Day 270: Crawling for the finish line

NOT day 1,000,003 as Tanea (ever the catastrophist) would have you believe. But she is telling the truth when she says we’ve had to let the builders go (it’s an expression; no they weren’t pleading to be released). Well, we always knew that the budget was unlikely to be sufficient for the full build and the excitement has all been in seeing how far we can get with hired help before having to do the remainder on the cheap.

By the time the builders finished up they were largely working on the exterior, leaving the lining out to us. While all the windows were in (less a couple of smaller ones that came later) the cladding wasn’t quite complete and nor was all of the trim and scribers, the final line of weather defence.

So this is what our high-level to-do list looked like as the last ute drove off into the sunset:


Desolate, abandoned building project, no builders, sun setting. Sadness everywhere (thanks David Ayre)

  • Complete the closing out of the exterior
  • Get the last window in and trimmed up
  • Get the continuous spouting guys back to finish the job they stopped halfway through (irony alert! That’s not what I call continuous)
  • Fill all the holes and gaps then paint then
  • Get that expensive scaffold down and off-site
  • Finish Gibbing the interior and get it plasterered (not by us, thank goodness!)
  • Get the tiling done (again: not us)
  • Trim the interior with architraving, fascia and scotia
  • Get the window sills in
  • Hang the remaining doors and get all the door and window furniture in
  • Paint the interior
  • Get the kitchen installed (by paid-for professionals)
  • Fit off the electrical and plumbing fixtures (all on fixed price contract)
  • Lay the timber floor, sand and seal
  • Make some shelves and built in seating

If you say it quickly…

Well, actually you can say it as fast as you like; it still takes a bloody long time to do all of these things, even when there’s the odd soul still on the payroll. There’s probably an irony in the fact that this blog has been neglected while we toil morning, night and weekends on these seemingly endless tasks. Surely the blog was the whole point of beginning this mad project?

Evidently our friends want me back on blog writing because they’ve variously been giving up their spare time to help on site, bake us wonderful treats and generally make us feel we’re not entirely on our own on what is surely the loneliest stretch.


That said, what to make of the mixed messages here? You trying to kill us Ruth?


Sarah’s cake was not long of this world. We still owe you a plate…

Looking back at that list, I’m slightly dismayed at how little we can actually cross off, but it’s not for want of trying. The last of the exterior building detail (minus the deck and porch) was wrapped up last week, and we’ve been going hammer and tongs at the painting. More than a few people have made disparaging remarks about our choice of timber joinery and we’re certainly feeling the burden of having superior taste now as we work round them all with oil paint. But at the same time we can’t help admiring just how damn fine they look. They really do give the house that je ne sais quoi that Charles summarised as “1970s motel”. I think I prefer je ne sais quoi thanks Chuck.

We reckon we’re one weekend away from victory with the paint, then I need to get those spouting guys back to complete before the scaffold comes down and access to the upper exterior is a much more life-threatening proposition.

The plasterers – Ben and his son Mika – are nearly done. They keep interesting hours, usually starting around 3 pm and working into the night, but I think this is just because we’re an extra job they’ve crammed in on top of a full week.


Mika strays dangerously close to the extractor vent, risking an “Augustus Gloop” situation

They’ve also been amenable to pushing certain bits ahead so we can prepare for other work that needs to happen after the walls are painted. Probably the most exciting example of this is the kitchen. Ben got that all sanded up for us  about a week ago and after a couple of nights painting (special thanks to Robyn M) it was ready for the Friday delivery of…

Day270NewKitchen1Possibly the most garish kitchen to grace suburbia…


… since our last one

The new one also has the virtue of not being filled with the utter squalor of our lives. Let’s just appreciate its clean lines and clear floor space one last time shall we?


Clean linesDay270Kitchen2

Clear floor space

It’s things like this can really lift the spirit. Even though we couldn’t afford a bench top (making the utility of this thing of wonder and beauty somewhat questionable) we’re absolutely thrilled with the guys who made and installed it (Pete’s of Greytown for anyone looking for a recommendation).


Pete’s boys, using a level even! What next? Drawers that open?

