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I painted this bathroom door myself and love the result.

I painted this bathroom door myself and love the result.

 

When our builder’s workers started applying the primer on our interior doors while they were still hanging, I knew this would end badly.

So I decided to save some costs and paint the doors myself. It couldn’t get worse than how it had been done so far.

Of course I knew nothing about painting doors, so I first had to do my research which I’m happy to share:

 

Good Practices for Painting Interior Doors

 

1) Lay down the door flat on saw horses

Painting a new interior door is easiest on saw horses:

–  Only when the door is removed from the frame can you reach all the edges. Especially new doors need to be sealed everywhere to prevent moisture from entering – that includes the bottom edge.

–  Only when the door is lying flat down can you achieve a smooth streak-free paint finish. It is easy to miss drips and runs leaving unsightly paint marks on your door. Plus you’ll avoid any mess on the walls and floors.

If the door is already installed, take it off for painting. Interior doors are hollow and easy to remove from the hinges.

 

2) Clean the door

Make sure there is no residue or grime on the door that would spoil the paint.

Wipe the door clean with soapy lukewarm water.

 

3) Sand down the door

If new or old, before painting you need to roughen up the surface.

Use a sanding block for profiled moldings and sandpaper on flat boards to smoothen any irregularities.

Clean up the dust with a vacuum or brush and damp cloth.

 

4) Fix any holes

Should the door have any holes, cracks or scratches, fill them before applying any primer or paint.

 

5) Dampen the surface

This trick is meant to help you achieve a smooth paint finish:

Wet the door’s surface slightly with a sponge or cloth.

When applying paint on the damp surface, it’ll take longer to dry, giving you more time to smoothen out any unwanted streaks or tears.

 

6) Prime the door

New doors need to be primed to ensure good adhesion of the finish coats. Already painted doors need no primer if they’re in good condition.

Apply one coat of primer and let it dry.

Sand down any irregularities.

 

7) Paint the door

The best way to avoid brush marks is by avoiding using brushes. Only paint the tricky parts like edges and ornamental designs with brushes.

Use a foam roller on all straight surfaces for an even looking finish. You might need to apply an extra coat, if the foam roller spreads the coat too thin.

Apply as many layers of paint as needed for a great finish. If you can still spot some irregularities, give it one more coat. It actually goes quick and will leave you truly happy with the result.

 

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Juice bottles: Cut the head off, drill some holes in the base - for some practical flower pots.

Juice bottles: Cut the head off, drill some holes in the base – for some practical flower pots.

 

The shape of these juice bottles is actually ideal for flower pots:

– The diameter of the bottle is about 10cm, a standard size for flower pots.

– The base is raised into a punt and gives the ideal points to drill drainage holes: As they are raised, it ensures there will always be a bit of water in the very bottom.

– The top bit can be used as a greenhouse roof to protect seedlings from weather and mice.

 

How to make flower pots from soft drink bottles:

With a pair of nail scissors, cut the top bit off.

You’ll have to cut round, that’s why it’s easier with nail scissors. Follow a line on the bottle, it’s hard not to cut skew.

Depending on the length of roots the plants will grow you can keep the bottom bit quite tall or cut it down to a standard size.
Because the plastic is see-through, you can leave a wide rim above the ground level which keeps in all the mess.

Drill drain holes in the base of the bottle.

Hold the drill steady, it’s easy to slip on the plastic. Drill about 5 holes around the centre point of the base.

Depending on the water consumption of the plant you can drill large holes so the earth will drain well or small holes to capture water.
If the plant likes wet feet, you can drill the holes higher up.

Drill ventilation holes in the top bit of the bottle.

Hold the drill even steadier, this is a slanted surface. Drill about 5 evenly spread holes in the shoulder of the bottle.

You can use the remaining  bottle tops as mini greenhouse roofs. They fit very tight into the flower pot and won’t easily come off.
Depending on the humidity preferences of the plant, you can drill large holes for good ventilation or small holes for capturing moisture and heat. 

 

#Reuse #Reduce #Recycle #ChooseToRefuse #NoPlastic 

 

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Aside from aesthetics, for practical reasons alone paint is the best wood finish.

For its long life expectancy alone paint is the best wood finish.

 

With hopefully some rain coming to Cape Town during winter we need gutters!

 

But before we can install gutters, we need to decide on the look of the fascia, the trim board on which the gutter sits on.

 

Paint is generally the longest lasting finish for wood, but we’d like to keep the natural wood look.

 

Apparently there’s a well kept secret for wood treatment: water repellent preservatives (WRP).

 

The U.S. Forest Service did some research on ‘Wood Finishing: Water Repellents and Water-Repellent Preservatives’, pointing out:

“Homeowners can avoid many exterior wood-finishing problems by first treating with a WR or WRP solution to guard against damage to the wood and paint caused by water and by decay and stain fungi (mildew).
WR or WRP treatment of wood is recommended both before painting and also as a natural finish for wood.”

and concludes in their PDF ‘Water Repellents and Water-Repellent Preservatives for Wood’:

“Water-repellent preservatives can be used as natural finishes and can greatly improve the durability and appearance of wood exposed outdoors.
They can also be used as pretreatments prior to the initial painting of wood. The water repellent improves the dimensional stability of the wood, and the preservative improves the mildew resistance of the paint. These properties work in concert to extend the service life of the paint.”

