Faffing about fences

About 18 months ago, my beloved 14 year old beast of a Beagle, Boots, died when he escaped onto our busy road. He was an escapologist, as are all beagles, with no road sense. It was bound to be bad. Anyway, he was going to die either by car or by slow, lingering death of old age. I buried him in the back yard.

After an approved period of mourning – about 6 months, I decided it was time to think about welcoming another fur baby into the house. We did our homework and in January of this year welcomed Poppy into our lives. Poppy is a Groodle. That is, she is a Golden Retriever/Poodle Cross. She is black.


I’m madly in love with Poppy, and she loves me. It’s magic. Anyway, the reason Boots our beagle had died was some idiot left the gate open and he escaped. I was determined not to let that happen again. So we planned and built several new fences in preparation for Poppy. She’s a very expensive dog. Our fence building project was finished in February this year, although painting continues.

Our builder was Chris Biancotti, and while he wasn’t hugely cheap, he was very patient with the crazy lady who kept changing her mind and he did a wonderful job. I had seen a fence he constructed just down the road and I admired his handiwork.

We started our fence adventure one day when we idly decided to remove the chain mail fence from the front yard. It immediately looked a lot better. But then we were left with some unsightly, ugly trees and bushes that were not doing all that well. We got the tree loppers in and they pulled out the lot, including one Ivory Curl tree that was really very pretty and doing a good job of protecting the eastern side of the verandah from radiant light from the ugly white Colorbond fence. I was not amused. And my neighbour on the other side, Christine, I think was secretly rather appalled that we had torn down all the lovely trees in the yard. Never mind that the trees were nearly all weeds or serious pests!

IMG_0101It’s a desolate wasteland where beautiful greenery used to be!


Then Chris began constructing the fences. We started with the side fence at the rear of the house. 20 metres of 6 foot high timber fence, and our neighbour was relatively happy with the result, tearing down all the ‘not quite working’ trellis from his yard and planning his back corner at last. It wasn’t too expensive, and we came to a good agreement about how the fence was to be constructed, and with what materials. Mind you, I had done my due diligence and we went for a cheap timber fence, and while our neighbour wasn’t too thrilled with the cost, I had done three quotes, and I was happy with the price. He was happy to pay the lowest of the three quotes: fine by me!


Then Chris got onto the side fences. I asked for and got gates that would always close, but the silly tree loppers (who came back) then wedged the gate open so wide that the spring Chris had installed to the gates loosened off. Chris also repaired the other neighbour’s side fence as there was a rather dangerous lean to it – not surprising, as there is so much water flowing through the back yard that it just rots the wood. Oh well. Reminder to repair them again in 10 years time, but this time with steel posts, not timber.


Finally, Chris constructed the front fence. We spent many happy hours driving around neighborhoods taking pictures of fences. Here are some that appealed. Our house is on a busy road and I wanted airy privacy for the front yard, yet a look that ensured a welcoming entry for visitors. Being a 1920s construction, our house needed something that had a similar but simple style, in keeping with the house’s simple bones. These are the fences I looked to for inspiration.


This last fence was extremely beautiful and we coveted it mightily, but when our builder popped round to have a chat to the owner about the cost, it was more than double our budget. Chris came up with a great solution. We decided to have a tiered fence, with sleepers at the bottom because it looks so sharp and neat. We finished off the sections with a simple bread loaf rail and posts that Chris honed to a simple point. Because of the 6 foot height of our fence we needed two rails, hence our preferred fence (see above) wasn’t doable for us as there are no rails behind the palings and the height of the fence is only about 1 metre.


