Window hoods are done!

The windowhoods were never intentionally bare, but they got removed as a cost cutting
exercise from the plans, and weren’t reexamined during the build. Our builder even said
something along the lines of “If I’d known you wanted the trim, we could have made them from a kit” – that would have been far easier, but by that point, it was too late.


The window hoods before

So in the absence of trim, I had to make our own. I thought the week between Christmas and New Year would be a good time to finally get them done. I took some measurements, sketched out some mathematics, turned the mathematics into python code and plotted some graphs. Once I was happy with the look, I got python to spit out the results of a trivial bin packing algorithm to work out how many lengths of wood I needed to buy, and headed off to Bunnings.

At Bunnings, I realised the wood I was thinking of using (66x30mm) was far too bulky and heavy, and found a much lighter wood (42x11mm) which also had the benefit of being half the price for the same length. Because I’d need more lengths, I factored in what I thought I needed, bought 5 x 5.4m lengths, which I had cut to 1.8m by their cutting staff, and brought it all home.

Once I’d recalculated to the new lengths I found I’d need two more 5.4m boards, but started on the cutting. With my table saw I was able to cut all the pieces to length quickly, easily and relatively accurately. Each piece had two separate angles. The top angle was consistent across all pieces, so I cut them all when dividing the boards into lengths. The bottom angle varies as the windowhood progresses away from the wall, from near vertical to near horizontal. I’d calculated the vertical difference between the two sides for each piece, drew a line between the two points and then lined up the table saw at the correct angle. This worked for all but the most vertical cuts (the table saw goes from -50º to 50º, via the perpendicular) in both directions, so any angles larger than that I had to cut manually (I could have used a jigsaw but a hand saw was generally easier)

Once all those cuts were done, I was feeling pretty good about my mathematical and carpentry skills. I took some photos and showed them off, thinking I couldn’t be too far off done!


I primed the ends of the pieces, and started on the first coat of colour. It was only after I’d got about half way through the first coat that I decided to check the fit. At this point I discovered that I’d made a ridiculous assumption that the window hoods sloped at 45º. They do not. It’s closer to 41º.

Slightly later on, I also discovered another error in the interface between Mathematics and reality. All my work assumed that the windowhoods tapered to a perfect triangle. They do not. Even though I’d looked at them many times, and measured them several times, I’d still missed this detail. The vertical difference from the windowhood top and the bottom of the edge is 12cm, so the minimum length on the long side was 15cm, not 4cm. Each piece needed to be 12cm longer! This was going to need a total recut.

Also around this time, Peta mentioned that the pieces next to the wall should be at least as long as the windowhood supporting frames to which they attach. This was another constraint that I hadn’t considered at first. With all these extra changes, I tweaked the algorithm. This time I used the constraint that the arc had a radius of 1.5 times the width of the windowhood, passing through a point just below the bottom of the windowhood frame and a point at the end of the windowhood frame.

I calculated the new board lengths, and used the lengths of the existing pieces as inputs to the cutting process to try and minimise the amount of new wood required. I still needed two more 5.4m boards though.

After another trip to Bunnings, I finally finished the cutting process fairly quickly this time, and started the priming and painting again. It’s a slow process that took a couple of weekends, as each face really needed to dry before I could start on the next one. We also changed colour after the first coat from dark teal to light teal (we have both colours already in different parts of the outside) which drew out the process a little longer.

I also needed to build out the bottom of the windowhood frames – not so much for any structural benefit but so that the trim was better attached. Getting the cutting right wasn’t too bad, but it took a few attempts to get the screws attaching them to the existing windowhood frame right. Although the screws are designed not to need pre-drilling, I found that they went on their own path if I did that, and predrilling kept them on the desired path. Once they were cut I primed the ends and gave them a colour coat, and after they were attached I gave them the second and final colour coat.

At this point, it was time for attaching! I needed a whole day for this, as hiring a nail gun
by the day was the best value (including travel time, a 4 hour hire would have been very ambitious). The nail gun was pretty simple to use, but you do need to have pressed it pretty firmly for the nail gun to fire, and some of the angles were more difficult than others. After a while the kick can cause blisters too, but it was still all much easier (and caused fewer dents) than if I’d used a hammer.

After I’d finished attaching all the trim, I thought it looked pretty good. Peta said she thought the spacing was a bit wide, but that’s fairly subjective really. However, when I went up the street to take a look, all I could see was a white arrow shining through the darker trim, and it didn’t really look that great after all.

