Sunday, 24 November 2013



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

As our renovation is now almost complete we have been thinking about what to plant in our garden, which currently resembles a patch of bare earth with the odd weed or two growing along the boundary fence. A trip to the nearby Botanic Gardens (on one very overcast day) seemed like the obvious starting point to view a wonderful range of mature trees, shrubs and other flowering plants that are best suited to our beautiful subtropical climate. We came home with lots of ideas which enabled me to draw up a quick landscape plan which has already been quoted and booked in to be completed in four weeks. 

We had a great day out with the boys who especially enjoyed finding the treasures along the Hide 'n Seek Children's Trail that is set in the exotic rainforest.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Reno - Week 24

I must apologise if I have been somewhat absent over the last couple of weeks - I had a child in hospital due to asthma (again) and the next day, same child, a fractured wrist. Mater Hospital - thank goodness you are close by.

We also celebrated another birthday this month - Charlie's 4th which was a very low-key affair this year. I made a batch of mini blueberry friands which he took to Kindy to share with the class. And as usual I made the birthday cake - a 3-tiered sponge cake filled with vanilla cream custard, fresh strawberries and finished off with a light dusting of icing sugar and more strawberries.

To top off an action filled week, the Wi-Fi connection on my iPhone decided to stop working which I only became aware of after I was charged for excess data usage.  A quick trip to the Apple store, as the phone was still under warranty, resulted in a replacement handset  - which five minutes later I discovered was also faulty - back to the Apple store for another replacement handset. Mmmm...Apple you had better lift your game.

So during the time spent caring for a sick child, making full use of the oven, hours spent negotiating with Apple and Telstra, and the usual daily business of managing a household of six, the renovation was still progressing somewhere in the background.

Lots of little unfinished jobs (e.g. skirting boards, flashing, repairing floorboards and vj's etc) were taken care of this week, but importantly the joinery installation commenced this week - starting with the built-in robes in the bedrooms and also the kitchen/scullery cabinets:

A free-standing oven will go into the gap. The undermount rangehood and cover (which goes all the way to the ceiling) will be fitted next along with timber shelves that sit on either side. The cabinets will be topped with stainless steel benchtops and white glazed horizontal butcher tiles, subway tiles or whatever you like to call them will fill the walls to the base of the high level windows.

Food storage people!
Our terrace is almost complete - just another course of bricks on the curved wall (the brick floor/stairs will be done towards the end of the build.)

You can see from the photo above we can look straight across into our neighbours yard from our terrace, so to provide some privacy and shade a specimen tree will be planted in front of the semi-circle wall. After a bit of thinking I decided to go ahead with my initial choice and plant a Frangipani. As it will be planted relatively close to the house, it was important to plant a tree with a non-invasive root system that would not damage the footings or drainage. So the other day we took a drive to the Sunshine Coast Frangipani Farm and after a quick walk around the site we selected this advanced tree that stands at 3.5m high:

When it's planted into position, we will look straight into it's canopy - that is when the leaves grow back. Before being transported, most of the foliage is removed to limit the danger of transplant shock. Apparently the leaves grow back in one to two months, as Summer is the peak growing season.

This particular variety is called "Lei Rainbow" a tri-colour and it has the most gorgeous scented flowers:

And also during the week I managed to find some time to knock out a preliminary landscape plan:

The site at the moment is just a patch of dirt so we have hired a contractor to do the majority of the work (e.g. lay turf, install garden edging, plant the trees, shrubs and mulch.) We will fill in the gaps after we move in. We particularly wanted the grass to be somewhat established before moving as the thought of the kids trampling soil and mud through the house makes me feel nauseous.

I've also selected this shade tree for the backyard - it's a Peltophorum or "Yellow Poinciana" to replace the tree that was removed prior to the renovation. As you can see it's another advanced tree that will give us some instant and much needed shade during Summer.

The yellow ribbon tied around the branch indicates it's sold
My plan above happens to include a spot for a fort, and I have something special in mind for that too. But before I proceed are they worth the expense? Do you have a fort and do the kids actually use it?

Sunday, 17 November 2013


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

All: As hard as I try, there are some days when I just can't get a good group shot.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Reno - Week 23

This week the remaining timber floors were installed in the extension. For the corridors we chose a narrower board, partly because they sit in the newer contemporary section of the house but also to differentiate the passageway from the rooms.

