Monday, 29 November 2010

23 - The Bathroom

Right. The urge to write more words on this blog has found some fertile ground within which to take root. This ground is simply the chunk of spare time found between the children being put to bed and my overwhelming tiredness felt an hour or so afterwards demanding my immediate teeth cleaning, pyjama putting on, and hopping into bed kind of attention. Unfortunately this all puts an end to my waking, and arguably my most useful, state. My secret for stretching this magical free time out is an afternoon cup of tea taken at about 3. Considering my sensitivity to after lunch caffeine I need to take extra care with my tea bag dunks. Not too many, not too deep and not too long.

So with that aside now well aside let's talk bathroom.
When most people talk bathrooms they talk tiles. Before we started looking into things we would talk bathrooms and find that wood would soon pop up yet again and quickly build rapport with the topic at hand. It was like that with us. Wood's infectious impact on our consciousness ensured it was thought of first for most building and furnishing applications. We discovered though that its allure is wasted on the modern day bathroom tightly draped in a constricting fabric of council regulation. In short we wanted to keep the wooden floor of the new bathroom but discovered we could not. There are rules when constructing 'new' bathrooms and wooden floors do not get a look in. Especially if the shower water is proposed to fall down into an old claw foot bath and there is no glass screen in sight.

When I say new bathroom I do so because we moved ours from the middle of the house to the back deck where the laundry once was. Remember?
Here it is covered in this post from a while back. The decking floorboards under this old laundry were previously moved closer together to decrease the roomy gaps between them. Anyway we thought this wooden floor could stay. Because our house was considered 'new' its wet areas are subject to the wet area rules of the day which means waterproofing the whole bathroom and tiling the floor and walls. Lots of tiles around the bath/shower and then a little everywhere else. We were gutted. No, make that grouted.

So our attention painfully turned to tiles. We were constantly slapped in the face by dull, dated, bland, careful, samey choices in the tile shops we visited. No matter what the shop, the tiles were the same. We started our search on the internet and found great examples of tiles and tiled bathrooms. The trouble was these were in other countries. We took downloaded photos along to shops whose people never came close to matching them. Our favourite photo pictured a floor tiled with small hexagonal white tiles sporting the occasional handful of similar black ones shaped in a sort of flower. The wall tiles we favoured in photo were a green colour and were not very big, maybe 150mm square. Then there was a thin black line of pencil tiles somewhere near the highest edge. Anyway, we wanted the tiles to look old, especially the floor, and didn't mind the look of grey grout to help emphasise this intent. As I said though, no one could come close to matching these pictures. The floor was do-able but hard to come by. The walls were off the charts hard. Apparently we missed the small for a wall, boldly-ish coloured, retro flavoured tile revival some 6-8 years ago and it seemed that currently a modern minimalist sandy looking bore fest was settling in for a long yawn in.
It seems, like most other things to do with houses these days, people are too scared to make statements with things like bathrooms, simply because they are worried about future sale-ability of their house. This fact is solely responsible for tile shops carrying 'careful' stock. Sure there are exceptions but these somehow feel careful too. Strange that tiled areas of your house are constrained by current fashion, which means that everyone is somewhat forced to choose from the same tiles. The shops do not cater for an unfashionable taste. If you want a certain bathroom you cannot have what your heart desires you can only have what everyone else heart desires or at least what they think their heart desires, no, what others' hearts desire. In the end it made me feel that if we were to find tiles we liked in one of the many tile shops around then we were obviously doing something wrong. The fact that we couldn't is comforting in hindsight.
Well all this was seriously depressing for a while there until we decided to embrace the house's style and vintage and see how it would have tiled its bathroom back in the 20s, had its original builder/owner had the money. We went to a shop in Brisbane's inner suburbs that specialises in bathrooms for older houses. We met the owner of the shop who carried very definite thoughts on what works in old bathrooms. She turned her nose up in all sorts of ways at anything other than authentic how it was done back thenness. “Sure you could do that if you wanted but it wasn’t how it was done back then” kind of retorts persistently swung back in our suggestions. By the end of an almost two hour visit to her sm
all shop she had managed to insert a purist mentality into our submissive tiled out minds. We wanted to be like her when it came to tiles. We wanted to wear her air of opinionatedness and venture back into the soul destroying string of blando tile shops we had previously been to dropping ‘Tsk Tsks' over all we were shown. At the time I certainly felt liked I loved her.

