Sunday, 16 December 2012

Cabinetry...finished product!

[Editor-in-chief: Wifey here...]
So hubbie has requested that I identify myself in this blog as I have interjected a few previous posts with my commentary - he feels this may have confused readers & for this we apologise.  He is the tech-head & details man; I am the design/aesthetic one...hope that explains a few things.

And so now I will go on to say...when they say it is the cabinetry that makes a house, it is true!

As you know we put a lot of blood, sweat & tears into the design of every aspect & it has come up as beautiful as it is functional.  Here are the top things we integrated into our cabinetry design which we loved:
1. J-scoop (or shadowline) handle-less cabinets throughout for a minimalist look (note: you will lose internal space so make sure you have sufficient storage before considering this)
2. Floating cabinetry for all bathrooms easy to clean & makes the room feel larger.  We included led strip lighting beneath - real WOW factor!
3. BLUM tandembox soft-close mechanisms used to avoid little fingers getting hurt & no more slamming
4. Vinyl wrap for all cabintery - with young kids, this was the best choice as scratches can be buffed out & it won't chip, unlike 2Pac.  We used Albedor, its slightly more expensive than the others but has the best write up in the industry.
5. Integrated Hafele waste bins
6. We designed drawers for 'tall items' in the bathroom & had the electrician install powerpoints hidden behind these drawers so electrical items could be permanently plugged in & hidden away
7. We raised the kitchen bench height to 950mm, this is just a personal preference (industry standard is 900mm)
8. We installed an AussieVac Vacusweep - automatic dustpan into the kickboard of our island bench

And here are some pics of the finished product...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Garage floor sealant

I had always planned to paint the garage floor to give it that workshop feel and since our floor had cured (it was done along with the foundations) I thought I could do it straight away. I was hoping to go out and get some paint and get it done in a day. Unfortunately I started to hear a few stories about the paint lifting after a few months and then having to go through the whole process of stripping it back and doing it all again properly. I remembered seeing a Dulux 2 part epoxy kit at Bunnings so I thought I'd go and have a closer look. It seems Bunnings have replaced the Dulux kit with a Dymark kit for $199 that covers 36-40sqm, not quite enough for us. 2 kits for $400 was getting a little expensive, so I started to look around for alternatives and wanted reassurance that these would do the job.

A 2 part epoxy system does seem to be the best type of product for this application, but the best of the best is a 2 part epoxy by Sika, called Sikafloor HS link. There are a lot of industrial references to this product and it's acceptance by Coles as the only highly durable product of it's type provide a lot of reassurance. Unfortunately I estimated this may cost between $700-$1000 to cover the entire garage floor and if it's not applied correctly you've wasted your money.

The other products I came across were concrete sealers (acrylic), that in a lot of cases may work better due to the ease of application and which do not lift like some epoxies.

Concrete Warehouse Staseal PR
An acrylic solution specially formulated to produce a hard, flexible petrol resistant coating. Ideal for mechanical workshops, garage floors, driveways and petrol stations. Available in clear, black and light grey

Nutech Pavecoat PR 210
Nutech Petrol Resistant Concrete Sealer is specially formulated for surfaces exposed to petrol and mild solvents. Available in clear and a limited colour range, Light Grey, Earl Grey and Black.

I went with Nutech PR 210 (20ltr), PR Thinners (4ltr) and non slip granules (300gm) ~ $310.

I've completed the first few steps, but will leave the painting till I've got a full weekend spare.

  1. Clean oil, dirt, etc with sugar soap and stiff brush (alkaline)
  2. High pressure hose
  3. Acid etch with hydrochloric mix or White Knight concrete etcher and stiff brush (acid)
  4. High pressure hose
  5. Optional - use sugar soap again to neutralise any residual acid, high pressure hose
  6. Clean, brush, vacuum
  7. Paint 1st coat (thin 50% with PR thinners on smooth concrete)
  8. Paint 2nd coat (add anti slip granules)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

We got the keys...but...

