Day 62 to 66 – 7 to 11 December 2020

Ad like that it’s done! Well, almost.

The week starts with the mad rush to clean everything to allow the floor sander full access.  By Monday afternoon he has sanded once. The two man team makes quick work of the 130 square metres. By Tuesday they have a sealer coat and one coat of polyurethane.

The floor is looking amazing.

By Wednesday it is done. We have to try and keep cats and dogs off it for a couple of days to allow it to harden.  Our animals are not impressed with their lock out. But the weather is perfect. 25 degrees and sunny days and warm evenings. They’ll cope with the temporary situation.

Then like a whirlwind Chris and his team are back on Thursday and Friday to finish everything that needs finishing. Floor trims to cap he edge of the floors go in, more door locks and door catches go in. The splashback in the pantry, the pantry door, painters arrive to do touch ups here and there. This is where you really see Chris’ project management skills kicking in. The amount of trades doing the last little bits over a two days period is astonishing.

By Friday late afternoon we are cracking a few beers and celebrating the job as finished. Now when we say finished, we have a perfectly functional kitchen with every done. But there are a few small jobs that need to wait until next year. We picked some light fittings that were out of stock, we are waiting on some furniture to arrive and of course we need to unpack and fill our kitchen with our stuff. But for the most part, Chris and his team have done a wonderful job. We could not be happier with the finish and Chris and his team. If you ever want to renovate or build a house, give CJC constructions a go, you won’t be disappointed.

We also had the floors in other parts of the house finished with Jarrah hard wood once the main renovation was completed.

Day 57 to 61 – 30 November to 4 December 2020

The week the lights finally came on! A massive week of activity this week in preparation for the final floor sanding exercise in a week’s time, then we are done.

Our kitchen took shape, appliances were installed and the electrician did the electrical fit off alongside the plumber who did the plumbing fit off. In and around these two trades, the usual team of carpenters did everything else that needed doing.

Fitting doors and shelves, making fine adjustments so everything swings, opens and closes just as it should. Installing the appliances was a major feat, with everything being integrated alignment was key. But in the end everything fitted together perfectly.

As we walk around we notice little features have been finished off here and there. From the slim line magnets that hold our linen and office cupboards closed, to low profile door catches and door stops. The use of slimline feature powerpoint in the areas you can see is also a nice finish.

Chris’s attention to detail is faultless. His exacting standards have ensured every aspect fo the build is perfectly finished and aligned. It is joy to see the finished product and it has been a joy working with Chris and his team.

As Frida rolls around the once cluttered living spaces are being cleared and cleaned. The plethora of tools, building materials, off cuts and packaging materials are being packed around into bins and four wheel drives out the front, five of them today.

At around 4pm work stops and the beers flow.  Mardi and I bought a hamper for the team and there was no better time than now to open it and take a few minutes to see what has been created. We all crack a drink and take in the last eleven weeks.

Mardi and I thank the team. As difficult as it has been for us living in a tiny part of our house, these guys have done the hard yards. Always considerate, always respectful. Add into the mix our seven cats and dog that needed constant supervision and separation from the area. We could not have hoped for a smoother experience. We stand around chatting for about 20 minutes as the John the electrician finishes his work and finally the lights come on. We have a beautiful combination of feature, ambient and task lighting. This is an area I have focused on, given my poor vision, it was critical we got this right. John has nailed it. The pantry is bathed in light when the lights come in.  The cooktop area has a combination of direct task lighting for cooking and ambient lighting for effect.  He island bench has a gorgeous feature light that perfectly lights the bench for work and doubles as a stunning. piece of art.

We’ve installed a quirky feature as well for our cats, a cat door into the pantry. They used to love coming through the large windows in this part of the house, so we’ve created a similar space for them.

As John wraps up there is one job to complete, installation of ceiling speakers. He is keen to call it a day, but after looking at the installation instructions, jumps on his ladder and three minutes later both are installed. A pair of Sonance Sonos speakers are both invisible and produce room filling sound.

I connect them to our system and within minutes the kitchen, living room and dining room are filled with sound.  Mardi and I sit back for a bit, enjoy a drink and listen to some music as we wind down for the weekend.

All that is left to be done after the floors ae polished is to hang some doors and install the splashback in the pantry.

Day 52 to 56 – 23 to 27 November 2020

Another Sunday night of thunderstorms as spring slowly moves to summer. Overnight storm after storm rolled through. Loud claps of thunder scared our pets and lightning lit the sky for most of the night.

