Sunday, October 31, 2010

Flooring update: Floating floor installation Day 1

Been a busy week, so not much time for blog posts. Tina's brother made a surprise visit from the UK, so spent most of the week eating out and stuffing our faces. Anyway, we made up for all that indulgence during the first couple of days of the Melbourne Cup long weekend, getting started on our floor installation!

The delivery of 130sqm of flooring and underlay was scheduled for Saturday, but ended up arriving Friday afternoon instead. We measured up the ground floor, and it came to 122.5sqm - but decided to order a bit more to allow for offcuts, excess etc - always a good idea!

Now, at this early stage of the post I figure it's a good idea to make this disclaimer: installing floating floors is difficult, time-consuming and back-breaking labour! Don't believe the salespeople when they say anyone can do it with a few simple tools in half an hour, it ain't true! While we have decided to install our own floating floor, I'm certainly not recommending everyone reading this blog to give it a shot unless you have the required tools, a lot of time, forgiving neighbours who don't mind 8 hours of power-tool usage, and a spare labourer or two, this is NOT a one-person job! On that note, Tina has done a superb job as my unpaid labourer, preparing floors, taping underlay and moving lots of floorboards around - gutsy!

Anyway, getting back to the story, Friday and Saturday was set aside for preparation. As one of my uni lecturers used to say - Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance! Lots of lumps of plaster and other junk was left on our slab, so it took a few hours going around on hands & knees with a hammer & chisel, chipping off all the lumps. Our slab was pretty flat - ideally you don't want any more than 3mm variation from flat over a 2m run. We then swept and vacuumed the slab in preparation for the underlay.

The underlay is 3mm foam with attached plastic membrane - important if you're laying a floating floor on concrete, to prevent moisture building up and warping the boards. You can lay floating floors directly over old floorboards, vinyl tiles, tiles, concrete, providing the foundation is stable and not too uneven. We taped over all the joins with duct tape. The underlay runs at 90 degrees to the direction of the floorboards.

The first row we laid along the long side of the entrance. The little black blocks are spacer to maintain approx 10mm gap between the floorboards and the skirting to allow for expansion and contraction of the boards. We'll cover up the gaps later with some flat bead/quad. The brand we chose for floorboards was Tarkett, using their "clicky-locky" system, which is actually really painful to work with, if you follow their instructions! Their idea of an easy installation is to lay an entire line of boards, then lift & click it into the previous line of boards. Easy to do, if you have 2 boards - impossible if you have a long line of boards 4 or more! To solve this installation problem, I decided to grind off the end tongue of every second board, that way we could install 2 boards at a time and tap them together.

We then just kept adding rows - we staggered the start of each row by approx 1/3 or 1/2 of a board. With the random design of our floorboards, keeping the joins consistent isn't necessary - good for us! When it comes to placing the boards in the kitchen, we'll use wood-glue to seal up the joins during placement to minimise problems of water spillage.

Finally we decided to wrap things up around 8pm (local laws state no power-tool usage after 8pm, or before 9am) and I figured I'd annoyed the neighbours enough. Plus today was Halloween - saw lots of kids walking up & down the street, but probably scared off by the noise my drop-saw was making! Luckily for us too, our neighbours dropped in for a stickybeak this afternoon and loaned us a circular saw - thanks Anthony & Suzanne!

So, this is the end result for about 6 hours of floating floor installation by a couple of inexperience n00bs to DIY flooring. My parents dropped by and were impressed so far - certainly better than the dusty concrete slab we were putting up with before! Essentially we've got the entry done, and hoping to complete the sitting room and study tomorrow now that we're getting the hang of things!

Just to repeat - installing floating floors isn't easy or simple! We slept for 12 hours last night exhausted, and that was only after slab preparation and the first 2 rows of floorboards. Will probably get the same amount of sleep tonight as there's another big day ahead tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who have ordered our soft-closing door dampers from! We're about halfway through our initial order of door closers and hope everyone is having as good results as we have experienced!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

so.... here it is - tim-and-tina's soft door closers now available!

phew, what a weekend! We ordered flooring (yay!) and a lounge (finally!), sealed the grout in the bathroom, but more importantly, took another video with another example of how the door dampers (soft closers) work, and how you install them!

