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Old 09-27-2010, 03:52 AM
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Default Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I live in the Blue Mountains on the western edge of Sydney. Our house is built on a sloping bush block with lots of rocky outcrops. Just off the back of the house is a small area that sits under a rock overhang. The level area is only about 3 x 4 metres and we have some sandstone crazy paving there. There was a clothes line there until a tree fell and wiped it out. The photo below was taken just as I started lifting the paving that was there - September 2009.



We have always wanted to do some serious landscaping work on this site to make the most of what is a unique and spectacular spot. We decided that a wood fired oven would be just the thing. So we came up with a plan to jack hammer out some of the surrounding rock, lower the entire area and build some proper stairs. This should result in making an area that is 6 x 4 metres – enough room for a large table and chairs. The pizza oven would be built on a ledge on one end that we would also jack hammer out of solid rock. See the picture below for a very rough guide:



The really difficult part of this build is that there is not even access for a wheel barrow. Everything has to be carried in and out in buckets! Plus when you jack hammer out a cubic metre of rock it occupies about 3 cubic metres of space. On the plus side we have not had to bring in any building materials other than some mortar. The stairs were constructed from rocks that were either dug up or jack hammered out:



Here are the stairs completed in November last year. This gave us the height we needed to excavate the rest of the site to.



These photos are from 2009. I am hoping to pour my hearth slab this coming weekend, just over 12 months after starting. I will put up more photos of the last 12 months, but now that I am finally up to constructing the oven there should be more to discuss.
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Old 09-27-2010, 11:12 AM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

What a cool setting for a wfo! Now that's going to be a fun project.
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Old 09-27-2010, 03:49 PM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

At least it is all sandstone and not granite!

How have you been breaking it up? by drilling & splitting?

Paul
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Old 09-27-2010, 06:31 PM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Which way is the prevailing wind ? You won't want to create "The Smoking Pit".
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Old 09-27-2010, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Looks like a beautiful site!
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Old 09-29-2010, 03:41 PM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Quote:
Originally Posted by fxpose View Post
What a cool setting for a wfo! Now that's going to be a fun project.
I'm not sure that fun is the right word, but I do enjoy a challenge and I'm not afraid of a bit of hard work. The good thing is, there is no deadline to have it finished.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alter ego View Post
At least it is all sandstone and not granite!

How have you been breaking it up? by drilling & splitting?
Yes, all sandstone. I have been using an electric jack hammer that I borrow from my brother (and my brother) to break up the rock. Some of the sandstone comes out in good size chunks and some of it just powders and it takes hours to get anywhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil2 View Post
Which way is the prevailing wind ? You won't want to create "The Smoking Pit".
I should be able to get the top of the chimney above the rock. I need to do some clearing up there so I don't start a fire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Pfeifer View Post
Looks like a beautiful site!
It is. That's why I want to create something that I can share with family and friends.

Plus there is a convenient wood pile near by.
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Old 09-30-2010, 03:36 AM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Because everything has to be carried out by hand I tried to use a lot of the rock and fill close by. A rock retaining wall was built under the house so the area could be levelled right up to the edge of the house.



Plus we built some gardens - dry stone walls and the fill from the site mixed with chicken manure and mulch. We have also built some raised garden beds on the grassy area at the bottom of this picture in which we have planted pizza ingredients – tomatoes, basil, oregano, chillies, rocket etc. We like the idea of having fresh ingredients close by.



This photo gives an idea of how much of the rock went into these gardens. It also shows how close the area is to the house.



Here is the bench that the oven will sit on. It sits up against the left wall so most of it will be on solid rock. A lot more rock came out of here than I was originally thinking. I could have built a smaller oven but didn’t see the point of going to all this effort and then compromising on the oven. It was only an extra weekend on the jackhammer to make the space for a 42”. Hearth slab should be poured (hand mixed of course) this weekend.



Interestingly we finished jack hammering on the anniversary of the day we started work – 19th September. In the next instalment I finally get into some construction.

Sharkey
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Old 09-30-2010, 05:57 PM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A slab that is part on fill and part on rock should be well reinforced.
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Old 10-04-2010, 03:29 PM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Finally I finished my 12 month hard labour sentence breaking rock and construction has begun. The block wall has gone in to lay the slab on and I have started filling in the gaps and crevices. I plan to build a solid rock wall enclosure around the oven. The bench to the right of the oven will eventually be at the height of the cooking floor.



This wall is built from large rocks and fills in the gap under this rock ledge. The wall will continue along in front of the block wall and also cover the front edge of the slab and provide a landing in front of the oven. Again, all the rock for this was excavated from the site.



I really feel I am making some progress now and even heard my wife telling some friends we will be cooking pizza for Christmas.
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:19 AM
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Default Re: Building Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Of course the weekend I plan to pour the hearth slab is the wettest weekend we have had for months so during a short break in the rain I hung a tarpaulin from the rocks out to some trees. I think it will stay while I build the oven.

On Saturday we cut the re-bar and tied it together, adding a bit extra where the slab is not on solid rock. Then we put in the form work. We drilled some holes in the rock and just used some special rock bolts to attach it. I hadn’t seen these bolts before but they worked brilliantly.

On Sunday we finished off the prep and then started hand mixing the concrete. It was a real family project. My brother, my father, my son and I worked like a well oiled machine. We just did 3 bags (60kg – 130lb) at a time. For the first load we added a little water at a time and measured how much water was required. We then marked that amount on the bucket and added the same amount with each subsequent load. When it was mixed 3 of us lifted the entire wheel barrow and my son, who was standing up top, emptied and spread.

The entire job from opening the first bag of concrete to cleaning up was completed in less than 2 hours!

In this photo you can see the tarp, the slab and the pile of rocks that need to be built into rock walls.



And here is a close up of the slab. As you can see there was not a lot of form work required. The board leaning across it to catch drips from the rock overhead. I have also found most of the rocks to fill in the cracks and gaps, but they are just sitting in place waiting to be concreted in.



Now I need to buy bricks, insulation, mortar etc – basically everything for a wood fired oven.
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