Thursday, July 7, 2011

Week 24: Construction Update

Now that our contractor Partner 1, Binod Arya has returned to Goa and we convened a big meeting on-site with the entire team. The idea was to get the construction schedule back on track and develop a new plan for the monsoon that allows us to execute the next tasks in an efficient manner. It was decided that in the main house, the contractor will work on the wood and tile roofs and the internal partition walls next. Then move on to the internal door frames and then the doors for the main openings in the living room followed by the bedrooms. 
What would be the central courtyard in front of the main living room
We also addressed the material shortfall issue. The progress of our pavilion block had suffered severely due to the lack of supply of laterite stone. We dealt with the issue by switching to the use of regular brick to complete the walls of the staff quarters so we can move forward with this block. The next step here would then be to install the roof and then put up the steel structure for the pavilion above.
The pool and deck and beyond
-          Next, with all the woodwork ahead of us, we addressed the wood issue head-on. We had decided very early on to use as much reclaimed wood as we can in the project. Using reclaimed wood has obvious advantages. One is that we will reuse old wood and not cut new trees for our project. Secondly old wood is actually very well seasoned that reduces the well known problems of wood expanding and contracting with moisture that lead to jamming doors, wood splitting, bending and warping. In my initial discussion on the issue with my contractor,  he explained to me that buying old reclaimed wood can cost me more or less the same as new wood and hence it is better for us to use the new wood as I guess for most people new is automatically always better. He went on to give me the example of another project that he is building and explained that ‘Madam - you see this project, we have cut an entire jungle for it’. This was the perfect starting point for my rhetoric on why using reclaiming old wood was important and why we must use it in our project. Contractors actually prefer working with new wood as it is softer and easy to work with. Old wood in comparison has hardened; require meticulous planning for reuse and need to be prepared for new use by shaving off the skin and removing any spoilt sections and nails and other aberrations. But our contractors are very admirable and know their craft well. They are open to and good at implementing new ideas. After a short discussion, they are on-board with the plan.

Mainly in the project, we are using two types of wood – local timber (Matti, Jack) and Burma Teak. We have found vendors that deal with reclaimed Teak in Mumbai. For local timber on the other hand, there is no organized trade that exists in the state. So we resorted to some innovative sourcing techniques. As a result we have been combing through all types of old wood waiting to be found and reused, from packing wood, to doors and windows to wood beams and rafters from old roofs. We are mostly interested in the later. After short listing a few, my architect and I have been cris-crossing the state to look at available wood to judge its quality and reusability. The main criteria is to make sure that the reclaimed wood in not bent, does not have significant termite damage and has not become brittle over time. We think we have found 3-4 sources of good supply. In the next couple of weeks, we will carefully study our requirements vs. the wood that is available and purchase the necessary quantities. More updates on this will follow.

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  1. Careful with the wood!
    Are you decking the Pool with wood or putting stone?

  2. Yes. Wood is a tricky material. On one hand it is the #1 natural and renewable building material and on the other it is temperamental to moisture and termites. We are hoping to be very careful with wood and are considering all the treatment options available in India.

    About the pool deck - part of it will be with wood decking and another part in stone.

    Would love to hear your experience about using wood. And any tips that you may have.

  3. I admire your philosophy of using reclaimed wood. Have you heard of anyone using reclaimed wood for kitchen cabinets in India? We're completing the interior of a flat in Chennai. We plan to revisit Cochin warehouses to get old cabinets and tables for bathroom vanities, bedroom wardrobes, etc. so that we're re-using existing furniture as much as possible, rather than buying new. But we're stymied about what to do with the kitchen that our contractors would understand. Any tips much appreciated! I will definitely follow your progress here!

  4. Hi Deb
    Thanks for reading. A trip to Cochin's antique shops is a sight for sore eyes. There are so many treasures waiting to be found and made your own !

    Regarding green options for kitchen cabinets, you can certainly use reclaimed wood. If you can source old wood then your carpenter can use it just like he would use new wood. Depending on what you buy, you may have to shave off the top existing layer of the wood to remove old finishing, paint or any surface damage. If the old wood that you are buying has any termite damage or has bent or warped, then you will have to remove those sections as well. A good bet would be to look for old doors and door frames. There are usually markets in every city that sell these. Take your carpenter with you and he will be able to estimate the amount of wood he will require after wastage. You could use this wood to make the frame for the cabinet doors and use textured or coloured glass in between (glass has recycled content).

    If this does not work then the most common cabinet option in India is to use a 19mm commercial board that can be procured pre-finished or can be finished with either laminate or veneer on-site.

    Hope this helps. Let me know if we can help you with any other info.


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