Someone's Construction Experience (8 October 2010)
Building a house is a huge task which demands time, energy and strong nerves. This is what I feel after I started construction of my house at Media Town Rawalpindi on September 28, 2010. I am indebted to Mr Mujtaba Shahid who guided me from first steps and he continues to give advice and his time. I am really on a very tight budget as the investments which I had made in real estate have rally gone at the lowest ebb. A bad time to sell, but have to build now as later hike in construction material is imminent, especially in the wake of massive monsoon flooding in Pakistan which has affected 14 million people.
I got the possession of plot (2800 square feet) in April 2010 and contacted Jamshed and Associates for designing and layout. The process was finalized by July after several sessions and heated discussions with Mr Najib Kayani and within the family. Then I decided to have the soil of the plot tested and here the things really became challenging as the soil analysis revealed lose fill and recommended six-feet-deep excavation and then refilling it up to three feet with compaction. On the rear (western) side of the plot a two-feet wide retaining wall was encountered, which the developers claim that is eight feet wide at the base and rises up to 40 feet and the peak height was 45 feet from the ground level.
But stone wall is a negative and it should have been a concrete wall. The developers claim that it was absolutely safe and built according to standard practices and there was no chance of its settling down or cracking.
Meanwhile, I applied for water, electricity and gas connections. Water line is connected, though the supply is still erratic as water lines were damaged during underground power cable installation work by Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO), according to the developers. The repair work is going on and meanwhile water for construction purposes is being provided through tankers. Electricity connection normally takes three weeks, but the process was accelerated, courtesy by a friend. On October 1, I applied for natural gas connection, well in advance because the gas company normally takes at least six to 12 months to provide a gas connection.
I have to arrange enough water, through the tapped supply or tankers to flood the bed and after it is well drenched for couple of days, and then hire a road roller for compaction. Getting the road roller into the pool would also be a challenge.
Also have to go to 10 Corps Headquarters, Chaklala, where the power company office is located in very high security zone, to collect the demand note and then have to go to bank to deposit installation charges.
A temporary store has been built near the construction site with mud and bricks to store cement and provide accommodation to a full-time security guard. I hope that once this compaction thing is done, things would start moving at a pace.
October 5, 2010
Soil analyst on last visit on Monday recommended compaction by a 18 tons road roller which has vibrator after amply watering the bed. The search started right away. Today morning I started around nine and reached the site and checked possibility of running tap water supply, but the underground lines were still damaged at several points. Then along with my contractor we went to DHA phase one, picked up a guy who joined our search for a roller. In Rawat we found one, but it was 12 tons and no vibration. So left it as a last option and tried to search more, but so far in vain.
Went to Chaklala garrison IESCO office to collect demand, not. Had to queue up for about 20 minutes at garrison gate. Do not understand why do not they move IESCO office out in civilian area. The IESCO staffer asked me to get six copies of the demand note from Shaheen Market and come back. He then kept one copy in his file and told me to submit 25,500 rupees in Allied Bank, Old Chungi Branch, Chaklala Scheme III. Went to bank and thanks God there was no rush at all and it took just three minutes to submit the fees. IESCO guy said that in seven to eight days connection will be given.
Traveled back to Media Town and then had a meeting with the architect at PWD society. After several calls and running around, got the tap water running, but the supply was short lived only for 40 minutes. Then a laborer spotted seepage into the whole of underground tank from the water supply line. Called the lineman and he said he had called it a day and will check back tomorrow.
I ate two bananas and glanced through some unread pile of magazines as I called and text-ed many people checking the availability of a road roller. Meanwhile a steel bar dealer and a salesman for termite treatment company visited me while I was camping in my car. Also visited the building material supplier and paid his bills. Also paid sanitary store bill. As of today 152,000 rupees have been spent on construction project and all I have is a dug up plot, a temporary site store room, water connection (so-called), electricity connection (in papers).
October 6, 2010
with the grace of Allah, many hurdles were crossed today. I thank Allah for a great day as all the things which were stuck and hit by snags, suddenly fell in line with so much ease and convenience. I also again... learned to be more patient and consistent and keep trying while continue to seek guidance and blessings of Allah.
Started the day around 8:30 at site. For next 90 minutes, had no clue about road roller and water and was thinking about to abandon the road roller project and go ahead with normal compaction. At around 10:00 am went with contractor in search of a road roller and after asking couple of excavator guys finally found one parked silently amid shopping plazas behind United Bakery in PWD housing scheme.
Called the cell number written on the roller and it was booked right away for an advance payment of (4,000 PKR + 20 liters diesel price) at a nearby real estate dealer office. The guy with whom I spoke on phone came to site to see if the roller could work there or not. The nearer the roller is to your site, the less expensive it will be and I was lucky to find it so near, while everyone was telling us that we should go to Rawat, Tarnol or Pirwadhai for it--a long travel for them to reach Media Town.
Then went to building material dealer in Police Foundation colony. Ordered 35 bags of cement, gravel and sand for starting the construction of underground water tank.
Water tankers were arranged from PWD, but later site supervisor came and promised to water the bed, so the order was canceled. I took a risk on supervisor's requests. On Thursday I have to go to Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) in connection with the sale of a plot as funds are now badly needed, so it will be a lot of traveling between Islamabad and Media Town and after the roller has done its work I have to again go and bring soil analyst and then again drop him in Chaklala. I have realized that 100 kilometers drive in city is much much more tiring than six hours drive on highways.
