Saturday 27 September 2014

Odd Jobs, Trailers and Weeds...

Renovating is not all beer and skittles folks!

I've been finding this initial period of living in the house while we figure out our master plan for the renovation to be a little frustrating. There is still a bunch of not so glamorous jobs that need doing before we even start with the the major part of the renovation. So while Kate has been pushing forward with some more painting of the new internal doors, I've kept myself content with some weeding and gardening outside, which has included more than the odd trip to the local dump. It also meant I needed to get a trailer, and I found a nice bloke called Bob who could help me out in that department. But a little bit of history first...

When we came back to Australia, I knew we probably needed to have a trailer, but to be sure (given the upfront investment) I wanted to beg, borrow and steal a trailer for the first 12 months to make sure there was enough use to warrant buying one. Thanks to cousin Tony and mates Nath, VB and Killa,  I got to use their trailers while I shopped around to find my own.

So on a sunny Saturday morning recently, on the way to the Townsville Seafood festival...

...Kate and I stopped in to see Bob at Bob's Trailers, and 15 minutes later, I was the proud new owner of a 7x4 galvanised tipping trailer with deep sides, trusty cage, Sunraysia 'Mag' wheels (including spare), jockey wheel and trailer lock (just like this one). The galvanised steel construction was important for me given we live in a seaside suburb, and I didn't want a steel trailer rusting out after a few years use.

To be honest Bob didn't need to do much selling that morning, as I had done all my research online over the last 12 months, and Bob's a pretty straight forward guy who lets the quality of his product speak for itself. No hard sell, just a quality product at a reasonable price. One aspect of his trailers that I really liked is that they are Australian made (by Hans Trailers in Bundaberg Queensland) and they come with a five year warranty, which I hadn't seen anywhere else. And for the price they are I consider it good value for money compared with the trailers I had looked at elsewhere. 

One week later Kate and I headed back to see Bob and pick up our already registered trailer, which had come up from Bundaberg on a truck that week, and then which was ready to go and get some work done.

Hard to see who was happier... me?

...or Bob?

We headed home to crack on with the gardening, as the citrus trees in the garden bed needed pruning and all of the palm fronds needed collecting (the joys of tropical gardening). Day one week one of trailer ownership and the trailer was on its first trip to the dump. Unfortunately, I was so excited I forgot to take a photo of the trailer having its cherry popped....

However, I did stop at Bunnings on the way home and get some pavers to put down as a pool walkway for the girls, so that they can hop-skip-jump back to the entertaining area after swimming without getting their wet feet dirty. 



Yes I know it's not finished yet but it will do the job in the interim while we get our landscaping plan organised. It turned out to be another one of those five minute jobs that ended up taking considerably longer (more weeding and shovelling involved), but I was glad to get it done in the end. I also found it a lot easier getting the gardening supplies back home from Bunnings in the new trailer rather than loading up the back of the Captiva yet again.

But that's not all, we also did some weeding down the side of the house and had to get rid of the weeds that had been pulled up that week (thanks Tim for helping Kate and I out there), which in turn required another trip to the green waste dump. Afterwards I had an obligatory stop at Bunnings to grab some supplies, plus a detour past a mates place to grab some terracotta pots and Yukkas they had kindly donated. Happy days !!

This meant another whole day in the garden (which I don't mind) and once tidied up the Yukkas look fantastic in their new home at the front of the house.

So while it isn't always Grand Designs around here (who am I kidding - it's more like Kevin McCloud's Cabin By The Sea), its nice to see some progress with the little jobs that just need to be done.

Cheers, Col

Saturday 20 September 2014

Bathroom Part III - Pipe dreams and tradie jokes...

...and no, I wasn't sent to the hardware store to ask for a 'long weight'

Woah, this blogging of the bathroom is being strung out almost as long as the bathroom reno's ridiculous!  It's been so long I expect you have no recollection of where we left off, I don't even remember and I write this stuff!  So lets re-cap.  Last time we had just finished the wiring and despite it looking like there was a problem, it luckily ended up being fine and our sparky's work came in on time and on budget.  Whoohay!  However I finished off the last post with this sentence,

... Little did we know, the plumber was coming the next day and his story would be totally different... 

