Monday, December 31, 2012

DIY Pavin pt 3: Laying pavers

Wow, is it the end of the year already?! Been taking a bit of time off lately working on constructing my shed, but I guess we should finish off some unfinished business first - the little paving project.

So now with the foundation of crushed rock and sand laid, you need to make sure the sand is as level as possible - I used a long straight bit of timber to sweep across the sand.

The 16 pavers to be laid are off to one side. Useful tools for this step is a rubber mallet, tile spacers (I used leftover 3mm spacers from my deck project) and ideally someone else to lift and lay the pavers for you, as they're quite heavy!

Anyway, started off carefully laying the first paver, and the first row. Use the rubber mallet to gently seat the pavers in place and to tap them closer together. If they're too close, wedge in a flat screwdrive to prise them apart.

And then (actually didn't take very long) here are all the pavers laid out.

To finish things off, I mixed up some cement to lay a cement border around the sides of the pavers, and then used PaveLok sand to sweep in between the pavers. Apparently it has some extra ingredients to stop it washing out and to stop weeds growing inbetween the pavers. I still need to seal the pavers (which will make them look nice and dark and glossy) but other projects, as usual, have interuppted me finishing things off 100%.

So, for the end of 2012, we hope everyone has a happy and safe New Years, and looking forwards to another exciting year to come!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

DIY: Paving Part 2 - foundation

So the next part of paving is to put down a suitable foundation, something that won't move (much?) that will make things look all wonky later.

Some professionals will only lay paving on concrete, but that gets expensive rapidly - and if you're already going to put concrete, you might as well put down coloured, stamped or aggregate concrete and be done with it, I figure. Depending on how much paving you're putting down, some DIY websites suggest just levelling, putting down some sand, and then pavers on top. Because my "soil" in thge area was pretty crappy, full of builders rubble, clay, cracks etc, I figures I wanted something a little more solid than just sand, even though I was only doing a small (4 square meter) area for my BBQ.

So for my foundation I figured 1/2 cubic meter of crushed rock, compacted down, topped by 1/4 cubic meter of sand (about an inch) on top.

First, the crushed rock; I also put another sleeper in near the deck, and a couple of spare bits of wood on the sides to temporarily brace the crushed rock in place. Yes, the sleeper near the deck is slightly off, which annoys me no end - but I'm planning to make a little step down in merbau matching the deck later on anyway, which will cover that sleeper entirely.

Then spread a bit of sand on top. Check with your landscaping yard for appropriate sand to use, as there's a few different kinds.

So far, so good... next - the final part, laying the pavers.

[Recently we're also had someone in to lay turf in the backyard, and it was just finished - exciting! Finally, no more weeds taller than I am!]


Thursday, November 8, 2012

DIY: Paving Part 1, setting out the paving area.

Well, we're almost at that magical time of the year, with long hot days, warms nights, mosquitoes... and BBQs! Having built my deck at exactly the wrong time of the year (middle of summer is no weather to be mixing concrete and screwing down decking boards!) I decided this year to get a head start on the next part of the outdoor area - the BBQ area.

It would be great to have the BBQ actually undercover, on the decked area, but our decking isn't that big to start off with, and with the table and chairs there isn't enough room for the BBQ anyway.

The plan was to either build a mini deck to the side of the original deck, or have some other area just for the BBQ. I also consider just putting down some crushed rock or Lilydale toppings - both are quick, cheap and easy, and being crushed rocks with fine dust or (in the case of Lilydale toppings) crushed limestone, both pack down hard to being a concrete equivalent, at least for the minor task of holding up a BBQ.

But I didn't really wants exposed crushed rock being the BBQ base, since there would be a likelihood of the fine stones being brought into the house (mess = not good, especially with a little dog running around) so a base of pavers was the way to go!

Part 1 of DIY paving - setting out the area you want to pave. (Actually, part 1 should be choosing your pavers, since I mucked things up a little, more on this later!)

*Standard disclaimer* I'm not a professional paver - in fact, before building this house I actually hated doing anything in the garden! While I've done my own research into how you should do paving, read further at your own risk!