A heavy humidity hung in the air as the team arrived. The morning briefing suggested a busy week of painting, finishing touches to joinery, kitchen bench tops, appliances, plumbing and electrical works.

First cab off the rank are the stonemasons. They arrive early Monday and spend most of the day fitting the benches, waterfall ends and splashback. You’d think throwing a piece of stone on a bench top was easy. Well no.  These guys are craftsmen. Millimetre perfect stone is eased into place and finished off with precision.  Perfectly shaped mitred corners conceal joins as our island comes together with its three metre surface and two waterfall ends.

Next is the cook top area and splash back. We’ve selected a difficult cook top, in terms of install, it is flush mounted to the top of the stone. So more precision work is needed as they fine tune the height of the bench and test it against the cook top. A perfect fitting is finished and they conclude this area.

The pantry is next, more complexity on our part. We wanted the bench to extend into the window sills and in essence become the window still and hen wrap back out and along a four metre length. This area requires two pieces, each perfectly cut to match the respective window at each end. Another perfect fit.

Once the benches are in, the team then fit the sinks. More precise aligning as both sinks go in without any hassle whatsoever.

As the stonemasons leave the painter arrives and is briefed by Chris. For the next three days they go about their work.  Preparing.  Undercoating. Final coasting. As each day passes we see more and more of the finished product. Thursday comes and colour arrives with our feature wall in a deep intense pink. Everywhere else is painted in our base colour, basically white. The old part of the house is repainted in the yellow white we have had for 18 years, it is a timeless colour and suits that part of the house.

The painters made quick work of a very big job, there are four of them and at times, five of them on site. The finish is perfect and their work is faultless. They bid us farewell on Thursday after finishing. They’ll be back to do some final touch ups at the end of the job.

Friday comes and the carpenters return, with our cupboard doors and finishes for the kitchen. We’ve selected an almost white two pack finish. Two pack is glossy and smooth, almost car duco like. It is hard wearing and resilient to fingerprints. It also looks amazing.

The team spend Friday getting all of the cabinetry ready for the final run next week to finish the works before the floors are sanded and finished. They install end panels for the fridge cavity, end panel for our pantry and panels in between cupboard here and there. More drawers are finished as piece after piece of this massive jigsaw gets finished.

Everyone has had enough, even the cats

Only five days of works to go and a host of little jobs to do in that five days.  It is going to be a big final week of building.

Day 47 to 51 – 16 to 20 November 2020

The plasterers arrive early Monday morning and spend two days finishing the plastering. Filling holes, square setting the new modern part of the house and replacing cornice in the older part of the house. The mix of new and old has been carefully thought out so as to not jar or look out of place. problem is our cornice is so old, its original, 50 years and it can’t be purchased any more. So they do what they can and leave.

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The carpenters then return and start fixing off things.  Skirting boards, door architraves, cabinetry. Getting everything in readiness for painting, installation of our painted doors, bench tops and splash back.  Then our appliances.

A team of plasterers arrives on Wednesday to finish off our cornice.  Chris has had some custom made, in a couple of days, not too bad. It is so fresh it is still wet when he arrives and it sits outside for an hour or two to properly dry.  Once dry they go to work and finish if off.

As more and more of the underneath is covered we start to see real rooms emerge. Cornice looks finished, doors get added to our office cupboard and linen closet. Trims around doors and doorways are finished.

As things get finished, temporary walls come down and our cats and dog start exploring the area. There is a whole new world to explore!

Rubbish is removed and the site is generally cleaned is readiness for painters.

Panoramo fo the whole kitchen area.

We meet with Chris and walk around the site finalising our paint colours as we really start to see what things will look like.

The house is losing its renovation look and emerging, ever so slowly, is the renovated look.

Day 42 to 46 – 9 to 13 November 2020

As spring really kicks in, some sunny days greet us as more and more of the puzzle go together. Every day more pieces arrive for the kitchen. A sink here, drawer infills there, spice rack over there and a towel rail over here. It’s actually starting to look like a kitchen.

During the week our cooking zone comes together with overhead cupboard, our island bench is installed. When I say island, I mean a small continent. Its long, over three metres. The link between the kitchen and down stairs living room is put together, with a step, servery and custom made cat/dog gate. The workmanship in the custom wooden features is just something to behold.