Contract completion was a month ago, but we're still not in the house. We did our final inspection, noted the items that needed fixing, went back 2 weeks later to find most of the items had been rectified and made final payment so we could get the keys.

Most issues were minor and easy to fix, ie. paint, wrong tap size, render quality, etc. The biggest issue we came across was the front facade - the bricks around the garage look nothing like Daniel Robertson London's which have a distinct blue/grey firing. Given the time and effort we put into selecting the bricks and developing a colour scheme centred around them, this was a major problem for us. The remainder of the house looks stunning, but check out the picture below.

So we're guessing one of two things could have happened, the bricks weren't blended across palettes or we were supplied an incorrect batch. As the wall cannot be re-bricked we've been advised that the solution is to colour match the bricks using Nawkaw's services. Hopefully these guys do a good job as the Mrs has high expectations.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Privacy Screens

We were required to install privacy screens as part of the planning approval, something I was a little confused over given the size and position of them. 3m high by 4m long on the northern boundary and 4.9m long on the southern boundary. So I set about finding various options for the screens, at one point thinking about shade sail screens, but settled on the traditional timber (merbau) screens once I found these - 1800x1200mm finger joint 65x15mm Merbau Screens from @ $99ea.

Raw Merbau Screen
Here are the privacy screens I constructed over the weekend using 100x100x4.8m Cyprus posts, Merbau 1800x1200 screens,70x45 braces and some fence palings to hold them in place. The palings will be replaced with wider merbau decking boards in the future, once I've painted and trimmed the posts. The screens are not nailed or screwed in place as the movement of the posts would destroy the screens. All the screens have been oiled with Intergrain Nature's Timber Oil, a product I use on timber products.
3m high x 5.4m long Merbau screen

3m high x 3.6m Merbau screen

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I should be a concreter!

We figured we should get a few quotes for the driveway, but that's about where it ends. Trying to get hold of a concreter is a challenge in itself. At the moment, it's all about 'exposed aggregate' and read that it's a durable surface for driveways and paths. Mentone Pre Mix seems to be the Mercedes of the industry, so I gave them a call for a few recommendations and am now waiting to hear back. Standard pricing ~ $100 p/sqm.

Best tip:  Get some addresses of completed works from concreter, buckle up & do some drive-by's.  It's the best way to see what the concrete will look on a larger scale (the 1x1m laid samples, brochures & PC won't give you a true representation of the finished product).  While you're at it, you can assess your concreters workmanship, as well as some landscaping ideas!

We're leaning towards Mentone Premix - Montquartz.  It looks heaps better in real life than the example below.  Has some shimmer to it in the sunlight & big chunks of white quartz and a scattered mix of  bluestone, bronze, jade & mauves though-out.  Doubling the black in the base will give off a more "bluestone" look.

Also had a look at CranbourneBoral
Concrete Basics Guide link
Driveways are either 25MPa or 32MPa?

                                                                          Mentone Premix - Montquartz

Getting Closer...

We reached (actual) lock up a week ago, now that the garage roller door is in place and the front door handle has been installed. Here is a pic of the new merbau B&D Timbercoat finish. B&D didn't have it on display in Melbourne, so we had to choose it based on a small sample. Once the stairs, landing and door are stained to match it should come up well.
B&D Merbau Timbercoat
Merbau steps and landing

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


For us, the hardest part of the design process was the cabinetry. We went through a significant no. of revisions trying to get it right, from layout, style or colour, back to layout, it never ended. Once we thought we had the layout finalised, that various inserts or accessories allow you to rethink the layout for the best use of the space. We wanted a clean minamilist look so opted for 'shadowline' sometimes called 'j-scoop' cabinet openings so there were no handles - this looks amazing but you do compromise on internal cabinetry space, so only do this if you have sufficient storage room.