 

So as long as we’re using water repellent preservatives that are paintable, we can start with the WRP wood treatment, and still apply paint later.

 

While this still doesn’t answer the question for us, it gets us a step closer! 😛

 

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Cement Burns right at the tip of my fingers... Ouch!

Cement Burns right at the tip of my fingers… Ouch!

 

There are still some snags around the house that we’re bit by bit attending to.

The other day we made good progress again, when plastering the remaining exposed brick work.

But when, after having asked already to finish the job nicely, I saw that there were still some gaps that had not been plastered shut, I took it upon myself to deal with it:

 

Being overly proactive, I thought: Let me just quickly smooth out the plaster and fill the corners properly.

Being highly perfectionist, it didn’t go as quickly as I had hoped.

Being totally absorbed by the task at hand, I did not feel any pain at first.

 

While dry cement is calcium oxide and relatively harmless to the touch, it turns toxic when wet:

The cement becomes calcium hydroxide, a highly alkaline substance with a pH level of 12 or higher. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, so any direct contact can result in serious chemical burns.

As the cement is eating through your skin, you only feel the real pain when the outer layer has breached. Now the cement reacts with the water coming out from your wounds. At this point it gets difficult to simply wash off the plaster, as the chemical reaction progresses:

First brush off any dry cement, then rinse the affected areas with clean water for 20 minutes.

 

Dry cement is also dangerous when inhaled as dust in large quantities: Prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to a disabling and often fatal lung disease called silicosis.

 

Stay clear from any health hazards caused by cement.

Always wear the correct safety gear:

– overalls with long sleeves and full-length trousers

– alkali-resistant gloves

– waterproof boots

– safety glasses

– dust mask

 

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Looking at what lies beneath to find the cause for the crack reveals two coliding walls.

Looking at what lies beneath to find the cause for the crack reveals two colliding walls.

 

What to consider when building a new wall onto an old wall

 

1) Foundation: The new wall must sit on the same level foundation as the old wall.

“Where no foundations exist the new wall will not be on solid footings and will sag or crack. A single wall no higher than 1.8 metres requires a 300mm deep x 300mm wide footing, while a double wall, or a wall higher than 1.8 metres should be 600mm deep x 300mm wide.”

www.home-dzine.co.za/diy/diy-joining-walls.htm

“The success of a join in the wall without any cracking still lies in the foundation, however. Any movement of the foundation will result in a crack in the wall. Proper compaction of the new area before digging foundations is important. Alternatively, dig down to solid ground before laying the foundation. There is no short way to do it properly.”

www.homehandyman.co.za/building

 

2) Cavity: Any existing cavity must be maintained and continued.

“Before adding a new wall to an old one you must check with your building inspector to see if a vertical damp proof course is required between walls, and whether or not any existing cavity in the walls of the existing construction, needs to be continued into the new construction. Building regulations must be upheld at all times for your own, as well as any future owners, safety.

When tying new extension walls to an existing building it is important that the cavity is maintained. This means cutting into the existing walls to continue the cavity around the building.”

www.diydoctor.org.uk/projects/tiebrickwork.htm

 

3) Joint: The two walls need a joint between them. There are different types, but basically a joint is a gap between the two building parts.

  • Control Joint

“Most materials experience small changes in dimensions, due to temperature changes, moisture changes, sometimes long-term chemical changes, and loading. Dimensional changes by themselves do not necessarily cause problems, but if the movement is restrained by contact with another part of the construction which is unaffected, or behaves differently, it can result in cracking or overstressing of some elements, and possibly in structural failure.

The usual way of combating relative movements is to provide control joints, which are capable of opening or closing to a certain extent while continuing to provide the structural and enclosure functions of the element.

Movement of the foundations will also cause relative movement of parts of the construction, and is sometimes compensated by the provision of control joints, but this is a different type of movement and its magnitude is more difficult to predict. This is known as articulated masonry, and can be useful for constructing small buildings on relatively unstable sites.

Control joints are by definition a discontinuity in the wall, and thus they reduce the amount of support given to one part of the wall by the remainder of it, or by the building’s frame. In many cases it will be necessary to use sliding wall-ties to transmit some support across the joints.