Also uplifting has been the return of the electrician to fit off most of the lights and plug sockets. Now we have good quality light to work by at night and by which to admire the many coloured splendour of the kitchen cabinets. In a fit of radical trendiness we decided to forego the standard white switch gear in favour of black. It’s O for Oarsome.


If this doesn’t start a major new trend we’re going to look pretty silly

Other great moments have included the installation of the stairs (which I believe you have already sneaked a glimpse of)…


Although you may not have seen Tam’s early (failed) attempt to get the pitch right. Bit steep Tam.

… and the completion of the bathroom tiling by Neal Jenkins (another tradey who comes highly recommended).


Clean, simple, wipeable. What more could you wish for?

Somewhere further back in the chronology the timber flooring arrived from my man down in golden bay. It’s one of the Tasmanian Oaks (shameful colonials name for certain Eucalyptus spp.) and is a lovely light looking narrow board. At about one-and-a-half tonnes it made a mighty load for the trailer I hired from the local garage.


I would not recommend hiring this trailer in future


Unpacking the lovely stuff only to pile it willy-nilly…


…in the garage

Lord knows we need the boost. We’re using any daylight opportunity (weather permitting) to push the exterior painting along, then using the evenings to trim out the interior with skirting, scotia and architraving (all the same broad, square profiled pine).


A room well architraved

We’re also trying to get the interior painting underway, but seem to lack the requisite supernumerary arms to advance on more than one front.


James wishing he was part octopus

So yes, the list is still long (feel free to come and own a piece of it) but it feels as though we’re about to be able to cross a number of long-standing items off it. We just need to make sure we don’t keep finding new ones to replace them. In the meantime we just keep admiring the view and soldiering on.


A view worth fighting for


Day number… unsure

Late nights gibbing / painting / sealing / hucking out etc leave little time for blog posting so promised details from the last post are slow to materialise. But I figured I’d just chuck a bunch of photos up in place of words and y’all can write your own story.JamesHall

Jim completing the final gibbing of hall and Neil in bathroom – tiling.
He’s a GEM…

KitchenGibbedKitchen gibbed, standing by for Ben & co to finish the plastering.
Kitchen (minus top) arrives Friday morning.
TimParkThe fabulous Tim of Park & Clarke Ltd. Turned up Saturday morning (after a big night for Pip’s birthday) to take a massive load to the tip for us. Another GEM.
StairsStairs arrive.
StairTeamStair crew arrive. Many GEMs.
OhNoUh oh…
StairLiftYou know they should fit perfectly…
Stairs5How’s the shoulder Tam?
Stairs2Stairs4Stairs3James takes a little break to sit down while everyone else is quite busy holding up the stairs.DebMeanwhile… Deb turns up constantly and paints the nasty tricky oil bits no one else wants to.
Lynleywhile Lynley turns up to paint the nasty ‘above your head’ bits. How many more of those can there be?
SparksJonathon and Paul drilling up a store. – LED lights are us!
WiresHopefully they understand all this…
GibbedHallHall mostly gibbed and us still looking like we care…
NoDeckBack of the house still a wee way away, sorry about the state of the deck Ian…
PaintJobBut the front is one coat away from victory.

Apparently the distant neighbours hate the paint job, one wonders if they’ve clocked the mustard and orange house we currently live in?
ColourSchemeLooking massive from afar.

Day 1 Million and 3

Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but it certainly doesn’t feel like a day under 1 million and 2.

As expected we’ve run out of money. Does that never happen? As a result, sadly, James had to let all our wonderful builders go and being the perfectionists they all are, one could tell their biggest regret was that their unfinished business was now about to be finished by US.