With all of the activity in the kitchen it is easy to miss the other jobs going on around the site. The plasterers come in and breaks the back of the plastering. They’ll be back next week to finish. But today, one gets around on stilts as he fills holes in the ceiling, the other fills and sands areas requiring attention. So much has changed, there is so much to do. All of the new sheeting needs finishing, plus all of the joins where we’ve moved things around, our linen cupboard for instance, our office, the hall way.  There is a lot to do.

Our front door is changed over. We’ve opted for a larger front door with glass features and a larger side glass panel. All of the glass is e-glass. E-glass cuts out 95% of the UV rays and maintains temperatures on each side, ie not letting heat in or the cold out and vice versa in winter. In a couple of hours the team remove the old frame, resize the cavity left and fit the new frame and door. We changed how it swings to really feature our jarrah entry wall.

One afternoon all of the joinery in our cat zone, library is installed. It transforms the area into wonderful storage, a place for our books and a home for our cats. The cats get a dedicated area, including holes through shelves allowing for an interesting and fun experience for them. Plus storage for their food, litter and toys.

The stonemason arrives on Thursday and spends a couple of hours measuring and remeasuring the areas for our stone bench tops. In all we have four bench tops, three waterfall ends and a splashback. Quite a bit of stone to measure, cut and install.

We see our sinks for the first time as he measures the cut outs needed.

In a couple of weeks the stone will arrive as we near the end of this massive exercise.

As Friday dawns, after a night of wild thunderstorms, a heavy fog blankets Canberra and an eerie morning greets the team.  No bird song today as the local wildlife sleep in under the doona of a warm and wet spring morning. The quiet is penetrated by the sound of drills as the team get to work finishing off the joinery install.

The electrician visits again to do more work in the library. One of the cupboards will house all of the power, data and aerial requirements for our TV in the living room. He gets around and checks everything is in place before the plasters do their finishing work.

Our builder Chris certainly knows how to project plan. It is like watching a skilled orchestra, each section knows exactly when to play and for how long before giving way to the next movement. Materials arrive as they are needed and the necessary kitchen appliances arrive to allow the stone mason to do his thing. It is poetry in motion.

As the storms clear and the sun shines, preparing us for a lovely weekend in Canberra the team pack up their things.

We walk around the almost complete space now, 90% done with 90% to go! Next week should see plastering finish and more progress on the cabinetry.

Day 37 to 41– 2 to 6 November 2020

As they say on the TV show The Block, kitchen are the heart of the house. Well this week is kitchen week, although our kitchen week has been going for almost 40 days, with another 30 or so to go.

In a sense though, it is kitchen week, our custom cupboards have arrived and were assembled during the week. How can anyone need so many cupboards! There are over 500 individual pieces to put together.

Out of their place the cupboard take up floor pace across three rooms. Large carcasses, as they are called, stand randomly in our living and lounge rooms, while drawers are piled high in our office.

During the build, the floor gets sanded, it’s better to sand it before cupboards are located in their final positions.

Once the floor is sanded, some cupboards start to go in. First the pantry, then others follow.

In between cupboard building and fixing, two of the team work on some finer details around our entry way. We are installing a custom slatted wall extending off our feature wall.  We are also installing two cat gates, which will help keep the peace between dog and cats. The doors are designed such that the cats can freely move around, but if we need we can secure the dog into a zone and stop her from getting to the cat food and cat toilets.

A productive week, albeit the work site looks like a bit of a mess.  Newly made cupboards lying everywhere, random pieces not yet pieced together standing at odd angles, an array of tools, rubbish, and assorted building ephemera litter the site.

It is really like a jigsaw puzzles. One viewing angle shows a partially completed kitchen, dining room, while the other viewing angle shows all the pieces yet to fill the picture.

Day 32 to 36 – 26 to 30 October 2020

If this week proved anything, it proved that beautiful looking finishes are both time consuming and require a lot of skill.

We all look at houses from time to time and gorgeous finishes; whether it is on a fast paced TV show that is less about building and more about in fighting, to a weekend walk through a display village. We look and we admire and say wow. But we never stop and think about how the wow was created or how much effort goes into finishing.

This week we got a glimpse of that as our entry wow factor started to come together. Our tired old entry was simply painted with two sconces, but we wanted to change that up. So, we decided to run wood, Jarrah that matches our floor, up one wall in slim strips. The thin strips separated by the side width as the strip gives the wall a 3D feel and lots of warm texture. It is simply gorgeous and it is only half finished!

