Friday, 16 March 2012

And so the shit begins...

Oh, it was going to be so simple! How hard can replacing a few concrete blocks be? Surely they are readily available? Aren't lots of people using concrete blocks nowadays?

So a bricklayer knocked on my door earlier this week - just wanting to check if there was any extra damage following the aftershocks we had in June 2010 and December 2010. I showed him round, he commented that there were a couple of extra cracks, but nothing significant. I casually commented that I presumed there was no issue getting replacement concrete blocks.... to which he replied - "not at all, but they are slightly smaller than these ones - they're metric now, which means they are 5mm shorter in height and length and depth, but you won't be able to tell the difference".

Ah, excuse me?

The proportions and dimensions of our entire house were based around the dimensions of the concrete block - do you see how the windows upper and lower edges align exactly with the concrete blocks? Not to mention the detail on the sloping edge of the gables. Dude, seriously? I asked him about recycling other blocks from older houses but he dismissed the idea, saying they would be too fragile. Don't worry, he re-iterated, you won't be able to tell.

So I discussed it with the project manager, who confirmed that the replacement blocks would be smaller, and suggested we could put in new windows so that they lined up. Hmmm.

Not Happy.

I phoned the three main salvage companies in Christchurch - one of which had any imperial blocks, one of them took my details and said they'd phone if any came in.

Then, I emailed an ex- Warren & Mahoney man who was more than happy to offer some advice earlier today. He categorically dismissed the idea of using metric blocks, agreeing that is would totally destroy the architectural merit of the building. His suggestions?

1. Carefully numbering the remaining blocks which still need to come down (we have to remove and replace the gables down to the level of the first floor), so that they can be replaced exactly.
2. Retrieving as many unbroken blocks as possible from around the house (many of which were intact after the main earthquake, but have subsequently been damaged by erection of scaffolding and some site clearance).
3. Find a source of recycled blocks.

I drove from the meeting straight to this place:

Found a man onsite who directed me to the name of man whose name was on the demolition company sign outside. I phoned him 20 minutes later, explained I needed about 100 of the blocks from the outside. He said he was so busy he'd forget our conversation in about an hour, but if I turn up next week when the diggers are there, he will put a pile aside for me to take away and clean up.

Let's see.

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