Dining Philosophers

It has been a while since we’ve blogged anything new here.  We’ve moved the blog away from Blogspot as we ran into some limitations there.  For weeks I worked on doing a Wedding Budget post, you see we never really kept accurate records of our spendings – we had a rough amount in mind and it seemed like we did a lot with very little which would make for a very interesting breakdown.  Once I tallied up all the receipts though, which took quite a bit of effort, it wound up being a lot more than we thought!  I was very thorough though and included a lot of stuff other people wouldn’t, like the landscaping and the honeymoon – who knows maybe it’s worth revisiting but I really lost motivation for it once I saw the totals.

So I bring you to my current topic, and that is DIY and furniture, specifically regarding our dining table.  When we moved in to the new house we got a hand-me-down table from my brother, which I believe I’d seen living outside on his patio earlier.  It was great for throwing junk on, but we never used it, it wasn’t nice to look at, it was old and broken and didn’t suit the space.

Seriously, yikes!
Seriously, yikes!
Two years of this.  Notice the previous owner's attempt to spray paint a chair...
Two years of this. Notice the previous owner’s attempt to spray paint a chair…

I tried to give it away on a Buy Sell and Swap facebook page.  Three people said they’d take it, but nobody did.  Somebody replied claiming it was a priceless Ercol table with Ercol Windsor chairs.   I looked into that but if anything I’d say it was a knockoff.

We found a great new dining table at Vast Interiors with a bench seat – but we’d always wanted chairs down one side.  We drove around to furniture shops and looked at different options, they were either cheap and uncomfortable, or didn’t look right with the table, or were too expensive.

As bad as the condition was of the Ercol knockoffs they were quite fine to sit on, and the shape was pretty nice too.   I proposed to Lauren that we fix them up and paint them, and it took quite a bit of convincing – I was even taking photos and photoshopping the chairs with paint and showing her what the table would look like with them.

We got to work stripping the old varnish off the chairs, this was quite an effort with several bottles of horrid paint stripper and wire brushes.   This went on for a while until I thought of a dirty little trick – to coat the chairs with paint stripper and then use a Pressure Cleaner to strip the paint.   It was quite an intense approach, with paint stripper globs flying back into my face, and threads of timber peeling off from getting too close, but it was much faster and helped to really expose the bare timber beneath.

Paint stripping, and using the old table as a workbench :P
Paint stripping, and using the old table as a workbench 😛
Lauren working as a stripper.
Lauren working as a stripper.
A before and after comparison of stripping the chairs.
A before and after comparison of stripping the chairs.

We also had to fix the chairs up with planing, wood filler, and wood glue.

Gluing, filling, sanding.
Gluing, filling, sanding.

The next step was to paint them.  I decided to use spray-paint in layers: a grey protective undercoat, a matte black paint, a metallic charcoal paint, and a clear coat.  There were 2 or 3 thin coats of each paint, so this took quite a lot of work.

I built myself a spray-paint booth which looked like something out of the Dexter TV show, except even dodgier.   It was unventilated and even with a ventilator mask and goggles I could only stand to be in there for 5 minutes at a time.  For the few weeks I was doing this I felt constantly sick.

 Light stands, chairs, tape to the garage door mechanism - some of the techniques I used to hold up the sheets of plastic for my killing spray-paint booth.
Light stands, chairs, tape to the garage door mechanism – some of the techniques I used to hold up the sheets of plastic for my killing spray-paint booth.
Jokes aside though, it really was a death-trap in there.  Not to mention how STICKY the floor would get, so just walking around was difficult.
Jokes aside though, it really was a death-trap in there. Not to mention how STICKY the floor would get, so just walking around was difficult.
Comparison of various stages of painting.
Comparison of various stages of painting.

The chairs came up quite nicely, but I would never take on a big spray-paint project like this again.  I’ve probably taken years off my life by doing this.

One thing was left though – that old dining table.  So I figured I would turn it into some quirky desks to put in the spare rooms.   I basically did the same thing as with the chairs, but using a paint brush this time 🙂   The colour scheme was inspired by Monica’s apartment from Friends.  The tops are stained with a walnut colour.  I’ve used new slats of timber for the back legs and modesty panel at the back, which kinda doesn’t go with the front, but it does the job and hopefully when it’s against the wall people won’t think too much about that.  I did try aging the new timber so I could stain it to match the tops but it was just never going to look right.