Then comes the colour of the caesarstone, it's placement and match to other colours in the house and just when you think you've got it coming together, budget becomes an issue.  We think we got there, but to be honest we won't know till it's finished.  I think we made our biggest step forward when selecting a different coloured caesarstone for the bathrooms and laundry.  Although these renders don't show it, we used Ocean Foam in the bathrooms and laundry, and Raven in the kitchen and pantry. A word of warning, collect as many ceasarstone samples as you can as they can vary significantly. You need to account for this variation when picking surrounding colours.

Best tip: When selecting colours, don't try to 'match' adjacent colours in different materials as it will look slightly different, especially under different lighting conditions.  If you get it wrong, it will look obvious. Your best bet is to choose a colour that will compliment your colour scheme or pick a bold feature colour (as long as you don't think you'll get sick of it over time).

Stick with neutrals if you plan sell up one day (you need to appeal to the masses) & add colour in your furnishings, decor instead.  But if this is your end-state home, go crazy with whatever makes you smile, as long as you're prepared to live with it forever!  Or at least until you can afford to replace it.

Here's some CAD imagery...

Kitchen, Pantry & Laundry Sinks

My wife and I have similar tastes, which has made the decision making process for the fittings fairly easy. Take the sinks for example, we didn't want a curved edge/corner/bowl, felt the square edged bowls were too commercial and knew it had to be an under-mount. We looked at various styles from Clark and Franke, but settled on the Oliveri Sonetto for the Kitchen, Pantry and Laundry... yes Laundry. I know the laundry sink is generally cheap and nasty, but we exit through our laundry to the side of the house and bbq area, so we wanted something a little nicer to match the rest of the house. You can't find a nice looking laundry sink, so we stuck with the Sonetto for the laundry as well. 
Sonetto 1063U

Board accessory

New Hi-fi

I've been a little sidetracked lately trying to figure out what style of hi-fi equipment I want in the new house, as this impacted our cabinetry plans. Most people with the space tend to include home theatre room's and are only concerned with 5.1, 7.1 or 9.1, but I'm purely a 2 channel fan.
We had a small space 3m wide between the gas log fire and 2nd storey windows that I was debating whether to place floor-standing speakers with an entertainment unit or request built in cabinetry. On the plans we had 600mm depth to work with, but soon realised this was not the case. As we had sourced our own windows from Rylock and were trying to determine window size and placement ourselves, we didn't allow for the doubling up of studs between the 4 panels, thus reducing our cabinetry depth to 430mm. This isn't a lot of space for hi-fi equipment!

As I wasn't prepared to compromise on the sound quality (with a limited budget) I came to the conclusion that bookshelf speakers mounted on top of the cabinetry would be a better option both aesthetically, price for performance and practically with kids.
I've now settled on Usher BE 718 DMD speakers, Hypex NCore NC400 DIY power amplifier's and NAD M51 preamp DAC.

Whilst on the subject of entertainment cabinetry, make sure it's well vented for sufficient cooling of all your equipment, especially if your running Class A amps. In our case we've got 20mm clearance behind the base of each door and are having 2 vents mounted in the top surface, primarily for ventilation of the media centre PC. The Hypex NCore's are Class D and produce very little heat.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Onthehouse property values

Here is a useful website for getting an estimate of a properties price range. You search for the address and it will display a rating Good Guess / Moderate Guess / Rough Guess if the property has some statistical data behind it. A lot of the properties we've looked at in the 'Good Guess' category have a fairly accurate price range for the market, say 3 to 6 months ago.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Nearmap Update - The Roof

Here's the latest from Nearmap showing the house with the roof on. The hallway has annex ceilings, that can be seen here as a continuation of the upper storey roof line.

