Building, Structural

“I feel the Earth move, under my feet..”

We started off with much optimism, because we were finally going to make a start on the foundations. The initial challenge we had was finding an excavator at a reasonable cost. Being on a tight budget did restrict us and we had to find a way to get what we needed without an arm and leg. I searched for quite some time and time was running out as we were nearing the Christmas period. We found a few people, but response times were slow. Eventually, no one was returning our calls.

When family and renovations don’t mix

My Dad has been in real estate for a long time and has gone through a few renovations himself. So naturally, I asked for his help to find us the people to do the jobs we need. He was great in giving us some insight on suppliers, so I trusted he would know some pretty good trades. As we needed a plumber too, he arranged for a plumber who could also do the excavation for us. Well that was certainly handy I thought! Not only were they going to give us a fair discount, but they would also do both plumbing and excavation.

I wasn’t expecting what was going to unfold to follow and had I had known, I would never EVER had hired these people. The day finally arrived when they would make a start. The excavator brought his digger and began to break up the old concrete paths. This seemed all normal to me, but then it all started…No skips were arranged, so we had a lot of excess dirt and soil on site and no where to take it away to. Then we had the plumbers (Woodorth Plumbing from Granville) under the direction of my Dad, who actually let them take the lead, begin to dig in the wrong spots. They did not understand that my husband was the owner builder and had specific plans for how the work should unfold. Our site started to become a war zone with holes dug in the wrong places and there was nothing I could do as the plumbers took matters into their own hands. Because our foundations are a bearers and joists system and we needed pier pads to be dug, it was important to get the positioning of all the piers correct.  Instead we were left with Swiss cheese…a chaos of holes and trenches, nothing in the right place – it was a mess. We also wanted our sewer pipe to be hung aerially, so that sub floor access would be easy, this meant minimal digging for the plumbers. Instead they dug a trench across the back and positioned a pipe that would be of no use to us. My husband and I were devastated…this was not the start we wanted. We were both furious about the situation. In the end, the plumbers took no responsibility nor did they follow any of Anthony’s instructions. It was a very stressful week to say the least. To us, we felt that these plumbers really did not understand or care about our plans.



The trench and pipe that is now redundant to us.


We requested that pipe to be moved as the first thing…but no – plumbers just left it there in the way. Anthony cleaning up their mess.


The wet weather made moving dirt, now mud, a lot tougher

So the weekend after, Anthony and I took matters into our own hands. We got shovels and ordered a 4 tonne skip. We cleaned up the site as best as we could. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it because I suffered from lactic acid build up in my arms after that and was in pain for a while. We dug and moved dirt day and night. The rain didn’t help either.

Moving forward

From this experience it was a tough lesson learnt – that in building and trade, the cheapest is not the best and that you are better off spending that extra to get the work done right first go.  In moving forward, it would of course come at a cost. So the saving we made really wasn’t one. I went back to searching for someone to make things right and found Big Boys Renovations. They were able to get us back on track. The next few days, 3 men tidied up the footings and squared our piers to the correct measurements. They had to manually dig some piers deeper to get to harder ground. They installed the steel frames and were given the thumbs up by the Principal Certifying Authority (PCA) and the Structural Engineer. Once the ok, the concrete was poured straight away. We were happy to get to this point, but it wasn’t a perfect job either. The concrete wasn’t straight, there were cracks appearing and some of the formwork was difficult to remove. But to be honest, this was all fixable and we could still continue on. I also think it was nothing compared to the headache we experienced earlier.


Steel in and approved!


Concrete poured and now setting.