The joints also must be sealed to maintain the integrity of weatherproofness, acoustic and fire isolation.”

http://faculty.arch.usyd.edu.au/pcbw/walls/control-joints

  • Expansion Joint

“Unlike control joints, expansion joints are left completely free of mortar. They are filled with an electromatic sealant to keep them free from water.”

www.doityourself.com/stry/control-joint-vs-expansion-joint

“Brick is the smallest dimension it will be in its long service life when it leaves the kiln. As it is exposed to moisture from a variety of sources including the air, wet mortar, rain and condensation, it will naturally expand since it is a clay product. Temperature will also cause brick to expand and contract. Consequently, it is important to incorporate expansion joints into brickwork to accommodate this movement. Expansion joints should be located where stresses or cracks are likely to develop in brickwork. Prime candidates for expansion joints include long expanses of walls, corners, offsets, setbacks, and parapets.”

www.interstatebrick.com/faq/what-spacing-should-be-used-brick-expansion-joints

  • Slip Joint

“Slip joints are designed to take movement on a load bearing structure such as corbel/slab and brick interfaces where a low friction sliding interface is required. They ensure that the load transfer is correctly through the centre of the horizontal joint thus eliminating any chance of fretting at the edge due to the rotation of the slab. Live load deflection of the slab by means of settlement of adjacent columns/walls and piers is also diminished. Applied in a continuous length they are ideal for both reinforced and post-tension slabs in car parks, shopping centers, airports, hotels and recording studios.”

www.parchem.com.au/construction/product/concrete-slip-joints/slipjoints/i/171

  • Toothing

“Toothing-in or Toothing-out involves hacking away every other brick in the main building at the point you want to join the extension wall to and then make a seamless connection from the main building with the house extension. For this to be possible, the builder needs to build with the exact brick size and for the bricks to be perfectly aligned with the existing building when constructing the extension.”

www.squirrelconstruction.co.uk/house_extension_toothing_in.php

“Toothing of the masonry is not permitted in many architectural specifications. Why does toothing provide less strength than raking or stepping back the masonry wall?

Toothing is not as strong because of the difficulty involved in properly filling and compacting the mortar for the full depth of the head and bed joints. Much of the mortar at the tooth portion of the wall must be installed by pointing the joints, and it is difficult to point the mortar in the back portion of the joints. As a result, these tooth joints are often poorly filled, and as a result, create a weak plane within the wall that is susceptible to cracking.

Toothing, however, is sometimes necessary when connecting to an existing wall. If the joint cannot be stepped back, providing a vertical expansion joint at such interfaces may be an alternative to toothing.

When toothing must be done, extreme care must be taken to carefully point these joints to ensure that they are completely packed with mortar for the full depth.”

www.masonryconstruction.com/how-to/toothing-considerations_o

 

4) Wall Ties: Wall ties strengthen the bond between the two walls.

“Wall ties are used in cavity walls to connect the outer and inner walls, or to connect a new masonry wall to an existing one.”

www.diynetwork.com/how-to/skills-and-know-how/masonry-and-tiling/all-about-bricks-blocks-and-wall-ties

“Wall ties should be flexible enough to accommodate the relative movement between both leaves of a cavity wall but stiff enough to transmit axial loads. Stainless steel wall ties should be specified.

Additional wall ties should be placed either side of the movement joint at every block course up the length of the joint and within 150mm of the joint.”

www.thomasarmstrong.co.uk/divisions/concrete-blocks-division/technical-guidance-sustainability/movement-control-wall-ties

 

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Usually the sourdough bread comes out nicely. Yum!

Usually the sourdough bread comes out nicely. Yum!

 

I have IBS and am looking into the Low FODMAP Diet in the hope to relieve my tummy from this grief.

 

FODMAP stands for ‘Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols’, or in lay terms: rapidly fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates.

Basically all non-complex sugars such as fructose in apples and lactose in milk or fructans in wheat and galactans in legumes or sugar alcohols used in artificial sweeteners.

 

One cause for IBS can be food fermenting in the large intestines. How about fermenting the food beforehand then?

That’s basically what sourdough is: Fermented flour.

So the good news is: Even if it goes wrong, it’s still beneficial for your digestion. Because the longer it sits, the more it ferments, and the easier to digest.

But: It also gets more sour and compact, a very different taste from the fluffy, light and sweet bread we’re used to from the supermarket.

 

Experimenting with my own bread starter, I experienced this to the extreme when my sourdough didn’t rise again after I fed it with more flour. In the hope it might just need more time I let it sit and sit and sit. When days started to turn into weeks, I decided: Either throw it or bake it.

 

So I put it in the oven and because it had been fermenting so much, there were no bubbles left to rise and the bread came out incredibly dense, almost moist.

Still, I like sourdough bread and find the taste goes particularly well with rich creamy gouda cheese. In addition, my tummy says thanks with a big warm fuzzy feeling of a healthy digestion. 🙂

 

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The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden:

The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden: “The Broken Palace”

 

Renovating a heritage house in Woodstock comes with lots of surprises. Turns out our garden is full of them too!

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden.

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden, and this is only the work of one morning.

 

Loving urban gardening we can’t wait to grow our own herbs and veggies.

But the ground in our garden is not what the lush grass field might have indicated.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of lush grass.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of grass.

 

Instead of digging up rich soil, we have to tackle the solid surface with pick axes.