Next video - an example of a door damper freshly installed in mum's kitchen, while she was still cooking!

Want one (or two, or fifty?) Go to our new website and check out the detail about our soft-closing door dampers there!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Tim and Tina's first video blog!

So, due to totally underwhelming demand (no-one asked for it!), here's our first video blog entry! Though of course, Tina (my long suffering silent partner in this whole blogging thing that has gone on way longer than intended) refuses to be in the video or say anything. What's that whole thing about hearing your own voice on a video, surely I don't sound like that...

... anyway, here's a short walkthrough of the kitchen area. My video smarts are pretty dull, so it was recorded on an ipod nano, not edited in any way. I tried it on my iPhone but because it records in HD, 2 minutes of video equals 200mb of data which is not feasible on our current wireless internet plan (another reason we need unlimited ADSL!)

Have a peek at our kitchen, and if you're after our special soft closing mechanisms - a little project I've been working on for the last few weeks - stay tuned on this blog for more details on how you can order them too!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fence replaced, telstra connection?

Our long-suffering neighbours will be glad to find the fence replaced - because the garage was being built 150mm inside our boundary, the existing old fence had to be pulled down for the slab & bricking to be done in the area. The new section of fence is about 10m long, and has a mini retaining wall section in our side of the boundary, as there was about 30cm of site cut in the garage slab area. On the left side of the pic, you can see the rear roller door, plus an extra water tap added. The plan is to concrete this rear section all the way to the back of the house, to allow for extra car parking/washing plus a shed.

And I've been puzzling over this for a while... probably want to set up an unlimited ADSL2+ connection to the house, and I'm not even sure we have a phone line connected to the exchange. We have the standard 2 internal phone points, and we do have a Telstra box mounted near our gas meter with a conduit running into it... plus all these extra wires hanging out the side of the house. I know one of the black cables is a standard coax lead-in for cable internet (or Foxtel) as we added a lead-in as an electrical upgrade. The white one looks suspiciously like a Cat5/6 or six strand phone connection. So, do I have a phone line connected - can I just call TPG, iinet etc and get a naked ADSL connection established? How can you tell - comments please! And before you ask - we haven't had a landline phone in 5 years, so I don't even have a phone to plug into these internal phone sockets!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Evaporative cooling installed

Fortunately the rain and hail held off today, and the crew arrived at 8am to start work installing our evaporative cooling system.

There were 4 blokes on the job, and managed to get everything installed by midday. This is the Braemar 550 with 7 vents. The one thing about the Braemar is that the unit is simply a huge box - some other designs have a sloping lower edge so they sit a little closer to the roof. This makes them appear visually smaller - but has the side effect of being a tiny bit noisier too. Anyway, the shape of the box wasn't really a factor in choosing this unit, since we're not going to spend much time staring at it from the street. At least it's a matching colour (Slate Grey) to our roof tiles!

Still got a pile of old ruined fence sitting in the front - the fence guy injured his back and hasn't been back on our job for a week so far.

The end result - the boss was good enough to spend a bit of time discussing vent placement and where things should go for the best result, so I was happy for him to advise us. The main thing was that we want as much flow as possible down through the stairwell, and it's not necessary to have the main vent directly over the stairwell void. This is because this big evaporative unit pushes a huge amount of airflow into the house, so the main thing for whole-of-house cooling will be keeping the upstairs windows only a little bit open, all the upstairs doors open, and the downstairs windows wide open to get maximum air exchange.

So now we can bring on Melbourne's heatwaves without fear! The smaller bedrooms have a 12" duct, the master has a 14" and the ensuite a 10". The leisure area upstairs has a 16", and the stairwell void, a massive 18" duct. Getting some window blinds is the next priority. I rang the bloke today about the flooring from the last post - he said he'd call me back, never did. Anyone who's been following the blog knows how shitty I get about bad customer service...


