Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Publishing House

The most recent issue of The Dominion Post’s Your Weekend magazine (Saturday 28 January) featured the third and final article chronicling our house build. Here is a selection of some of the photographs Loren took, at the beginning of this year. (all courtesy of The Dominion Post)


Made the cover! (kind of...)
A feature of the article was our 'scary price tag list' which is reproduced here:

What size is the house? 156.5 sqm

How long did the house build take? 6 months

What did the house cost? $360,000

Off grid and electrical systems: $42,000

Plumbing: $60,000

Waste water system: $14,000

Overspend: $16,000

How much power does the off-grid system generate? 4.5 kW hours per day

How does it work?
Our roof-mounted panels convert sunlight into an electrical current which is stored in a bank of 12 deep cycle batteries. The current is converted from DC to AC for our use.

How long will the batteries last? Up to ten years.

What happens on cloudy days?
Although the panels will still generate a little power, we can draw on the stored energy in the batteries. Once this has been used our generator can replenish them.

Where does the house water come from?
It is channelled from the roof into two 22,500 litre concrete water tanks. This is pumped back to a header tank in the house, creating a mains pressure system.

How is the water heated?
By a bank of 24 solar tubes in the summer and by a wetback system connected to our woodburner in the winter. Two radiators will also be run with the excess hot water.
The original unsanded floor and unpainted walls
I could have taken a picture like this - if I was a photographer.  Note the 'gang plank'
leading to our living room - this will remain until we are able to timber the deck.
Although the undisputed star of the previous Dominion Post photoshoot,
Ed was nowhere to be found, this time.  Afterwards, he poses near the new cat door -
sited in a sheltered spot near our own front door and giving access to the laundry.

Everything is still remarkably green for this time of year, meaning that our water tanks
are slowly filling while we wait to be connected to them!

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Fantastic Floor

Our recycled timber floorboards have now had their sand and polish, in preparation for our kitchen arriving.  Soon, we can move out of our bedrooms and back into the rest of the house again!

Will these people ever stop going on about their floor, you must be wondering?  Well, the answer is ‘yes’- its restoration is finally complete, the satin polyurethane finish protecting and darkening the wood and bringing out all of it’s notched history and character.  No doubt some of our own character will soon be added (usually in the form of ‘cat cornering’ scratch marks) but it all adds to the general ‘lived on’ appearance.

Colin buffs the initial high gloss varnish, in preparation for the final satin finish.
With everything ready for the kitchen’s arrival, the weekend saw us hard at work on other tasks. Rose concentrated on sealing the walls, ceiling and window of our bathroom – getting everything ready for the fitting of the large glass partition which will bring the completion of our shower that little bit closer.
Only another 200 filled spots to sand...
Meanwhile I worked outside, continuing the interminable task of sanding down the special filler which I’ve concealed the screws in our south wall Titan panel with.  I say interminable because this rather robust substance can only be smoothed away with the very wimpiest of sandpaper grades, to avoid altering the texture of the surrounding panel.  And speaking of wimpy: unforeseen events at the end of the week saw me doing a sixteen hour day, two night shifts in a row, and early starts in between.  As to how this occurred - the story is complicated, and involves carnage including a severed bike padlock, a cell phone killed by a chicken egg and a cycle home into a fierce headwind at 1.30am in the morning.  But let’s leave it there.
The result was that my sleepy performance on the end of the sanding block was well-intentioned, sustained but really rather pathetic.  Rose noted that my best efforts seemed to be directed towards fiddling with my iPod.
Despite this calibre of encouragement, I did a full day’s work in the hot sun and we headed down to the river to cool off afterwards.
Once sanded, the Titan panels will be painted the same dark 'greyfriars' colour
as the exterior woodwork, enabling our house to fade into the scenery
when viewed from the road
Unfortunately, the lack of sleep, sun and sustained tension in my shoulders put me in bed the next morning with a crashing headache – the sacrifices which we’ve made for this house!  Despite this, good progress was made in the afternoon and hopefully it won’t be too long until we can undercoat and paint the panelling, completing the exterior look of the house.
More interesting things will be happening inside, however, when the kitchen arrives tomorrow!

Rose and Monty demonstrate that no matter how busy life gets,
you must always remember to stop and smell the flowers.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

All Features Grout and Small

Craftsmen in various different fields are all working hard to finish our home, so there’s practically something different happening in almost every room, simultaneously.