She helped us decide on a collection of tiles for the bathroo
m. We ended up choosing white 'subway' style tiles for the walls. These were to be edged by a black border, contain a bottle green feature strip, and have some pencil lines in there too. The floor was to be black and white checkerboard look on an angle. We had reservations about all this. These tiles were not cheap and the look of the times dictated that we used more of them. They go up the wall about nipple height all the way around the bathroom, even in those areas that aren't anywhere near wall water.Despite the price we were relieved. It was like we were letting the house decide on something for a change. It was about time it pitched in with some suggestions, we were getting tired of making all the big decisions

Part of the process involved us explaining to the lady in the shop the layout of our bathroom. It is a small room with two French doors taking up three quarters of the bathroom wall that borders the deck. These are the way in and let in so much morning light one thinks one is showering outdoors. Working around these doors meant that the hand basin had nowhere else to go other than directly under the window. This basin position made the window look like a mirror. Not how it was it done in a long shot but a bloody nice idea we think. I would much prefer to look out over a secluded corner of the property instead of my unflattering collection of early morning teeth cleaning expressions.

So a few words on cost and DIY ease. Well I can't tile. Never tried but I know that I have no patience and that my eye for fine work is permanently shut so we decided to employ someone to do it. I did prepare the room though. I laid the villaboard stuff around the walls and floor. I screwed and glued it into the floor as someone said that nails can lift. I nailed and glued it to the walls. Tricky work when lining up holes for pipes and drains but satisfying overall. I was then going to apply the waterproofing to this work but found out that one has to carry a license to do such things. Plus we required this very someone to sign a form that had to be part of our council approval process to move in. The tiler was great and the end result is great. We just have to paint a bit here and there and finish placing some cover strips on the ceiling. There is no rush for this type of work though. Function first, trimming later.

By the way the bathroom didn't take two years to complete as the date on this post would suggest. I am just very late in writing about it. The next few posts will suffer the same misrepresentation I'm afraid. Things will catch up again soon after that though.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Missing Comments

Lately I have been preparing some more posts to put up here and I noticed that all the past comments have gone missing. I have no idea why they went or where they went. Maybe they thought they could be of better use commenting on someone else's blog. If so I hope they return when they're done. Until then I offer my apologies to those whose comments are among them.

Ooh I just noticed that they are all back now. Strange. Weird blog business. Carry on.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Still Here

Hello again all those interested in the hidden costs of restless houses and beyond. I am dropping a quick line to inform that I am still here despite the 6 month break in proceedings. There has been a lot of activity to update on. The arrival of a second daughter in April has distracted my attention from the demands of the conventions associated with blogging. I promise to be back soon with a series of interesting bits and pieces relating to the house and the things around it. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

22 - Another Picture Break

A friend of mine who sews things (her blog is mentioned off to the left... oh and here it is hopping through branches) recently came to stay with us and took some photos. I think you will agree that they are rather stunning.

Also about 5 weeks ago we moved into the house. The barn was driving us crazy and we wanted to be setup in the house before the new baby came along. The kitchen and bathroom have adequate temporary measures in place. When we get them done we will go for final council approval. Keep reading, those that still do, and I'll let you know what happens there.

