It turns out that once you start building a house, things actually go pretty quickly. In a minute it’s a bare piece of land, in the next minute it’s flattened and the frames are proud.
Last month we got a new roof, windows and a new baby! The baby part was a little slower to brew and it’s way cuter than windows (but a little more maintenance, yes, Marianne and Sean!).
Marianne and Sean Falconer (left) as well as Rico and Holly Jean Brooker are building a holiday home for their families together.
I recently shared tips on how to build a vacation home with friends and keep being friends, and how we went through the design and consent process together to prepare for construction!
In short, with designs approved and the scheduled launch date, Covid hit and we put the build on hold. Feeling bored and frustrated with lockdowns and delays, I dyed my hair light pink in a spontaneous fit of rage against the world.
* Build a house with friends? Make sure your friendship survives
* The pros and cons of building your own vacation home on Lake Taupo
* How we got from living on a dump to building our dream vacation home
* How to maintain your vegetable garden when you are away from home
I wanted a mature pastel look, but in the end I looked more like a Bogan House woman than the classy, urban mom I wanted with pointy hair. My husband graciously referred to me as “Shinaynay” for a couple of weeks while it was fading. The camera was off for a while for these online zoom meetings!
Back to the build. As soon as the lockdown subsided and we were able to travel freely, we were ready to go. To save money, we hired and borrowed excavators, and Rico and Sean leveled the build platform themselves and put a ton of gorgeous topsoil in a huge pile of goodness right next to the 8 urbanmac high gardens I created.
To date we have not yet pushed this floor into the boxes due to the busy construction! Another job to enjoy during our work vacation this summer!
After the land flattened, we booked an excavator with an auger (aka a giant auger) to drill huge holes for the piles, and both families were all there to watch the concrete truck action as the foundations were laid were. One of those moments when you pinch yourself; Yes, it actually happens (our bank account proves it!).
We chose to build our frames on site the old fashioned way (often these are assembled off-site and shipped to the site for easy installation). The framing went surprisingly fast as Sean and his construction team worked hard for a week of winter. The bitterly cold Taupo winter air and the constant rain were a great motivation to hurry up and get the job done I think!
During that week Marianne and her kids lived in a house nearby and kindly provided coffee and caramel slices daily from the local Floating Rock winery / café to keep the vibe high (we really should have bought stocks in this place).
We chose untreated Macrocarpa for the outer and inner frames. It was recently rated SG8 by Grade Right (the people who classify wood for construction) which means it can be used in place of the standard treated pine frame. With no treatment or chemicals, Macrocarpa smells amazing and has a gorgeous honey tone that fades to a silver / blonde if not oiled (I caught Sean on camera inhaling the scent deeply while working!).
Trusses were built off-site and supplied by Hiab, and scaffolding was put in place for the dramatic installation of the high pitched roof. To save $ 20,000 on the canopy, Sean and Rico used the scaffolding to attach the colored black roof themselves. Let’s just say I stayed out of the way as it was enough for me to watch this process create a panic plan for my potential future as a widow!
I needed everything inside me not to give Rico a walkie-talkie, so that I could regularly remind him to “be careful”. (I kept the helicopter in my head!). But I was very grateful that the scaffolding was in place for safety reasons, with the advantage of enormous cost savings.
Great props with Sean and Ricos dads who came from out of town to help with the roof installation too! We definitely owe these guys a night or fifty in the house one day haha!
Putting the roof on was the occasion for a celebration, so there was champagne on tap (ok, our budget was two bottles between many of us LOL) and a neighbor bought on his four-wheel drive to spin the kids on his “magic carpet”. to really bring the party vibes.
With the frames and roof over a two week period, we were ready to line the exterior to waterproof the house for the upcoming winter weather. The minimum requirement when building is the use of building envelope. However, we chose Rab panels, which offer a more robust air barrier but are still breathable. It’s much thicker than the old-school building paper, so it adds to the thermal properties of the house as well as adding extra stiffening to the outer frame.
It was a long, hard winter when we left town to meet, to make plans, or to help on the ground. Sean devoted many of his working days to work in Kuratau to get the house waterproofed asap, and Marianne kept Back Home with the kids (and one on the way!).
In early October, Epic Windows were on site installing a stunning black widow joinery and doors. Huge double glazed windows and doors in a fully sealed house to maximize lake views! This is going to look amazing in contrast to the untreated Macrocarpa siding that we plan to install.
At the same time we got new windows, the falconers casually gave birth to their third child! One Saturday morning, Marianne and I had a zoom meeting with a sustainability consultant, nek minit, Albie shows up in the afternoon!
Another addition to the atmosphere of a family vacation home. Let’s just hope that little Albie doesn’t feel like our beautiful new black kitchen drawers during this exploratory toddler phase. Aunt Holly can install a safety play pen for him while crawling, bless the little guy.
It’s fair to say the first four months of construction were pretty intense, and each stage went step by step over the weeks and weekends that we were able to get down there. So far, watching the build journey from the bottom up and being present for every key stage has been pretty epic.
Granted, living hours off-site is impractical at best, which leads to very tight deadlines when booking subbies for jobs and the inconvenience of one of us having to “shoot down” there to fix something. Think about whether you are considering building a vacation home.
For the most part, we’re pretty organized (thanks to Sean’s crazy project management skills) and it’s been a smooth run so far. The special thing was to have the children there for every step and, if possible, to let them join in, make excavation trips, set up garden boxes, climb scaffolding (very carefully under the guidance of parents), hammer nails and watch us do it, how we work hard.
It also really helped them understand why we are on a tight budget and why they are going to be missing out on a lot of things this year as we are putting all of our hard earned dollars into this vacation home. Well worth the sacrifice I think and they seem grateful to understand!
At this stage of construction it is easy to feel that the legwork is done and we are almost ready to move in! But there are so many, many jobs that have to happen to make it worth living that I’ll share in the next article.
The choices we have to make are exponential. Installation of water tanks, sewage (not yet known), wiring and installation, lining, insulation; and go through several deregistration processes. And then there are kitchens and bathrooms and all those fun but really intense design decisions to navigate between the four of us.
If you enjoy building, tinkering and learning from our construction trip, visit us on Facebook and Instagram for live updates on our current progress! We’ll be over there regularly hashtagging all Builder stuff and posting some nasty selfies. I love you to join us.