This weekend Peta and I puttied the nail holes and painted the final colour coat onto the trim. We also gave the gaps between the trim three coats, and this has definitely made the windowhoods look good in teal. We’re very happy with the end result. I’m sure we could have paid someone to do the job in a tenth of the time, but a lot of the design evolved through trial and error, and those errors will be useful lessons for future projects!




Mirror mirror on the wall

We’ve been surviving with two mirrors since the renovation – one in the bathroom, and one on Peta’s dresser, and a few weeks before Christmas we finally felt that it was time to go shopping for some more mirrors to make the house look a little more like a home. We wanted a mirror above the sink in each powder room and a full length mirror for the room with no name at the bottom of the stairs.

There are a few mirror shops in the Brisbane area, we took an afternoon to check out Mirror Gallery in Fortitude Valley and Reflect Mirrors in Windsor. We took some photos, got some inspiration and went home to mull it over. While both shops can make some mirrors to custom sizes, we liked the custom frames in Mirror Gallery better, and decided to get two wooden framed mirrors made, one for a powder room and the big mirror. I placed the order by email, and then a few weeks later, they were made. Work finished early on the Thursday before Christmas, so I drove over to pick up the results. However, it turns out that no matter how hard you try, you can’t fit an 1800x800mm mirror in the passenger area of our car (and our rear seats don’t fold down). In the end I had to leave that mirror there and pick it up later. On the way home, after I stopped listening to TomTom trying to persuade me that the shop was inside the Airport Link freeway tunnel, I returned to Reflect Mirrors to pick up the planned third mirror. Which they’d sold some time ago. However, after some frantic messaging of photos to Peta, with a bit of a tight deadline (the owner told me she was shutting up for Christmas at 4pm, customers or not, and this was at 3:30pm) I found a tulip shaped mirror. While saying goodbye, the owner said something reassuring along the lines of “It’s nearly as good as the one you wanted”, to which I responded “I think we’ve got a better result”.

This weekend I finally felt like hiring a car to pick up the big mirror and got it home with far fewer dramas. Which meant I now had two mirrors sitting around waiting to be hung.

I’d hung the tulip mirror weeks ago with two screws straight into the wall – but that works better when hanging a lighter mirror into more robust wall material (MDF) than plasterboard.

Upstairs powder room mirror

Upstairs powder room mirror – tulip frame, hanging from chipboard screws drilled into MDF

While picking up the big mirror, I asked about how best to hang it, and Jess told me about J bars from Bunnings, which are basically the modern equivalent of a French cleat, which can just be screwed into the studs – but first I had to find them. And it turns out that my stud finder which works perfectly well upstairs doesn’t find studs behind plasterboard! So I came up with an acoustic solution – knocking the wall will reverberate less as you get closer to the studs and reverberate more further from the studs – so just listen for less echo and higher pitch. It took me a few goes before I felt confident, and I did put in some small test drill holes to double check, but I did find the studs just fine.

With some new metal drill bits, I drilled holes to attach the J Bar to the mirrors, and then different size holes in different sections of J Bar to attach to the wall. I tested on the downstairs powder room first, as trying things with a small mirror is a lot easier! It took a while to work out where the holes in the wall should go, but the bar went in well, and then the mirror was hung with few problems.

Downstairs powder room mirror - blackbutt frame

Downstairs powder room mirror – blackbutt frame. Hanging from J Bar attached to the back of the mirror and to studs in the wall

In the end the bigger mirror was just as easy, because I’d learned most of the lessons on the smaller mirror (I was a little nervous putting it into place just because it’s so much heavier, but it held)

Downstairs stairwell room - wooden ridged frame hung from J Bar attached into the studs

Downstairs stairwell room – wooden ridged frame hung from J Bar attached into the studs

Will after a hard day's DIY

Will after a hard day’s DIY

The Door: A Picture Story

Will and I first saw the door in March 2014. We can now say with certainty – if you’d like a stained glss door, just buy a new one, it’ll be far easier and far cheaper than buying an old painted one. However, although neither of us are keen to repeat the experience anytime soon, I’m still really glad we got this door. It makes me smile…. ah, all those memories we made in the midst of the fumes from melting lead paint….

Anyway, here is a photo story of the transformation of The Door.

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All the painting, all the painting, all of it

Since our last blog post, over a year ago, we have been making progress. It’s the kind of slow boring progress (because we don’t do it every weekend, we have holidays, and lives, and lazy weekends – but we haven’t stopped!) that it’s barely been worth writing a blog post for individually, but collectively, adds up to an awful lot.

