Friday, April 25, 2014

Has it really been four months!?

So it really has been a long time between drinks.

I really must apologise to everyone for the lack of updates, progress on the build has been slower than I'd liked. It's all Christmas' fault. To those concerned who asked, we were very thankfully spared from the Kilmore fires earlier in the year - the closest fire of any real concern was 20km away, on the far side of the Hume. There were a couple of lightning strikes in the Tallarook Ranges which caused a moment or two of worry, but they were swiftly dealt with by the local CFA legends.

There was a major push in the week leading up to Christmas to get the place liveable - lights and power installed and commissioned upstairs, the kitchen in, walls and doors up. And I did manage to get all of that done, so when Christmas and the extended family rolled up, work and its motivation came to an abrupt halt.

With this sort of view every day, who wants to work!?

It really was amazing seeing the place come to life over the holidays, though. For the last couple of years it's basically been me, myself and The Dog on site, with the occasional weekend with wife and kids. So to have 30 or so extended family members here for Christmas was a pretty amazing experience. The place went from a building site to a home in a couple of days, and it's been that transformation which has slowed my progress. It's hard seeing the place as an unfinished project when it's so comfortable to live in now.

Not that we can live in it yet. For a start, there's no completion certificate, so legally we're not allowed... but practically, I've insisted from the start that we're not going to move in here until the place is finished. I've made that mistake once before - we renovated our current house in Melbourne 12 years ago, while living there at the time. And it's still not finished, nor will it be until we move out. So I'm not making that mistake again. This place will be finished before we move in.

Given that Eldest Son starts high school in the area next year, I really ought to extract a digit and get on with it. There's still so much to be done.

Looking around at the building and my photos, there really is quite a bit to talk about. I'll try and put one post up each day for the next little while until I catch up. If I try to do it all in one go, I'll run away and hide from the workload :)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

CFA Tank

With so much focus on getting the building finished, this is another of those jobs I’ve been putting off. One of the requirements of our planning permit is that we install a 10,000L static water supply for use by the Country Fire Authority near the building. This has to be within 50m or so of the buildings, so that the CFA have a means to refill their trucks if they need to attend our property in the event of a fire.

There’s a mostly-clear spot just up the driveway from the house site which I’ve earmarked for this tank, but it’s a long way from level. So although I’ve had the tank here for some time (it was delivered along with the collection and header tanks last year) it’s been sitting around looking pretty at the top of the hill until I could get busy on the bobcat and excavate a level pad.

So that’s what I’m doing! Under the watchful supervision of Coda, of course. He won’t let me do anything without keeping a close eye on it :)

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Sadly this is about as far as I got before .. you guessed it, another ram seal blew.


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I’m not surprised the machine blows seals occasionally - it’s an old beast and doesn’t get much of a workout these days, but what’s frustrating about this one is that it’s one that I replaced about a year ago, and it’s completely disintegrated!

Luckily, when I replaced this seal last time I thought ahead a little and bought spares.. but they’re in the Hilux, and this weekend I left it at home and came in the Mini. So work on the tank stand has ground to a halt.




Fast forward a week, and the new seals are installed and the bobcat up and running again. A couple of hours digging later, and voila!

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Monday, January 6, 2014

What to do with these walls...

When I describe the building materials and techniques I'm using on this project, one of the things that many people find most surprising is our use of plywood internally on the walls, instead of plaster. I've plastered walls and ceilings before, and hated it with such vengeance that I swore never to do it again.

And being that I'm building this place myself and minimising the use of subcontractors, we needed an alternative wall lining. Enter the plywood.

From memory I believe it was actually suggested to us by Peter, our architect and Adult Supervision before I'd even mentioned my hatred of plastering. And his recommendation as to the finish we'd apply was to limewash with a water-based, low VOC paint-of-sorts.

Really, we have three options:
  1. Paint as if we were using plasterboard;
  2. Polyurethane or oil the ply with a transparent, if tinted sealer; or
  3. Limewash per Peter's recommendation.
The first would be completely wrong, hiding the wonderful A-grade plywood grain behind opaque paint. Not only that, the joints between the sheets (being impossible to hide without using some sort of ugly plastic mushroom cover, like that used with cement sheeting) would be visible and their reason for being would be hidden by the paint. So that approach was never an option.

The second alternative is appealing enough, if we were to use a natural oil finish for example which would protect the timber and bring out its features. But I feel like an oil or polyurethane finish would wind up being too dark; too much like the wood panelling of the '70's. So that was eliminated as well.

So we're left with the limewash finish - which gives us the best of all options. It's translucent, so the grain of the timber will be expressed through the finish and it'll still be obvious that we have plywood walls. It'll be protective and seal the timber against moisture and grubby hands, and it'll be light and airy in appearance. Perfect.

So with that decision made (well, Peter's recommendation adopted really) I've been experimenting with paint. I've got a plain white water-based acrylic, and diluted it in various ratios with water and applied them to a test piece of ply.

What we'll end up going with is something somewhere between the third (most translucent) and second patch, which represent one and three coats of the diluted acrylic at a six-to-one ratio. In reality, we'll probably end up using a liming white floor finish for the top coat, as this will give us a strong protective coating which we can wipe clean. So one coat of say four-to-one acrylic and one coat of liming white will probably do it.

In other news, I finally got around to assembling and installing one of the overhead kitchen cabinets. It went together and up on the wall with ease, but it wasn't until I installed the doors that I spotted a small problem.

It seems the cabinet maker has cut each door one thickness (16mm) too narrow, so we have a 32mm gap between the doors. I'm in two minds how to handle this - I could ask them to make up new doors, I could dismantle the cabinet and shorten it slightly, or I could install a filler between the doors as they are now.

I don't think I can be bothered pleading my case with the cabinet maker, especially so long now after they completed the job. And it takes two people to lift the thing off the wall, so in the short term I'll probably just make up a filler to install between the doors (this is the bonus of specifying plain white melamine cabinets ;) ). With the handles on you'd probably never realise it wasn't supposed to be this way.