Working on the "desks"
Working on the “desks”
The yellow desk, you can see one of the chairs beside it.
The yellow desk, you can see one of the chairs beside it.
What it might look like in action.
What it might look like in action.

Now for the big reveal, our new dining table complete with upcycled chairs.  There are six chairs in total, but it looks better with only four.

New dining table complete with upcycled chairs.


It has gotten a little girly on this blog with Lauren’s posts about engagements and pumpkins, though I admit I’m to blame for both.

I thought I’d share some of the woodwork I’ve done since moving in.  This might turn into a little hobby of mine.  Since doing this stuff I’ve gotten better tools and bigger ideas.

Firstly, when we were building the house our neighbours led us to believe they never need to use the air-con in this area, so we didn’t plan for that.  It was a particularly hot summer, but we’re also particularly wimpy when it comes to the heat.  At about christmas time we caved and bought an in-window air con.  We weren’t going to splash out on central air, which we would love, but we also didn’t want to install a split system if we would eventually want central air.

An in-window air con is cheap and non-destructive… just pop it in the window and switch it on, right?  WRONG!

It seems the people who make air-conditioners assume you will cut an air-con sized hole in the side of your house… i.e… the “window”.   It doesn’t come with any kind of bracket or anything that would enable you to put it into an actual window.

Well I would have to come up with something, so out of necessity I spent a few days on the floor of the garage, in my underwear, dripping with sweat as I rushed to build a frame we could use to mount the air-con into our en-suite window.

It’s quite elaborate and uses a lot of timber, but I never took any good photos of it.  It fits into the window frame on the inside, and holds the air-conditioner in a hole as well as having bars out the back that take the weight of the air-conditioner and cantilever it into place.

Air-con frame in en-suite

That is literally the first woodworking DIY project I’ve ever done, and I only did it because I was so uncomfortable in summer.  However the sense of accomplishment has got me thinking about more things we can do ourselves, maybe some more permanent things…

The big project we’ve been working on is retaining walls, which is something we might be doing for a few years here and there.   We started by building small walls around a tree, ultimately when we fill the area around the tree, it will help the tree survive by allowing it to keep it’s original soil level around the base of the tree.

Retaining walls always start with heaps of digging and measuring.

Kookaburras freaking love you when you’re gardening.  You constantly dig up worms or overturn rocks and reveal a centipede… I always try to signal my approval to them for finding the snack, but they do scare you when they almost land on you to get at a bug.

I wet the holes before concreting.  Also please understand that I’m using a hose in this picture.

Our first foray into constructing walls used the technique of putting the upright supports in first….

…trying to keep everything aligned with some string as a guide…

…and then adding the sleepers that go across.

I also use some geofabric and drainage gravel to take some pressure off the wall.  Not much is needed here.

Our main reason for getting into retaining walls is to stop erosion on our ridiculously scary embankment.  I’d like to eventually do levels so we can have several garden wall sections.  Lauren’s brothers helped us get started one day, showing us a different technique of screwing timber together prior to concreting – it helps to get the level of the top horizontal piece perfect, which is the most obvious thing you’ll see if there is a problem with levels.

Here you can see the embankment between our tanks and house.

Things got a little carried away here and too much timber was screwed together before being concreted, that made it very hard to push the wall into place. (I just cringed because I remembered the back pain)

Most of the time was spent on digging out large rocks.  This particular one is so big it couldn’t be lifted or levered out of the hole.  I wound up digging another hole next to it and shoving it over.  I crushed my hand a few times on this one too.
Before and after photos of a rock I angle grinded out of the way bit by bit like a mango.

It took 2 diamond blades and 8 hours (over 2 weeks), and a lot of vigilant supervising by Lauren in case the blade shattered and broke my face.
Looking down from the house.

I mixed the concrete by hand in a wheelbarrow.  *cringe* more backpain…
A pretty retaining wall needs a pretty dress.  Not really.. this is geofabric to allow water to pass through but not let the dirt rest directly on the wall.  It takes a lot of pressure off the wall and helps the timber last longer.

I’ve also partially backfilled with gravel for drainage.  Once more soil is in there I’ll do a bit more gravel up higher.