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flooring - narrowing down colour choices

Did a bit of window shopping yesterday - headed back to Fowles in Clayton to check out their floor display. Plenty of laminates and timber floors to look at, but not so many in the greys that we're after. There was another flooring place nearby, and we picked up a couple of samples from there as they had two that are close to what we're wanting.

These samples are from Tarkett, a German brand. Also sold in Bunnings, but they only have a few samples from a different range. Both of these samples are commercial market laminates, and the one on the left has lots of variation. When you combine it with a few other boards, the visual board width varies, so some boards appear twice as wide as the other ones. There are also "imperfections" printed into the laminate (not in this sample board); so this board would look perfect in a funky clothing store, or maybe a laneway cafe. The board on the right has a lot more consistency and has a definite black/charcoal tone to it. Matches the charcoal stain on our door, but over a larger open area perhaps will be too dark.

Closer.... and you can see how the darker board shows up footprints - but then again, with our current slab exposed we're getting heaps and heaps of dusting. The lighter board shows up hardly any footprints at all. You can also see the click system they use, similar to all the laminates in the market where you can just "click" the boards and they lock into place. I think we're leaning towards the lighter one, as it suits our grey neutral colour scheme better, and shows dirt/dust less.

So, just like evaporative cooling vs refrigerated aircon described previously, all the various floor systems have their pros and cons - for us, the main thing is the colour and appearance of the floor, and we can't find the look that we want in a real wood or bamboo floor (plenty of reds and browns, no greys) - so far only laminate. Haven't looked much into vinyl planks, but I imagine they'd be able to produce a grey vinyl plank with no difficulty.

Anyway, not going to settle on a colour yet as there's plenty of other retailers to check out - though we're hoping to have picked one and have it delivered to our house before the Melbourne Cup weekend. Plus I need to get stuck into preparing the slab for the floor; which means many painful hours on hands & knees, using a hammer & chisel to knock off all the excess plaster and gunk that has built up on the slab.

Had a little dinner party with some old friends last night, and got a Lemon Meyer tree as a housewarming present - awesome! Always had plans to get one (to supply the necessary lemons for Coronas) so hopefully today we'll pick up a big pot and some advice to keep this thing from dying - we don't have a good track record with plants, but I think we'll put some effort into keeping this one alive!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Evaporative cooling booked in

So far in Melbourne we've had a couple of moderately warm days - mid 20s or so? In our house, we found the ground floor very comfortable - not hot at all, which is a big benefit to the thermal mass of a big concrete slab. Upstairs - bit of a different story. Quite warm, even with only 2 west-facing windows. Definitely need some proper cooling for when the massive Melbourne heatwaves hit!

Anyway, this is something we planned for back when designing the house. The cost for refrigerated AC as provided by the builder was something like $20,000+, and the large running costs of AC are a bit offputting. We pulled out the tiny Breezair evaporative cooling unit that was in the old house we demolished, installed it in the top floor of my parent's house and was surprised at how effective it was.

So for anyone wanting a quick comparison between evaporative and AC, here goes:

AC pros: Gets very, very cold, even on the hottest days.
AC cons: Expensive to run, recycles the air.
Evaporative pros: Cheap to run, cycles fresh air through the house.
Evaporative cons: Possibly will struggle on the very hottest 40+ days.

And the arguments to and from could run for years - if you're so inclined to read more, check out this great lengthy discussion on Whirlpool. I love being ice-cold with AC, but I figure we might only need it a few days a year. So the plan is to install the evaporative cooling upstairs and maybe add in a split system AC downstairs if we find we need it. We paid for upgraded roof trusses, roof water & powerpoint for future evaporative cooling installation, but after speaking to a few evaporative installers, they said it doesn't really make much difference. Oh well!

Anyway, I'd booked in a few quotes today.

Coldflow were meant to be first, but seeing as they couldn't even be bothered turning up or calling to explain why no-one came, they're immediately off the list. If their attention to detail and customer service is this bad even before making a sale, why would I ever bother buying anything from them? Thumbs down. Weather World didn't want to send someone out, so they emailed a quote for a Breezair 210 with 8 outlets based on floorplans I emailed them prior.

