Wednesday 30 July 2014

Bathroom Part II - Getting wired...

So as we continue with our bathroom journey, today's post was due to be on the electrics and plumbing but as I was writing I realised that it was going on quite a bit, so I will break it down further still.  Today - Electrics......
So you recall last week we left it looking like this... all clean, empty and ready for its new life!
Once all the main demo stuff was done, we were left with a clean(ish) room ready for the plumber and electrician to do their bit before starting the complete re-fit. Before I started any of this reno stuff I would have looked at this room and said 'Wow we are almost there'. The room's cleaned out, the tiles are picked, lets get it all back in hard can it be??  But because I have done this before learnt from (some of) my previous mistakes and assumptions, I knew it was far from being 'almost there'.
So what next...I organized for my electrician, Wade, to come out to a) dismantle and make safe the lights that we were no longer going to use; b) leave safety boxes (?) covering the ones that would be re-instated; c) put in a new GPO by the vanity space, plus while he was here I got him to take out the exhaust fans too.  They are just plugged into a special GPO in the roof cavity so can simply be removed and fitted by us but while he was here it was just easier to get him to do it.  (My excuse - sticking to it !)
We didn't like the lights in there before, they were off center and ugly. 
I had planned to install a Solutube.  A modern skylight that absorbs and 'bend's light through the lined tube bouncing it down to its desired destination. Depending on sunlight (and moonlight), it can also be dimmed or blocked via a switch.  Being as we live in one of the sunniest places in Australia, (Picnic Bay, Magnetic Is. - just over the water from 'our beach' - has the title of being the 'Sunniest place in Queensland' with 320 days of sunshine a year')  it was one of my eco/energy saving projects that I was desperate to include somewhere in this house in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and electricity bills, whilst using free energy from the sun. 
They obviously cost way more  upfront than any 'normal' lighting system you could put in, but long term you are getting most of your lighting free so it's a great investment.  Even though these types of systems only work when the sun is shining you can get add on light fixtures that, by using LED energy saving globes, provide you with the light you need at night time when the sun is not shining and the moon isn't bright enough to give you the light you require, these can be operated via  a normal light switch. 
So why do I say I planned to do this, not I did this...?  You remember how Col goes on and on about living somewhere before you renovate yada yada yada.  Well this is one of those situations where waiting was best, albeit done completely by accident.  *When choosing energy efficiency solutions in any situation, you have to add up the whole package and work out what is actually better for you.  For example spending a huge amount on solar panels covering your entire roof is a great solution if you are home all day and using all/most of your energy supplies during daytime hours, (or if you were lucky enough to get the 44c QLD feed in tariff).  If however you and your family are out of your house from 8am-5pm most days and occasional weekends with little to no feed in tariff to the grid then it would possibly feel like a bit of a waste of money.  You wouldn't break even for a loooong time (you would eventually, so it's not all negative), but it is likely you will still be paying small to medium sized bills and it may make you wonder whether it was worth it.  Until solar battery storage becomes cheaper and more readily available we, as a country, are not making the most of that beautiful Ergon-busting ball of fire in the sky.  I am no expert in solar, far from it, but I have researched enough to understand the basic ins and outs of it and know what is right or not for us.  Does that mean we are not getting, it means we are still in the decision making process.  I am home most of the day and so would do all our clothes washing etc during the day, I would also make sure our pool pump is running while the sun was paying for it, but what else would I be gaining, I don't watch the TV or run huge amounts of appliances during the day, so at this stage we are still in the 'not sure' category.  I am getting closer with my decision but it is a slow process!  Also technology is changing all the time, and fast too, so I am hanging out for those battery back ups!!! ;o)
