After the rain: Everything is washed clean

 

The weather in Cape Town is fantastic.

 

After the drought crisis, we’re even happy when it rains.

Rainfall can be extreme, every now and then it rains so much in such a short time, water flows in streams down the roads.

 

And into our garden, which gets flooded.

The terrace, the walls, the plants are being sprayed clean from dusts.

All the woodchips start floating and get a good wash.

The sand in the dog’s running track gets leveled out and settles perfectly.

 

The next day is like a fresh start, as if nature spring-cleaned, or well winter-cleaned, all outdoors.

 

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After the #rain: Everything is washed clean. #LoveCapeTown

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#LoveCapeTown

 

Blessed is the rain

#Blessed is the #rain. Even when we get too much of it! It was raining like a waterfall, our garden is not draining quickly enough and gets flooded. After the Cape's #drought crisis still a #welcome sight.

 

After the Cape’s drought crisis, rain is always a welcome sight.

 

Even when we get too much of it!

 

It can rain like out of buckets, with thick heavy raindrops pelting down like the clouds ripped open. The pouring rain blurs your vision like a waterfall curtain and everything is instantly soaked wet.

All the water from the roof and the terrace flows into the garden.

 

 

Our backyard is all clay ground and apparently we did a really good job with our raised flowerbed wall.

So the water drains very slowly, too slow for the water masses building up in minutes. And our garden gets flooded.

 

Luckily the rain stopped just in time for the woodchippings not to float over the poll and into the dogs’ running track.

Because I had just laboured away a day at getting that sorted and neat.

 

All in preparation for the bad weather to come.

As that’s just one of the wonderful effects of heavy rain: Everything gets washed clean.

 

#LoveCapeTown

 

Stuff I found in the garden: Domino

A Domino piece I excavated from our garden.
A Domino piece I excavated from our garden.

 

The things I find in the ruins of The Broken Palace vary so much, from building material and tiles to bottles to coins

And then there are more personal items like kids toys that give an insight into the life the people at The Broken Palace lived.

 

Such as this Domino:

I like to think elderly men sat on the stoep playing a fierce game of Domino:

Slamming the Domino piece on the table with a loud slap as if it was in the face of the opponent.

Their laughter echoing far over the streets of Woodstock.

 

If you know more about the Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de. 🙂

 

Stuff I found in the garden: Vintage Harveys Bristol Cream bottle piece

This piece of glass excavated from our garden can tell a story.
This piece of glass excavated from our garden can tell a story.

 

I love excavating things that have enough information on them to date them.

Amongst the endless amount of glass shards buried in our garden, I do find every now and then an intact bottle or a piece of glass with some inscription on it.

 

This small piece of the bottom of a bottle reads “Harveys Bristol”.

Turns out this is a sherry called Harveys Bristol Cream.

 

Furthermore, their bottles are blue now, and changed from green to blue in 1994.

So this bottle is definitely from before 1994, and probably vintage.

 

I can just picture how the residents at The Broken Palace sat on their stoep, sipping on a glass of sherry on a warm summer evening.

Does this ring true or is it just a romantic notion? If you know more kindly get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de

 

Stuff I found in the garden: 1952 South Africa 3 Pence Silver Coin King George VI

I can start a coin collection:

South Africa, 1952, Threepence (1937 to 1952), King George VI Series – Silver Threepence (Tickey)
South African 1952 Silver Threepence (Tickey) (1937 to 1952), King George VI series. As per Professional Coin Grading Service: The obverse design: Head of King George VI. Inscription: “GEORGIVS VI REX”. Designed by Henry Paget (“HP”).
1952 George VI South African Silver Threepence
1952 George VI South African Silver Threepence. As per the PCGS: The reverse design: A Protea (National Flower), in full bloom, forms the center of the design. An inverted triangle surrounds it. The sides of the triangle consist of three bundles of four sticks each. The three bundles denote the coin’s value and the sticks represent the four provinces of the Union of South Africa (Transvaal, Cape, Orange Free State, and Natal). Inscription “SOUTH AFRICA” to the left, the date at top center, “SUID-AFRIKA” to the right and “3p”, flanked by two little flowers to the left and right, at the bottom center. Reverse design artist: Kruger Gray (“K” to the left and “G” to the right of the flower’s stem).

I found another 3 pence coin amidst the rubble of The Broken Palace in our garden.

It is part of the 1937 to 1952 King George VI series coins from South Africa and made from real silver.

But it’s so small and so light the value of the coin outweighs the value of the silver.

The 3 pence coin is also known as the “Tickey” in South Africa.

Even though the tickey was only around until 1960, after which the British currency was replaced by the Rand, the word stuck in South African vocabulary.

Many South Africans will remember the “Tickey Box”, the old public telephone:

Excavating relics from our garden is like a history lesson in action.

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

#DIY: #HowTo paint interior doors for a professional finish

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.

 

Stuff I found in the garden: Vintage Mother of Pearl button

 

Look what I excavated from our garden: A vintage Mother of Pearl button
Look what I excavated from our garden: A vintage Mother of Pearl button

 

The excitement of excavating something shiny when cleaning up the garden soil from rubble and debris!

 

I gave this Mother of Pearl button a rinse and it’s gleaming in the sun.

 

According to Vintage Button Emporium this nacre button is even worth something, like a pound or two. It is the rim that makes it more valuable than just a plain version. Craftsmanship is always worth something.

 

Interestingly, this button seems to have been fastened with a metal noose, which is still attached to it. So was it part of some sort of uniform maybe?

 

If you know more about The Broken Palace or the people who lived there and what happened that we’re digging up so many artefacts. please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: The various colours of our house

 

These pieces of plaster have been around for a while: They all show different layers of paint.
These pieces of plaster have been around for a while: They all show different layers of paint.

 

This looks like we have many houses buried in our garden, with the colour palette ranging through the entire colour spectrum.

I love how each plaster piece has at least 2 different colour layers.

Do they all come from one house? That must’ve looked like Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Villekulla.

Or are these remains of the houses that stood on the now abandoned corner of Greatmore and York Street?

And why are they still in our garden, why did no-one ever clean up the rubble?

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff I found in the garden: Metal bits

Metal bits and bobs that I find plentiful in our garden soil.
Metal bits and bobs that I find plentiful in our garden soil.

 

These are the contents of only one hole.

 

You might think I excavated this over time.

 

Far from that: The dogs start digging and I start collecting. This is the result of only one of their digging holes. I don’t even know what half of these things are.

 

The metal bits sit compacted on top of each other. Like parts of a house that has collapsed and been buried.

 

In a matter of one session of removing all items from the ground that could pose a danger to digging puppy paws, this is what I collect. Besides gazillions of nails and other unidentifiable scrap metal.

 

What happened to The Broken Palace that once stood here? Are these the remains? How come this never got cleared up? If you know more, kindly get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de

 

Stuff we found in the garden: Nails nails nails nails

It doesn't take long to dig out a variety of nails from our garden soil.
It doesn’t take long to dig out a variety of nails from our garden.

 

This is the reason why I start excavating when our dogs start digging: Rusty nails.

 

They are everywhere in the ground of our garden. When the dogs are digging, I have to extract the nails, preferably before the dogs even reach them. Who knows where they come from, but best to get rid of them before they come too close to any soft dog paws.

 

Only one hole dug by the dogs contains a variety of numerous nails making me wonder how it came to be that The Broken Palace was destroyed.

 

From masonry nails to tiny screws, from bolts to cut clasp nails to staple fasteners, this is a collection of pretty much every nail type there is. So how did all of these come to be in our ground?

 

If you know more about The Broken Palace please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff I found in the garden: Vial

What a find: A sealed Heynes Mathew Ltd. vial. It even still got some liquid inside.
What a find: A sealed Heynes Mathew Ltd. vial. It even still got some liquid inside.

A lot of the items we excavate from our garden are puzzling: I have no idea what they are or what they were used for, nor how old or from where, and most importantly: why they are buried in our ground.

The more surprising when it’s still intact and traceable: I’m always amazed that it is still possible to excavate entirely intact bottles. After removing the garden soil with a digger back to ground level, hacking at the clay earth to loosen it up, and dogs digging up the rest:

How amazing that this vial didn’t break. And it’s sealed! With something inside! 😮

It is even possible to read the pressed imprint of the manufacturer’s signature: Heynes Mathew Ltd.

Now, there’s something to research! And it comes up with results, even with dates:

Extract from The Cape Town Guide (1897) p139:
“Heynes, Mathew & Co. – This firm so widely know throughout South Africa was established in Cape Town at the beginning of the century. Their operations increased so rapidly that they found it necessary a year or two ago to construct new premises, and these are now amongst the most attractive in Cape Town. Heynes Mathew & Co.’ Building is six stories high, and is situated at the corner of Adderly and Longmarket Streets. The first floor is let to various tenants, but the remainder of the building is devoted to the requirements of their large business. They manufacture numerous specialities for their trade, and are agents also for many remedies which have a world-wide reputation.”

Even though the Heynes, Mathew & Co. building has been demolished, it appears the company still exists: HEYNES MATHEW LTD – DIVISION OF SA DRUGGISTS

Maybe they can help me date the year when this vial was made. 😮

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Antique cord plug

I excavated this from our garden. What could it be?
I excavated this from our garden. What could it be?

 

After excavating what appears to be a door knocker, I thought I had dug out a door bell next.

Wondering why you’d want both – maybe the people at The Broken Palace were especially hospitable – I’d better double check.

 

As I started researching my find I quickly realised things didn’t add up. The mechanism of a push button door bell would look very different:

This 'original art deco vintage wooden electric door bell push press button' looks similar to my garden excavation, but when it's opened up to show the mechanism, it's clear that this doesn't match up.
This ‘original art deco vintage wooden electric door bell push press button’ looks similar to my garden excavation, but when it’s opened up to show the mechanism, it’s clear that this doesn’t match up.

In contrast:

 

Instead there are three prongs sticking out at the backside similar to the Australian thee pin plug:

This ‘black 3 pin extension lead AU/NZ plug top’ looks quite similar to my find.
This ‘black 3 pin extension lead AU/NZ plug top’ looks quite similar to my find.

In comparison:

 

 

So maybe this is an antique cord plug for lamps or fans like these:

These antique replica mid-century plugs look quite like my excavation.
These antique replica mid-century plugs look quite like my excavation.

Quite a resemblance:

 

However, the shape of the three pins is quite different. Some similar looking plugs refer to ‘early’ electric style, so maybe this is what plugs used to look like in South Africa in the early days of electricity?

If you know what this could be, or have references to antiques in South Africa, or remember The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Playing giant lego in our backyard

 

Our new garden design: Chillout area with braai at the back.
Our new garden design: Chillout area with braai at the back.

 

Progress in our garden is slow: There’s still so much fixing going on around the house, that our backyard is mostly abused as a storage facility.

So when finally the east wall got done, we had some extra space freed up to move the concrete blocks.

And the rest was left to play:

Like tending to a zen garden, an empty space is quite inviting to be reflective and creative.

 

The first time the concrete blocks turned into an interactive group seating area:

 

Now the concrete blocks form a centre piece, as the garden work will continue along the garden wall. They cover quite a bit of ground, which will prevent dust being blown around. And they stretch out like a giant sofa, an outdoor lair, complete with backrest and bird bath. And of course, the braai at the back:

 

With water restrictions plans for our garden are changing, so let’s see what the next giant lego reshuffle will look like. 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Iron Rosette with Pull Ring

Digging stuff out from our garden: What could this be?
Digging stuff out from our garden: What could this be?

With a new puppy in our home, we got a new force for digging at work. Gigi has reached that stage, where digging is the coolest thing ever.

Luckily our garden is not yet done and our dogs can dig as much as they like. In fact, they’re actually helping us: With the clay ground it’s super hard labour and with an entire house buried in our backyard, there’s still plenty to excavate. So wherever you dig, you’re bound to dig something up.

This time it’s an Iron Ring Pull with Flower Rosette. At least that’s the closest I came to finding something on the internet that resembles this.

An 8 petal iron rosette with a twisted pull ring. Was this perhaps the door knocker of The Broken Palace?

Could this be the door knocker of The Broken Palace?
Could this be the door knocker of The Broken Palace?

If you remember this door knocker or know anything about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

How to compare LED lights

The Evolution of the Light Bulb
The Evolution of the Light Bulb

 

As incandescent light bulbs are banned and fluorescent light bulbs are poisonous, LED lights are the way forward.

However, prices vary greatly.

 

What to watch out for when buying LED lights:

 

Fitting:

Check first if you need a Bayonet or Edison screw base.

 

Lumens:

Lumens are the amount of light emitted per second. The more lumens, the brighter the light.

If you’re used to watts for determining the brightness of the light, consult a conversion calculator.

 

Lifetime:

The better the quality of the LED, the longer the lifespan. But also, the higher the cost.

 

Dimmable:

Dimmable LEDs cost about 40% more than non-dimmable LEDs of similar wattage. Alternatively the switch can be replaced.

 

Light colour

LED light bulbs are mainly available in ‘warm / soft white’ or ‘cool / bright white’, meaning you can choose between comfy accent and daylight task lighting.

 

The handshower our saviour

Our handshower did everything for us: dishes, dogs, rugs, clothes...
Our handshower did everything for us: dishes, dogs, rugs, clothes…

 

Decisions, decisions!

Do we need a bath, isn’t that just a water waster? Should we have the shower in the bath or stand-alone? And if we go for a separate shower cubicle, can we at least have a handshower in the bath tub?

The handshower it is, and thank goodness!

Who would’ve thought we end up with this one handshower as the only water point in the entire house besides the showers, meaning we washed our hands, did our dishes, brushed our teeth, all with this one handshower.

It was like doing an AfrikaBurn in our own house.

Turns out also my mum ended up doing the dishes in their bath tub when they got a new kitchen.

So this is just another one of those bizarre experiences that weirdly enough some people you’d never expected share with you and totally understand what you’re going through.

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Antique tile from Belgium

Marked CGCB Jurbise, Made in Belgium, this tile could be close to 100 years old.
Marked “CGCB Jurbise, Made in Belgium” this tile could be close to 100 years old.

 

According to The Antique Floor Company:
CGCB is the inscription for the Compagnie Générale de la Céramique du Batiment (commonly shortened to Cerabati), a period ceramic tile producer which were an amalgamation of some of the older companies in Paray-le-Monial, Bourgogne and other usines around France.

 

As per Mario Baeck‘ doctoral thesis “The Flourishing of Belgian Ornamental Tiles and Tile Panels in the Art Nouveau Period”:
In addition to these floor tile factories there were a few earlier established factories, which made fireproof fireplace tiles, floor quarries and tiles for other forms of heavy use, such as the S.A. de Produits Réfractaires et Céramiques de Baudour and Utzschneider, Jaunez et Cie in Jurbise, established in 1876 by Charles Michelet.

 

As researched for GR-Atlas all these different factories united under one name in 1921:
En 1921, les différentes usines de la société Utzschneider et Edouard Jaunez deviennent La Compagnie Générale de la céramique de bâtiment ou Cerabati.

It also states that due to difficulties this factory closed in 1985:
Cependant, dans les années 1980, le site connaît des difficultés et l’usine ferme définitivement en 1985.

 

So this tile could date back as far as 1921, but it is definitely from before 1985. Even if it’s not antique that still makes it vintage.

Was this maybe a tile in the fire place of The Broken Palace? And was it common practice to use imported tiles from Europe?

 

If you know more about Woodstock’s unique history, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Belgian tile from early 1900s

One of the tiles we found in our garden dates back to 1901 - 1911.
One of the tiles we found in our garden dates back to 1901 – 1911.

 

Marked “De Baudour, Oscar Gerard, Directeur” on the inside, and “Ste ANme de Produits Refractaires & Ceramiques” around the outside of the circular emblem.

According to the Western Australian Museum: refractory, dark grey ceramic, made in Belgium.

As per iCollector.com: De Baudour opened as a pottery factory in southern Belgium in 1842 under Francois Declercq. Oscar Gerard was Director from 1901 to 1911, dating these tiles to that time period.

The question is when did these tiles make it to South Africa?

And: Are these tiles relics from The Broken Palace?

If you know more, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Over 60 year old Coins

 

In my Indiana Jones quest to clean out our garden so we can grow veggies, I came across this apartheid relic: Two coins from the 1950s.

 

South African coins from the apartheid era. Left: 3 Pence from 1951, and Right: Quarter Penny from 1953.
South African coins from the apartheid era. Left: 3 Pence from 1951, and Right: Quarter Penny from 1953.

 

Left: 3 Pence coin from 1951, Silver, King George VI third series (1951–52).

 

Right: Quarter Penny coin from 1953, Brass, Queen Elizabeth II series (1953–60).

 

Could this be a time reference? Was it maybe in the 1950s that The Broken Palace got destroyed? If you know more, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

 

Wood Treatment: To paint or not to paint?

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! 😛

 

#Construction: Always wear protective gear – Cement Burns

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

 

Lola the Mouse Catcher

Hello Mr Mouse! What you doing in our house?
Hello Mr Mouse! What you doing in our house?

 

We have mice in our house. They are not scared of us and run around the kitchen every now and then.

 

Our puppy Lola is of course intrigued but as we have pet rats, she must not chase rodents or any small animal.

 

But the mice are running across right in front of her!

 

And every time we cry out: “Mouse!”

 

So the other day she caught one.

 

I heard the tumult downstairs in the kitchen and then: “She caught it!”

 

I readied myself for the bad news of this poor mouse’s life.

 

“And she held it down with her paw, so I could pick it up. It’s in my hands now.”

 

Wow! Lola the Humane Mouse Trap! 😮

 

Mouse caught in our house

This little mouse and his friends are unwanted guests in our house. But they're so cute, and almost tame!
This little mouse and his friends are unwanted guests in our house. But they’re so cute, and almost tame!

 

We have some unwanted guests living right under our nose: Mice.

 

They’re super cute, and almost tame, at least in the sense that we don’t seem to bother them at all.

 

One of them got caught in a net bag when he was stealing chestnuts.

 

Lola found him and licked him all over, so that he was sogging wet.

 

I detangled him and put him in a fruit punnet with food and water to relax.

The fruit punnet makes a perfect mouse house.
The fruit punnet makes a perfect mouse house.

 

What a cutie! Somehow not really afraid of us.

 

But alas, he had to return to the wild, we set him free at a field. 🙂

 

All his friends however are still having a party at our house, every single night! 😮

 

#Construction: How to join a new wall to an old wall

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

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Ladle

One of the many 'excavations' from our garden: A ladle
One of the many ‘excavations’ from our garden: A ladle

 

This ladle is only one of the many kitchen utensils we excavated from our garden: Pots, pans, can openers, mugs, cutlery…

 

Now, did all these kitchen tools break and were dumped decades ago in what is now our garden?

 

Or are all these items part of the kitchenware from The Broken Palace? But shouldn’t they then have been packed up and moved before The Broken Palace was destroyed?

 

It feels so curious finding these long forgotten leftovers from a house that is shrouded in hearsay.

If you know what happened to The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Marbles

Some of the marbles we excavated from our garden.
Some of the marbles we excavated from our garden.

 

This is how I remember marbles!

 

A quick Google image search reveals that marbles really revved up over the years, have you seen modern marbles, they are amazeballs. Each one like a piece of art.

 

So I guess the marbles we found in our garden are a pretty good indication for a time reference: These look like from the 80’s / 90’s.

 

Anyone remembering playing with marbles at The Broken Palace back in the day? If so, kindly get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

#Tip: You can always turn it into a #Zen #Garden

Zenning our garden: The circular pattern is nice to look at
Zenning our garden: The circular pattern is nice to look at

 

Just because our garden seems to have an entire house buried in it, and the soil is full of building rubble and other curious rubbish, doesn’t mean it has to look like a construction site:

 

You can always create a Zen Garden

A Zen Garden is a doubly good idea:

1) Creating a Zen Garden is meditative

There’s something very soothing about raking patterns in the sand. Apparently a circular pattern is specially relaxing, as it takes more concentration.

2) Looking at a Zen Garden is meditative

In Zen Buddhism zen gardens were designed to stimulate meditation. As places of quiet contemplation and reflection, zen gardens offer a counterbalance to the modern life stressed out FOMO existence.

 

Even our puppy Lola added her contribution: 😉

 

The design of a zen garden is not meant to stay permanently. It gets easily disturbed and invites to create new patterns.

It is also a fun way to try out different landscaping ideas:

Zenning our garden: A pathway and some flower beds give it structure
Zenning our garden: A pathway and flower beds give it structure

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Shells

These shells look like freshly collected from the beach, but we excavated them from our garden where they were burried for decades.
These shells look like just collected from the beach, but we dug them out from our garden where they were buried for decades.

 

Another maybe a bit puzzling item we keep on digging up in our garden are shells.

It is so many of them, especially the shells of the moon snails, that this must still stem back from the days when Woodstock had a beach.

 

I wonder if The Broken Palace was maybe a beach house? Or are these shells coming from a time preceding The Broken Palace?

 

If you’d like to share any memories about The Broken Palace, kindly get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Balusters

Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden soil.
Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden soil.
Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden.

 

Yes, imagine digging out these babies! When all you wanted to do was planting some tomatoes…

At 63cm tall it really feels like unearthing a house. And it gives a better idea of “The Broken Palace” that once stood here:

 

The colours vary in layers of pink to yellow to babyblue, and leave a chalk-like imprint on everything they touch.

 

These concrete pillars look like Victorian style balusters:

Different styles of porch spindles.
Different styles of porch spindles

 

Just that they are like two opposing each other, similar to these symmetrical balusters:

Example of symmetrical balusters from a building in Italy
Example of symmetrical balusters in Italy

 

I’ve seen these on houses around the neighbourhood.

Do you know this particular baluster style?

Can you remember the Broken Palace being adorned with these balusters?

If so, kindly get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

#Tip: Just move in already!

Ready or not, here we come: Even though the house isn't finished, we moved in already.
Ready or not, here we come: Let’s move in already!

 

Of course: Everything takes longer and is more expensive than expected. Even if you planned for it.

So forget about planning for it. 😉

 

But how many times do you let the deadline slip?

I like to believe in third time lucky.

 

So when our builder said we’d be moving in by December, and then moved the move-in date to March, and then still did not look like he’s going to make it, we set the deadline to June. And made it very clear that we will be in, if the house is ready or not.

 

Of course, the house was not ready.

But we moved in anyway.

 

It was crazy, we literally lived on a construction site.

We had no kitchen and no water taps, no sofas and no space to sit, no cupboards or anywhere to hang clothes, not all the doors making it really very open plan. It was like doing an AfrikaBurn in our own house.

 

You will hear from anyone that living in the property while it’s busy being renovated / finished is a nightmare. Unfortunately you might have to face it if you want the building work to get done.

 

Can you spot this little fella in our house?

Artwork © Christian Ranzani www.ranzanidesign.com
Artwork © Christian Ranzani www.ranzanidesign.com

 

Taking the pitfalls of building our own home with a smirk:

What better thing to do than to adorn the cracks in our newly built walls with little comical characters. 🙂

 

If you can spot where this little guy is taking a cross-country adventure drive in our house, it’s a free coffee for you, on the house!

 

Beware the flat roof! 

Even our puppy Lola looks on in shock as the water just keeps pouring into our house from the leaking flat roof.
Even our puppy Lola looks on in shock as the water just keeps pouring into our house from the leaking flat roof.

 

Oh my, there’s a lot to consider with a flat roof. It seems to always come with problems…

 

And we don’t even have a flat roof, we just have a roof walkway. But that’s the weak point, and it leaks.

Assessing the damage on the roof walkway: This is where the water accumulates and seeps through.
Assessing the damage on the roof walkway: This is where the water accumulates and seeps through.

 

So when everyone rejoices that Cape Town is being blessed with rain, for us it also means we better get going to assess and sort the mess:

 

 

Of course we catch whatever water possible with buckets and pots. But most of the water runs down the wall, there’s no way to capture it besides mopping it up.

 

And of course we’re in the process of fixing that stretch of flat roof. But only the next rainy day will tell…

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Tiles

Let's begin the puzzle work! These are the ceramic pieces we excavated from our garden.
Let’s begin the puzzle work! These are ceramic pieces we excavated from our garden.

Luckily my grandma was good in passing on practical skills, such as how to puzzle!

Can you imagine that I put 6 tiles together out of the pieces we found scattered around our garden soil!

Flower Tile 1
Flower Tile 1

Flower Tile 2
Flower Tile 2

Flower Tile 3
Flower Tile 3

Flower Tile 4
Flower Tile 4

Flower Tile 5
Flower Tile 5

Flower Tile 6
Flower Tile 6

After decades of being buried beneath layers of building rubble, clay, soil and other rubbish, this tile is almost intact:

This flower tile is one remembrance of The Broken Palace we excavated from our garden.
Is this flower tile we excavated from our garden one of the remembrances of The Broken Palace?

Do you remember this flower tile? Was it part of “The Broken Palace”? If this flower tile triggered some memories, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Bottles

How can these bottles have stayed intact for decades?
How can these bottles have stayed intact for decades?

 

Our garden soil is littered with glass shards and I’m the one who MOOP swoops them.

But every now and then I get to feel like Indiana Jones, because lo and behold, I excavate fully intact bottles.

 

Interesting small bottles I dug up from our garden.
Interesting small bottles I dug up from our garden.

 

Quite delicate little flasks in shapes we are not even used to seeing anymore. How can it be that they didn’t break in all these decades? What were their contents, what were they made for?

If you can remember what these bottles were used for, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Excavated bottles we found in our garden from the good old days.
Bottles we found in our garden from the good old days.

 

We have a house buried in our garden: The Broken Palace

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 🙂

 

Open Plan is GREAT, but…

I had a shower and this is the result: Wet puppy footprints everywhere.
I had a shower and this is the result: Wet puppy footprints everywhere. 😉

No really, open plan is great.

Our bathroom is fully open plan. It’s a great design by The Workplace Architects and it works beautifully.

Of course the lavatory has a door, but other than that everything is freely accessible without any barrier in the way: The wet area is only divided from the main bedroom by a freestanding wall. Basin, bathtub and shower are enclosed in niches, and thus need no doors.

It makes the entire bedroom feel like a hotel suite, where you can just throw your clothes on the easy chair and simply walk into the shower as is. It is an invitation to let loose and enjoy the basics of life, unimpeded, surrounded by ergonomic functionality, everything is a flow.

But…

But of course, in a hotel suite there are hardly ever puppies or children.

With unhindered access in a completely open plan house, and the everlasting attention seeking impulse to follow or find you wherever you go, the only hiding place that remains is, ehem, the toilet.

But then again, who’d ever want to hide away from these cuties anyway. 😉

So yes, thanks to our open plan, me taking a shower means our puppy taking a shower. And tappeditapp her wet footprints are everywhere. 🙂

How to deal with dog wee in your garden

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

 

#NoStompies: Cigarette butts are not only a fire hazard but also really bad for the environment

These are old old cigarette butts we 'excavated' from our garden. They've been lingering beneath metres of soil and building rubble for years and are not even close to decomposing.
Old old cigarette butts we ‘excavated’ from our garden. They’ve been lingering beneath layers of soil and building rubble for decades and are not even close to decomposing.

 

Tossing cigarette butts is a crime

Did you know that you get fined for dumping cigarette butts?

Save yourself some bucks (up to 1.500 Rand in South Africa) and dispose of your stompies properly.

 

In addition, cigarette butts pose health and environmental risks

Cigarette butts are a potential fire hazard.

A devastating fire in 2007, allegedly caused by a cigarette butt thrown out of a car window by a tourist, which burnt tracts of Table Mountain and killed a British tourist, was the reason the City of Cape Town launched the stompie hotlineCape Town is the only city in South Africa with such a hotline.

Most cigarette butts are not biodegradable.

The picture above shows old cigarette butts ‘excavated’ from our garden. This is as far as it goes for stompies: They never really disappear. The fibres in the cigarette butt are not cotton or paper, they are most likely plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic.

– Cigarette butts are the most common man-made litter in the world.

Approximately 5.6 trillion cigarettes are smoked every year worldwide. Of those it is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts become litter every year. Cigarette butts discarded in parking lots, along sidewalks and in street gutters miles from the coast inevitably make their way through storm drains, creeks and rivers to the beach and the ocean and account for the single most commonly collected waste item found each year on beach clean-ups.

 

Please: #NoStompies!

Help combat the cigarette butt pollution problem and throw your stompies into the bin.

Report drivers who flick stompies out of their car window:
Call the stompie hotline control centre number on 021 424 7715.
Upload the incident on reportacrime.co.za.

 

Our new ‘guard’ dog: Lola the township rescue

Township rescue puppy Lola
Township rescue puppy Lola

 

According to HomeTimes’ article on profiling house robbers a dog is the number one deterrent for robberies.

We built a whole house with a garden to be able to get a dog, and if it’s also good for security reasons, we should do it sooner rather than later.

So I did my research on animal shelters and dog breeds and started to look out for a puppy.

But when I responded to a call for help, everything happened quite fast all of a sudden and Lola popped into our life.

A big time thanks to PETS (Pet Empowerment in Townships) who rescued her wandering the streets all by herself, giving this cutesy pup a second chance. 🙂

So yes, maybe she’s not the guard dog you’d expect, but she’s definitely the dog I didn’t know I had wished for. 😀

 

Woodstock – from a rat’s perspective

Interesting... What's on the other side? Rats are very curious!
Interesting… What’s on the other side?

 

You know, people say Woodstock is a bad place and anyone who mentions they’re from Woodstock gets this short flicker of pity as a response before everyone chimes in how it’s up and coming… 😛

Being born and bred in Woodstock, I can only say: We’re having nothing but fun!

Here it’s still wild, you can play on the streets, you can hang on the corner, there’s always someone around and people leave their door open, so when you walk down the street you can see everyone’s corridor, like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening here, every day is different.

But things got very different lately that we’re having a lot of upheaval with the neighbouring plot. All of the sudden all the peace and quiet is gone, and we’re disrupted by building works and general turmoil.

It used to be a peaceful place where my parents had built a shack from all the surrounding materials and because the supply was endless, they added on another room and extended the back and still had space for a nursery. Times were plentiful and we quickly grew in numbers.

So to have all this unsettled just because of some newbie neighbours who think they can make it all better was really upsetting. And while our philosophy is to stay back and let the bad smells pass (the southeaster usually takes care of things), this lot was particular obnoxious in their mission to ‘clean up the place’.

So one evening when we were enjoying just another awesome sunset with a sip of dad’s homebrew, we got an idea: Let’s just run over to the neighbour’s property, break in and poop all over the show!

And we did just that, and even took photos of it and posted them on the internet:

Rat droppings: Check out a rat's sure telltale sign of having taken over your space!
Check out a rat’s sure telltale sign of having taken over your space!
Rat poo in every corner!
Rat poo in every corner!

We had such a blast!

At first we were scared that someone might see us. But then we thought: So what if they see us? It’s not like they can catch us!

Once in, we had to find our orientation to figure out the best spot to place our poo. I chose the first corner from the corridor into the main landing. Like you can’t miss it! As I sat there, I let my eyes wander and realised what an awesome place this was:

There was rotten wooden beams and rusty roof sheeting scattered on the floor, perfect hiding places. There were bags of cement at the end, awesome climbing walls! And the best of it: There were holes all over the place, and just in the perfect size for us to squeeze through. Shortcuts only a rat can take!

Thrilled by having accomplished our very dangerous but effective task of showing our disgust with our new neighbours, we ran around the house, checking out every corner and nook.

We sneaked up onto each other and ended up playing hide-and-seek and catch-me-if-you-can. Just as my sister got me and was tickling me senselessly – I was laughing so hard, the metal sheeting started wobbling – we heard something!

We both froze instantaneously, but it was too late: The initial fright had made me jump and brought the metal sheeting off balance: it slipped and crashed on the floor with a bang.

“Eiiii!” we screamed in an eardrum-rupturing high pitch of fright and ran off.

But just a couple of jumps down the line we realised no-one was following us and couldn’t help ourselves but giggling from excitement all the way home.

So yeah, I love Woodstock, things are real here. 🙂

Not all polystyrene can be used for insulation

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. 🙂

What is the ideal spec for a roof overhang?

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?

How to measure stairs

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.

 

 

 

How to count stairs

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.

Waterproofing your external walls – French drain

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.

Where to put the washing machine in your house?

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. 🙂

What is the ideal spec for stairs?

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?

Benefits of home insulation

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.

 

My Home, my (Sand) Castle?

Heavy rains caused our new foundation trenches to fill up like a moat around a castle.
Heavy rains caused our new foundation trenches to fill up like a moat around a castle.

The South-Easter, Cape Town’s (in)famous wind, hauled this past weekend with rain pouring down like out of buckets, causing our flat to flood. Or, as I try to euphemise it: Adorning our living room wall with a water feature… 😉

A similar sight greeted us on site, where the rain had accumulated in the trenches and wouldn’t drain off thanks to the high amount of clay in the ground.

This somewhat turned our construction site into an adventure play ground or a giant sand castle, including moat and all.

You can see, walking across the trenches over the planks turned into a bit of a tricky but also fun thing to do: 😉

More surprises, surprises as the boundary beacons are identified

See the red dot? That is actually where our property ends. Oops!
See the red dot? That is actually where our property ends. Oops!

Surprises, surprises: As our boundary beacons are established, it turns out our existing building does not match up with the boundary walls.

We’ve come a far way from the one diagram I received when buying this house. And now that we finally identify the boundary walls it turns out, it’s all askew!

But hey, this time the surprises might play in our favour. It looks like we gain some ground, even though it’s not like we can do anything with it.

Surprises, surprises: Stripping down the ceiling shows we’re in luck

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. 🙂

Digging out the foundation reveals there is no foundation!

Digging out the foundation reveals another of those surprises, surprises: There is no foundation!
Digging out the foundation reveals another of those surprises, surprises: There is no foundation!

I somehow thought that the hard part – that of restoring and sourcing original heritage building components – was over.

But of course, the surprises surprises! never stop: Turns out there’s no foundation!

As the back of the house gets prepared for the new construction, the foundation is excavated. Digging always seems to come with surprises around our 100 year old property: This time we were surprised to find no foundation at all beneath the old bathroom.

Well, maybe not too surprised, this is Woodstock after all. But it means the entire bathroom needs to be demolished.

Somebody seriously just plopped an extra room on the ground. Or, worse even, as the toilet was traditionally outside of the property grounds, we assume they might have just built the bathroom around it. 😉

Finally printing the final final approved plans

So excited to see our building plans printed out for real! :-) So excited to see our building plans printed out for real! 🙂

 

It took us over a year just to get all the signatures on our building plans.

And while they were final all along, they’re only final final once you hold the finally approved plans black on white on a piece of paper, properly printed, in your hands – for reals! 🙂

Home renovations: Knocking down the entrance wall

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. 🙂

What colour to paint your house?

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. 😉

Two years on and the abandoned plot is finally cleaned up

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…

Solid hands-on craftsmanship: Carpentry

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.

Finally, the column falls

A bleak moment, coming to terms with this column no longer standing.
A bleak moment, coming to terms with this column no longer standing.

It was a tragedy bound to happen:

At long last, after a century of standing strong, in storms of weather and history, the structure finally gave in.

And it was a gentle touch that did it in the end. A mere tap sent the column flying. Falling off the wall, for the briefest moment suspended in mid-air, gliding like one of the many seabirds that circle these grounds.

Anyway, that’s what I imagine it was like, as unfortunately I missed the moment. 😉

I’m just glad that darn thing fell now, rather than later! 🙂

A walk through Woodstock for inspiration on heritage doors

Hidden treasure in Woodstock: What a beautiful original oregon pine heritage door!
Hidden treasure in Woodstock: What a beautiful original oregon pine heritage door!

Renovating our 100 year old house means we need to restore it back to its original heritage look. But what exactly is that?

Especially in a neighbourhood like Cape Town’s Woodstock, a hub of craftsmanship, you see a lot of alterations to the buildings. And, as a traditionally ‘grey’ area, with the mix of cultures every house is unique, adding to the eclectic ‘Woodstock look’, an inspiring variety of styles and colours.

So when it came to deciding on a new – old entrance door, I took pictures of front doors in Woodstock I like.

It was pretty quickly clear the heritage door Woodstrippers had offered us is a great match. 🙂

Heritage Restoration: The house facade is taking shape

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! 🙂

DIY Restoration: Where to find heritage doors & windows in Cape Town

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. 🙂

Seeing double: Now that we’ve got the frame, we need to get a new – old door!

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. 🙂

Cleaning Up Your Sh*t

Bakkie overload: 4 bakkieloads is what we cleaned up from our neighbouring plots...
Bakkie overload: 4 bakkieloads is what we cleaned up from our neighbouring plots…

An Open Letter to the people who dump their rubbish in Woodstock:

It is actually FREE to drop off your waste at the Woodstock dump.

It’s a stone’s throw away and all you’ve got to do is to go on a little further.

Yes, it can be that easy to do good. 🙂

Please: #NoDumping

It’s good to be kids!

The local kids are having fun exploring our heritage site.
Doing the grand tour through our house, showing the kids what it looks like during renovation.

When the local kids came to play in front of our house with the sand we had been delivered for our heritage renovation I couldn’t help but playing along.

This ended in us taking a grand tour through the building, which is more construction site than house at the moment.

The workers had left for the day and the tools had been stored away. But just to make sure, we played the game: Don’t touch anything! 😉

As I’m busy documenting the progress of the restorations, I took some photos along the way.

In this picture my new friends had some fun jumping about. I just love the energy of it. 🙂

Our neighbours' kids are having so much fun, it's great to be kids!
It’s great to be kids! Having fun and being happy for no apparent reason. 🙂

Construction site turned playground

The local kids are turning the construction site into a playground.
Let’s play! The sand we got delivered for building our house is quickly turned into a playground. 🙂

When the local kids are playing right in front of your doorstep, it’s hard not to join in

I never miss a good playing opportunity and kids are simply best at it. 😉

And of course, what do you play best in front of a property renovation site? How to build a house, of course.

So when we got lovely fine sand delivered to our site, the kids quickly took over.

To get the sand to not spread around everywhere, I asked them to build something tall, for which we need to push all the sand together in one place.

This worked for about 5 minutes:

The local kids are playing in the sand we got delivered for building our house.
Wouldn’t it be a great game to push all the sand back into one tall heap? Yes, for maybe 5 minutes or so.

The mission turned very quickly back to building something great. What would it be?

The finished result: A water slide! Now, all we need is water! 😉

Digging up the dirt: Levelling the ground in the back garden

In order to build up two storeys at the back of the house, we have to level the ground. Over the years the ground level in the back garden has risen and we have to remove all the excess earth. Two truck loads!

Things are getting serious when this digger arrives on site.

And yet again we have suprises, suprises: Looks like there was some kind of foundation at the back of the property before. The digger is having a tough job breaking through rubble and removing it.

It’s like being on a proper construction site with these machines maneuvering around. 🙂

Somebody drove into the side of our house and left a dent

Yupp, the things that happen: For Biscuit Mill Market lots of people come to Woodstock and park all over the place. One of them apparently in our house. :(
Yupp, the things that happen: For Biscuit Mill Market lots of people come to Woodstock and park all over the place. One of them apparently in our house. 😦

 

Watch the wall getting fixed:

Watch the hole in the wall getting repaired:

 

One of those surprises: Turns out we have to open up the side of the building, as someone drove into it and caused serious damage, letting water creep into the brickwork, making it all crumbly and loose. All the old and damp bricks have to be replaced to ensure this wall can be standing another 100 years.

 

A dent in the side of our house.
This doesn’t look like much, but thanks to this ‘dent’ in our house, we had to tear open the whole wall.

How to get the information you need in Cape Town

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. 🙂

When your house goes walkabouts

The column falls!
As the third column falls, it is only the beam across on top that holds the columns up.

Over night our beam got stolen.

It’s not just that it’s ours and can we please just keep our things, thank you very much.

And it’s not that we have to keep it and restore it, because our house is heritage and every piece of original wood helps.

And it’s not that by taking away the beam there was a significant risk that the column, which it stabilised, could have fallen and now we glance up at it every day and pray it holds up.

No, it actually is the person who buys this piece of wood. Without a buyer, there wouldn’t be this petty crime.

So my husband went from shop to shop until he found the beam. They had paid R150 for it. Which goes at a loss for the shop now, as the least they can do is give back the stolen goods.

Two entrances and no beam
Seeing double: As the entrance door moves forward to give more space to the front room, we’ve got two doors now! Oh yes, and notice the missing beam?

Walk through the skeleton of a house

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.

How is this house still standing?

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!

100 year old wallpaper

100 year old wallpaper
Renovating a 100 year old house in Woodstock brings some treasures to light: 100 year old wallpaper

As we ‘excavated’ 100 year old wallpaper beneath all the layers of plaster and paint, we took a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship of the people who 100 years ago built this house and it’s still standing.

Well, just! With lintels missing above windows and beams stolen off columns, there’s a big portion of good luck involved in keeping this house upright. 🙂

It never goes according to plan. So why have one?

25 Greatmore Street Renovation - Last look back: This is never going to look the same again.
Last look back: This is never going to look the same again.

Well, it’s too late to contemplate if we should’ve made a plan or not. Because we kind of just started anyway.

We’re well underway of demolishing all the old stuff that’s beyond repair, so there’s no turning back.

It’s been a jump into freezing cold water – quite a wake-up call – and now we’ve got to swim it!

Welcome to the crash course ‘How to build a house‘! 😉