Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rainwater Tank - Take 2

We are still in significant drought here, with very restricted use of water allowed for gardens. So, to establsih our new garden, we are first installing a 56,000 litre rainwater tank. This will augment the existing tank which is 13,000 litres. The collection system and pump are already in place, so it's has just been a matter of deciding on a location. The new large tank will be at the bottom of the site, and a slow-speed pump will transfer water up to the smaller tank at the top of the site. The photo shoes the 7m diameter pad prepared with "quarter-minus" gravel (less than 6mm in size).

Sub Floor Access Door

This is one of those jobs that often gets left un-done for years. But we were worried about vermin getting in under the house, and setting up home in our warm under-floor insulation. So I made am a door-jamb and fitted a door to it. I routed the face of the door with v-groove to make it look a bit less boring.

At the same time, I fitted a fly-wire frame and thick fly-wire around the portal in the wall for our ducted heating systems. So hopefully no wermin will get in.

Vanity & Tap

Just a quick post to detail the addition of the vanity and mirror to the main bathroom. Not a lot of work here for me, although the mirror took the best part of half-a-day to hang, as it need some substantial fixings into the wall-studs owing to its weight.

Bathroom with a Bath

A few weeks back, I installed our bath, after the cabinet makers finally fitted the hob for it. Our bath has spa-jets in it, and all the associated plumbing that you would get with a spa, except it's just a bath (a "theraputic bath" I am told). The photo shows the bath in position, ready to be dropped into its final loaction. I had put a lot of effort into getting all the pipes the right length, so it would mate-up OK with the pump that runs the jets. It is a building-requirment that the pump has to be higher up than the pump-inlet, so that the used water can drain away after using the bath. In my case this made for some precision pipe-work, as there was not a lot of spare room in the hob. Anyway, it worked out, and of all things, it doesn't leak!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oliver - our Burmese Cat

Oliver is about 16 years old now. He doesn't really cope that well with all the changes that happen during building. But he does enjoy polyester wall-insulation. He just loves it.

Andy the Miniature Pony

Our neighbour has two miniature ponies, and her acre is running low on grass. So Andy and his girl-freind have spent about a week with us, getting very full of our grass.

Pressure System

My plumber has a great apprentice - Brendon - who does great work. He came on Friday to install the Grundfos pump I bought to run the pressure system on our water tank. He has arranged two circuits for me: just toilet cisterns and one garden tap; and/or the rest of the house (although for the latter we need to up our tank size from 12000 to 36000 litres. That won't happen until next year.

Verandah Flashing

Because our verandah has radiused (curved) rafters, I could not get a standard steel section rolled to fit the hips (apparently they can't roll to this shape). So I had to fall back on the traditional solution - lead. The down side is that we collect water from out roof - and we don't want excessive lead in that water, even though we don't drink it. Fortunatley lead can be bought pre-coated in acrylic sealer - it's grey and matches our colour scheme well.

Now here's the clue on how to do this. To shape the lead into place, the best thing to use is another piece of lead, cut in the shape of a strap about 30mm wide and 250mm long. By hitting the lead with this strap it forms it into shape smoothly with minimal ripples. I was pleased with the result. Many thanks to Tony our plumber for this hint.

Kitchen Exhaust Flue

Its taken ages, but the flue for the kitchen exhaust fan is now in place. The cowling used has dampers in the top to stop back-flow of air into the house when its not in use (an energy requirement for our house). Unfortunately, the cowling is rectangular in shape, which means that I could not get an off-the-shelf sealing system for it.

Its an ugly looking cowling, but fortuantely its nestled out of sight in the internal valley of our roof. This also avoids having to put a penetration through the visible slate section of the roof.

The photo shows the first seal - silicon around the perimeter. Tomorrow I will finish it off with acrylic-coated lead flashing left over from the verandah hips I did recently.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Maid's Bell & Room Indicator

Julie will throttle me one day for this. I bought a maid's-bell and indicator-board on ebay for A$30. I've installed it in the kitchen, and have run wires to switches in four rooms, so I can call for a maid from the bedroom or lounge! The bell is yet to be wired in place, but the indicator board is up on the wall. When a call is made from one of the rooms, a tell-tale drops down into one of four windows displayed on the indicator panel. The maid will then know to come to "room 1" -- the lounge for instance.

....unfotunately there is no maid, so this is just meant to be for fun -- although Julie is a bit worried about having any such system in the house!

Verandah - Curved Rafters

Our rear verandah has always lagged behind the rest, primarily as I elected to do it myself. We recently finished the roof frame for it, and clad it with galvanised (not zinc-alume) corrugated steel. This finish dulls-off over the years to look old, although it is not as durable as zinc-alume (so maybe when I am 80 years old, maybe I'll have to re-clad it!). I was pleased to show our carpenter the end-rsult -- although what took me four week-ends, he could do in a day!