The house now

Misty morning view from the breakfast nook window

All of us, just north of the house, with the barn in the background.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

21 - The Solar Hot Water System

While I am shamelessly plugging products with free abandon, I'd like to record my admiration for the Apricus evacuated tube solar hot water system we had installed some months ago. This thing is an absolute gem - so far. We got the 250 litre 20 tube system. We were used to living with a 50 litre electric system in the shed for the last three years. So 250 litres should be ample.

The style of laborious deliberation we have honed throughout this entire house experience was deployed when we were considering the solar hot water system. Hours of reading, questioning and misguided assumption fueled heated discussions with each other went into this decision and I think I can safely say that in the end we did the right thing.

To sum up this research in a few words, we went for the evacuated tube system because of its efficiency claims and its trouble free frost proof-ness. The flat panel systems that were frost free were potentially unsafe to roof collected water supplies such as ours. There is some additive in their that could leak if the unit was damaged in any way. One would have to isolate that part of the roof's water collection. We weren't prepared to do this. Now on to efficiency, I guess in the end all those diagrams on tube promotional material depicting arrows being emitted from the sun and hitting tubes at various angles won me over. Testimonials claiming the lack of need to turn on the water system's boosting despite 'grey days' also cheerfully chimed in until I was sold. We found a fairly local plumber who specialises in Apricus installation and it was up and going in half a day.

We have been using hot water in the house now for 6 weeks and so far I have not turned on the electric booster. It has been great. Over the last few weeks we have had a lot of rainy days with none or very little direct sun light. The water went down in temp to just warm enough for a shower on the third grey day. With winter coming along soon I am interested to see if this performance will change. Now, yes, perhaps I will stubbornly insist that we have cold showers before any boosting is done in this house, but I am still keen to find out if we will make it through.

The one downside to this system is cost. I thought before purchasing that we would be eligible for a raft of rebates that would take the pain out of the $3978 punch in the pocket. The installation cost was $800 and was perfect. We got RECS back of $989 which helped. So all up the system cost $3789. I thought we could get a further $1000 from the Federal Government and about $600 from the NSW state government because in theory we were upgrading an old system. It came with the house. However in many respects what we are doing here is considered a new house and does not attract certain upgrade rebates. Oh well. At least we still have the first home owners' grant up our sleeve.

We chose the Apricus over the Hills brand simply because it was cheaper and it came with a 20 tube sytem rather than 22. We have a lot of sun where we are and anything over 20 is really overkill. Apricus has wonderful after sales service with technicians on hand almost 24/7 to answer any questions or concerns. Fantastic.

Here it is on the roof

Thursday, 9 April 2009

20 - The Composting Toilet

Whoa that plumbing post was a bit dense on second read. Sorry for that. I will resist the urge to slice great chunks of detail from its girth in the hope that someone somewhere will find its intricacies useful at sometime. However, I will endeavour to rein in the ambitiousness of this post, as it could get out of hand considering the topic and my well established infatuation with it.

I have already talked about our purchase of the Nature–Loo composting toilet and my reasons for wanting one. I remember blabbing on about taking responsibility for one’s own poo and what not. All this is still relevant and I stand by it. I took longer than first anticipated to get around to the installation and I am taking much longer than expected to represent that experience here in writing. Nearly four months after the first long drop was heard ending with a thud I am now recounting the events leading up to it. I do apologise for the delay, but I have discovered that penning this blog’s paragraphs is a pass time that, though very enjoyable, cannot be forced. I am enticed to the keyboard by an unpredictable chain of events, moods and inclinations. All of which combine in similar but very different ways to produce the words you are reading now. Sigh. Now to put these to the best use I best be describing the toilet. Chop Chop … or more aptly… Drop Drop, let’s go.

Some posts back I outlined the beginnings of a transformation for the house’s bathroom. Remember. We moved the bathroom to the laundry off the back deck and are in the process of converting the room it left behind into a study or third bedroom. During this move we considered including the toilet in the new bathroom, but thought it best to give it its own space. This decision was mostly preference and practicality but a little bit was uncertainty. I had read about the no smell claims of the composting toilet but wasn’t going to bet the offensive odour free life that I mostly enjoy now on them. So a semi outdoor toilet in its own room seemed like a safe idea at the time. In hindsight this concern need not have been one, more on that in a bit.

