Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Drilling holes in concrete is really, really hard

When we were fretting about not having our footings poured in time for them to "go off" before the workshop, my dad consoled me by pointing out that at least the concrete would be a bit softer when it came time to drill in and attach the bottom plate. Turns out my dad's idea of 'soft' isn't really what I was thinking of.

This evening, with the help of our amazing, talented and generous friend Morag, the bottom plate was securely attached to the footings, but not without a small number of hindrances, mostly due to my own ignorance of the processes involved with drilling into concrete.
Lesson number one: an 18 volt cordless drill is NOT powerful enough to make holes in concrete. Lesson number two: cheap, crappy generators from Mitre 10, bought on the spur of the moment out of feelings of frustration will probably turn out to be cheap and crappy and not actually work properly.

But today, after returning the cheap and crappy generator and hiring a 'proper' generator to power my dad's 240 volt hammer drill, Morag and I drilled 70 holes into the concrete footings and bolted that bottom plate down while Meg, Pearl and Louisa kept the home-fires burning, making dinner and looking after the kids.
The generator made a ton of noise, and the drill, hammering away through the concrete and blue metal, was quite hard on the wrists and shoulders, but I tell you: having that thing finally in place was quite rewarding, probably on account of it having been quite an ordeal and taking quite a lot longer than I had planned.

The bottom plate assembly on our place is a little more complex than your standard bottom plate for a few reasons. Firstly, it's made up of 2 rails, 35cm apart, to hold the width of the strawbale walls. It's also slightly raised, thanks to 9cm squares of villaboard which I lovingly cut and pre-drilled in preparation for their special task of raising up the timber rails.
The reason the rails need to be raised is twofold: the 6mm gap created by the villaboard packing allows any moisture to escape under the timber without causing rot, and it also creates a gap underneath the bottom plate assembly for us to push through the high-tensile fencing wire which will be used to pre-compress our strawbale walls before the render is applied.
Now I know that if you are not familiar with strawbale construction this probably all seems kind of weird and maybe even boring. If you're feeling bored, I apologise. I can only say that I'm including these details in the hope that it will help out the people who are interested in strawbale construction by allowing them to learn from our mistakes.

But enough with the disclaimers. The rails of the bottom plate have now been attached using dynabolts.
We worked into the night, turning on the car's high beams so we could see the pre-drilled holes, and then relished the sound of the wind through the trees when we finally, after an hour-and-a-half of generator-ing and super-power-drilling, turned off the power.
We returned home to our women-folk and kiddies, tired and sore and pretty chuffed with our success. We drank Pepperjack beer and ate mushroom risotto and wrote lists for the days ahead. Morag and Louisa are the first of our friends to arrive for the little-house-building. They've put in a mammoth effort to be here with us, amidst personal turmoil and family weddings. We feel so blessed to have them involved with this, our biggest craft project, and can already feel the love being poured into our new home, even though there's nary a wall yet built. Oh to sleep under that roof of love!!!


  1. Replies
    1. I came to this blog a few months ago via Happyearth because, well, skirts made out of teatowels, and have been returning regularly in my lurksome way because you ladeez write like angels and I am highly enthusiastic about apple foraging and barn raising (or, y'know, bottom plate laying) and everything else you do, and just now I am enticed out of lurking because LOUISA! (with whom I had the great joy of studying Australian lit in underdrag days).

      Love love love what you're doing, and that you're doing it with friends. This is going to be such a beautiful, welcoming, gorgeous home. Wishing you luck and reliable tools and energy for the next bit of your project.

  2. Oh thanks so much for your beautiful comment. You've warmed our stressed little hearts. We're in the midst of some last-minute planning, prepping.... bit of a frenzy really. Louisa is currently with baby who refuses to sleep so she can't comment here though I'm sure she should send her love. Again, thanks xx all the best

    1. Yes, I can imagine (I imagine I can imagine) the stress. The good thing is that there'll be a direct correlation between the struggle to make this work and how proud you'll feel when it does. Poor sleepless bubba and L. Hope today's an easier day for everyone.

  3. Good information! Its extremely important that all Concrete Drilling & Cutting is done with safe & correct tools. Extreme awareness is required or else lot of money, energy & time is wasted.. We at Core Holes take extreme care in all our Concrete core hole cutting, concrete cutting, bollard installations, wheel stopper installation & high pressure concrete wash, drive ways, pavers, pathways, pool area services!!

  4. Concrete drilling really does take a lot of work. I remember being in boy Scouts and drilling holes in the concrete curbs for flags. Your forearms really get worn out quickly. If you are doing it for a long time, you are really going to be feeling it in your back too.


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