Window-to-Brick Sealant

Contemporary windows have a strip of timber called a "wind mold" that protrudes out from the main window frame on the outside. The brickies then place the bricks so the rear face of the brick is covered by the wind mold. Our window supplier talked us out of this idea, as Victoian windows were not fitted with wind molds. This meant that the gap between the rear face of the bricks and the window frame had to be filled with a sealant. I'm not sure what was used in the past, but we have used a coloured poly-urethane sealant from Sika.

The guy that did the work for us suggested that the window frame be taped so that a clean, straight line of sealant would be seen against the window frame. He did a really good job, and we are very pleased with the result (as well as the colour - "Redwood").

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Of course the new rain-water collection pump has put the pressure on me to get all the downpipes finished. Most of them are done, but I had left the more difficult ones until last. Above is a photo of the downpipe that collects water from a gutter, and also from a sump located at the end of a "box gutter" in the roof (hence I have two pipes joining together). If the sump blocks-up, the over-flow water will run into the "rain head" shown in the photo too.

On the verandahs, we had to partially rebate each down-pipe into the "stringer-molds" that decorate this section of the house. It was a bit stressful, but it has turned out well. The verandah is yet to have the cast-aluminium lace-work fitted (another consideration in figuring how the downpipe should be fitted). The down-pipes are also "offset" from the brickwork by about 40mm, as the sandstone quoins protrude from the brickwork by about 25mm, and the down-pipe has to clear this at the top and bottom.

Rain Water Pump Commissioned

A few weeks back, our rain-water collection pump was finally commissioned. The photo shows two pits (each 600 x 600mm) - the first of which is a settling pit to help removed any debris collected from the roof. The sump-pump is in the seond pit, which also has two over-flow pipes that discharge to the stormwater "legal point of discharge".

Our tank only holds 12,500 litres, as it was initially required only to supply water to the toilet cisterns. But with the on-going drought, I am likely to triple this to 36,000 litres eventually, so that we can water the garden during summer.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I stuffed up slightly with the brickwork for our fireplace. The hearth in front of the fireplace opening must extend out 300mm to satisfy building regulations. Because we chose a different mantel to the one originally envisaged when the brickwork was laid, I have had to extend the hearth by about 100mm. This was done by removing (see below) one of three floor joists (leaving a double joist supporting the floor around the opening). In its place I have put an un-equal angle steel lintel to provide support for the slate hearth.

The finished result, with the slate hearth in-place, is shown below. I also have to confess that around this time we also painted the walls in Dulux Rajun Cajun - a very bold colour indeed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Corinthian Capitals

Although the main plastering was done some months back, the hallway-arch was left until later. The main reason for this was that it took us time to decide what we wanted! At first, we couldn't seem to find all the right elements in the arches we saw on display -- but then one of the suppliers said that we could mix-and-match any design elements, as they could make anything we wanted. So I did a design drawing in AutoCAD (which the plaster-supplier also used!) and emailed the order to them. The CAD drawing is shown below.

Like the Victorians did 120 years ago, we have copied design elements from Classical Architecture, the most obvious of which are columns with Corinthian capitals.

Kitchen Arrives

The kitchen installation has been tedious to say the least. But it has arrived, and we have been painting it ousleves over a period of months. Julie wanted a hand-painted brush-finish in semi-gloss enamel. While two-pack finished are very popular these days, we felt that the super-smooth finish would not suit the provincial style of out kitchen.

However, we did have the cabinets primed by the manufacturer before delivery. Even so, it has taken months to paint it (in part because we removed all doors & drawers first before painting them). The cabinets all have three top-coats of Dulux oil-based enamel, although this was hand-rubbed back after each coat to ensure we achieved a smooth finish. (Also, it was nessecary to rub back the spray-painted primer to eliminate the "orange-peel" texture from the spray-gun.)

The photo shows the "dresser" side of the kitchen after during painting.

Mouldings - Ovolo & Cyma

Here are two examples of moulding-profiles used in our house ...these are on a large scale as they form the support-brackets for the chimney-breast aboev our kitchen stove. The curved profile on the top-half of this bracket is "ovolo", while the profile on the bottom half is "cyma". See also this description of moulding types used in classical architecture.

Hallway Painting

Just a quick note to document the paint-job we did on out hallway (some months ago now). The photo shows the cornices masked with blue-tape to so we get a "proper" straight line where the different colour of the cornice meets the wall and ceiling ...yes, I did the first room in the house by cutting-in without tape, and it was deemed "not satisfatctory". So its blue-tape everywhere from now on. It's best to by the low-adhesion type (it comes in different levels of adhesion) as this will minimise the chance of any underlying paint from coming off-the-wall with the tape when its removed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Front Door Knob - Genuine This Time

I guess that for people who own "real" Victorian homes, they might wonder why we bother with "reproduction" stuff. But on this occasion, we have the real-thing -- a door knob with 100 years of history. We found it at a tile-shop we visited, and I bought it for my wife's birthday. Of course it didn't get fitted in time for her birthday, but it is fitted now. It looks great (...the maid will have to polish it once per week -- NOT! )

Victorian Light Fittings

I am a sucker for decent light fittings. This is one of the few things that my wife has not had to convince me of. We have bought a few for the house now -- we have a shop in Melbourne that stocks really good lights, with a range to suit any period.

