July 2003

A letter to mum, July 2003

July 2003

It’s been such a long time since I did an update, for that I apologise. After all, with Ross’s redundancy smacking us in the face like it did, we have had so many other focuses instead! Anyway, thought I better get this off before mum leaves Perth (Hi Mum!!) tonight, to fly over and spend a month with us in Paradise. (see it’s not raining today and I am in a T shirt!!).

Now that things are settling down, we have had a little, not a lot, of time to get back into the renovations. So far, the concept of doing it ourselves using recycled, vintage and/or antique materials has proved a challenge – not so much in fitting them, but more in locating what we want. Some compromises are now being made – I have a desire for NEW architraves, skirtings and power points (wouldn’t you?) The gutting of the old lounge room was fun, and many months later the new walls are in place. There is a floor (gasp!) and we were fortunate in scoring some early 1900’s floorboards through an auction, that we used to make the floating floor ourselves, right down to the ‘floats supporters” which came from the same place. Seems these are old schoolhouse boards, once sanded they will be lovely. There is a ceiling now – my how we move up in the world – but yet to have the holes and seams plastered. The VJ’ boards and dado rail are almost finished, and one can actually see that a room is taking shape. The fireplace should come out next weekend, but then again…… The best thing – the room, all self built does not leak! (small happy dance). Thankyou, Thankyou….

The leadlight front door looks lovely, and we have the matching bi-fold doors in where the lounge will step up to what will be  the new master bedroom. All very pretty.

In the guest room (where we now sleep) all that’s left to do are the architraves and a little plastering, and hang the new door. Then, when we move out of it, I can paint it (how exciting!)  The hallway only awaits it repaired dado rails, the new office needs the charming pink rosebud wall paper stripped off and painted, and Rielly’s room – the new windows and door – oh, and the removal of the wall…. (sigh).

Steptoe and wife next door have settled down, seemingly over their tanty about us ripping out the gross concrete eagles from the garden (shudder). Wait till we tell them we are putting in a 6 foot picket fence down that side, I am sure they will step out to tantyville again.

The poor old Hill’s hoist fell down (everybody say ‘Ohhhhh’) I hung up a sisal rug to dry and the whole concoction tipped goat over brisket, so I had to get a new clothesline. (everybody say ‘yayyyy’).

So today, I am paper working and invoicing then doing the school reports, followed by sourcing the last amount of floorboards needed to refloor the hallway, then the whole house is ready to have the boards sanded. That won’t happen for ages though – there are still 3 rooms to gut walls from first, the new bathroom, kitchen and laundry to go in and the ensuite to build and…….. gawd, I need a cuppa.



Letters Home: November 2002

Hi mum, all, everyone… 
I imagine you are, dear reader, sitting in your chair, propped at your computer, ready for an entertaining page  filled with renovation wonders, amusing tales of finds we unearthed, and gushing statements how how great our work is progressing.

Should that be the case , hit the close button. Now.

Still here? This is an interlude, of sorts,  rather than an update. Just in case you  think we are slacking off you see.   It’s gripe time. last we spoke, I let you know about Ross’s rewiring the home (which *is* gushworthy), and a promise of me enjoying a nice  hot shower with my new gas hot water system in place, and crystal clear water just racing down those pipes to get to my skin. Hmmm. I still have no gas. I still have no pipes. I still have no connected hot water system.What I do have, however, is half connected copper and plastic piping, snaking in and out of the floor and walls at the most interesting angles.

Nary an end is connected to any type of H20. I also have a new, shiny hot water system sitting on it’s own wee cedar pad in the corner. It’s bare copper connections smirk at me every time I walk around the corner of the house to manually connect the old hose to the galvanised tap that I use to fill the pet bowl or water the plants. (One day I will kick it and look accusingly at the dog). I also have a pyramid of besa blocks holding up 2 x 9kilogram barbeque gas bottles. I have a wonderful leaky showerhead.

And a mess.

