Thursday, 31 October 2013

Reno - Week 21

This week the two sliding doors that open onto the terrace were installed which finally sees us at lock-up stage. The awnings above the doors which provide protection against sun and rain are now being constructed:

While there is still plenty to do on the exterior, the main focus this week was getting the plasterboard up in readiness for painting:

We are using tearaway bead (i.e. no architraves) to finish around the windows and doors. The painters will be able to make a start on the interior by mid next week.

Although we are still eight weeks from Christmas, the effects of the silly season are already becoming apparent on-site. Those of you on Instagram would have seen the banter going on between client-builder-architect but for those who missed it, here's a little of what's been happening. Someone decided to turn the house into a place of worship:

Then an IG friend pointed out that our chimney has a face:

I hadn't actually noticed it before, and I'm not sure if this was a deliberate action by the bricklayers - but I suspect it wasn't.

And a little secret that I've been keeping has finally come out - we are painting the extension in black which has raised a few eyebrows from the neighbours:

I must say that I too was a little shocked when I first saw it. Only one coat has been applied so far and it's very streaky - it will definitely need 2 to 3 coats of paint to provide a good, even coverage. And for those of you who think that the Queensland heat may damage the boards underneath or believe that dark colours would make a house unbearably hot in Summer, well apparently this is not always the case. We are using a paint product from Resene which uses 'Cool Colour' technology. In a nutshell this paint reflects more heat than standard paint reducing stress and heat-related damage and minimises build-up of unwanted heat inside the building. We will be moving in during the height of Summer, so I'll provide further feedback then. Regardless of the benefits, it certainly does look striking and provides a nice contrast between the cottage and new works.

Blackbutt timber has been ordered to line the floors in the new part of the house and I'm hoping to catch up with the cabinet maker soon so that they can get cracking on the joinery for the kitchen, laundry and sitting room seating and bookshelves. Not long to go now...

Sunday, 27 October 2013



"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Oscar: Warm Milk
Charlie: Dressing up
Harry: Bedtime Stories
Jack: Electronic games

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Reno - Week 20

Well where did the last 20 weeks go? At the start of this renovation I thought that the expected six month build timeframe would take f.o.r.e.v.e.r  but surprisingly it has gone very quickly. We were actually hoping to move in by Christmas, but at this stage it seems highly unlikely - the predicted completion date is looking to be towards the end of January 2014.

This week the remainder of the brick wall and chimney were completed, and the terrace now looks like this:

The view from the scullery/kitchen
There are still some small jobs to complete around the terrace such as window awnings, floors, flashing, painting, etc but it's come together beautifully and I'm ever so pleased with the outcome. And check out how high this beast is:

Apparently there are some good city views from up there
The detailing is very nice and the top of the chimney can now be seen peeping over the cottage from the street. The brickwork is the first thing you see when you enter through the front door  - it's very special indeed.

This week it came time to repair the old front verandah which was quite scary to walk on:

We were hoping to simply replace the worst of the boards, but when they were pulled up we discovered that the joists underneath were completely rotted out:

So we made a unanimous decision to pull the whole lot down (joists, floorboards, posts, balustrades) and start again:

The floor feels so much solid and safer now and surprisingly it looks a lot bigger too. As lovely as the new boards look in their natural colour, the plan is to stain them in charcoal.

The painters have made a lot of progress on the external part of the house this week. As you can imagine they spent quite a bit of time prepping up the boards on the old cottage - they were in a bad state:

There were seven layers of paint to remove. After a tonne of paint stripper was applied we found that the house was originally painted white with many other colours in between:

So after a lot of sealing, bogging, sanding, priming and a couple of layers of Dulux 'Whisper White' we now have some 'as new' weatherboards:

The external stairs that sit between the scullery and the terrace were installed which now makes moving from one level of the house to the other a lot easier - no more on-site acrobatics required. 

