House Update

The House of Steel

Thursday, 1 November 2001

The weather looks like being atrocious again today, so it's unlikely that we will see Richard and have the floors finished! Fran will continue working on the internal doors, but we have run out of floorboard ends for the infill panels. We need another 30 metres (100 ft). Some pictures taken over the last few weeks:

Fran nailing up the floorboards while kneeling on my son Thomas's skateboard -- supervised as always by Ricky the Wonderdog. floor02.jpg (48249 bytes)
How not to do electrical wiring! Cutting holes in the plasterboard to access the cable and studs is not recommended. Lots of patching to do. I heard recently of an owner-builder who plastered her whole house before calling in the electrician! electrical_wiring.jpg (19522 bytes)
Fran brushes Resorcinol glue onto the edges of the boards for the shelf in The Great Hall. gluing_shelf.jpg (51548 bytes)
These are the slots cut by the biscuit joiner. Slivers of wood, called biscuits are glued in the slots to strengthen the joint and maintain alignment. gluing_shelf_detail.jpg (48317 bytes)
Here the boards are clamped together with pipe clamps until the glue has set. gluing_shelf_clamps.jpg (58648 bytes)
This is the "vacuum cleaner". It's a dust extractor usually attached to woodworking machinery. vacuum_cleaner.jpg (66663 bytes)
Richard's antique floor sander. It's the noisiest tool that was used for building the house. floor_sander.jpg (46751 bytes)
Here we can see some gaps between the floorboards in Thomas's room. They were caused by variation in the width of the boards, around 5%. floor03.jpg (40902 bytes)
This is the surround that holds the bottom of the downpipe firmly in place. It's made from scraps of scantling and a piece of marine plywood. downpipe_surround.jpg (71495 bytes)
This is the underside of the gutter showing the zincalume sump connecting to the downpipe. downpipe_gutter.jpg (34866 bytes)

Friday, 2 November 2001

The cold, wet weather that has bedevilled us for the last week is due to clear this morning. Hopefully, this means Richard will be able to put the finish coat on the floors. I will be putting filler in the grooves of the floorboards we have modified to use as architraves so I can prime them over the weekend.

Tuesday, 6 November 2001

Richard failed to arrive on any of the three fine days we had over the weekend. Fran has started another client's kitchen, so when we finally have the floors finished, he should be in fine fettle for making mine. Friday looks like being fine with a return to rain on Saturday.

Saturday, 10 November 2001

Yesterday, the weather was still fine, but as predicted, the weather returned to cold and showery today. Looks like staying that way for the next 4-5 days. Needless to say, Richard failed to arrive yesterday! What did arrive yesterday were the extra floorboards we needed to finish the infill panels for the doors. Except instead of the 36 metres ordered, there were over a hundred metres, and instead of 19 mm thick, they are 22 mm thick. Looks like we'll be putting them through the thicknesser! Also the stainless steel, door handles and door jambs have arrived, so once Fran finishes the kitchen he started for someone else, and Richard finishes the floor, we can set to once more.

I'm still hunting for screws to finish the chairs -- 10 mm 6 g Philips head self-tappers. I can get dinky bubble-packs of 16 from Mitre 10 2.5, but I need 300. I'm not paying over $A100 for that amount! The manufacturer will sell me 500,000 and that's too over the top in the other direction.

Wednesday, 14 November 2001

Yesterday, the floor sanding Richard came and put the final coat of varnish on the floor while I was in Hobart purchasing $A228 dollars worth of stainless steel shackles and bolts for the balustrade. The bank finance is now available, so I will be ordering the requisites for the cabinetry ASAP. Fran is back Monday, and if the weather is fine enough, Tony will be starting the balustrade Friday. Tomorrow, I go to Hobart once more, this time with a film to develop, so there's a likelihood of more pictures of the house before the weekend.

Needless to say, the housewarming will not take place on 1 December as originally planned. Instead, we will have it on Australia Day, 26 January next year.

