This week on stuff, I'm talking about cladding. Getting it finished, finally! It means that we are in a mad rush to finish off the outside of the building completely so we can get the scaffolding down. All that scaffolding stuff is booked out on a per week basis, and those weeks are mounting up...along with the bill.
One outside job we haven't quite been able to work with corrugate, has been the down pipes to take all that water our roof will produce away (and into tanks). There are options in steel but they don't come in the right size for our capacity, and we because the water tank is above floor level, the down pipes need to hold water (not something that's so good in steel). So instead we're using good old PVC. Trouble is, there are a lovely range of colours available, just not black... Given the whole house is black, except for the splash of cedar, it seemed odd to suddenly have something else in the mix, and when you hold the nearest colour (ironsand) next to the black, well, it's not black, is it. Anyone say #firstworldproblems?
There is good reason that PVC drainpipes don't come in black, says Mr BuildingBoxes. Sun equals heat, equals movement in PVC, equals issues with the joins, and stability of those precious down pipes. Of course for us, given the down pipes we're talking about are on the southside, it's not really a problem, but still, no premade black PVC down pipes for us, or you.
Still, if you've paid all that money for the house to look sleek in black, you want it looking sleek and black. Solution? Mr BuildingBoxes and his spray gun. The trick to getting such an even finish, he tells me, is to go at it with long even waves of your spray gun, you're painting after all, so do it in strokes, with a steady hand and at an even distance. Don't, however, balance your newly painted drainpipes precariously and let them fall to the hard, unyielding garage floor. Because they will smash. And you will have to glue that smashed piece back in, sand the crap out of all the sealant you put in to put the puppy back together, and then paint it all over again. Just saying...
This week on stuff.co.nz I'm talking memories: making them, leaving them, tucking them away for someone else to find. Memories folded into time capsules to be exact. And there's now one tucked into the soon to be ceiling cavity of our downstairs bathroom. I would so love to be a fly on the wall when it gets opened...I think, I mean, who knows what the future will be like. There might be the jet pack I was promised, or there might be...a re-emergence of dinosaurs after some genetic lab experiment goes viral (the Lego Engineer would certainly like that).
In the present however, we're moving out of the house I bought ten years ago and which has seen us make lots of memories as a family. It might not look like it in the picture, but we're almost there.
There's a lot of stuff life builds up. Too much really. And a part of packing has been culling. Friends of ours tell tales of moving their life over to New Zealand from the UK and putting it all in storage while they traveled and worked out where they would live. After living without all their "treasures" for so long they discussed just never collecting any of it. Hopefully after my cull, we wont be left in a similar situation - we've managed to get all our worldly possessions down to less than ten cubic meters. Of course that's still a bunch of stuff. My heart goes out to anyone living in their car this winter. Puts it all in perspective doesn't it?
This week on stuff, I'm talking about the cedar cladding. More specifically about the almost disaster I had with the interior cladding. In short - I had stained it, thinking that I wanted it to match the external cedar. (We are, after all, trying to get the entrance way to roll from out to in with the cedar running the whole length of both internal and external walls). However, the colour from the stain was so strong that it was never going to match the external cedar once some sun and rain had had a go at it. Happily, the problem was solved, thanks to Mark from TimberTECH. Man almost knows more about timber than a lumberjack.
But, it has shown me where my priorities are. Not that it's really ever been a secret. I am in charge of the inside, says Mr Building Boxes, and while i'm also in charge of how the outside looks, I care more about where we are going to be living our day to day lives.
A big thing for me is making sure our sleek shiny concrete floor doesn't make the place seem to sterile. Not only that, but I don't like everything to look super "new" and polished. When an interiors image catches my eye it's almost always because of the mix of old and new that has been lovingly meshed together, and with that in mind, I've been looking at what I might be able to find to put into the new, new house. It's a difficult balance at the moment, as I can't really buy anything (as we're about to move out of our current house and have nowhere to put it) but if I find just the right set of drawers say, to turn into a vanity, I need to get it now so that I can work it into a design with the cabinet maker. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. I also don't get much time to get out and look around, or at least, not much time without the Lego Engineer and Destruction Specialist. I was at a second hand store the other day and was drilling the boys not to touch anything, when the guy was all - let them touch, it's fine. I looked at him a little sideways, but shrugged and let the boys go. About ten minutes later he was concerned that they might have a)stolen one of his toy cars, b)reordered his vintage cup collection, c)hidden all the hats, and d) attempted to kill each other with the stupid-sharp dagger/walking stick/harbinger of doom....guess he either doesn't have any kids of his own or they haven't been to the same school of destruction specialization as mine have...
This week on stuff.co.nz I'm talking insulation. Putting it in yourself to be exact. We estimate we've saved close to $1500 doing it ourselves. Like I said over on stuff, it takes time, but it's not difficult and there are great How To guides online for both ceilings, underfloors and walls with chirpy Australian banter.
