Saturday, December 24, 2011

DIY: Constructing a side gate Part Two

With the gate frame hung, time to finish things off - really wanted it done by xmas day, so I finished 99% of the gate yesterday. Usual disclaimer applies - these pictures for informative/educational purposes only, no responsibility taken if you cut a finger off or your house collapses while trying anything you see here etc.

Picked up some screening slats from our local timber wholesaler, a hardwood called Ironsomething in 180cm width, 7cm height. You can also use decking timber as slats, but most decking timber is reeded (grooved underneath) whereas slats are DAR (Dressed All Round, or smooth/finished on all sides) and slats are thinner/weigh less than decking. Anyway I had planned to use 17 slats, but after trial fitting all the slats, took a few off to reduce weight on the gate. Fortunately the precut length was exactly right for the gate size.


You need to predrill all the holes for mounting the slats, otherwise the wood will crack. Drill out the holes large enough so the fixing screws don't impact on the wood!

Calculate the proper spacing for your slats and mark on the frame. That said, I tried to calculate the right distances and I must've screwed something up, because after marking the frame and trial fitting the slats again, everything was way off. I gave up on that, and used a couple of hardwood stakes to get the spacing right. Anyway, I fitted the first three top and bottom slats, then every few slats after that I rechecked all the spacings.

Seemed to turn out OK. Now, if I'd been more prepared here, I would've bough a bit of extra galvanised steel to reinforce the centre mount of each slat, as 180cm is quite a wide span. I'll get it done in a week or so. To secure the slats to the metal frame, I used galvanised self-tapping metal screws. Make sure they're galvanised or stainless steel screws (more expensive) to prevent rusting!

Finally, with a bit of muscle from Tina, we rehung the game. Let's see the dog get out of this one!

 So there's only a couple of things left to get this gate finished properly.
  1. Reinforce the middle of the gate with a gate of extra galvanised steel, and secure each slat to that to prevent the slats sagging over time.
  2. After a week or two of weathering, stain/oil the timber. Will choose a dark stain to match the bricks.
  3. Install a latch to the brickwork to secure the gate shut.
Pretty happy so far with how it has turned out. Overall cost, about $160 for the gate frame kit, $10 in misc screws, $95 for timber. 10 minutes to screw the frame together, 15 minutes to align and install hinges, and about an hour to measure out, predrill and screw in the slats and hang.

And to everyone, merry xmas - hope there's plenty of beer and food coming your way!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DIY: Constructing a side gate Part One

Since we moved in, been struggling to find time to do all the little jobs, but we're slowly crossing them off the list. I'd tried to get some people in to quote on making a side gate, but no-one is interested in small jobs - or if they are, they quote exorbitant amounts to make it not worth your while. Anyway, we need a proper side gate to keep the dog secure.

Thing you might need: Safety gear( gloves, eye and ear protection. A level. Drill/driver. Timber screws. Measuring tape. Hammer or mallet. 

So we picked up a Fortress gate kit from our local hardware supplier. This is just a frame kit, you can choose from a variety of heights and widths, and if it doesn't suit your width exactly, you can cut the width using a hacksaw. For us, the 1.8m wide kit was just right.

The horizontal bars are on the left, and the vertical bars are on the right. Hinges are pre-installed. I laid out the kit so I could figure out where each section would go. Since it's a wide gate, there's a diagonal brace. Very important the the brace runs diagonally down to the bottom hinge as shown in the photo below! If it's the other way around, it doesn't brace the gate in compression and your gate will come apart!

Anyway, it was pretty simple to put it together, took me about 10 minutes. Use a mallet or hammer with a bit of scrap wood to put everything together. The kit comes with some self-tapping metal screws to secure all the parts once you've put it together.

End result. This gate is 1.8m wide and 1.4m high.

So this is where the gate is going to be placed. I thought about attaching the gate with the hinges against our wall, but I'm not that keen on using Dynabolts, chemset screws etc into our brickwork to hold the weight of the gate. Instead, I've decided to mount the gate with the hinges on one of the existing fenceposts, the one painted a bit grey on the right. The fencepost isn't quite plumb vertical, but I can allow for that. Should the fence be replaced in future, just need to unscrew the hinges and re-mount the gate.


Ideally you'd have a second person to help you install these hinges. Estimate where the gate should go and make sure it clears any ground covering you have. Try to get the hinges plumb vertical. The kit doesn't come with any screws to install the hinges, so I got a packet of these timber screws as shown.