October 7, 2010
Another jinxed day. The roller came to the site and refused to go inside the plot saying it was too much over watered. Damn! The water guy had promised yesterday that he will drench the site by 7 am, but when I reached around 9 am, he had just finished watering it. I fail to understand that why people commit things which they cannot do or deliver.
For example here you tell a guy 20 times that will he show up at 8 am sharp next morning and he will swear upon anything saying that even if Heavens fall he would show up definitely. The next morning you go at 8 am and there is no trace of the guy. So far I have only found the building material dealer so quick that orders have been delivered super fast according to the time. Rest of the departments are really never wrecking.
The roller operator said that his machine will be stuck, while site supervisor was saying that it would not as the soil was sandy and there were too many stones and water will be absorbed in an hour or so. The operator waited till lunch time and then again refused to do the job saying there was water. I am getting sick of muppet after muppet appearing clueless about how to proceed further on compaction job.
The biggest shock came from my contractor when he asked me that how much we are going to fill and if we fill up to road level and compact it we will need 20 dumpers of gravel, something like 200,000 rupees just for gravel for filling? The way he is doing the work without any brain, it seems that he will spend my one million rupees just on foundations. I have arranged two meetings between the contractor and the architect and my soil analyst has talked to him several times and still he does not know what to do.
One of the most important lesson from this story is that never follow a proper path or never adopt proper procedures in doing anything in Pakistan, because you will be stuck big time due to empty brains all around you. They are just good at what they have been doing since childhood and soil testing, compaction, raft foundations is too much for most of them. Almost every tom, dick and harry who visit the excavated site come and say oh that was not needed, you have made a huge unneeded expense on digging up the site, now how will you refill it?
I had been hearing from many people that house building can make you a crazy psychos. Now I understand how it grinds. But then I see all around, the endurance of fellow humans who have undergone such a treacherous task and still surviving.
I think every journey you take from your home for some work is so eventful that you can write a blog post daily. Now tell you another ordeal which I faced today.
I sold my tiny plot in G-14/1 to start construction. The stupid purchaser gave time of 11:30 am for plot transfer. I left my construction site unattended and the muppet turned up at 3:40 pm from Peshawar and that too with a DD in the name of Mohsin Hassan Gilani.
I had specially asked the agent and written in ...bold caps my full name for the DD (Bank Demand Draft), but the idiot gave totally wrong name to the purchaser. I wonder why my parents gave me such a difficult name which everyone misspells and I have suffered a lot several times because of the poor clerks who cannot write it correctly both in Urdu and English. All these estate agents are really big frauds and totally cheats and incompetent lot. They purchased from me and sold to another guy and made 110,000 bucks extra. They always take the seller taken for granted knowing he needs money big time and would do what they like. The purchaser gave a cheque of Allied Bank, which G-10 Markaz branch refused to cash because it was way beyond the allowed online transfer limit, though the account had the balance (stupid limit). Have to take risk and accepted a crossed cheque. After all a bounced cheque can get the issuer behind bars, so I hope that my ordeals just ends here and cash comes through by next Tuesday. I would have straight away refused the deal, but purchaser's uncle came out to be an acquaintance.
October 8, 2010
When I was thinking of getting out of bed early Friday, wife told me it's raining outside and I said to myself what else could go wrong. Last week I had been praying for rain as wanted to drench the plot but it remained very warm and sunny. A full day had already been wasted because of the stupid water supply staff, the road roller operator refused to press the bed being two muddy.
But as soon as I left I-8 and moved on Islamabad Highway in the direction of Rawat, there were hardly any signs of rain. So the rain was only in Islamabad. I was so happy and thanked Allah for not sending rain to Media Town. But was disappointed to see roller operator sitting on the roadside. He told me that the bed was still too muddy, but the real thing was that his machine was not starting due to bad battery. We tried a jump start with my car, but it did not help.
Made calls to site supervisor as he has a diesel powered Suzuki jeep, but he was absent today. The owner of road roller was also not present in the area and he said that would be reaching in two hours. Went to PWD market and brought an electrician with a very heavy battery, but his battery had very little charge. Went back to drop him and on way back to the site stopped over at architect office. As usual he was not present. His assistant had no idea about the design of raft foundation initially as he is a new person. After sometime he said that he had understood my case and promised (in Urdu it is called giving a goli) to give me the drawings in two days.
Then stopped over at building material supplier's office to pay bill. The man talks too much, but his material is ok and supply prompt and no headaches so far.
Contractor started work on underground tank. Tomorrow I will buy steel bars.
October 9, 2010
Woke up early around 6:15 am went to Askari 10, picked up soil analyst and his team and took them to the site. They inspected and declared it fit for further compaction up to four inches layer of the excavated material. Sides and corners would require manual pressing. He further advised that if the DPC level was five-feet then more filling had to be done.
The material taken out would be used in filling foundations once they are raised on a raft which is being designed and expected to be ready on Monday. Architect said that it would be minimum 8 inches thick, while soil analyst says the minimum requirement is 9 inches.
Work on underground water tank started, which also a major expense in any construction. We need this tank first thing as water supply is still not repaired and we have only four drums of storage. Will try to get more drums from company office.
