Just because a drawing of a new house or renovation looks like its all complete on paper. Doesn’t mean you pick it up and build it in reality. I always draw my own sections and work out my own details. This way I get into the the DNA of what is required to build a Building.
Over fifteen years ago I was Building a McMansion in Toorak (Melbourne Australia). There was a curved concrete staircase to be built over the front door. Surely I thought at the time the stairs would work. Unfortunately I discovered you couldn’t walk under the stairs the way it was drawn. Luckily there was enough room to manipulate the risers and the structure to maintain a better than average head height over the front door.
The architect at the time was amazed how this slipped through the cracks. Unfortunately I have seen other curved stairs that were constructed and poured without realising until later the head height was wrong. Out came the jackhammer’s and the stairs were demolished and started again. Hate to think about the cost of doing this. Unfortunately you cant blame the architect and back-charge them. The responsibility is on the Builder who should have figured it all out from the beginning.
The Roof That Came Off Because The House Was Too High
I worked for a Builder who just got completed a huge roof with all the slate tiles completed. The neighbours complained the Building was too high. Out came the Council, surveyors and the architect. The result was the house was one metre too high than the regulation height. Unfortunately the Builder didn’t check measure the height of the Building beforehand.
The Architect didn’t do a section through the Building. What happened next was purely a disaster. The Architect was thrown off the job. The tiles came off the roof. The roof was taken off and walls had to be lowered by one metre. But wait! What about the head height in the top floor ceilings?
You can imagine now that the ceiling heights are now one metre lower. Imagine also the windows are now too high and have to somehow fit into this envelope. That’s when John Coote came to the rescue and solved all the issues. What he did was brilliant.
John got the roof re-designed so the ceilings underneath were all coffered. The walls on the edges were one metre lower at the perimeter and raise in the middle. This wasn’t easy to do as there were services like the air-conditioning ducts and the registers were incorporated in with the plaster cornices. The result was amazing, but the blow out in costs and time was unbelievable.
The Domino Affect
If you don’t figure out one thing during construction the domino affect can be huge. One detail can cost you thousands as it affects other areas. It doesn’t just become one isolated problem and solution. As you saw in the story about the roof. If someone picked up the issue from day 1. All of the details would have been worked out beforehand. The cost would have been fine and the stress and angst could not be calculated. Unfortunately the Site Foreman became so stressed he didn’t want to complete the job. It was sad to see this man who was one of the best in the Industry. He took the plans and ran with what was on them without realising what problems he had ahead of time.
Could Have been the New Orleans Floods In Melbourne
One of the biggest disasters was averted on a job a few years ago when I discovered the neighbours soil levels were higher than the proposed concrete slab level to an extension we were about to start. Our concrete floor was 100mm lower than the neighbours. In case of a storm or water coming in from the neighbours the extension would have been under water.
If this was discovered later it would have been a major catastrophe. This particular architect had the Land surveyors levels to the existing soil levels of the house to be extended only. He didn’t have any of the neighbours levels. If he did obtain them at the drafting stage. The levels would have been discovered and altered. This has become a huge lesson for me: I now survey the job we have as well as the neighbours before we start anything.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE TRAINING TIP OF THE WEEK
Before you start a project. Know what the height and width restrictions are on the Job. Consult the architect or the Building Surveyer. they are your consultants.
Always do your own heights, levels, sections and details for every job you do. I will guarantee you it will save thousands of dollars and your reputation as a great Builder/carpenter. Don’t be righteous or smug to the designer. They are there to help you and the whole process is suppose to be done as a team not an ego based individual basis to get points from the owner.
Don’t worry: I learnt the hard way. My first curved staircase was a disaster. Luckily someone picked up the problem before the concrete was poured. It has become another huge lesson for me. I now work out all staircases on a job because of my mistake. Was a huge pill to swallow at the time.
Have a great week