All these together give me a shower, on a good day, and if I am lucky, and the wind is blowing in the right direction…   You see, when the pipe work was being connected, something possessed the HMOTH (handy man of the house) to fiddle with the shower base. “It leaks” he pronounced. “Right into the sand in the crawl space”. It does ? Since when?? “There is a puddle – wet residue?” ask I. “No…” “But you are sure it leaks?”  Yes, it does leak… now…” Indeed. I would leak too if I was hit with sledgehammer to check if I was solid.  So, it is silicone and fibreglass we need, so we can stop the leak until such time that we are ready to renovate the bathroom.The very next day, right on cue, the toilet begins to gurgle. “oh, says the HMOTH,  that will be air coming in from where the shower is leaking, thus creating a vacuum”  I hear him doing his very best Julius Sumner Miller voice, looking at me like I should *know* that.  I resist the temptation of saying “why is it so”… 

An interesting thing to note, dear reader, is that apparently, air locks can also completely block toilets when it comes to palm tree roots. Or so it appears….  So the gas hot water needs the pipework finished in order to have the water pressure to keep it happy, so to speak. The water pressure will be supplied via the pipework that is dangling out of the house, spider legs everywhere, waiting for the leak to be fixed. The silicone and fibreglass is in the shed, somewhere… The toilet is backed up, and HMOTH is currently  outside with an electric snake,  doing gawd knows what to gawd knows what,  making sure he stays far enough away from me so I cannot snort anything that sounds like “air lock – hah!”  (I told him he needs Rootex, he looked at me like I was being rude).

Mercy, the things that come out of blocked sewage!!!!! GROSS.

So, the last few weeks have been spent playing chase the water. At this stage, a motel is looking good. Tell me again will you  – location, location, location….

A good place to start – backstory

September, 2002, my other half decided to buy a house, without me seeing it.  Let me tell you, this was more a big deal than you may think. You see, we had been looking for a house to do up anyway, but it had to be liveable at the same time. We had a small child, both worked, and wanted to jump onto the house boom that was happening in coastal areas of the northern suburbs of Queensland. 

One day, whilst I was at a conference in the City,  he decided to check out a ‘Home Open” that was in our preferred location. It was no good, the house was tiny,  the block tiny, and the house was not at all what we wanted. As he drove home, just 2 streets away, he witnessed an auction. Curiosity killed the cat, as they say, and as he stopped, the auction closed with the property passed in. He ventured inside, and chatted with agent.

That afternoon, I received a call on my mobile. “Honey, I shrunk the savings”. Yep, he had done it, gone and bought a house without me. 

The next day I witnessed, for my own eyes, the property he had purchased for a ‘bargain’. No wonder it was a bargain. It was, really, nothing more than a dilapidated dump. And if you think I am joking, or exaggerating in any way, then this blog will convert you.

You will become a believer in miracles.

In September 2002, I began an electronic journal of progress of the renovations. Here, I  will slowly move my writings (in original form and with the original dates, if I can) here, and some of the photos. Room by room, dismal dank dusty dire room by room, you can follow the first years of renovations beginning from 2002, whilst chuckling to yourself and enjoying your glass or two of red in the cosiness of your yummy home, whilst you look at what I have had to live with the fun over the last 6 years.

But I do have the last laugh on the naysayers who saw the house at the beginning of the trip. For those fiscal – we have quadrupled our money – and I have a lifetime of stories to eat out on.

Sit back, relax, enjoy.

Plastered! October 2003

 Dear Renovators Rescue / Backyard Blitz / DIY Rescue / Burkes backyard / Auction Squad / Do your Block / Tooth Fairy / Santa / Lotto / Insert you Charity Here (Pick Me!)

 I am writing to ask you to assist us in our plight to complete our renovations of house and garden, in order to enable us to restore our sanity, and show our child that  – Yes, Virginia – people do really live in houses with intact walls, plumbing that does not squeal, downpipes that, well, downpipe, and belongings in cupboards, not cardboard boxes. (Yes, I know my son’s name is not Virginia, thankyouverymuch)

You see, being the DIYers that we are, we have a great many jobs on the hop all at once.