Loosening up the soil in our garden has to be done with a pick axe.

Loosening up the soil in our garden is real hard work.

 

Beneath lies one jaw-dropping curiosity after another:

From dishes and pots and pans, to tools and screws and metal plates, to clothing, in particular shoes, also lots and lots of buttons, to entire intact bottles and lots and lots of glass shards, many many stompies,

to tiles that can be puzzled together from the broken pieces, metal roof sheeting, wooden floors, to entire bricks and even four matching columns,

to old light bulbs, coins from the 1950s, to lots and lots of bones, teeth, hair clips, marbles and other toys,

we’ve probably dug up an entire house by now, together with its contents.

 

So what happened here?

Neighbours tell me there once stood a house called “The Broken Palace”.

One anecdote goes that, as the naughty boys ran away from the police, they’d take a shortcut into the alleyways behind The Broken Palace. A fishing net would catch the police, as only the boys knew where to slip through.

 

As we’re uncovering more objects from the depths of our garden, we can only imagine the stories that took place here.

 

Do you remember The Broken Palace? Does any of the items we found in our garden jog some memories? If so, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

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Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.

Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.

 

Why is dog pee harmful to vegetation?

“There are three primary reasons why dog urine burns grass: alkaline urine pH, the concentration of the urine, and its nitrogen load.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

“One of the primary components in dog urine that affects shrubs and other plants is urea, a type of nitrogen waste that is produced as the body metabolizes protein. Because dogs have a large protein requirement in their diets, a significant amount of urea can be produced by a healthy dog. When a dog pees on your shrubs, the urea in the urine acts as a source of nitrogen for the plant and the surrounding soil.
Nitrogen is an essential element for plant development, and in small amounts the nitrogen provided by dog urine can actually benefit your shrubs.
While shrubs need nitrogen for proper growth and development, too much nitrogen can be detrimental; it can stunt or potentially even kill the shrub.” – Will Dog Pee Kill Shrubs?

 

How to prevent dog pee from damaging your plants

–  Protect your plants

While fencing your garden off is a bit of a harsh way to keep your dog out, raised flower beds are just as effective and have other practical benefits.

–  Train your dog not to pee on the grass

“Provide an area in your yard, away from your garden, consisting of sand and soil covered in mulch or pebbles, where your dog can urinate without harming any of your plants or lawn. Plant salt-resistant greenery and grasses near this potty spot, in case it has any accidents. These plants are typically found along the coast and are more urine-resistant than other flora.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

–  Steer away from (distressed looking) plants and trees

“Of course, a dog’s gotta go when a dog’s gotta go. But when you have the option, steer Fido to a lamppost rather than a tree and a bark covered area rather than a stressed-looking lawn. You can spot stressed trees by bark that is discolored or even peeling off around the base. And trees that are under six inches in diameter or have thin bark are at higher risk.” – Why Does Dog Pee Kill Plants?

–  Keep the pH in balance

“For the health of both your dog and your lawn, you should strive to keep your pet’s urine pH right around 6.5, and no higher than 7.
I recommend buying pH strips from your vet or at the local drug store to check your pet’s urine pH at home so you know when it’s in or outside the desired range. In the morning prior to feeding your dog is when you should collect the urine sample. You can either hold the pH tape in the stream of urine while your dog is voiding, or you can catch a urine sample in a container and dip the tape into the sample to check the pH.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

 

How to help your plants recover from dog pee

–  Neutralise the soil

“You will need to neutralize the acid fairly quickly or your vegetables will not survive – my father’s trick was to use a few tablespoons of baking soda in a watering can and water the area.” –  Is Dog Urine Bad for My Vegetable Garden?

“Sprinkling lime or gypsum in the affected area speeds up the recovery of existing grass, or new growth if you’ve reseeded, by neutralizing the acidity of the affected area.” – Gardening 101: How to have your dog and keep your garden, too!

–  Dilute the urine

“After your dog urinates on any plants in your yard, douse the area with water from your garden hose. A thorough rinsing of the area within eight hours of urination dilutes the urine enough to prevent damage to the plant, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. Don’t wait more than 12 hours to rinse the plants because this could actually increase the damage to the plant. Provide your dog with plenty of water to drink, which dilutes the urine even before it winds up in your garden.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

–  Treat dog urine as fertiliser

If you fertilise your lawn, take into account the overfertilisation your dog can provide and avoid fertilising these areas on top of it.

–  Consider plants that like dog wee

“Selecting plants that can survive getting drenched in dog urine is a good idea around your property perimeter. Violas, columbine, lilac, ornamental grasses and a host of other plants are virtually urine proof. Make sure the border plants are not poisonous to dogs.” – How to Stop Dogs From Urinating on Plants

“Clover is highly resistant to pet urine and helps maintain a uniformly green lawn.” – Benefits of a Clover Lawn

–  Grow a back-up lawn

“With a little planning, you can easily grow small “turf repair” pots in your back garden. All you need is a small plastic flower pot (3 inch is fine), fill it with some soil, either compost or garden soil, then sow a few grass seeds in the top. Give it a good water and leave it outside somewhere keeping it moist over the next week or so. When your dog has burnt a section of lawn, simply dig out the circle, drop your lawn repair pot grass into the hole and hey presto … fixed! You can set up a number of these pots next to your shed and the grass will sit happily in the pot until needed.” – Dog urine patches killing your lawn?