Dad came to visit in October – together we finished the external walls, the carport, the deck and the shed (and still fit in a week’s holiday in the Blue Mountains). He also helped me on my way to restoring some chairs back from a very bad state.

Our goal towards the tail end of last year was hosting Christmas for the family – so finishing the deck, the chairs, the outdoor table and the walls really helped with that. Peta also finished oiling all the deck railings.


We hired a painter to paint the balustrading and are so glad we did – he also managed to get all the other high stuff finished at the same time. I finished the under house trim, and Nigel started the fence and I finished it.

I’ve finally painted under the stairs – the original paint job got a little messed up when the stairs were installed, but it never looked so terrible that it was a major priority, but it was one of the main outstanding remaining paint tasks (along with the wall above the stairs, which will require even more care and attention!), so that one’s ticked off.

Still to do: recoat to the first floor above the stairs, three internal doors downstairs, two upstairs. Finish the back door. Skirting in the main bedroom. The laundry. And then the frill to build below the deck, window hood sides, the landscaping. Followed at some point by phase two – spare bedroom built in wardrobes, our ensuite.



DIY for cats

With all the disruption in the last few months, combined with a new cat, the cats haven’t always been at peace. To try and resolve some of the conflicts, we engaged a cat psychologist, who recommended getting more vertical space for the cats to hang out without feeling threatened.

We now have four new cat trees, and I built three cat windowsills using wood, brackets and old bath mats. I used my router to shape the shelves, and painted them, and they blend in fairly well. There are a couple of floating shelves as stepping stones between high spots, and we plan to install another couple of floating shelves to make it easier to get between some of the high spots.

The deck gate is coming along nicely now – it’s had its first coat of paint, and may well be installed before it gets another – the gate will allow the cats to get on the deck without escaping any further, as long as they don’t jump the 5m from the deck balustrade top rail.

Cookie enjoying the deck

Cookie enjoying the deck

Painters gonna paint, paint, paint, paint, paint

In the two months since we last updated the blog with photos of cats, we’ve been making solid progress on the house (not to say we couldn’t have done more, but we could have achieved a lot less!)

Inside, upstairs we’re almost finished. First room to be deemed done was the office, with two purple walls. We finished every wall in the main area a few weeks back (the stairwell involved some elaborate ladderwork, but all achievable on our very versatile ladder), but we had to finish the trim before we could move the furniture back in from the deck. We bought a second ladder (the first is still on loan from Peta’s father) and a plank, so that we could easily paint large sections of ceiling trim in one go (and three different colours). We finally finished that three weeks ago, and moved our focus to the kitchen for the last couple of weekends. We took took a piece of old interior VJ board to our friends as The Paint Place, and they perfectly matched the blue of the one remaining original interior VJ wall. The blue isn’t the original colour – under it we can see orange and green and a darker bluey-teal – but it’s the last colour used before the boards were hidden under gyprock and we like it, so we used it for the column trim around the kitchen island. The ceiling trim was finished last weekend, and the column trim was completed this weekend.

The columns on either side of the kitchen island encase supporting posts for the roof. On the kitchen side, they’re what’s left of the original interior VJ walls. Fred built the other three sides from VJ panelling taken from demolished interior walls from different rooms. This left quite a “rustic” mix of colours and finishes, which we’ve decided to leave to tell the story of the house as changed over the last 100+ years.

Looking at 3M’s share price, we’re probably majorly responsible for their recovery since January, due to the miles of blue painters tape that we’re applying everywhere. It’s not a panacea (and apparently we really shouldn’t have used it on the windows with their low-E coating, oops) and sometimes it’s easier just to be careful painting, but neither of us are skillful enough with a brush to avoid mistakes (which is clear when we don’t use tape). The standard blue tape is great, the edge lock is awesome for very close straight lines, and the exterior tape is absolutely rubbish and fell off after a day (I took it back).

All finished! Along with one powder room. Both toilets now have a fetching burnt orange feature wall (or two, in the case of upstairs). They’re both pretty much done apart from some final touch ups (and all architraves downstairs), and we’re still hunting for the perfect 500mm mirror.

This weekend I finally started doing some outside work. It’s not that there’s nothing inside left to do, but outside really needs better protection and the weather won’t stay this cool for long. It’ll be a few weeks of work to paint the weatherboards from scratch upstairs, and then prep and finish the final coat downstairs. We also need to oil or paint various bits of the balustrades, and the support posts, and finally coat the deck. All stuff that we’d have liked to have happened months ago but who knew painting would take this long!