The bits and pieces that arrived with the toilet are many. A lot of them are bits of conventional plumbing fittings that have been altered and fashioned into some toilet facilitating form. There are various size PVC pipe fittings with slits and holes and additions. These were not on any promotional material I perused before purchase. I guess if they were my thrifty, industrious, though clumsy mind would have conjured ways to build my own composting crapper for much less than the 2000 plus clams I parted with. Then again, mine would not have met certain standards and wouldn’t pass the final house inspection. Nature-Loo is approved in all, or nearly all, Australian States, I think. Anyway I got the bits, read the instruction booklet and set to work. There was nothing particularly special about the installation, it went smoothly enough. The hard part for me was the vent pipe. The high set nature of the back of the house meant that the 100mm pvc pipe was over 7 metres long. This was a tricky feat for a man who is new to plumbing and grossly deficient in local mates dishing out labour flavoured favours.

The basic set up is a pedestal attached to a chute. This chute is about three metres in our case. The chute leads to a chamber with a false bottom for liquids to drip through and leave via a flexible hose. This liquid can run into a mini gravel trench and then seep into the ground or, for us, be plumbed into the drain pipe leading to the grey water system. The solids are stored in the chamber until about 4-5-6 months when it is full. Then you swap the chamber for an empty one and leave the full one sit and compost for another 4-5-6 months. Then you empty it by burying the contents or spreading them somewhere as per your local council guidelines.

Both the in service and out of service chamber are plumbed in for excess liquids

Alright so the question on everyone’s nose upon hearing an intention on composting poo is usually, “but what about the smell?” Well there isn’t any. In fact it smells better than a normal flush toilet. You can go in straight after someone who is notorious for leaving an enduring toilet presence and smell absolutely nothing. This fact rests high on the solo shoulders of the small fan which sits in the base of the vent pipe. This fan draws air through the chamber and pushes it up the vent pipe beyond the roof line. At first my pipe was not long enough (ahem…) and every now and then we would be greeted by a fruity waft while sitting on the back deck. I added a metre and all is now fine. The manual states that the vent pipe should be 600mm above the highest point of the roof. At first I thought this was overkill. Later I found out that drafts and circular currents are produced when breezes hit obstacles like roofs. therefore, when talking toilet vent pipes, the smell can be pushed downwards. This must have happened to us. Considering the fan is run on electricity and it needs to be on all the time, blackouts could easily bring a whole new dimension to inconvenience. Without the fan smells can leave the pedestal and fill the toilet room and beyond. Keeping the toilet seat lid shut helps, so does having a good compost process and, in our case, having the toilet away from the main house.

The vent pipe


While capturing my love for the composting toilet here with sentences, we have encountered a problem. Vinegar flies have taken over. They have been getting into the chamber and are now in great abundance. This should pose no real threat to the effectiveness of the toilet it’s just they fly out by the dozen when we open the toilet lid. Fortunately for us the toilet is outside the house. The manual offers a few suggestions but does not convey complete confidence in any one of them. I’ll keep trying a few things and keep posting. This slight inconvenience has taken a little sheen of my admiration of the Nature-Loo but, considering its ultra elevated position in my held esteem, it didn't move much.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

19 - The Plumbing

I don’t think mere words, no matter how eloquent or precise, could adequately convey the experience of getting all of the plumbing done for the house. I can only write about it now, so late in the game, because it is almost finally finished. Much of the time was burnt up in the search for a plumber that would take on the job after reading the waste treatment report outlining the intricacies involved with the grey water. For those new to my ramblings, the house’s waste system will consist of a dry composting toilet and a simple septic system for grey water. Only due to the unholy matrimony between our house site and council requirements, we could not have the septic leech field trench business near the house as it would have been too close to gullies (watercourses). There was one spot but upon closer investigation following a heap of rain we discovered it contained a spring. The alternative we decided upon was to have the water leave the septic tank via a sump pump and travel some 130 meters down a hill and up again to be connected to our existing trench that is attached to the septic that is attached to the shed that is what we now live in. This alternative suits us better in the end as we do not have to accommodate a large leech field near the house where we want to plant things and we don’t need to pay for new trenches and stuff to be dug.