So this is the area to the side of our deck. There's only about 2.5 metres to the side fence, and quite a slope down. The rough area I've dug out is about 2 x 2.5m. Because of the slight slope down to the fence, I though I'd set up a mini retaining wall, which would help retain the pavers - had a few leftover sleepers that needed to be used anyway.

Dug out a couple of holes for the vertical post things, which are just offcuts of sleepers, about 400mm deep. Bolted the main sleeper to the posts, and set things up level. If you look at the bottom of the sleeper it's still a bit green from the timber preservative brushed onto it, leftover from the deck build. Probably not needed, but doesn't hurt to be there as well.

Mix up a small batch of concrete - wheelbarrow, concrete mix, water, and a shovel.

Spoonfeed your concrete around your posts and do not disturb for a day or so.

Then went back and roughly levelled the dirt out.

Now, remember I said something about choosing your pavers first? I thought I'd use matching 400x400 pavers that would match the 400x200 pavers I used as stepping stones along the side of the house, but the big ones didn't look so good. We ended up picking 495 x 495 pavers instead, and if you set out your area for a different size of paver, clearly things may not match up so good!

Next up, Part 2 - paver foundations.


Monday, September 17, 2012

2 years in! A retrospective.

So as of today, we've been in our house 2 years! Here's a little retrospective to see how to build first went - lots of photos....!

The original house - 50 odd years old, asbestos everywhere, gaps in the floorboards large enough to see the dirt under the house. We forced ourselves to live in this house a few months in 2009!

Bye house! Only took about 30 minutes to drive a crane through it.

Ready for a new start. Old house gone, all utilities disconnected, and a very secure security fence installed.

Slab all poured up. I remember it didn't look that big when we first saw it!

Framing all complete - didn't take all that long to put it up, maybe a couple of weeks. Hot work in the summer of 2010.

Roof tiles all on, windows in, and ground floor wrapping underway.

Brickwork half done, scaffolding everywhere.

House bricking complete, cladding on first floor, garage roof yet to go on. We had fantastic brickies who did a perfect job, very happy with how it all turned out. They were old school, using string lines to get everything level.

Interior fitout commenced. Kitchen benches and cupboards in, no stone benchtops yet. Insulation and plasterwork mostly done, still waiting on doors, skirting, architraves etc.

Ensuite tiled up, waiting on taps and mirror. Great job by our tiler as well - everything level, no peaks/falls (non level tiles), nicely trimmed and cutout around frames etc.

Our stairs - or should I say, Tina's expensive stairs! Yep, they do look very modern and architectural - and they should, for the amount they cost!

The Sign. This should be compulsory at all building sites!

The Handover - Lights on! Almost at the end of a long, exciting, occasionally frustrating journey!

And of course, The Key(ring).

I kind of miss the excitement of building, now looking back at these photos. We're considering taking on a development opportunity, if we can find a site/land that's suitable and affordable, and either building a single luxury house to sell, or a duplex/townhouses. The general Australian economy of course will factor into things, so we'll see how it pans out. Now that we've gone through the process of building and are plenty more knowledgeable (we think!) then it might be nice to use that experience in another project. Should probably finish off our backyard before we think of doing any other work though!

Anyway, lots of pics in this post! Thanks to all the readers of our blog who have cheered us up with words of encouragement, and posted many questions which we've tried to answer appropriately. Good luck to anyone thinking of building (and I know I've been neglecting our sister-blog which I have been meaning to update more often!) and we hope everyone who has taken the big step of building or redeveloping are having a great journey too!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Soft close door dampers, Paypal screws up yet again.

Just an update regarding our soft close door dampers - yes, we have the new design v2.0 door dampers back in stock! Removable soft-close cartridge can be directly installed into cabinetry, or use self-tapping screws to securely retrofit these soft-close mechanism to any cupboard or drawer in your kitchen, bathroom, ensuite, laundry etc!

We've been alerted by Shayne that the Paypal link is broken (thanks for the heads up!), and after closer investigation is seems that Paypal are continuing their grand tradition of f#cking things up for sellers. Anyway, long story short, you can still pay by Paypal if you must, but you have to follow the long instructions on our soft close door damper website. Or do a bank deposit, which is equally safe (registered post anywhere in Australia).

