All posts by shane

Our bathroom renovation

The bathroom in our house was pretty old and tatty when we moved in.

It was functional, but there wasn’t much that was nice about it.

When we threw our engagement party in 2011 we told people that we’d love a contribution to our bathroom renovation in lieu of any other gift.

I think we amassed around $5k from memory, but as we discovered, bathrooms cost a whole lot more than that!

Skip ahead to June 2013 and we were finally ready for our new bathroom.

The old bathroom

Here are the ‘before’ photos…

Old Bathroom 1       Old Bathroom 2

The old shower.       The old toilet and bathroom.

As you can see it wasn’t too bad, and it would have been perfectly adequate for many families, but we wanted something a little nicer.

 The plan

We wanted to start again from scratch and create something that was far more modern and easier to take care of.

I don’t think the word ‘luxury’ was ever mentioned, but we did want something that looked great.

Our builder recommended replacing the standard door with a cavity slider, which gave us some much needed wall space to hang the towels.

The process of installing the slider didn’t go completely smoothly, in part due to the less-than-square nature of the walls, but it was still worth it.

Tiles

We shopped around at a few different places, but ended up back where we started at Uptiles Strathpine.

Both the floor and wall tiles were 600 x 300.  The floor tiles were from Spain and are full ceramic.

The wall tiles are only ceramic coated I think.

We decided to spend a little extra and get the tiling done to the top of the wall, which definitely gives a better look in my opinion.

Fixtures and fittings

More or less all of the fixtures and fittings were from Reece.

There’s not too much to say about them, but we’re happy with everything we chose.

The build

Work started on the 20th of June, and by the end of the day we had a fully gutted bathroom and a new bath in place…

Gutted bathroom and new bath.       Gutted bathroom - entry.

A few days later the walls had been re-sheeted, the waterproofing completed and the floor tiles laid.

It was great to see the tiles down, and we were (and still are) super happy with the tile choice.

Floor tiles and waterproofing.

The wall tiles went up next.  We had a niche installed in the shower, and on the recommendation of the tiler we used the floor tiles rather than the wall tiles in the niche.

It was a great idea, and really breaks up the big light coloured wall.

Wall tiles.       Niche in the shower.

We figured if we were going to have a nice new bathroom, we should probably have a nice new toilet too.

Here are the before and after photos.  We replaced the toilet itself as well as tiling the floor.

We also replaced the old window in the toilet, however it was done after the photo was taken.

The old toilet.       The new toilet.

In the second photo above you can see the new cavity slider in place.

The above two photos also show that the toilet door was moved from one side to the other.

This was due the cavity slider, which necessitated moving the toilet light switch from the bathroom side to the other side, and therefore the door to ensure that the switch was still accessible.

By this stage you could really get a feel for how the new bathroom was going to look.

Here are the shower accessories in place, prior to the screen going in.

Shower accessories.

And the new bath…

Bath

Here’s the new window in place, and the wall tiling almost complete…

New window.

The finished wall!  Minus the shower screen, which by this stage had been measured and was in the process of being made.

Bathroom wall.

And here’s the new vanity unit in place.  The mirror had not been installed yet, however it was to cover virtually the entire wall, being the width of the vanity and filling the height from just above the vanity to just below the light.

Vanity unit.

It may have been nice to get a double vanity, but we just didn’t have sufficient room along the wall.

This is where my photos run out.  I’ll take some more soon with the shower screen and mirror in place.

The only major drama we’ve had since the install (which was just over a year ago) is the build up of mould in the shower.

It seems to have gotten under the silicon, which means there is no way to clean it off.

We’ll need to get someone out to remove the silicon (and maybe the grout?) and then clean it all up before re-doing the silicon.

That combined with more regular cleaning should do the job.

Overall we’re wrapped with the new bathroom, and at a final cost of around $18k it was money well spent.

Old photos of the yard

This post is really just an image dump.  All of these pics are from my old iPhone and span the period from 2010 to 2011.

The first image was actually meant to be of a bogan across the road who had been pulled over by the police, but it also does a good job of showing the state of our front hedge at the time.

