The View from the Site Hut

Anyone who has been involved in a building project will know that having a good site foreman is key. We are lucky at Copper Bottom to have the absolute best in the form of Mick Bond. I visited site today to have a chat with him about his career and our project.

Mick on site

Mick started in construction from school where he saw an advertisement for a career in bricklaying and thought to himself “I’ll have a go at that”. It was a struggle to get an apprenticeship at first. In his own words, he was “too small and weedy” for what was a very physical job. His first employer went under but he was taken on by the new management. His supervisor recommended him saying he “might not be especially strong but he had something up there”. Eventually Mick set up his own successful company. Later he was headhunted by GC Interiors to join their team as a site foreman with huge experience and an excellent reputation. Up in the site hut, I asked Mick some questions;

What do you enjoy about your work as a site foreman?

I like sorting things out, solving problems. There is satisfaction when things come together. There is stress too, when things don’t go right, and you can end up not sleeping at night worrying about things. But it is nice to see a finished job and to think, I had a part in that. When I’m on site I can choose what to help with; I don’t do that much bricklaying these days! And when I do start to lay some bricks, I often have to stop to check on things round the site. I leave a trail of tools behind me.

What is a typical day?

They are all different. At the start of a job it’s quite good as you are doing the planning. But then again, when you are starting a new job, you are usually finishing the last one at the same time so you are between the two sites. As a job progresses you are reacting to things as they change, and the hardest thing is planning to make sure you meet all the deadlines. Services can be a real headache.

What has happened so far on site with Copper Bottom, what are you doing now and what comes next?

So far we have prepared the site. We have grabbed off the top soil and stored any that can be salvaged. We’ve levelled the site so it is easier to dig the footings. We have had 43 muck away lorries, each carrying 19 tonnes, that’s over 800 tonnes to date, and there will be more. It goes to quarries but we have to be careful what we send, they won’t accept green grass or weeds. We have dug the footings and concreted and the site engineer has been out to position everything using GPS. We are getting all the drainage, ducting and pipework done. Our next priority is to get the oversite concrete finished before the timber frame arrives in August plus we need to put up the scaffold. Then we will hand over to Timber Innovations and get on with building the retaining wall while they put up the frame. We’ll build the small walls at the base of the house before they get the trusses up. We want to get the roof up so we are in the dry in the autumn and can get the roof on.

Are there any particular challenges with Copper Bottom?

Not at the moment, no. There are some potential challenges with the side trusses as we have a 2mm tolerance. Wood can shrink and move so 2mm is a challenge. And I have never done copper cladding before so that will be interesting. One good thing is that, because Adrian is the architect and this is his own house, he does get onto things quickly.

And the design?

When I first saw the drawings I thought oh no, I’m not sure about this. But it is growing on me now, the shape. I still don’t get the ears. I think it will be quite a nice house and I like the landscaping. It’s a big bonus that Adrian thought about that early rather than leaving it to the end, that’ll speed things up.

Talking about timing, will it be finished on time?

Yes! If by on time you mean June, not May.

Many thanks to Mick for taking the time to talk – and we are holding him to that final answer (although Adrian insists we can make March).

The view from the site hut – if you look really closely you can just about see some dreaming spires
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