We created a slight angled inset at the gate to provide a more welcoming entry point, given that our street is busy and tall, straight fences can look awfully forbidding:


We had some difficulty over the gate. Originally we ordered a gate from Woodworkers in Moorooka that was wider than this opening, but that was before we cleared up a minor misunderstanding about the inset sections. And we couldn’t decide whether to have a higher or lower gate. We chose the latter, mainly to increase that welcoming feeling I was talking about:


From a distance it initially looked too low and a little narrow, and we were very disappointed:


But over time and with a lick of undercoat the gate has blended into the fence line. We had two gates: one was for the garage section. Chris constructed a steel frame and attached a spring wheel to the base, to give it purchase when open:


In a few years when we replace the garage door, we’ll make this gate automatic. Not right now, though, because that would mean rewiring the whole house. And goodness knows how much THAT will cost!

Finally, we had to choose the letterbox. We looked at various option including this ornate one:

IMG_1438But we finally chose this simple, stylish black mail box, from a locally owned store literally down the road:


The first topcoat of the front fence is finished and it already looks a treat, but silly me thought that painting faux oil paint just before the dew point at dusk was a good idea, and the bloody paint dripped. It’s only the first top coat, though. Phew. I can sand and do another coat. We applied 2 coats of Dulux all-in-one oil primer/undercoat, then for the top coat we used Haymes paints in Dulux colours. We have to get more paint, but there’s LOTS more to do before the second top coat goes on.

And as I said to hubby just recently, the lovely lovely new fence looks like fresh bunting on a tired old used car saleyard, but once we paint the house exterior it will look wonderful! For the palings we chose the shade Surf Mist by Colorbond on the advice of our builder Chris, as our gutters are that colour, as is the Colorbond fence at the left. Surf Mist isn’t completely white, but is still bright and clean and hides road dust well. For the top rail and bottom sleepers we chose Wayward Grey by Dulux, because it’s sometimes black, sometimes grey, sometimes a little bit brown or purple or even burgundy. A great colour. We’ve not yet decided on the post colours, but we want a fawn/grey colour to give a bit more sophistication to the fence. In the meantime, though, they’ve been painted Surf Mist too.

I’m super happy with how the fence turned out, and very happy with our builder, Chris Biancotti.

I guess this means the house palings will be Surf Mist and the house trim Wayward Grey. Not sure about the windows at the moment though.



Once the second coat has been finished, we can plan and commence our front yard planting. I’m thinking a white or pink Frangipani should go in this corner, and the whole front to be lined either with golden cane palms, Giant Strelitzia or mock orange hedging bushes to provide a sound and sight barrier to the street. Then we’ll plan the remaining garden bed with some ginger and bromeliads, a little bit like this garden bed we saw at Buderim Ginger factory but without the monstera plants, which grow out of control in home gardens:


But wait, I nearly forgot to show you the back fence! Our lovely neighbour, who I will call Sheila, has been renovating her house. She informed us she was taking down the lovely but dilapidated timber fence at the rear and building a retaining wall out of bessa brick (cinder blocks), against which her pool would sit. Well. I didn’t mind, but when I saw the height of the fence, I gulped:


It’s about 1.8 metres high at one end, and at least 3.5 metres high at the other. I felt rather hemmed in at first, but Sheila kindly had the wall rendered and in a few months we’ll paint it a deep purply/black colour prior to planting out with tropical hedging plants such as Golden Cane and other palms. She also asked if she could remove the last remaining (ugly and stupid) tree – a pinus radiata – from our back fence line, because its needles would fall in her pool. No wokkas, quoth I, please, take the thing. She removed it.

Now our yard looks like this:


It’s desolate and sad, and nothing like how it used to look:


We still have problems with Chinese Elm popping up everywhere, but eventually it will give up and go away as long as we keep poisoning it!. Then, after all the renovations have been completed we will plan our lovely, tropical-style easy-care garden.

Painting the house interior

Our money pit was already part painted when we bought it, in quite pleasant colours that suit our eclectic furniture. While I am grateful for the time saved on painting all 8 rooms (incl bathrooms and hallways), I’m a bit grumpy the painters spent no time preparing the surfaces. Already I can see where they painted over peeling surfaces and grimy areas, with our bathroom ceiling already peeling off in parts. At least sand and sugar soap, people!

