Monday, March 6, 2017

Bathroom renovation: new window installed (day 4)

Day 4: Saturday

Huge changes on day 4 - the room is really starting to transform.

The carpenters removed the framing for the dividing wall between the original toilet and bathroom (we hadn't removed it until then as we weren't 100% sure if the wall was structural so we waited for them to check).

They then got to work framing up the new doorway and getting rid of the old windows.

By the end of the day they had installed the new (enormous!) window and things were looking great.

At this stage we realised that we hadn't taken into account the width of the window and the architraves, and had to move the bath spout plumbing over slightly (closer to the left wall) which meant the bath was positioned closer to the wall than I would have liked.

The new window was purchased from an eBay seller for a few hundred dollars - the trick is to be flexible with the colour and size. This one was a creamy colour (unfortunately) but luckily had frosted glass.

Bathroom renovation: plumbing rough-in (day 3)

Day 3: Friday/Saturday

Roughing-in is the term used by tradies to roughly decide where your plumbing and electrical needs to be.

Plumbing rough-in

The plumber and I decided where the bath, shower and basin taps and spout would be - how far up off the floor, how far from the nearest wall etc. This is tricky because the room had no plasterboard, so you have to allow for extra space for plasterboard and tiles.

My one piece of advice is to measure measure measure! And don't rely on the measurements on the box - always measure the item itself. Spoiler alert - the measurement of the vanity as detailed on the box was shorter than the vanity actually was. So when it came time to install the vanity and above-counter basin, the mixer tap and spout were about 50mm too low. This was discovered after the plumbing was installed and the tiling was finished and required some creative problem solving (stay tuned!)

Summary of plumbing changes:

  • Shower: I kept the shower plumbing in the same place, but added a rain showerhead on the perpendicular wall to where the taps and regular adjustable showerhead originally were.
  • Toilet: moved the toilet 90 degrees from the back wall to the left hand wall, and changed from a P-trap to an S-trap (waste pipe through the floor rather than the wall - see image below)
  • Bath: kept the placement of the taps but moved the spout to the foot of the bath (so you don't have boiling how water running onto your hip while you're in the bath, but you can control the taps without having to sit up and lean forward)
  • Basin: moved the plumbing completely

Electrical rough-in

My brother is my electrician, so the electrical was all a bit of an afterthought. He replaced the wiring from the switchboard that was running through the back wall to the bathroom and kitchen. He also relocated it from above the window to below the window - I don't remember why this was a better way of doing it. We didn't give much thought to the placement of electrical outlets at this stage (oops!)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bathroom renovation: demolition & asbestos (day 1 & 2)

My bathroom renovation started as all good renovations do - with demolition!

Day 1: Wednesday

I estimated the size dumpster I'd need (can't quite remember what it was now) with lots of angst about where to put it, since it would have to be on common property. After chatting to my fellow owner-occupier neighbours they saw no issue with it going on the common lawns at the front of the property since it would only be there about a week. I wasn't home when it was delivered (my mom was) and turns out it was ENORMOUS, and the truck couldn't get into the driveway even with no cars parked in the street. So they put it on the nature strip which technically requires a permit.

To protect my floors, my mom and I used masking tape to secure RAM board to all the walk-through spaces. The roll is quite pricey ($93) but I'm very glad I did it. I didn't use much of the roll either so will have plenty left for the kitchen renovation when that materialises. 

The plumber came to cap off all the taps and pipes, and removed the toilet too (score!). That evening, my brother and his mate came to help with the demolition. We ripped off all of the plasterboard and took out the vanity. As the demolition started I had a moment of panic - there was no turning back and things were going to get a whole lot worse before they got better!

When we started to get the tiles off the wall, things came to a halt: my brother's mate was concerned I had asbestos behind the tiles.

I had spoken to two of my neighbours who had previously renovated their bathroom and kitchen, and both said they had not had any issues with asbestos. Nevertheless we were suspicious, and we decided to leave all the tiles in place and get it tested. We sprayed the disturbed area down with water to prevent fibres from spreading, and put a sample piece in a ziploc bag to be tested.

This delay was quite stressful because the plumber was coming back to do the rough in of the new pipes on the Friday. The following Monday was a public holiday and so he wouldn't be able to come back until after the public holiday, pushing all of the trades back (some of my trades were doing the work on the weekends as a side job, others were coming during the week, so it would have pushed everything back by at least a week).

