House Update

The House of Steel

Saturday, 1 September 2001

Today I painted the spare bedroom with Gypseal. This revealed some bruises in the plasterboard that need filling and sealing before the paint job proper starts.

Tuesday, 4 September 2001

The painting of ceilings and walls in the spare bedroom and master bedroom are all but complete. Fran is surprised by our bold use of colour, but agrees that it's very restful. The colours also enhance the views through the windows, lots of greens and grey-greens.

Fran has commenced nailing down the floorboards in the spare bedroom.

Amazingly, the house is still on budget -- close on $A150,000 to achieve completion. Unfortunately, the same is not true of our household budget and it looks like we are around $A12,000 short. The fat bankers will not lend us the money as they consider the house to have zero value, unless we employ a registered builder, whereupon it magically becomes worth in excess of $A200,000! We do have enough money to be granted a Certificate of Occupancy, allowing us to move in while we complete the construction, but that is something I vowed we would not do. The fat bankers demand a Certificate of Completion before they will give us a mortgage.

Thursday, 6 September 2001

Fran has built the closet for the hot water cylinder in the spare bedroom. I have been painting... and I am weary to my very bones. I am only a third of the way through painting, but the results are very gratifying. Neither the plumber, nor the electrician have turned up to fix their mistakes yet!

Friday, 7 September 2001

I went the rounds of the lending institutions today, looking for the money needed to complete The House of Steel. None of them will. Policy dictates that owner-built houses have no equity value whatsoever until the building inspector signs the Completion Certificate, whereupon the tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of materials and labour magically become worth something again.

Roy Harvey writes:


You realize, of course, that if T.H.O.S. were to actually burn down by accident before your financial conundrum is resolved you might have one hell of a time collecting if the insurance company looked at your web site.

Good luck!


The chances of that happening are so remote, I don't even want to contemplate it. Of course I could claim that my website rant was proof that I wasn't planning the fire <eg>

The interviewer at one of the financial institutions that I visited was a client of mine for computer training. Kay said she would do what she could to enable a loan, but she didn't hold out much hope. Then she asked whether we had any assets we could borrow against, such as a car. Aha! Problem solved!

From Gary W Kramer this email:


I'm amazed that you found our Owner Builder Network site way off yonder where you live. My wife and I started this company back in '97 with the belief that there had to be a few folks out there who wanted to be their on builders but couldn't do all the "hands on" work since they had jobs, etc. We thought that a program that would link owner builders to the contractors, suppliers and lenders would be a better deal than classes and building instruction books. With our program the owner takes the "place" of the home builder and simply "manages" the project. It has worked beyond our expectations. We currently have over 200 owner builder homes under construction in the Houston, Texas area and about 50 more in the Dallas and Austin, Texas areas where we recently opened offices.

As you are well aware financing is THE most important part of the homebuilding project if the owner builder doesn't have the necessary cash on hand. And few of us do . Do check our website, listen to our radio shows that are broadcast on the web and email us any questions and we'll try to answer. Your style of building looks a bit different than ours but I'm sure the process works pretty much the same way.


Gary W. Kramer The Owner Builder Network 7102 FM 1488 Magnolia, Texas 77354

I'm sure my American readers who are contemplating owner-building will be in touch with you Gary. And I think it's high time we had something similar here in Australia.

And from one of Gary's employees:

G'day Mate! My name is David and I am an Aussie working in USA. I just started this week with the Owner Builder Network here in the Houston Area. I had a big nostalgia fit seeing your site. I am a keen amateur photo nut and spent some great weeks in Tassie. It is the best photo spot in the world bar none. OBN is a great concept and worthy of consideration for Australia but like many things it will lag behind USA for some years unless some well connected person latches on to it. It has made Gary and Shiela a bundle! also it is a lot of fun. Regards, David.

Yes, Australia does lag behind the USA in this, but it's my firm intention to do something about it. And I already have some ideas about how to implement a source of finance for others in my plight.

Saturday, 8 September 2001

Michael has completed the tiger myrtle table top so I went down to his shed to polish the stainless steel frame. The stainless steel legs are curved and are to have infill panels. Trying to use tiger myrtle for this didn't work. Even though we steamed the timber, it still fractured when we tried to screw it in place. It looks like ordinary red myrtle will have to do and Fran and I will finish the table.

Saturday, 15 September 2001

Much has happened in this week of profound tragedy. My apologies for the lack of posts.

While I spent most of the week painting walls and ceilings, Fran glued and nailed down floorboards in the master bedroom, installed the bath in the ensuite, finished the small porch over the back door, finished the curved cornice at the corridor ends and drilled drainage holes in the purlins over the small deck. This latter is in case atmospheric moisture condenses in them. We don't want that water entering the ceiling of the master bedroom. Fran made a small dam downslope of the drainage holes with silicone sealant.

Tony the electrician came and placed the wires for the ensuite vanity lights at last, but Stan the plumber still didn't arrive to fix the plumbing error.

Today, Thomas painted the lower walls of The Great Hall with Gypseal while I did the same for the ceiling and upper walls from the trestles. While we painted, there was a severe windstorm and the French window moved back and forth by about 50 mm (2 in) in the stronger gusts. This will be fixed by a long shelf running from the eastern wall of The Great Hall to the western wall. We will be laminating several pieces of 90 mm by 38 mm hardwood together edge to edge so the shelf will be 270 mm deep and 38 mm thick. At over 8 metres long, that's a huge hunk of timber to place. (9 in by 1.5 in by 27 ft for my American readers).