*Note - this subject would need a whole post all of its own (and a whole lot more research from me) to discuss it accurately as  government/energy company feed in tariffs are different in every state and change so often.  It isn't as cut and dried as this one paragraph, I am just saying what would and wouldn't work for us.  With energy prices in Australia being amongst the highest in the world, in the last 2 years our prices have doubled, any saving is better than nothing but you have to do the math and get the system that will suit you best.  On top of that you need to start looking at other ways to reduce your energy consumption; maybe we should do another post on that later.
Anyway I completely digressed there, my point was, after living with the bathroom for nearly 4 weeks without any available electric light source, we came to realize rather quickly, that the one long, high window in the room provided enough daylight to light the room perfectly adequately for the majority of daylight hours. 
In other words it was a really light room naturally, so spending $1200 on a Solatube would have been unnecessary overkill.  We would need the additional battery back up light fitting/ or an external second light to provide light at night time anyway and although the room would have been beautifully bright during the day it simply wasn't needed.  The only problem with this decision is that it meant we had a dilemma when it came to what we would do with the current 'mess' that was left.  When the original lights were put in they were not exactly done in a very neat fashion... as you can see. 
Here Wade has boxed off the connection point while the fit out was completed.  While I make the (loooong ) decision of what we can do to fix it up, without taking the ceiling down and replacing it all - our budget and time constraints didn't allow for that (even though in an ideal world that would be fabulous)!
It's like they just punched through the ceiling with their fist and bunged a light over it...seriously??
Anyway, moving on, we got on with other jobs like getting the ceiling exhaust fan removed...
...and removing and cutting off the power supply to the fluro tube that used to sit above the mirror, that wasn't going back in.  There is a story attached to both the question mark (this was not drawn by me, it was already there) and the wall paper, more on those later!
The last job for Wade was to install a new power point (GPO) by the vanity.  The original one had long been tiled over, (see above photo) possibly for safety.  Building regulations change often (and are different everywhere you go) and that original one was smack bang between the vanity and bath, very close to the bath, so it was definitely a no go for power in this day and age, maybe it was when they last re-did the bathroom so just tiled over it, I don't know.  Here in Queensland you can put a GPO in your bathroom as long as it meets certain safety regulations including certain distances from the water sources etc.  Some people prefer not to have anything in bathrooms just in case, and I totally get that, but it does make it a bit hard if you have electric toothbrushes and suchlike.  We chose to have one, in which we plug one night light in one side so the girls can see ok at night and the other point is blocked with a clear cover.  Our hairdryers etc are all used outside of the bathroom so there is no way our kids could accidentally get into any trouble.  We have also educated them as well as we can to be safe around water and electricity.  We had to pick a place to have the GPO before any of the fit out/tiles were done so we had to make some careful calculations and then add a bit more distance on to 'err on the side of caution' regulation wise.  We brought it back across to the left, as you can see here.
While Wade was here I got him to do a full check of the electrics in the entire house (worth every cent).  After the issues we had at our last place it was a no-brainer to get that done.  Half way through his checking of every switch, GPO and socket, I heard him shout 'F*** you HAVE to be joking - not again...KAAAATTTE"!!  I don't know all the right blurb that followed, it was too long ago to remember now, but it was along the lines of he thought only half the house was connected to the safety switch, (so not quite as bad as the last place where someone had cut off the earth!!)  But bad none the less, then all of a sudden it was all ok, there were two different circuits or something or other (I can't remember) but all was well and a switch needed to be, well... switched! It made no sense to him but it was all fixed very simply!...Phew!  Electric costs were our biggest budget blow out in the last place and we were grateful that wasn't happening again.  Little did we know, the plumber was coming the next day and his story would be totally different...