Heating & Cooling

In our old house we had gas ducted heating and evaporative cooling. We felt that the ducted heating tended to dry the air (newer internal unit) and the evaporative cooling (albeit an old unit) did exactly the opposite, putting too much moisture into the air. Like most of the other items in the house I spent considerable time looking online and asking people about their preferred option. Here's just a few of the points I'd gleaned;

- Melbourne's cooler climate relies more heavily on heating, therefore gas ducted is the default option
- Reverse cycle AC can be expensive to run if done incorrectly
- Using larger 3 phase multi zone units can be more economical to run
- Mitsubishi commercial are good units
- Daikin or Actron Air are generally the two options at the higher end of the market
- The controller boards in the Daikin are expensive to replace
- Actron Air use Copeland scroll digital compressors (from Emerson USA) and are made in Australia (source: Whirlpool)
- The scroll technology provides variable capacity output from 10% to 100%
- The external module can be noisy, so don't place it near bedrooms
- The internal module is big, so along with the ducting it needs significant space under the house or in the roof
- The ESP Plus system uses variable fan speed technology and can significantly reduce energy consumption
Source: Actron Air
We chose the Actron Air ESP Plus SRD 230C 3 phase 23kw heat/cool model

Thursday, 5 July 2012


I thought I was heading down the right track by trying to find the best LED lighting for the house. I researched the various manufacturers and checked colour temperatures, spread, lifespan, consumption and actual appearance compared to existing halogens. I'd come to the conclusion that the best product was the Curve D900 designed by Brightgreen in WA and made in China to their specifications -

All of this research went out the window in the space of 2 minutes after meeting our electrician. At ~$125 per LED downlight plus fitting, we quickly found the cost to upgrade was significant $4-5k (based on no. of lights). When our electrician confirmed these are best on the market, but come at a cost that isn't necessarily realised as a cost saving over the life of the product we thought it best to stick with the standard halogen.

We opted for pendant lighting over the kitchen island bench, dining room & powder room as we wanted these areas to be a feature of our home - down lights were also installed in these areas for functional purposes. The pendants we selected are a new product called 'Torino', that are a replica of the Italian Designed AXOLIGHT Spillray Pendant. Available in several colours & configurations, they are a 12v 20w halogen.

We selected the "smoke" colour (pictured below) which compliments our Raven Caeserstone perfectly & have gone with 3 x singles over the island bench, 2 x 3 drop pendants over the dining room & a 6 drop pendant in the powder room to add a bit of retro glamour for guests.

What month to start building?

With all the rain we've had recently, I began to think about a concern I had before we started to build - what month/season should you start building? Some may consider this approach rather pedantic, but considering the investment you're making in building your new home, it's something worth considering.

The timing largely depends on the time taken to build, but with the average build (for our builder) taking between 9 - 12 months, it makes sense to do site preparation and footings late spring Oct/Nov. The ground is dry enough to dig footings/pour concrete, but not so dry it's impossible to dig. Assuming everything else goes to plan you should be at lock-up with the roof on late April, before any substantial rain in May/June.

In our case we got a lot of rain in May before the lower roof tiles were laid and we had a lot of water in the house. The water isn't that much of a problem, as I'd read somewhere that the yellow tongue can be submerged for 3 months, but you need it to be thoroughly dry before plastering starts so this did delay our plastering by a few weeks.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Heat & Glo 6000 TRSI

We chose to put a Jetmaster Heat & Glo 6000TRSI gas fireplace in our open plan living area upstairs. It can heat a large open plan area and is the only model that can have the optional heat zone outlet ($549). We thought that this may also safeguard us against power costs for the ActronAir ESP Plus 22kw reverse cycle air conditioning, if it gets out of hand.

Standard black unit with stainless steel surround
 In our case we ran the heat zone outlet to the downstairs rumpus room for the kids (directly below).  According to our site manager, he's never seen it done (and he has done many a fireplace) - we can only put this down to the additional cost of the vent kit & installation (combined cost was an additional $1100) but we think it's money well spent, given our chilly winters & the ever-increasing cost of gas/electricity.
6000TRSI (only) optional heat zone outlet duct

Lock Up

I've been away for work for a few weeks and the house has progressed well. Cladding, rendering, electrical and plumbing rough in was completed. Here are the progress shots.