I was a little surprised I didn't get a few comments on this.  I had put that line in to see if it would stir a few..'but you said..' questions.  But you were all very good and didn't question me at all.  (Or maybe no one is reading and I am talking to myself constantly...hmmm!) what do I mean??  Well in the first bathroom reno post you may or may not recall I wrote this,

 ...the reality was the shower was a wreck,..... it was literally rotten through and leaking terribly.....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...

I have highlighted the important part of this sentence.  As Col always likes to point out due diligence is a worthwhile and necessary part of all good planning.  If you know what's coming, things are much easier to manage and control.  So if we got the plumber out months prior and therefore knew what to expect why was the plumbers story totally different? 

Well first I'll tell you all the good stuff.  The stuff he could see and 'predict' going wrong and/or potentially taking more time.  We did indeed have our fabulous plumber Ray out to take a look at the bathroom situation before purchase and it was a great idea.  He not only looked over the bathroom but the hot water system, the laundry, the roof and the general plumbing.  On his bathroom and laundry inspection he explained that back in the day, they used to put all the pipes underneath the slab.  Yep that's right, all the water pipes run under a massive slab of concrete, which is then not only built over but tiled over too, in our case numerous times!

Hot and cold pipes coming up through the slab during our demo of the room

Not if, but when the pipes go wrong there is exactly zero chance of getting to them without ripping up half your house.  So in order to rectify the issue, the old damaged pipe gets shut off and then the new pipe has to be re-routed elsewhere i.e brought through the wall instead, that way if anything bad happens you only have to go through tiles/plasterboard etc to fix it.  It's stuff like this that we would have had no idea about and that made his visit so worthwhile.  On further inspection, (like he had just pointed to an example diagram in a plumbers textbook), he saw this...

Our old toilet with a water pipe attached to the wall going through the adjoining room to service the bath and sink next door.  Hmmmm - a solution it is...a good one (or a good look) it is not!

The old cold pipe mark II during the demo 

It is more than likely that one of the owners prior to us had recently completed works on their own bathroom reno.  Taking it from its original black tiled floor and blue mosaic walls to the white 'everything' that we had inherited.  As we know they tiled straight over the top and' ta-da' they had a brand new shiny bathroom.  Until maybe only a short time after, when their cold water pipes broke!  The only way to fix this dire situation is to either rip up all the wall tiles and re-route the broken pipe inside the wall to hide it all as is common practice....OR by tacking a new pipe onto the wall externally for all to see and being done with it.  They obviously chose the latter, possibly for ease, possibly for monetary reasons, probably both.  Either way it was not ideal long term.  So at this point we already knew that we would be re-routing all our pipes, whether they were good or bad, right here, right now.  It was a no brainer...while we have the room back to a concrete shell we shall cut off all the pipes and re-route them all now in one fell swoop to stop any future problems happening, or at least make them easier to fix if and when they do go wrong.  So that was our plan, sounds so easy! 

 Enter - the plumber on his first day....

After cutting off the water supply and taking out the original hardware and pipes he began his thankless job of cutting in the wall to create channels for the new pipes to sit.  And attacking the concrete slab to move the waste pipes over a bit to accommodate our new vanity and adjust the shower and bath drain slightly. 

As we knew this would create a lot of dust ('cha - understatement of the year) I had to have a few days off painting - shame!  So I wasn't spending as much time at the house hence fewer photographs. Anyhow one particular morning a few days into the job I turned up and he said...Kate this is taking so much longer, your concrete is so hard!  To which I naturally laughed and thought yeah, yeah, wait for the tradie pun.  But he didn't laugh with me and he didn't follow up with any joke or punch line, he just continued to talk about hard concrete.  It took a few minutes of me staring at him to realise, this was no tradie joke, he was for real!!  Astonished I said, 'Oh my gosh you are actually being serious aren't you...but forgive me my's concrete, of course it's hard...isn't all concrete hard??!' (dullard alert).  It turns out all concrete is not the same.  Who knew??!  Of course it mostly looks the same (as far as I know)  but both the time it's been cured for originally (kept moist after laying) and original content both change it's overall hardness! (please - no smut!).  The longer it cures the harder it gets and this stuff was not going anywhere in a hurry.  He followed up with ' great news for you (the house isn't going anywhere) bad news for me cos I have to cut into this stuff somehow"!  So with extra time needed to crack down through the floor to move waste pipes, and the hire of a saw with a bag to collect the ridiculous amount of dust the equally solid walls produced (the 'bagged saw thingy' didn't work well, next time we shall save our money and deal with the dust)  the job dragged on a bit longer than expected, thus taking our plumbing budget up a notch...not much  but another example of no matter how much planning you do something's simply are unforeseeable.