Today I emptied some packing boxes and finally re-found the original cornicing from the old ceiling. Unfortunately that all got removed and replaced with some boring pine trim, so we’re hoping that we can get some new cornicing made in the old pattern. It’ll be a bit more of a chore, but just like three ceiling trim colours, it’ll hopefully be worth it.

Still left to do: all downstairs doorways, doors, and window architraves; two feature walls in the spare rooms; the stairwell architrave; a little of the kitchen ceiling trim; a little of the kitchen skirting behind the fridge; staircase oiling; stairwell room needs another coat; spare rooms unpacking; all three external doors need finishing.

DIY cats

I’m not really sure how builders cope, going to work each day without a cat or two helping by generally getting underfoot or trying to escape outside at any opportunity. Thankfully, I’m not a builder, so I can do my home improvements in the company of Elska, Taala and Cookie.

Elska has always been our DIY cat, and she’s clearly sticking to task. We had a bit of a near miss with her a couple of weeks ago when she managed to eat some paint (she got some on her coat then cleaned herself, not really sure how, she must have brushed against some wet paint). Luckily we’re using quite eco-friendly paint and while it didn’t do her any good, it doesn’t seem to have done any long term harm (we were a bit worried we might have to take a trip to the emergency vet but she threw it up and was back to normal within an hour).

I thought I had some of Cookie (he’s not so keen on ladders but he’s definitely shed his contribution on the dropcloths) – rest assured he’s pretty happy too, as long as the dreaded vacuum cleaner doesn’t come out (I thought Taala and Elska hated vacuums, but they only disappear at the sound, Cookie disappears at the sight!).

And in a quick update to our previous post, our floor finally has a non-spotty satin finish:

The Shining

So our floor did look like this:


It now looks like this:

2016-03-19 11.08.10

The difference is a satin finish that was spotty, and a semi-gloss that’s not spotty but is extra glossy as it’s sitting on top of three coats of satin.

Dave the floorer recommended changing the finish as he doesn’t know what caused the spots and is wary of it happening again. Will and I thought a semi-gloss might be a reasonable compromise but to be honest when we came home and saw the floor with the new coat, we were both gutted. It’s too much. As Will commented, it looks like it’s wet. In places it looks fantastic, particularly on the new ironbark Fred used to repair the dark hardwood part, but overall these super-shiny floors don’t look like our home. I also feel quite disconnected from the wood below on these, like I’m walking on plastic, whereas the satin felt more in touch with its base. On top of all that, the internet tells me that glossy floors show up dust and scratches much more and wear worse, especially in high traffic areas, than a satin finish. Three cats and a desire to treat our house like a home, not a showroom, do not bode well for this glossy floor.

Fred spoke to Dave again, and thankfully Dave is happy to come out on Monday and try another coat of satin, of a different brand this time. He warns that he can’t guarantee that it won’t go spotty again, but Will and I are thinking spots visible close-up are preferable to super-shininess visible from space.

Meanwhile, our deck looks like this:

2016-03-19 11.12.41

Please don’t steal our fridge!

On the plus side, the furniture being out of the way makes it easier to paint!


Two Weeks In

We’ve been in the house two weeks and it’s excellent. And daunting – our new rule is that we can’t set anything up until the walls around said thing are painted. So no TV, stereo, desktop computer, books on bookshelves etc until we’ve done some serious achieving. There’s also a lot of external painting that needs doing.

Some rooms are completely full of stuff just plonked down when we moved, and some rooms are much closer to being in their final state. We have plenty of room for rejigging as we adjust around the painting, which makes a nice change from just about everywhere else we’ve ever lived.

I’m enjoying discovering how I’m moving about the space, particularly upstairs where it’s almost all one large room, and if fixtures such as light switches feel like they’re in the right place. Most are, although we realised we missed a two-way switch in the kitchen, something that’s far too difficult to get in place now.

The bathroom is simultaneously one of my favourite and one of the most awkward spaces in the house. In hindsight consulting a bathroom designer would not have been a bad idea! The bathroom was primarily a space for my bath, but we also wanted a shower for guests and for us to use until we build the en-suite. So we whacked a shower over the bath as that’s what we’ve both lived with in many rental houses over the years. The bath I chose  isn’t designed for that though (not that I knew that at the time) and so without copious amounts of shower curtains and towels every time you shower, water gets everywhere. And the windows weren’t chosen to cope with getting wet (oops). Next time (ha!) I’d move the bath taps to the centre of the bath, expand the room so there’s space for a separate shower (the spare bedroom next to it would cope fine with losing that space), and generally just re-arrange everything so that you don’t have to stand in the bath to close the windows. Also my awesome vanity drawers are much shallower than I thought, so they’re awkward too.