Saturday, 17 November 2001

Friday came and went with no sign of Tony. Today we shop for most of the rest of the bits for the house: kitchen sink, hand-basins, laundry trough and taps; MDF and Melamine for the cabinets. Late today, or early tomorrow I will be scanning the latest film so there should be some new pictures to see.

The house from the south east southeast04.jpg (44765 bytes)
The house from the south west southwest02.jpg (55900 bytes)
And from the north west. Hopefully, Marguerite's plantings will be making a better show by the time we have our housewarming. west02.jpg (84858 bytes)
The Great Hall from the front door. The heights of the light fittings need some fine tuning, but we will leave that for the supplier to do when he comes to inspect the results of his advice. On the right you can see the shelf over the French window we made to stiffen the wall. floor04.jpg (41030 bytes)
I ascended a stepladder in what is to be the kitchen to take this rather over-exposed shot. The wiggle in the cords of the small lights over the island bench will be removed by the judicious use of a hair dryer. floor05.jpg (48249 bytes)

Sunday, 18 November 2001

Yesterday's shopping expedition was mixed -- I forgot to take the list of cabinetry needs with me and had to fax that today. The shopping at the plumbing suppliers went considerably better as our needs were more easily recalled! We visited a number of flooring suppliers without seeing anything in the way of vinyl other than the single one we had seen that attracted us. Then we found the one store that stocks genuine linoleum. Linoleum's big advantage is that it shows the same colour as it wears and so lasts a lot longer. It costs a little more than vinyl, but the wet areas are small enough that the price difference between good quality vinyl and linoleum is greatly overshadowed by the installation cost. We were also going to purchase the front-loading washing machine and telephone, but that store was closed by the time we arrived, around 2:30 in the afternoon. I guess that can wait until next Saturday.

Monday, 19 November 2001

Installing the doors Fran made -- they look wonderful. We are looking forward to people asking where we got them so we can say: "They are made from leftovers -- bubble and squeak."

I have been asked for some details on the topography of the house location. This is the survey map we had done of the land:

House map

and this is from the Ordnance Survey map of the locality:

Locality map

Tuesday, 20 November 2001

More door installing by Fran while I continue working on the architraves. Tony Dunshea was in Hobart shopping for some more bits for the balustrade. Grommets for where the stainless steel cable passes through the holes in the posts were $A0.45 each and we need 200, so Tony told the seller to root his boot! He purchased some nylon tubing and we'll cut that into short lengths and make the holes a push fit for the tubing. The saddles for the ends of the cable were also outrageously priced, so Tony will make some with heavy gauge stainless steel wire. On Saturday I saw a stainless steel balustrade that should have cost considerably less than ours and it cost the purchaser $A8,000! It will be interesting to see what ours costs when it's finished. $A1,140 in materials so far.

The phone system for the valley has been upgraded by Telstra to cope with our needs for two lines -- it was saturated. The line has been tested as far as the pole on the opposite side of the road. The cable from that pole to ours has to be installed by another company. This in the interests of competition improving efficiency! The Telstra guy confirmed the route to the exchange being too far for DSL, so Thomas will have to wait for fast Internet access. He thought the current upgrade should have improved our access speed, but it remains around 30-36 kb/s.

Wednesday, 21 November 2001

The doors are all hung and Fran made the ducts for the floor vents from leftover pieces of construction ply. I finished filling the grooves in edges of the floorboards we are using for architraves, but I still have to put a topcoat on the filler before sanding and painting them.

Thursday, 22 November 2001

Tony started assembling the balustrade today and hopefully will have it finished by tomorrow. His new TIG Welder is only a tiny fraction of the size of his older transformer type. He says that in theory it's slightly less powerful, but in practice works much better. He didn't get to the point of welding today, there was lots of precision cutting to do and for that he used a hacksaw rather than his angle grinder. We estimate that the overall cost of the balustrade will not exceed $A2,000 -- 25% of the cost of the one we saw on Saturday.