The sliding doors can now be fitted and will provide direct access from the kitchen to the outside - something that was once quite common in older houses. I'm hoping to have a small kitchen garden growing nearby - I love being able to pick fresh herbs during meal preparation. I have been known to do some 'pruning' from plants that I've found growing near footpaths (a few leaves here and there surely won't be missed.)

Hoping to have the plasterboard up by the end of next week - which means that a meeting with the joinery company to go over the cabinetry details will take place soon. Kitchens and bathrooms will follow shortly and going by other people's experiences with them lately, that's when the stress will commence. Fingers crossed for a smooth ride to the finish.

I'll leave you with an image of the beautiful sunset we had this evening:

"Orange Toowong Skies"

Sunday, 20 October 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Is it me or is it them? So many little boys with different needs and different personalities - it's impossible to give you each 100% of me. I have been so tired and frustrated this week and it's the first time in nine years that I've longed for my single child-free life.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Reno - Week 19

I was flipping through the photos of the house renovation the other day - it's hard to believe we've gone from this:

to this:

in only a matter of weeks. Anyone following along on Instagram is probably sick and tired of my constant stream of photos of the fireplace and surrounds, but I'm just so chuffed with how it's turned out.

Sneak peek of the corbel. Hopefully all the scaffolding will come down soon so I can take some better photos.
Here's a run down of how it all came together. The fireplace and arch started off as four courses of bricks. The brickies then took a break while the concreter poured a suspended slab in situ:

The brickies returned after the slab had set to lay several more courses - then off they went again.

The formwork for the lintel above the fireplace was constructed but it was actually poured off-site. Some poor bugger had to carry it back and place it into position - I don't know how heck they lifted it as I imagine it would have weighed a tonne (which is probably why there is a chip out of one corner - I'd say it was dropped but it adds to the overall character.)

The cable is for a high-level light inside the arch which will help illuminate the terrace at night
The arch and decorative brickwork elements were completed so now the only thing missing is the towering chimney which will be finished next week.  Not entirely sure what we are going to use the arched area for - wood storage, a cozy nook to sit in, naughty corner.....

There were a number of other things that happened on-site this week as well. The painters made a start on stripping the old paint off the weatherboards:

Apparently there were seven layers of paint on the old girl and it looks like she was originally painted white - I guess this renovation ensures that the colour scheme is remaining authentic (to some degree anyway.)

The drying rack in the kitchen was constructed:

All it needs now are some decorative glass panels, integrated lighting and a lick of white paint to finish it off. You'll have to wait a few more weeks before you see the finished product. It's actually a really inexpensive but effective way of providing additional and much needed storage in the kitchen. The frame is simply constructed using pine mouldings which cost a couple of dollars a metre from your local hardware store.

We have a fixed window in the bathroom corridor that was originally specified to have a diffuser film attached to obscure the view to the unit block next door, but we made a last minute decision to use the same decorative glass that is being used in the drying rack instead:

I'm loving the pattern and texture of this glass
The front verandah, which was pulled down last week, is currently being reinstated and we're hoping to get the stairs between the scullery and the back terrace installed soon so that the remaining external doors can be fitted. Not quite at lock-up, but not far away.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

The kids in Jack's Grade 3 class have been doing a bit of dictionary work this week, and some of them have been looking up the meaning of a few 'interesting' words which are not on the curriculum. This week he discovered that a certain female body part actually starts with a 'V' rather than 'G'. No dear - it's not a 'Gi-na.'

Friday, 11 October 2013

Reno - Week 18

It's been another productive week on the renovation front -  each time I visit the site, there is generally a nice surprise waiting for me. This week the privacy screens that sit along the corridor next to the terrace were fitted. They are so well-made and look totally amazing:

The screens face East, so I imagine they will cast some lovely shadows along this section of corridor each morning. Eventually four bays of Aneeta sashless windows will sit inside the screens. The screens will allow us to keep the windows open 24/7, something that is particularly beneficial during the warmer months to help capture the cooling NE breezes - an item which was on our original brief to the architect. Our previous house was kitted out with bifold doors, and after a while it got very annoying having to close each and every one of them everytime I had to leave the house. 

