Nightmare: Last night I finished writing the below blog post, full of excitement that we are moving in this weekend. But I just found out we can't. For another week we've been put off. The stairs still aren't ready, nor is much of the joinery and quite a lot of the electrical. It's a big bad world and a lot of people have harder stuff to deal with, but we are still frustrated, upset and anxious. Now we are starting to think we were incredibly stupid and naive to invite 22 adults and 7 kids to our house for Christmas. Grim emoticon.
So here's the post I wrote in happier times... Reading it now there is enough irony to satisfy a whole underground bar full of hipsters. Feel free to think things like 'that's what you think' and 'you are so foolish' as you read it. I hand you over now to yesterday me, a much younger sillier man.
Welcome to this pen-penultimate postree in this blogwood about building a house. Gemma and I are so excited we can't sleep. No hang on, we have a nine week old baby so we can't sleep. Either way we are sleepless and excited and we are moving in this Saturday. If we stay Saturday night, the winner of my competition to guess when we move in will be MyTwoCentsDave, and if we don't stay there til Sunday then MyTwoCentsDave will share the prize with Gregor40.
There is progress on all fronts in the house, and every hour I'm at work now I wish I was either at home with Gemma and Zeno or at the new house greedily watching the final touches being put on. If you build, my advice is, 'Have plenty of time to spend on site: this time when your house is just a baby goes by so fast'.
Today I've got a bumper lot of photos, comprising the first part of a tour, including a rebuilt stone wall, kitchen progress, and excitingly the first signs of the new stairs! Also some discussions of sorts of cooktops, kitchen cabinetry and kinds of blinds. But first: in last week's post I posed the question: Is it rude or ok to make a 'shoes-off policy' in our new house? And that unleashed a barrage from commentsters on both sides of the debate. Here's a summary:
Shoes-Off Survey Results:
For the shoes-off policy: 52%
Against the shoes-off policy: 48%
Commensters Reasons FOR Shoes-Off:
Dirt and pooh is carried in on people's shoes and dirt and pooh are not good.
High heels dent the wood and dents are not good.
Shoes wear the carpet down quickly.
Asian people have this rule (and they are right about so many other things, so...)
Scandanavian people have this rule (and they are right about so many other things, so...)
Babies spend time on the floor, so keep it clean or you hate your baby.
I know where my shoes have been and it isn't good.
My house my rules.
It's fun to slide around on your socks on wooden floors.
If your feet smell you have fungus. Get it treated and take your shoes off.
Commensters Reasons AGAINST Shoes-Off:
My feet smell and everyone is going to find out.
My socks are ugly/cheap/worn and everyone is going to find out.
It's weird to see strangers' socks or ugly feet.
People's dirty socks are as bad as dirty shoes.
My outfit won't be the same without the shoes. They complete me.
My feet are cold Dieter. Dieter, my feet are cold.
Having rules like this treats people like children.
The carpet will be ruined anyway - by puke and coffee (and presumably puked-up coffee).
I have corrective shoes I'm not allowed to walk without them on.
I embrace entropy. (definitely the most existential reason).
I haven't danced in dog pooh.
This rule is anal.
This rule is a sign of being a 'prole'.
We aren't Japanese.
Taking shoes off takes the fun out of the greeting at the door.
You can't have a Labrador if you have this rule.
In the end we are going to have a shoes-off policy (Gemma just read that and looked at me and said "are we?"). But a fairly relaxed one. We won't have a sign, or even tell people to take their shoes off. We'll just be in our socks, and there'll be a couple of pairs by the door. If people take the hint, great. If they don't, no worries - we'll just quietly seethe for their entire visit.
I always like taking my shoes off at people's houses - it makes me feel more cosy and at home, and somehow closer to them. Because, if fully-clothed is formal, and naked is really intimate, then it seems like shoes off is a nice middle ground.
In fact we've decided to go one further. We're instituting an undies-off policy. You know, because undies carry a lot of dirt and pooh into the house, and if your bum smells you probably have a fungal problem.
A Million Tiny Details
The house is being finished touch by touch. It was a massive weekend. James the project manager has a few other houses on the go as well, but he is frankly working his arse to a nub to make sure we can move in on the weekend - even if it isn't quite finished. Here's a record of the progress. These are the final touches that are put on a house.
I'd like to thank Beejays who were the people who came to lay the carpet in the garage. Yes - we are getting carpet in the garage. The carpet is from Autex, the same people who make our insulation, Greenstuf. The carpet's called Avondale, and there is a good reason for that - it's made in Avondale. Though why the suburb is called that, I'm not sure. Why would you name your suburb after a spider?
