Thursday, June 30, 2011

Excited About Stormwater

Look at what came in last week!

This big tank now sits against the westerly wall of our laundry and new family room, where it will insulate us to some extent from the sun. The colour is designed to match the new gutters. The white PVC sections will be painted to match.

At the far end of the big tank is an overflow pipe to our second, smaller tank, which is against the westerly wall of the kids' bedroom. The overflow from this tank will discharge to the gutter. This is called a "charge system", as it relies on the pressure of water behind pushing the water in front uphill to the road. Our Council does not want people to use pumps with stormwater, because pumps tend to fail during storms, which is when you really need them.

We've had a few light showers in the last couple of days and it's exciting to think that we can store a bit of our rainwater. Mind you, it isn't much: only about 5000 litres. Any heavy downpour should fill the tanks, based on the roof area.

The only disadvantage of this system is that (unexpectedly) the discharge pipe is visible through the window. This is a westerly window and therefore usually has the blinds drawn, but I will have to work out something so that it isn't quite as hideous. Maybe a Star Jasmine?

I was also excited to see the installation of our surface drainage for the driveway. Note that the garage doors have also been installed; you might see a common theme in the colour! Colorbond 'Manor Red': it's everywhere!

Isn't the drainage for the patio exciting? No?

Well, it gets awfully muddy here if you don't have proper drainage.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Flooring Decided

We have finally made all our decisions on flooring.

I wanted polished concrete in the family room for a number of reasons:
  • the slab is thermal mass for the house and covering it with another layer would insulate it from the sun
  • polished concrete requires no maintenance
  • it will link visually with the concrete patio just outside
My concrete will not be given a really high-gloss finish, lest the room feel like a shopping centre. I'll have a satin gloss. The concrete is coloured Honey Mustard and contains Nepean River Gravel, which includes white, yellow and red quartz. We've asked for the slab outside to be sprayed a similar colour.

Up the steps and into the kitchen and entrance we will have Marmoleum Real in 'Tan Pink':

As you can imagine, this is a related colour.

The study, bedrooms and hall will be given a woollen carpet: Channing in 'Tunic'. This wollen carpet is a textured cut-and-loop with tiny deep blue squares on a greyed caramel background. It looks good with all our paint chips, and the blue-grey element is picked up in the Marmoleum.

We're just having plain white tiles in the laundry/toilet, which will go well with the mint-green walls.

Of course, we'll have to move our boxes out for the carpet to go in. I'm not looking forward to that!

UPDATE: According to Green magazine's article in this month's edition, we have made good choices.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Soon I Will Have a Kitchen!

It's at least six weeks away, and it will be a while before we move back in, but still... Soon I will have a kitchen!

image courtesy Greener Kitchens

I love the fancy refrigerator that the computer program has given me! Mine is white and considerably more modest. (The splashback won't be those trendy tiles either.) Now, remember my old kitchen?

Just in case you've forgotten. See the spot where the builder's fridge and the four drawers are stacked up? That was my food preparation area, next to the stove. The equivalent area at the other end of the kitchen held the microwave, canisters and fruit platter.

It only occurred to me recently that when the kitchen (the room) was built, Aussies still had rationing, so the lack of room wouldn't have been so painful. I also believe that the original kitchen was considerably better planned than this, its replacement. It would only have had 45cm deep base cabinets, so there would have been a slightly longer (if shallower) run of bench.

The cabinet doors will be made of recycled timbers in reddish shades, with "character" -- that is, old nail holes and the like. And to think people artificially distress their furniture... The carcasses are going to be marine ply rather than the usual MDF-and-melamine. The standard new Australian kitchen these days costs $10,000 (without appliances) and is guaranteed for only 10 years. When the kitchen is removed, all the cabinetry goes to landfill. Now imagine my city, with its three million households, and the amount of landfill generated by three hundred thousand kitchens every year. What a waste! I am hoping my kitchen will last a fair bit longer. On top, we'll have Caesarstone 'Nougat'. Together, our counters and cabinets will look a bit like this picture.

Remember that I liked green tiles? We considered a green glass splashback, but it is an expensive proposition. Tiling is about a third of the price. I went back to the tile shop where we bought our bathroom tiles, and the lady there asked what other surfaces I was planning to use. As soon as I said "Caesarstone in 'Nougat'," she went straight to a white tile with a fine grey fleck, which will go with it beautifully. I had a look at plain white tiles, but they were too stark after that first 'perfect match'. But there is a green feature tile up my sleeve if we have room to use it.