Before we could move in I was determined to paint the two untouched enclosed verandahs and the toilet area. I needed to get these spaces ready so that I could teach my students in safety, comfort and with a professional look.

I chose a deep grey acrylic for the walls, bright white acrylic for the ceiling, and china white gloss enamel for the woodwork. The walls and ceiling are a buckling, unattractive masonry board and the window surrounds are an equally unattractive mish mash of poorly milled and installed 10mmx20mm timber. These areas will eventually be gutted, re-wired, insulated, replastered, and will have new windows installed, so I didn’t need to do much more than a wipe down and scrape to make them look respectable.

While I’m pretty happy with the grey, it can look a little purple in a cool light. I chose it from a Dulux sample in Bunnings, and didn’t check it in different lights. Nevertheless, it’s a cool yet warm colour and goes well with either blue or red tones, so I’m happy for now.

Here’s what the rooms looked like before, in delightful apricot (not):


Amazing what a quick paint can do, considering these look so awful.

DSCN3916 DSCN3933

Beautiful. Huh.

Anyway, after painting the walls and stuff, the rooms looked like this:


As you can see, the poor excuse for a skirting board hasn’t been done. And it’s still not done in parts, even though I gave parts of them an undercoat last night when I had a spare moment (the things we do just before it gets dark!). The lovely looking windows at the end are a mess of flaky, poorly applied paint, poor skirting, fluffy wood grain and lots of work required. So I’ve left them for the time being, to be tackled sometime later this year. And I’ve not yet painted the French doors because I want to lavish time and attention on them, rather than do what was done to the rest of the French doors, which is a crime of bad painting and no preparation.

So now, the rooms look more like this:



Except we now have heaps of stuff in them, including an oversupply of pillows. I wish we had the type of house where a clear expanse of verandah was possible, but no. We need all the space we can get. Darn it.

Flooring maketh the house

When we bought our Queenslander, I stated firmly that there were two things that were non-negotiable in the purchase of the house. Firstly, that the floors had to be sanded and polished prior to moving in, and secondly that there had to be a workable kitchen.

We were really dealing with the bare basics here! Of course, that list grew to include a new toilet area and fixing those stumps. All other aspects got to wait, including replacing the louvre windows with laminated hopscotch windows, putting in a clean new bathroom and storage for our pantry and clothes.

So this post is about the flooring we chose.

The first night in the house, 3 hours after we got the keys and the title, we grabbed our spade and some gloves and began to tear up the old lino flooring. Underneath the lino was a layer of masonry board tacked to the floorboards, so we pushed the spade under and gently wedged up the old flooring, revealing the 80 year old 150mm wide hoop pine boards underneath. On the verandahs there were two types of timber: rare ash in the north and east wing, and regular hardwood in the western wing. From this:


To this:


To this:



Flooring underneath

We removed all the old flooring in about 4 hours. Exhausting work, but we had to get the stump guys in the next day, I had to paint some more rooms, and then we had to get the flooring done. There was little time.

We pulled out as many of the tacks as we could find, and then our sanders came in and finished off the job 2 weeks later. They were great. Speedy Floor Sanding: ask for Dave. Barely talked at all but they were quick and got the job done in no time. They did a nice job on staining the new boards to look like the old ones, and even though you can tell they are there, they don’t stand out at all.

We found a hilarious dude called Michael Ryan to do some small construction work, including replacing the rotten floorboards (some borer in about 20 sq metres throughout the house) with new hoop pine. A semi-retired Irishman, I could barely understand him at all and many a story telling regaling friends about our renovation experiences had me saying “shushshsushshushhsh to be sure to be sure”. A good builder with years of experience, his clear preference was to replace all the old stuff with new, including replacing our wonderful old 12-light French doors with new cedar ones. 12 light! I can’t find any French doors that are more than 10-light. I didn’t let him go near anything but the floorboards.


