Welcome to my article, Australia affordable houses,
Dear readers, as I have said in our last blog, I was working building these affordable houses. In those times, new affordable houses were built on the fringe of the city in new suburbs, which is the same as today, if you want a new affordable house, you must look for it, in the new suburbs. We were also talking about earning and saving money, one of the aims for saving money is to buy our own house. So, let us talk the houses that we can afford.
As we know, houses are not all the same. Of course, we want to live in the best houses available, but most of us cannot afford expensive houses, therefore, we should be happy to live in any house that we can afford to buy or rent.
For this reason of affordability, to satisfy the house supply market, there are several types of house that are being built at any given time. In this article, we are going to talk about the type of houses that I ended up working on, in the early sixties. Because this article is meant to cover the story of my life, and what I did for a living.
In the early sixties, I ended up working on average houses that the working class could afford to buy, or at least the aim of the builders that were building them, was based in this affordability, since they had designed them with this purpose, because in the end, even though they had been built cheap not all of us workers would afford to buy these types of houses. But anyhow this was the purpose of building these types of affordable houses in the early sixties.
Now let us try to describe how we were building these houses from scratch.
Building houses from scratch
Anyhow, I am writing these articles about building houses from scratch, because I want to tell you the story of my life, and what I did when I came to Australia. But at the same time, I want to write something useful for my readers, and I believe that knowing how houses are built is useful to know, since knowing a few things about building houses comes handy at times; you see, we live in houses, therefore, we want to know as much as we can about them. Because we need to know how to do it yourself repairs and other things, since houses need to be maintained, if we want to enjoy them fully. So, I am going to describe how these houses were built, with as many details as I can, so that anyone interested can learn something useful from these building articles.
Now has I have explained in our last article, I was working in the building industry with this Italian builder, which was good for me because my native language is Italian. Now, with this builder not only we were re-stumping or building rooms under the existing houses, which required a lot of work to be done by hand, but we were building new houses from scratch. As I have said at the beginning of the sixties most of the digging were done by hand, specially the type of work that we were doing on these new houses, as machines were expensive to hire then, So, they were used only, if there was a lot of digging to be done, and with the machines of those days we could only dig straight forward things and not small detailed digging, as they were required to build these houses, anyhow as I said, I did a lot of this digging work myself, as I was employed as builder labor, and this was one of the jobs that I had to do.
Therefore now, let us imagine that I have finished digging the foundation and these stump holes for this new house, and now, we need to lay concrete in the foundation, and to concrete the stumps foundation and the stumps themselves. So, let us go over what we had to do, because in those times these things were all done by hand and started from scratch.
Making your own concrete.
Making your own concrete on site from scratch. Anyhow today you might think that this is an old way of mixing concrete, and it may not be used much. But if you happen to be in the middle of nowhere, this is what you need to know to make concrete.
So, let me explain, what is meant by concrete in buildings and how it is made You see, if during your life, you are going to do renovations, it is useful to know how to make your own concrete, so that you understand what is required and how and why it must be done in certain ways, you will find this information written in this article. Some people can say that today things are different, so why bother to tell us this stuff about how to mix concrete properly, when we can buy concrete ready mixed by truckload, or in bags and all you need to do is to add water to make concrete. I say, okay, you can do that. But there are times and places, when you must do these things the old way.
Therefore, I believe that you still need to know how concrete is made from scratch, because that is the only way if you don’t want to make mistakes. Therefore, let me tell you how we were mixing our concrete in the sixties, and what is required to do that and how it is supposed to be done, if you want a good job done and the concrete to last a long time.
By the way, here we need to clarify one thing, what is meant by the word concrete, because most people replace it with the word cement. On building sites, the word concrete means the element mixed together able to harden to a solid consistency within a certain length of time, therefore, it has got to be done the right way.
One of the most important things while mixing concrete is that the concrete must be well mixed and to a workable consistency using the least amount of water possible, because if too much water is used then the concrete becomes weaker, therefore, it must be done properly.
Usually concreting and other jobs are done according to its specifications, you see, any firm that makes building plans, for a house or something of more importance, they must write also the specification how the job needs to be done. In these specifications it will be written what material to use, how to use it and the quantity and quality required. Therefore, to concrete a foundation for an average small house, the specification could state that the concrete must be mixed to a consistency at least 1 to 6; for people that knew this it meant that to mix the concrete you should use 1 part of Portland cement 2 parts of river sand and 4 parts of gravel (aggregate) and mix it as required until an even consistency is achieved. For the stumps usually would be a bit more cement than the foundations. But I must say that sometimes even these rules had to be changed a bit depending on the material that can be delivered on that local site.