Beejays were booked for last Friday morning, but when they turned up there was too much stuff in the garage, and the painters weren't finished. Mostly when a tradie is turned away from site you take your chances as to when they can return - especially in late November! But it was important to us that the carpet go down on Friday because on Saturday movers were coming to bring a whole lot of our boxes and furniture, and we want to put it all in the garage. Heroically the Beejays characters juggled their schedule and reappeared that afternoon when the place was ready for them.
First they lay out the carpet and cut it to fit.
And while they laid the carpet inside the garage, just outside the garage a concrete truck pulled up to pour our driveway - covering up the stormwater system that was finished the week before.
Josh and Jason then spread glue all over the garage floor.
While the last of the concrete is poured.
There's a special trick to making the carpet joins as seamless as possible.
While the concreters spread the concrete evenly and smooth it out perfectly.
When I arrived for a quick visit late on Friday, the carpet was perfect.
And the driveway looked a treat too.
In the above picture the driveway has been covered with a retardant sort of sludge to stop the top of it drying out too quickly. This was sprayed off a bit later. And then the stonemasons came to rebuild the front wall.
If you are a blog stalwart you will remember one of the major stumbling blocks of the build was the slope of the driveway. After a miscalculation in the height of the garage floor, the slope was too steep for Auckland Council (...) to allow. It took a lot of discussion, re-drawing, negotiation, compromise, hard work and delay to agree to the final profile and slope for the driveway, footpath and crossing that you see above. It meant that the scaffolding went up before the garage and driveway were poured, which is very unusual and has probably cost us at least two weeks.
Now all that remains is to see if the cars can drive up it ok...
Here our magnificent plumber shows that even the pros are human. It's great to know that he does just what I do - sitting on the floor with the parts out of the plastic bag and the instructions open. In the foreground is the Dishdrawer from Fisher and Paykel - a choice piece of NZ innovation that's celebrated worldwide. I had a Dishdrawer in my last house for 15 years, not serviced once and still working as well as new when we sold the house in August. This one looks even fancier.
Kitchen Action, Bitches
This is how the kitchen looked on Monday
You can see there was still a bit to do. The cabinetry is not finished and one drawer is just sitting on the floor - I don't think that's where it's supposed to go.
Those of you with eagle eyes may have noticed that the fridge opens the wrong way. You may also have noticed that your eyes are too small and very beady.
Isn't that a sexy fridge? 9 out of 10 ladies would rather sex this fridge than Sonny Bill.
The fridge was my mistake, and another example of why not to organise things yourself. Not only did we (I) order the wrong fridge, but we (I) also ordered the wrong gas hob (natural instead of bottle) so there's a replacement one of each coming this week. Out of the 11 appliances I've ordered, I only got two wrong. Is that a good score?
There are also holes for some of the cabinetry and for the ovens, which are sitting on the floor. And they do look mint.
IF you want to know what oven we went for, it's this one. It's a new F&P one that fits the same hole as a normal 60cm oven, but has a much bigger inside at 77 litres. And above it we are going to have a microwave/combo oven (on the right in the picture above) that will mean when the 22 adults and 7 kids show up for Christmas we'll be able to feed them (I hope). Below both of them, there will be a warming drawer for warming things.
The hob decision - gas or induction - was a major one for us, and we ended up not really making a decision at all. We are used to gas and we love it, but it seems like the world is moving to induction cooktops. Induction cooktops are not hot to the touch like gas, ceramic or old-school electric, so you can only burn yourself on the pan or pot. They can be adjusted very finely and instantly and are easy to clean. And they heat faster than any other cooktop. The people we'd talked to who'd used them raved about them. And the F&P cooktop is recommended by Consumer magazine.
But still we were nervous. Can induction go hot enough to stir fry properly? Would it handle the curved bottom of a wok? Probably would have been fine, but we decided to put single big gas ring alongside the induction cooktop. Let's see if we ever use it.
Here is the kitchen on Wednesday afternoon. F&P had been to replace the fridge and hob. The kitchen is almost done. There is still a door to go on the wine rack and the combo oven to be fitted above the oven.
How do you like it? Here is a closeup of the plywood construction of the benchtop and drawer fronts.
This sort of stuff doesn't happen by accident. The cabinetry material decision was harder than the cooktop one.
We chose plywood backed with coloured plastic laminate because it looks great, it's durable and not too expensive. Real wood veneer is the nicest but too expensive for us (also with a wooden floor we were worried about a clash of woods). I don't like painted finishes as they inevitably wear, they are expensive and I don't like the curved edges they have. Gemma doesn't like melamine on top of mdf because, although the cheapest finish, these panels always have plastic capping along the edges which is often a slightly different colour to the melamine itself.
