There is a saying about building. There is ‘good’, there is ‘fast’ and there is ‘cheap’. You can have any two.
This time last year I hired a local team of builders to put up a balcony and trellis on the main building, finish the schist facing stone on the log store, and re-roof the small building. I knew their work – many foreigners locally have had them turn schist animal houses into habitable structures – and it’s generally reasonable enough for the price, though you get what you pay for. I figured if I didn’t throw too many unfamiliar techniques and materials into the mix they couldn’t go wrong with a simple wooden structure. The main rationale was that they had ready access to the sizeable amount of chestnut timber which was needed to construct the balcony, and which we were struggling to lay our hands on, but in truth I was also succumbing to the frustrations of slow progress.
Well I got ‘fast’. And I got (relatively) ‘cheap’ …
It wasn’t long before we spotted a problem though. Well actually quite a few, but one critical one. The central beam perpendicular to the house which carries most of the weight of the structure wasn’t up to the job. Had it been in the round (or even had it been braced), I doubt there would be such a problem, but it’s a sawn piece – a quarter of a substantial chestnut trunk – and as a sawn piece has nowhere near the same tensile strength as timber in the round. Within a couple of months, it was clearly sagging under the weight.
We factored in plans to replace it, but this week realised that some more drastic action was required.
Wayne, who has been away in the UK for a month and therefore had the benefit of a break in continuity here, was the one who noticed it. The beam was sagging more. And what’s more, there was a crack developing. Not only was there a crack developing, but there was a wet part and a dry part to the crack. The wet part would have got wet the last time it rained. And the dry part must have opened up since. The last time it rained was Saturday.
And we had no acro jacks to hand.
Fortunately, there were some lengths of eucalyptus left over from the rear roof. Although it doesn’t stand up to getting wet very well, eucalyptus has enormous compressive strength, so was the perfect timber to use as temporary props.
It’s just as well that the next item on the construction list is closing off the open wall of the building. And even more fortunate that I had a change of original plan to one that now involves dismantling most of the balcony to reconstruct it in a different way.
Not a ‘cheap’ experience then. But a ‘good’ way of finding out that ‘fast’ is easily the most preferable, if not always the easiest, element to sacrifice in the building equation.