Finally, Maroondah Heating & Cooling had the final visit of the day, and got the job. Damien had a peek up into the roof, spent some time measuring up the rooms and discussing the various options available. Ultimately we settled on the Braemar 550 with 7 outlets; with specific attention to the size of the outlet in each area plus placement of the unit itself, he reckons we should get pretty good cooling to the whole house including downstairs - here's hoping! Installation is booked in for next Tuesday. Chose the Braemar instead of the Breezair as they're made by the same company (Seeley International), but the Braemar have fewer problems due to their fan design.

And for those still at decision-making stage, should you get evaporative cooling done through the builder? Well, Metricon wanted $5500 for a 5 outlet Bonaire Summerbreeze, which was undersized for our house. Our quote for a 7 outlet Braemar was over $1000 less than that, with the top-of-the line unit.

*warning rant beginning here*

Finally, while he was up in the roof cavity Damien confirmed for me what I had suspected - my antenna isn't connected to the Starserve system, with the coax wires just dangling out in open space. Good job by the data installers, real good job there.

Unfortunately here is another area that Metricon is failing in after-sales customer service, having reported to my SS, my CSC and to the girl who did a follow-up courtesy call that my antenna hasn't been connected, what's been done about it? Nothing, zero, nada, zilch. I'll be writing a rather pointed letter come three-month review time, because after paying about $1500 for an antenna, Starserve and a bunch of TV points, you'd think you'd actually get a working product rather than something dead-on-arrival. And the worse thing is, a technician could splice the cables together in about 5 minutes to solve my problem. Instead, I get to complain endlessly to everyone who walks into my house about a problem that shouldn't have existed in the first place - "Yes, I know I've got rabbit-ear aerials on my TVs, because my antenna isn't connected". So, to everyone building, make sure your antenna is connected to whatever TV outlets you've paid for, because when's something broken, it's probably going to stay broken for a while. Not to mention all the other issues from the "completion" inspection - all little fiddly things which could be easily fixed but aren't, and I guess they'll just be added to the 3 month problem list.

*rant expired*


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Flooring decisions - what colour and what to put on the ground floor?

So we had our carpet installed last week, and loving it - deep charcoal colour and feels great underfoot. Our main problem is still what to use on the ground floor? It'll have to be a timber-style flooring, but to use real wood, laminates, vinyl planks, bamboo...?

Whatever the actual material, the look of it will have to suit our house - grey neutrals. This dark charcoal/black timber look in the next picture is a pretty good indication of where we're heading.

The issue then becomes - is it too dark? The dangers here are that the dark floor will show every bit of fluff/lint etc. Maybe a lighter grey floor would be the way to go? This next pic is of brown toned floor but with plenty of grey tones in it. Quite nice!

We've been through plenty of chain-store commercial carpet places, you know the ones I'm talking about. Big thumbs down to the d!ckhead working at the carpet place on whitehorse rd near Adriatic - what's the point of acting like a snob and talking down rudely to your customers - reckon being arrogant will get you a sale? Give up your day job mate!

Anyway, if anyone can recommend some good places to check out varieties and prices on timber/laminate flooring in Melbourne's east, please comment below! Needing about 130sqm of the stuff just for the ground floor - anyone got that amount leftover they want to donate to us?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home Theatre room: Fixed!

Spent the weekend repainting the HT room walls. First off, got a couple of sample pots from 3D Inspirations in Nunawading. Here's another great tip - if you want advice on paint, go to a paint shop (NOT Bunnings!!!) The paint shop knew exactly what I was on about with neutral greys, and had the whole Dulux Specifier colour chart there and gave great tips on colours to choose.

Anyway, on the left is Dulux Milton Moon (PG1F2) and on the right is Timeless Grey (PG1F4). A little too light, and a little too dark.