So the details of all this were laid out in a rather wordy, numbery, and somewhat costly, report. We then gave this report to three different fairly local plumbers for quoting. Here’s where time started to slip away, slowly at first and then steadily increasing in both speed and intensity, much like an animated snowball. We didn’t think about this quoting process much before adhering to it as a logical course of action for people outside of town with a big job to pursue. Preparing a complex quote can be a lot of work for a busy plumber, and then there is no guarantee that their will be any money in it for them at the end. There are all sorts of bits and pieces to price. Many short weeks, awkward phone calls and empty promises went by and still no quote came in. We finally found out from one plumber that while he was pricing up some of the materials in a shop another plumber had a copy of our report and was doing the same. The second plumber said he was given the job from one of the other plumbers we had asked because he was too busy to take it on. Anyway it all ended in plumber distrust. The ones that were too busy were too busy and the one that would have done the job was put off after discovering that we had apparently asked every Tom, Dick and Harry with a pocket full of thread tape to submit a quote. This process of hearing nothing back went on for a few months. We were torn between demanding a response and potentially putting plumbers off by such a demand. In hindsight we should not have insisted on quotes for the septic system. The “I know a good plumber” in small towns is as good as a quote. We should have showed faith in any locally referred plumber who expressed an interest in taking on the job.

In the end we pursued a referral from our neighbour who knew a plumber through family links living on the Gold Coast, an hour’s drive away. He came in and had a look and said, despite not having done many septic hookups before he would take on the job. After seemingly offending the local plumbers we signed up our Gold Coast saviour. To help him out I started to source some of the materials he would need for the grey water system.

This decision sparked the second stage of snowballing time loss. It turns out this plumber was also rather busy and managed to spread the plumbing of the house, including the septic, over 3 months. There was about 8-9 days work in it. I guess in many regards this did not matter too much as we still had many little things to complete before we can move in. However, our anxiety grew as the time passed for we had a huge tank to fill and our rainy season was fast approaching without down, or storm, water pipes to welcome it. I am happy to say that the entire plumbing job is now almost finally finished as I write these words. There are just some fit off jobs to do after we make a kitchen and sort the bathroom out. We have a temporary hook up for the bathroom basin and the shower. I will discuss these with lashings of detail in a future post.

A Few Words on the Waste Treatment System

This is all completed now but not before a couple of minor complications. The first was the confusion over the tanks for the grey water system. The report stated that we needed two tanks that were both at least 1800 L. One was for the waste water to go into and then overflow into the second that will house a sump pump. At certain fullness the pump would come alive and pump water to the trenches I mentioned earlier. For our particular site these tanks needed to be plastic. I could only find a 1600L or a 3000L tank. I almost begged and pleaded with the consultant who wrote the report to allow me to use the 1600L size tank. “What’s 200 litres between friends?” I asked. He wouldn’t budge. His reasoning was that he had to allow a capacity determined by our potential household number of people, in case of pump failure. So if the pump breaks down we would have a few days to organise for it to be replaced before the second tank overflowed. Fair enough but we don’t use much water. I suspected that his figures were probably based on well washed folk on town water before restrictions. Anyway I was left with no choice but to buy two 3000L septic tanks. While we were over capitalising I figured I may as well get a baffle put in one, so I did. And remember all this was only for grey water. There will be no black water in the system because of the composting toilet. One consolation though is that if we ever sell the house and for some crazy reason the new owner does not want to use the composting toilet, then they will have the capacity to tackle their poo with a flush toilet and a septic tank system – boring.