Which takes me to my other point, great finishes take time. The images of the wall on this page took 60 hours to complete. To finish the wall in total will take around another 70 hours. Great finishes just don’t happen.  They require firstly skill and secondly patience. Each strip of wood is cut from a larger plank, then individually finished, sanded, has its edges rounded and stained. Then each piece is individually fixed. Beauty takes time.

Other tasks this week that take time included fashioning a step of perfect height and depth. Setting windows to a perfect height so as to allow a large piece of marble kitchen bench, yet to be made, to seamlessly fit.

Finishing the Gyprock, both a task requiring skill and tenacity.  Over 500 nails, 200 square metres of new Gyprock need finishing. Filling holes and sealing seems, square setting corners and replacing cornice make this a big job. Two craftsmen get to work and break the bac of the job, filling the holes and sealing seems. They’ll be back another day to finish it off.

Renovating while living here, as I said on day one, performing open heart surgery on our house, is difficult. But weeks like this week, when little gems emerge from the chaos you realise that all the heartache of living in one room with seven cats and a dog, with that room playing the role of bedroom, living room, dining room and pet play area is going to be all worth it.

Day 27 to 31 – 19 to 23 October 2020

The week saw the team spending much of their time in our living room. After careful consideration we decided to rip up the old floor and completely redo the flooring.

When we laid the floor some 18 years ago it was a hybrid model, some wooden boards and some tiled. The boards were Sydney Blue Gum. And the tiles black ceramic. Over time the Sydney blue gum had lightened, in places it was almost blond, a stark contrast to the black tiles. Added to this was the issue of laying a new board over the top and changing the overall level of the floor, which caused conflicts with the doors and windows in the room.

So the boys ripped it out. A tough and labour intensive job. The concrete slab then needed cleaning. Then a sub floor needed to eb laid.  Some eleven sheets of pine board with 28 fixings per sheet. Then over the top of this the hard wood Jarrah floor was glued and nailed. You can see why some people lay floating floors; genuine hard wood flooring is a production and expensive, but the finish is second to none.

As the boys were nearing the end of preparing the concrete slab their grinder caught a stray nail. The nail was flung into a window, shattering it. We heard the bang, but didn’t react, we’ve been hearing banging for a six weeks now, so it was nothing new.

The smashed glass

The boys grabbed me and showed me. They were very apologetic. It was no big deal, no one was injured and all we needed was a new pane of glass. So all good.  The glass was replaced in a day or so as if nothing had happened.

The floor when laid looks great, even before sanding and finishing.

During the week they also finished off other areas of flooring that they’d left.

They also packed out the internal walls with insulation and did other bits and pieces of carpentry that needed finishing in our office and hallway cupboards.

Next week will see some kitchen cupboards arriving and the plaster should be on site.

Day 26 – 16 October 2020

It’s about the sheeting today. Six metre long sheets of gyprock go up like a dream.  Four builders make quick work of much of the ceiling. Then walls, with sound proofing and insulation going in at the same time.  The big sheets cover much of the space, while the tight corners are left for another day.

The dark space suddenly lights up, even though there are still no lights, the pale grey of the Gyprock creates light like we haven’t seen in the area since demolition. It gives the area definition and creates the spaces we’ve planned. We can now see the kitchen, the pantry, our office, loungeroom, dining room all coming together.

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Real progress is now obvious. We are rescued by good friends Mick and Kelli, who the us out for dinner!

Day 25 – 15 October 2020

With our living area in tatters, we prepare cat food outside and cover the furniture in the room, in readiness for more demolition. The boys make quick work of the remaining joinery.  Eighteen years hasn’t been kind to it and much of it is going to end up in landfill sadly. It comes apart quickly revealing 

After the area is cleaned up they prepare new frames. We aren’t making revolutionary changes to this area like we are in the kitchen. Our living space will essentially remain the same, just refreshing the joinery and how our AV stuff connects. The 18 year old Bose system is removed, I sold it on Gumtree. The system will be replaced with a wireless Sonos system.  Part of the extended system will remain, but be converted eventually to join the Sonos system.

The frame goes up in no time and the area is sheeted pretty quickly as well. They then move onto the framing for the kitchen area, this is where some macro changes are being made.  We’ve moved our step into our sunken living space and reconfigured our dining room and kitchen, essentially a 180 degree flip of the two areas.

The framing takes the rest of the day.

We enjoy dinner on our bed and watch some TV, while our cats and dog wander around in a daze wondering what has happened to their place.