And apparently, this is the 300th post on this blog - hello to everyone still reading our (my) ongoing rants and raves!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

DIY: Replacing your kitchen tap

So our new kitchen tap has been staring at me for a few weeks, while I've been happily procrastinating playing PS3 games - finally decided to get up and have a crack at replacing our crappy kitchen tap today.


I've said it before, I'll say it again - avoid upgrading anything through the builder that you can do yourself. We paid a couple hundred bucks to "upgrade" from the standard kitchen tap to this piece of cr@p Dorf Oasis spray mixer, and look at the just how much quality you get after a year of use, with all the braiding frayed, exposing the soft plastic hose inside.

To change it actually took a lot longer than I thought. Ideally you'll need a big wrench or two, a basin wrench, screwdrivers/hex drivers, spare towels, things to catch waste water in. Make sure you turn off the water from the internal taps located inside the kitchen cabinet first, disconnect all water lines to the tap and drain into containers.

Actually getting the old mixer out was a huge battle, since there was very limited space in the cabinet with our massive sinks getting in the way. I needed a sink wrench to reach way up under the sink to grab a tiny nut on a thread that was holding the tap in tplace, and with many hoses running into the tap in the same area it was hard going. If you have easy access to your tap from underneath the sink, things will be much easier for you!


After the old tap is removed, clean up the benchtop where it used to be,.


The final result... well, almost! This tap is retained in the benchtop a totally different way with a massive nut on a 35mm screw, and the plastic washer it came with was too big to fit under the sink, so at the moment it's held in only loosely. And of course, once I hooked up the new hot and cold water hoses, I found the hot hose had a crack/leak in it, so I need to get a replacement of that. Tomorrow,  a bit of fine tuning with a bench grinder on the washer, and a trip to a hardware store for a hose, and hopefully it'll all work out well!

Also ordered a new TV from JB Hifi online yesterday, and already having second thoughts about the whole process - should've walked into one of the stores and bought it that way, because their online store is truly craptactular. Logging into my account doesn't reveal my order, there's no contact phone number to call, and they don't return emails. No wonder we're all shopping online overseas, if this is the best an aussie company can do.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Need wall design inspiration from our blog readers!

So, for many years I've been involved in the design, creation and manufacture of vinyl signage and graphics, specialising in vehicle graphics - racing stripes, sponsor logos, etc, selling to retailers around Australia and direct sales via some websites. Anyway, no doubt you've all seen wall graphics/wall decals, a great way to modernise and decorate (plus they're easily removable, changed and upgraded), and an area in which we already have some expertise! One of my (financial) new year's resolution is to get our wall design website finally off the ground, I thought I'd ask all our very informed and trend setting blog readers to maybe make any suggestions on what you'd like to see!

These are some example of wall decalsjust randomly found on the web;

I've always liked the look of the black chandelier wall decal - it can reflect an existing light, or give a very luxe influence on a room. Tina found us a nice black French chandelier for the entrance (which still hasn't been installed, a year later!). I've done a few designs for chandeliers that'll definitely be on our website. Probably will leave those falling black leaves alone though.

This one is pretty neat, a silhouette that reminds me of Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction. Would go well in a home theatre room, teenager's retreat, or rumpus/games room!

So,  we've already got a website name, I'm working on the store customisation which might take another week or two, but what really matters are the designs, of course!

There's already plenty of stores which supply wall decals, but we want our store to stand out. Many wall decals sold in Australia are actually mass produced in China (which is why they all look the same) - where I think our store will stand out is that everything is designed and manufactured locally right here in Melbourne, and to take advantage of that, our store will have many items that are unique and personalised. For example, you might be able to submit your child's name to be integrated into a particular design, for example "Stephanie's Room" as a stickable design, surrounded by hearts and stars for example. Naturally, a custom one-off item will cost slightly more than a generic mass-produced item, but it'll be unique and tailored exactly to your needs and your style! Of course, we'll also have some custom designs that you won't find anywhere else too.

