trench of connections

Sewer, water, power – the trinity of site construction

I have a trench. It has water and sewer running down it from the street to my house. I have a tap with running water in my yard. Having a tap is pretty special after many months of carrying around containers full of water. But wait, there’s more, the most exciting bit is that a low pressure sewer pump has been installed – an “LP” pump for those who speak the sewer lingo.

There were two different options to get the LP pump system put in. I selected the option of having Sydney Water own the pump, which has cost me a small fortune in the short term. Mine must be the only sewer system in the street that’s lined with gold. The advantage of this option is that because Sydney Water own the LP pump, they will reimburse me for the cost of it and if it ever breaks they have to fix it at their cost. If you do everything yourself with a licensed plumber the paperwork and construction are all considerably cheaper, but you then own and have to pay for and maintain the pump.

Taking the Sydney Water option involves using Water Services Coordinators for plans and approvals, and then Sydney Water accredited constructors. They all have big overheads to maintain their Sydney Water accreditations and so they have to charge accordingly. That should make it a smooth and quick process to get approvals right? No, despite all the applications being done by professionals, Sydney Water still took a record 5 months to approve my plans, including Christmas break and a staff restructure.

Not only do I have a gold and jewel encrusted sewer pump, I also have my electricals all roughed in inside the house, done by a very efficient and professional sparky.

inside of house with some wiring
If you look closely you’ll see wiring in the walls and ceiling. That doesn’t include the big loose cables hanging near the door and the ladder though, those are extension cords that I have run across to lights that I’ve temporarily hooked up for when I’m camping in the house. All the neat stuff is the wiring.

That all sounds like progress doesn’t it? Slow but unusually smooth for this blog you might say. So what has gone wrong lately? Only small stuff really. You might remember in a previous post how I wanted to get the connections all done in one hit, so that I didn’t have an open trench running down the driveway preventing access for too long. I should be more careful about sharing my dreams publicly like that.

The trench constructors agreed to dig my trench 600mm deep so power could run in it too. That was nice of them as power wasn’t on their job list, just water and sewer, but they did have an excavator on-site at the time. Then they didn’t dig the trench 600mm deep, they dug it 500mm in most places. It was just before I went off travelling for work so after they said the trench was done I called my sparky to go and lay the power in, and he went to do it but couldn’t because the trench wasn’t deep enough. So now that I’m back from my travels I have to organise a new trench, which is trickier than it sounds as there are boundary fences and trees close together and not much room for trenches to run in parallel. One wide trench would have been much nicer. The current trench can’t be re-dug, at least not by machine, as it has the preciously expensive sewer and water lines already in it. Although if you know a precision excavator, message me.

On the upside, the excavators moved a large vintage camelia tree for me while they were on-site.

Anyway, due to the shallow trench the wiring inside my house is a bit lonely. It is hanging around idly waiting to be attached to a connection, while the mains power sits connected up on the street to a private pole and the two are sadly estranged from each other.

Another slight hitch, I had a local builder lined up to do some work while I was away for a few weeks but I’m thinking of reporting him as a missing person. He came and quoted, I agreed to the quote, we agreed on a timeline, then he entirely disappeared and didn’t answer emails or calls. I think he is now overseas. The work involved proper waterproofing of the top deck of my house, where the three containers all meet, so that I could start on the interior fit out once I got back from my travels. I don’t want to start on the insulation or interior plywood linings if so much as one drip of water is still getting in. So of course there are two sneaky drips of water getting in, one at each end of the house where the containers are staggered and the corners don’t meet up. I’ll have to look around again and find someone else to do the job, I might use a waterproofer instead.

Complicating the timeline is the fact I’m now on 6 weeks of fieldwork out in the bush and not around much, so late June is looking good for some building action. I’m pretty keen to be around for the rest of the work so that I can measure the depth of trenches, drop in to elusive builder’s houses and ask them if they’re ok, and make cups of tea for people who kindly move camelias for me.

Apart from that, it’s still a gorgeous little shell of a house to camp in for a couple of nights a week and I love being there. It’s a little cold at night now, being an uninsulated steel box, but it is my little bush sanctuary with its own lyre bird. I can’t wait for the next stage of interior fit-out to start, when I can go nuts with interior design. I have some very nice glass wall sconces that I carried around in my computer bag as hand luggage for 3 weeks, all the way from Zanzibar (that bit of my trip was not work). I am also looking forward to some little luxuries like a flush loo, which will drain into my gorgeous new sewer system.

Vintage wall sconce from Zanzibar
“Vintage” wall sconces from Zanzibar, or so the salesman said. I like them regardless. They will go with my The-Hobbit-Meets-Rustic-Industrial-Meets-Tribal interior theme.

Looking on the sunny side some more, I’m trying to build this house entirely mortgage free so the gaps leave me time to go and earn more money to pay for the next build stage, for example when the sewer costs me more than I thought it would.

I also found a quote on an earlier blog post where I warned myself this build could take a while:

Late 2016: “My Owner Builder’s Licence is completed and issued, and I have my construction certificate in hand. The licence application wasn’t a big deal and only took about 16 hours to complete all up since I’m a well-practiced desk jockey, it just took a while to find a spare 16 hours. Yes that bodes well for building a house this millennium doesn’t it, if 16 hours is a push.”

Haha. Time is an illusion anyway.


3 thoughts on “Sewer, water, power – the trinity of site construction”

  1. So sorry to hear about the trench and the AWOL builder but happy to hear some progress has been made. Looking forward to our next visit already XX


  2. I’ve just spent the day reading through each one of your posts and I have to say I admire your spirit given all the hurdles that you’ve overcome!

    Very excited to hear read the next installment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sean! Progress is about to start again, after a bit of a lull. The freezing weather up there has put me off camping in the house a bit lately. Plumbing is all roughed in now, so internal insulation and fit out will come soon.


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