You could just see them screaming ‘NOOOOOoooooooo’ as they drove off.
IanIan receives the news that all his perfect detailed work is about to be completed by utter novices…
OurBuildersIan, Gary and Sef at least relieved they’ll no longer have to endure insufferable wind.
Stan&MarkIan, Stan & Mark talk fishing.
Trev&TamTrev, Tam & James

So, after a whole lot of wailing and a bit of cheek slapping we pulled ourselves together and faced the fact that we were going to have to complete the thing ourselves and sat down to strategise. James indicated he was onto a a cheap deal, due to parallel importing, of some new building labour straight from the Lyall Bay, Brooklyn, Melrose and Nelson mines. The good thing about them being, you just throw them a dry crust and a warm beer every now and then and they keep turning up.
Kathryn Kathryn with pockets of Pef to seal the windows.Andrew&BertieJames, Andrew sorting the cat door and Bertie
SeanSean, in charge of collecting stray nails.
Jesse and Will painting up a storm.
PipPip getting into all the nasty tricky above your head bits.
Deb&WillDeb & Will with more nasty above head bits.
Hev&JCHev & Jonathan measuring stuff.
Tim&JamesTim & James hammering the windows…?


James, Deb, Pip, JC, Rich (who lives next door and just wants it bloody finished even if he has to do it himself) and Tim with dry crusts and warm beer.WarmBeersHev, Deb, Ange, Jonathan & Jim.

A more informative post will follow soon but truly, madly, deeply, grateful youse fellas, thank you so much. xxx

Day 220: Feeling the pinch

Having got our hands in with the Gibbing of the downstairs ceiling, we set to work on the walls. Tam passed on the tricks of the trade (10mm gap between the bottom of the sheet and the floor, no vertical joins off the top corners of doors, all to avoid plaster cracking in the event of an earthquake, etc.) and bought a new screw gun, particularly helpful given the huge numbers of screws used in the Gib bracing elements.


Lucky red socks also seemed to help


Note the tight screw pattern in the corners; apparently makes the whole joint earthquake proof


Waterproof green Gib for the bathroom

While we were getting the Gib up the builders were working on the windows and starting to get the deck down. There had been considerable discussion (not to mention harrumphing) over my choice of decking timber. Ages ago I found a supplier in Nelson to ship me a pack of Eucalyptus Delegatensis planks. Being gum it’s a hard, durable timber. Only problem was that the timber was very wet, and even 6 months of drying in Brett’s shed hadn’t done much to season it. Moreover, it was rough-sawn and so it needed running through Brett’s thicknesser to get it to a reasonable finish and consistent gauge. Ian set himself the task of making the roughly gauged timber fit for such a high-class deck, sanding the top and planing an arris on the edges. Since the planks are still drying, we were worried about movement, so they were pinned in place by lots of meaty great stainless steel purlin screws. The result seemed worth the effort.


How wet and heavy? You get a sense from the bend in the roof rack… Day220IansSetUp

Ian’s deck-perfecting set up

Day220Deck1Makes for a pretty perfect deck


Which even goes well with the perky blue of the shiplap

While Ian hogged the glamour work, Stan and Sef did the equally important job of setting up the balustrade posts. They’re the perfect guys to have on the job; if the posts hold them they’ll hold anyone.


The first post


Betty tries the deck out as a dance floor 

It’s all starting to come together, but the hefty building bills are starting to take their toll. In fact we’re now at the point where we’ll have to do more of the work if we’re to get the place liveable without breaking the budget. Inconveniently this has hit us as we both settle back into our day jobs. Looks like we’re going to have to set up some decent night lights.

Day 205: Break’s over

No sooner were we back from a gentle, relaxing stroll through the central plateau than we were forced to confront the grim fact that the house had not, in our absence, completed itself. James was disappointed.


Undaunted, we reapplied ourselves to the task in hand noting that our nominal completion timeframe – six months – was now receding into the past day by day as was the happy memory of the duck rice paper rolls that we’d enjoyed on Christmas day in the bush.


Traditional Christmas dinner, Orongorongo styles

The builders returned in dribs and drabs and the Wellington summer added a variety of drips and drops to the mix, ensuring that the post-Christmas restart was fitful at best.

Windows that had been secured in place prior to the holidays had to be more permanently fixed in place, and a headsill and flashing needed to be devised. Unfortunately with most business still closed to allow their inmates a respite from Wellington’s weather there was nobody available to run the special headsill profile or bend the flashings. Fortunately Tim was happy to let me into his plumbing workshop to use the guillotine and folding gear, so I grabbed some extra flashings left behind by the roofer and refashioned them into the appropriate sill flashing profile. The sill itself was made by running lengths of dodgy fence railing timber through Tam’s table saw, and suddenly we were back in business.