60mm wide Blackbutt floorboards in the corridors

Where the corridor turns a corner we decided to join the boards together in a herringbone pattern:

We could have joined the boards on a 45 degree angle or even used a butt joint, but as the two corridors are different widths we decided that this was the neatest way of joining the boards at this intersection. The boards have been secret nailed giving them a clean, modern finish however the wider 130mm boards in the scullery, living room and kids' bedrooms required top fixing to reduce the chance of them cupping. I wasn't particularly keen to have visible nail holes but I wanted the wider boards so they would reference back to the wide hoop pine floors in the cottage.

The skirting boards and a few other small jobs can now be done prior to painting the interior which is all being painted in Dulux 'whisper white'. All the joinery is being fabricated as we speak so we should have the kitchen, laundry and other cabinetry installed very soon - I'm feeling rather anxious - so much can go horribly wrong at this point.

So while the floors were getting done inside, the builder got to work reinstating the handrail and balustrade on the front verandah which was pulled down due to wood rot. First the handrails and bottom plate (made from Kwila) were fixed into position:

Then the cross-brace balustrade was fitted - I am so happy we kept it authentic. This type of handrail and balustrade is actually non-compliant according to the building code as technically someone could fall between the 'balusters'. Our renovation allowed us to replace any damaged or decayed timber to match the existing. Current BCA balustrade requirements are that the top rail be at least 1 metre from the floor (ours are less than this) and that a balustrade cannot have any openings greater than 125mm to prevent people from falling through them. Considering most people furnish their decks and balconies, there is nothing to stop a child from climbing onto a chair and having a fall. I guess the best advice is to supervise youngsters while they are on the verandah.

Cross-brace balustrade
 The old asbestos ceiling on the verandah has been replaced:

And when the old roof sheeting was removed, it provided an opportunity to insulate the verandah ceiling cavity which should keep heat penetration from the roof down to a minimum.

I'm hoping that painting will recommence next week - we still only have one coat of 'black' on the exterior weatherboards which don't look so great :

But I'm sure after another coat or two, they will look stunning.

The bricklayers are due to complete the rest of the terrace, brick stairs and garden walls next week - somehow they ran out of bricks last week (actually two of the five in the blend), but hopefully the rain has stopped for now and they can continue full steam ahead.

I'm still deciding on what tree to plant in this spot:

As we plan to use our courtyard often, particularly when we're entertaining, several lighting options have been incorporated into the design. The area next to this masonry semi-circle is the perfect spot for a specimen tree and to add a bit of night time drama to the space we are going to illuminate a tree's foliage from underneath using a ground-mounted fixture. I've just recently selected another LED spot light (and fortuitously it was cheaper than the original one in the specs) that will do the job perfectly.

At the beginning of the renovation we were hopeful that we would be in by Christmas, but it's unlikely that the house will be 100% completed by then. There is however the option of moving in and having the remaining jobs finalised after the holidays - we're still tossing up that idea. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Timber Floors and Expansion Joints

The other day I met with the contractor who came to lay our new timber floors. During our discussions he advised me that he was also going to be installing cork expansion joints as part of the service.


Well apparently it's a must have, so for anyone who is thinking about installing solid timber flooring in their home, here's the lowdown:

Timber is a natural product that responds to changes in weather conditions. Seasonal humidity and temperature changes in the air cause boards to shrink and swell at different times throughout the year therefore small gaps in the timber can occur, particularly through the drier months. Floorboards only expand and contract across the grain - not along their length and wider boards will result in larger gaps than narrower boards.

These are our existing 150mm hoop pine floorboards which, I might add, have been down for approximately 90 years
So to prevent flooring from cupping or buckling an allowance for expansion in floors is required. The BCA calls for a minimum of 10mm expansion gap, plus an intermediate gap for any floor widths over 6 metres. However where board ends abut doorways, the gap may be reduced to a neat fit with a small gap of 1mm to prevent rubbing.

Gaps at the sides of a room are usually covered by skirting boards and do not need to be filled, however intermediate gaps need to be filled with compressible material such as cork or covered with a decorative brass strip. Our flooring contractor recommended cork as it blends in well with timber, particularly with Blackbutt which is the species we chose.

