Tondelver House - Southern Highlands Self Build

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  1. #1
    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Default Tondelver House - Southern Highlands Self Build

    Now that I have reached the stage of having all my plans and permits approved I thought it about time to start my own thread.

    I am building a house from shipping containers. I also plan to do as much as possible by myself. This includes all house designs, plans, permits and construction.

    There were several reasons why I chose to use containers - one being ease of construction and the second cost savings. As I will be doing this on my own most of the time I had to seriously think about the actual construction. And doubting my own abilities to build structurally sound and load bearing walls, after lots of considerations (such as looking at flat pack/kit homes, pre-fab granny flats etc) I hit upon the idea of a container home.

    This was several years ago and before I had heard of such creatures. It was only once I began researching the idea that I discovered a lot of other people had come up with the idea before me. Kit homes still required numbers of people onsite as all of the ones I had seen being constructed online involved building walls etc on the ground and then raising them - a group effort.

    I also looked at costs of having a steel kit home made - but both the costs and the ordinariness of the designs put me off. The idea of having containers placed onto piers would then basically entail me cladding the structure internally and externally - something I could envisage doing by myself.

    I chose the name Tondelver House after my partner of many years passed away about 6 years ago. We were in the early stages of looking at buying our first house together - so the name is an amalgam of parts of both our surnames and acts as a sort of memorial.

    I have been a sculptor for most of my life so I am hoping the skills developed in this career will help me in my building work. My biggest sculpture yet!

    I haven't gotten very far as yet but I will make a few posts with pictures to bring this thread up to the point at which I am now currently at.

  2. #2
    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    LAND

    Almost 3 years ago I purchased 25 acres near a little village called Bungonia, on the edge of the Bungonia National Park.

    It is about 20 minutes from Goulburn and a little over 2 hours from Sydney.



    A former sheep farm, it was recently sub divided into about 12 x 100 acres lots - with two smaller remaining, a 39 acres and mine.

    The first two photos below are looking North-West, and the last is looking North - this will be the view from the large front windows at the front of the house.


    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails early-morning-mist.jpg   bungonia4.jpg   panorama.jpg   map-bungonia.jpg  

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    DAM

    One of the first things I did was to have a dam built.

    It is approximately the size of an Olympic swimming pool and my neighbours have told me to expect to wait about three years before it fills completely up. As it was - it stayed completely dry for the first 4 months as we had a very dry summer.






    The dam builder did a bang up job and finished a couple of hours early. So he asked me if there was anything else he could do while he had all the equipment on site.
    So I had him do the site scrape for me as well as a level platform for my second water tank a little down the hill.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails dam-3-.jpg   site-scrape.jpg   dam-2-.jpg   dam-4-.jpg   dam-1-.jpg  


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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Default Lots of Images!

    HOUSE DESIGN

    I spent a long time working on my house design.

    I discovered the joys of SketchUp and soon embarked on a series of different designs, learning about the CAD style programme and about my own interests and desires for the house as I went.

    The earliest designs were very simple and lacked a real understanding of what could and what could not be done with containers.

    Below is one of my first designs which combined 40' and 20' containers, stacked on 2 levels.



    This quickly changed when I discovered the engineering problems involved in second floor containers at right angles, AND that 20' containers were almost the same price as 40' ones.

    Also a friend asked why, when I have 25 acres, would I possibly want stairs? I hate stairs so a very good point. So two stories went bye byes as did 20' units.

    After about a dozen designs, I started to seriously think about architectural styles and what would lend itself to containers.

    Then I remembered one of my favourite Modernist houses - Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe:


    This seemed to lend itself perfectly to the dimensions and proportions of containers.

    Embarrassingly - my first effort was an almost complete copy of Farnsworth House. (At least from the facade.)

    But more importantly, it got me thinking about shade and orientations as it was evidently not appropriate for our climate.



    It also, by way of another 14 or 15 designs, led me to my final house design:




    Container configuration:


    Main Bed and Lounge looking East:


    Main bed and Lounge Looking West:


    Bathroom:


    Guest Bedroom:


    main Bedroom


    Main Bedroom study nook with window. (Can be hidden behind folding doors)
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  5. #5
    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Default House Plan

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    CONTAINERS

    Then of course came the containers.