The flooring will be Marmoleum. That's the trade name for linoleum, that lovely old-fashioned material made largely of natural materials like jute and cork and linseed oil. It's not as cold, hard or environmentally unfriendly as vinyl, nor does it outgas. It's antibacterial, biodegradeable, and lasts at least 30 years.

God willing, this kitchen and I will gently decay together!

Timber cabinetry: recycled mixed reds
Benchtop: Caesarstone 'Nougat'
Splashback: 600x300mm 'Inca' (white with fine grey fleck) ceramic tiles
Painted walls: Dulux 'Clotted Cream'
Floor: Marmoleum (shade to be determined)
Appliances: TBA. We will lean heavily on Choice.

I've joined the Modern Country Style link party to show what I'd love in my kitchen in the future. And it's nearly here! The kitchen man was measuring up last Monday!

Kitchen Favourites

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Paint Colours

A few hundred shades of off-white later...

Centre: Clotted Cream (living areas and above the picture rail in most rooms)

Clockwise from top: Cuddlepot (study); Diorite (bathroom and toilet); Mint Circle (laundry); Harbour Blue (boys' bedroom); Mallard Green (pergola); Spring Green (main bedroom); Sundaze (boys' playroom).

Ceiling and cornices in Ceiling White, as usual, and the architraves, picture rails and skirting boards will be in China White gloss. The woodwork was initially stained and varnished, and all the walls would have been painted cream, going by photos of similar houses on Picture Australia. The picture rails and skirting boards, however, are a bit narrow to be so dark. The previous owners painted them with the wall colour, but that looked odd. We're hoping white looks a bit less peculiar.

Outside, the windows, fascia and soffits will be painted in the original pale primrose colour, which for some reason was known as Ivory.

All colours from Dulux.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mostly Indoors

Our rest on the Queen's Birthday long weekend consisted of packing our remaining goods and chattels (mainly books and some toys) so that our former library could be made good and skim-rendered. We had major cracking in that room, but a lot was hidden behind the bookshelves. Here it is after being repaired.

We're getting a new ceiling, as you can see. When John got up to scrape it, his trowel went through the plasterboard. Three cracked tiles on the roof had been directing water on to it for years!

The renderers also came to do the family room walls. I am intrigued at how you can "see" the masonry as the render dries; I suppose the brick absorbs water at a different rate to the mortar.

I had a lovely chat with Jason the electrician, who advised me on a better placement of external lights, how many downlights I'd need, and so on. I'll have to do a separate whinge post on lighting. I was intrigued by the little panels he used to organise the wiring. The renderers plastered right over some of them, but that's no problem -- as they are steel, you just need a magnet to find them again.

We're also putting a skylight in the darkest part of our house: the linen press. It is so annoying to be unable to see whether you have grabbed a blue or a green tablecloth! And as the cupboard runs to the ceiling, there is no room for even an oyster light in front of it. Skylights have some disadvantages -- they allow convective heat transfer, for example -- so we chose a small tube-style light.

Because there was a batten running down the middle of the hall, Louie asked me which side of it I wanted the skylight on (naturally I said the side away from the cupboard, which would allow more light into it). The next day John just cut the batten, saying it would look far better if placed in the middle...

Lastly, here is a shot of my herb bed. It has been lined with a bituminous waterproofing membrane and I asked the brickies and tilers to chuck in any broken bits. Over this layer, I plan to have a layer of 10-20mm recycled concrete 'gravel', then planter box mix. I did wonder if I ought to have a layer of geotech fabric under the planter box mix to prevent the fines clogging the weep holes, but Stan, the gardener from work, assured me it wasn't necessary.

The lack of opportunity to work in the garden is getting to me. I found myself in a nursery today and restrained myself... if you don't count the three plants from the bargain table...

Monday, June 13, 2011

All About Bricks

Our house is built of bricks called Eastwood Reds.

The Eastwood Brickworks closed some years ago, after being in operation about 80 years. My Dad lives near it and I remember occasionally hearing blasting in the quarry when I was a child, then seeing the dust rising. But why is our 1946 house built of Eastwood Reds, Sydneysiders will ask, when the closest brickworks was in fact at Homebush? It turns out that the Homebush Brickworks was closed during the war. I imagine the manpower that was left was simply moved to a smaller number of brickworks -- after all, there was very little building going on.