Still, when all was said and done the floor was cut into, the drains were moved and the pipes were re-routed.  We did this not only for the bathroom, but for the laundry and kitchen too.  So that when it comes time to renovate these rooms (cannot come soon enough) all the pipe work is done and ready for its new shiny fit out!

Once the pipes were all in, it was concreted back over to make it all tidy again

When the concrete had set and the waterproofing had been done it was time for the fit out...yeeehaa, we are on the home stretch now!  No photos of the waterproofing and start of tiling as our super tag-team wet sealer and tiler used to come so early in the morning a lot of work was done prior to us arriving.  (And yes we did mange to get more of that tile mortar off the walls, I admit it wasn't all off but smooth enough to make for an 'ok' base to be re-laying tiles over).
Finally we were getting close to having a useable bathroom again.  This was super exciting for us, as it not only marked the near completion of our first room renovation here, but also once the bathroom and toilet were fully in, it meant we could move in!  Haazaaaa!
Ps - as this is turning into a complete saga to blog about, I will leave you with a sneak peak of our newly completed bathroom....

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Searching Council Building Records... uncover the history of your home.

We all know that as part of buying a house, one of the many purchase actions buyers undertake is to perform a search through council records on their potential home to be. This is primarily done to confirm the basic facts like allotment size and boundaries,  flood zone history, and building approvals for any subsequent works (eg: in Queensland the raising of a house and/or building in underneath). In essence it's all part of doing due diligence so there are no ugly or potentially annoying surprises once the contract goes unconditional.

Often once these first basic searches are done prior to settlement, many buyers forget all about them and may never need to access council records again.  However depending on what you are doing, or plan to do to your property you may need to access them and get further information down the track. Another reason for doing subsequent council searches, such as in our case, is to learn more about the history of our house. There had been conflicting ideas between us, different neighbours and tradies as to when we all thought the property had been built.  We were under the impression it had been early to mid 80's then we were all completely thrown when this 70's style wallpaper was unveiled during the bathroom reno...

So we were intrigued to find out more.  I have always been interested in building design and plans and was curious to see if there was an actual copy of the original building plans on file and to see if the floor plan, dimensions and layout we have now were the same as had originally been designed.  I also wanted to double check that the existing 'add ons' (pool, covered entertaining area, etc.) had all been council approved when they were built.
You might remember I drew this rough floor layout and dimensions after we had unconditional access to the property and wrote about it here...

Despite my 'fantabulous' draftsman skills above, Kate was convinced there might be a better formal drawing elsewhere, so after some discussions with our builder Darren and getting his thoughts on the history and design of the house, Kate submitted a search request to the Townsville City Council. She had looked into this before and was ready to pay out upwards of $130 to get the searches printed and sent out to us.  But when it came to actually getting the files she found out a much better way of accessing them.  Here in Townsville you can apply to access the records of any building, and either pay a large fee and have the council team access, print and mail you out all the documentation.  This means getting a potentially huge wad of paper of which some may be duplicated or just not needed.  OR you can apply as normal to access the searches but click on the 'view files' option.  This allows council to search for, and get your files ready for you,  then you get a two week window to go in to the council chambers to view the documents and chose which pages you would like to print out.  This way it saves an awful lot of wasted paper (and ink) and saves the council members time, plus best of all you only pay for what you print out.  In our case we printed out every page that was relevant to our needs, it ended up costing us about $20.  It's a great initiative to improve efficiency and reduce waste.

Once the files were ready (approx. 10 days after submitting the request) Kate and I went together to look through the original microfiche copies on file (now digitally recorded), we were pleasantly surprised at what we found...

Even though the file had our address on it, my first thought was, "hang on - that's not our house!??..." For a moment I wondered if this search had gone terribly wrong..