Still, lying in the bath is lovely, and I actually like being surrounded by bright white shower curtains rather than glass walls. And I’m still in love with the tiles.

The front fence was replaced – what little was left of it – and we realised we had no house number or letterbox. Some pre-cut MDF numbers, paint, and liquid nails later and we had a number (for now), then we took advantage of a Bunnings voucher Will had been rewarded with by his work to buy a letterbox. Inspired by my mum’s awesome cleaning gear she used when we cleaned our rental place, we also treated ourselves to a new mop and stick cleaner (woo-hoo!). The mop helps clean up all the dusty footprints and the stick cleaner is a bit easier for a quick run around to pick up the fur from three cats that forms hairy tumbleweeds much faster than we’d like.

All three cats have now escaped briefly. Cookie was first, we think he widened then squeezed between two blades of a louvre window (soon all the louvres will have fly screens which will prevent such antics). Elska has snuck between my legs a couple of times while I’ve been entering or leaving the house, one time managing to get as far as the front gate. Taala found the flaw in our bifold door flyscreen – it’s not connected at the bottom or top, so she just squeezed beneath it. We plan on adding a screen gate to the deck so that the cats can at least join us on the deck. We’re pretty sure that at least 2 of our 3 cats won’t jump off the deck to freedom.

Sometimes it feels like the house should come with an instruction manual. We’ve sussed out all the switches now, but only learnt last week that the power point and light switch covers can simply be clicked on – we have a box full and was wondering when the electrician would be back to finish! We’ve also found odd things that we simply hadn’t thought to test – like that one fan’s dial goes med – low – high, and the USB connector in one socket is upside-down (like USBs are annoying enough to plug in right at the best of times!). We’ve also found unexpected awesome things, like the way the lounge windows frame a glorious sunset, or the way the fan at the bottom of the stairs keeps air moving through all the adjacent rooms.

Now that the splashback is in, the house is ready to be certified. Fred and Luke were onsite one last time last week to finish off various bits and pieces, which included getting the paving completed and digging up the old ugly tile path. The certifier came around on Wednesday and was pretty happy with everything. We haven’t had the report back yet but as far as we know there’s one minor point for Fred to address and then we should be done.

Luke the builder also gave us this awesome  video – he has a drone and a go-pro, and captured some great before and after fly-bys, as well as timelapses of raising the house, then raising the roof (the original had a rocking soundtrack but the copyright gods say no).

We’ve cooked on our induction cooktop and it’s seriously great, although what’s less great is that the set of saucepans that were given to Will by his parents 13 years ago, and have been in use almost daily since, don’t work. We’ve been investigating replacements and making do with our tinny camping saucepans in the meantime.

Will christening the stovetop with our cheapest most beaten up pans!

Will christening the cooktop with our cheapest most beaten up pans!

Two not so great things have happened – first we noticed that our upstairs floor had spots:


The spots are most visible under bright light. Elska is not a fan

The floorer came by and said he’d never seen anything like it in 30 years. Not really reassuring to be honest, but he is going to put another coat on the floor to rectify it. This means moving all our upstairs furniture out for a day. Giant chore, but we’re hoping to get that out of the way this week.

The second issue is that our bathroom basin cracked around the drain. This happened on Friday night so on tomorrow’s list of chores is contacting the supplier.


Actually looks pretty in the right light!

While I’m still unpacking kitchen and my clothes, Will’s started the gap-filling, hole-puttying, sanding, cleaning, painting process in the office and the lounge. While the exterior is really the priority, we can work our way through the interior on weekday evenings. We also put blinds up in our bedroom, as one night of bright light and no privacy was enough!


Finishing Touches

We moved in this weekend (yay!), so most of the house is now hidden under boxes (boo). However we had one day to enjoy the newly-polished upstairs floor.



We also have a new front fence! Which also translates to more painting, and emergency number finding as we forgot to tell the fence people that we wanted to keep the letterbox. We still need to find a newer letterbox.


And today, and I was very excited about this – the splashback arrived. Just a subtle little thing…



The photo is from a personal photography project I was doing a while back, to capture Shorncliffe Pier, before it was demolished. It was
a local landmark since the 1880s (and will be again as it’s being rebuilt), UK people may even know it from an ad for Homebase in 2011.
We’re very much looking forward to enjoying all the hard work, but there’s many boxes to unpack and walls to paint before then!