This is how the hedge looked as of November 2010, which was just one month after we moved in.

front-hedge

The hedge is much shorter than what it is now, but also a lot healthier looking – especially at the letterbox end which is now very ordinary.

The back yard

The next couple of pics show our back yard in the early days.

This first photo was meant to be of the storm clouds I assume, but it also shows the back garden shortly after we planted it out.

IMG_0388

At this stage (February 2011) none of the plants were what Jessica and I called ‘brechers’, meaning that they had breached the fence line.

Our goal for all of these plants was to provide some privacy screening, so as each plant finally breached the fence line over the years it was very exciting!

Now virtually all of the plants pictured above have well and truly breached the fence, although they still don’t provide the level of privacy that we really wanted.

This next shot shows the citrus trees on the right hand side of the yard.  It was taken on the 31st of March 2011, which coincidentally happened to be exactly one year before our wedding day!

Citrus trees

It appears that this picture was taken after we’d dug up all the grass to turn this area into a big garden, but before we’d done the job properly with garden edging and bark.

Therefore, as you can see, the grass has grown back and it looks quite terrible!

This area looks much better now since it has proper edging and a good covering of bark.

The citrus trees themselves have been a bit up and down, which is mainly due to a lack of attention by Jessica and I.

We really need to start caring from them properly.  One day…!

Next up we have some of Jessica’s excellent work down the side of the water tank.

Water tank side

Previously this was a pretty feral overgrown area, but some white pebbles and mix-n-match pavers totally transformed it.

The image was taken in June 2011 when the work was initially done, however over the following years we regrettably let it deteriorate again.

Thankfully Peter (Jessica’s dad) came to the rescue and recently restored it back to it’s former glory, along with building a new box for the tank pump which looks much better.

To end we have a couple of pics from a hail storm in October 2011.

This must have been shortly after the back yard was fenced, as the timber sections of the fence are looking very nice and new.

Hail 1

Hail 2

In this last one you can see the old veggie patch next to the golden cane palm.  This is long-gone now…

Hail with old veggie patch

And that’s it.  There are plenty more old pics that I’ll need to upload at some point, but these are just the ones from my iPhone.

It’s amazing how different everything looks now (March 2014) compared to these old photos!

Renovation Update

Well it’s been ages since we last posted, but there’s still been plenty happening!

The bathroom is still at the top of our list for major work, but at this stage we’ve been sticking to the outside of the home.

We’ve put new gardens around the outside of the backyard, and planted plenty of new plants.  It has a bit of a tropical feel, with palm trees, yuccas and other similar plants.

After the new gardens filled with weeds over a few months, we decided that they needed some major work before our engagement party.

To start with I did all of the garden edges using pavers secured in place with concrete.  We then filled the gardens with five cubic metres of bark, which came up really good in my opinion.

To complete the backyard we had a timber fence built around the whole thing, with does well to improve the aesthetics as well as security.  There were a few dramas with the fence builders, but more about that later.

Not much has happened inside, besides painting my office orange!  Otherwise everything is still pretty much standard.  We have big plans for the kitchen, but at this stage that’s a long way off.

I will try to post some pictures and more information about the backyard soon.

Buying Plants From The Caboolture Markets

Despite the fact that we bought a bunch of plants weeks ago, that were still sitting in their pots on the backyard, we decided to visit the Caboolture markets last weekend and get some more plants.

Here’s what we got…

  • 2 x bangalow palms for $5 each
  • 3 x kangaroo paws for $8 each
  • 4 x lilly pillies for $8 each
  • 1 x kafir lime tree for around $20
  • 3 x rainbow trees
  • And an orchid of some sort

Then we reaslised they had to fit in the back of my hatchback…

Thankfully they did all fit, although the palm trees went from one corner of the boot, all the way down past the side of my seat with a couple of leaves swaying around in the footwell.

We also managed to plant most of them in our new garden, but more about that in a later post.

Digging a Telstra Lead In Trench

After being told by Telstra that the lead-in cable to our house was damaged, I was told to contact a local contractor who could come and dig a new ditch from our home to the footpath.

