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.
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.
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.
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:
So our floor did look like this:
It now looks like this:
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:
On the plus side, the furniture being out of the way makes it easier to paint!
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.
Two not so great things have happened – first we noticed that our upstairs floor had spots:
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.
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!
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!
We now have lights and floors and working toilets. Which is handy as our rental lease is up on 1st March, so we’re moving in this Saturday no matter what. The lights are great, mostly fan lights which aren’t very sexy but not bad and extremely practical. I’m picturing adding some lamps into the mix over time to give us nicer ambient light. The lights also mean we no longer have to leave the house as the sun sets so we’re all set for long nights spent painting, something I took advantage of yesterday. The light over the stairs was huge when we pulled it out of the box but shrunk and is tiny in the stairwell. We also have balustrades over the stairwell now, so no more risk of tripping and nearly falling into the hole (which I only did once…). Quite how we’re going to paint the walls yet I don’t know but we’ll think of something.
The downstairs floor has been laid. We used carbonised bamboo from Trojan Timbers for its eco credentials and price. It has a 30 year guarantee so it’ll be interesting to see how it fares under three cats.
I started organising the splashback last week, it’s been measured and ordered, now just waiting for a proof on how my photo looks on it.
We caved and paid for painters to do the highest parts of the house this week – the fascia and soffits under the roof, and the weatherboards on north-west and south-west sides. I never had a chance to meet them but I’m in awe with their work – apparently there were four of them every day, and in a week they’d completed everything. Everything, as we’ve now learnt, means cleaning then sanding all the boards, gap-filling under each board, putty over all the nail holes, and finally then painting. All the boards had at least the primer coat, most also had one coat of colour or were the original colour, but with a lot of that work around 4-8m off the ground, I don’t even know how long it would have taken us to do that.
The laundry is almost complete, it’s now just down to us painting the walls. I love how well it’s all come together. It’ll be even better once the
doggy doorlaundry chute goes in.
The old concrete slab is gone and I’m glad to see the back of it, even if we have replaced it with almost as much concrete. We’re going to put a very basic loose gravel driveway in place here, and pavers around the stairs. Will and I checked out pavers before he left, primarily by touching each pile of pavers that had been baking in hours of sunlight on a 35 degree day to test them for coolness. I hate not being able to walk around barefoot so although we love the look of a lot of the dark pavers they’re just not practical.
This weekend was the last chance to paint before we move in. Will was overseas this week for work, so I gratefully took my cousin and her husband’s offer to help. The bathroom ceiling really needed to be painted before we used the shower, and I’m absolutely terrible at rolling ceilings. Thankfully Cameron is much better at it, and Nicky helped me sand and prime the skirting boards before they get put on the walls downstairs. The next day I made an executive decision on skirting board colour without Will’s input, and painted all the skirting boards Triple Dutch White. I also cleaned the oven, because OMG an oven not cleaned then left unopened for six months is not pretty.
Brett and his team of floor polishers started on the upstairs floor today, where the old floorboards are, and the stairs. We arrived this morning to swirling sawdust where the floor polishers had sanded the wood back, and and remarkable change in colour. The floorboards in the centre of the kitchen were dark and slightly reddish, but being hoop pie they’ve sanded back to a creamy yellow. Most of the other floorboards are a mix of old and new cypress pine, and the front third of the house is “hard as nails” hardwood – this was the original verandah. As the verandah floorboards stand out so much I’m even happier we kept a nod to the original front of the house with the weatherboards on the side of the kitchen island.
Dale from A & D Custom Joinery was also onsite to fit our walk-in wardrobe and linen closet. All the shoe holes! All the drawers!
There are still a few things to be finished but bar painting, the interior should be pretty much complete by Saturday. Home time!
Today painting week ended. Unfortunately, painting has not ended. We still have walls and walls to paint. We’ve even got a quote from Brendon, a proper painter, to do the external work, and that still leaves weeks of painting to do. Once we’re moved in we should be able to do a bit more piecemeal painting (even piecemeal hole and gap filling would be an improvement).
In the last couple of days Peta’s aunt has come and joined us to help with the hole and gap filling, so we’ve made some more progress there – downstairs is much nearer to completion on that score. Today Peta finally broke out the teal paint that I bought at the weekend (Ian at Sandgate Paint Place said ‘it’s quite a strong colour’, and ‘you like strong colours’ among other references that made me worry what we’d got ourselves into) – and it’s looking good. It’ll need a third coat, but hopefully not more than that.
Our painting skills have improved a little after watching youtube, we’re not leaving so many visible stroke marks, and if I remember to maintain a wet edge, it helps me think about how I should be painting. It seems that three coats are a minimum, even on pre-primed surfaces, and some walls have now had four coats (including primer). I had a go at painting a satin white today, which was brave of me. The first coat is definitely not perfect, but it’s much better than it would have been just days ago.
I’ve finished most of the kitchen painting now, just in time for our new rangehood. The electricians have been working hard the last couple of days – we now have all internal lights fitted, and the kitchen electrics are in – rangehood, cooktop and oven. There is still some work to be done – sockets to be finished, outside electrics to be wired, but it’s a lot closer.
I developed some new VJ painting skills following our youtube lessons. I’ve found that using the corner painter in the groove twice – once before laying on, and once before laying off (see, I know the technical terms now too) helps get a more uniform coating in the groove. So now it’s corner painter, brush edges, lay on with roller, corner painter again, and lay off with roller.
We’ve also had the plumbers in to install the bath, toilets and vanities. Internal running water is a luxury, although water efficient taps are a little disconcerting – the water is so bubbly it looks like it’s milky – but we’ll get used to it.
It’s been incredibly helpful to be onsite while the Dave the plumber and John the electrician were doing their final fixes, lots of small questions easily answered that would have been more difficult remotely (like “how high do you want this pendant?” Um, that high?)
Mick built us a laundry based on Fred’s fibreboard sketch, it’s not finished yet but it’s amazing what our builders manage to achieve from such rudimentary design tools. We saved some kitchen top to reuse as the laundry and to me it feels like very effective reuse.
The roofers came today to fit the carport insulation and roof. It’s so much nicer there now with plenty of shade. Hopefully it’ll be a good place to work even in hot days.
And the front door leadlight is back! Steve the leadlight guy came and replaced the restored leadlight and it looks amazing. It was not a cheap option at all but I’m glad we went for it.
This weekend Peta took advantage of the scaffolding to give the gable a bit of a facelift. The arch window is the single remaining window from the old house (the window itself is rectangular and we haven’t had the time/money/energy to do anything better with it than leave it) and has some interesting decoration. But the colours were too yellow and too blue, so Peta spent a day washing and sanding weatherboards and the windowsill. Today Nigel brought around the pressure washer, and blasted the rest of the muck off, and Peta redecorated.
Yesterday Nigel and I tackled the downstairs rolling. All walls have now had two coats, but some walls don’t look too good in the wrong light, so we might need to give some walls another coat, depending on how likely it is anyone will see it. The internet tells us we’re rolling wrong, and I’ll have to watch a video or two to see if I can improve my technique.
Luckily the roller stroke marks don’t make much difference upstairs, as the VJ grooves break up the walls. So today I spent the day preparing the kitchen for its first coat of paint (removing excess putty, filling in gaps) and then painted the kitchen wall from bifold doors to kitchen cupboards, ignoring the bits that’ll be hidden by architraves or splashback.
I also painted 8 weatherboards that will go above the carport, so that will be one less coat needed later on.
Tomorrow we plan to focus on the upstairs, and see how much we can achieve in a day, but painting the VJ walls does take a long time – and Peta will have a go at the second coat on the gable.