What was the lounge room is to be our bedroom – (unfurnished as we speak), is awaiting the plastering and dado rails. The plasterer, lovely person he is, came on Monday, spent 2 hours here and we have not seen him again. So the couches and TV are living in what will be the ensuite and walk in robe, keeping the dining table and chairs company – because there is no where else for them either.  It’s not all bad – we can eat and watch TV at the same time, with our feet up – and it really does not matter if we develop long sightedness. Truly.

What was the entryway games room shack tacked on thingo is all but finished now. Well, it’s been floor boarded and had the wall knocked out and rebuilt and new doors and VJ boards and dado rails, just waiting for that plasterer (again) and then some cornicing. And the ceiling fan. And paint. And the step…. So that room is empty too, furniture relegated to the shed, keeping my kitchen supplies (I remember them, I last saw them in August 2002, along with my sanity) and R’s toys (I guess grandchildren will like them, he outgrew them ages ago) company. And we really don’t mind clambouring over saw horses and plaster buckets when we wish to enter and exit the house. Truly.

What started off as our bedroom now has big windows and is half plastered, waiting for the plasterer (remember him?????) It houses our wardrobe tho – the one we bought off the roadside because we had nowhere to put our clothes whilst we “Took a few days” to do our room. Last January, I think that was….  So, apart from the wardrobe and dust, that room is empty and we are camping out in what was the 3rd bedroom but us destined to become the dining and family room.  It’s fun sleeping in there, really – it’s OK climbing across the bed because we can’t walk around it – and the fact that we are sleeping with 2 book cases, a television entertainment unit (The TV is in the wardrobe, remember?) 12 dozen boxes of wine and the ironing rack with some more clothes on it really does not matter. It’s cosy. And I am getting used to the stubbed toes. Truly. And the wine comes in handy, in the absence of said plasterer….

And the office, now that wall paper is gone – empty too, except this little machine wrapped in plaaaaaaastic, which I have to shove off whenever I wish to type or catch up with what’s happening in the OUTSIDE the world. The room is waiting for the plasterer too… (Let’s play where’s Wally?) to patch the holes that were left from the 7 million brackets,  and plaster up the doorway. Preferably with me in it.  And it really does not matter that those 4 rooms of the house are totally out of commission -we can live in one bedroom, 1 bathroom and a non functional kitchen for a while, Truly.

Once those rooms have been PLASTERED (I may get plastered before they do) then that’s 4 rooms we can paint, sand floors, and put furniture into. If it is not all out of date by then.

Then we can start the meals area, Rielly’s room, kitchen, laundry, gardens, decks, driveway, garage, paths, carport, and fencing….
Have to dash now. I hear a truck coming up the road. It may be the plasterer, or some unsuspecting delivery man who is about to assume a tradesman’s identity so that I can GET SOME SORT OF NORMALITY AROUND HERE.

Yours sincerely
us xxxxxxx

Living Room

Going from this:                                           To this: 3 years*

lounge3       hpim4093



Or, at.  And for us, this was it.

Bigger than we ever expected the job to be, this project took us 3 years to complete – *because of unforeseen circumstances. From January 2003 until April 2004, we lived without a lounge room, dining room, real bedroom or anywhere to relax in for all this time  – and it was ugly. Very ugly.  Most of this time the whole front of the house consisted of blue bunnings sisalation nailed onto joists. No wall. Very drafy. Why? Read on.

You may have read in previous posts how the ‘front room’ was an old, closed in verandah, ‘constructed’ of single thickness masonite (truly) originally constructed as a verandah in the 40s, and enclosed in the 60’s. Sometime in the 90’s, ALTEC had put on a new enclosure roof.   (NEVER use this company – later you will see why).