Anyway, if you have any ideas at all, what you might like to see, what you're sick of, or anything else, please leave a comment as your feedback will be greatly appreciated! Hoping to have the website launched with a few products within a month.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve!* (*financial new year)

So I woke up all excited this morning - the end of the financial year has snuck up again, which means spending hours sifting through receipts, itemising invoices and payments, figuring out how much I'm going to get screwed on tax once more.

But it's not all bad news - EOFYS usually brings on a few good sales, if you're prepared beforehand, know what you want and how much it should cost. My favourite purchase most recently was another PS3 with a game from BigW - $256 delivered. Should've been $248 delivered, but I got charged $8 for "registered" post. Apparently now the game bundles have sold out, but you can still get a bare PS3 for the same price. Target have a similar game bundle deal, but Kmart have an even cheaper PS3 only price, though I suspect they sold out in minutes.

And if you're wonding what game console to buy your kids - DON'T buy an xbox, because they're crap.

For the record, I've had nearly every console release since the 8 bit NES and the Xbox has been the worst of the lot. I have 2 xboxes, because I "had" to buy another one when the first one experienced general hardware failure.... 3 times. Now have two PS3s, because they're excellent - they play BluRay, have free online gaming, can record things off TV, free online apps, you can freely upgrade the hard drives to any size, and they don't explode at random moments like xboxes.

Anyway, another thing we picked up the other week was a nice new commercial style kitchen mixer tap from Recollections, of all places.

Normally we don't go into Recollections, as their furniture is more rustic than modern, but they have some surprisingly nice wall mirrors and modern bar stools (which Tina won't let me get since we have too much furniture, apparently).... and this kitchen mixer currently at half price, which makes it equivalent to online/eBay prices. We paid more for the crappy Dorf mixer tap "downgrade" from the builder, so yet again, another reminder to early players to NOT upgrade anything through the builder that you can do yourself, later.

I have yet to email Dorf to complain about their rubbish product, but I don't expect any resolution, since they only offer 1 year parts/labour on their products - and since their taps are designed to last a year and a day, there's no point in buying them in the first place.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

We're Back!

So we haven't been posting on the blog for a couple of months - reason is, after all that time time planning and building the house, then getting married, then working madly to put a dent in the mortgage, we haven't had much time to get away on a proper holiday for years! So we decided to take some time off, and we're back!

Here's some holiday snaps;

 View from the top of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore at sunset.

Well, most people would know what this is, and where it is!

Mountain town of Chefchaouen, Morocco
The Mezquita, Cordoba
 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Plus some time in Hong Kong on the way home. People keep asking me what camera I used for these photos... seems like I buy a new digital camera every year and this year was no exception. Was going to travel with my old Canon 450D and some lenses, but I get so weary of carrying around a kilo of massive camera gear. Picked up an Olympus E-PM1, which is one of the new "Micro Four Thirds" range - much smaller than an SLR, but with a sensor almost as large. Result is a tiny camera, almost the size of a point&shoot compact, with incredible performance - I don't use my SLR as much anymore!  I did use a couple of in-built filters in the Olympus for these photos, otherwise no retouching or adjustments used. You can also get the usual range of lenses for Micro Four Thirds, from fisheye, wide angle to tele and macro.

Today we're going out shopping to replace our kitchen tap. We "upgraded" our standard tap to some Dorf pullout kitchen mixer/spray for a couple of hundred bucks, and that turned out to be a piece of crap, with all the braided lines coming apart with less than a year's worth of use. Of course, our standard advice to anyone building a house now is - "Whatever you can upgrade yourself later, don't upgrade through the builder". Something like a tap is easy to DIY upgrade yourself later, and you can pick from a huge range of products, at a better price. Anyway, once we find a nice commercial style kitchen tap, I'll write up a DIY to change it over.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Offtopic (again)... pizza!

Most people know what it's like to get home after a long days work, and have nothing to eat (or maybe it's just me?) Anyway the other weekend we had some friends over, and tried some of the new Pizza Hut Signature pizzas. We normally get our pizzas from our local Pizza Heart (independent/local) or the Crust store about 5 minutes drive, but though we'd give Pizza Hut a go..