    I found a very good deal through Hamburg Sud and the last of the containers were delivered around mid May this year.





    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails container-delivery-3-.jpg   container-delivery-2-.jpg   container-delivery-1-.jpg  

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Default Current stage.

    And that brings me up to the present.

    I am currently ready to dig my pier holes and have the containers craned onto them.

    Engineers have specified I only need 300mm deep and 400mm above ground with 2400 spacings. The soil is very compact, the site is on a hill, and the house structure (by standard houses) will be comparatively light.

    Pier peg markings:



    Sorry for the image inundation!! But there will be fewer far between from now on!
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    WOW!!!!!!! Cannot wait to see this ongoing project come alive...

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    2K Club Member toooldforthis's Avatar
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    like yr style turnstile

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    Would love to be doing something like this. Very interesting.

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    4K Club Member OBBob's Avatar
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    Nice spot!

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    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    Awesome!
    Are you going to be on the tools yourself building this? You could really have fun with a Plasma Cutter (2nd thought, could make great artwork too)
    It would be great to get some detail shots during construction. IE, how stuff connects to the steel containers.
    I'd be watching with earnest
    Cheers Bob

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    I'll watch

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    Pleased you joined this forum T. The photos look great as does the floor plan.

  15. #15
    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    Oh is that a helix wind turbine I spot in one of the Sketch Up pictures? That might need it's own thread

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Default Turbine or not turbine..

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Bob View Post
    Oh is that a helix wind turbine I spot in one of the Sketch Up pictures? That might need it's own thread
    If you mean on the roof of the very early design? No - that is a Noguchi sculpture!!!


    I had the idea to turn the roof in that design into a small sculpture garden!! (In those early SketchUp days I did tend to get a bit carried away with details....)

    Though speaking of wind turbines - where I am is very windy (I have an 'N3' rating) and down the road I would certainly think of one to boost my solar if necessary. On those cloudy windy days it would probably take over power supply from the solar cells. But at the moment budget constraints means it's on the back burner.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Bob View Post
    Awesome!
    Are you going to be on the tools yourself building this? You could really have fun with a Plasma Cutter (2nd thought, could make great artwork too)
    It would be great to get some detail shots during construction. IE, how stuff connects to the steel containers.
    I'd be watching with earnest
    Cheers Bob
    Sorry Uncle Bob - missed your comment. But yes I hope to be doing everything I possibly can myself.
    This is about the journey as much as the destination. Just getting this far has been a steep learning curve.
    I'm a great fan of Belair Boy and Sundancewfs's threads and their attention to detail, and their photographic records on here is something I hope to emulate.

    As for artwork - I'm going to have a lot of steel wall segments left over when I finish and plenty of exhibition space ("Bungonia Sculpture Park" in the making perhaps...lol)

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Typical - had to pick the day of wildest weather all year for the delivery of my foundation tube forms.

    Winds with gusts up to 84kmh and rain verging on horizontal and the DINGBAT who delivered the tubes failed to call me when leaving Sydney per arrangements (so I had time to get out to site) and just left them outside next to my containers.

    First thing I see driving up to my front gate is a 4 metre metal tube more than 200 metres down the hill!

    They must weigh around 40kgs and it was a struggle on my own to drag it back up the hill and get it inside one of the containers in the wind. The other 11 weren't a lot easier either!



    broken tube - hopefully I can still use a lot of it.
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    This is going to be interesting! I love seeing people do stuff like this.

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    Any updates Turnstiles?
    Don't be scared of image overload, we luv 'em

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Default Pier preparations

    Hi Uncle Bob - not a lot happening ATM - was held up because of a faulty generator I bought, so I went and hired one for the day.

    The following are some details about the foundations. Engineers required the shipping containers to be welded to the piers:


    So I have had some metal plates made up for me (they should be ready in the next couple of days).