A section of completed wall.

This picture shows the slotted agpipe wrapped in the bottom of the geofabric, for better drainage.

Those kookaburras can’t get enough of my work.

And finally, when we moved in I put up a cheap shelf in the store room for the network equipment.  I had a contractor in fixing a bad connection a couple months ago and he must have pulled his fat arse up using that shelf because after he left all the screws had popped out and that thing was barely hanging on.   I needed a final solution that nobody could pull down.  I reckon you could climb onto this and sit on it, but I don’t think I’ll try.
I stole the style of design from the way our pantry is built.  However I used much larger and stronger timber.

This thing is anchored into the studs on 3 sides in several places, some using 100mm screws.  It is mostly butt-joined but there was one lap join necessary which makes me very proud. 
This shelf is now big and strong enough for me to add a big meaty UPS and a server.

And this all lives up in the end of the store room.
I’ll try to do more DIY posts in the future!

I need a nap

We have moved!  5 am start for us today, with a moving truck coming first thing in the morning.  There are apartments being built across the road from our rental with lots of delivery trucks coming in the morning, and it was garbage day, so our whole street here was a truck traffic jam in the morning – pretty hectic! We’re back at our rental now to clean up and get a few last bits and pieces, including the computer which I left behind and it’s still getting Internet 😛

The plumber came back this morning.  Apparently the council wasn’t happy that the hot water system did not have a pipe leading out of it for condensation – the plumbers didn’t include one because that hot water system doesn’t produce a lot of condensation – about 1 drop per year according to him so it was fine to just dribble out.  The council will be back tomorrow to make sure that pipe is there 😛

The plumber asked me about my experiences with Coral, eventually he revealed there had been some big arguments between his company and Coral about who was responsible for leveling and creating a footing for our water tanks.   See we paid $7000 for earthmoving in our contract because of the potential difficulties with site works and such, and then about an extra thousand when the water tanks variation came in.  The site scrape was done in less than a day, and when it came down to it the water tanks area was prepared in less than a day too – so I don’t think they would have come close to using that money.  But they still tried doing the job with the smallest/cheapest equipment possible, which we always knew wasn’t going to work.  According to the plumber; Coral had initially tried to make the plumbers responsible for having the area for the water tanks prepared at their own expense.  Very funny.  Obviously that didn’t work out, and perhaps goes to explain why it took so long for us to get water.

The plumber checked the temperature of our hot water to ensure it did not exceed 50 degrees.   I told him it takes a long time for hot water to reach the ensuite bathroom, but he pretty much said any kind of booster or similar devices would burn up a lot of energy.

We also needed a couple extra Storm Water Gullies put in which were overlooked during the build.  On the weekend we went to the house with my father and brother, and they were convinced the muddy storm water was being fed into the water tanks, which is a pretty foul thought.  According to the contract, and as confirmed by the plumber, the SWGs are connected to the Soakage Pit, which is also used for water tank overflow.   The Soakage Pit is a big hole filled with gravel, and some drain pipes sticking out the top in case it gets full.

The other awesome thing is I also organised a local antenna guy to come out and see if he could get TV reception.   I don’t even want to go into it right now, but it was another bizarre Samford experience.  The short version is that now we have an antenna in an extremely fringe area, with an extremely clear picture to potentially 8 TVs.  Lauren’s excited we won’t even have to miss one episode of Big Brother.  I’m not even joking.

Water tanks and light bulbs

On Friday morning I had to go round to the house to help flip a water tank.  The builder had delivered two polyethylene tanks the day before.

The tanks come with two guys and they need a third to help flip it off the trailer, so that’s why I had to be there.

Since the tanks already on the area prepared for them were still on their side there wasn’t really enough room to plonk it down there, so we put it nearby.  Hopefully they move them all into place upon installation.

I also noticed the telstra contractors have connected the phone line to the outside of the house.  It looks like they’ve used the conduit that we provided, which is good since they were saying earlier they might retrench it and lay cable without conduit.  The tiler told me they couldn’t do the internal stuff because of his tiling 😛

I don’t know what’s up with that earth stake, they really can’t find a nicer way of doing this?

