Tuesday, June 29, 2021

House watching

The photo above is of a new house being built across the back fence of my property. I took the photo on Saturday, but none of that was there the day before. It’s been a very slow build, but this is probably the most dramatic thing yet.

The section (property) behind me was vacant and showed no signs of development until only a few months ago when a young guy (mid 20s-ish, I think) was running a digger. I assumed he worked for the company that would build the house until my sister-in law happened to be over one weekend day when the guy was working, and talked to him. He was there with a young blonde woman, and after talking to him we found out that they’d bought the section many months earlier, but there were delays in getting building consent and permits for the house itself, so while he waited for the city council to finish the process, he was getting started on what he could do: The retaining walls along the side boundary of their property. It took him a couple weeks to finish the retaining walls, since he only worked late afternoons and on weekends.

And then things stopped.

Many weeks passed, and a digger was out there again: They were clearing the land to put in the slab foundation. At some point in that time period the water and drainage pipes were laid, and then they laid the polystyrene underfloor insulation and wire mesh reinforcing. The concrete was poured quite some time later—maybe as much as a week or two later. I think the whole foundation process may have taken three to four weeks (I really wish I’d paid more attention to the timing…).

After the foundation slab was poured, nothing more happened for weeks and weeks. This past Saturday morning, I woke up and thought I heard some voices from time to time, and the tap-tap of a nail gun, but it wasn’t steady or loud, so it didn’t really bother me. At the time, I thought my next door neighbours were doing something. When I opened the blinds above my bed, though, I saw a house frame where nothing had existed the day before.

In New Zealand, wall sections are assembled off-site and put in place as nearly complete length walls (some in-filling work is done on site). Builders then secure the wall sections to the foundations and to adjoining wall sections. That’s what I heard going on this past Saturday morning.

The next day, Sunday, I heard an occasional nail gun tap-tap, and later on I looked out the window again and realised he and another guy were putting in temporary cross-bracing inside the skeletal house, a complex-looking jumble of wood in what will be rooms. That’s done to keep the house frame square and true while the roof trusses are being put in place. Today, they were back putting in the top plate (which goes on top of the wall sections in the photo), the thing that the roof trusses will actually sit on.

Roof trusses in New Zealand must be manufactured—builders aren’t allowed to build them on site. The government made that regulation many years ago (sometime after 1995) to ensure that all new houses had strong and secure roofs. At some point, a crane truck will come and lift the trusses up onto the frame so builders can secure the trusses to the house frame.

After the roof is done, builders can finish framing it and add the roofing material, as well as cladding the exterior of the house and installing windows. That will usher in what’s always the longest part of house building: All the inside work—well, normally that's the longest part, but each phase of this one has already taken far longer than normal, so who knows?

House building fascinates me, and always has. I watched the house next door being built, and the one behind me is slightly less easy to watch. At least it’s clear it’s a one-storey.

One thing this made me realise was that I could see where their windows were going to be, and that meant I could see where they might be able to look toward my house. It gave me an idea: I took a bunch of photos looking out all the windows toward the two new houses (the existing one to the side of mine, and the one being built behind mine). My goal was to see what I looked at what so that I can more precisely plan where to put in tall plants to give me a nicer view than looking at someone else’s house and also preserving my privacy.

At the very least, it’s been entertaining.


"Building zone"
– My 2020 post about the new house being built next door to mine.

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