Rather than pay a contractor up to $300 per hour (so I’ve been told) to dig the trench, I decided to tackle the project myself, and I’m very pleased to say that the project was a success!

Here’s how it happened:

Step 1 – Research

Google wasn’t as helpfully as I thought it would be, as I guess not many people decide to dig their own lead-in ditch.  Thankfully I did find some resources through the Telstra website and the Whirlpool forums, which you can check out here:

Telstra 1 | Telstra 2 | Whirlpool

According to the info I found, the trench had to be 300mm deep and with a reasonable amount of clearance from any water carrying pipes.

Step 2 – Dial Before You Dig

This was probably the easiest part of the project.  I simply entered my details on the Dial Before You Dig website and within a day or two I received emailed maps from the local council, Unity Water, Telstra and Energex.

The maps gave me the all clear, and the only hiccup was when I received a call from Telstra telling me there was some rather expensive fibre optic cable buried in the area.  She assured me it should only be outside of the property border, so hopefully everything would be okay.

Step 3 – Start Digging

I decided to follow the existing lead-in cable from the house to the footpath where the Telstra pit was located.  This was fairly straightforward, as I simply followed the existing cable down the side of the house and started digging.

Because I already knew the cable was damaged, it wasn’t such a big deal if I further damaged the cable during the digging process.  And yes, I did slice through the conduit and cable a few times!

I enlisted the help of a mate (thanks David!) and we used a flat shovel to dig out the grass first rather than digging straight in with the mattock.  We managed to save most of the grass, and I’m pleased to report that at the time of writing the grass has survived and is back in its place.

The depth of the existing cable varied from around 100mm to 150mm, which is well short of the 300mm required by Telstra.  So once the existing cable was out, I then proceeded to dig further down to make sure I had a uniform depth of 300mm.

The picture above shows the trench after the initial digging, before going down to 300mm.  You can see the broken conduit laying around, as well as the grass we carefully removed.

Snag Number 1 – Storm Water Pipe

Whilst digging down to the required 300mm depth I hit the storm water pipe.  Thankfully these old pipes are made from super thick concrete or some sort of ceramic, so a few hits from my mattock barely chipped them.

It did raise a problem though – according to the specifications I read, there had to be around 100mm clearance from any storm water pipes.

There was no way I was moving the trench or digging it any deeper to go under the storm water pipe, so I simply brushed some dirt over the pipes to keep them out of site.  Easy!

Snag Number 2 – I haven’t gone deep enough

I don’t know why, but after completing the ditch and calling Telstra to book in a time for the new cabling to be installed, I decided to do some further research on the trench specifications.

I found a Telstra document more recent than the ones I had originally used (although now I’ve lost the link, sorry!) and much to my horror it said the trench must be at least 350mm deep, with a recommended depth of 400mm.

Needless to say, I decided to pretend never reading that document, and left my trench at 300mm.

Step 4 – Installing the Conduit and Cable

The Telstra guy arrived late on a Friday afternoon, thinking he was just hooking up a new connection.  Then I showed him the trench…  We didn’t know it at the time, but it was going to be a long afternoon.

The process took hours longer than it should have, and required further digging between the property border and the footpath to fix up a blockage in the pipe.  It turned out that the conduit running from the property border under the footpath and into the Telstra pit was damaged.

After a bit of swearing and some lost skin from our knuckles, we finally managed to get the conduit and cable from the pit through to my trench.  From there, the process of laying the conduit and cable was very easy.

Once the Telstra guy had finished his work, we tested the line and it worked fine.  I was pretty pleased with that, and also very pleased that there was no scrutiny of my potentially too shallow trench.

Given that the existing trench was only 100 – 150mm deep, the new trench is twice as deep and should provide plenty of protection for the cable.

Step 5 – Fill in the hole

Thankfully we thought ahead when digging the trench, and laid all of the grass in order as we removed it.  This meant the grass went back into place relatively easily, and has left our front lawn as undisturbed as possible.

This picture was taken just after the grass was re-laid.  You can still clearly see where the ditch was, but this should clear up within a month or two.