I've talked here before about our choices with insulation, so I won't go over everything again, but I thought I would just detail quickly why we've chosen to use Earthwool Glasswool. Or rather, why it got Mr Building Boxes tick of approval (for a guy with a bunch of degrees and who works with plastics, polymers, adhesives and all sorts of chemical nasties, this was a big one)
Sorry if you were looking out for this on Tuesday. The long weekend meant a days delay on stuff.co.nz and so this comes out a day later too.
This week on stuff, I'm talking decision making. Death by a thousand paper cuts kind of decision making, where just as you think you've nailed it, you discover there are another four decisions to make within the decision you just made.
In that mix, we've needed to work out what's going on in the kitchen. The units and benches themselves were easy decisions, with Laminex giving us some great advice, but the appliances were another story. In the grand scheme of the build it's not a huge amount of cash, but somehow, spending it in a store makes it seem like a bigger deal. One that we wanted to make sure we squeezed into the allowance we had in the budget and didn't go over.
So in the spirit of decision making - here is a treatise on bargain hunting.
Appliance shopping seems to be one of those things, like buying a used car, where bargaining is totally acceptable. I'm not the bargain for everything type, but my dad is, maybe I learned from a master. Either way, there are some people who would never ask for a discount, and some people who almost always do. I'm not trying to tell anyone how to suck eggs, but in case you're one of the unconverted to bargain hunting, I thought I would share just how much there is to be saved with a bit of gentle persuasion.
On our shopping list we had:
First thing to note, is having a few items on our list helped enormously. Our bargaining power went up, because its a bigger sale for the operator. Second, we made a list of a few different versions of the appliances we wanted and then Mr Building Boxes made a wee spreadsheet of the standard retail prices for all of them. Then we shopped around. And we did it on a long weekend - Queens Birthday - where every store in the land is promising you bigger and better for less.
When I say shopped around, really I rang around, and was given a quote over the phone or via email with a "queen's birthday sale price". We then narrowed it down to the two stores with the right appliances and the best prices and went shopping. This meant we could a)check that the models we thought we wanted were what we wanted (which turned out not to be the case with the dishwasher) and b)could look the sales folk in the eye...
We ended a pretty quick whip around two stores clear about what we wanted, and with two much more competitive sets of quotes. We then went to the store with the best set of quotes, asked them to match the cheaper items from the other store and boom. We saved $1756.
I'll say that again. The advertised price for the items (some of which were on "special") for all five items was $6865, and we paid $5109. Saving $1756. All with a relatively painless and pretty quick process. Sometimes it pays to be a bargain hunter.
This week on stuff I'm talking about paying for all this with the team at Westpac who made what was a rather complicated timeline of buy, sell, build, settle, complete, move, much easier, and it's probably timely as we are finally over halfway (woohoo!).
We’ve reached the stage of the build where I think that every week something will have been ticked off our list. But it doesn’t necessarily happen. Deliveries are delayed, rain stops play, or things just take a lot longer than you had hoped because they are waiting on that delivery that got delayed or the rain to stop. Having a good relationship with suppliers is essential and having programs in place to try and mitigate delays by getting the right thing first time are a great idea, but sometimes you have to trust that people are reading and building from the plans (the golden mecca of any build) and when they don't, and it happens a lot more frequently than you'd think, things get made wrong, delivered wrong and delays happen.
It is however, a good time to take stock. I’m getting better at anticipating what will crop up on the to do list for the month but luckily I have Mr Building Boxes to make sure our list is complete as he's the one with the project management experience onsite. Here then, in case you’re wondering, is where ours is at:
· Install and glaze windows - done
· Finish external batons
· Install toe mould flashings – done
· Install all window flashings
· Install horizontal corrugate cladding
· Install horizontal cedar cladding
· Install Earthwool/Glasswool R5.2 cei_ling insulation – done
· Choose material and colour for soffit and install (and insulate a portion)
· Install wall insulation (upstairs Earthwool/Glasswool, downstairs Dritherm)
· Install Proclima Intello membranes
· Prewire (first fix electrical)
· First fix plumbing – done thanks to the team at K10! These boys are speedy and super lovely.
· Grind and polish concrete floors
· Take delivery of external doors - done
· Stain and install external doors
· Glaze external doors
· Install ceiling Gib Rondo battens
· Staircase made
· Install staircase
· Pass blowerdoor test with Intello membrane
· Install Gib Toughline in stairwell and halls
· Install Gib Aqualine in bathrooms
· Install Gib Ultraline on ceilings
I think I might go have a cup of tea and a lay down...
For some reason, the editors over at stuff have given my column a "How to" title. Some of the builders (and their wives) who read it have rolled their eyes in the comments telling me I have no clue, and fair enough - but I'm not trying to write a How to Build column, more a How We've Built column, and that has been helpful for plenty of you apparently. So thanks.
This week on stuff, I'm talking about windows, and especially glazing, a big deal when you're trying for passive design. Luckily we've got the good stuff from Metro in, or at least still coming. Because that's what this week is all about, playing catch up.