There is, of course, a problem when you try to match bricks: the clays are always different colours in different places, and even at different times. And as you can see below, it's difficult to match bricks from pictures. These samples are from the Austral website, and are of their Hereford Bronze and Shorthorn Mix respectively. The actual bricks are significantly darker.

We initially selected Hereford Bronze, finding the Shorthorn too dark when we received the samples. Our original bricks are rather gingery in colour, with a darker range of shades used below the floor line. Then we hit a snag. After a couple of weeks of being told they were on back order, Austral confessed that the clays for the Hereford shades had run out. They had to break into the Shorthorn pallets to find lighter bricks to make up our order, so the result was rather darker than we had anticipated. As most of the bricks we see at the back are new, it doesn't really matter. I think they tone quite well with the old pinkish-grey commons to the right:

And even where one sees both old and new together, the new looks rather like our darker subfloor bricks:

But scroll up to the top again. They don't look like the photos from Austral, do they?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The New Roof

One of the unexpected and significant expenses of this extension is the complete replacement of our roof. When John and Robert demolished the kitchen, they discovered they were being rained on. Inspection revealed that the tiles were at the end of their lives, after 65 years. The builders tell me that the hot sun gets them in the end. I also wonder if wartime production restrictions might have produced lower-quality terracotta.

Last Monday, the tilers started work. They started tossing the old tiles off before breakfast...

...and were finished by the time we were ready to leave for school.

Then they had to remove the old battens for the sarking. Most older houses in Australia do not have sarking, but it improves insulation slightly (R=0.5) protects the house from leaks if a tile shifts, and improves the wind resistance of the roof. For those who aren't familiar with the term, it's another Scottish word that has made its way into Antipodean English. In Scotland, "sarking boards" sit on the rafters, and slates are fixed to them. In Australia and New Zealand, we put a moisture-resistant layer of fabric on the rafters, and hold it down with the tile battens. This is what it looks like from underneath:

Sarking and tiles are both visible below. The reason is a bit embarrassing. Apparently you don't ask Wunderlish for X amount of tiles: you tell them the area you need to cover and they send you the tiles. Except that they were short by two pallets, so the tilers had to wait a few days for delivery. I am sure they would have been finished in two or three days otherwise.

When I came home after shopping on Friday morning, the tilers weren't there. I wondered if they'd gone off for lunch, but no -- as I was unloading, the truck pulled up with another pallet of tiles! Either someone's measurements were out or Wunderlich's formula isn't that good! By the end of the day they were all finished and gone, and I was admiring the result:

Then the rain started, just in time to test the new roof!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

After Rain, the Surprise

On Thursday morning, as the clouds rolled away to the north, my husband told me there was something next door I needed to see. Now. So I climbed the ladder and looked over the fence.

All I could say was "Wooooooooow!" Robert was up on a ladder, putting the finishing touches to their work. He turned round with a huge grin -- hadn't realised I'd spoken so loudly!
During all the rain this last week, he and John had been cutting the treated timber pieces to size and shaping the ends, so they were able to put the whole pergola up on Wednesday. Suddenly, the whole area has become graceful.

I could look at this picture all day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Where do Builders Go When it Rains?

The start of this week saw some of Sydney's worst weather in a long time. When it stopped raining, it started pouring! People had to be rescued from their cars in several suburbs because of flash-flooding, and open ground turned to mud all over Sydney. I didn't expect our builders to turn up, as they plainly couldn't work on the roof in such poor conditions.

But they found a few other things to do. One I didn't realise would come so soon, but the bad weather made it a good time to cut timber under cover. More on that in another post.

It was a surprise to see they'd managed to put in our steps, as this area isn't covered. I suppose they did it between drenchings! They have also covered the beam over our old back wall with the bulkhead (the blue bit).

They also laid the footings for our two rainwater tanks. Hooray!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Starting on the roof

After the brickwork comes the roof framework. These trusses turned up late last week, and John and Robert put them up with great speed.

Our extension is really taking shape now!

I love the pattern of shadows here and looking up at the blue sky through the woodwork. You might notice a bulkhead framework in this photo.

Then there is more excitement as a truck with a forklift arrives...

... and unloads our new roof tiles, on a rainy Thursday morning!