Earlier today we went out to install some of our lightbulbs, though we couldn’t get everywhere because of loose tiles.  We bought a whole bunch of lightbulbs at bunnings – you know they have these great value packs of bayonet bulbs, but none of the screw ones??  Our kitchen pendants look amazing, we didn’t get to see our bedroom pendants in action because those did turn out to be bayonet fittings, and the bulbs we got for the facade lights were 50W but the fittings are 35W max, so we’ll have to sort that out.

  We also set up the pads for the gas bottles.

More paint and stuff

The painting has been going on for the last week and a half, but a few other little things have happened.

This is the colour of our front door, and you can see the painted downpipe
on the left, and the painted weatherboard on the right.

We were up last night talking about where they might put the towel rail
in our ensuite, or whether they would put it in at all.
We never really thought about it, but there isn’t really a good spot for it.
We don’t really like what they’ve done, like it’s alright, but not great.
I think we’ll be looking to sort something else out.

Hey! A door knob.

The Toilet roll holder!

OK I know it’s weird to get excited about what is probably a 50 cent door
stopper, but I even went to the trouble of taking a photo of it, so I
must like it.

Some more deliveries, it looks like there is an oven, a dishwasher, and the
hot water system on the left, and the toilets, knobs, and taps on the right.

One of the shower heads.  We don’t love it, but there wasn’t much to choose from.

I took a peek inside one of the boxes.

Sliding door latch.

The towel rail in the main bathroom.  Now here it looks too small for the
space that it’s in, hmm…

Clothes rail in what is planned to be our guest room.

Clothes rails in the WIR.

Down pipe.

We’ve also got the local landscape guy to pinch a few of those rocks that we’ve got piled up because of the clearing for the water tanks, though it looks like we’re stuck with the big ones.

Still not sure when exactly the water tanks are going in, should be in the next week and a half, that’s really our next ‘challenge’.

Weekly Update #11

This week we finally got to see our weatherboard, the area for the water tanks was cleared, the tiling was almost all done, and the painter has started.

There isn’t much to show in terms of paint, but no doubt the pictures will start to get a lot whiter around here.

For now here’s a picture of Lauren pretending to wash her hair in our new shower.

Wow, 10 weeks!

I can’t believe we’ve been at this for 10 weeks now!  I’m so glad we’re keeping this blog as it would be easy to not stop and think about things like that.

The last week was a bit slower than it has been, at least it seems that way as there aren’t any big sweeping changes like there have been until now.  It used to be a big shock to see frames, bricks, or a roof, but since we saw our vanities and kitchen delivered a week ago there haven’t been any big surprises.

I met with the tiler today.  He seems quite on the ball and made a lot of good suggestions.  He’s the tiler that does a lot of the display homes for Coral, and says that some clients specifically request him.  Among the changes made on the spot are adding angle aluminium to the edge of the tiles that meet the cutout in the en-suite, putting the shower floor tiles on a 45 degree angle which apparently Coral doesn’t do anymore, and moving a feature wall in the shower to a different wall.

To make tiling easier they’ve taken the baths out and now they’re parked in the living room and walk in robe:

We also ordered our steel water tank, the one that we are supplying in addition to the PVC tanks Coral are bringing.  The council requires us to do this for bushfire reasons, and during contract stage we thought we could get away with just the two.

This week they’ll begin clearing the rocky area where the tanks are meant to go, so fingers crossed that goes well.  If it doesn’t go well it could mean the tanks are moved to a less desirable location, and will prevent us from doing the sort of landscaping and gardens we would like.


We went out for a squiz at the house today and were surprised to see people out there working on a Saturday!  I’m not really sure what they were doing, they seemed to be cleaning up a bit.

The eaves have been done, which is something we’ve been wondering about the last few times we’ve gone.  “When are they doing the eaves?” Lauren would say.  Like that’s something we care about!  A year ago we didn’t even know what eaves were!  And yet it’s still exciting to see them there.

A few more shelves and doors had been put in too, and the weird makeshift refuse receptacle has been emptied.

We authorised the payment for the lock up stage this morning at the bank, it’s a big one.  On the way back we stopped at a vintage fair with lots of cool antique furniture for sale.  Not too tempted to buy anything after seeing those numbers at the bank 😛

Some guys from a generic sounding development company doing unknown things.  You can see the rubbish has been emptied in this one.

