Segal Design Problems

An Eccentric Anomaly: Ed Davies's Blog

I have the timber and fastenings for the post-and-beam structure on site but haven't got anywhere with finding a joiner to help me put it up. I have a few more local leads to follow up on but will then have to look a bit more widely, I think.

This is all rather annoying as the original plan was to design it so I could do it all myself and, when I realised I wasn't going to get such a design, I then thought a few emails and phone calls should sort out a couple of days work from a joiner easily enough.

The idea was that the structure should be based around the methods pioneered by Walter Segal.

When I originally went to the house designer I took along drawings of a structure I thought I could build myself without need for onsite help (just the separate fabrication of some custom steel brackets if nothing standard which could do the job was available).

At first he seemed to be fairly happy with that although he did point out that there'd be the need for more racking strength. When we came to details, though, he wanted to make changes.

In particular, the normal Segal way of construction is to put up a post-and-beam frame then bolt the floors, etc, to that. The house designer understood that this was normal but said he didn't like it and wanted to put the floor beams directly on the foundation pads with the posts on top.

He suggested leaving it to the structural engineer to arbitrate. In retrospect, I made a big mistake going along with this - I should have pressed to resolve the matter more directly even if it had meant finding a new designer.

My preference would have been to come up with a pretty detailed design which the engineer could then tweak as required. As it was we finished up with the house designer giving him a pretty open brief within the approved planning drawings. I was very uncomfortable about this and asked the SE on a couple of occassions if I could meet him for an hour or so to discuss the matter but was ignored.

Again, a sign to run away.

Still, when the SE did produce the drawings they weren't too bad. There was a need for complicated joins in the purlins which I got changed.

It was only later as I thought through the details that I realised that even after these changes there was enough cutting and drilling which needs to be done more accurately than I'd likely manage except by plain luck.

In effect, I've got a design which uses quite a bit more material and in odd sizes, in order to get something robust I can do myself but I'll finish up having to get outside help anyway. This is irritating.

Meanwhile the weather has been dire (worst May, except perhaps 1979, in the memory of the 75 year old who's farmed across the valley all his life) and I've spent much more time than I'd expected putting up a timber fence each side of the entrance and had an difficult time with the steel fabricators getting the last of the post-base brackets galvanized. They'd missed off a weld which they happily fixed straight away but then dug their heels in about getting it regalvanized, they just wanted to cold-galv spray it. In practice that'd probably have been alright but it's not what the SE specified and I want a bit better for “probably” for the foundations of my house. Anyway, picked up the newly galvanized one on Tuesday but if I want anything else fabricated later I'll probably have to look elsewhere.

It's not been very motivating.