And the one I chose? Endless Dusk (PG1F3), exactly in-between the two colours above. The next pic shows the huge difference between Endless Dusk and Musing. However, decided to keep the ceiling Musing as it actually looks much better with the grey next to it on the walls. Also bought that step-ladder with folding paint shelf on it, very handy to have!

And the final result - much better! So the colours here are Musing on the ceiling, Endless Dusk on all walls, White-on-White trim, and Granite carpet. Just the look I was after - mid Grey with white contrast - classy but still modern.

Now if only I can get in touch with our SS to get the antenna sorted out - 2 weeks in and still no antenna connection = no TV reception!!!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

How I stuffed up my home theatre room, and how to avoid my mistakes

No posts for a week - unbelievable, hey? The problem is, getting the keys to your new house is the end of one stage and the beginning of a whole lot more construction - couldn't sleep this morning so I've got a few minutes to blog. Been incredibly busy moving, cleaning, contacting trades etc.

Anyway, the problem all started last week when our carpet installation was delayed. Thought it might be a good idea to quickly pick a colour to paint my home theatre room - the problem word here is quickly. Don't do anything quickly as you'll regret it - unfortunately this tends to be my main problem, impatience and stubborness. Much love to Tina for putting up with me over the last few days while I've been moaning about "my" room.

Anyway here's a quick guide on how I ruined my home theatre. Starting with last weekend, laying down painter's tape and drop sheets to protect the trims and windows. So far so good. Also removed the batten light covers and taped up the heating duct vents. Sugar soap all walls and ceilings. Allow 2-3 hours for prep work and 24 hours drying.

Next, couldn't help myself - quickly plugged in the projector and did a preview of Top Gear testing a very practical family car - the Audi R8. I'm wondering/hoping this car will depreciate enough to make it a good company car in 3-4 years time - yep, definitely hoping! I had calculated that at a throw distance of 5m the image should project onto this wall with 40cm to spare on either side but my calculations were off a little - this image is definitely too small :) Good excuse for a new HD widescreen DLP projector with scope lens, as this old Benq is 5 years old and definitely not up to current specs. For anyone who wants to become a home theatre tragic (that's all you guys out there) I recommend for too much information.

Sample pot. This is Dulux Musing, meant to be a very subtle light grey. Doesn't look bad in this photo but lighing affects everything. And here comes mistake number one... only bought one sample pot and decided too quickly. Buy maybe 3 sample pots, paint them all on the same wall, and decide over about 3 days in different lighting before buying a big pot of paint.

My intention was to paint the entire HT a neutral grey, and use the wall as a projection screen. In our last house I had a 4:3 Brightview motorised screen, but have always believed a good painted wall in the right colour, in the right environment (properly prepared dedicated HT room) is more than sufficient for the average HT - for more nerd detail on neutral grey specs, click on this link.

Anyway, stupid me bought a 10L pot of paint and went blindly ahead to cut in all the corners. Oh BTW painting is not as easy as you think - it's hard on the muscles (especially ceilings) and getting a good finish is difficult. Pay a pro to do it and avoid killing yourself is a good alternative to DIY.

And then ended up with this.

A nice lavender home theatre. Great for your elderly great-aunt in the country in her "good" room, not so good for Tim's modern home theatre.

Plans for today? Go buy some sample pots, paint over a wall, and start all over again. I'll keep the ceiling as Musing as it looks OK, and painting ceilings is a real b!tch to do. I was thinking of leaving this colour on for a few months and then redoing it, but I'm definitely not happy with with the colour and it's easier to repaint now with no furniture in, than later on.

And of course, we had carpets put in yesterday in this room so now I have to buy heaps of drop sheets to protect our lovely new carpet. More pics later, if I'm not busy overpainting my lilac walls.

Finally, I think sometime during the week the blog ticked over 100,000 hits - never thought it'd get so much attention! Thanks to all the readers who have followed our blog, and still continue to suffer plenty of self-obsessed ranting and raving about stupid details. Though of course - if you've subscribed to this blog, you're probably building a house too, and are probably as detail-obsessed as we are!



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