    And these are the piers that need the plates set into the concrete before it sets - just where the outside edges and corners of the containers touch piers:


    So today's task was to measure and cut the 12 x 4m metals tubes into 800mm lengths. These will be set into 300mm holes, rise 400mm above ground and filled with concrete. I have cut them 100mm longer than required to allow for fluctuations in setting them out.

    The plan is to get them level in the holes and then mark them at 400mm above ground level (using the hose-with-two-pieces-of-clear-hose-either-end method!).

    I will then use the angle grinder to cut two vertical lines through the metal and bend the cut piece outwards. This will allow the pier tubes to be filled to exactly the same height across all piers (any excess concrete will simply spill out of the hole I created).


    Hope this makes sense.

    All cut!


    Next week I hope to have the pier holes bored, tubes in and levelled before I get the PCA out to approve them. Then I'll have the concrete delivered and poured.
    Around the same time I am having a 76,000L colourbond steel water tank delivered so I have to have the 9m dia. pad ready.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails pier-plate-details.jpg   pier-plate-sketchup-model-3views.jpg   pir-sketchup.jpg   steel-plate-placements.jpg   tube-cuts.jpg  

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  22. #22
    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    Thanks for that update turnstiles. I think there's a few of us watching this thread with earnest

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    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    Bit surprised of the welding requirement for so many piers, quite an exact requirement. I take it the containers are difficult to bolt down.

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phild01 View Post
    Bit surprised of the welding requirement for so many piers, quite an exact requirement. I take it the containers are difficult to bolt down.
    Phil - the engineers originally specified bolting them down but the construction of the bottom rail of a container makes bolting through them extremely difficult - and the corners pretty much impossible. I took the idea of the pier plates from a container build I was following in the states.

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    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by turnstiles View Post
    Phil - the engineers originally specified bolting them down but the construction of the bottom rail of a container makes bolting through them extremely difficult - and the corners pretty much impossible. I took the idea of the pier plates from a container build I was following in the states.
    I imagine the difficulty of a flush fit to each plate when the container is placed, maybe some large angle brackets at the ready for any error. Are there more than 4 piers for each container?

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Each container sits on 12 piers - you can see their layout in the plan above (the one with the red dots the grey shaded area being where the 4 containers are placed.)

    Each container corner should fit flush - but along the sides I will need to pack as the bottom rail is about 10mm higher than the corner blocks. I might consider floating these pier plates on top of the concrete piers instead of embedded into it as the metal plate is 10mm thick which would make up for the shortfall.

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    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    With 58 piers your task is to ensure the level of each plate is accurately achieved during the pour. Just wondering if you have a technique to ensure this goes smoothly.

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    Wow, that's going to be hard to do. Not only level but inline and square. Can you set up a system similar to hanging stirrups over stump holes with bearers attached. removing bearers later. Make sure you've got plenty of hands on deck on the day and get them to barrow while you keep going round tidying up the surface of each pier and fixing and checking that nothing has moved.

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    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    My take is that the container weight should be enough to be secure without a need to weld to each plate, even with an N3 rating. I would be thinking of different ways. Maybe pour 8 intermediate piers and crane the container onto these and pack out. Then do another pour later on for each corner with tie rods secured to the containers and embedded into these.
    Don't necessarily let the engineer come up with the concept, devise one you know you can do and then seek the engineer's approval, otherwise you may end up with unnecessary heartache.

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Shauk - From memory the pier plates will 'float' on the concrete because of the latters density. (I will be getting advice from the concrete company on this) There are only 22 pier plates so I am anticipating it not being too much of a problem. As each pier that needs a plate is poured I will drop a plate onto the wet concrete and tap it down with a mallet until it is flush with the concrete. I will use a small spirit level to check it is even before moving onto the next. (Hopefully my partner will be onsite to help out!)

    The metal form tubes, once placed 300mm into the ground and as vertical as possible, will be backfilled on the outside making them rigid, then the concrete truck can (hopefully) pump into each tube avoiding any barrow work. Being only 400mm above ground and 450mm wide they should be very stable.

    I've already marked out the pier positions and double-treble checked them all!! Unfortunately "plenty of hands on deck" is always going to be a problem. All of my friends live in either Sydney (200kms away) or even further. And I don't know a soul down in this neck of the woods. (Even my partner currently lives 250kms away!!) But - I've always enjoyed challenges.

