Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The renovation time line - part one

So one thing that I had absolutely no idea about (and still don't to some extent!) is how long things take to get done when you are renovating.  As a result I had quite a tight schedule planned, and although there were a few blow outs I was actually quite lucky that to a great extent I could get everything fitted in.  But for information that might be of use - here is the time line for what we have done so far (split posts so you don't get too bored with the wordiness!)

1. First up  - buying the house and settlement - even once you agree on a price and have all the inspections done, or make the winning bid at the auction - you have to wait until settlement date.  Generally that seems to be 6 weeks in Sydney.  We had 12 weeks at the request of the vendor, and this suited us well.  It might be frustrating not to be able to get those keys and get started but it is good to have a bit of planning time.

2.  You may be able to get access to the house prior to settlement but you need to discuss this with the agent.  We were lucky that the vendor was quite helpful and so we were able to get access to the house.  I tried to be very accommodating too with this and rather than ask for three or four different access times I organised for all my necessary trades to be present at the same time on the same day (and this amazingly came off.  Now, knowing tradies a bit better I am still amazed that this happened!).  We had a quote for the floor sanding, asbestos testing, and kitchen measurements all done about four to six weeks prior to settlement.  While vendors might be accommodating, they don't have to let you in and if you start asking for five different quotes at different times for each of your jobs I am not sure you would get very far!

3.  Kitchens take a LOT longer than I expected to be ready for installation.  I was quite amazed when we went looking for kitchens to find that 8-12 weeks lag time was common.  So that means at least 8 -12 weeks between signing up for a kitchen company and the date they can install everything.  We ended up choosing a company that made their cabinets and all components here in Sydney (rather than others we spoke to which shipped in cabinets from France or Germany - which obviously adds a time delay) and were able to offer us four weeks for the process.

4.  Apart from how long it takes to order the kitchen - the installation process takes days as well.  Depending on your situation there are the following steps -

a) - removal of old kitchen.  Stripping out of our single strip of cupboards and sink took about two or three hours.  The guy who removed the cabinets was also the electrician so this was helpful in that he could be aware of the electricity points etc.
Kitchen wall after removal of cupboards - and asbestos

b) For us this is where we organised the removal of asbestos.  Since the kitchen cupboards were gone it was much easier for them to access the wall.  Asbestos removal took the best part of a full day, including the post removal testing (discussed here.)

c) - "rough in" of the electricity and plumbing - our kitchen company were really good and they arranged all the trades involved - and also co-ordinated the rough in visits.  If you organise your own trades it may be less expensive but be aware that they don't just come round once and do everything all together. Electrician and plumber both had to rough in the new plumbing and electricals.  We were lucky that without a wall, and without a floor in place (plumber was in the camo shorts here) that it was probably much easier and quicker for the trades to do their work.  For us, with a pretty small kitchen really and only along one wall the electrician and plumber both only took an hour or two each.
d) - we needed to put in a new wall - plasterer took one morning to install the wall.
New wall installed with the roughed in electric points

e) Painting the wall - we wanted to smooth and finish before the cabinets were installed.  We just painted it ourselves, which only really needed a base coat and two colour coats - so finished in two days to allow the drying time in between.

f) We also had the floors sanded before cabinets installed.  Since we were adding an island bench, it was much easier for the floor guys to be able to sand when they didn't have to go around the island.  For us, as discussed in my post on the floor sanding, we had two and a half days of floor sanding and sealing, plus the couple of days drying time.

e) - cabinet installation - you need to get them delivered first!  Ours were delivered on a Tuesday afternoon, and installed on Wednesday morning.

You need to have somewhere to store the cabinets when they are delivered - and ideally not the kitchen as there needs to be space to move around.