He replaced the rotten and borer riddled ones with lovely new hoop pine, like this:



And this:


This little room had previously been a bathroom and the boards were badly rotten, with even some old termite rot appearing. DH had thought he would tackle the replacement boards himself, but there was too much to be done, including some structural work, so we wisely left it to the experts. I had hoped to replace old with old, but Michael our builder wasn’t fond of working with old wood. Sigh. Anyway, the finished product looked a treat once sanded:


This is halfway through the sanding process.


This is the nailing process. Fun.

And these photos show the finished product. The sanders did a really great job, keeping all of the wonderful kinks and marks of 80 years on the floor and giving the floorboards a new lease on life. We chose a satin finish as it looks better, to my mind: less new. It degrades faster than a gloss finish but I like it and will use it again.

Don’t you just love the different timbers? Below is the ash.

DSCN4015 DSCN4018 DSCN4022 DSCN4025 DSCN4027 DSCN4029 DSCN4036 DSCN4040 DSCN4044


The Perfect Home

I am of the not unexpected opinion that the home you renovate/redecorate is the perfect home. Why, I hear you say? Well, because the feeling one gets when one has lavished time, money and energy on a successful house project is such an awesome feeling that it’s almost better than sex. Well, longer lasting, anyway. Annnnnd… I grew up in a house that was ALWAYS being renovated. I grew to love the smell of freshly sawn timber and paint. I blame my mother. Who is a renovating junkie.

So the house that DH (darling husband) and I bought is the perfect home – a renovator’s delight. Luckily, it has good bones and a lovely feel. We bought it on 31 July 2011, the VERY LAST DAY before stamp duty jumped up by $5000, which was like a little birthday present at the same time as the very best gift I could possibly imagine: our own home.

Well, I’ve blogged before about the craziness that accompanied the purchase of our very first house together. My main memory of the ghastly hunt that followed the exciting ambit offer made on the house was the lack of sleep that accompanied our bank application. For a month. And the lack of concentration that accompanied it. Anyhoo!
Here is a photo of the house once finance had been approved:

We bought a house!

Happy face! As you can see by the image, the house is in a totally unrenovated state, not substantially changed since about the 1950s. Some internal rooms have been changed since its construction in the 1920s and there is a dinky little entry landing that has been added to the side, but otherwise the house, which has a recently replaced roof, is pretty much original. Which I was stoked about.

We did the usual house inspection and found a series of small but not insurmountable problems. The first was that many of the house stumps needed replacing due to termite destruction:


Also, there was a whole section of house that needed more stumps as the span was too wide to support the beams. It had been like that for years. So we replaced lots of the stumps with the usual metal stumps, and even raised one poorly placed stump to reset the floor level in the main bedroom. The blokes below did the stumping. Hilarious fellas, regaling us with tales about shonky dealers and poor workmanship. We replaced 6 stumps and added 3, and the house now feels much more secure (purely psychosomatic, I know!)


I project managed the whole thing, and as we only had 2 1/2 weeks to do the whole house before we moved in, there was a sense of urgency about what needed doing.

Next blog: FLOORS and PAINT.


The classic Queenslander

Hi y’all. This blog is for those interested in house renovations, Queenslander homes in particular. Last year my husband and I bought our first house together, a somewhat fraught but ultimately rewarding experience. The house is a classic 1920s Queenslander home on a large block, and nothing much had been done to it over the years. It was in almost original condition. There had been some additions to the house – an extra gable here or there, but essentially the house is the same as it was in the 1950s, louvre windows and all! No bessa-block built in under the house – nothing, really. Its bones are good, the timber mostly solid, and even the flaking paint job isn’t completely horrid.

This blog will document our journey from house inspection to its current shape. There will be plenty of photos and a description of some of our more amusing stuff ups. I’ve kept extensive photo records of the old dear – Harry’s place, we call it. It’s after the old fella who lived here for more than 50 years. We’re probably the 3rd owners.

Enjoy our tales of Harry’s Money Pit – brought to you by Bunnings and Ikea.