The full process of building a St Helena Island House

T&B Group construction in St Helena Island

A starling lack of infrastructure is enough to send any contractor running, but for us, a remote volcanic tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean is just another day at the office. As remote timber construction specialists, we have completed timber projects in a number of otherwise inaccessible locations. From steep mountainsides to pristine beaches, we are experts at making your timber dreams come true no matter the location.

Through transport adversities such as a lack of jetties, railways or bodies of water, or labour shortages when it comes to sub-contractors, suppliers and skilled labour, T&B provides the infrastructure, both internal and contracted, to ensure smooth delivery of project materials no matter how remote or challenging the location.

Most recently, we set out to build a striking show house on St Helena Island; one of the most isolated islands in the world, lying more than 1 000 miles off the coast of southwestern Africa.

St Helena remote island
St Helena island from above

When we began drafting the project, there was not even a useable airport on the island, and we had to make our original concept from thousands of miles across the ocean. Thankfully, however, the airport was currently under construction and already in its final stages, so, we managed to get tickets for our team on the inaugural flight to the island.

From the moment the landing gear hit the tarmac, our single-storey, hillside showhouse was underway. In just 16 weeks it went from an empty plot to a luxurious, furnished home, and this is how.

The Start of the adventure - Week 1 & 2

We started by clearing the site to make space for our timber vision. We then set out and excavate the foundations while we waited for our construction materials to arrive by ship from Knysna, South Africa. Our well-planned timing came together perfectly and our materials arrived at the port as we were finishing excavating.

clearing and laying out the build site on St Helena Island

Supplying building materials to St Helena Island - Week 3

The next step was getting the construction material out of the port and to site. The port was very small and extremely busy when the ship arrived making this no easy feat, and to make it worse – while the port was only seven kilometres from our construction site, it was, in fact, a two- or three-hours drive due to the incline on the roads; a steep 550-metre incline from the port to site.

supplying building materials-to St Helena Island
importing all the building supplies to St Helena Island

Breaking ground for the foundation - Week 4 & 5

By week 4 we had successfully moved the material to a storage facility closer to the site and now it was time to get the foundation footings done. While St. Helena has an imposing termite problem, we worked around this by constructing a concrete footing with a custom termite protection plate on each bracket that connected to the poles.

Started with Floor Construction - Week 6

Next, we had to get the poles and bearers installed in order to support the construction of the floors. The site was located on a very steep incline which was tricky to work and move around, and therefore slowed the process somewhat, but our experienced and determined team had us back on schedule by the end of the week.

Completed the Floor Construction - Week 7

Here we set out the position of the house meticulously to ensure that it is perfectly square in order to commence with the floor construction. Then, once all the rafters, trimmers, bridging, hardware and bracing is installed, we start preparing the floor connection for the plyboard subfloor.

constructing the floor of a St Helena Island house
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

Started with solid log walls Construction - Week 8

By week 8 the structure is beginning to take form and we were ready to start with the solid log walls, but because of limited space available and very steep terrain incline, we decided to alter the schedule and construct the roof trusses atop the flooring platform before we started with internal wall frames.

T&B team lay out the wooden planks to plan log cabin
T&B construction works on the building of a log cabin
Man sands wood truss as T&B construction group builds wooden log cabin
Roof Trusses on a pile, ready to be installed by the T&B group

Once these trusses were complete, we could finish up the log walls and start with the internal wall frames.

St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
T&B working on wood log cabin. Walls are up and frame is being stabilized
Timber Frame Homes | Timber Frame Construction Techniques

Started the Roof Construction - Week 9

While we were finishing the internal wall frames, we also began installing all the roof-support posts and beams.

St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

When the ceilings were completed, we covered them with reflective foil insulation for water protection and insulation, and when this was complete, it was time to put the roof trusses in place.

These trusses were uniquely designed with an interesting combination of sloping ceilings and assembly of beams and installed over the foil insulation to complete the roof structure.

St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

Completing the Roof - Week 10 & 11

After all the trusses, roof bracing and hardware is installed, we start to prepare the roof to welcome the colour bond roof sheets.

T&B team lay down the underlay and flashing on the roof
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
One of the team from T&B Group inspecting a completed job.
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

ceiling and wall cladding - Week 12 & 13

Once the roof is complete and fully waterproofed, we start with the ceiling and wall cladding on the inside of the house, and this is where everyone comes together like a synchronised dance.

ceiling and wall cladding
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

As we finish cladding, the skimmers start skimming and preparing walls and ceilings for paint. And while the skimmers and painters worked inside, the carpenters start finishing external works like decking, balustrades, gable cladding, and lambda board floor insulation.

Finishing external works
lambda board floor insulation
Completing the Deck
Completed wooden deck
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

Starting the finishings - Week 14 & 15

Once all the walls and ceiling have been painted, we install the flooring, followed by internal doors, cupboards and general finishes. From skirtings and architraves – this is the time for the details.

St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project
St Helena Remote Timber Construction Project

Final touches - Week 16

By week 16, the new, high-quality, well-crafted home was ready for our team to do any final painting, snags and clean up, while the interior decorators stepped-in to complete the final luxurious details of this stunning showhouse.

Balcony of St Helena island house
lounge of St Helena island house
Bathroom of St Helena island house
Bedroom of St Helena island house
Room of St Helena island house

From the intricate design process to the logistical conundrums, remote timber construction can be a challenge, but one that we accept with open arms. In the end, this house came out beautifully and we have yet another extremely happy client and an ever-expanding portfolio.