Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chapter 23 – Sketch versus Photos

One of the intangibles in home building is being able to get a real sense of space. Sketches help in my opinion, especially when you add walls, cabinets and furniture. But it’s interesting to compare and contrast.

Below are 2 sketches of the view from the family room looking at dining, kitchen, living, study and patio.



Here’s a photo which sort of makes things feel slightly smaller but I’ve been told it will feel very different when you actually have stuff in it.


Below is is the view from the kitchen.


Similar view from kitchen island looking to the living room and patio. Don’t mind the 2X4 in the middle of the photo. It’s not a pillar. it’s just resting there at the moment.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chapter 22 – Raising of the Barn (Day 48)

Or in Japanese its called “Mune-Age” which means raising of the highest beam.
The Japanese custom is to hold a little party and hand out gifts to the workers who built the foundation and to the carpenters who work on the frame and will complete the house finishes including built-in furniture. As explained by the site manager, with the depressed economy here, many are opting-out of this custom and it would not mean that work quality would diminish. However, lots of changes can happen during the project which are unplanned and unbudgeted. This is where good will comes in.As this seemed more relevant than paying a priest for blessing the land, thus agreed to the ceremony for which we had to organize food and drinks for 17 people. We also decided on cash gifts. The suggested gift was 1~2 man for the team leads and half for the team members. Damage was about 8man for food, drinks and gifts for 8 builders.


Cleansing Ceremony:
Our site manager helped us with formalities. Not sure what this is called but essentially you go to the four corners of the home. On the corner post, I threw a handful of salt to the left of the post, then the right, then the middle, step back and bow. Sakamoto-san did the same but with rice. Then the Master Carpenter did the same with Sake. Then we all bow. Repeat 3 times.

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The First Dinner: Curry from our favorite Nepalese Restaurant, who the owners happen to be our future neighbors. Some drinks and customary speeches and self-introductions. And finally, time to play Santa Claus.

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The family got a chance to walk around the rooms and we took some snapshots including the second floor. I’ll post some side-by-side comparisons with Sakamoto-san sketches.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chapter 21 – Water Cure (Day 35~47)

It’s a been a little over 2 weeks since the concrete was poured for the foundation. During that time it’s been hardening (curing) in a fairly moist environment helped by the rainy weather. From what I’ve read this is a good thing as it can make the concrete 50% stronger. LINK.

Day 41: Water Curing, Drain Pipes.


In the meantime, the world doesn’t stop. The plumber comes in trenches, sets up the water supply and drain pipes.


Day 46: Still Curing, Setup for Framing the House.


Day 47: Lots of wood.

Below are the first pallets of wood which will be anchored to the foundation. Interestingly, there are hard plastic spacers so that the beams don’t touch the concrete directly. From what I can understand this is to prevent the wood rotting from moisture. They will add a moisture prevention barrier at a later stage too.


So all of the wood is pre-cut and coded so that the workers can assemble them like a well-orchestrated puzzle. Every piece has a code and my NAME on it. Pretty cool. Below are some closeups of the joints which I thought were interesting.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chapter 20 – All in the family

Sorry for the long silence. Sometimes life takes over.

Just a little note about family participation.

Definitely everyone needs to get involved and support the endeavor. My better half is taking over the landscaping design and reckon will take over some of the interior design as well. Kids are now relieved that we don’t have to see another showroom for hopefully eons, but my son decided to make our home building plans is summer project topic.

Below is a 1/50 scale model of our home which we built together using stiff craft paper. Pretty easy to do. You just photocopy the home design plans and trace over the paper and tape it together.


As you’ll notice the trickiest part is the roof. But it’s mostly there.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chapter 19 – Land Prices

During the week I received a survey from the Ministry of Land and Transportation requesting details of land transaction. The size, location, shape of the land and how much we paid for it. The details are compiled and entered in a large database which then shared at the following site:

I can’t recommend this site enough. First it’s in ENGLISH, so no excuses. Second, it details, some of the latest transaction in a selected neighborhood, a very important consideration when making an offer. Third, It’s dead easy to use.

Just select prefecture, City, Area and click Display Data.


If you want a very specific area you can click on the map and you’ll get data like below.



Oh yeah and I will be a good citizen and submit my survey so others can benefit as I did from this data.

Chapter 18 - Foundations (Day 34)

Wow. Things are moving fast. On Wednesday, Sakamoto-san checked the steel reinforcements to make sure everything was well put together. He sent us the picture below so we could be aware of how things were moving along.

steel reinforcement

Yesterday (9/10), I went to check the foundation and noticed they poured another layer of concrete over the steel. Below is a short video with one of the workers checking measurements. The white boards along the sides are styro-foam like boards I think to help with insulation. The worker mentioned they would pour the base layer concrete wall later that afternoon.

Now that the dimension are more tangible, I’m getting a better sense of how the rooms will feel in relation to each other. Below is a picture of the foam board with the concrete wall.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chapter 17 – Well, Well, Well… (Day 27)

We got an email from Sakamoto-san on Tuesday that the land exploration results were good but some abnormalities had become evident on the north west corner of the property. Basically they discovered an old well and it was located right under a corner of the home. So this was not a slam dunk after all. See below.


Sakamoto-san reassured us that this was not the end of the world but that he would need to visit the land next day and assess the situation and verify if any adjustments would be needed to the foundation design. I was bracing myself for having to spend dearly to fill-in a huge 20 meter hole. The reality of the situation relieved me. The well was 50cm in diameter and only about 2.5m deep.

However, some further digging would be needed just to ensure there were no other sideway tunnels. It was suggested that this could have been something other than a well, perhaps an old war bunker.

Some more digging and no other holes were found. But now we are going to need to reinforce this area with concrete. The estimate is about 500$. Not too bad.

In the meantime, the other work continues. Below you see the where they have laid medium sized rocks which then gets covered with dirt. I believe that’s where they will lay the flat concrete base. I’m curious to see how this develops.

Working on a Saturday afternoon in 35C weather in the full sun must be hell. So today, I brought them a few drinks and some snacks as a small token of appreciation.