After both hinges are secured, hang your gate frame!

And if you took some care, the gate should be nice and level after all your work.

 So with the frame all installed and level, the next step is to choose what cladding to put on it. You could use traditional timber pickets, colorbond, slats etc. We'll head out later this week to pick what cladding to use; most likely a Merbau to be stained dark; though I'm also considering a composite product that doesn't require ongoing maintenance.

Cost of the frame kit was about $150, plus a few bucks for the hinge screws. Just need to add in the cost of cladding and more self-tapping metal screws to attach it to the frame, and then a latch to secure it against the house. So far, a pretty simple project, not too costly, and well worth giving it a shot if you can't get any reliable tradesmen to give you a quote on making your own side gate!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol! A reason to get out of your home theatre?

So the other night we decided to get out for an evening and catch the latest installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. It's like James Bond crossed with Nathan Drake (for anyone who has played the Uncharted games!)

So we saw it in Hoyts Melb Central, but it wasn't until after that I learned that a few sequences were shot in IMAX format. Did anyone else see The Dark Knight in Imax, where it took up the whole huge screen (it was awesome...). Anyway there's a neat skyscraper sequence in Ghost Protocol that would look similarly great in IMAX, and usually Imax isn't that much more than a regular movie to see, so I'd recommend that if you're interested in a decent action movie!

The highs: Lots of gadgets, actions, explosions. Tom Cruise doing his usual "running very fast away from people with guns/explosions" (as per Minority Report, Knight & Day, all the other M:I movies etc)

The lows: Bizarrely improbable/barely intelligible plot. But then again, this is an action movie people, plot would simply detract from the computer integrated into a contact lens gadget. No big deal, just sit back and enjoy!

Funnily enough the very first M:I movie was on TV last week, and in the opening scene is the team leader, watching a cassette on an aeroplane, then smoking. It came out all the way back in 1996!

Anyway, overall review for MI Ghost Protocol - a good solid 8/10. It's the fourth in the series, so you know what to expect by now!Oh yeah - and Simon Pegg is (as usual) brilliant as the comic relief in this film. If you haven't seen his other work, go watch Shaun of the Dead and Star Trek (reboot) right now!

Anyway how does this relate to everything else? Since we moved into our house, we've only gone out to  see a movie twice (the other one was Contagion which was pretty good too - a two hour movie about taking  sickie from work, but very well directed). I remember seeing that movie, wonder why the seats were small, made of dirty fabric with someone else's food on the food, and they didn't recline? I think I liked it better in my own home theatre! Yeah it's definitely an indulgence, but we both work long hard hours in difficult jobs, and there's nothing better than sitting down to watching 4 episodes of battlestar galatica back-to-back on your own 3m screen! (except if you go to watch a movie in IMAX which I'll grudgingly accept is totally much better!)


Sunday, December 4, 2011

DIY: Old pine furniture makeover

So, having previously modernised an old file cabinet to go in our study, found another unwilling victim to experiment on. This is an old pine 2 drawer bedside table I've had since I was a kid - I was unwilling to throw it out or donate it, but didn't want it in our house looking how it did, with many decades of abuse, the varnish peeling off, and the pine starting to yellow. The choice was either to stain it in a very dark finish like Japan Black, or to try the distressed/whitewashed look. Because the thing was in pretty poor shape already, with lots of dents and scratches, I figured the distressed look would be the way to go! Tina also picked out a really nice black French style chandelier for the entrance way, so a little bit of the house might be the "French Provincial" style, a nice contrast to the rest of the Modernist/mid-century/modern mix style of the rest of the house.

Materials needed: sanding block, medium grit sandpaper (about 400), semi-gloss enamel paint, some paintbrushes, lots of spare newspaper.

First of all, took everything outside and using the sandpaper and block, sand off all the clearcoat to get to bare wood. Wipe it off using a damp disposable cloth to get rid of all the dust. Wish I had a "before" photo for this project, but looks like I forgot!

Took it all back inside to paint, covering the floor with newspaper. Would be better if you could paint it in your garage though, as the enamel paint fumes aren't good for brain cells. I bought a little pot of semigloss enamel paint (usually used for your skirting boards, window frames etc) and some cheap brushes, and had a go slopping the paint everywhere. Didn't aim for a good finish, since the aim is to make the final product look slightly worn.