Then as I scrolled through I thought, "...but that is our house", quickly realising there were actually two house designs originally submitted...

As it turns out, we think the first plan is the original plan which was rejected, and/or disregarded for two possible reasons. First, it was such a big house which took up the majority of the block, meaning there would not be much room for a decent garden space.  It also wasn't as functional a layout as the other house plan which has a much more open plan living style to it, which has become the preferred Australian design many decades later. Second, the first house plan extends the footprint of the house out towards the rear boundary by 600mm. Now that doesn't sound like a lot, (in fact if it had been possible it would have been great given that the two back bedrooms are just that tiny bit too narrow) but as we found out when arranging quotes to build a shed at the rear of the house, that extra 600mm extends the (first designs) footings into the 'zone of influence' for the sewer pipes (which we wrote about here). This, as we've come to realize,  means sinking deep piers and footings to adhere with council regulations, adding a not insignificant cost to the original build; hence why we think the second plan was chosen as the final build design.

We found out that despite some tradies coming to the conclusion that our 'add on's' were probably not council approved, we were pleasantly surprised to find every additional structure on the property is above board.  Yayy for that!  We also found out a bit of history surrounding the house which we'll write about another time, including the fact that although the design approval process started around 1972 the final build inspection was in 1976 (coincidentally that's the year Kate was born - happy late birthday baby - I got you a 'birth year' house ;-) Happy Days!

Cheers, Col

P.S. We also found out that we've got a 'Champion Pool' - awesome!

Thursday 4 September 2014

Do you wanna build a snowman...

..and host a Frozen themed partyyyyyyy....
*(I have been a bit poorly recently and subsequently haven't done much with the blog.  So just to keep something moving along on here, I am posting a piece I've had drafted for a while now but hadn't got around to sharing...nothing to do with reno's but still a lot of fun...well, fun for me anyway!)

We recently held a birthday party for our Sasha (10),  she was long overdue having a decent party so we were adamant she would have whatever she wanted this year.  Even though she had lots of time to think about it she just couldn't decide what she wanted to do, but knew she would like a small group of 5 or so girls over to chill out and maybe watch a movie.  It got soooo close to the date with no theme picked out, so I picked for her...Frozen!  It was kind of a no brainer, she LOVES the movie (who doesn't??) so I couldn't really go wrong.  All our American readers may think this is 'old news' in blog circles as the Frozen phenomenon is probably well and truly over 'State Side' but even though the movie has been out for a while here the merchandise is still trickling through slowly so we are still very much in Frozen fever over here...or maybe it's just our house...LOL!!
I started looking around for different ideas to use and although lots of them were for much younger kids, like pin the nose on the Olaf etc. I thought we could use it as a theme, have the music playing, do a bit of craft and chill out and if they wanted to they could watch the movie if time permitted.  Unfortunately Australia is a little behind when it comes to Frozen merchandise.  Well at least up here in Townsville it was.  *(Since then Red Fox Party Shop has added heaps of Frozen items to it's store, including the napkins, plates and balloons etc).  In fact the lady at Spotlight seemed very put out when I asked about the possibility of buying Frozen items.  Literally huffing at me, "No we don't have Frozen merchandise you are the 8th person to ask about it this week!"  So I turned to the internet and crossed my fingers hoping whatever I ordered would arrive on time.  And mostly it did.  I ordered balloons, stickers, napkins and snowflake charms...mostly from eBay sellers.  The charms were coming from overseas and they were the only thing that didn't arrive on time, they came the following Monday, so I attached them to the 'Thank You' cards instead.
I searched Pinterest (best thing since sliced bread Google) and found soooooooo many ideas - there are some ridiculously talented and creative people out there!!  So I adapted some ideas and copied others to create a cute Frozen themed party.  I got asked a lot about the ideas and things I had used but never actually got around to answering everyone so thought I'd do this quick picture post with what we did and where to find it all.
Col always starts the day by giving a little bouquet of flowers to the birthday girl, they love it!
Melted snowman drinks
I purchased cheap blank white stickers from a dollar store and created my own label template in Word, with a bit of patience you can make just about anything.  I added a picture of Olaf and stuck them to mini water bottles for the drinks.
Re-cycled chocolate spread jars
We buy the Nutino brand of chocolate spread (personally I think putting chocolate on bread is disgusting but unfortunately both my kids like it and get it as an occasional treat, if Sasha had her way it would be her staple breakfast diet). It comes in little glass jars, so when they're finished we clean and keep the glasses to reuse them.   I added snowflake rub-on transfers from Lincraft, they come in so many designs you can literally up-cycle any glass for any occasion and they come off easily in the dishwasher afterwards.  I tied a blue ribbon to the top of each one cute, easy, cheap and recyclable.
Food labels printed at home on sparkly cardstock
I made up all sorts of names for the food, the possibilities are endless really.  You can find some great ideas online, but I made things like Hans' Humous, Snowballs on Sticks (marshmallows), Kristoff's Ketchup, Tzatiki Snow Dip etc.