(sorry in advance for the poor quality of the following photos)

Scullery door threshold

Bedroom door threshold
The cork expansion joint is installed 2mm proud of the floor surface but is removed during the sanding process. Once the floors have been sanded and the floor finish applied, it should blend in with the rest of the flooring.

The use of expansion joints is highly recommended for Brisbane (and obviously other tropical or sub-tropical parts of the country) because they allow for some expansion in the timber during periods of high humidity. Expansion joints are also a useful safeguard in the event of accidental flooding.

I'll post some photos of the floors after they have been sanded and polished - let me know what you think.


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

All: Today I had a first. Although we probably won't be moving into our new house for another eight weeks, we have already started sorting through our possessions - most of which will be sold off or donated. The first thing to go was our sofa and we are now left with virtually an empty room. Today was the first day in two years where I haven't had to yell out 'stop jumping on the lounge!' 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Reno - Week 22

The plasterers have been at it all week long and because of the enormous amount of dust, I haven't had an opportunity to get any good photos of the progress inside. The Gyprock has certainly made a difference - and it was looking very dark inside - however I imagine that first coat of paint will brighten up the interior.

These stairs link the scullery to the terrace
The awning that wraps around two sides of the terrace is almost complete - some flashing/capping is all that is needed and we are ready to finish off the external painting. The awning which is 900mm wide not only protects the doors and windows from the elements but will enable us to leave the doors open during the rain (when we eventually get some) and also provide some much needed shade over the terrace from the midday sun.

This week the majority of the Blackbutt timber floors were laid. We selected 130mm wide flooring which will tie in with the existing floorboards, however we are using 60mm boards in the corridors.

Floorboards ready to sand. We are finishing the floors with Whittlewax Hard Wax Oil.

Living Room - Don't freak out but this used to be the old bathroom. The sash window was relocated to this room from the old lounge room.

Kid's Bedroom
The narrow boards have not been laid yet as there was a hiccup with the delivery, so these should be installed some time next week. So once the skirting boards have been fitted, we are ready to start painting.

Did you know that all new timber floors require cork expansion joints to prevent the floorboards from expanding and popping up? When I found out about this the other day I freaked out and thought our new floors would look hideous. Luckily the cork is the same colour as the timber so it's not all that obvious. Did anyone of you guys who have recently had new floors laid experience the same thing? Happy with the end result?

A pair of custom-built metal window hoods that sit over the boys' bedroom windows were fitted this week. Here is a profile:

New metal window hoods
They have been fabricated incorrectly - they were supposed to be a little more slender than this,  giving them more of a contemporary appearance. When they were delivered they looked a bit 'boxy', but now that they are up they don't look too bad. I made a call to keep them rather than send them back to be re-made. Anyone who has ever renovated or built a new house will tell you that there are always stuff-ups during construction - it's just part of the game. Some things you can wear - while others you can't.

Everyone on IG has already seen this shot of our back door with arch surround which has come up a treat, however it's not functional yet as there are no stairs. The bricklayers return next week to construct the masonry stairs at the back door and also complete the garden walls.

I can't go anywhere without my little chimney man following me!

Staring at me through the kitchen window
We had quite a lengthy meeting with the cabinet maker the other day (4 hours!) which goes to show the level of detail in the joinery. We've made a few minor changes to the design including changing the shroud around the range hood from stainless steel to painted MDF. I'm hoping that in about four weeks time we should have our new kitchen and laundry installed. Fingers crossed they get it right.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


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

Oscar: This weekend was all about you and me. You turned two years old, but instead of having a traditional birthday party and a house filled with family and friends, daddy took your three older brothers away for the entire weekend leaving us to spend some time together - just you and me - for the first time since you were born. I've often felt guilty that I haven't spent enough quality time with you - it's so hard to when your three older siblings constantly compete for my attention, not to mention the hours I spend getting through the endless household chores that need to be done each day.

So today, your second birthday, started off with a sleep-in for both of us, instead of the usual - being woken up at some ungodly hour by the other boys. You snuck into my bed and we cuddled for a while - just the two of us. Then you opened up a simple gift of books and we read them together before heading off to the kitchen to enjoy a quiet and peaceful breakfast alone. The morning was spent playing in the pool and in the afternoon we went for a long and leisurely bike ride returning home at dusk to have dinner and then happily going to bed after a long soak in the bath. I think we should do this more often...

Happy Birthday Sweetheart.