Don't paint the inside wood runners as either the drawers will bind, or you won't be able to get the drawers in at all if there's a fine clearance. Didn't bother painting inside the drawers, but you could if you wanted to. Let things dry off, and keep the dog away from it all.

After a day of drying, put it all back together. You could also have removed the doorknobs first, and replaced them with some other style - same with the legs. Actually looks pretty good in real life!

To get a really distressed look, you would now get your sandpaper and file away at the corners and edges to remove the enamel paint. However, if you wanted a really good (non-distressed) finish to your project, you should probably coat the wood with a primer prior to applying the enamel, and use a spray gun with multiple fine coats  to get an even finish, since it's impossible with paintbrushes.

Anyway, this was a nice way of preserving an old bit of furniture and making it fit in with our new house.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

DIY: Sensor floodlights installation

So this is something I was going to do as soon as we moved in (over a year ago!) but of course I kept forgetting to do it, and only happened to remember while at our local hardware store. We had a standard bayonet mount light fitting outside our front door, and I'd always forget to turn on this light when expecting visitors.

So this is what you call a standard builder's light fitting, the most basic thing imaginable that does the job. The good news is, with this light fitting (also called a batten mount) there are many direct DIY replacements available that you don't need an electrician for. This takes maybe 10-15 minutes to do and is very simple.

I chose this twin floodlight sensor DIY fitting - you can also get oysters with sensors, but I wanted a lot of light in the front. About $30 for the sensor unit and $7 for a twin pack of floodlights. They're pretty high powered at 150W each, but this light will only be on when someone triggers it at night, so I'm not too concerned about their power consumption.

So the next thing you need to do is get up on your ladder and remove the light globe, the threaded screw collar, and the plastic dome thing around the bayonet mount until it looks like this. You probably want to make sure the light is off too.

Open up your DIY sensor light. Make sure you've got the DIY version - there's also a non DIY version in case you have no bayonet mount - for that one you'll need an electrician to legally install it. I've removed the centre cap on the light - you can see a little plug right in the middle - this screws into where your original lightbulb was.

Place the unit over the original bayonet mount, rotate it so the sensor is facing the direction you want, then replace the original screw collar to hold the sensor unit in. If you want, you can also add 3 screws around the outside of the unit to stop it moving, but I've put a few of these in other houses and they stay pretty firm without additional screws.

Screw in your floodlights, adjust the angles of the lights and sensor and make them firm using the wingnuts provided.

Finally, test to make sure your lights work!

I only want these on when someone walks into the sensor range at night, so I'll wait until tonight to make the final adjustments. There are two adjustments you can make - sensitivity of the sensor, and duration of light, just turn a couple of dials on the back of the sensor. The beauty of it is, you can leave the light switch inside turned "on" all the time, but these floodlights will only come on when someone triggers them.

The next lighting-related project is to replace more of the internal plain bayonet lights with nicer ones - we've got a fancy light for the entrance that we'll need an electrician to install, but there were quite a few nice DIY fittings that I might get, once they're Tina-approved! Any electricians reading this in Melbourne and want to help us install some lights in return for some blatant promotion on our blog? Contact us! :)


Saturday, November 19, 2011

DIY: Fence painting

So, this isn't the hardest task of all, just a bit time consuming. Did this job around Halloween as there were lots of very scary little monsters wandering our street consuming chocolate. We love the look of timber paling fences, just not the colour that was there. You can paint fences the usual way with a brush and lots of swearing, or by using a sprayer. Dulux make a sprayer system which is actually reasonably priced, about $50 for the spray unit (no electricity or anything required) but you have to use their paint formulation, and there just wasn't a colour we liked, and the paint for the sprayer does cost more than plain standard fence paint.

So we ended up with the ol' paint in a bucket, colour is a dark grey, Iron-something, to go with our whole "shades of grey" colour scheme. The wooden rod is a leftover hardwood stake which I used to stir the paint.

So before painting, make sure the fence isn't wet, give it a clean to remove bits of dirt, spiders and other junk (I used a big broom) and cover up any landscaping you don't want splattered with paint. In hindsight, should've painted the fence first before doing anything else!

 Ended up using old newspaper to cover up the little solar lights I'd stuck along the side. I love these solar lights - no direct power required, you don't have to remember to turn them on or off, and they give a really nice little glow to the garden at night.

And all done. There's still a bit of fence tucked to the side of garage I'll get around to painting one day.

Could probably do with a second coat too, but from a distance it looks fine! Much more modern than before and works with our overall colour scheme. This section of fence, about 9m long and tapering at the front, took just over an hour to do. Got plenty more fence on the sides and back to get around to, but the front is starting to look acceptable.

Just got a call from Metricon customer service too (on a Saturday morning no less), asking whether the service manager had got in touch with me, so things have been followed up satisfactorily there - although we've decided to not get any further "servicing" done on the last outstanding item!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

For sale: "Special" Nintendo Wii!

So being a big boy now,, I tend to buy too many toys. One of them is for sale - Nintendo Wii. Suitable for much younger kids than myself!

Anyway, this one is special. I bought it brand new for the express purpose of modifying it for homebrew and ISOs - what does that mean? Well, if any of you have kids with a Nintendo DS, you might have heard of the R4 card. A Wii that can run homebrew is kind of similar, where you can run your "backed up" games from an external hard drive. All the hard technical stuff is done - just plug this wii in, and the homebrew channel and ISO loader is all ready to go! I've basically taken it out of the box, run it for 3 hours to modify it, then never touched it again.

The package comes with the full retail box, wii, power supply, one controller and nunchuk, sports resort original game, sensor bar etc. Asking $150 + $10 postage anywhere in Australia (if you're in Melbourne, we can meet in Niddrie for a pickup). Comment below if you're interested - best xmas present ever!

And on another note, I did get a callback from the 90 day service manager about our door issue. It turns out that the only option to fix our issue is to rip out half the master bedroom and reconstruct it. I'm of the opinion this might fix one issue but cause a dozen more, so unhappily we might just have to live with our defective doorframe :(


Thursday, November 3, 2011

DIY: Landscaping continues

So last weekend, decided to push on to get more of the front landscaping done. With the hard work of carting many wheelbarrows of aggregate around the house completed, we got 6 cubic metres of black wood mulch delivered.

We chose black wood mulch primarily for its appearance - if you've got garden beds or trees you want to mulch, black wood mulch is probably not what you want!

Anyway, with a bit of help from Tina and my parents, we got the mulch roughly spread out across the front in about an hour. It'll help keep down weeds when it's laid out a few inches thick, and gives a pretty modern, sleek look to the front.

Have done a little tidying up in the front since then, but it's come a long way from the builder's rubble that was there before!

And speaking of builders, there's still one sticking point left. Just like Megan & Stefan, and I guess pretty much anyone who's ever built a project home, Metricon haven't got back to me yet on our bowed ensuite door - noted at handover and 90 day inspection, all the way back at the start of 2011. I sent a very polite letter into the service department about a month ago, and that was met by deafening silence. Wonder if if anyone reading this blog works for Metricon and wants to look up my case and get back to me?

Coming soon (probably not)... planning to build a deck!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

DIY: Landscaping with stones/aggregate

Managed to finish off setting in the pavers along the side of the house yesterday, and flattened out the front "garden" in preparation for the next stage.

Went down to Daisy's Garden Supplies today - I had shortlisted a few landscape/garden supply places, but quite a few of them don't open at all on Sunday so they got struck off the list immediately! Anyway, they had a good variety of mulches, rocks, stones, sleepers etc, and I was very surprised to hear they'd deliver an order within the hour, even on a Sunday afternoon! So anyway, we chose to get 5 cubic metres of 20mm screenings - it's a granite aggregate, looks great with lots of white/black flecks in it, plus half a dozen sleepers and some other bits & pieces.

So, 45 minutes later we had this dumped in front of the house:

Here's the laundry side of the house with some pavers set into mortar;

and after about 90 minutes, we'd done this much movement of stones. Used layers of newspaper and weedmat under the stones to control weed growth (from what I've read, apparently layered newspaper does a fine job to block weeds growing - we'll see! At least we have plenty of newspaper to recycle this way!).

We'll probably add a few more wheelbarrow loads of stones once the basic coverage is done to make sure it's more level. Already a big improvement over the uneven mud trail that's been there for a year; and once this side is done I can hang up a clothesline outside the laundry.

Hoping to get all the stone laid out by next weekend, then mulch/planting the front garden, and maybe even make a start planning a deck for Melbourne Cup weekend!

(does anyone know if you need a permit for a small deck, around 20sqm?)


Monday, September 26, 2011

DIY: Setting in outdoor pavers / stepping stones

With a lot of soil-shifting complete, decided to do a bit of work getting the dead side of the house along the laundry a little tidied up. The plan was just to order in a truckload of pebbles/rocks to line the side with, but we decided to maybe stick some pavers along the side to make it a bit neater.

Disclaimer: We know nothing about landscaping, garden design and all that kind of stuff, so please don't follow any of our recommendations! If we get something horribly wrong in the photos or description, that's to be expected.

Tools needed: Gloves, mask, eye protection, string, stakes, wheelbarrow(s), shovel, hammer/mallet, mortar/concrete, spirit level

Try and get the ground as level as possible. In our case, in the 2m between houses the ground drops nearly 50cm and the neighbour has some brick walls with vent holes that can't be covered. No luck here in getting much level ground! Anyway, I set up a string guide, marked our where the pavers should go (roughly 60cm centre spacing) and tried to get things as level as possible.

Got some 20kg bags of premix mortar (concrete). Empty it into your wheelbarrow, add water (approx 3-4L should do) and mix thoroughly. I found one 20kg bag was enough to set in 4 small pavers.

Lay down a bit of mortar, place the paver and use the level to tap it in. I ran extra mortar around the edges of the paver to try and help secure it.

Once all the pavers are laid in, I'll cover the rest of the area with weed mat/layered newspaper and then get in heaps of stones/pebble stuff to fill in all the gaps.

You know, before getting started, I though "How hard could it be?" to lay in a bunch of pavers perfectly straight? The answer is, it's a lot more difficult than you think, especially when your ground is waaaay off being level to start with. There's a few pavers out of alignment, but I think once the stones are set in around them it'll be a lot less noticable. Plus we won't be spending all that much time in this side area of the house. So far, not an expensive exercise as the pavers are $2 each and a bag of mortar is $7.

Memo to self: Investigate putting up a proper side gate so the dog doesn't get out!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Is It Big Enough?

So we received this comment on the last blog post recently;

"Is Nolan 41 is big enough? what do you guys reckon? I am interested in a big home, should I go for Nolan 50?"

Kind of a hard question to answer I think. What's big enough for a married couple with no kids might be much too small for a family with 5 kids, in-laws and a lot of visitors. And in the second part of the post, you say "I am interested in a big home" - so why not just go out and build a 100 square + hotel?

Or buy one already made, like this on in Doncaster East... it's only got 5 bedrooms and an 8 car garage!

Apart from personal preference for "a big home", there are other reasons for considering alternative sized dwellings. Most population studies point towards growing number of single-occupancy dwellings, so someone looking to start an investment portfolio or develop residential property might look more towards compact, single-person dwellings with good access to public transport. For example, with a 700m block you could develop a large single house targeted at the upper end of the market, or construct 2-3 small townhouses - cheaper entry price, larger target market, easier resale, perhaps greater rental potential as well. However, if it's for your own personal family with no immediate thoughts towards resale, then build what you like - it's your mortgage after all.

Do you really need "a big home" too? A larger house will cost more to build nett than a smaller house (though interestingly enough on a per square meter basis it usually works out far cheaper). You can also factor in higher ongoing costs in terms of utilities, council rates, insurance, furnishing etc.

But ultimately, just go and buy the Monarch 58 for sale in Balwyn, a steal at just $2.85m. It's on Domain here, or Realestate here.

We covered the pros and cons of buying a display home earlier. This particular development we've visited a couple of times becuase it's quite near our place, and follows the usual inner suburban display style of white tiles, dark wood, and lots and lots of styling and building features unavailable to "normal" customers. You'd hope this display home is built to a decent standard as well; at least you don't have to deal with the occasional depressing elements of house building! With the Balwyn median price of about $1.5m, this display home offers quite reasonable value for the area with a huge block (910m in Balwyn is enormous!) and many superexpensive upgrades. The base price for a Monarch is something like $480k, but with the upgrades and landscaping I wouldn't be surprised if the build cost alone was around $1m. Not real keen on the main road location however, Belmore Rd is a nightmare to drive through in the morning and afternoon peak hours.

Finally, went and walked the dog to an auction on the next street to ours this morning - an old place on 800sqm passed in at $700k with a reserve probably north of $800k, which makes it the second one in our immediate area to pass in at auction. Who knows where the property market is going to go in the next few months?


Friday, September 16, 2011

IKEA Springvale opened

So Ikea have opened another store in Melbourne, which was great news for us as we're both pretty tragic IKEA fans! Plus it's only about 20 minutes away from us. Their designs are generally top-notch if you like modern, relatively minimal furniture pieces at good prices, and they have so many items it's pretty much guaranteed you can't leave the store without buying something interesting.

I think the only questionable aspect of Ikea products is the longevity of the chipboard/paper pulp products, though everything we've ever bought is still functional. Oh, and their mattresses are not good at all - bought one for our old house and sold it on ebay a few weeks later.

We decided to head there last Sunday evening, as they're conveniently open late night weekends, and strolled the 2.5km walk that is the guided route through the store. I didn't mind this wire wine rack, I think it was made of two $50 sections stacked on top of each other. More functional than beautiful though.

Plus some ideas for our laundry. We have a big walk-in linen cupboard full of my computer gear and car parts (what else would you store in a linen cupboard?) but we have a big blank wall above the laundry sink and bench. We'll probably put some open shelves above the bench - so you can hang things to dry on it, or store stuff that will still have plenty of air circulating around it - and maybe a wall-mounted cupboard or two. Also maybe some wall-mounted hooks and fold-down drying racks. Not that I'll get to use it, since we got married Tina has demanded I stay out of the laundry for fear of ruining her clothes... who am I to argue?

If you wanted to delve deeper into the inner workings of Ikea, there's a National Geographic feature docu on the production process (google "Ikea Megafactories", about 1 hour long), or this decent read by Businessweek.

And speaking of Ikea, by any chance is there anyone from USA reading this who wants to lend us a hand? We need two (or four) of these Besta suspension rails to wall-mount some Besta cabinets, and for some reason Ikea Australia have decided NOT to sell them locally, and Ikea USA won't ship internationally?!!! If we can't get this necessary hardware to mount the cabinets, I'm going to return them and get something else. I'll pay for the rails, postage to Australia and some more for your time! Leave us a comment if you help us out!

To finish with, today is day 364 since we got the keys to our house - can't believe it'll be ONE YEAR TOMORROW! Maybe I'll bake a cake for the house... though there's also soil to shovel, a dog to walk, a bike to be pedalled and a few other things to do tomorrow.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

So, maybe we should think about landscaping?

So we've been away a little while on holidays - we hadn't taken any holidays since we started this whole redevelopment adventure back at the start of 2009!

We've pretty much finished with the house interior, just a few minor things to procrastinate further about of little consequence. Got a letter from Metricon while we were away, stating that the "90 day service items are now finished" with the exception of fixing our dodgy ensuite door, which is still bowed and scraping. That only took about... 11 months? And with still the bowed doorframe outstanding. Gotta get back in touch with them to find out how they're going to fix things.

Anyway, with the insides done, we might now have a think about getting the outside done. First admission upfront - we know NOTHING about outdoors, gardens, landscaping, stuff like that. If it wasn't for the dog we probably wouldn't go into our backyard at all. I had some excess soil dumped in our front yard months ago, spent an hour or so shovelling that and carting it to the backyard yesterday and didn't enjoy that at all, and it's only 1/4 done. Meh.

Seeing as it was a nice day, we headed down Bulleen way where there's a couple of outdoor-thingy stores and had a wander around.

Perhaps some of these big grey rectangular things along the side of the house where the laundry is?

And a whole lot of these little rocky grey things to go around the big grey things above?

And some bigger square things, which conceivably could cover our bare portico concrete. Grey of course.

Does anyone reading this have any clues on landscaping? f you can point me to any useful landscape resources to read, that'd be good (Except the homeone landscaping forum, I tried reading that and it's like an infant (me) reading a nuclear science manual. Too many complicated words and not enough bright pretty pictures).

I know I'd like some kind of raised vege/herb garden at the back of the house, except it doesn't get much sun there. And the less grass the better - unless someone's invented a new kind of grass that cuts itself, sweeps itself away and puts $25 into my pocket each time.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Big Winter Chill

So it's been getting a little cool in Melbourne. temperatures around 12 during the day and half that at night. The heater has been getting a bit of a workout, and all seems to be good!