I bought the napkins from eBay just to tie in the theme and colours, the plates were all just plain blues and whites from Spotlight.
Magenta and blue crepe paper tied through the backs of all chairs, was all that was needed to tie them in with the theme, simple, cheap and looked great!
Ombre door hanger
At 8 o'clock the night before the party, I was putting something in the pantry and found a bag of water balloons and suddenly had an idea for the front door.  Using a wire wreath form, (I bought these back from the states) I blew up tiny water bombs in the correct colours and using ribbons tied them onto the wire circle.  The result was this ombre-esk door hanger...very easy but also very effective, the kids loved it!
Simple...stickers bought online stuck to plain air-filled balloons attached to our front fence to show where the party was at.
We used a poster to cover an ice bucket for the drinks
Homemade stickers on cups

I printed out these cute as 'Keep Calm and Let It Go' graphics onto my dollar store labels, and stuck them to clear plastics cups.  I found the artwork here and I have since found Cory's Facebook page which is just adorable. All of Cory's paper dolls are free to download and print, those with creative kids will want to stock up on heavy weight paper and printer have been warned!
Sasha wanted a simple aqua ombre cake, I was so glad because they are so easy to make!

 I printed a picture and wording onto brown paper lunch sacks and filled them with a few goodies for the party bags.


Oooh shiny...
I used heaps of snowflake cut outs (cutters from Lincraft) and glitter - E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E!! (there was only one person not entirely impressed with this shiny addition...sorry Col).
Paper snowflakes
These were adorable, everyone knows how to make paper snowflakes but these little beauties are Olaf paper snowflakes, how very cool are they??! I used normal weight paper and used spray adhesive (so as not to bend any intricate parts) to cover them with, fun, fun!  Find them here

While we are on the subject of super cool snowflakes...check out the following two sites I stumbled across during my 'Frozen party ideas search' ....they will blow your mind!  Kit Cameo Art at OhMyDisney  and for any Star Wars fans, snowflakes by Antony Herrera
Can't beat a bit of candlelight.
I cut out stickers of the characters and attached them to more Nutino glasses and filled them with tea lights...these were super cute and we are still using them now, sad but true!
 Gorgeous Elsa and Anna double sided balloon
Finally I decorated the wall behind the food table with streamers and balloons.  I attached plain filled maroon, white and aqua balloons together with double sided tape to form an arch.  (Not the best solution as it fell apart quite quickly afterwards but luckily it stayed up for duration of the actual party) The huge Anna and Elsa balloon was bought online for about $12 and because I was hanging it from the ceiling I didn't need to fill it with helium, and it's still going strong now.  The numerals were ordered from eBay, these numbers are super expensive in stores, but these ones cost me $1 each with free delivery and again they are just air filled, so cheap and cheerful!

*Note - If purchasing online do make sure you are buying real Disney merchandise - all licensed Frozen items have the Disney Frozen logo on them.

All in all it was a great hit, the kids had fun.  They sang, they danced and they watched Frozen again (for the umpteenth time for most of them).  But that's the beauty of this film, it never really gets old.  We genuinely love the movie and all the songs that come with it.  Hey, we were smart - we bought them the soundtrack a week after they saw the movie, so they learnt ALL the songs, we weren't on a one-track-repeat of 'do you wanna build a snowman' in this house, no we never got bored of it.  

Most of all though Sasha absolutely loved her special day and that's what it was all about!