Lesson learned: if your property was constructed prior to 1990 there is a high likelihood that asbestos was used in the building process, so get it tested before you begin your renovation, so you can build the asbestos removal into your timeline and budget!

The danger that comes from improperly removed asbestos is not just about the people doing the demolition - the microscopic fibres will be present in your home long after the renovation, exposing you, your family, tenants or future owners. On top of that, if you are adding the asbestos products to your general demolition waste, those fibres will become airborne, and can pose a serious health risk many people.

For more information about asbestos, visit the Asbestos Eradication and Safety website.

Since the fibres are microscopic, you cannot judge whether a product contains asbestos just by looking at it. The only way to know for sure is to get it tested. So I got my sample tested, and the results were positive.

Whilst I was waiting for the test results, I contacted a number of asbestos removal specialists to line someone up in case the results came back positive. I was really lucky to find a fantastic guy who bent over backwards to do the job on his day off, and keep my timeline on track.

If you ever need an asbestos removal specialist, I highly recommend Andy. He was meticulous and clearly very passionate about the safe removal of this deadly mineral:
AW Removals Pty Ltd
Licensed Asbestos Removalist
Lic No.: H15/02382
Mob.: 0488 12 12 14

Day 2: Friday

So I've skipped Thursday, as nothing was happening besides getting the asbestos sample tested and lining up the removalist. Luckily the laboratory got back to me very quickly so I could let the removalist know he was needed the next day.

The asbestos removal took place on the Friday and took about 2 hours. I wasn't home during the process but Andy described that he would seal off all doorways and access to the area, suit up and remove all the tiles with the asbestos 'cement sheeting' behind them. He would aim to remove everything in as large sections as possible in order to minimise the amount of fibres released. The materials would be wrapped in heavy duty plastic and disposed of safely. A special vacuum was also used during the process to capture any stray fibres. 

Friday afternoon we completed the demo (removing the bath, bath frame and shower base) and the plumber and electrician did their rough-in. We left the wall framing that separated the toilet from the bathroom as it was structural, and needed some additional support for the roof before removal, which would be done by the carpenters.

At some stage during the Friday, the dumpster man came back to get the dumpster, even though I had asked to keep it for a week. He said because it was on the nature strip we were risking a fine so he had to take it. I suggested that perhaps when he was in the area with another half-full dumpster he could come back for the rest of my rubbish which he agreed to. Unfortunately that didn't happen, and to this day my garage is full of the timber framing from the wall that was removed, and the old windows. I'll have to get rid of them when I do my kitchen renovation!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Going solar #5 - hidden leaks

A few weeks ago I noticed a discolouration on my bedroom ceiling. I had a fleeting thought of water damage and then promptly forgot about it. Another week passed, with plenty of rain, and I noticed the discoloured patch growing in size and getting darker.

I had my roof repointed and gutters replaced fairly recently (within the last 2 years) so the next viable explanation was a cracked roof tile, and judging by the location, I guessed that the brackets holding the solar panels were to blame.

I called my handyman and explained the situation. He said it could only be a handful of things, and either way he'd be able to help. A quick exploration in the roof revealed exactly what I had thought: a cracked tile under the brackets holding the solar panels. He guessed that it was likely cracked at the time of installation, but may have moved recently to widen the crack and allow water to penetrate. I suppose that is the risk you take when something is screwed into a terracotta tile.

We waited for a couple of dry days to let the crack dry out, and then he filled the crack from the inside with silicone. This was the best solution as the cracked tile was under the solar panels, and therefore inaccessible from the outside. This is not a permanent solution, and will likely require the same treatment in a few years as the silicon can degrade over time, especially if it is exposed to sunlight.

Seriously, a good handyman is a godsend - they can do most things and don't charge ridiculous prices. In fact, I'm still waiting for him to send me the bill, which is all of $25.

To ensure the repair was working, I drew a pencil mark around the stain and monitored it in the following weeks (in which we've had plenty of rain). The stain hasn't worsened in colour or size, so I think I'm in the clear. The handyman was quite impressed with my idea of drawing around the stain, which I got from seeing medical shows where they will draw around a rash to monitor whether it is spreading and how quickly!

So the next step will be to prime and paint over the stain, and hope that it blends with the rest of the ceiling so that I don't have to repaint the entire ceiling!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Review: K-Mart Multi Grater, Slicer And Dicer

I recently purchased the K-Mart Multi Grater, Slice and Dicer after watching Mind over Munch videos on YouTube.