Soil analyst visit also saved me from making a big expenditure on buying filling material (cut stone). The contractor had said that about 20 truckloads of this material would be required and he was wondering why we would use the same material which we had taken out. I think it is the first project of his life of this nature where things are going systematically and in the light of advice from technical experts. Now the contractor says that he would follow what engineer and architect will tell him.
October 10, 2010
Purchased steel bars worth 23,700 PKR for underground water tank. Also purchased steel binding wire for 775 PKR. Got four more drums from construction company store for additional water storage as the construction of UG tank begins Monday morning. The contractor insisted that I should buy steel bar from steel mills in Islamabad, because all the steel dealers in area were providing low quality steel and their weighing scales were tampered. Mr Shahid contended that the vendor was ok.
October 11, 2010
There was heavy rain early Monday after a frightening 5.3 magnitude earthquake, but the weather cleared by the time I reached the site around 9.00am. All day laborers kept pouring concrete in the shuttering. Thankfully the material and water were sufficient for the day. Bought some diesel from PSO Bahria and gave it to tanker driver so that he keeps filling the drums till the UG tank is ready for water storage. I was really exhausted by the end of the day.
October 12, 2010
Took a day off from everything to give myself some badly needed rest. Contractor called in the evening to tell that tank was plastered further work on inner walls would be done in couple of days after which compaction work will start. A big relief came in the evening when funds were transferred into my account.
October 13, 2010
Visited the architect and asked him to complete the work on raft drawing as soon as possible. He cited computer crash as a reason for delay and again promised that it will be delivered by the end of day. I keep my fingers crossed. Called electricity office and they were saying that since meter and other stuff was not issued yet, I should wait till next week. On my asking he agreed that it would be next week. Heard from other people building their houses that IESCO officials came and installed connections even they have not yet deposited their demand notes!!!
October 14, 2010
Architect is taking too long to complete and hand over raft drawing. Mehboob Hussain promised that he will call me when it is ready latest by the evening. It did not happen. Such things are too frustrating and delay things unnecessarily by days. Now I am sure that Pakistan will never become a developed country, at least for the next seven generations.
Despite contacts in electricity department, no signs of electricity. The losers do not have to do anything but a put a meter there as all the underground wiring, transformers and cabinets are already installed. One of former colleagues who is building a house nearby said that the IESCO people installed electricity even they had not got any demand note and just on a simple application, next day power connection was given!!!
After estimating the cost of construction on underground water tank which is some 50K, I was wondering why I did not go for my own well. A 200-meter bore would have cost around 100K.
There is only one tractor-pulled water tanker without a pump which supplies water to over a dozen construction sites in Media Town and for each visit they require at least 1.5 liter diesel. They are not still able to repair the water pipeline yet and during these three weeks I have been going there, not much work they have carried out yet.
I hope that issues like lose filled plot, excavation, compaction, raft drawing, delays by the architect, electricity and water department do not drain your energies and you run out of patience and time.
October 15, 2010
After Friday prayers I got the revised structural drawings in the light of soil analysis report. Met contractor and had a discussion about it. He said that tomorrow chips work will be done inside walls of underground water tank. Ordered material so that the work could get start on time tomorrow. Asked the contractor to now expedite work on compaction and raft-type foundation.
Good to see Bahria Town road department repairing the PWD-Police Foundation-Media Town road which was a pain to drive due to pot holes. I think all residential societies should follow the service provision model of Bahria Town.
October 16, 2010
Underground tanks in-lining work was done today. This tank thingy is too expensive and time-consuming. Came to know that IESCO has run out of electricity meters, so further delay in power connection.
Thinking about going for building the two floor structure and then go step by step from ground floor. People say that if I make a single story now, first it would be too hot in summers and secondly would be more expensive and difficult and messy to build first floor later.
I may go for a brick structure after consulting the architect as steel column beam structure would be more expensive. Have to ensure safety and during a meeting with architect two weeks ago it was discussed and he said brick structure was more flexible to absorb earthquake shocks, while in column structures brick give in to shocks and then the entire weight is thrown on columns which get twisted.
October 18, 2010
Left the home around 8.30 am, reached the site just before 9.00 am. Went to society office for requesting water tanker. Then went to plot and laborers had started laying the four inch layer as directed by soil analyst.
October 19, 2010
Went to site after finishing office. Contractor is facing some family issues. So his second wife's relatives who were working as masons have left him. Now he has asked me to arrange a guard for the site. Earlier those masons were staying at the site during the night. Second worry is power connection which is badly needed as on Sunday the contractor plans to lay the concrete. If no electricity, no work as water pump would be needed for the entire day for concrete mix.
I have ordered 65 bags of cement, gravel and sand. Steel will be purchased in next couple of days which is a major expense. I am thinking about getting a temporary connection, but do not know if it is possible. Another demand by the contractor is that I will have to provide lunch to all laborers (a deg) on the day, as if I am a free person and do not have to do anything else. While work related issues remain unresolved, he is more concerned about free lunch.
It was really a tiring and stressful day. Trying to not think about the project issues anymore as have to deal with unruly kids at home :-)
October 20, 2010
Sent text messages to several people seeking help for electricity connection. An old colleague in water and power ministry finally responded by replying to sms saying it will be done today. He had not been taken my calls, may be he had lost my number.