Unseasonal gales hit over the weekend, which saw me clinging to the roof while
temorarily fixing a bucket over our unfinished chimney. The red and green not only
looks very festive, but also stops the loud rattling which wind gusts produce.

Like one of those Guinness book of records domino-tumbling attempts, all kinds of actions are slowly being set in motion from different directions, along different paths. In the bathroom, the shower has been tiled and grouted. 

Pieter and Gerda tile the shower, proving to us that a husband and wife can work together.

These large earthen tiles are the complete opposite of the tiny mosaic squares
which we used in our previous bathroom. All that’s required now is a large glass
partition to separate it from the rest of the bathroom.

Simultaneously, more plumbing and electrical wiring has been put in place,

Our ‘steam-punk meets Wallace and Gromit’ water heating system.
Or possibly it’s the engine room of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus…
while across the hallway, we have sealed all the walls in the kitchen and dining areas.

Our own contribution this week – sealing walls in preparation
for the installation of the kitchen.
The floor sander has now arrived and set to work, beautifying our recycled floorboards.

The matai floorboards are being given a relatively light sand, which levels
and cleans them up without removing too much of their original character.
Then, once this is complete, the kitchen installers can take over.
The end result of all this won’t be a single domino tumbling into a glass jar, but the completion of our Plumbing and running water in our kitchen, laundry and bathroom. As well as the obvious advantages, this means that our house will finally be officially designated a ‘dwelling’.

Rose contemplates taking the floor-sanding machine for a spin

Friday, 13 January 2012

Rebooting the Home Site

The holiday’s over and just as we begin to feel settled, we’re about to be sent to our rooms again.

It's nice to be here - a slightly happier version of 'American Gothic'.
2012 is two weeks old and activity is slowly beginning to build again. Pieter our tiler is hard at work water-proofing most of our bathroom in preparation for the installation of something called a shower. We have a dim recollection of these devices from before we lived in a box, and are tentatively confident that we’ll get the hang of having our own again in due course.

It's going to be a shower with a view - both ways! (We'll grow something outside)
The floor-sander is booked for next week, but first we need to establish whether our off-grid system can power his mighty machine – apparently even our generator isn’t up to it! Either way, this will mean a return to our first days of house occupation – living, cooking and eating out of our bedrooms while layers of sawdust noisily join the layers of plaster dust on all our interior surfaces.

This floor is about to get a damn good thrashing - but will look all the better for it afterwards.
It will be worth it - not just because we’ll have a beautifully finished matai floor, but also because the kitchen will then be able to be installed. And once this is done and the tiler is finished, our plumber can come back and pull us into the nineteenth century by bringing actual running water into our home!
We truly won’t know ourselves and will no doubt find ourselves standing naked under bags of lukewarm water or drinking from nearby garden hoses until it finally registers in that we won’t need to do this anymore!

If you think this designer kitchen is really something, wait till you see the one we're about to get!
(Thank you Roger, once again your generosity has saved us)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Silent night, solar light

T’was the night before the night before Christmas, and we got sunshine in the darkness.

True to their word our electricians connected our solar power system just
before Christmas – being able to flick a switch and get this result will never get old!
Happy New Year, everyone.  In journalistic terms, it's still the 'silly season' - no serious news until next week, when our Plumber returns and other contractors, including our tiler, pick up tools. 

Until then, here's a section of holiday shots.  Our partially-completed home stood up well to a perpetual round of guests over Christmas, despite our lack of running water.  Everyone got firmly into the 'camping spirit', and naturally a plentiful supply of 'seasonal cheer' lubricates all minor inconveniences.

By the time Iwrite again, we'll hopefully be on our way to enjoying our own shower, inside toilet and sinks - luxuries almost impossible for us to imagine.  A combination of the usual New Year downpour and Roger's generosity has meant that we are well on our way towards filling our water tanks.  We're looking forward to being able to draw on them, now!

The house is bare and undecorated, but definitely habitable.
Even the Christmas tree lights are powered with their own tiny solar panel.
Fortunately, there was plenty of sun over the Christmas break – cloudless skies
and each day hotter than the last. Despite not having plumbed water, we
had ten people for lunch on Boxing day.
Although the temperatures being in the high 20’s, we got plenty of Frisbee practise in
The exhilarating embrace of the Waiohine river is perfect for cooling down in, however.
Despite having ‘moved in’, there’s still plenty to be done.
Here, Rose fixes the catches for our exterior doors.