When Tam arrived back at work on the 16th of January,  the relief for the builders who had been having to tolerate the client bossing them around was palpable, especially for Mark who had been standing in as foreman in his absence. Mark was particularly upset that he had to break some bad news to me on my return from tramping.


That’s not a fancy new kind of obscured glass. That’s a broken window that is.

One of the large double glazed units in our bedroom window had crazed on the inside pane, without so much as a hammer blow or a nail gun to cause it.  Why? Speculation was rife, but settled on flexing caused by severe winds as the most likely culprit. This was worrying given that wind  is a very strong and frequent visitor to these parts. Steve the window joiner eventually showed up and assured us that sometimes windows just fail, and that this one would be replaced with a better one. Sort of reassuring I guess.

Once again everyone seems pretty busy but without a great deal to see. We were delighted, therefore to have a couple of high impact developments that made the progress more readily apparent, one of which was our own doing.

The deck had been on hold while the focus was on the windows and cladding, but with the upper storey windows delayed and the cladding stalled until they arrive, Stan and Ian turned their attention to framing it out. Due to a lack of solid ground to sink some deck piles into, we needed to upgrade to monstrous 300mm joists to support the full span. The first section of joists were up in a day (nothing that Tim and I hadn’t achieved on Christmas day of course) and giving shape to our future indoor/outdoor lifestyle options.



The deck will be handy as it’s pretty much the only way we’ll be able to get the big upstairs windows in (across the deck, through the kitchen window opening then across the top floor before being passed out to the hefty lads on the scaffold. Careful hefty lads!)

The plumbers also came along to finish up some piping in the walls (pre-line plumbing inspection: passed) and start plumbing up the bathroom fixtures. With the in-wall plumbing done Tanea and I were free to start on the Gibbing, downstairs ceilings first. To our chagrin (and pained upper bodies) Tam specified 13mm Gib (only 3mm thicker than standard but oh so much heavier). To our delight, he also introduced us to a mechanical helper: a Gib lifter.


It lifts the heavy Gib into place for you without the need for a stick or a broom. How cool is that?

We promised to have the ceiling Gibbed out by the end of the long weekend (Wellington Anniversary Day on Monday gave us 30% more chance of achieving this). This had the unexpected benefit of encouraging Ian and Stan to turn up for work on Saturday, ostensibly to move the deck along. However they were overheard saying that they were looking forward to watching our efforts with the Gib. Whatever boys.

If I do say so myself, we did a pretty tidy job of it.


That’s some pretty tidy Gibbing

And we got it all done ahead of the boys return on Tuesday. I know it was a pretty good job because the sense of disappointment as each arrived and poked their heads in for a chuckle was palpable.

We returned the favour by paying extra close attention to the deck framing as they brought it across from the block retaining wall to the house. Yep, have to admit, that’s pretty tidy too.


That should hold a few of us and our glasses of chardonnay up

It’s nice to have the real builders endorse your work, but it also pays to be careful what you wish for. Towards the end of today Tam sidled up. “Do you think you guys could Gib the walls next?” he wondered. I thought we would be fine with that. “Good then. I’ll leave it to you then. Better get that Gib under cover before tonight” he said, pointing to the couple of pallets of Gib that had been delivered in the afternoon.


Just a few sheets to shift then Tam? You’re a prince

By chance Tanea came home early. I played it cool and waited. Sure enough, after a few preliminaries she uttered the words a man hopes to hear the day before his birthday: “Right: what can I help with?”


An hour and a half of heavy lifting later: Result!

Summer 2014

A final post continuing in the theme of ‘what I did in the holidays’ before normal programming returns. A somewhat Matinee Idol to the usual Morning Report. Below a photo essay of Pearl’s silver qualifying tramp for the Duke of Ed program – The Tongariro Northern Circuit.

Day 0
We arrived from Wellington on a beautiful clear evening with a perfect view of Ruapehu behind The Chateau. Girls being very impressed with said Chateau, we decided as a ‘treat’ to pop in after dinner for a $36 round of lemonades and wine. In true NZ Iconic Destination style, it featured spectacularly bad and slow service, complete with a ‘stuck CD’ soundtrack which when pointed out, was greeted with ‘Yes!’.