We choose the ply (it's birch ply from sustainable trees in Russia of course) and we chose the colours from a range of what's called "High Pressure Laminate". The company who supply the panels, Prime Panels, use massive machines to spread glue onto the plywood, then press the panels in a giant sandwich-maker thing (but cold) for eight hours. Using ply means you can expose the edge, and use cutouts instead of handles and don't need capping of any sort.
I didn't know any of that stuff before and I'll never need to know it again.
Chin the joiner has also been busy in the bathrooms.
By Saturday last week, just about the only thing to be finished in the ensuite was the mirrored cupboard which sits above the bench and sink, and which houses the in-wall cistern above the toilet. By Wednesday that too was finished.
Here's Johnny from Fibaro.
Over the past week he's been at the house programming the home automation which will allow us to control things in the house using our phones from wherever in the world we are. I could be in Mongolia and dim the lights in our kitchen. Why the lights would be too bright for me when I'm so far away, I'm not sure, but it will be comforting to know anyway.
The Fibaro system is integrated with our burglar and fire alarms as well as with the lock on the front door and the garage door opener, meaning we can monitor and control these along with the lights. And it can be added to infinitely after the house is finished (in fact the system is designed to install easily in existing homes).
My favourite part of the install was when Johnny tested the smoke alarms with this,
Yes, it's smoke in a can! It would be great fun in an airplane toilet.
We left the blinds to the last minute. A few weeks ago a very nice character from Lahood came out, and we walked around the house with him for a while talking about things like which rooms needed to be dark, which need protection from the heat of the sun, and whether we still wanted to see out while dimming the glare. We formulated a plan. Lahood did a careful measure of the every window, went away and custom-made everything we needed, then on Wednesday it started coming to fruition.
In my office I just need the glare reduced. These blinds are backed with a reflective surface that keeps a west and north facing room like this cool.
Same upstairs. All the massive west-facing windows will have these roller blinds. The good thing is that when you roll them up you don't even notice them.
In the bedrooms we want complete darkness, and there is room above the windows to house roman blinds, so that's what we went for. We chose the fabric, they made them up real sweet.
Our master bedroom will have more expensive Luxaflex Duette honeycomb blinds but they aren't in yet to show you.
The other exciting action on Friday was Lukebo the sparky who had lost a wire inside the wall. Needing to connect the tread light, Luke used a special tool which has a camera and a hook on the end of a flexible rod. The camera feeds pictures to a little monitor so Luke can see what he's hooking.
You may remember I had idiotically forgotten to route a speaker and subwoofer wire behind our chimney before the stone tiles went on. Luckily Luke and James sprang to my aid, and after a bit of hole cutting, managed to feed the wires through. As you can see below there are now a few holes in the tiles down low, but these will be hidden by shelves and cupboards, so I think I've gotten away with being disorganised.
The black cable is for the subwoofer, the coppery one is for the speaker that will sit on the shelf over this side of the chimney.
The other lucky break was when we got the subwoofer out of storage to find that purely by accident (because we forgot to measure it up before it was stored) it fits the spot we've planned for it exactly. Praise be to Auckland Council who provides when our need is greatest.
On the weekend we began to move in. Well, I SAY we. I actually skived off to Taupo to MC the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge prizegivings. Meanwhile poor Gemma and all her family were moving things from storage into the house.
Now we've filled the unfinished house with a whole lot of stuff we've been living without for five months. We threw half of it in the skip. And then we got it out again because some of it was good stuff and you never know when you'll need it, eh?
When I got back from Taupo Gemma and I started to pack up things in our temporary Ponsonby digs. This is the pile of brochures and house information that ended up in the recycling bin.
The banana is there to give you an idea of scale. It did not go in the bin.
I've left the most nerve-wracking, exciting part to the end - the stairs. I think the stairs are going to be finished this week and we'll be able to shift in. Here's how they looked last week,
And then when Tuesday rolled around, the steel rods arrived. Andy made them and had them powdercoated black, then James got to work.
We couldn't be more excited ... The treads are being made especially from solid American Oak to match the upstairs floor and we can't wait to see them. We hope installing them goes smoothly and the whole thing fits together sweetly and solidly.
The next time I post a post we will be living in our new home. We'll be surrounded by boxes and things that aren't complete, but we'll be in. At first we called the place 'the section', then we called it 'the site'. A couple months ago we first called it 'the house' and when Zeno and Gemma first sleep there I'll call it 'home'.
We do know how lucky we are.
Join me next week when I'll say things like 'here's our home' and 'have a look at our home'.
Until then I remain, more than ever,
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