The nomenclature for the lock up stage is somewhat misleading, so for those interested;

Lock up Stage – means when the home’s external wall cladding and roof covering is fixed, the flooring is laid and external doors and external windows are fixed (even if those doors or windows are only temporary).

Front facade - Daniel Robertson London 50mm & Dulux Stepney render
Bristile Classic Charcoal Tiles, Rylock Charcoal Windows, Dulux Monument Fascia & Gutters
Render basecoat. Who chose the meter box colour?  Hmm, guess we'll have to re-spray this after hand-over.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Corinthian Sunburst Front Door

Here is the Corinthian Sunburst front door and associated Gainsborough hardware we chose. We went with the Corinthian Pivot door system in full height 2340mm x 1200mm - the system gives the door that "floating feeling", especially given it's weight.  It's an expensive door at $3-$4k, given the 1000mm versions can be installed for $1k, but why not make a Grand entrance!

More details here
From Corinthian website, must be 2040 x 1200
Our Door... 2340 x 1200... nice!
Note - Gainsborough products can be seen at the Caroma Concepts Centre in each state.  

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Mains switching pumps

We already had 2 x 2500ltr tanks, so all we needed was the pump to provide rainwater to the toilets as part of our energy star rating. Most builder's spec the Davey Rainbank series, in our case a KRBS2 internal pump. The internal pumps are used to reduce noise and may last longer as they are a sealed unit? I still wasn't certain which particular model I wanted based on capacity and whether it should be an internal or external unit in the event of maintenance, warranty, etc. A quick search and I came upon these comments on whirlpool.

The mains switching should not be electronic, in the event of a power failure (very rare) and the electronics in current systems tend to fail.

The AcquaSaver water diversion is hydraulically operated and seems to fit the bill nicely.

Claytech engineering partner their pumps with the AcquaSaver so I began to look at their CMS5A until I realised it's the same unit as a Leader LMS5A. Leader are sold by Bunnings, so I will get a friend to place a special order.

UPDATE: I overlooked something obvious. When flushing the toilet at night, an external pump will be noticeably louder. We've ordered the Leader LMS 6A internal pump with aquasaver water diversion and mounting plate.

Leader LMS 6A

Video Intercom Options

Our electrician quoted on the installation for a video intercom system and it seemed quite expensive. No doubt it was a good unit, but since I'd previously installed a cheap system in the old house and still had the camera mounted in the front fence (yes, we managed to keep most of the front fence during construction) I was keen to do this myself.

When you start looking around it seems that a lot of these systems are chinese branded products that can be purchased on ebay or advertised in bulk on alibaba. Quality tends to vary in these units, as evidenced by our previous model whereby the volume adjustment just didn't work, so I wanted to find a reputable brand or proven product. This is where I came across Samsung video intercoms. It seems that most people are impressed with the high resolution graphics and have only good things to say about them.

Samsung SHT-6810 from Digital Doorlocks (~$3k with automation backend requirements)

Samsung SHT-7507 + SHT-7171 + SHT-CN610 ($1100) < Will probably go with this one
Futuro is a proven Chinese unit by Videoman
Futuro 7.2M (ebay)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Goop Guys temporary window coating

Our Rylock windows were supplied without protective film on the glass, something to do with their handling policy. The protective film prevents the glass getting scratched during bricking and rendering. At the time we didn't think of it and asked for the film to be supplied along with the windows. We went to Rycon and asked them whether they could apply the film, but getting chippies to apply window film is not the best use of their time.

Whilst driving through a Mirvac estate in Wantirna we noticed advertising on the windows for Goop Guys. Goop Guys provide a great service applying water based peelable coatings to windows, benches, floors, baths and cars. David from our local franchise was really helpful in explaining the process and came onsite at just the right time to apply the coating to the ground floor windows after they'd been installed and the upstairs windows whilst they were still stacked downstairs. Application costs ~ $350-400.

As you can see here the windows have been installed, goop applied and the bricking is continuing.