This is the porch over the back door deck before the clear corrugated acrylic sheet is in place. Also, the underside of the curved gutter has been enclosed with plain zincalume sheet. porch.jpg (125104 bytes)
These are some of the various trowels and other tools used for the plastering. plastering_tools.jpg (53956 bytes)
This is the post plastering tool, the sander, sitting on a case of our favourite cure for plaster dust -- Cascade Sparkling Pale Ale. sander.jpg (42075 bytes)
This is the view north through Thomas's bedroom door. view_toms_room.jpg (85766 bytes)
And this is what Thomas will see through the eastern window. view_toms_room_east.jpg (53122 bytes)
The guest bedroom looks west through the orchard to the windbreak of Matsudana poplar-willows. view_guest_bedroom.jpg (57019 bytes)
While dining we can look north through the French window toward Mount Wellington, shrouded in rain-clouds today... view_great_hall_north.jpg (54075 bytes)
... or west into the orchard... view_great_hall_west.jpg (61036 bytes)
... or south toward the windbreak of Canary Island tree lucerne and various other trees and shrubs. view_great_hall_south.jpg (60663 bytes)
This is the view north from the master bedroom... view_master_bedroom_north.jpg (116814 bytes)
and east from the master bedroom. view_master_bedroom_east.jpg (99255 bytes)
This is one of the replacement floor boards from John Clennet's sawmill. This is not damage, but how the board came out of the thicknesser. Select Grade supposedly means that boards like this are rejected! happily most were more useable than this one. floorboard.jpg (21618 bytes)
Fran used Thomas's skateboard to kneel on while nailing down the floorboards. Here, the first few have been prised loose for turning over,  gluing and nailing. nailing_floorboards.jpg (52049 bytes)
This is the closet in the corner of the guest bedroom that will contain the hot water cylinder. On the corridor side, the door will open to reveal a shelf above the hot water cylinder for towels and such. There is another cupboard above that to be accessed from the bedroom side. Or maybe a Punch and Judy show instead. closet_spare_bedroom.jpg (58517 bytes)
We used Wattyl paints exclusively and are very pleased with their quality. The small cans atop the 20 litre (5 gallon) can are sample pots. paint.jpg (68751 bytes)
I gave up trying to rebalance the colour here. The ceiling and ensuite wall visible in the centre are pretty close on my monitor, but the green of the walls is far too blue. master_bedroom.jpg (53694 bytes)
This is the dining table made for us by Michael Henrysson and Tony Dunshea. Michael also made the matching coffee table for us. The blue hose in the bottom left corner is the giant vacuum cleaner. tables.jpg (36113 bytes)
This is a detail of the top of the dining table. The timber is called tiger myrtle. detail_wood_grain.jpg (44165 bytes)

Monday, 17 September 2001

Yesterday, Marguerite and Thomas Gypsealed most of the corridor and today Thomas Gypsealed the remainder of the lower walls in The Great Hall while I painted the first coat on the ceiling from the trestles. Fran commenced nailing the floorboards in Thomas's room and got a little over halfway. 

One of the lending institutions I visited the other day has offered to mortgage the house without a Completion Certificate! I'm going to have to start believing in Santa Claus again!

Tuesday, 18 September 2001

Today Fran finished nailing and gluing the floorboards in Thomas's room, plastered the toilet wall where the electrician had completed the wiring on Friday and started putting the corrugated zincalume on the western end of the carport. Thomas finished putting Gypseal in the corridor. I put the second coat of paint on the ceiling of The Great Hall and the first coat on the southern wall. It looks like all the painting will be done by the end of the week. Except for the laundry walls because, of course, the plumber still hasn't come to rectify his mistake. Fran can't finish plastering the laundry until the shower is installed and the shower can't be installed until the plumbing is fixed.

Thursday, 20 September 2001

The painting is almost done, with only the walls of the corridor to finish. And of course the laundry walls if the plumber ever shows up again! Fran is now nailing and gluing the floorboards in The Great Hall. Tomorrow we go to visit the offerers of the mortgage!

Friday, 21 September 2001

Today we applied for a mortgage on The House of Steel. We should hear whether we have been successful early in the coming week.

And of course the plumber turned up while I wasn't at home! No phone call, just arrive on the day he knows Fran and I usually take the day off. I seem to remember the electrician turning up on the one day I told him I wouldn't be there. I well remember at the beginning of this project being told by two owner-builders: "Watch out for the tradesmen!"

Tuesday, 25 September 2001

It looks like Fran will have all of the floorboards nailed and glued by Thursday. Richard Ferguson expects to be able to sand the floors in two weeks time. Tony, the electrician, expects to commence connecting power points, light fittings etc on Friday. Stan, the plumber, says he'll be here Thursday.

Friday, 28 September 2001

We have been given approval for a mortgage on the house! Now we can finish without compromises! As expected, the floor was finished on Thursday. Unexpectedly, Stan the plumber came and fixed the plumbing in the shower area, so the shower can now be installed. Also as expected, Tony the electrician didn't come today, though he phoned to say he wasn't coming for a change. Sigh!

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