I also sent SMS to Afzal Butt, our journalist union leader, but someone told me he was visiting US. My PakWheels.com friend who had a very senior contact in power company had been constantly following up the effort. He said he was on it on daily basis. I also sent an sms to IESCO director public relations, but no response.
Today was my off day. After breakfast headed to media town. Visited the architect to check that if we could go for a brick structure instead of very expensive steel columns structure. He replied though there was nothing wrong with brick structure, but I should go with the suggested steel column structure because it was according to latest NESPAK standards. Also checked with him if the amount of steel bars suggested by the contractor for raft foundation and couple of columns in porch was appropriate. He said it was ok. Now have to buy more steel.
Contractor still insist that brick structure will be as good because there is no guarantee that a steel-column structure will withstand a massive earthquake better than a brick structure. Despite high cost have to follow architect. After estimating the price and amount of steel required, I think that my funds are going to be depleted very fast which is a worrying factor. Let's see if something extra-ordinary happens before I run out of steam.
Later, called the IESCO official and he said today connection will be done. He asked me to contact another guy, but that chap said that I should call him after 4.00pm. I waited and waited and when called him, he said it was not possible today, he was bringing stuff from store and it will take a very long time unloading. I headed back home and when I was near Faizabad, the guy called and said that I could come now and he will send personnel for installing the meter at the site. Surprisingly he was just adjacent to Media Town, behind the grid station. I never knew they were so close, otherwise had been pestering them myself daily.
I also bought a switch board and thanks God the main line was working when he connected wires with it. So a major worry is over today, thanks to my friends.
October 21, 2010
Bought electric water pump. It is a vital equipment during construction. The shopkeeper asked whether I wanted one horse power or half horse power one motor. I had no idea. After consultation I went for one horse power, which means more power consumption, but quick turn around. The motor itself was for 5,ooo PKR and another 1,220 PKR for pipes, hose, filter, power cable and switch.
Requested a water tanker for Saturday. Will need another on Sunday. Line repair is still going on. Water supply is a big problem at them moment in the area, but free tanker service is available.
Oct 24, 2010
If a vendor tells you that the equipment you have just bought is test and working and he will immediately return if it did not work never believe him and insist for a test run. On a sunny Sunday morning concrete mix spread (1:4:8 or 4:1:8 or whatever) work was to start. Had bought the water pump motor on Thursday because markets in Rawalpindi are close on Friday and on Saturday I had a full day at office.
On Sunday morning I reached the site at 7:40 am. Unloaded the motor and placed in on the head of underground trunk and when hooked to power it did not start and caused a burnt fuse. The fuse was redone and this time there was a whining noise but no movement. Called the shop from where it was bought and he said electrician would come late and if I could bring the motor to shop, it can be checked and if necessary replaced right on the spot.
I took the motor and after waiting for about 10 minutes an attendant checked it and found that the fan fins were lose and were causing the jamming. Once screws were tightened and spindle was moved by hand, it came to life. I took back the motor and when it started pumping water another problem was encountered. The hose pipe was shrunk on suction, but since it was one horse power motor it did the job well noiselessly. At the end of the day got this hose replaced with a hard black one.
Seven laborers who came with the mixer machine and our regular three (one of them an aged man) did a fine job with untiring fast pace. I paid for their tea and lunch and they were happy to mix and pour a thick layer of concrete on 2800 sq feet area. The sand, gravel and 70 bags of cement cost me more than 60,000 PKR. Tomorrow will go to I-9 sector to purchase steel bars. One steel factory is offering special discount to Media Town, so will try that.
Overall the day was not as touch as I was fearing. Contractor also returned from Bahawalpur after resolving his family issues.
My dear car is getting dirtier as there is lot of dust it has to drive through and I have been left with no energy to keep it clean :-( Have traveled 1,500 kilometers since the project started.
October 25, 2010
This online banking is a farce, never works when you need it most. Nothing in Pakistan is without any snag, hitch or glitch. Had to travel to my branch in Aabpara Market for cash, as the one near my home could not fetch my signature on their "system."
Today's mission was to purchase some 4,150 kilogram re-bars or sariya from Ittehad Steel in I-9 sector. They are offering special discount to Media Town. Paid some 253,000 rupees in the morning and the stuff was delivered by them on site in the afternoon. It was a hassle-free. Contractor and sariya work supervisor recommended to buy from factor instead of local vendors as they think that all of them are big cheats as they measure less amount of steel and their quality is not that good.
I was told at the factory that I could book the steel bars now and protect myself from impending rise in steel prices because the government is going to stop natural gas supply to industry and in that case they will have to switch to furnace oil which will in turn cause price hike. If I book in next couple of days, means pay full amount in advance, I will get the same price on booking day and in case the prices dropped, I will get lower price. Seems good option and they accept cross cheques as well, which means some withholding tax saving.
The freighter was lost in the way a bit, but I guided him through cell phone and the truck reached the site.
Also got a frantic call by contractor to come to the site immediately as he was marking the bed for laying raft foundation. He had some problem with the measurement and I asked him to follow what was on the paper and then he understood and did not bother again.
October 26, 2010
Checked the site before office and met contractor. He was happy with the quantity and quality of steel re-bars. He had marked the bed with red lines on which raft is to built with concrete and steel.