One of our first lights was for the master bedroom, shown here. The wall-painting is finish, but the French-blue detail on the cornice has not had a final coat yet.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Skirting Boards

We recently got our carpenters to come back on site to fit the skirting boards and architraves. We have taken ages to choose these -- probably because tehre are so many designs.

Our skirting boards are 300mm high, which I admit to thinking that thay would be too big. But with the 12ft ceilings they look great. Our architraves are 150mm wide, expect for some doors in service-areas where we used 90mm as the 150mm took up too much space.
The skirts & archs are made from MDF, which is very tedious to prime with undercoat as it behaves a bit like blotting paper. So we had our factory primed and sanded, thus keeping our sanity.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cable Actuated Door-Bell

We stumbled across a new (reproduction) door bell that is the same as that used 100 years ago. It is actuated by a cable, running through pulleys in the roof space. At the front door, there is a knob that says "pull", and if you do so it causes the bell to tinle as it wobbles on its spring-suspended mount. This was another crazy project really, as it too the best part of 2-days to install.

The only down-side with this bell is that I can't hear it in the garage. But of course I figured a way to fix that - I rigged up a micro-switch on the stainless steel actuating cable, so it cause an electric bell to ring in the garage. This aded another days work!

It was, despite the cost (A$220) and effort (3 days) the right thing to do, as we love it, and so do visitors.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Front Verandah

The design of the verandah seems to have been more tedious than the design of the frame for the whole house. I am not sure why.

We have chosen a roof profile that is radiussed in such a way that it is convex on the top. Some Victorian homes also had it around the other way, so its concave on the top surface. We like both versions, but eventually we went with convex.

We painted all the verandah components (posts, rafters, battens) before our carpenter installed the frame over. The posts are laminated clear-pine, rafters are clear-pine radiussed to about 4metres. The base of each post is made from merbu so it wont rot, and its mounted on a hot-dipped galvanised steel stirrup (currently this puts the post 50mm above the concrete to allow 40mm for the tiling of the verandah).

Posts are modelled on a commonly used design from the Victorian period (octagonal base, fluted body, Corinthian capital, with cast-aluminium lace [not fitted yet] between the capital and the verandah beam).

External Window Sills Fitted

Our window sills are made from dark-grey concrete, and are intended to emulate the bluestone sills originally used. We were happy enough with the apperance of the concrete that we felt we didn't need to spend the extra to get machined bluestone sills made.
As the sills have oxide colouring in them, we had to install them after the brickwork was washed-down, thus avoiding damage to the sills from the acid used to wash the bricks.
Note the "wash-out" in the top of the sill to encourage draiange. Some excess mortar is yet to be cleaned from the sills following installation. One of the cast-iron "Victorian" wall vents we used is also visible (made in China!).

Rain Water "Harvesting" & Droughts

For some time now we have been in drought conditions in much of Australia. The water storages serving Melbourne are down to 40% of capacity, and we are restricted in how we can use water.
To counter this, many people in Melbourne's suburbs are installing water tanks. (This used to be illegal not long ago! But now the Government encourages it, and has made water-collection or solar hot-water services mandatory in new homes).
To collect rainwater from our roof, I have put two sumps/pits in the ground, which are connected to the total roof run-off. Our roof is about 400 sq-m , so 1mm of rain will give 400 litres of run-off water. In Melbourne we should get about 50mm of rain per month, on average (except that it hasn't rained for ages here).
The first pit (shown at above-left) is a settling pit to allow any grunge from the roof to settle in the bottom, As this pit fills, it over-flows into a second pit which contains a sump-pump in the bottom. The sump-pump is activated by a float-switch when the water level in the pit rises. The water is pumped to to a 12,000 litre storage tank.
To clean the first pit out, I have left a connection to the drain, which can be opened by removing a cap from the PVC pipe.
Our pump is made by Davey. I have selected it on the basis of the flow required, and the amount of head, As there is about 4m of rise, from the pit to the out-fall into the tank, the pump selected will have a capacity of 200 litres per minute (i.e it would take an hour to fill our tank if it was raining that much).
Under heavy rainfall, the pump will not be able to kee-up with the flow of water into the pit, so there is an over-flow out-fall from the second pit into the storm-water drain.
I have yet to commission the pump, but included here is a photo of the first "settling" pit.

Andy the Miniature Pony

Not strictly house-related, but here is Andy.

Andy is owned by one of our neighbours. Andy also lives with a lot of other animals, including two dogs who love to chase him around. So he loves to escape over to our place from time to time, just to eat different grass, and relax away from the dogs!
Also in-shot are three concrete window-sills yet to be installed into the brickwork.


Julie thought it would be a good idea to re-post the photo of Coolattie (located in Melbourne, Australia) as it is the house which was the biggest influence on the design of our Victorian home.

The other house that was influential is also from Melbourne, Australia: