Saturday, January 29, 2011

90 day service: Southern Star Windows

Had a trade from Southern Star Windows come around 7am yesterday - only about an hour earlier than expected! Anyway, nice bloke called Michael had a look at some of our issues.

  • Replaced faulty awning window winder in the home theatre (only opened halfway)
  • Replaced lock in balcony french doors (faulty)
  • New keys for laundry slider door (incorrect keys given)
All pretty simple stuff - good work done there! He also recommended occasional application of silicon spray to exposed chain winders, since dirt and dust will build up and cause "stickiness" otherwise. Ialso got an SMS from the Metricon service guy, he was meant to come yesterday as well but was sick, so I expect to get a call next week to reorganise that service.

Just got a couple of other outstanding items to be scheduled - antenna to be connected, hopefully sometime this millenium, and the garage roof to be repaired where the garage door service cracked the cornice & exposed unpainted ceiling.

We had 20 people over for dinner tonight for an early Chinese Year celebration, and all were pretty impressed with the house - and the evaporative cooling had no problem with the 31 degree day. Let's see how we go tomorrow with 40 degrees predicted!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Product warning: Zone Hardware brand roller blinds

One of the roller blinds we installed was a Zone Hardware blockout roller blind sold by Bunnings. Fine for the first week, but then with the week after putting out some hot sun and heat, the blind started to produce an intolerable, unbelievably intense odour, something like bleach, chlorine and poison gas all mixed in together.

It was so bad that when entering the house, all you could smell was this stench! We had to open the window in that room and close the door so the whole house wouldn't get contaminated.

I sent an email to Zone Hardware through their website reporting the problem, but after a week of no reply, no answer, I got fed up and called Bunnings to tell them I was going to return the blind.

To their credit Bunnings had no problem in giving me a refund (of course the blind had been installed and I'd thrown away the original plastic packaging). I did say I wouldn't mind an exchange providing they could guarantee the smell wouldn't come back, but they said because they were all made in large batches, the next blinbd might/could/would have the same problem.

Anyway, just a warning for anyone consider the Zone Hardware brand roller blinds. It wasn't that cheap, the blockout blind I bought was definitely not suitable for use, and the importing company doesn't seem to care about customer concerns or health of the products they sell. I suspect poor manufacturing quality assurance, and the local importer probably has no idea what chemical cocktails and ingredients go into the overseas manufacture of that blind.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Couple of pics from our old place, and another milestone reached!

No real reason to post anything today, except I noticed that almost simultaneously the blog has hit 150,000 hits and 100 followers! Thanks everyone, for taking an interest in our house building project, and keeping us on our toes with many relevant comments and questions. We hope that you've enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) our blog, and that you might have picked up any hints and tips along the way, to avoid finding out things the hard way!

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of cleaning out of my junk in the last few weeks, selling things on ebay and various specialist forums. It stems from a video article I saw on NHK TV - dansharii.

"断捨離 (danshari) means to throw away unnecessary stuff. It's one of the keywords of the recent years in Japan.

"断" (dan) - to cut out unnecessary stuff. ex) receipts, shopping bags, coupons, etc...
"捨" (sha) - to throw away junk. ex) clothes, books, toys, etc...
"離" (ri) - to step away from your obsessions. ex) souvenirs, anniversary gifts, etc..."

The last thing I got rid of was my projector screen from the old house. Ahhh, memories - this is the first house we lived in, bought in 2005 in leafy Mitcham. Kinda wished we'd kept it instead of sold it, but we wouldn't be able to afford our current dream house if we did. Made many beginner's mistakes when buying this first house, including the following:
  • Didn't check the windows opened - the last bloke painted them shut.
  • Had two aircon split systems - one didn't work.
  • Didn't confirm there was a double carport - more like 1.6 carport!
  • Somehow managed to ignore or downplay the fact it was on a busy road, next to a petrol station, with a bus stop right out the front and a school 100m away. Let's just say it wasn't exactly the quiet life!
However, still have very fond memories of the place, made good resale and now it's an osteopath practice.

Back to the screen - here's a pic of it in our old house. The layout of the house was OK for living but terrible for home theatre, which is why I have a floorstanding speaker placed conveniently in front of a sliding door. The screen is mounted about 2ft from the wall, so when it drops down, it drops in front of the TV - that way, you don't have to move any of the speakers. This was a Brightvision 120" (305cm) screen, white glass bead with matt frame and with in-line and IR remotes. I got an electrician friend to wire up a ceiling powerpoint so the power cable could be hidden. Not a bad screen for the price (around $200 in 2005), but not suitable for our current house - too small, and 4:3 format instead of 16:9 or Cinemascope which is my ultimate desire. Plus now I've got a full wall neutral grey projection screen (just google it for more information), I don't think I could go back to a full glass-bead white screen!

What I loved about the house is that despite being small, it had very clever storage. On the left of the pic you can see built-in bookshelves, perfect size for books, dvds, cds, toys etc. I imagine you could retrofit these builtins to most houses with plaster stud wall construction - cut out plaster, remove and relocate noggins, install builtins, perhaps repaint walls. Maybe a project to undertake in many years if/when we run out of storage in our new place!

Final picture, screen down at night. BTW, anyone considering a game console, don't buy an xbox360, they're still rubbish, noisy, overheating pieces of cr@p that'll break down 1 minute after the "Warranty" expires. Google red ring of death, then go buy a Sony PS3.

So if you buy an xbox360, more likely than not it'll be part of your next dansharii very soon!


Monday, January 17, 2011

90 day service: data points replaced

Had a guy come out to check the faulty data points I had - turns out the original installer put them in "wrong" somehow, and the clips holding the data jack to the wall plate had broken off. Didn't take long to replace the faulty ones, just hoping the other ones aren't secretly crap as well!

Also had a major win today - sold my old motorised projector screen, and while I was taking the screen out to the buyer's car, my neighbour was leaving. Now, this week being hard rubbish collection, everyone has junk outside their house, with plenty of scavengers driving around in the vans and trailers looking to pinch stuff. I'm not that type... at least I thought I wasn't, and I noticed my neighbour had some very nice looking speakers on her lawn! So I asked her permission to salvage them, and she said to help myself... and I did!

Turns out they're Wharfedale Valdus 400. Hooked them up to my trusty old Pioneer amp, and they work just fine! Quite a bit bassier and slightly pitched top end compared my reference speakers (Jamo Studio) but I'll keep them for the time being, and maybe look at replacing the drivers in future, if I ever get any spare time. Definitely not an audiophile grade set of speakers, but I'm mainly after the enclosures, which are in pretty good condition!

Anyway, they look quite nice with the speaker grilles removed - only thing is the Wharfedale badge is missing from one of the speakers (can't find them on eBay, anyone got a spare one to send my way?!). I was planning to get a few nerd projects done this year, one of them being a laptop-based dedicated MAME system (like this one, or the ikea mame hack), and also custom building a set of speakers - so I may look at replacing the bass, mid-bass, tweeters and crossover, but reusing the wharfedale enclosures. Something for later!

Finally, this afternoon I cruised down to Frankston to pick up a brilliant eBay win - I love the King Kahuna beanbags that we saw in a store in Chadstone a few weeks ago, and wanted a few to set up as the front row in our home theatre room - bought 4 used ones for a bargain price! After a bit of a clean and topping up beans from our old beanbags, they've turned out fantastic! Very sturdy construction from marine vinyl, comfortable, and seeing as how our dogs manage to fight and tear every beanbag I've had, these we'll keep locked up in the HT, away from them.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Family room - just about finished! And another door damper videos

Sometime after xmas we went to Ikea and bought a couple of Besta cabinets to serve as the basis of the family room unit - I couldn't really find anyone else who could make a 2.4m wide entertainment unit to hold all the junk I wanted to stuff in it. Went back again yesterday, and Besta/Framsta is 20% off until the end of the month, so that might be of use to you if shopping for basic cabinets etc. We bought the high-gloss dark grey drawers, as well a a wall-hanging Besta unit to match the one on the floor - though for some stupid reason Ikea Australia don't sell the Besta hanging rail which is sold in USA; and it's absolutely essential for wall-mounting this unit! If I can't find it or import the hanging rail myself, we're returning this back to the shop.

Anyway, our family room is comfortable enough now, so if you check this video it'l show some of the colour choices and furnishings. Haven't mounted the surround speakers behind the sofa, and we will eventually canvas-print some of our travel photos to hang up - walls are kinda bare. I made this video for's soft closing door dampers but it'll do OK here as well.

Shameless self-promotion, go and buy some of our self-adhesive door dampers right now!


Friday, January 14, 2011

90 day service: Garage door fixed

Got a call this morning - Rob from Gliderol was in the area and was hoping to fix our door today - yes please!

Our main problem with the garage door is that it never worked smoothly - lots of grinding, metal-on-metal noises, and it would always get stuck halfway and near the bottom, stopping it from closing - super annoying.

Anyway, Rob quickly diagnosed 2 problems.

1) Tension on the springs too tight - easily fixed.
2) Motor and chain mechanism mounted incorrectly - bit harder to fix.

Basically the panel glide door moves up and down when a pulley/chain mechanism pulls/pushes the door up and down. It should be mounted securely at two places, but the original installers decided to mount one end loosely around some electrical conduit pipe, instead of 2 inches to the right on solid wood - see the picture below!

So of course the door mechanism wasn't securely, it kept moving about, and also cracked a lot of plaster where it was mounted through the cornice and around the pipe. Makes you wonder whether some of these trades use any grey matter at all! Wouldn't have been any more difficult to mount the door correctly in the first place.

Now the pipe protects some electrical cable which goes to a junction box mounted above the garage door externally, where we will eventually get dual floodlights fitted. So if you have any lights centrally mounted above your garage, make sure your garage door mechanism is mounted properly, and not onto conduit!!

Anyway I called Mark and informed him the plaster needs to be repaired and repainted - also here at the other end, where the motor also had to be shifted over to keep everything in line. Just a paint touchup required.

Finally, the last bit of advice I got was that the door needs to have a bit of lubrication in 3 months with WD40. These black tension springs need to be sprayed all along.

Also these rollers on the side need to be able to slide back and forth freely, so apply WD40 to the groove in the case holding the rollers in.

Final result? Now our garage door works like it should - quickly, quietly, without getting stuck and without all the vibration along the mechanism that was there before. Good result!

Data people are meant to come this Monday, and also got a call this morning from Southern Star regarding doors, windows and lock to be fixed, which is booked for Friday 28th. No word yet from the antenna people, and will have to find out when the plasterer can come in.

So far, 90 day service item fixing seems to be organised efficiently and quickly, with a good tradesman coming today for our garage door. Let's hope the rest of the checklist can be fixed equally well!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

90 day inspection

Got a call yesterday to organise a house inspection today, to follow up on our 90 day service period which we submitted before xmas last year.

We didn't have all that many items to report - mainly the garage door which sticks a lot, incorrect keys for various doors, and of course my antenna which still isn't connected. Plus other things like sticking doors and windows.

Anyway, Mark went through all the items on our list, some things are too inconsequential to fix - we have a lot of tiny cosmetic cracks along windowsills and cornices, but they're part of the house settling. If windows were falling out, or cornices dropping on our heads, then it'd be an issue!

We got a call back from a company this afternoon who will come in next week to check the fitment our of data connections - basically when you try to plug in a network cable, the jack falls into the wall cavity, so they're not secured well enough. Hopefully the other trades required will get in touch with us this week while I'm still on holidays.

I've managed to procrastinate plenty and the deck hasn't even entered design phase - but at least I managed to complete Mass Effect 2, which is definitely my game of 2010. Been getting rid of various things on eBay as part of the moving process. Trying to figure out what kind of landscaping to do in the front yard - anyone have any suggestions for garden/landscaping supplies in Melbourne? Thinking of some king of rock/stone, surrounded by mulch/chipbark and various spiky planty things - whatever looks modern, neat and requires no maintenance is top of the list!

Also put up a few blinds - so far the minor bedrooms and laundry have Holland blinds, with dual Roman blinds in the sitting room. Had a pretty decent quote on custom blockout blinds for the home theatre and dual rollers for the master bed, so if we go ahead with that I'll let you know who to call.

Finally, I needed a spare wheel for my car and ended up buying 4. Smart, right? Anyway, if anyone has an Audi A4 B8 (current shape) and wants a spare, or to replace a curbed/scratched wheel, let me know - only $60 per wheel or $120 for all three. Audi dealer price is about $400 per wheel!


Friday, January 7, 2011

DIY: Modernising an old bit of furniture to fit our new colour scheme

So with my parents catching the renovation bug and insisting all my "crap" is removed so they can get on with things, I've had to take back my old filing cabinet. It was a $5 special from a place selling ex government furniture, but doesn't really suit the style of our new place.

Anyway, not to worry. To bring this worn out piece of furniture into the modern age, all you need is some adhesive vinyl and a sharp knife or blade. I chose a semi-gloss silver vinyl that I normally use for car stripes and decals. Clean the piece up first, remove all the old cobwebs (that this one had, anyway), and fill in any holes with filler or putty.

The backing paper (white) just peels away from the vinyl. It's like clear-wrapping a schoolbook to protect it.

Tuck in all the corners, trim and smooth out any air bubbles and you're done! Difficulty 2/10. Cost for the vinyl on this project, about $15.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

DIY: Installing Holland blinds

Happy New Year everyone! We had a quiet one at home with some of my family around to try out the home theatre, and managed to catch a view of the city fireworks, sipping champagne from our balcony - nice!

So after overeating for the last few days, went out to do a bit of belated post-Xmas house shopping, and managed to luckily snare some nice Holland blockout blinds at Spotlight for 40% off. Normally at Spotlight you can only find one random blind in a nice colour, and it'll be in the one size you don't need. But we were able to find 10 blinds, in matching colours, to suit the three smaller bedrooms plus a few other rooms.

Tools needed: Ruler/tape measure, pencil, power drill, screwdriver, a helping pair of hands. Difficulty 2/10 only. I didn't take any step-by-step photos because things were over so quickly.

Anyway, in most Holland/roller blind ready-to-hang packages you'll get the blind itself, two attachments for either end - one with a chain attached, one without. A couple of brackets to mount the blind attachments onto the wall and some screws.

Position the blind so it's in the centre of the window, with equal gaps (if any) on either side. Hold the attachments on with your hands, and mark with a pencil where the screws should go for the brackets. Double check for level using your ruler/tape measure or a spirit level. Predrill the screw holes, screw in the mounts, then slot in the blind. Should take 10 minutes per window with double checking. And the attachment with the chain mechanism will be about 1cm wider than the other attachment, so the brackets should not be symmetrical if you want the blind to be positioned dead centre.

Anyway, this is Bed 3, using a 180cm wide blockout Holland blind, with a 210cm drop. The window drop is much less, only about 100cm, but the excess length just stays on the roll. This blind is mounted in the reveal - ie within the window frame itself.

You can also get double Holland blinds - with a blockout blind combined with a translucent blind, that allows light in but not vision for privacy. Because the upstairs bedrooms had to have translucent glass in them anyway to meet Rescode, we decided that all that was needed was blackout blinds. However we may look for double Holland blinds for the sitting room, as it has clear glass and faces the street.

In Bed 4, because we had to have custom sized windows for some reason, the blinds are slightly too large to fit in the reveal, so I decided to mount them outside the reveal.

You can have Holland blinds cut to size if you wanted your slightly large blinds to fit in the reveal, but not too fussed with it. I've heard conflicting stories as to which mounting method gives you the best blockout (light reducing) effect. Checking the three bedrooms we put the blinds in this afternoon, one faces east, one faces south, and one faces west, so it's hard to make a direct comparison. Tina thinks the outside reveal mount reduces light the most, but in all cases the blinds darken the room significantly, to make sleeping no problem.

Now, just to get some custom window coverings for the master. Final tips, standard off-the-shelf, ready-to-hang blinds are normally 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 210cm wide - so if you're in the planning stage of house building and want to avoid custom sized window coverings later, check that your windows are standard sized :) Or use curtains, which can be drawn to any size. We were trying to avoid curtains in this house, but we may have to use them in the home theatre to get the most complete blockout effect there.



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