Cabinets installed
f) Plumbing in for dishwasher and connecting the oven occurs after the cabinets.  As before, our kitchen people organised all of the trades. 

g) Once cabinets are in the stone mason (if you're getting stone benchtops) has to come to measure up.  This can't be done before hand as needs to be very precise and dependent on the installation.  Our stone guy was good and was able to come the day after the cabinets were installed, and then the bench tops went in only a few days later.  He cut some of the holes (for sink etc) while he was on site at our house, which was possible as we have an area in the front of our house.   The stone mason will need the specifications for your cooktop too, so he knows what size hole to cut.  We bought our own appliances, but this info was easily found with the product itself.  The stone mason was also organised through the kitchen company.  We actually changed the stone we choose to a different brand as the original one I chose was not immediately available - and we were on a tight schedule!

Our finalised kitchen - plumbed in, stove, cooktop and rangehood attached.

g) Once benchtops are in, you can plumb in the sink (we had a double undermount sink which the stone mason attached initially, not sure who does the drop in sinks).  

h) Tiling for the splashback can be done next.
i) Final power points and plumbing can be finalised - and your kitchen is complete!

The time for the kitchen would presumably depend on how easily you can arrange all your trades to work together.  As our kitchen company organised all the trades this was quite easy for us.  The entire process still took approximately one and a half weeks from delivery of cabinets until final power point was completed.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

My poor droopy daphne

Daphne flowers.  So beautiful, so sweet smelling, and apparently so temperamental.  My dad scoffs at me when I suggest I am going to grow one, as he says if he can't after all these years I won't be able to with my slap happy approach to gardening.  So naturally, like any child, even one in her thirties - I am going to prove my dad wrong.

As I have mentioned before friends of ours are about to undertake a fairly large extension/renovation - and this means they will lose a large amount of their lovely garden.  So rather than throw their plants into the skip, we were the lucky recipients of the soon to be orphan plants.  A quick trip to North Parramatta was well worth it (apart from seeing our friends and their gorgeous little girl!) to bring home the spoils - established rose bushes in two colours, agapanthus, murayas, and the piece de resistance - the daphne.

Now, Sarah swears to me they don't even look after their daphne, and it just grows happily at the front of her house.  So after it was dug up we brought it home, and immediately put it into my largest pot, filled up with dirt.  I did put a bit of manure in as I had to increase the volume of soil, and I also put some leaf mulch on.  I didn't Seasol it then and there, which apparently is an issue. I carefully watered it during the heat of the first week.  And it sort of looked ok.  I was nervous though so I continued to "kill it with kindness"....  Thanks to Twitter though I got some good advice -

Then a couple of things happened.  First, it started to rain.  And didn't stop.  so the daphne may have been a little over soggy.  And secondly my idiotic roof guy who was "fixing" our skylight (more on this later.  If I stop being angry.  Let's just say the so called fixed skylight now requires a bucket underneath it as that rain is continuing and the sky light is not stopping the water!) managed to throw our hose over the daphne bush and bent it all over when he was "testing" if the sky light was waterproof.

So now my daphne is droopy.  Decidedly droopy.  And I have my fingers crossed I can save it, as I don't want to prove my dad right!!
Poor droopy daphne - But the leaves are still green which I'm hoping might be a good sign.

Another (not particularly good) angle of the droopy daphne.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A tale of two cucumbers

I don't really understand gardening. Guess that's kind of a given already! But my
cucumber plants are a case in point. A while back (can't remember when- October some time?) I planted some cucumber seeds. Two lovely seedlings duely appeared, and I carefully tended them. When they were getting to about 8cm tall I transferred them to the garden. So far, so good. And so same. But something has gone wrong.  I initially started this post when there were still two plants, although one was looking pretty bedraggled.  Unfortunately, one plant has now given up the ghost.  The other however, is going from strength to strength -

Early growth on my stronger cucumber plant

The poor weak cucumber plant which has now completely given up

The remaining cucumber plant going (and growing) strong

So what is the difference? Same soil same water same shade to start off - I am not too sure!  I'm starting to wish that I had some more seedlings ready to go- maybe it will just be one cucumber plant for me.  Can you get fruit from just one plant?  Much as I like the idea of growing from seed I think perhaps I am better with seedlings.

