jenn jay tales

Jennifer Johnston shares her travel tales; life adventures; observations, photos and random thoughts


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Renovation – the home run

Don’t dream it’s over

Love that the Crowded House song and thankfully I’m not dreaming, the (BIG) reno project is almost over! All that is left is the waft of paint fumes and clutter of painter’s trestles and paraphernalia as the painters finish the outside. A few walls are showing one of the fifty shades of grey I chose as my house colour! It won’t be long and I can remove the project manager hat. Hard to believe after 18 months the project is almost complete. I say almost as the external house paint is work in progress. The start date for that was delayed but I’ve learnt over the course of this project you just roll with delays.  Landscaping, some storage stuff to sort and the left over stainless steel security grills and old pool fencing lying around the spare block are still to be dealt with.  Next year (ha ha which is tomorrow!)

Oh and then there’s the spare block to develop. One of the major reasons I went down the renovation path on my old house, was to create a block of land to sell at a later stage.  There is still the registering of the title, the connection of utilities – including the big job of sewerage connections – and the clearing of “all encumbrances.” This involves removing the remaining slab and retaining walls!  A wee excavation project in a few year’s time, provided I can get the extension on the DA (development application) to allow me a bit of breathing space.

the spare block - the next project!

the spare block – the next project!

So what’s happened since my last blog post?

June 2016

June 2016

The downstairs areas became more than a skeleton. Walls and floorboards were added.  Decisions had to be made fast on the width of the downstairs bathroom and whether to add a bath or not. Thanks to a persistent friend (Kelie – yes you) the bath was ordered. Rather than going into the boy’s bathroom downstairs, the new free-standing bath was added to my en-suite.  There is hope I will have time to “enjoy” baths in the future. I’ve not been one for luxuriating in a bath tub unless it’s in a ****hotel room. It was fun testing baths for suitability. (If I was to be installing a bath it was going to be the right “fit!”) Continue reading

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Renovation jitters – the next phase

Renovation phase three

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t been exposed to stories about renovations. They’re everywhere. Magazines and blogs share renovation yarns. Reality TV shows like the Block and House Rules allow viewers to gain an insight into the tension a renovation project incurs. As both a reader and a viewer – none of these prepare you for what reno stress actually FEELS like, until you undertake a renovation yourself. Continue reading


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So the reno begins

Renovation update

This blog post has been written / not published / added to but now its time to publish and update as the reno project finally takes BIG shape!

To recap

The renovation madness upped its pace significantly last month. All was under control. I was working towards a start date in 8 weeks. But a phone call from the builder about 6 weeks ago asking how I was going with finding rental accommodation changed all that. He wanted to start a month earlier!  I know – unheard of in the building game – right?!

My to do list became very pressing:

  1. find rental accommodation
  2. pack up my house

The shipping container arrives

Part way through planning the project I thought about organising a shipping container which could sit on the (to be) spare block and allow me to store some of my furniture.  Sound like a good idea? Well it was until 2 tonnes of steel in the form of a 20 foot shipping container turned up at my place early one Friday morning.  Issue one was going to be the council tree on the footpath – right in the centre of where the truck needed to reverse.  The tree had been reported to council about four weeks earlier BUT despite it being declared “R” for removal – this can take up to 6 weeks. Of course it was still on the footpath the day the driver arrived.  So he planned a different path onto my sloping site. There was a stage where I thought two tonnes of steel and a large truck were going to flip sideways – such was the angle the poor guy had to get his tilt tray in to the space.

Yikes not an easy delivery

Yikes not an easy delivery

Anyways thanks to the persistence of the driver – and 45 minutes of manoeuvring his truck inch by inch,  he managed to place the container on site – maybe a little closer to the boundary than I wanted but it was there. Lesson to me – maybe I shouldn’t be on site watching things like this – my heart skipped many beats that morning!

installed one container

installed one container

I also thought I could try and sell my existing kitchen so that was out of the house before the builder started the partial demolition. That was another hopeful – later turning into a bit of a saga. It’s thankfully behind me now and I don’t wish to re-visit that part of my reno process – just enjoy the empty space that was my kitchen!

Kitchen before

Kitchen before

kitchen goneski

kitchen goneski

And I may never advertise items like that on gumtree ever again – but ……. let’s get on.

 

 

Certification Red Tape

My next step: check with my certifier what was required to tick all those red tape boxes so the reno work could commence.  When you make a decision to save on Project Management fees and do it yourself you know you are in for a steep learning curve.  Just how steep is the question. Terms that come into your world previously you’ve never heard of. My certifier enlightened me on a few. I needed a soil and sediment report? What? An Earthworks Management plan? What’s that and why?