The septics with the drain from the house feeding into them

The trench containing the polypipe on its way to our current residence - the shed

I did get to stray from the report a little which granted me the rebellious fix I was looking for earlier. It suggested using 32mm pipe to carry the water to the trench. Considering the friction loss one gets when pumping up hill over a certain distance the man who sold me the sump and I thought 40 mm would be better. So this is what we used. Ahhhh. Also the report stated that this poly pipe should feed into the end of the existing slotted 90mm pipe running through the trench and be drilled with 5mm holes and capped off. It didn’t say how far up the slotted pipe the poly pipe should go. In the end I thought it best to run in just over half way, which is where the shed septic tank tees into it. My neighbour thought it best not to cap the poly pipe completely in case of blockages in the 5mm holes. Fair enough. But then I noticed during one of many test runs that there wasn’t enough resistance to push much water out of these holes. My solution was to reduce the outlet down to a quarter of its size. This gave more resistance and hence flow to the holes and was still large enough to dodge the likelihood of blockages. Sorry for all the details, done now though. The reason I took on this job was because the plumber had left it for ages and the exposed end of the septic pipe, plus the last few metres of open trench were getting all grassed over and annoying.

The Tank Hook Up

Our plumber saw fit to leave the hooking up of the water tank to the house gutters until last. When this was suggested before he began work I was cool with it, however, after the work started and the time between his visits spilled over from clocks to calendars to seasons, we were getting anxious. We already had to buy one load of water to stabilise the tank and help test the other plumbing work. Despite the gutting effect this had on the old wallet, it barely made a dent in the tank’s capacity. We did not want to do this again in a hurry. Turns out we didn’t have to. The plumber returned for 2 and half days work in fairly quick succession, well, quick when considering the pace he had already set for himself. The storm water hook up is now finished and as I type, no, madly tap at the keyboard with two fingers as if my hands have been replaced by woodpeckers, the tank is full. It has only been a few weeks. What joy. Thank you rain. It does not take much to fill a tank when all the down pipes are hooked up to it. In this case about 135mm.

All Up
The bill for the plumbing came in at rather full figured. After considering the things I bought such as the storm water pipe, the septic tanks, the sump pump, the pressure pump and the 140 metres of pressure pipe along with the excavation work to bury the septics, running the drain in and burying the pipe up the hill, the total cost for the plumbing was about $13 660. I am very happy with the work, I like to admire it.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

18 - The Back Stairs

One of the main things required for a recently moved house that has landed on high stumps is a set of stairs. We needed them to travel from the back deck down to the ground in the direction of the future kitchen gardens. This is required for many reasons but the most important being to facilitate those last minute dashes in the dark to collect parsley, basil, coriander, thyme, curry tree leaves or some other crucial addition to an already cooking meal. In keeping with the style of the house we wanted these back stairs to be made from wood. With everything else going on we hadn’t given a high priority to stairs until we got a phone call from one of the carpenters we tried to entice out here to work on the roof and the front verandah all those months ago. He fixed up a moved house down the road and so we were keen to have him look in on our little adventure, but alas, he was way too busy. His phone call, expressing his sort of availability had us scrambling for something for him to do, as most things were done and mostly by us. Then it hit us - stairs. We can’t build wooden stairs. They need to be straight and square and safe, all the things that my style of work doesn’t do well.

So stairs it was. He came along and asked us what we wanted. We went with elaborate. Rather than having the stairs running straight down from a platform attached to the deck we preferred them coming down from the deck and then hitting an independent platform and doing a right angle down to the ground. A little pricier this way but who’s counting? Oh the side of this blog has a running budget so I guess this blog is counting. Anyway, figure of speeches aside, we thought it would look and feel and work better so that is what we went with. The carpenter squeezed the job in over a few weeks, I think it took about 4 days work in the end. We love the result. We will paint them in the next few days. I think the pictures say a lot so I’ll stop writing except for the cost, which came in at around $5500. For the joy they are bound to bring I consider this very worth it.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

17 - The Catch Up

Alright time for a catch up. I have been awfully slack with updating this blog. There are a few reasons for this the main one is of course that I have been up to my eyes in house related activities for the last few months. Every weekend is filled up by filling the gaps left by dwindling finances and busy trades people on other jobs. We have been doing all sorts of things we would have previously preferred other more seemingly skilled people to tackle. Here is an update post or two or three that will hopefully and adequately bring my very patient, yet no doubt dwindling, audience up to speed with the goings on of the last 2 months or so.

The Roof and Tie-Downs

Following close behind the verandah work was that done with the roof. We finally found someone local who said they would do the elusive ‘tie downs’. These two words had done their best at keeping any excitement on our parts over the whole ‘we have just moved a nice house onto a nice property’ well under control. For months this concept of tie downs and exactly what they meant for us and our house consumed our thoughts and made for confusing and awkward conversations with a collection of carpenters, handymen, relatives and friends. We finally found someone who first knew what needed to be done to improve the wind rating of the roof, second could fit in such a job over a few weekends and third was a really nice person. He and his colleague started work. They discovered that the roof needed more then they first thought. It was old and required more batons and other supporting bits and pieces. Then they discovered that the house movers had not done the best of jobs in placing the roofing iron back on. It was all crooked and the ridge capping did not fit well. The end result was that they stayed for a week and fixed everything roof wise up. They strengthened and straightened the roof, replaced the ridge capping, and patched up the gutters. We were happy with the result and noticed a big difference. The cost was $4400 -hefty but necessary.

Vermin Proofing

Following the roof work the house was left with a number of gaps between the top of the external walls and the roof. There was about a 2 inch gap running along the north side of the house. The rest of the gaps here and there were due to missing or damaged weatherboards from the rough and ready house move. Some of these I located around the house and nailed them back into place. With others I found that I had to buy some replacement weather boards whose profile was similar to those on the house already. Anyway when this job was finally done we could begin on replacing the ceiling and insulating.

The Ceiling and Insulation

Well it looks like we finally found a use for plasterboard – the ceiling. I know, I know, what about my strong feelings? Well a few factors worked in together to enhance plasterboard’s election campaign. Firstly, when painted, it looks like the fibro sheeting that was removed from the ceiling in the first place. I kept all the cover strips that covered the joins in the fibro and we wanted to recreate the exact look. Secondly the plasterboard it is so cheap it hurts not to consider it, considering the diminishing pile of funds we have. We got enough for the entire house, delivered on site, for just under $800. And thirdly it will be quick to put up. Time has become an increasingly important element in this whole house business. The longer it seems to take the less we feel we have to spare.

It is a lot easier to install ceiling insulation as the ceiling goes in. Because of this we had to up our decision making speed on what to use. This was quite a process. We were just going to go with fiberglass bats because of the cost and light weight etc. Then we were turned off fiberglass as we were suspicious of its long term health affects and it’s itchy. Then we thought we’d get wool. Then we noticed that the wool was expensive. Then we also noticed that it had to have a large amount of polyester in it to keep its spring. Then we thought why not cut out the wool and just go with the polyester. Then we did just that. The product we chose was Green Stuf .

Alright back to the ceiling. I employed the services of a local handyman and hired a wind up lifty thing from a building hire place and went to work one weekend. Between the three of us we got the lot up. I’m glad we hired the plasterboard lift we would not have been able to do it otherwise considering the height of the ceilings, the size of the rooms, and the limited number of our limbs. The thing that burnt up the time was that we wanted to cover the joins in the cover strips we kept in the same patterns that were there before. To do this we had to cut every piece of plasterboard that went up, length ways. Now we are left with very little plastering work so I guess it evens out. As this goes to two finger type, we have not yet attempted to attach the recycled cornices or cover strips. More on that as it happens.

Moving and Separating the Toilet and the Bathroom

Before this though, we decided to move the bathroom to where the laundry was on the back deck. We were going to do this in a few years time but with the news of another baby on the way we thought we’d do it now. This will free up a room inside the house for activities such as sewing, office work and things like that. In about 8 years that room will probably become a child’s bedroom.

The laundry was large enough to split into a separate toilet and bathroom. We prefer that in a house. One need not poo where one bathes. Jan built an internal wall and we cut a hole out of the external wall with a circular saw to match a nice narrow secondhand door we purchased for $40. So now we have a bathroom and a toilet opening out onto the deck. It seems rather nice to leave the house momentarily, cross a small part of the deck and enter the bathroom or toilet room. The laundry had been lined in asbestos sheeting that was removed before the move. This made things easier as far as building walls and cutting into other walls goes.

The wall builder

The wall

We decided to line the walls of the bathroom and toilet with VJ paneling. It is about 9mm thick and 1200mm by 2400mm and cost about 55 clams each. We needed nine. The walls were insulated before the paneling went on and the whole thing is being done at the moment on free weekends along with tens of other projects. For these few walls we used fibreglass batts.

Meanwhile I removed all the floor and wall tiles in the old bathroom, which, turns out, was always a bathroom. This was an awful, awful job. With a demolition mallet in one hand, a crowbar in the other, and asbestos proof mask and suit on, in case the sheeting under the tiles warranted such armoury, I methodically bashed and bashed and peeled and broke my way through. I could hardly move my arms for the next week and, for the first time in my 32 years, felt I was getting old.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

16 - The Putting Back Together of the Front Verandah

After too many months of looking across at the house from our shed and seeing the missing part of the front verandah we were more than ready to rectify things. We first thought we would need help in this potentially awkward job so tentatively searched for carpenters and the like to step up. We quickly discovered that it is almost impossible to organise someone to help out with such things. Everyone is so damn busy. After a substantial period of time, characterised by the silent lack of returned phone calls, we again took matters into our own, unskilled, bruised, reluctant yet thrifty, hands. We began to sort through the pile of debris that was once the missing part of the front verandah. Some of the pieces of wood that we now wanted to use were not thought of that way when they were disassembled. As a result they were cut incorrectly and in odd places ensuring that their patching up would provide quite the quandary.

As it turned out this fact was not the only challenge. In my haste to dismantle the verandah, I failed to number any pieces of decking, joist, bearer, roofing iron, fascia and the rest. This would have saved a lot of time in the putting back together stage – a lot of time. Over its lifetime the materials that went together to make the verandah and its associated roof had bonded to become a new single entity that transcended inconsequential sole considerations such as square-ness. Many of the individual pieces of wood were twisted, warped and/or bent. So they sort of had to go back in the same place from which they came. Matching up paint lines and nail holes shed a tiny amount of light on our slow stabs in the dark at working out where everything used to be.

These posts are very heavy

Another issue emerged early on when we found that the bearers did not quite fit as well as they should have on the fresh new stumps that stood there waiting for them. We had to bolt a strong bracket to the top of the stump which increased its footprint on the bearer. This seemed to work rather well at the time. Let’s hope it keeps on working.

Jan's dad and I

Jan’s parents came to stay in their caravan on the property. Her father helped us out with the verandah while her mother took on baby minding duties. The three of us took about five full days to fumble our way through the issue raised above plus many more. Parts of the finished product are not quite square, a fact delaying the reinstallation of the wooden louvres seen above on the title of this blog. We are still thinking things through there. Though, all in all we are thrilled to bits to have finished this rather unique part of the house. And, as suspected it looks wonderful here. One day soon it will provide a nice viewing platform to the kitchen gardens that will sprawl out from the house to the north.

Finally the house is back to the way it was pre move - at least from the outside and from a distance anyway