The photo below has been highlighted *heaps* so you can see it’s glorious hideousness. It was actually  very dark and dungeon-esque. There were 2 tiny sash windows each side of a *very* suspiciously flimsy sliding glass door. It looked like a tacked on games room – only it was at the front of the house and not the back.

lounge3      lounge51

To the right, you stepped up a brick and tile ‘step’ (see above) into the ‘sitting/lounge’ room. (This became the master bedroom). And to the extreme right, a built in bar complete with mirror tiles and ship in a bottle. (Directly ahead was an awful wall with a table built into it – housing a SKULL with a candle inside. This tasteful entry way statement, sadly, had to go, too.)   Once cleaned, and the table and bar ripped out, we live in it for 8 weeks or so whilst we clean everything else in the house.  You can see the temporary loungeroom below – and a glimpse of that dining room which became the master bedroom.  Take note of the exposed sloping beams, the lime green walls, the tiled sloping floor. And that doorway to the right? Leads to the loo with a view.     When you entered the 1960’s aluminium unpowdercoated glass door, a sloping tiled floor awaited your feet. There was a 1 inch drop, sloping from the side affixing the house, to the side where you can see the doors.  The roof sloped to the same angle, and exposed beams sloped too – giving a strange feel to the room – rather like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  So, we cleaned it up and removed the curtains, and lived in the lime greeness for a year or so.

lounge21     lounge4

In January 2003, Santa brought us a sledghehammer. This room was demolished and the entries sealed up with plastic as we gutted this room completely back to a floorless verandah, the rebuilt.  Below, you can see how the ALTEC company had roofed over the old verandah in an inverted ‘T’ shape, with part of it being re-constructed as a lean to in th 1990s. The wall you can see being removed is what was laughingly referred to as the loungeroomwall in the Real Estate ad. We doubt it was legal. You can also see how we removed one end of the tiles and scaled down supports to be able to build an even floor of recycled floorboards in keeping with the rest of the house.

boards   windows2

We finish the room in December 2004, just in time for Christmas. (yay!) All that’s left to do in here is sand the floors and she’s finished.  The plan is ready to move ahead come late January.


14 January 2004 – and Brisbane is struck by the worst storms and cyclonic activity it has seen for many years.

Our far northern beachside suburb was badly affected.  The ALTECcompany roof seams failed. The insulation bats filled with water until they became so heavy they saturated the ceiling and the ceiling fell in. The newly renovated lounge room and all it’s contents were destroyed.  Damage to furniture was beyond repair. Insurance were fantastic. Butthe main problem with our water damage was the ALTEC roof for the patio had been incorrectly fitted from the beginning. 3 independent roofers and the insurance company all agreed. *BUT* ALTECwould NOT honour their so-called 10 year warranty. They told us to take them to court.  They told us it would cost us more to prove them wrong than was worththe cost of the repairs.  Their warranty – not worth the paper it’s printed on. The insurance company agreed to settle ut of court and we were awarded replacement cost of goods only, and damages,  but the roof remains.

So we start this room again, only not quite to the extreme.

Finally, come December 2006, the room is finished. The paint is painted, the plasterers plastered and new furniture is in place. This room took foreverdue to the insurance claims. At least it was secure, so we were able to continue with the rest of the house – and by then we were working on the bedroom, kitchen and laundry project.

So, here we have the completed room, with floors sanded in 2008.  Finally.


Specs: Walls, VJs and dado rails all painted antique chalk white USA. Hand plastered mouldings (not prefrabricated).  Floorboards from an old school house in Gympie and laid by us. Antique silky oak casement windows from Big Red Shed installed by us.  Guests furniture couches, woollen rug from Freedom, Long low TV cabinet from Country Living. (Flat screen TV from ALDI!!!)

You can see all of the loungeroom renovation photosrenovation photos here (along with the finished house, if you like).