We tried a Mexicana, Tandoori Chicken, Surf & Turf, Garlic Prawn and The Works. Verdict? Size is about 11inches, toppings were good, price reasonable ($15 each, which is $3-4 cheaper than Crust). The only thing is, our nearest store is further than our local Crust franchise - maybe next time if we're particularly lazy, we'll get them to deliver!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Offtopic.. The Raid Movie!

Caught this preview the other day - nowadays it's actually pretty rare we'll go out for a movie, much easier to stay at home, brew your own coffee and pop your own popcorn and play the movie when you want. Still, I did want to see this at a proper cinema - The Raid has won plenty of awards, but more importantly one poster for the movie stated: "1 minute of romance, 99 minutes of action!", and that's what it delivered!

There's a plot, but it's mostly irrelevant. The 1 minute of romance is quickly covered in the first minute of the movie, after that; it's lots of guns, lots of kicking, punching, knifing, bone cracking, eye gouging.. you get the picture! A serious beat-em up movie, plenty of cringeworthy moments (for the right reasons!), highly recommended!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Launch of a new blog - buildingprojecthomes!

Hi everyone - we've recently registered a new website to carry on discussions about project home builders. It won't be specifically about our house, more designed to cater for all project home builders and relevant discussions. The new blog is at, and it's pretty sparse right now because I was waiting for a relevant question to kick it off. This one came from G;

"Hi Tim,

Thank you for all the information on your blog! Very helpful.

We are currently thinking of buying a block (abt 15.2m for W) at Whitehorse area and building our dream home. As always, budget is the biggest concern so we probably won't able to build with M. Like the Camden floor plan of Carlisle and noted that the standard inclusion in the Essential series (prob equivalent as M's Allegra series?) does not provide much.

So I am thinking of checking with you the Nolan that you signed up with M was under which series so that I can budget my cost better. If yours was already at the top of the range and we should add another $100k for upgrades, I think we better drop the idea of building our dream home. (sad but reality is always cruel....)

Thanks again for sharing


which we're replied to at more length on If you have a question you'd like to ask us, whether it's about our house specifically or about building/redeveloping in general, please ask it by posting a comment at and hopefully we'll be able to answer it there!

This blog will still get the occasional update, there's not a great deal left to finish off (except the backyard which is being overrun by weeds!)


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just in stock: door dampers v2.0!

OK guys - it's taken a while, but we've got our new door dampers in stock!

Check out the video below for an introduction to the new redesigned door dampers. As before, they're suitable to install on kitchen cupboards, laundry, bathroom vanities etc. You can also use them on pot drawers, but after some experience with the previous model, the pot drawers can weigh 10-20kg when loaded with pots & pans, so you will need more dampers - 4 or more depending on how heavy the pot drawers are.

If you'd like to order a set, or find out more details, please check out our dedicated site We'll be shipping these from Monday next week, all over Australia!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DIY Deck Part 6: All done (bar the staining!)

So here's the result of our summer project;

Deck after a rinse and a bit of a scrub. Getting conflicting opinions on whether to clean the deck now and stain, or wait 6 months then clean and stain. If only the deck was this clean and shiny all the time!

Installing deck lights - if I was more prepared, I would've ordered these from eBay and saved 40%, but since I needed to wire in the transformer and run cables under the deck, had to buy them from the Big B at full retail *gasp*. There's 6 lights pointing upwards and 4 pointing out towards the "garden" at the back.

A dusk shot. The LED lights are surprisingly bright, once the backyard is properly finished, it'll look great! Now have to decide what to do with all the weeds and rubble littering the backyard - maybe paving around the deck? Lawn/turf? More mulch? More decking?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DIY Deck Part 5: 99.5% completed

As of this morning, the deck is pretty much complete now!

In the near corner there's one short board I'll take to the father-in-laws place to be ripped down to 60mm to fit. I could've done the deck with no ripping, but it would mean larger spaces between the boards, and I wasn't keen on 6-7mm gaps! 

On this side, I haven't put in the trim board yet (the vertical piece that hides the joist ends) because I've got a set of LED deck lights that I need to install in the last decking board first. Need a pretty big spade bit (about 35mm) or a small holesaw to get the cuts done.

