issue.


  • Gilliann Cohen

    May 20, 05 2019 12:37:51

    Whew. No rest for the wicked!!!
    Terrific update.
    Thanks H & L.
    Hope there’s no more waterways to entertain you both.

    • Libby & Howard

      May 20, 05 2019 12:49:32

      The old creek was a challenge. Hoping we won’t need to go near it again as the crew continues above ground.

  • Peter Nottingham

    May 25, 05 2019 10:42:21

    Very interesting as always. Reminds me of a pool we built at Ferny Grove that ended up being on fill from an old farm dam and, like your experience, required 21 piers each 5 metres deep to support the concrete pool.

  • Blomfield Jan

    May 25, 05 2019 05:52:07

    Thanks for the interesting update- finally got around to looking st it- SO surprising your ‘surprise’ – but not really, as the area was dotted with tributaries to the Mullum Mullum Crk! Hope all goes swingingly from now on Cherrs Jan

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