Some observations on planning heating in your new house;
  • We upgraded to a dual zone heater with a better gas efficiency rating. We can heat the whole house, or just downstairs. For a while we were just heating downstairs, but then our master bedroom is an absolute fridge, so we're back to heating the whole house instead of using zones. Might be more useful in a single storey house to have zoned heatin.
  • In the rooms which aren't used much, we've closed off the heating vents and shut the doors if these rooms have one. We also added a big sliding door between the open plan living area and the front of the house, which keeps that area nice and warm! If you're planning your house design, think of adding cavity doors in places. Open plan areas look great in display homes, but in a real-life home, you will want to close off areas for noise, heating/cooling etc. Cavity doors almost disappear into the walls when not used, but are effective in closing off areas when needed.
  • We set the temperature around 19-20, sometimes 21 for a while if it's really cold.
  • The last gas bill was about $100 I think, not too bad! Our energy rating turned out to be just over 5 star. We have put roller blinds over most of the windows, if we used heavy drapes or curtains, I think that would keep the heat in better.
  • Might have been nice to add a heating outlet in our large ensuite, though we're planning to put in a 3-in-1 like an IXL or equivalent once we choose what light fittings to be put in (still haven't got around to that!)
On that note, does anyone have any recommendations for lighting shops in Melbourne? Apart from Beacon there doesn't seem to be much else. Maybe head back to my favourite shop, eBay :)


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Annoying salespeople coming to your door?

So I was talking with someone at work, who complained that her elderly mum-in-law (who lives by herself) had dodgy salespeople talking their way into her house. Certainly a safety and security risk and there's plenty of unscrupulous people out there who will take advantage of those at risk.

Anyway, after a bit of googling, I found a website that have identified this problem and give away "do not knock" stickers.

I ordered a few, one for our front door, one for my friend's mum-in-law, and some to hand out to the rest of our family. I'm not sure how effective these will be, but in out old house there was always someone knocking on the door at dinnertime trying to get us to switch our phone, gas, water, electricity.

Now if they come knocking after this sticker is up, I'll simply take all their details, and find someone to report them to. Apparently if you have this sticker, then it's illegal for door-to-door salesmen to annoy you (though charitable organisations are exempt).

Free DO NOT KNOCK stickers available here from Victoria Legal Aid.

I'm also going through our stash of old clothes and stuff this weekend as I'm hoping to find some blankets to donate to RSPCA Burwood. Don't throw them out, puppies and doggies need winter warmth!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Would you buy an actual display home?

So, while browsing around, came across a Metricon display house for sale in Point Cook.

Asking 625-650k, on 512sqm, with immediate possession available.

Let's say you wanted to buy a new car, but was told it could be a 6-12 month wait. Not uncommon - the current Golf GTi apparently has a waiting list this long! But... you could grab an "executive driven demonstrator" model immediately, with a few thousand bucks off. In my eyes, certainly a good dealm as you avoid a long wait plus manage to avoid some of the immediate huge depreciation when buying a new car. I bought a new car, once upon a time... never again!

Anyway, this case is slightly different when buying a house. Let's think about some of the aspects of buying a ex-display home vs building from scratch.

  • Stamp duty will be considerable more on a completed house, compared to a vacant block of land.
  • The house is built - you can inspect it, walk around it, and move into it straight after settlement.... instead of waiting for land to be titled (and we've all heard horror stories about land titling 6-12 months later than it was meant to!)
  • It should come fully landscaped, with floor coverings, window coverings etc. A huge difference to when we moved in - with bare concrete floors, bare yellowtongue flooring upstairs, mud and crap everywhere and no driveway!
  • If you purchase an ex-display home while it's still functioning as a display home, often the vendor will give a decent return (7-8% not uncommon) while the house is being used.
  • All fittings and colours will be as displayed - if you don't like it, bad luck. Up to you to repaint or replace fittings after settlement. Display homes usually have had a lot of thought put into their interior design, and to be honest Metricon have some of the best display home interiors that we've checked out. Hopefully matches up with your own tastes.
  • Being a display house, there would've been some amount of wear and tear of the property due to stickybeaks opening, shutting and banging around everything possible. Buyer beware!
  • Usually display houses are optioned up hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the basic home - whether or not they're to your taste, and the price premium put on the sale price of the property is up to you to calculate.
  • The location of display homes is typically in the higher-traffic area of the development, simply because display home builders want more passing traffic to check them out. Could be in a noisier location than other homes - assess carefully.
Anyway, if you wanted to check out this particular Fairhaven for sale, click here.

Or here's another display home for sale, but from Porter Davis on the East side of town, asking $520-550k.



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