So I have a newfound respect for all trades now after working on this deck for two weeks solid! Back, arms and hands a little sore. Getting everything square, level, and with consistent gaps is much harder than I'd thought.

We also went down to Laminated Timber Supplies in Croydon yesterday to check out a stain called Cutek CD50. Been reading up a bit on stains, and it seems there's either water or oil based stains, and oil based stains are "generally better" for my liking, as they're easily recoated and don't peel, unlike some water/acrylic based stains. Anyway, spoke to the sales manager David there who was extremely helpful, stained some of my decking offcuts to see what they'd look like and gave us a couple of sample pots. The price is more than the stains in Bunnings etc, but seeing as we've already spent plenty of time & money getting the deck done, it doesn't seem smart to try and save $50 on a stain that can make or break the deck! Will decide on a stain in the next few weeks, anyway. Definitely Cutek is high on the shortlist, mainly because of the service provided so far by David and the good feedback given amongst DIY forums.

And for those who're interested, just to recap on costs - we were quoted $7000 from a tradesman to build our deck (without stainless screws, without deck lights, without picture border!) and I think I've spent maybe $2300 on all materials (including a mitre saw, and a thousand leftover stainless screws). So if you have the inclination - and the time - doing your own deck can be quite satisfying and cost-effective!

Upcoming projects - make a small laundry step (using leftover decking), maybe a letterbox, and confirm the new supplier of our soft closing door dampers version 2.0!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DIY Deck Part 4: Decking starting to be installed

So after a frustrating couple of weeks waiting on one ebay seller to get back to me, turns out the delay is all due to Toll IPEC receiving my item and then deciding to lose it for a week. They still haven't found it. Ironically their marketing slogan is "Toll Ipec - If It's Urgent", which should then be followed by "...don't use us, because we'll lose your items and not let you know about it". Pretty impressive for a courier company to fail so hard at their job, so in future I'll be making sure to avoid using them whenever possible.

Anyway, had an excellent experience with Better Hardware. I placed an order Sunday night with a note I needed these screws urgently - I got a call Monday morning from their sales manager who offered to meet me in Melbourne and hand them over to me! I said the next day would be fine, and he couriered them to me which I received Tuesday morning today! Rare to get such great personalised service, highly recommended. So if you need any decking supplies, email Tim at BetterHardware directly and say you saw this recommendation on Tim&Tina's blog and he'll look after you!

 So here's what I received from Better Hardware - 1000 stainless steel screws, 10Gx50mm long. Two square driver bits, and a Smart-Bit for countersinking.

I also made a jig out of some leftover aluminium fastener plate - basically I wanted to screw each board down one at a time and make sure all the screws lined up correctly. I staggered the screw joins too to try and minimise any crack formation in the joists.

So, long story short - lots of measuring, re-measuring and re-re-measuring, I manage to line up the first decking board and the first two picture frame boards, and lay a few more decking boards down before my cordless drill battery had enough.

I do love the mitred edge on the picture boards! A bit of a hassle to setup and get 100% right, but looks mint! The Smart-Bit is highly recommended, a massive timesaver and gets the countersinking depth perfect each time. Hoping to get all the decking down in the next 4-5 days!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

DIY Deck Part 3: Joists 70% done

After the hard work getting the bearers in, the joists (so far) have gone in pretty quick.

Put down some weedmat first, and a bit of sand/rock to hold it in place. Also set in some crossbracing (probably redundant with all the joists being fixed in, but whatever) and the joists are held in with triplegrips at 400mm centres. 

Got the first 10 or so joists fixed in, and will get the rest done probably tomorrow - need to trim them to fit in around the brick pier first.

And then more internal framing to do so the picture border can go in.

Pretty annoyed with how one dodgy ebay seller is holding up progress though.

*EDIT* Turnes out the delay was due to the courier company managing to lose a parcel in the 10km between the seller and myself. Even so, if a seller isn't going to be working for a certain period, they shouldn't be advertising items for sale if they're not going to post them for a week. *



Related Posts with Thumbnails