There are eight different attachments for slicing, dicing and grating. The whole thing seems quite sturdy and made of good quality plastic. Dealing with all the blades is a little tricky but I didn't cut myself.

So during my recent meal prep, I used it to grate my zucchini, chop capsicum and chop red onion.

The grating attachment did great (get it :P) job with the zucchini. I didn't use the safety guard as I had the stalk of the zucchini still attached and I was careful when getting closer to the end.

So far, so good!

Perfect for grating zucchini so far

Then I put on the larger chopping attachment for the capsicum. I had cut it into larger pieces and could fit 3-4 pieces on the blade at once. This is where things started to go downhill...

To chop, you push down the lid, essentially squashing your vegetable onto the blade. You have to push with a fair amount of force until the vegetable suddenly gives way to the blade and is chopped. My concern with this is that the vegetable is becoming quite crushed and bruised in the process - fine if you're going to eat it or cook it straight away, but I'm not sure how well the produce will go in the next few days.

I switched out the large chopping blade for the smaller one to chop red onion with the same issue. The onion was getting quite bruised and battered. And it didn't prevent the tears from flowing when transferring it from the bowl to the dish I was preparing! I've read that the secret to cutting onions without tearing up is to use an extremely sharp knife, as the gas that is released from the onion that makes you tear up is released when the onion's cells are broken or crushed. So that makes sense.

Things did not improve when it came to cleaning this gadget. While it comes with a little multi-pronged pick to clean out the part of the lid that pushes the food through the blade, cleaning the blades themselves was a nightmare. Because the food wasn't cleanly chopped, bits of crushed capsicum and onion were stuck in the blades. Added to the fact that I was trying to avoid cutting myself, I was finding it impossible to get the chopping blades clean. I eventually resorted to using my eyebrow tweezers to pick off all the vegetable matter!

See all those globs - thats bits of mushed onion that I had to use tweezers to remove!

Whilst the vegetable chopping might have taken less time than using a knife and a cutting board, the clean up well and truly used up that saved time and then some.

I suppose I should have thought this through - in my journey to minimalism, purchasing another kitchen gadget that takes up space and costs money when my existing knife and chopping board can do the same thing was not a good decision.

I've washed it all thoroughly and will be returning it in the packaging as soon as possible!

Overall, if you don't already own a mandolin and a cheese grater, this gadget would be useful. Cleaning might be easier with a dishwasher but handwashing it is a PITA!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Decluttering: eating the elephant

In the interests of tracking my journey to minimalism, this is what I've tackled lately. And because a post without photos is pretty boring, I've put in a few of my instagram photos. To keep it simple I've gone with a black and white theme!

Digital clutter

  • Feedly - I deleted lots of blogs I no longer read, or are no longer active. In the process I discovered some old favourites where my subscription wasn't updating, and listed all the blogs in one list, rather than lots of different folders. 

  • Gmail & Email subscriptions - huge changes here! At one stage in the past I had over 1000 unread emails in my inbox. Many of them were things I'd signed up for but never read, or forwarded emails from my dad that I never had time to read. I would periodically spend a couple of hours filing all of these emails into folders, to get my inbox down to 100 or so unread emails, but recently I decided even that was too much. I filed a lot of things, but also took the time to read the forwarded emails, deleted things that were no longer important, unsubscribed from all the mailing lists I never read, and also went through my previously filed emails and deleted hundreds and hundreds of emails I finally realised I would never get around to reading. My aim is to keep my inbox within one screen (I think that's 50 emails), and be more mindful with my email - open things I've subscribed to, delete the emails that aren't of value to me, and respond to emails in a timely manner (specifically those emails that are 'hey, I thought you'd like this/find this interesting/this is the thing I was telling you about - I used to ignore them upon first seeing them, thinking I'd get around to reading them at some point). 

  • Facebook page likes - I use Facebook daily. My feed was cluttered with articles and content that I wasn't really engaging with so I decided to go through all my page likes and cull them - anything I didn't recognise or no longer supported/identified with got deleted. In the end I got rid of over 100 page likes. I can't tell yet whether it has made much difference. I also do this with my friends list periodically. My rule is that if I wouldn't recognise you in person, or I would but I'd cross the street to avoid saying hello (just because I didn't feel like a superficial conversation with someone I didn't really know well anymore) - you're gone! Also, if it's your birthday and I can't be bothered wishing you happy birthday then DELETE! It sounds harsh but it's so liberating. Now my friends list is carefully curated with only the people I want on it. Since a huge cull a few years ago, the list has grown with friend requests from people I meet. Mostly I do accept them, because I know I can always delete them later, but if it's truly someone I don't know very well, or know in a more professional context, I don't accept the request. Of course there is also the unfollow option for when you don't want to offend someone you still see in person, but don't really want to see on Facebook either.