    Phil - Not sure I understand your suggestion: "Maybe pour 8 intermediate piers and crane the container onto these and pack out. Then do another pour later on for each corner with tie rods secured to the containers and embedded into these." How do I pour for the corners AFTER the container has been craned on? This sounds very difficult. Also there are 4 containers in all sharing piers and some corners are inaccessible once the containers are hoisted into position. I do believe pouring all the piers at the same time is the most practical and cost effective method.

    Of the 58 piers only 22 have plates in them. I chose this method because it is one that I feel confident I can do. (I've seen it done on another container house.) Basically I HAVE provided the engineers with a different method to the one they suggested, and they accepted it and then tailored it to suit the conditions, regulations and specifications. I'm not prepared to countermand engineers with regard pier numbers - it's their job to work these things out and that's what I'm paying them for. With regards welding - you'd be surprised what N3 wind can do - someone I know of in this region had to have 28 chains fixing their house to the foundations because of wind force!

    Also I think the number of piers allows for shallower foundations. I was surprised they only needed to be 300mm deep with no reinforcing rods. I'm happy with this configuration - I have read reports of containers on only 6 or 8 piers having some 'bounce' in them.

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    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by turnstiles View Post
    I've already marked out the pier positions and double-treble checked them all!! Unfortunately "plenty of hands on deck" is always going to be a problem. All of my friends live in either Sydney (200kms away) or even further. And I don't know a soul down in this neck of the woods. (Even my partner currently lives 250kms away!!) But - I've always enjoyed challenges.
    I can come and help out, though one of my arms is playing up a bit (Dr says it a rotator cuff injury). Maybe some other Renovateforum Canberrans may help out?

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Thanks Uncle Bob! Cooma would be a bit of a hike for you!! And I can sympathise - I have a similar rotator cuff injury (as well as a collapsed lumbar disc that required spinal surgery a few years back) I was in Cooma a few months ago - spent a couple of nights in Yarrangobilly Caves House and visited a friend in Berridale. Beautiful landscape around there.

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    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    Haha, I'm not in the real Cooma, just the Canberra Cooma - Tuggeranong

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    LOL - had to look up Tuggeranong on the map. Now I see!

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    4K Club Member OBBob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tondelver House - Southern Highlands Self Build

    I found the water in a tube trick a bit of a pain when levelling stumps, although I was working alone. Hiring a laser level was much better and really didn't cost much in the scheme of things.

  36. #36
    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Agreed - I wouldn't be attempting the water method on my own - real headache.
    I first saw this levelling method on an episode of Grand designs and loved its brilliant simplicity, and always wanted to try it!
    Still, if cheap enough, a rental laser level might be the go. (I own a laser level but it's an indoors one - not strong enough for outdoors daylight use.)

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    Default Re: Tondelver House - Southern Highlands Self Build

    Cool... I'd just check you can find clear tube in the length you need cheaply enough and then have a play in advance. It's a pretty popular method, so it may just be me... ha ha.

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    I reckon laser level is great, especially if you are working on your own a fair bit, like I do (and you, by the sounds of it).

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    I already have a laser level - the Bosch PLL 360 Line Laser level It's great for indoor work - but when I tried it outside I couldn't see the line after 2 or 3 metres (unless their is a trick to it that I don't know about.) I don't fancy stumbling around in the dark of night getting it to work!

    I was wondering if you can buy a generic 'receiver'? I was reading about outdoor levels and they can reach huge distances with a receiver. It could turn my Bosch into a functioning outdoor level.

    Shauk - would you mind telling me the make of outdoor level you use?

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    I don't know exactly what they are called, but I saw a fiberglass pool installer using a level/dumpy that beeps at different speeds and then beeps continuously when the set level is perfect with the height of the staff's sensor. Must work on radio waves or something?

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    4K Club Member OBBob's Avatar
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    Yep, the one I hired has a sensor and beeps... still laser operated. There may be a sensor you can get?

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    Put a few drops of food colouring in the water when using the water/tube level...makes it so much easier to see. I've used Red or Green with great success.