Many phone calls and emails later – I discovered because my block of land is high set, it could be classed as a hazard when the excavation works begins. In heavy rain “silt” could run off and down the road upsetting the neighbours and those who use the road.  We don’t want that!  I express some of my frustrations to my certifier – so much red tape, “welcome to my world,” he responds.  I was starting to wonder whether taking on the Project Management role was such a good idea! Trying to save $10k was my motivation but the stress levels were rising.

I needed an engineer a RPEQ (a Registered Practising Engineer.) Also I learn good old hay bales and silt barriers prevent soil erosion. The learning curve is ongoing. Thankfully my laid back structural engineer is also a RPEQ and was able to do the required report at the 11th hour to complete the soil and sediment report as part of the compliance to allow the builders to commence the demolition on site.

The builder and engineer discuss my steel issues

The builder and engineer discuss my steel issues

I’ve realised I like working with lists. Via email I asked my certifier to list what specifically I need to obtain and then try and get my ignorant head around what everything means. “I have checked the conditions of the development permit that was issued by Brisbane City Council, you will need to have the following items/documents prepared to satisfy the condition of the approval, these items are not conditioned to be undertaken prior to me issuing the building approval but will need to be undertaken prior to the start of on-site works,” emails my patient certifier. This is how I work best. A background in human resources and currently as a writer means I naturally ask questions, when I don’t know what I’m talking about (which in this project has been often!) The reports were done in time and the building project has begun.

Packing up and moving

And then the joys of packing a house you’ve lived in for 15.5 years. How do we accumulate so much stuff!?  Because the build was brought forward, I had less time to de-clutter so in the end I moved more stuff than I thought as I ran out of time to deal with the extra. A few facebook friends were amused that despite my youngest is 12 years of age – I listed a porta cot and baby toys on a buy / swap / sell site.  It’s a case of you have the storage space – you store (in my situation!) The shipping container is actually the equivalent of a three bedroomed house.  And I was moving to a three bedroomed house. I calculated that must mean the container will not be filled – wrong!

The move was completed and I spent much of Easter filling my little Golf vehicle with all the excess stuff that didn’t make it into the removalist’s van!  I really don’t wish to ever move again – but my reality is when the house is ready – I’ll be moving baaack!  With less “stuff” I hope – as I’m trying to offload excess at this end!  Marie Kondo – de-clutter guru – applying her principle of what does not give me “joy” must go!  Easier said than done.

The partial demolition

It’s been four weeks now and the demo works that went on over the first two weeks was startling. Probably was always going to be the case when walls are smashed and removed. And of course my three boys wanted to be involved in the smashing of walls. (Just NOT the removal of it!) Fraser had much fun getting stuck into his walls!

Fraser the destructor

Destructor Fraser

The demo lads take a "V" breather

The real demo lads take a “V” breather

I would check on the demo lads progress at the end of each day. With sledgehammers, saws, drills and determination – they quickly removed much of my house. Skip bins were filled and emptied and re-filled, then emptied.

House profile before

House profile before

House profile after the back has been removed

House profile after the back has been removed

The skips came and went

The skips came and went

Recyclers – its best not to think about what went out of my house into fill somewhere – I saved what I could – but some things just disappeared.  I have a couple of neighbours keen on recycling and site visits would often include them updating me on what they have removed to “use” again down the track.  I’ve never conversed with my neighbours as much as I am now!

Its been a nervous few weeks. I decided to make an 11th hour bid to re-gain some of my city glimpses back by going up another half metre in height.  Watching the reno work on the house in front – I realised (a little late maybe) I should consider raising my house to the full height allowed under Council regulation (9.5metres.)  Great idea until my certifier pointed out my Development Application had only been approved to 9.0 metres.

City glimpses before

City glimpses before

Neighbours house raise meant bye to those city glimpses

Neighbours house raise meant bye to those city glimpses

One last minute approval

My certifier had to submit a siting variation application to Council to go up an extra half a metre.  We put the house raisers off and hoped to have approval by the time the date came round for them to start. Each day I was told “hopefully” tomorrow. Additional steel was ordered for the added height – punting on getting approval.

Last Friday the approval came through – 13 days after submission. Guess 13 was my lucky number!

This week the big event is due to begin: the house move and raise. Watch this space. I’ve left the builder with a few headaches which involves a few variations.  But nothing is really ever meant to be smooth sailing with renovations – is it?

More exciting times ahead.