Decluttering digitally is a great way to start a decluttering journey - it seems easier than removing physical items from your life. It's also quite quick and the results are instant. There's no in-between mess or trips to the op shop/uploading items for sale to eBay etc in the middle.

Physical Clutter

This is the overwhelming part. When your entire house is stuffed full to the brim with possessions, it's hard to see the goalposts. A marathon session getting rid of bags and bags of things doesn't seem to make much difference overall. But as a dear friend used to say - how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

I think the gradual approach also helps to build positive habits - it becomes a regular action and part of the routine.

Last night I had a bit of break, but I've tackled small spaces each evening, while watching TV or listening to podcasts. So far I've tidied and decluttered my wardrobe (plenty more to go!), nighstand, book collection, handbags, shoes, lipsticks and lipgloss and miscellanous items everywhere- coffee table, random boxes under the bed etc.

My strategy involved a couple of approaches:

  • keep only the items that belong in that place
  • return other items to their rightful place - maybe that's just shifting clutter but when I get to decluttering that box/cupboard/shelf at least I'll be looking at all the lipsticks/pens etc.
  • don't be afraid to throw things away - whether they're sitting in your house or in a landfill makes no difference (with the obvious exception of items that can be reused/donated/gifted because they are still useful, functional or in good condition). The act of throwing it in the bin is hard because I hate the thought of it all going to landfill. But that difficulty is momentary - like getting an injection, and saves you from having the same angst again and again with the same item because you never got rid of it the first time.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Decluttering: starting small

Recently something clicked and I starting decluttering some stuff. I donated some handbags I never used, clothing, a lot of books and about 5 years worth of magazine subscriptions. It felt a little overwhelming but I persevered and made sure I took the items to the op shop that same day so that they weren't hanging around for weeks, tempting me to change my mind.

It doesn't look like much in the photo, but this is what I donated:

Getting rid of all this stuff hardly seemed to leave a dent. It made me realise I had a long way to go if I really want a peaceful home, only surrounded by the items I love or find useful, rather than being suffocated by stuff that I never use or forgot I owned.

I heard some advice to tackle decluttering which seemed to make sense: if it all seems overwhelming, just start with one space. A cupboard, a drawer - whatever you can tackle in the time you have. To keep the momentum up, I went through a tray on my coffee table that held remotes, pens, a tissue box and an assortment of other crap. Having it all on a tray was my solution to containing the mess. I put things away in their rightful place, threw out papers, perished rubber bands and lots of little things that I had no use for (and no one else would). The results were great!

The next night I continued with the 'drawer' in my nightstand - the nightstand itself is a box with a shelf near the top and a bigger open space below. I had a large shallow rectangular container and a smaller one acting like a drawer, housing my lip balm, nail files, moisturiser, charging cords etc. Over time this had become full of random safety pins, receipts, hair pins etc and it desperately needed a clean out.


After - not beautiful but clean and intentional, and the smaller container is empty!
I'm aiming to continue this a few nights a week, but I've found the mentality is spilling over into everything at the moment. I took 20 minutes to go through papers and files at work and got rid of a few things. I filed about 800 emails in my work inbox in about an hour, and in the process found flagged emails I needed to respond to that would otherwise have been buried amongst the rest. I got my unread emails in my Gmail inbox down from 400+ (at times it has been over 1000!) down to 24. I have never had such a clear inbox before. Some of that was just filing them all in folders, but I also deleted a lot of previously filed emails that I realised I would never get around to reading.

I had held on to all of these emails thinking that they contained valuable information that I wouldn't otherwise be able to access. But realistically, the chances of me reading these emails to stumble across a unique insight I can't find anywhere else on the web or in a book is just crazy. So I deleted hundreds and hundreds of emails, and unsubscribed to as many as I could. And it felt amazing! Now I can really focus on each email that comes into my inbox, rather than quickly scanning everything, deleting the obvious junk and only opening the ones I thought were important. Time will tell if I can keep it up, but it would be really amazing to keep the inbox to one screen of emails at all times.