    Watched some concretors pouring a house slab and they had a wireless/laser setup too...it continually emitted a low frequency beep, then would speed up and increase in volume. I would expect it would be an expensive bit of gear though and probably not feasible for a one-off, might be able to hire them though. Never tried so no help there, have only ever used the water/tube method.

    Good luck, hope the weather stays dry and a bit warmer.

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    Senior Member turnstiles's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies (very good idea about the food colouring Renopa!)

    Researching levels online I've found the beeping is the 'receiver' I mentioned. However I'm not sure if you can buy them separately and whether they work on all laser levels.

    This one seems very reasonably priced at $349: Manual1Kit by Level1Lasers - Manual Levelling Rotating Laser Level Kit with Tripod and Staff and viewing the video on their website shows how the beeping receiver works.

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    4K Club Member OBBob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tondelver House - Southern Highlands Self Build

    The issue I had was that they were a lot more expensive a few years ago and you really only need to get the floor level... then you build everything off there. How long are you really going to need it and will you use it after that?

    ... of course, you can never have too many tools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by turnstiles View Post

    Shauck - would you mind telling me the make of outdoor level you use?
    My laser level is a Redback brand. I did a lot of research before buying and spent a fair bit more than what you are looking at.

    Of the mid range quality, it offers more for the money than it's rivals. I compared it to Topcon in the same price bracket as a good comparison. Topcon is a recommended brand. Redbacks warranty is better (5 years) and it's accuracy is on par or better for the same price range.

    You can set them to beep or not. I turn off the beeping as it annoys the c*@p out of me. I also prefer to attach the reader/sensor to a tall spirit level rather than the rod so I know if I'm holding it vertically plumb. The sensor has it's own level as well so you can use both to hold it plumb in both planes.

    It has a sensitive setting and a less sensitive setting which is great for some applications that don't require perfection, otherwise you'll go mad trying. There are many types to choose so one that suits the uses you'll most use it for is the way to go.

    You can spend hours researching but in the end, go for better quality. I started a post in the Tools sub-forum so search that for laser levels and you'll find info that I and others were coming up with at the time. I wouldn't trust anything in the lesser price brackets and just forget a green line laser level as it increases the cost by a lot but may sacrifice the other functions to keep it in lower price brackets. Otherwise they'll be the most expensive ones if they are green line laser and good quality in other functions.

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    Thanks for the detailed info Shauk. I have been thinking about what OBBob said in the previous post - how much use will I get out of it? And once the house is finished I doubt I will have need of it again. (I recall someone on here used theirs to trim their hedges in a straight line!) I still have my indoors laser which I can imagine being useful.

    I think I will try the water level first (Archimedes will be so pleased!) and if that isn't satisfactory then I can hire a decent outdoors level. I could buy one and then resell it afterwards. But I wonder how inclined people would be to buy a second hand level? I know I wouldn't. Engine/machinery items I would but not technical equipment.

  47. #47
    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    The water level trick can be done solo, it's just a bit harder as you need to fix the end of the pipe(s) to something like a post or jig. Blocking off the end of a pipe with a thumb stops the waters going up and down and spilling out the end.
    Another tip, you don't need one piece of transparent pipe, on long runs, I use a garden hose with a transparent pipe on either end.

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    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Bob View Post
    Another tip, you don't need one piece of transparent pipe, on long runs, I use a garden hose with a transparent pipe on either end.
    The problem with this is that air bubbles can't be seen and these affect the readings.

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    Slow but rough Uncle Bob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phild01 View Post
    The problem with this is that air bubbles can't be seen and these affect the readings.
    That's true, though I force water thru the hose blowing out any bubbles

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    I would like to know how your going to weld the containers to the base plates, you only have 400mm of clearance, so that is going to be a mongrel of a job & your not going to be able to see the weld without a mirror.
    normally HD bolts are cast into concrete and a container lock is bolted down after levelling & positioned accurately.
    for levelling a day or twos hire of a laser level would suffice, a reo bar driven to concrete height inside the tube would be the reference height of the concrete & independent of the formwork in case of movement.

    regards inter

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