This is a view of our walk-in-robe.  The shelves have been put in now so it’s great to get a feel for the space.  The door is a bit weird I didn’t expect the door frame to extend out to the right like that, I wonder what that will look like.  I don’t remember this from the display homes…

The patio area with eaves and completed brick piers.  The patio itself doesn’t have the ceiling yet, I wonder if it will be recessed up a bit, or if it will be level with the eaves.

Eaves on the side of the house with the activity room.  The outside of the laundry looks incomplete because its still waiting for the weatherboard cladding.  Interesting there is a brick sill along here too, which we weren’t aware of but it makes sense. There are still eaves missing outside the bedroom in the background.

I did some weed killing while we were out there too.  There is quite a lot of that out there and we need to start taming it.  The weed killer I use kills everything though, including grass.  I want to get one that kills weeds to allow the grass to take over, but I’m not really sure what to look for.  With all the bare areas of dirt we have to give the grass the best chance to creep back without allowing the weeds to gain a foothold first.

The End Of Week 8… half way mark?

This could very well be the middle of our build if the 16 week build time is right.  It seems to be at a point now where the house is transforming from a skeleton to a closed structure.

Our first look at some brickwork.  This is the front right corner of the house. The brick is Boral Slate.

Brick wall and pier in the outdoor living area.
The IRL version of the background on this blog.

Some plasterboard around the feature shelves in the entry way.

A first look at the oversized manhole in the garage.

The bathroom, looks smaller than it is, though it’s still pretty small.

We’re pretty happy with all this stuff, the only issue we’re having at the moment is with the water tanks – the area where they are meant to go is very rocky, and the usual equipment they use isn’t up to the job.  The SS is talking to another guy with slightly bigger equipment to see if he can get it done, but his fallback plan is to reposition them into the middle of what is essentially our front yard, so that would not be good!  We hope if it doesn’t work out with the other earthmover we can have the opportunity to bring in some big equipment to get it done right.

Speaking of tanks, we had to get our temporary water tank refilled – not sure if that’s done yet, but I did arrange it.  Apparently the brickies use up quite a bit of water.

The Seventh Week

This week the roof got done, and now the baths and windows are in!

They’ve also got the external doors there but they aren’t in.

We’ve got our rough-in meeting with the electrician this week, very short notice on that one, that’s a bit annoying.  But I’ve been looking forward to it for months.

Our driveway got fixed up on the weekend, and the SS is happy with that!


I decided to try out the panorama function on our camera today, I couldn’t figure it out, so I just took three pics and merged them in photoshop 😉

It gives a good perspective of the house and the surrounding areas.

End of week six

They’ve done the gutters, and the roofers are going to get cracking next.

Energex have notified us that there will be no electrical service on Thursday, so I hope that doesn’t mess things up too much!

We’re still working on getting the driveway sorted out, I met with a guy that does landscaping and earth moving to help us out, but I still don’t know when that could be done.

The construction manager called today and warned that we might have to get a retaining wall – more surprises!  Nothing definite yet.  

We also spoke about the issue with the meterbox which shouldn’t be there, I really hope they can resolve it because it’s on the plans so they have trouble getting past that – I was told by head office back in March that this kind of electrical thing would be sorted out on site, since obviously it doesn’t make sense to have two meter boxes.

There’s also a conduit that got smashed by a framer’s nail, it looks like it could be fixed, so I hope they do!

So we do have a couple things to feel a little stressed about.

I just sent a deposit to get the phone contractor to install a 24 point Cat6 ethernet network.  That’s also terrifying because my plans are pretty specific and I can just see someone screwing it up – it’s been difficult to even get to this point and having someone be able to echo back to me what I want in a quote – it has been months of back-and-forth with various companies and contractors.

Here are some photos of where the house is at:

Oh… wow

I got an email from our awesome neighbour last night saying part of our frame was up.  Looks like the progress is coming along nicely now because when we went out there just now this is what we found…

I reckon I could finish the rest off myself, this is looking like a house now!