 

#UrbanGardening

 

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There's a big difference between EPS and XPS when choosing polystyrene boards for insulation purposes.

There’s a big difference between EPS and XPS when choosing polystyrene boards for insulation purposes.

 

Polystyrene is not like Polystyrene: There are many different uses for many different types of polystyrene.

Not all polystyrene sheets are usable for insulation.

For example, if they were made for packaging purposes, they probably don’t have many benefits for insulation.
In addition there can be  safety implications: Polystyrene is highly flammable, that’s why it has been treated with flame retardants when manufactured for insulation purposes.

There are two different types used for insulation: EPS and XPS, with XPS being the much more efficient option:

EPS = Expanded Polystyrene Insulation is less dense and cheaper than the other polystyrene insulation. It is also less effective.

XPS = Extruded Polystyrene Insulation is more expensive but also more effective:
– XPS is more moisture-resistant than EPS
– XPS foam holds R-value better than EPS

So when you’re looking for insulation for your home, make sure you ask for fire-safe XPS. 🙂

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It's all Chinese to me: What's the best spec for a roof overhang? One thing is clear from this Chinese temple: The more the merrier! ;) It’s all Chinese to me: What’s the best spec for a roof overhang? One thing is clear from this Chinese temple: The more the merrier! 😉

 

Why have a roof overhang?

Roof overhangs protect your house from rain, sun and even wind, as the eaves can have impact on the wind loading on the roof.

The damages these elements can cause to your roof are not to be taken lightly.

In fact, many experts state that every house should have a roof overhang.

 

The bigger, the better?

If it’s about protecting your windows and doors, it seems yes, the longer your roof overhang, the better. In addition, a roof overhang can lower your energy costs.

Of course there are engineering factors that restrict the length of the overhang.

However, it’s far more common that roof overhangs are built too stingy.

 

The ideal spec for roof overhangs

The size of the roof overhang depends on the property.

For example: On very tall buildings, there are hardly any benefits of roof overhangs as the surface areas of the walls are so high. But roof overhangs are a great system to protect houses 3 stories and under.

GreenSpec mentions an emerging rule-of-thumb that the overhang should be equivalent to a third of the overall wall height for protection from rain.

But that would mean we build multi story buildings with a roof for every floor, like a Chinese temple. 😉

So my advice is: Try and incorporate as much roof overhang as possible. 🙂

 

Also read: What is the ideal spec for stairs?

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To calculate the staircase, it's important to take accurate measurements of the stairs. Here Christian is measuring correctly the total rise of the stairs from the bottom of the first floor to the top of the second floor.

To calculate the staircase, it’s important to take accurate measurements of the stairs. Here Christian is measuring correctly the total rise of the stairs from the bottom of the first floor to the top of the second floor.

 

As if counting stairs wasn’t tricky enough, let’s look at how to measure them. 🙂

 

Definition of stairs

Stairs are a series of steps on a stringer that lead from one level or floor to another.

A step consists of a

– tread, the top surface of a step or stair, and a

– riser, the vertical section between the treads of a staircase.

The stringer is the inclined beam that supports the steps, quasi the backbone of the stairs.

Sometimes the tread overhangs the riser to create more space for feet, this is called nosing.

 

How to measure stairs

You measure the total rise of a staircase from the bottom of the first floor to the top of the second floor.

Note: Ensure this measurement goes to the top of the second floor, not to the bottom of it. Remember from ‘How to count stairs‘ that the staircase includes the landing, so the last step up onto the landing is the last stair to count. Accordingly the height of the stairs reaches to the top of the last stair, the last tread. It is easy to forget calculating in the last tread as it often continues into the landing and as such is not visually separated as a stair.

 

The total run is measured from the first riser to the last riser.

This is pretty straightforward and also helps when counting stairs: The number of risers is equal to the number of steps.

As you look at the staircase, each part that goes up vertically is a riser. The first riser starts on the bottom floor and connects to the first tread. The last riser starts on the second-last tread and reaches up to the top landing, which is the last tread.

Note: The nose has no impact on the total run or the tread depth. However, when you’re looking to lay carpet on your stairs, you need to calculate the nosing in.

 

 

 

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In this photo we see two stairs. Well, counting the steps of a staircase should be easy enough?

In this photo we count two stairs. Well, this looks easy enough?

 

Counting stairs should be a straight-forward thing, right?

Well, try building them and all of a sudden even this can get complicated.

The confusion happens around the landing, which can be forgotten to count as a step.

 

How to count stairs

1) To make life easier, always count stairs from the bottom up: Stand on the ground floor in front of the staircase.

2) Now, every time you lift your foot to place it on a step, counts as one stair. So, the first step you take places your foot on the first stair.

3) This includes getting onto the landing at the top of the staircase. So, the last step up onto the landing is the last stair to count.

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Protecting our East wall from damp turns out to be a challenge: The ground level in this service lane sits higher than our house. Also there's an interesting sewage system from our neighbour.

Protecting our East wall from damp turns out to be a challenge: The ground level in this service lane sits higher than our house. Also there’s an interesting sewage system from our neighbour.

Living on Table mountain’s slope anywhere in Cape Town probably means your property gets very wet during winter: Not only can it rain like out of buckets, the water masses coming down from the mountain also need to go somewhere.

To avoid damp problems arising every winter, prevention is key: Waterproofing is only half job. – Water needs to be diverted away from your house, and ample ventilation needs to be provided for moisture to evaporate.

In dense city areas, where buildings sit right on their boundary walls, there is not always space for sufficient drainage. Building into the mountain slope can mean having a higher ground level sitting right against your house wall. This is a continuous source of humidity and will cause rising damp.

As a solution the ‘French Drain’ pops up. There’s a lot to learn about French drains, so here a list of some helpful resources:

When do you need a French Drain.

How French Drain systems work.

There’s quite a discussion where to place the French pipe. A summary of best practices how to install a foundation drain.

Tips How to Build an Exterior French Drain System.

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Bad idea: Not only is this washing machine noisy in an open plan kitchen / living room space, it's also sitting on cheap laminate that just looks ugly very quickly.

Bad idea: Not only is this washing machine noisy in an open plan kitchen / living area, it’s also sitting on cheap laminate that looks ugly very quickly if there’s any leakage.

 

In most cases’ scenario, you move into your new home and have little option where to put your washing machine, as the connection points are already provided.

However, when you build your own house, you get to build around wherever you want to put your washing machine.

But with great power comes great responsibility, or, in our case, with many choices come many decisions.

So where is the best place to put your washing machine?

 

Washing machines pose two nuisances:

1. Noise

Less than 50 decibels indicates a quiet machine. But during spinning, it can go up to 80 decibels. That’s the noise level of city traffic or a vacuum cleaner.

So, unless you’re into white noise, you better prevent your washing machine from spinning noisily.

2. Leakage

Maintained right, water leakage should not occur. But then there’s Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong will go wrong.

So, unless you love watching the washing machine, you better prepare for and prevent any possible leakages.

 

These two factors leave for me only one logical conclusion:

The bathroom.

Even in an open plan house the bathroom is behind closed doors and since we’re most likely to be least often in the bathroom, a noisy washing machine is of no bother there.

A bathroom is generally tiled and thus equipped for water overflows.

Often houses have the washing machine in the kitchen. This is understandable if the bathroom cannot accommodate it, e.g. because it’s too small.

But our washing machine will sit in the downstairs bathroom, built-in so it’s proper silent at all times. Enclosed in tiles, so no leakage can come as a bad surprise.

There you go: a washing machine hassle free home. 🙂

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Our entrance steps are 300mm deep. Testing them with different sized feet. :)

Our entrance step is 300mm deep. Testing with different sized feet. 🙂

Thanks to my bad knee I developed a mild form of climacophobia, the fear of climbing stairs.

Any dodgy looking free floating staircase and I immediately freeze, knowing my knee can’t be relied upon to master any slippery slope.

So now that we’re building our own house, we get to define our own staircase, too and I’m wondering: What is the ideal spec for stairs?

I know from our structural engineer the standard spec according to the South African Building Regulations:
Depth: 250mm – the width of treads must be at least 250mm
Height: 200mm – single step risers shouldn’t be more than 200mm

But with only a depth of 25cm, already a shoe size bigger than 6 / 39 doesn’t fit flat on the step. So our plans suggest 300mm deep steps.

I guess I’ll have to be more conscious about climbing stairs and take note of those I prefer most.

What’s your favourite staircase? And what size are those steps?

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There's a reason for wearing closed shoes on a construction site...

There’s a reason for wearing closed shoes on a construction site…

Open shoes and rusty nails sticking out of the side of old wooden boards just don’t go well together…

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Heat loss around the house without and with insulation: Gaps around doors and windows 25%, Walls 25%, Floor 15%, Windows 15%, Roof 25%.

Heat loss around the house without and with insulation.

 

Why insulation?

It might be law!
In South Africa the ‘SANS 10400-XA (2011): Energy usage in buildings’ lists quite some specific insulation requirements.

It saves you money …in the long run.
So your energy bills won’t be literally going through the roof, invest in insulation and save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs.

It’s green.
Installing insulation saves energy and thus reduces your carbon footprint.

It keeps you comfy.
Insulation doesn’t just keep you warm, it can also keep the noise out.

It adds security.
Modern double glazed windows are difficult for break-ins, hopefully deterring any attempts.

 

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The old kitchen ceiling is stripped bare, revealing beautiful original oregon pine boards. As we want to do away with those awkward stairs, we need to fill the opening with the same type of wood.

The old kitchen ceiling is stripped bare, revealing beautiful original oregon pine boards. As we want to do away with those awkward stairs, we need to fill the opening with the same type of wood.

Unfortunately a lot of the original heritage components of our house had been destroyed when some badly designed ‘improvements’ were made to the building over the course of the years.

Luckily however, a lot of the resources at hand had been reused around the house. This came to light, as we stripped various parts of the 100 year old building for renovation, including the old kitchen ceiling beneath the second storey sunroom.

As we want to close up the current opening for the very awkward staircase, we need the same type of timber to complete the original flooring.

Stripping the ceiling revealed those wonderful old oregon pine planks were (ab)used to hold up the rhino board.

As all of the wood is still in good condition, we decided to not replaster the ceiling but leave it exposed. Thus, we can just use the spare floorboards.

Yeay! Instead of doing another hunt for heritage wood, we can just do the restoration with what we have. 🙂

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With the building walls being all shaky100 years ago they used clay instead of cement and by now it deteriorated so much, it crumbles under the slightest touch – it wasn’t clear if and how much of the entrance wall we would be able to take out.

The whole idea of moving the entrance forward is based on knocking down the wall to the old living room and turning it into an open office space.

The corridor used to be dark and narrow, creating a bit of a claustrophobic feeling. You’d literally get tunnel vision when entering our house.

Thanks to Le Cap Contractors we manged to open up the first room enough to let light and air in. The effect is amazing!

Such a relief! Now I feel I can breathe when coming into our house.

It’s great to see things are taking shape. 🙂

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A variety of colours: Different pieces of walls that have been demolished around the house.

A variety of colours: Different pieces of walls that have been demolished around the house.

I know there’s still a lot of time until the moment comes to make this decision.

But I’m not sure I’ll be better off then than now: Because I haven’t got a clue what colour to paint our house!

So in the meantime, I take note of what the house used to look like. With layers of brick, plaster, wallpaper, paint, it’s possible to peel back time and find new colours beneath.

But of course, the decision remains difficult, as it looks like this house had all sorts of different colours throughout the 100 years of its existence.

Now we have more colours to choose from! It even looks like our house went through a pink phase.

So I guess, everything goes… Back to square one. 😉

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Finally this abandoned plot is cleaned up and back to ground level.

Finally this abandoned plot is cleaned up and back to ground level.

It took the combined efforts of the neighbouring property owners to finally clean up the abandoned plot in between them:

Over the years this abandoned property caused a lot of trouble for the neighbouring houses, as the risen ground level meant damp in the building walls. Plus, any site that is not maintained invites dumping.

The abandoned plot's earth is up to 1,5m above ground level. The resulting dampness in the neighbouring property walls is causing damage. The rubbish is unsightly, too.

The abandoned plot’s earth is up to 1,5m above ground level. The resulting dampness in the neighbouring property walls is causing damage. The rubbish is unsightly, too.

Our neighbour put in some effort to clean up the excess earth and build a french drain.

The neighbour is tackling the abandoned property. This is not easily done and requires proper construction work.

The neighbour is tackling the abandoned property. This is not easy and requires proper construction work.

Nevertheless a lot of work needs to be done: The abandoned plot is still not down to ground level. The ground turns out to be so hard, it requires pickaxe and jackhammer. But it needs to be cleaned up, as it will always cause damp in the walls it touches.

A half finished job: There's still a layer of concrete-hard clay earth that needs to be removed. The dogs at the back show that the earth behind the vibracrete wall is still about 1,5m above ground level.

There’s still a layer of hard clay earth that needs to be removed. The dogs at the back show that the earth behind the vibracrete wall is still about 1,5m above ground level.

Finally, the abandoned plot is down to ground level. It’s possible to see that there used to be a walkway, maybe an old service lane? And we unearthed some sort of previous building’s remains.

Digging up the excess earth, we excavated an old walkway and some sort of foundation and old bricks at the back.

Digging up the excess earth, we excavated an old walkway and some sort of foundation and old bricks at the back.

Unfortunately the grounds behind the vibracrete wall are still bad, with excess earth burying our house almost half deep, some old building ruins, bricks, rubble and concrete, and lots and lots of rubbish that has been dumped over the years…

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Oldschool - Sedick the Carpenter is showcasing his craftsmanship: He's using a yankee screwdriver to fasten the 4 hinges for our heritage door.

Oldschool – Sedick the Carpenter is showcasing his craftsmanship: He’s using a yankee screwdriver to fasten the 4 hinges for our heritage door.

Our new – old heritage door needs to be treated the old-fashioned way.

Sedick, the carpenter, has just the tools for that:

In the photo he shows how to use the yankee screwdriver, a spiral ratchet screwdriver.

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The front of the house is being opened up and remodelled to accommodate the new - old heritage window. This is how the facade is meant to look like!

The front of the house is being opened up and remodelled to accommodate the new – old heritage window. This is how the facade is meant to look like!

Progress!

Now that we have an adequate front window, we can continue with the restoration of the facade.

To accommodate the new – old heritage window, the front wall needs to be broken open to its original structure.

What a difference it makes to change from a wide to a tall window. Excited to see the house is taking shape! 🙂

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Success! We found a beautifully restored Oregon Pine Heritage Sash Window! :)

Window shopping the literal way: Finally we found a beautifully restored Heritage Sash Window! 🙂

Buying a heritage house (all buildings over 60 years old) means anything you touch must be restored to its original.

Unfortunately a lot of the heritage components of our house got lost and brutally replaced with some ill-fitting windows, doors and flooring.

So now that we are renovating, we need to find original victorian windows and doors. Where do you get 100 year old windows and doors from?

We were lucky with these businesses who were able to help us:

Tique specialises in the architectural salvage and restoration of wooden fixtures from the Cape Dutch and Victorian eras – doors, windows and shutters in particular.

Strippers has vast expertise in restoring hand-carved furniture, revitalising the expert workmanship of religious statues, as well as restoring large solid wooden gates, doors and windows.

Ross Demolition‘s salvage warehouses offer exceptional-quality window frames, doors, flooring, lintels, kitchen counters and other treasures salvaged from homes around the country.

You can also go on a bargain hunt yourself and check out the City of Cape Town’s 24 recycling and waste drop-off sitesOne man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 🙂

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Seeing double: For security reasons, we can only go ahead demolishing the old entrance once the new entrance is properly finished.

Seeing double: For security reasons, we can only go ahead demolishing the old entrance once the new entrance is properly finished.

The idea is to move the current entrance forward and open up the first room – the old living room – to turn it into an office.

For security reasons it is easiest to first build the new entrance and, once it is properly lockable, demolish the old entrance.

To get going we needed a new – old doorframe. New, because we couldn’t reuse the old one, and old, because to go with the Woodstock heritage regulations, we have to restore the front facade to its original look.

Living In Delight had suggested checking out the Woodstock Drop Off Facility where we indeed got lucky and found an original oregon pine frame with fanlight for R50. A lucky bargain!

Now however, this frame comes at a cost: That of a befitting heritage door!

And because the heritage frame and door are wider than the new cheap and cheerful doors, we can’t use the old – new door as a placeholder.

So the challenge of the day is: Find a new – old door asap!

Luckily, thanks to the hunt for the heritage window, I know now where to ask. 🙂

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Every little helps: Sharing my latest renovation challenge of finding a heritage window led to Jake drawing me a map to a shop, which turns out to be Tique, that indeed offers what we need!

On the back of the Tribe Coffee menu: This map led me to success!

As a European, if I need to find out something I turn to the internet.

In South Africa, if you manage to overcome absurd hurdles such as:

  • Connection issues
  • Cost issues
  • Data issues
  • Speed issues

Then you’re faced with a Google search result of: very little. And then half of the information is outdated.

So, internet is often not really an option.

Instead, word of mouth rules.

You got to get up close and personal and hit the streets.

For our victorian house renovations I needed a heritage window. Just another item of my long list of ‘challenges for the day’: Where to get a 100 year old window?

I got on my bicycle and rode down the road, popping into every shop that I thought might stock or know where to get what I need.

I learned a great deal about renovations, wood, heritage, styles. It was like a big puzzle where you first had to uncover the puzzle pieces. With every person I talked to another blank got filled in, somewhat completing a bigger picture.

I also learned that the craftsmanship of working with wood is literally dying out. So even if I do find a window, who is around to restore it?

It was only with a little luck that I got the info I was after:

After a meeting at Tribe Coffee, Jake greeted me with his friendly ‘How are you?’ and I told him about my quest, searching like a detective for a victorian window.

He knew a shop, but not the name of it, so he drew me the map in the picture above.

And indeed it led me to success!

The X marks The Junction Hotel, in which Tique has set up shop. If you like antiques, but like, the real stuff, then this is a place to visit. They had exactly the victorian window we needed, beautifully restored to its original look.

So, get out there and talk to people, you never know where help might come from. 🙂

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It is exciting and frightening at the same time to see your house being stripped to the bare essentials.

Very necessary indeed to find all the hidden damages that need repairing. Surprises waiting at every corner, each single one with its unique challenge.

Also amazing to take a deeper look beneath the surface and appreciate the history of the building.

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No lintel above this window makes the house front very fragile.

Starting to take off the plaster from the 100 year old bricks bears some surprises. Such as: no lintel above this window!

Today we found out that the front window has no proper lintel and are wondering how the wall is still standing… Surprises surprises! I guess the next couple of months won’t get boring. 🙂

No lintel above the front window makes us wonder how the house is still standing.

Taking a look up close doesn’t make it any better: Still no lintel stretching over this side of the window!

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