Mind you, my radishes are going ok, and they were just seeds sprinkled in the garden bed.

Early days of my radishes (and I think that was rocket seedlings coming up too - sadly the slugs seem to have destroyed them)
And radishes growing strongly - as my dad says (quite scornfully I must add) "even a child can grown radishes"

And here is my capsicum plant also grown from seed.

But this very prolific capsicum plant was planted from a seedling.

Lots of capsicums although they don't seem to get any bigger than this quite miniature size
So I like the idea of growing from seed, but for success I think seedlings are the way to go!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A bit of spit and polish

So after the minor (kind of major really) issue of the missing floor was fixed, the next step was the actual polishing of the floorboards.  We had played with the idea of hiring the sanding equipment and doing it ourselves - but really that idea only lasted for about 20 milliseconds before I put the kybosh on it.  I could see myself gouging a hole in a board or not getting it straight and having to go over and over the same spots until there were no floor boards left.  We also had no idea if the boards had previously been sanded, and if so how many times - so we weren't sure how much thickness we would have to play with!  So we decided to call in the professionals.

I got a recommendation from a friend (who may soon do a guest post or two about the big extension she will soon be starting for her cottage in North Parramatta - and who also donated a lot of plants to me which I will be writing about soon) for the floors place.  I am always so happy to get a recommendation - just to know that the people will actually turn up, and will do a good job, is such a good start!

When sanding and polishing floors you can get different types of finishes, and of course you can also get stains.  We went for the natural boards and the water based urethane finish, which has less strong odours.  It also dries a bit faster.  We also chose a non gloss finish, as it is my preference not to have the very shiny finish.
Dining room floor before sanding 

Kitchen floor before sanding

Our floors ended up taking two and a half days and then we needed to be off them for another few days.  I timed ours so that the finish was applied before Easter, and we stayed out of the house for a few days and went back in on Easter Monday.  Originally the floors were booked for Wednesday and Thursday, however due to a few setbacks - we hadn't finished removing all the staples for one, and then we had added a step (see picture below, we added a step between lounge room and kitchen) after the original quote, so this added some time  - we ended up getting the first coat on the Wednesday and second coat Thursday and final coat on the Saturday.  Had it been a bit quicker and easier to do the prep I think they would have aimed for two coats on the Wednesday and then final on the Thursday.  Also if you get a stain you have to factor in longer time as that is obviously another coat to apply.

During the sanding process.  We had the step made specially by our carpenter which was an extra expense to sand and polish but is definitely worth while.

More of the during shots.  Pity you can't smell how nice it was!  One thing we should have done was take off the skirting boards prior to sanding, but I guess that is something that we chalk up to experience

I can't remember if this one is during the process or after it was finished.  Possible after, but as you can see we didn't get the glossy finish so it's not too obvious.

The floors smelt amazing during the sanding process - and there were bags of wood shavings.  I wish now I had asked them to leave the shavings, the pine smell was lovely and I could have used in the garden I think.  I was so pleased with how the floors came up, and I continue to be pleased every day.  We are starting to get some scratches and wear and tear, but they still look a lot better than previously.

This is a fairly small shot but it shows how difficult it is to tell the difference between the old and new floor in the kitchen.  To the left of the brown beam was the old floor and to the right (up to that door way and across) is the new.  And it looks exactly the same.  This is the finish for all our floors, just natural colour.
I think it is definitely worth getting done professionally.  Our cost was initially quoted at around $1400 but it did get out a bit more than that, firstly as they had to remove staples for about 2 hours which they charged at $65 per hour, and also because of the step that we had added - so they had to sand all sides.  Final cost ended up being somewhere around $2000 and the total floor area was around 25sqm.  With additional step.  We had no furniture in the house, so not sure if there would be extra costs usually involved for moving furniture etc.

One thing I would suggest that we did not do - if you are going to change skirting boards etc, it would be best to take them off before the sanding.  We still had ours on in the lounge room and then when we did take them off later and put on new ones with a thinner profile, some of the previous stain can be seen around the edges.