End of week 5

This week the framers got started, and had a two-day rain setback on thursday and friday.  We’re also working on fixing up our driveway a bit, though I don’t think we’ll be able to do what we want since they’re using the area of the driveway right in front of the house to dump all the supplies and have even built some kind of makeshift skip there.  Here are some photos from today showing where it’s all up to…

Week 4 wrap up

It’s hard to believe it has been 4 weeks since our start date.  We had a solid first week, but then a couple weeks where not much happened.  This week we’ve seen the slab preparation, and today I went out and got to see the concreters putting the final touches on the slab.  It was very muddy and difficult to walk around, but the guys out there seemed to be in good spirits and quite positive about the cool wet weather and said that it would cure the slab nicely.

Plumbing in preparation for slab.
Styrofoam pods for the waffle raft slab.
The waffle grid put into place.
Concreters working on the slab.

Expecting to see more action this week with the framers coming out!

Ace on the House

Since there’s nothing to report on the build this week I thought I’ll take this downtime to let you in on a little show I’ve been listening to.

It’s a podcast show for home improvement, DIY, and all that sort of stuff.  It’s called On The House and it’s hosted by Adam “the funniest carpenter since Jesus” Carolla.  
I’ve been listening for a couple weeks now, and I’ve learnt a lot!  
It’s very inspirational and motivating to get working on your own home projects, and I’ve learnt a lot about tools, and the lingo used in the building industry.  Not to mention a few tips on home building I wish I’d got to consider before building.

I’m already planning a retaining wall I want to build, and I fixed Lauren’s laptop hinges.  I just feel more confident to be ‘handy’ listening to this stuff.

Anyway listen to the show on this website or look it up on iTunes.  It’s free.  I usually just stick my headphones on at work and listen to a show or two throughout the day, they’re about an hour each.

I found out about it because I listen to Penn’s Sunday School which is part of Adam Carolla’s ACE Broadcasting Network, and Adam and Penn were on The Celebrity Apprentice together.  Trump fired them both.
Adam is hilariously offensive too, so it’s win-win really.
Get it on!

Week 1 Photos

Well it’s been a week since earthworks began and we met our Site Supervisor.  Here are some of the things that appeared on the block that made it feel like things are now underway.

Portable Toilet 
Home Sewage Treatment Plant
Temporary Power Box
Temporary Water Tank

It begins

Well folks, the day has arrived.  The site was cut today!

Before and After of the site works

We met with the Site Supervisor afterwards, and have learnt of a few things we need to get cracking, like a few more trees to be removed, potable water for the builders, and the temporary power for the site.  We have a bit to do, there are some forms we need filled in by anyone visiting the site, and the water for the builders needs to be there ASAP.

The builders key is now in our possession, though there is nothing to unlock yet 😛

Our Home Sewage Treatment Plant consultant was also out on site, and she suggested we move our poop tank from near our Outdoor Dining Area to somewhere more accessible and away from the house.  Good call I guess!

Updated front elevation diagram

Since all the decisions have been made, the paperwork is done, and we’re going ahead with the build very soon, I’ve updated the little diagram I made of the front elevation of the house to correctly represent the front door, down pipes, brick colour, and position of the lights.  Also on the left you have see our lovely water feature which consists of three massive tanks of said water. They don’t even all look the same, oh well.

Next time we go out there I’ll try to get a photograph of the area so I can stick it in there and put the house and tanks in context of the landscape.  We might be going there to meet the site supervisor soon!

UPDATE: I’ve taken the photograph of the landscape and put the diagram in on the Plans page.

Planning alert!

As you may know we are waiting for approval on our Development Application with the council.  Something I’ve been very nervous about as it’s the last “will it happen?” kind of hurdle we have to jump before getting into construction.

A few weeks ago I subscribed to a free service called PlanningAlerts.org.au which would email me if anyone had put in a planning application within 2km of a nominated address.  Of course I put in the address of our property.

Earlier this week I was notified about someone building on the next street over, and just a few minutes ago, an email came through with our property address!

Material Change of Use – Development Permit for Dwelling House (Overlays)
We found this application for you on the planning authority’s website about 4 hours ago. It was received by them 1 day earlier.

The status on the council’s website is listed as “Info & Referral Stage”, which is apparently the second of five stages.  Still a ways to go, and we’re definitely not up to the crucial bits, but at least it’s something.

  1. Application stage
  2. Information and referral stage
  3. Notification stage
  4. Decision stage
  5. Compliance stage