Day 1
Overnight stay at the Whakapapa holiday camp, which took a little waking up from – Betty. I’m talking to you. First day walk is from Whakapapa Village to Oturere hut.

WakeupBetsTheStartStart of the track , Ngauruhoe on one side, Ruapehu on the other. Stunning.

MountainesOnBothSidesLower Tama Lake.
LowerTamaLakeWaihohonu hut has got to be one of the most primo DOC huts out there. Massive picture windows with views to die for, solar hot water, solar lights, loads of bench space, loads of tables inside and decks outside with more tables for endless games of ‘speed’… Endless!Hut1a Hut1b Hut1cGreat bathing facilities too.WashingFacilities
Day 2
Waihohonu hut to Oturere hut. A mere three hours but covers some expansive scenery.Day2 Day2bNgauruhoe In BGHut2aOturere hut was not quite the hut of the night before and featuring a full house of wet trampers by the end of the evening and a kitchen smaller than ours (really) it was a bit of a trick rotating table and seating space as everyone cooked and ate. The evening’s entertainment were two German gals who planned a day walk of the Crossing in singlets and short shorts but took a wrong turn, hit the bad weather and arrived at our hut in the dark soaking wet with nothing but an empty juice bottle. Luckily there were a couple of lovely young Israeli boys who had spare clothes and plenty of room on their bunks to keep them warm.

Ah, yoof!

WashingFacilitiesHut2Failed to take a camera closer but tonight’s bathing facilities were brought to you by the letters ‘freezing waterfall’… yikes, it was dang cold but again beautiful.

Day 3
Not quite as splendid a day as the previous two. Torrential rain and hideous winds overnight (not what we leave Wellington for) and some mad tourists were out there camping. MorningThree b MorningThreeSetting out – strangely the camera fails to pick up the strafing rain.SettingoffDay3Day3a Day3b Day3c Day3d EmeraldLake1 EmeraldLake2And if you look backwards from the summit you’ll have a stunning view of the three Emerald Lakes and the large Blue Lake in the background. On  a clear day one can see Taranaki.
We couldn’t see Taranaki unfortunately.SummitViews Or anything… SummitViews2 SummitViews3 SouthCraterThe turn off to the final hut, 20 minutes from the carpark where Pearl and I were greeted with the happy question ‘Hut or pie?’
We declined to choose the ‘reheat’ last night’s leftover spag bol in the tramping hut, over the more desirable option of ‘get the hell out of the dodge into a dry car and get a pie from the dairy’ thanks.
Hut or Pie For those of you who like a map, my lovely assistant is indicating the closest exits.The EndBack to the house project tomorrow.

By popular demand: what we did in the holidays…

So as this blog is doubling as ‘letter writing back home’, we interupt house progress with a little photo essay of our days away in the bush. Unfortunately modern technology failed me and my cellphone battery died part way in, so I didn’t quite capture our annual family Christmas day photo, but you get the general idea.

Bush3The long haul in, all 1 1/2 hrs of it.
Note appropriate tramping footwear on James’s part.


First stirrings of a deck.

Bush4A welcome glass with Pippa.

Bush11Assuming the position around the fire.

Bush10Betty writes a hopeful letter to Santa while Tim conducts an imaginary choir of carol-ists.

Bush9A beautiful Christmas morning.


Just a few planks short of a deck.

Christmas LunchChristmas lunch.

Bush6Post Christmas lunch.

Bush7Initial rock walling. Don’t tell Pip, but despite telling her it’d be a piece of cake, I have absolutely NO idea whatsoever how to build a rock-wall. But what could possibly go wrong?

Bush1The walk out.

Lovely couple of days with lovely folk. Thanks Pip n Tim.

A quick return to house news as I’ve noticed a little dis-quiet on the painting the house ‘black’ front – you know who you are…

Here’s a shot of the first coat on the weatherboards of the family room and then a very skilled ‘artists impression’ illustrating the need for the dark colour.


Strong coloured flowers, you get me now?
Perfect right!