Sunday 27 July 2014

Renovating - Never a dull moment...

I'm going to interrupt Kate's blog on the bathroom renovation progress to fill you in on one of our recent renovation developments, after meeting with Matt from Shedquarters on Friday afternoon. Matt built the following ultra cool shed (* edit from Kate - it's just a shed I see no 'ultra cool' about it - just sayin') that sits behind the Grady display home at the North Shore Display Village...
And from the moment I first laid eyes on it I knew, that's the exact 6m x 4m shed that would look great in the 'dead space' behind our house as shown in the following picture (say goodbye Hills Hoist!)...
The thing is, we need a shed out the back, as our renovation master plan at present has us converting the garage into a Master Bedroom, Ensuite and Study. So out of necessity we would need to build a shed to store all the things that normally live within the garage, plus it makes much better use of a space that quite frankly, doesn't get used.
So we were quite excited when our Shedquarters guy Matt turned up on Friday evening to do an on-site quote for us. He also happened to bring along a set of council plans which shows where the 'waste water' (read sewer pipes) run, and low and behold, they just so happen to run semi-parallel across the rear of the property, which in turn affects how the slab can be laid (read potentially incorporating concrete piers x 6 into the ground to a depth of 4+ metres!) You see, its all to do with 'zones of influence', as shown in the following council diagram...
Matt actually did a full scale drawing using spray paint on the grass to explain the zones of influence to us, which besides being really helpful, was pretty artistic at the same time. But in real terms what does this all mean? It means that in order to build a 6m x 4m shed, meet the appropriate building regulations for set back distance from the house and fence, and not interfere with the zones of influence, our shed would effectively straddle the sewer line (which is 4.98 metres under the ground by the way) as shown in the following picture..
So we looked at other options, including a slightly smaller shed at 3m x 5m, but that actually impacted on the zones of influence even more. We were frankly at a bit of a loss, because piers of this depth and size sounded like something out of a Grand Designs episode, which is a little bit O.T.T. for storing tubs of xmas decorations and the lawn mower if you ask me. Matt said he would go away and look at some other building regulations and see whether the pier widths could be adjusted thus allowing more clearance between the piers and the pipes, and come back to us during the week with a possible, maybe, don't like your chances, potential solution.
While Matt was explaining all of the different building regulations, it suddenly dawns on us why the house stops where it does and the two girls bedrooms at the rear of the house are narrower than you might expect - quite possibly, the original builder 'put it in the too hard basket' didn't want to put in massive piers to extend the house one more metre further towards the back of the block...
Then this morning Kate was doing some more research, trawling through council building regulations online, when she came across a document called 'Building Over or Adjacent to Services Guidelines', which states that "garden sheds less than 12m square are exempt from site specific engineered footings when building over or adjacent to services listed in 'Allowable Development', but still requires council's approval".   Is this our only solution??  We don't know yet, but if it is then Kate is the absolute bomb!!! ( *yep that was edited by me again - K )
If that's the case, then rest assured my heart will now be set upon owning a delightful 3m x 4m garden shed so that we can carry on with planning the next stage of our renovation. It's smaller than we need but way better than nothing.  So we'll be having all fingers and toes crossed until we get confirmation on either option, because if the shed at the back is not possible, then it will be back to the drawing board...literally.  The garage will have to remain as is, then our only other 'add-on' option will be going UP... which would be at a 'not-insignificant' additional cost.
So that's a big unexpected curve ball, and our first real renovation set back for this project, but hopefully Kate's readings of the regulations are right and we can power on ahead with a smaller garden shed. Oh well, who said renovating is boring...??
Cheers, Col
PS. This is the second version, not as good as the first version, of this blog post after 'blogger' accidentally deleted it (with some assistance from me). Stoopid sewer pipes... stoopid building regs... stoopid blogger... :-(

Thursday 24 July 2014

I need the bathroom...

...renovation to be finished!!

Last week Col blogged about the final walk through of our old house and mentioned that we are now 90% finished on the bathroom at this new place.  Well some of you may have done the math and thought to on earth have they not finished that project yet??!!  After all it was only a bathroom and they moved in ages ago.  And you'd be right, I completely on earth have we not finished it yet!?  There are actually a few reasons why it has taken so long, one being that I am completely useless at making decisions, (there Col, I said it) it took me 6 weeks to chose a mirror (more on that another time), but we also had a bad run of luck with items we had ordered being out of stock or having ridiculously delayed delivery times.  So the whole project has dragged on and on.  But for the most part we had the necessities installed and working - i.e the toilet, shower, bath and running water.  So we could live without doors, mirrors, sinks and the like.  Yes you read that right, we actually had no doors on the toilet and bathroom for a while there.  Our house had a very open plan, naturist, weird vibe going on for a few weeks.  There will be more on all that later as well but for today's post we shall start with the before and during photos for the demo...

As we have explained countless times before, we HAD to get this bathroom done before we moved in, we do not have the luxury of two bathrooms in this house (yet) so in order to move in we needed the only functioning bathroom to be in good or perfect working order.  Although the toilet, bath and vanity were all fine (old and dated but fine), the shower was another matter.