Conclusion

Digging the trench yourself may seem daunting at first, but once you get into the job it’s pretty easy.  Expect to have blistered hands and sore arms afterwards, but if you ask me it’s better than paying someone else $300 an hour to dig up your front yard.

Time to dig a trench

Last week I organised for Telstra to come out and hook up the phone line.  Being an existing home and noting that there were a couple of phone plugs around the place, I figures connecting up the line would be an easy job.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong…

The technician from Telstra advised that the line was fine out in “the pit” (the hole in your footpath covered by the concrete Telstra box) but unfortunately there was no signal inside the house.

She tried a few things, but sadly the only way to fix the problem is to dig a new trench from our house to the pit and have Telstra lay a new cable in there.

Telstra recommend having a contractor dig the trench, but after doing some research online it seems that plenty of people just like me have dug their own ditch without any problems.  Telstra even have the instructions and specifications available on their website.

So that is my next exciting job, digging a ditch…

Our New Home

So this is our new home.  It’s a two story brick home built in the seventies which is quite typical for its age and the area.

There are three bedrooms upstairs, and downstairs has been built in to accommodate a study and an additional guest room.  The guest room was to be our pool room, but turns out it’s a little too small for that purpose.  It will now be my office until the proper office has been renovated.

The kitchen and bathroom are certainly liveable, but they are dated and are definitely towards the top of our list for replacement.  The bathroom will be first to go, as it’s the one most in need of updating.

The carpets in the lounge, dining room and hallway have been ripped up at some stage, with the hardwood floor underneath having subsequently been polished.  Unfortunately the previous owners have done a very poor job of looking after it, and it will need polishing again very soon.

Lighting throughout the home has been updated through the use of downlights.  A lot of downlights!  I don’t think it will be great for our power consumptions, but I must admit they do look good at night.

The walls upstairs look like they’ve been painted sometime within the last few years, with some bright feature walls in the lounge room.  The paint isn’t too bad at first glance, but upon closer inspection they haven’t done a particularly good job, so new paint throughout is definitely on the cards.

Outside, the home sits on a nice flat block.  The previous owners haven’t done a bad job with the landscaping, but it is pretty basic.  Our first job outside is to start planting trees in the backyard that will start to give us some good privacy over the coming years.  We intend to build a big deck on the back eventually, so we need the trees to grow fairly high.

Enough typing, I’ll let the real estate agent’s photos do the rest of the talking.  These were obviously taken while the previous owners still lived here.

The floors look in better condition here than they actually are.  This pic also shows the generous use of downlights as well as the handy sunroom out the front.

You can see the poor condition of the timber floors here in the dining room.  Why couldn’t they have spent $5 and ten minutes of their time to stick some felt pads on the table and chairs?  We’ve now done that, but the damage has already been done.

The kitchen looks neat enough, but the lack of benchspace is the worry here.  Plus it does look a little dated.

The bathroom is definitely the daggiest looking room in the house.  Replacing the lemon yellow walls with bright white would be a big improvement, but a total renovation is on the cards for the bathroom.

The master bedroom.  There’s loads of wardrobe space, which is great news for Jessica.  They’ve installed an air conditioner in the wall by removing one of the windows, but unfortunately they’ve done a rushed job which isn’t great.

This bedroom is quite neat.

And the “green room” looks good too.

We thought this could be the pool room, but after doing some measurements it’s going to be a little too tight for comfort.  It’s a shame too, because we had a free pool table ready to go!

This will eventually be my office, but as you can see it needs a LOT of work before a business of my status can move in there! 😉

Our little entertaining area.  It’s not huge, but it should be great for the odd BBQ and beers.  You can’t really see from the photos, but the lattice work all ’round is starting to sag at the bottom.  Another handyman job for me over the coming weeks.

And the nice flat backyard, complete with a 9,000 litre water tank.  I doubt we’ll ever be short of water with that sucker out there.  Privacy is almost non-existent with our two side neighbours, so we’ll be planting plenty of screening plants and trees over the coming weeks and months.