Before we started the renovation, we knew there was a lot of wood rot on the front verandah (ie stairs, handrails, posts and some of the flooring) and replacement for such was allowed for in our quote from the builder. So the arduous task of removing it all took place this week.

The joists on the front verandah actually looked OK from underneath, however when the worst of the floorboards above were removed, we soon discovered that things weren't quite what we expected:

So all the joists will now have to be replaced and as most of the floorboards were rotten, we made an executive decision to replace the lot. Everything, however will be rebuilt exactly the way it was.

My favourite tradies (the bricklayers) returned to complete the walls underneath the addition and make a start on the fireplace and surrounds:

Seems crazy to even think of an open fire during the current heatwave we are having, but I'm sure we'll make good use of it. As soon as the concrete lintel which sits above the firebox is poured, the brickies will return to complete the rest of the job. The photo above was taken in the afternoon, so you can see that it's actually quite well shaded - it should be a pleasant place to sit even on a hot day.

This week I also got busy trying to decide on the only remaining thing to select for the entire project - a slab of marble for the benchtops. After a few false starts I finally decided upon this one:

It's a honed Calacatta Statuario marble and will feature in both the kitchen and laundry. This marble is generally white in colour but has these striking 'lightning bolts' of grey veins through it which makes it really interesting to look at. I liken it to clouds - the more you stare at them, the more shapes and objects you seem to find. I'm hoping the stone mason will let me have the offcuts, as I have a few creative ideas in store for them. So what's the protocol here? I figure that as you've paid for the slab you should get to keep the offcuts.

Next week the external doors will be fitted which will bring us to lock-up stage.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013." via Che and Fidel

Harry aged 5: "Charlie, I'm gonna get you - and I'll make it look like it was a bloody accident."

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Reno - Week 17

It has been a busy week over at the West End Cottage with a lot of development taking place. This week's progress has softened the blow to a few setbacks from last week which are now thankfully sorted out. On Monday the bricklayers returned to make a start on the fireplace and surrounding walls. The bricks (which are actually a blend of five different PGH bricks) were individually selected by our architect and designed to create a gorgeous textural backdrop with the overall colours fitting in perfectly with both the old cottage and new contemporary addition.

The fireplace and chimney will be built in stages as there are number of concrete elements in the design (ie lintels etc) which will require time to set. This part of the brickwork will take a bit of time to be fully completed but so far I've gotta say it looks absolutely amazing! The brickwork floors on the terrace and treads on the adjoining stairs will be done at a later date to ensure that they are not damaged during the remainder of construction.

The new timber windows were delivered and installed which has enabled the builder to make a start on the cladding so our house is now starting to look like, well, a house.

Windows Fitted

Cladding almost done
The windows designed for the kids' bedrooms are actually double full-height casement windows. What you see above are the window frames only which include a fixed balustrade to prevent falls. The actual casement windows (yet to be installed) are fitted with vertical timber blades that sit over the glazing. The blades provide screening from the sun but also force the views towards the vegetation down the side of the site. I was a little unsure about this window design at first but now they are in I really like them. I've got to give Allkind Joinery a plug for doing an absolutely wonderful job on the window and door joinery. Impeccable craftsmanship and service - well done.

An unexpected surprise occurred they other day when I arrived to conduct a late afternoon inspection. As I turned the corner and looked towards the end of hallway, I spotted a glimpse of the Brisbane River for the very first time since construction started:

OK, so the view is nothing spectacular but it is a glimpse of water which is a little reminder of how close we live near the River and surrounding parkland.

We are now only two weeks away before the plasterboard goes in at which point the cabinet maker will visit to complete a final check measure for the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. All the fixtures and fittings have already been chosen, however I still need to select a marble slab for the kitchen and laundry benchtops which I plan to do after the school holidays.