October 27, 2010
Steel work for raft foundation begun. Went to site around 3.00pm after finishing office. Ordered 100 bags of cement, a truck load each of sand and gravel. Got an estimate for steel requirement for the roof so that I can book early as prices are going to be increased in the wake of gas loadshedding.
October 28, 2010
Asked for leave from office today as wanted to go to Ittehad Steel to book steel. Shocked that there was 1000 rupees per ton price increase and in coming days it is expected that steel prices may rise by another 3-4 PKR per ton. Then went to site as the contractor had asked me that we had to buy marble waste for the foundation work.
When we reached crossing broken muddy roads in an area, he said it was his house and he wanted his family to come along to show them a plot in Phase 8 of Bahria Town.
First I was annoyed, but then thought that I had come so far and in the interest of good working relationship for the project I did not disgrace him in front of his family. I would have refused if I knew how far the Phase 8 was, I though it would be nearby chalo janay do. But it was far far away.
But on the way I told him that he had made me extremely tired and my car had become too dirty and squeaky after going on such bad roads and would require alignment and balancing and suspension work. I told him that I never take my car to such places where today he has taken me. I think the message will reach him. But anyways next time I am going to say I am busy, or I too have to go somewhere.
Another shock came when checked prices of bricks Peshawari bricks are selling for 5,500 rupees (per 1000) while ordinary ones were for 4,300 and 4,100. I require 25,000 just for foundation. Damn. I am going to finish my money on foundation and when I express my apprehension, everyone says continue the work, money will come from somewhere and I do not where is that somewhere.
October 29, 2010
After a long time took a break and did not go to plot. Slept couple of hours more and then did some shopping for kitchen and went to Metro as well.
October 30, 2010
The contractor asked me on phone yesterday to come early in the morning for concrete pouring work on the raft foundation. As I reached there, the mixer had not arrived and laborers were just busy in fixing wood planks to make ducts and put marble pieces under the steel net to raise it for the concrete pouring.
When I reached there 105 bags of cement, sand and gravel had already been delivered as promised by the material supplier. Water pump was fixed on the head of the underground tank. Thanks God there was no load-shedding and the motor worked very well. The concrete work was over in about three hours.
Bricks have suddenly disappeared from market and their prices hiked insanely by 400 to 600 plus. Tomorrow will check with supplier.
Today I got tougher with concrete mixer laborers. Even after three-hours of total work today they were demanding money for lunch and and tea and I said sorry, I can't pay every time and that too for a half-day job. Had they started the work on time at 8.00am they must have been free by 11.00am. Told them to get the contractor for this. The last time they worked full day for concrete pouring on the entire plot and I paid them for tea which was not binding on me but as a courtesy I paid for tea and also paid for their lunch, even it was not for the roof (lenter) work, which is a tradition. There is a "deg" large pot of rice or meat or both mixed is cooked and distributed among laborers as a charity when concrete mix is poured into roof. But my contractor was making me pay for every visit by mixer labor and this time I had to be stern and refuse. Charity is good thing, but being fleeced is another thing.
Told my contractor that he made me bring a drum for water for mixer machine which I later came to know was not my responsibility or my expense and I am going to fix him. Actually I do not know at all how to deal with the labor and contractor. An acquaintance who introduced to me to contractor had asked me to be tough on him, but did not tell me small things for which the contractor had been making me run from pillar to post and I spent too much time, energy, money which was his job for which I am paying him too.
So beware and shun any attempt by laborers to ask for free food and tea. When the water tank is ready it is not your responsibility to arrange for drums for mixer. Tell your contractor to arrange it at his own expense.
Just got the news that security guard or chowkidar has arrived finally and now I have to buy him bedding and a cot. Will have to go after 6.00pm after finishing office on Sunday.
October 31, 2010
Bad news which I got today was that bricks would not be available before Tuesday :-(. Means loss of half of week in starting the foundation. Plus the bricks would be more expensive than they were last week. Prices of steel and cement are also rising after every other day. The estimates are in a shambles as the unforeseen factors are exerting dominance.
Chowkidar or guard finally arrived at the site. He will take care of construction material dumped in the open. Only cement bags can be stored in the store room. People say that someone has to remain present on site round the clock, otherwise pilferage of different material starts.
Went to meet him in the evening and to hand over to him bedding and torch. He is a young guy from Buner and came through a reliable contact. Could not find a steel pipe cot for him in Pakistan Town and PWD markets. It is available in Car Chowk area, but the problem is that we have to pass through Bahria Town where you can transport thing out easily, but cannot exit with anything :-(. It is also expensive to source such a material from Islamabad or Murree Road, Rawalpindi. A friend in Pakistan offered a wooden cot frame which seems the easiest option so far, but it likely to be broken and damaged if many men sat on it. Tomorrow will go on hunt for it, till then the poor chap has to sleep on the floor, which I do not like. Small things like these are big problem in the area.
November 1, 2010
Bought a cot for the security guard from Khanna Pul. I do not know the area and was lucky that two former colleagues from APP were accompanying me and one of them was familiar with the area. Put the cot on a cab and transported it safely to site.
Supplier told me that bricks availability was not possible before Thursday. Bad news.
