Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A house of Railway Sleepers - Part 3

This is the third article in a series that documents the building of a railway sleeper lakehouse in Rapel lake, in central Chile. To see the previous articles click on the keywords Railway or Sleepers on the keyword list at the lower right.

The Great Wall

In the last article we saw how we planted the sleepers and logs in concrete bases for the pillars of the house, we also saw how a couple of the pillars tried to slide downhill into the lake with the winter rains. So we had to build a contention wall. Well, I'm happy to report the wall is finished and nothing is sliding downhill nowadays (with the notable exception of our 2 year old Domingo and his grandma, but that's another story).

Given our construction helper-employee-handyman don Hernan's impeccable work building stone walls (he has many many more in his prontuary, stone wall building is typical of lakeshore terraces in Rapel), we asked him to to build a smaller wall to keep the road from going into the house. So now we have two walls and the ground is not moving anywhere near the house.

Last week we advanced more with the floor structure which turned out to be a lot more work (and wood and bolts) that what I originally expected, and we have the rooms and the kitchen ready now. We still have to add the beams that will support the bathroom and most of the living room. My wife Carolina, my older son Pablo and me teamed with don Hernan worked all Sunday and advanced a lot.

The Bolting of the First Sleeper

We couldn't resist the temptation to add one of the sleepers that make up the walls, to try up the concept and the timberlock bolts. We started with one in the back of the house in the kids room, just in case it didn't work out, but luckily it did.

What we do is cut a 6 cm x 6 cm edge on each side with a disc saw, so that the thickness of the wood to be bolt on is not that thick (a sleeper is 13 cm to 17 cm thick). Then we fasten a couple of timberlocks to each side. You can see the result in the image...

Fastening an Oak sleeper with timberlocks is harder than what the publicity says (no pre-drilling... yeah right!) but still pretty (read awesomely) easy compared to studs or anything else we have tried. We had to drill holes or the timberlock would only go about two inches into the sleeper, but after drilling them you can drive the bolt all the way (this means 8 to 10 inches) into the sleeper.
At first I tried to finish bolting them with a socket wrench and discovered they are a lot more elastic than a regular iron stud (which are as elastic as Playdoh, and just as useful with sleepers if you tight them all the way in).

Then we discovered they will go all the way in with a 600 rpm regular hand drill and in the process make the sleeper sing, or scream if you wish... It's heard at as creacking noise when you bolt a stud by hand (like a scream in slow motion), but when you drive them at 600 rpm it's a whole different sound.

So, we have proved to ourselves that the whole idea of the sleeper walls and the timberlocks work (not a small detail for a sleeper house), so I felt obliged to thank the gods with a sacrifice. I opened a can of stout beer and drank it with a fake "I knew it" expression and a deep satisfaction that they actually did go into the sleeper, and that the disc saw actually worked too. From what we have seen so far these logs are chainsaw and fire territory, the wood is so hard it defies physiscs, I don't think they'll even float.

On the seventh day... U haul

After a late lunch we packed and drove back to our city house in our pickup truck hauling the empty sailboat trailer, so next week we can go back to the lake with the six huge windows and hauling the 20 feet roof beams we got at a 100 year old school/convent demolition around six months ago. It's a five day long weekend (national holiday plus a bridged monday), so we intend to advance a little more, maybe get some work on the roof or walls done, as well as resting and enjoying the lake.

The "crew" at the Construction Site

These two are from the previous weekend, but it's a good thing since we weren't so dirty that day.

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