When I mentioned getting out the steel wool when he has finished, Tony said that was not a recommended material for finishing stainless steel as the lower grade steel in the wool adsorbs onto the surface of the stainless and causes rust problems. Stainless steel scrub buds sold for cleaning pots and pans are the go.

Fran underestimated the amount of floorboards needed for the infill panels on the doors. This is due to the fact that John Clennett delivered the wrong size. The boards are not only thicker than ordered, they are slightly narrower. The half completed panel and some other short ends of the original boards had to be discarded as they are incompatible with the later boards. I sorted through the pile of the latest boards and managed to find enough for Fran to put through the thicknesser tomorrow morning. Most of them are barely suitable for building shelter for livestock!

Friday, 23 November 2001

The TIG welder turned out to be a bit of a flop. The slightest breeze disturbs the flow of argon gas and the nickel rod disappears. So Tony had to use conventional rods and hadn't brought a sufficient quantity with him to finish the job. He has tacked most of the structure together so we can run the cables and tension them. Fran finished the doors leaving me the job of sanding and varnishing them.

The floor covering rep came by and we will be using linoleum on the bathroom and laundry floors While the linoleum costs more per square metre, there is much less cutting waste, so that brings the price of vinyl close to that of linoleum. Instead of coving up the walls, we will be using vinyl skirting.

Saturday, 24 November 2001

We picked up most of the balance of plumbing requisites from West Hobart Plumbing supplies. And purchased a Panasonic phone system: a base station with captive phone and one portable handset. Unique floors lent us their linoleum sample catalogue -- there's a lot to choose from. Oh, we purchased a front-loading washing machine, an Asko.

In the afternoon, my friend Val dropped by with his swaging tool and some eyelets and swages. We managed to put on seven of the 21 cables, but the weather is very wet. Shortly before Val arrived, we had the heaviest rain anyone can remember. The water was running over the road adjacent to the entrance to the driveway of the new house! We will finish the cabling of the balustrade next weekend.

It's exactly a year ago today that we started the excavation for the house.

Monday, 26 November 2001

Fran had to cut one of the bedroom floor ventilator boxes in half to install it -- there was a brace on the foundation in the way. After putting up the last two wall flashings, he commenced cutting up the MDF for the kitchen cabinets. Thomas helped Fran while I installed the shower tower, shower head and tap. Then I commenced planing the architraves. Also, I ordered the Blum draw fittings, cupboard door handles, hinges etc from Wilson and Bradley and Paul offered to deliver them Wednesday. Wednesday is also when the washing machine is delivered and Steve from Certainteed will be bringing by some potential clients for their windows. Val phoned in the evening to tell me he had found the 10 mm screws I need for the chairs -- $A12/1,000, somewhat less than Mitre 10 2.5's price in bubble packs of 16!

Shortly after beer o'clock, the heavens opened up once more and there was a very heavy downpour. I ascended the ladder against the gutter to see how full it became. The stream of water running down the gutter was no wider than the sump that collects it into the downpipe.

Squid, the excavator person who will be finishing the driveway for us phoned to apologise for not having arrived yet. What a pity more tradesmen don't phone to keep me informed of progress towards meeting my needs!

Tuesday, 27 November 2001

Fran worked at sawing and assembling the kitchen benches and cupboards today while I continued preparing the architraves. In the afternoon, we laid out the island cabinet bottom. Here is its shape from above:

Plan of island bench

We placed it where it will go in the kitchen and I walked around it, checking distances from the stove and refrigerator. I suspect that this will be the best kitchen I ever worked in.

Friday, 30 November 2001

By the end of the day, Fran and I had finished much of the carcases of the kitchen benches and cupboards and the carcase in the laundry. Our final act was to place the (unfinished) island bench where it is to be used. The Great Hall is much closer to resembling the place we will inhabit for the next few decades. We are working longer each day than usual rather than rushing. There is a sense of urgency with Christmas just around the corner. Much of Australia goes into a sound sleep between that day and late January, though we appear to have purchased all essential parts needed to complete the house.

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