November 2, 2010
Got a call from supplier that one truckload of bricks @4500 PKR was available and I told him to deliver it. Called the contractor, who said that he would do the markings by the afternoon and start brick laying work from Wednesday morning. Supplier said that he will try to deliver another truckload tomorrow. Let's see when this bricks shortage ends.
November 4, 2010
Finally bricks were arranged and chunnai or foundation walls construction was started. I visited the site in the afternoon. It was a very pleasant evening with a few clouds and light soothing breeze. It was a wonderful feeling seeing the foundations rise.
Prices of bricks have gone up. Paid 77,400 PKR for only 18,000 medium quality bricks. Now need about 7,000 more bricks for foundation.
I had to go back to site after two hours because police arrested two of the labourers who work on my plot and also live there in store shed. They were arrested alongwith all those others who were taking dinner at a food stall, just because they did not have CNICs.
What a miserable life for poor in Pakistan. Most of the chaps in lock ups had no acquaintances and they will be dragged in courts and then sent to jail before the relatives from remote villages reach and spend a lot money in courts and jails to get them released and this will burden them with more debt and loss of income due to confinement.
I made countless calls to various police officials, finally an old uni friend came to rescue, though he is no more posted in Islamabad.
When I stopped over at market on my return home the SHO who had disappeared when I reached the Karal Police Station, called me and asked me why I was calling him as he saw a lot of missed calls and I said you called me and then went on meeting (hiding) and he asked me if my labourers were released and I said yes and then he asked did his staff bargained for their release and when I told the name of the senior police official who ordered the Muharrar (policeman) to release the men, he suddenly said OK OK thank you sir and hung up.
In Pakistan if you do not know someone up at high places you are in serious trouble. Ghunda Raaj, police gardi. Thieves, robber everywhere, at shops, businesses offices, everyone is looting everyone he can and is looted by the big fish on his turn. $uking crabs in a basket.
November 6, 2010
Brick work of foundation continues. Nice to see walls rising. One more leak detected in the main water pipeline. Got a tanker of water and later tap supply was good enough even after watering bricks and walls.
November 7, 2010
More bricks arrived today. Foundation walls seem to be finishing tomorrow and then filling will start. This stage has consumed nearly 800,000 PKR which shows how crippling is the recent price hike.
November 8, 2010
This foundation seems a never ending project. Today shuttering was affixed and concrete beams (plinth beam) now would be built on these walls. Project costs are escalating beyond imagination as the recent steep price hike has shattered all estimates. After the plinth beam all these wells would be filled up which means another huge expense. Nealy a million rupees spent up to this stage. -:( Steel workers arrived around sunset.
Ordered 45 more bags of cement and asked the suppliers to stop delivery of bricks for the time being. I will need them mow after Eid holidays which start from 16 Nov and the labourers take at least 10 holidays.
November 10, 2010
Could not go on site round yesterday due to some pressing issues at home. Today when I visited the site, contractor was there. He showed me the leak from the water supply pipeline, the worst leak I saw since I began construction. The developer has done really a poor job with infrastructure. For the last three months I am seeing them repairing the leaking pipeline. Today I had to shout at them on phone to come and replace the broken pipe immediately as the water was seeping into foundations from under the boundary wall. Also asked my chowkidar (security guard) to inform me immediately if something like this happens. He does not seem to understand Urdu. The contractor is doing the plinth beam concrete filling on Thursday, but I have to go to Lahore to condole the death of a cousin.
November 12, 2010
Plinth beam was done yesterday. Next stage is filling up to DPC level and that is now possible only after two weeks, because labourers go home for Eid and do not return easily. Paid 80,000 PKR to contractor according to agreed schedule. Finally I have decided to build only brick walls and not steel column structure after cost-benefit analysis and consultations. Contractor also suggested that we could have steel columns in the four corners.
The chowkidar or security guard who joined on 31st October today told me that he was leaving the job from 15th Nov because he was not happy. His presence was required during Eid holidays when thefts are more than usual and he wants to go on Eid holidays? I usually work on Eid, so why can't he? For what the security guards are paid after all? I told him that he could avail Eid holidays after Eid when other labourers who live with him in the store room return, but he is too adamant to go for no reason. People want easy money here. Search for next muppet is on.
November 13, 2010
Went to vendor and paid him for the cement. Then went to site and asked the security guard what was his problem. He said that he had some enmity in the village and some resolution was in sight during Eid holidays. He said he was happy to work here, but leaving in extreme compulsions. He also said that he was safe here than in village and he had good income prospects as well but he had to go. I told him that he was leaving me in the lurch as finding a replacement just before Eid was almost impossible and costly material like steel, bricks and other stuff would remain unguarded. I have asked a cousin to find someone and he had told me that before 15th he could get someone. Let's see.
November 15, 2010
Today went early for the change of guards at the site. The new guy came through a cousin who knows his brother working in his street . He does not have a CNIC and carried the photocopy of his brother's CNIC. Since his brother and the contractor are known to my cousin, so it will be fine. I would not have preferred him, but he was the only option left available during the Eid holidays. Have taken his photo, in case. The old one was younger and tougher Pashtun, this guy looks weaker than him. Let see how he performs.
Today taught the new guy, Ijaz, how to operate the water pump and sprinkle water over the beam and walls. House building is indeed a tense job. Due to security guard issue had to travel last night for the interview of the new one.