Now let us say that we are ready to start mixing the first batch of concrete, as we have made everything ready, and everything has been delivered. To make concrete you need at least four elements of materials plus clean water; 1 Portland cement, 2 washed river sand, 3 clean or washed gravel and 4 reinforcement steel rods, and it is helpful if you have a mixer if you have to mix a large amount of concrete, because to mix by hand is hard work and the concrete needs to be well mixed.
Now let us start the mixer and make the first batch, while the mixer is turning around, the very first thing you put in the mixer is water, one must be careful not to put too much water to start with, it has got to be just enough to mix everything to a certain consistency, so let us say that we put 8 litres of water (the amount of water can be different, since it depends on the amount of water that is already in the (sand gravel) aggregate) then we put in the mixer cement, next is the river sand twice as much as the cement and then the clean gravel 4 time as much as the cement; here the mixer is going around and mixing everything together.
Please note, that if you change the way you put your materials in the mixer, from what I have described above, you may have different result, and usually it would take longer to mix everything properly and to the right consistency.
For people that do this job all the time it is easy for them to see if the concrete that is being mixed has the right consistency required, once you know this, if it is too dry just add a bit of water and if it is too wet you should add a bit of everything else. There you are it is not too hard if you know how to do it.
What I have written above applies only to house building of less importance, for building that are large and important the concrete needs to be to a very high standard and specifications, so, here again you need to know what is needed before you do anything, and if necessary consult the expert.
Concrete requires teamwork.
To concrete well and do a fair amount of work on these houses you need a team, even if it is a small team. Our team was usually three of us, I as builder labor, John as bricklayer and Con the contractor who was a bricklayer and concreted. We didn’t mind if we switched around a bit to do the job. So, I was usually on the mixer mixing the concrete, one was with a wheelbarrow taking the concrete from the mixer to the foundations that we were concreting, and one was fixing the concrete in place.
Fixing the concrete for the foundation was physically the lightest job, when we were mixing the concrete with this mixer on site, but it is the most responsible job, because while concreting the foundations, you must make sure that the steel rods reinforcement was in the right position, at the same time you had to pack the concrete down and then the concrete in the foundations has to be finished level, this was easy when the ground was level, but when the ground was not level, it was necessary that steps were made and they had to be to gauge, which was equal to the thickness of one or two laid bricks or more, or the thickness of a laid block, if blocks were going to be used to build the walls on this foundation, whatever was going to be used to lay on the foundations, we had to try to make an adjustment while we were laying the foundations; therefore, this was the job for the experts, at that time it was not that hard, because mixing by hand even using a mixer was a slow job, so, the bloke that was fixing the concrete had enough time to do his job right.
What I have written above is how we used to lay small house foundations in the early sixties, which are the same as we lay foundations today, except that today we order concrete already mixed, but we have to be ready with everything and everything has got to be in the right place, because the concrete ready-mix truck will unload its concrete quickly, so, there is no time to do anything else, except to fix the concrete at the right level as quickly as possible.
Concreting stumps on site
Now let me go back again to the early sixties, when we were concreting these stumps on site, this procedure is not done much today, the reasons for this change it is because the buildings have changed, and today these stumps can be made in a concrete factory, and when cured can be delivered to the building site, where the worker can erect them as required.
To concrete these stumps on site we had steel forms of various length, and these forms were assembled together with steel pins, so, we would assemble these steel forms and then start to mix concrete, we had also make sure that the stumps foundations were exactly in the right place by using the marked profiles and tight line between them.
In this case, it was an easy job for the fellow that is mixing concrete, but a lot harder for the blokes that had to pour the concrete in the stumps form-work and make sure that the stump was exactly in the right place and finished at the right height and were also plumb (perfect vertical position). It was also necessary that some reinforcing rods were placed in the right position with a purpose made devise. These are how we made those onsite stumps in the sixties.
These concrete stumps that we made in the sixties were better that the timber stumps that they were replacing, because it was an improvement as they did not rot with the passing of time and the white ants could not eat them. Here we can say that these concrete stumps on site were easy to make, if you knew the procedure, in fact it was easier to make a set of stumps than to fix concrete stumps made in the factory, as there is no heavy lifting involved.
I believe that we have said enough in this article, as we have explained the work that we did on these affordable houses and we will be coming back to talk about more building work in our next article, house building in Brisbane. See you soon.