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The 5 Big Screw Ups of Building

December 16, 2012

Which building project goes without a hitch? Reality TV does show building in one of the two extremes: extreme renovations in only 7 days without even the slightest setback or cowboy builders leaving work incomplete and pretty much everything goes wrong. The real deal is naturally something in between these two extremes. So, what are the big 5 screw ups in building Villa Linnea in the first two years?

1) The Pisa Foundation Pillar

In general, we are rather happy with our building contractor to whom we give some of the work we cannot or do not want to do such as the foundation, the terrace or the concrete floor in the bathroom. However, the foundation of Villa Linnea which was done for a fixed price included one rather obvious flaw: The pillar foundation that is supposed to hold up the middle of the roof. It seemed to have been inspired by the tower of Pisa:

Pillari vino

Considering that center of the roof and one quarter of the balcony in the second floor is standing on this pillar, I think that this crooked fellow has all what it takes for my “5 Big Screws Ups” category. The correction of this flaw was simple: build a large frame around the crooked pillar, fill it up with more concrete, and create an even bigger pillar (which is straight).

This kind of flaw in the making of the foundation I assume to be rather normal. And discussions on whether tolerances are measured in centimeter rather than in millimeters are not uncommon. However, the second of the five big screw ups is something of a more unusual nature.

2. Ditching the Delivery Truck

The logs of Villa Linnea only certainly have a combined weight of some 30 tons. Throwing them into a ditch is not a wise thing when you have an assembly crew waiting with the crane to get started.


Driving off the road at night in the winter is not recommended. And the only way to recover the truck, rescue the logs, and start with the assembly was to unload the truck and the trailer in the middle of a field.


After inspection of all the 40 packages with logs, we found “only” 9 logs were scratched and needed replacement. Luckily the truck didn’t tip over all the way as it was held by an old wooden house.


Since the old house was deserted and otherwise not in good shape anymore, I guess it was a good deal also for the owner once he got his money from the insurance. Hard to tell afterwards as the owner used the opportunity in the sprint to burn the old house down to the ground.

The damaged logs were replaced within 24 hours by the factory. The 9 scratched logs were left behind and made the walls for the playhouse of our little princess after slicing them down to 7 cm width.


The other incidents are more of the usual kind, but partially even more annoying. Especially, the next one:

3) The Slicing of the Heating Cables

Building the floors in Villa Linnea are a bit more tricky than the standard floors because of the electrical floor heating installed under the planks. The sandwich consist of a 12 mm wind-proofing board, 250mm of insulation, aluminum foil, the heating cables, and then the 28mm floor planks. It took me about 4 days to build the floor in the living room.


At the time of building the living room floor I didn’t know yet the final dimensions of the fireplace. Hence, I installed the floor planks under some assumptions where the fireplace will stand (which maximum is defined by the foundation plate). But as it happens the floor planks were 6 cm too close to where the fireplace will be. It takes 30 seconds to cut that sliver of 6 cm floor planks away with the circular saw. With horror I saw what I’ve done: I cut through 4 loops of the floor heating!


To be more fortune, the manufacturer of the DeviKit heating cables provides a repair set. Not that the repair set is designed for idiots like me who cuts throw 4 loops at the same time, but two packages of repair kit did the trick.

The fourth big screw-up is such that there isn’t a photo of it…

4) Dumping 100kg Insulation into the Bathroom

When building the ceiling structure of the bathroom and insulating the floor above it, I did one crucial mistake: I forgot to nail the 25×45 rims under the moisture-repelling foil which carries the insulation material.


After pouring over 100 kg of insulation material onto the foil, being held only by a few tens of staples, the unavoidable happened: the whole thing came down unloading itself into the bathroom. The bathroom served at the time (and still does) as material storage. The sight was quite demotivating. But after one coffee and three hours of shoveling insulation material with the snow shovel, I was back into the project. The result looks like it was supposed to be done in the first place:


The fifth out of “5 Big Screw Ups” is also related to the bathroom.

5) Inventing Inductive Power Transmission

Villa Linnea has certainly its fair share of electricity cables.


I’m pulling them all in place for the electrician. All of the cables are running either under the floor, under the ceiling, or within the logs in pre-drilled holes. All cables are hidden very well. Especially the cable that I forgot to install!

When the electrician connected the electricity in the kitchen and on the second floor, he also wanted to connect the floor heating in the bathroom. There was just one problem: no power supply! I simply forgot to pull the cable that supplies the floor heating.


As you can see from the photo above that there are only two cables going to the thermostat socket (the one above the switch socket). That’s one cable which is the temperature sensor in the floor and the other one is the heating cable itself. Missing in action: power supply from electricity cabinet. So, there are three ways to fix this:

– invent inductive, wireless electricity transmission

– tear down the ceiling boards in the hallway and pull the cable = at least 2 days of work

– pull the cable in crawl space under the floor

The third option sounds like the best one right now. We’ll see which one I will go for.

In summary, despite these  few setbacks, Villa Linnea project has nicely processed in the last two years. It’s time for a little winter break.

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