November 18, 2010
A friend suggested that I should mark with paint the iron bars lying on the site so that if someone steals some, I could know and ask the security guard. So on second day of Eid, I decided to go to construction site. My son is very fond of going there too and he was annoyed on Eid day because I did not go there. Plus the visit had become essential to see what the new guard was doing. So when we went there, we found him busy showering water on the beam and walls. Gave him some more money as advance of his salary so that he could buy food. So far he seems to be ok on the job.
November 28, 2010
Today filling work was done. Reached the site at 7:30am. After half an hour excavator came. It is typical with filling workers that they demand extra after starting the work. The guy demanded 15,000 PKR for the work, but agreed on 13,000 to do the complete work and bring extra earth if needed. When half of the job was done and existing earth was almost consumed, he demanded extra 2,000 rupees which I refused firmly. He said that the tractor-trolley had to come from far away so the cost will increase. The vital thing is that make a firm deal that in this much money, such and such things would be done.
Above all my contractor said that at least 25 trolleys would be required. But only six did the job, rest of the material we got from the back side of the plot. Now I am really up set about the metal condition of my contractor and never going to rely on his estimates. He had estimated the cost to be around 25,000 PKR. I ended up only in 13,500. Paid the filling man only extra 500.
Also have plenty of steel left, which would be enough for roof. And the 4,200 kgs which I have booked would now go to a friend. These guy are very bad at estimates.
November 30, 2010
Today extra fill was being removed and beams were being cleared for DPC work. Bought DPC plastic sheet, Betaflex and brush from PWD market. Visited the architect and got details of doors and windows measurements which were missing.
The steel columns which we are not going to build were cut from the base. I have decided to construct steel columns only on the four corners and two on the corner which comes on the retaining wall. It is a cost saving measure basically as enough fortification has been done at the foundation. A truckload of sand and 35 bags of cement were ordered in the morning were being delivered when I reached the site.
I have started thinking about changing the contractor as he is do dumb and bad at anticipating things and suggest any solutions of even minor problems. I do not know how he is building or have built so many houses. Have paid him up to door level and when he reaches there, may say him good bye.
December 4, 2011
Today walls construction or chunaiyan began in the afternoon. DPC was completed a day ago with plastic and bitumen over another layer of cement on the plinth beam. Demand for sweet from labourers was firmly rejected.
Water supply is becoming a pain again and I am mulling digging a well or bore in local language. A costly affair, but if done correctly can free me from worries of water hunting. Will see a couple of guys tomorrow. Bought diesel in pet bottles to give it to tractor-tanker for supplying water as the piped supply has again failed. For the last three months I am seeing the never ending pipeline repair work. The contractor has put a very low quality pvc pipeline in Media Town. Whenever they run water from the well head, leaks appear like Wikileaks everywhere. Have very limited funds available, but I think that having own water supply is worth it.
December 5, 2010
My greatest worry is now water. Today checked with water boring guys adjacent to Minhas Corportation in PWD marekt, they said that the cost could be around 100,000 PKR, with ifs and buts that if stones were encountered it might shoot up. He was quoting labour like 140, 170 per with metal casing. People are advising plastic casing. I am double minded at the moment. Everything you do here has many pitfalls and a larger dark side. First boring is too expensive and secondly there are so many chances of its failure.
I doubt the capacity of the society to manage a proper, regular and predictable water supply system. So far nominal tap water supply has come twice or thrice in the past three months since I started construction.
When WASA tanker was here before Eid, there was no problem and was available on just a phone call free of charge. Now water supply is again into the hands of "company" and you have to make lot of calls to get water from their tractor-tanker and also provide them a 1.5 liter diesel bottle for each visit. The problem is that when you need the water most, they are not helpful then and this sometimes causes stoppage of construction work.
December 8, 2010
Today was wasted due to lack of water. Media Town people also excused themselves because of electricity fault in tubewell's energy meter. I asked the contractor at 8.00am to finish his breakfast and arrange a private water tanker and start the work, but the goof reached there well beyond 10.00am and the sent the labourers on leave and ordered two water tankers. So basically he wasted the money on water and then the time. I also noticed that he has not left the door's space on a wall and has totally forgotten to make place for the powder room under the stairs. Will take him to task tomorrow morning as I will be on leave for next few days to spend more time to check his blunders. Ordered 6000 more bricks today as on Friday everyone goes on leave in the local market, at kilns and the truck drivers.
December 9, 2010
Today gave a hard talk to contractor for forgetting the door of powder room. Mrs and Mr Mujtaba visited the site and based on their experience of building several houses, suggested some modifications which were done immediately as the walls had just reached chest level. They suggested a L shaped wardrobe in the dressing room and widening of windows of second bed and kitchen. Kitchen outer door was reduced from 3.5 feet to 2.5 feet to make room for a wider window and sink counter. Also decided to take the porch roof on the roof level instead of building the lower terrace which is just a waste and pain to keep clean. A tip to share that as soon as the walls (chunaia) start decide where you want to make shelves in the walls to keep decoration pieces.
December 11, 2010
Today wall reached 7 feet level or the door level. Steel workers arrived and started fabricating doors and windows beams. Once beams are done, probably within next week, brick work will resume till 10 feet. So far have spent about one million rupees.