Our builder went on holiday. I mentioned it a while back, but the full implications have only just hit home. We had hoped to be totally closed in at the end of April, and now...here we are. The windows came, then some of them went again, and now they're back. But we'd been hoping to glaze them after all the flashings for the cladding went in so the jiggling to get them just so would be easier. Because Mike Our Man of Hammers was on holiday however, issues weren't picked up and we still don't have the flashings on. They are due today, and things should start picking up again, but still, it's almost the middle of May now...not the end of April.
Happily Mr Buildig Boxes has been spending every living minute that he isn't at work on site, and the chippies have been picking away at battens and the internal walls. So lots of other small, annoying, time consuming jobs are done, and when we get going again, we'll really crack on. But the outcome seems pretty clear: if you want to stay on schedule, keep your A Team building. Seems I need to make more cake.
This week's piece on stuff.co.nz was going to be about windows. Getting them in to the new build, or not getting them in, depending on the part of the week. And then Nepal had an earthquake. A doozy. It felt about a hundred kinds of wrong to be talking about putting the windows into a shiny new house while so many were struggling without windows, doors, a roof, water, food, you name it, it was pretty much gone. So instead I wrote a piece about the implications of rebuilding in some of the most isolated, difficult to access and impoverished areas of the world.
Over here in New Zealand we are rebuilding after earthquakes too of course, and there are still people in Christchurch who don't have a building to call home yet. But I, for one, have so much to be thankful for. So I wanted to spend a little time waxing lyrical about the good things about living where we do, one of the big reasons for buying and building on the section in the first place.
1. The people are amazing. I have had people find my wallet (thrown out of a moving vehicle by swift and sneaky children), see a receipt from a chemist, call the chemist, get my number, then drive over to drop off my wallet to me. I have had that same chemist find my child's medication from another store and drop it off to me at home when he didn't have it in stock. I have had neighbours lend me everything from lipstick to lawnmowers, just to help out. And our Man of Diggers, Adam, takes the cake for pulling the surviving crew of a boat out of the water, saving lives and not even wanting to be thanked for risking his own life.
2. The trees. We have an amazing view of trees and an abundance of bird life because of it. Our three year old lego specialist told me today that t"rees make the world grow and they are for happy." I think he might be right. (He also told me that if we got in a car accident we could go to a restaurant and get fixed up with spider powers but that's another matter).
3. The water. The harbour isn't the cleanest but it's certainly not the dirtiest, and the mangroves at the bottom of our section while muddy, do a good job of being a living breathing filter. But when the sky has silvered off and the tide is in, there is nothing like the view across water. It is like a dish of molten pewter, reflecting the world and making us feel rich without quite knowing why.
I'll be back to talking building next week, but until then, here's hoping the thoughts (and cash) heading to Nepal get it back on it's feet soon.
This week on stuff I'm talking about Building Inspections. Lots of them. One thing is that is outside of their remit is looking at the waste created in the build process. As part of our plan to "green up" our new home, we've talked the folk at Homestar about certifying our house when it's all done and dusty...sure sure it's supposed to be dusted, but most likely, we'll be living there before the dust has truly settled.
The Homestar system is a bit like the Energy star rating for appliances, and it's still relatively new, but it basically boils down to making a gigantic check list of all the materials that go into making your site and build, a home and rating everything against a set of criteria. Some products have certified eco credentials (paint from Resene for example has less nasties (Environmental Choice paint in this case) in the mix than some others).
But the Homestar rating also takes into account how you will live in your house, so you get points for example on how close you are to a bus stop, schools, banks, that sort of thing. I'll go into it more if and when we get closer to doing our full audit, but for the moment, we're trying to make sure we're following the principles that make sense to us anyway. One of these is having a waste management plan.
Building sites are notoriously wasteful. If you're fighting the clock because owners want to get in to their new house, picking up a new piece of timber and cutting it to size is much quicker than sorting through a big pile of offcuts to see if there is something in there you can use. It does however, then lead to a whole lot of timber, metal, plasterboard...pretty much everything used in construction, being thrown into a big pile that goes to landfill, usually by way of a skip.
We've chosen to not have a skip as long as we can manage it. We have a big site so can manage having piles of offcuts just sitting round, and because we do want to reduce, reuse and recycle where we can, we've committed to trying to sort through those piles ourselves. So far, that has meant Mr BuildingBoxes, a friend Ben, and the younger Building Box Boys, throwing piles of timber from one pile to another in the hope that by stacking all the offcuts neatly (to show their sizes and whether they're treated or untreated) the builders will be able to use them rather than reaching for a new piece. It will save us money, but it takes time to do the sorting, serious time, and takes a little commitment from the build team too so it depends who and how you're working. There will still be waste, unless you are SUPER committed and probably building it yourself, but, we're hoping to at least minimize it.
So far, so not bad though. We still haven't got a skip, and we've got plans for the offcuts from the retaining wall posts and left over roofing iron in the kids play area thanks to some clever landscape thinking from the Unitec Landscape Architecture team. The Building Boxes Boys are very excited.
A family of four: writer, scientist, lego engineer and destruction specialist. Our previous home is featured in New Zealand Interior Style and this new project promises to provide plenty of great, green, smart and maybe madcap solutions to new building in New Zealand.