Despite the above picture looking clean and bright, the reality was the shower was a wreck, having been installed 30 odd years ago before wet sealing and waterproofing were standard, it was literally rotten through and leaking terribly.  The shower tray was made of tin (standard back then I'm told) and through years of use and neglect it had completely had it.  The tiles were loose and cracked and it just wasn't keeping the water contained.  We knew this the first time we looked at the house months before we ended up buying it (and we got our plumber out to take a look before we signed contracts to be sure there were no more ugly surprises after the fact) so we adjusted our budgets and costs to accommodate for a complete refit of the bathroom and separate toilet to be completed prior to us moving in.  Of course had we needed to, we could have just 'fixed up' the shower itself and lived with the bathroom how it was, but there was really no point, knowing we'd be changing everything out down the track so it made more sense to get the whole project done and out of the way before moving in.  Here are a few of my before shots, as always there is a mix of quality with these pictures, phone and camera depending on what I brought with me remembered to bring with me that day!!

*Note - I have no idea why some of these pictures are being displayed with a yellowish hue and/or grainy, poor quality. I have spent 2 hours trawling my mate Google's files but can't find a solution, other than changing the HTML code on all pictures, which I have done for some but quite frankly not all because I got bored.  Anyway sorry if they are showing up grainy etc, it may also depend on the browser you are using as to how bad they are...hmmm any ideas let me know (and it's not the auto-enhance solution through Google+/Picassa web)

Trying to decide on tile colour choices, completely different to what I had chosen prior to starting

The lovely 'sand' coloured vanity unit..oh so motel-like

The bizarre mosaic shower tray with its upward curved edge
Our tenant said the tiles would lift up and stick to your feet!

Me being a dill, but also showing where the original tile line ends and the 'over the mirror' fluro tube and horrible brownish air vent.

Showcasing our beautiful yellow trims...did we mention the yellow trims yet??
Notice the cold water pipe for the bathroom is attached externally to the toilet wall, such a great look ...non?
If you have ever completed a bathroom reno, or any serious updating, you will know that there is always heaps to think of and plan.  Positioning, lighting, ventilation, tiles colours, vanity sizes, baths, is endless.  Even though we had just done this in our last place - twice - this one was totally different. Different building structure, different materials, different time scale, different demo.  With most bathrooms it is much easier and cheaper to stick with the existing foot print, i.e bath where the bath used to be, shower where the shower used to be etc. Of course in timber high set houses it is just as easy to change floor plans by cutting into the floorboards but in this low set, concrete slab, masonry home we couldn't justify the time or cost of changing things around, even though I would have loved to have moved it about a bit, we decided to keep it the same.  And later on it became apparent that we had made the best choice, but again we'll come back to that later.

We did all the demo work last time ourselves, (we being Col) but this time we had to have someone do it for us, there was no way I could do it on top of finishing the last place and all the toing and froing for school runs and extra curricular classes, (not to mention the fact that I am a complete weakling) even though I wanted to try.  This was a BIG job and I think it took our guys nearly 4 days to completely strip it out.  Sometimes tiles come off easily, sometimes...not so much.  These were not all easy, these babies were stuck solid!  The majority had to be power-chiseled off (no simple chisel and hammer job here) and sharp chips of tile were flying everywhere at times.  When I saw my tradie's legs cut to pieces and bleeding I was quietly very glad he was doing it all...sorry Phil! 

Firstly getting rid of all the hardware to start the real hard work
Capping off the pipes, and taking out the vanity
Getting the big guns in

Pulling up the concrete blockwork that formed the shower base
Underneath the floor tiles were shiny black tiles, who would have thunk it!?
And underneath the white shower wall tiles were more of the original floor mosaic tiles...gahhhh!

We weren't expecting that!  No matter how much planning you do, you can never be ready for unexpected things like double layers of tiles, luckily Phil brought in a colleague to help get the job done in the timeframe we were trying to stick to. 
Doesn't take long to fill a skip or 2 or 3!
Luckily most walls only had the one layer of tiles!

Nearly done...
Phil thankfully had the bright idea that the toilet could be put back until the plumber returned to do his next lots of jobs so that we at least had a working loo for another week clean up time

After four days of solid, hard core chipping, hammering, scraping and lugging...all the dirty work was done and we had a clean-ish slate for the plumber, electrician and tiler to do their thang.  Which I will get onto in the next post, I have wasted so much time today with these ridiculous photo issues, I will have to break this project down a little further than I had planned.  So that's all for now, back soon, thanks for reading!

Wednesday 16 July 2014

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu...

...especially you, ol' house, on this our final walk through!

So settlement day has come and gone on our previous renovation project, and it's time to say farewell once and for all to our raised post war Queenslander, but not without giving you one final tour.

So here we have it, the final photos that were taken for the house sale...





We've also done some updates on the main pages at Sunshine and Paint Pots, so you can see the full progress of restoring this ol' girl, as well as get a house tour of our new abode out near the ocean.
Stay tuned for some more regular updates, as Kate will be blogging soon on our design ideas for the bathroom renovation, before bringing you up to speed on the demolition, the rough fit out, the tiling and then the final bathroom reveal. We're about 90% there with that project, and will be tidying that up to embark on the detailed planning for the main renovation, with an appointment booked soon with our builder to discuss plans, options and sustainability concepts in our overall design.
Cheers, Col
PS. Kinda wishing we had ironed those sheer curtains in the master bedroom, but oh well, we'll get over it ;-)

Saturday 12 July 2014

30 Today...

...30,000 page views that is!
Is that a lot or not? We're not sure, but after 15 months of blogging, it's nice to see much more interest than we ever thought there would be in our little ol' blog. We accidentally missed writing a '12 months of  blogging' anniversary post because our blog-iversary fell right at the time we were selling the previous house and moving here. So we figured that as the new financial year (in Australia) commences and we achieve a nice round figure, that we could take a quick look back at the previous year. So here's a mish-mash of pics and stats for you the reader, the interested observer, that looks back on the year that was...
Where are our readers based? Not surprisingly, the majority are based in the three main countries where our friends and family are; based largely around our numerous travels around Australia, our stint in the USA during my previous career, and Kate's UK background. 
Which post has seen our smallest number of page views? Not surprisingly, that would be our very first post 'And so it begins'...
Which  post has seen our largest number of page views? That is Kate's personal piece 'A very personal and different blog post today'... where she speaks about our experiences when Sasha was diagnosed with P.A.N.D.A.S. when we were based in the USA.
I think it is a special post because it fills a void - being a lack of information - for parents who are going through the same experience as we did for the first time. The number of ongoing hits it gets is evidence it is appreciated.
Which post did we enjoyed writing the most? For me it was 'A Cabin By the Sea'... because it marked the real start of something that we have been working towards for years, buying a home near the ocean, and then being able to transform it into our dream home.
Our biggest surprise? Arriving at the new house for a one night sleep over with the girls before Kate commenced the bathroom renovation, and finding the street awash with tradesmen and television crews, filming the Queensland house featured in House Rules. When all was said and done we were very lucky to get a personal tour of Maddi and Lloyd's house with Maddi, which Kate wrote about here...
Our biggest change? That would be me leaving the Army after 21 years to pursue a long held ambition for a career in finance. It was fun putting together a 21 year long photo slideshow in 'Targets down, Patch out'...
Our best project? I think it would have to be the kitchen renovation, which Kate wrote about in 'Our Kitchen Rules'... definitely the biggest visual impact out of all the projects...
Strangest post? That would have to be 'Tragedy... under the kitchen sink' !
What will we miss the most? The pool in the old house, thankfully there is a pool in the new house too, but we loved how big it was.

Best renovation inspiration? Believe it or not, we found this from going around most of the new build display homes, but we were very inspired after visiting the Innovation House, which Kate wrote about in 'Be Brave, Take Risks'...
Other renovation inspiration? Two key blogs have helped guide us on both the blogging and renovation front's - 'Fun and VJs' and 'West End Cottage'. In all though, we have found the renovation blogging community to be a great forum, if for no other reason than to find that there are like-minded people going through the same frustrations and successes with their own projects.
So, that's a brief sum up of the journey so far, thanks for following us, and we hope you enjoy the next part of our adventure as we continue with our current home renovation. At the very least, we know it won't be boring ;-)
Cheers, Col
PS. If you want to know what the least favourite part of the last renovation was, it is a no-brainer - cutting in around all the 'D' molding on the walls and of course painting the ceilings!