December 12, 2010
Bought a 3 inch dia pvc piep and elbow for grouting inside the beam to serve as a concealed drain pipe. Windows and doors beam shuttering was in progress.
December 14, 2010
Today beams were filled with concrete. Thanks God water tanker arrived in the morning. I had to wake up early to pester the tractor driver to deliver water. He told me that tractor's oil filter was leaking. There is always some problem when I need the water for construction, despite I am giving a 1.5 lit bottle of diesel on every fill.
December 15, 2010
Today the beams and columns which were filled yesterday were unfolded (their wooden shuttering were removed) and the last column in the porch was filled. It was good to see tank full of water. Today another virtual friend Mr Atif visited the site. Thanks Atif for taking out time from your busy schedule and paying me a visit.
December 18, 2010
Today the work resumed after two-day Ashura break. Walls will go up from seven feet (door level) to 10 feet height till Monday. Ordered another truck of bricks. The most lively moment today was the restoration of piped water supply which came to life after about two months. Pressure was good and the company guys said that from now onwards there will be daily water supply.
I am now again thinking about building the upper story structure and then start finishing the ground floor because later it would be very difficult to do it and the cost will also rise. The thought is that once structure is done on the first floor, it can be completed later in phases depending on savings and availability of funds.
At night there was some debate about the high cost of labour. People are suggesting me that having gained the experience I should build the first floor myself and save on labour costs charged by the contractor. Seems good proposition, but it requires a lot of time and searching the right labour and it is not possible when one has a full time job with erratic schedules.
I am posting some details about my contract.
I have hired a contractor (for labour) @ 175 rs per sq feet (covered area 3820.49 sq feet) and the following schedule for a 10 marla (2800 sq feet) house.
Advance : 85,000 rs
DPC level: 80,000 rs
First door level: 45,000 rs
Roof level: 20,000 rs
Roof or lanter: 90,000 rs
First floor door level: 45,000 rs
First floor roof level: 20,000 rs
First floor roof or lanter: 90,000 rs
Tank, boundary wall: 40,000 rs
Ground plaster: 45,000 rs
First floor plaster: 45,000 rs
1:4:8: 20,00 rs
Ground flooring: 40,000 rs
First floor flooring: 40,000 rs
Bathroom: 20,000 rs
Kitchen: 20,000 rs
Roof concrete: 40,000 rs
Final 66: 42,889 rs
Top roof concrete
Terrace floor 1.4.8
Gali floor 1:4:8
Water tank ground 50000.00 rs
Water tank up 50000.00 rs
Total: 957,889 rs (about 10 lakh or one million rupees labour total). Measurement will be done again on completion.
December 20, 2010
The mistris (masons) are strange creatures. Since yesterday mistri Isa Khan has been asking me to arrange some 4,000 more bricks by the evening because he and his team wanted to begin work early and warned me that if there were no bricks, they will not work. Despite my estimates that the bricks already lying around the plot would be enough, I ordered expensive bricks. The one which I had ordered two days ago had got delayed at the source because of Muharram holidays. So I had no option but to waste extra thousands.
When I reached at about 3.30pm, I noticed that the old stock had not yet been consumed and expensive bricks were piled up unused. When I asked he said that these will also be used, but till sunset when I left they were still unused. Though this stock would be used now in boundary wall or the first floor, but the way these mistris create panic is disgusting. For years they are doing the job and do not know such basics as how much material they would need. He had also asked for five more cement bags, but only one was used.
Shuttering for the lanter (roof) has started. Have to buy more steel, sand, gravel large quantity of cement and arrange for water on the concrete pouring. Another good thing was that waster supply was sufficient to top up the tank.
December 21, 2010
Shades size remained on my mind today. The contractor called and asked me what size of shades I would prefer. He suggested that two feet extension of roof slab would be enough. I checked and some people said it should be three, some said three would be too big and two is enough. Bahria Town allows only one and half feet. The bigger the shade, the larger the covered area and more the cost. But I need them so that one could move out in the balconies easily, place a geyser and also dry clothes. Home government wants three feet wide, so have to tell the contractor first thing in the morning.
The contractor says that concrete would be poured into roof on Monday or Tuesday. Too bad because it would be hard to get leave on these days as two colleagues are on leave. Will have to do something about it as my presence is essential on the lanter day.
December 25, 2010
Demolished a pillar yesterday which was obstructing the space. Now the porch's outer pillar will be bended towards the corner pillar and this space could be used for car parking purpose. I had asked in the initial stages, both my contractor and architect, but they did not listen. Contractor had said it could not be done, while it could be done and I have seen in several houses that porch roof can be reinforced by other means.
I had to made several on-spot changes to align the windows of drawing room and first floor. Had to move out a bathroom from the first floor room, above the drawing room towards the terrace. This will make the room harmonious and capacious. Also feel that bathroom vent size is too small, but it can be widened once the lanter is done.
Today ordered 200 bags of cement and two trucks each of gravel and sand for the big day. The cement is down to 289 rupees per bag which is a good news at least.
I am on duty today and will be off on Sunday and lot of work to do like buying additional steel and engaging an electrician to do points for fans and lights in the roof and it is done before the lanter. Two colleagues have gone on leave at once so I feel bit stressed and worried about leave for lanter preparations.
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661 days ago