Master Bathroom

From white ant eaten damp rot:      To this: 3 years


This is to tell the tale of the transformation of the Master Bathroom.  It was not one of the first rooms done – in fact, it was a fair way down the track, but it’s a good place to start. And start here I must, because the basis of this room was the re plumb of all the pipes and anything to do with waterworks, which of course incorporated every wet area of the house.


This is how it looked at settlement – dirty (you have come to expect that, right? ) with this ikky weird over the loo shelf, resplendent purple walls and tiles with grey grout on 2 walls and black grout on the other 2.  See the shower glass wall there? That’s DIRT and WAX and STUFF, not a shadow, and it did eventually scrub off. How people bathed in there with that though really grossed me out. Urgh.   You can see the sliding door with no pelmet, (noice), and a view straight out that awful front extension they had built. A loo with a view when you poo…    Or if you were on the right section of the street, a view of the loo…
The shower base sank, so we had to do some serious work under there before we could do anything else. Any fix was temporary, as we were going to redo this room eventually…  A right royal scrubbing, 2 bottles of domestos, a new loo seat  and that trusty gurni later, we could at least shower and wash in cleanliness, if not style!!   Below, is the bathroom cleaned, and we used this bathroom in it’s shown state from 2002 until 2005, when we demolished it. We rebuilt in 2005 / 2006, and finished it properly in 2007 (we could not use the room for that duration) but  by then had built the en suite and used that for the time.

In 2005 we demolished the bathroom entirely.


Most of the findings were rather gruesome and grossly grissly. The rot in the walls was pretty extreme, and there was old fibro underneath the Masonite. We estimate whomever did the purple renovation, probably in the 80s, was responsible for this.  (Look, there’s my old brown doggie supervising. We lost him January 2008. How I miss old brown doggie)

During 2006, we built the room in and extended it out to under the eaves.  You can see here how we incorporated the eave area to accomodate  the spa. We have installed glass wall bricks in a window, which opens for ventilation, and started panelling halfway up the wall in VJ boards. 


New structure floor below it all (we had to replace rotted joists under here, which took up a chunk of 2006).

And finally, a nice, new bathroom is born, in 2007.

It didn’t get painted until 2008, but hey, why rush these things?

For those interested in specifics: The cabinetry and toilet seat are solid Jarrah, the doors on the overhead cabinets are inlaid stained glass. The spa is a 2 person, semi sunk with overhead shower. I am still to finish this room with a frameless half screen aside the spa.

So that’s the story of the master bathroom.  There are more bathroom photos at the renovation photo album.

Tree Feller

Whilst 6 years worth of renovations are taking place *inside* the outside is coming along nicely too.   At some point, we knew we could no further without some big ticket items, which all had to occur around the same time. 

We wanted to put in a new shed and a pool. We needed a new roof (ours was asbestos and had to be replaced). To replace the roof, a truck would be needed in the yard. This would dig up the yard. We needed a new driveway – no point doing this until the roof was done. We needed a new shed – this would have to be demolished anyway – (you’ve seen the photos!) and there was a large white ant infested tree which needed to come down. The shed was under the tree. The tree was over the roof of the house. The driveway leads to the tree and the shed. See the connection?

So, in order –

1. tree revoval and shed demolition.
2. pool dug, soil from pool hole to fill in white ant eaten root system of tree.
3. roof on.
4. new shed erected.
5. pool dug and concreted.
6. New driveway, after all machinery  has finished!!.
7. refence and make safe.

All this was taking place over 4 weeks. Together. Simultaneously. Right on the lead up to Christmas.

It was one of the few things that went perfectly well. No hitches!

Here are the shots of the tree coming down. It was a HUGE tree, and this guy did it all via the monkey system, no cherry picker, just ropes, a chainsaw and packet of rollies.  If you zoom in on some of them you can see him stopping for a ciggie break every branches or so.  And you will also see where he saves a magpie nest and eggs for me. (Relocated to another safe place).  Shots of stages 2 -7 still heading your way. Stay tuned!