Getting Technical

Being in IT, the use of technology was always going to be incorporated into the use if some of the spaces inside the house. While I’d love to do some home automation, we just don’t have the funds to do it and the technology seems a bit disjointed at the moment. There is no single standard at the moment and if I was to do the things I wanted to I’d have about 10 different apps on my smartphone doing different things. Until it becomes a bit more streamlined I think it’ll have to wait.

At the moment all I have done is run some CAT6 to the bedrooms and living areas. The “comms cabinet” is at the top of the walk in robe where I plan to have a Plex server housing my multimedia. The Plex server will be accessible from the 60inch Samsung Smart TV I purchased for the living room. I should also be able to access Plex from my smartphone and cast to the TV via Google Chromecast.

The TV has 4 HDMI ports so I have run 3 cables in the wall from behind the TV to the TV unit below. The 4th cable runs from the back of the TV to the side of the space we have allocated for the lounge/sofa. This is so I can plug a laptop into the wall while sitting on the couch. It is a bit lazy, but makes it easy to stream movies from the laptop if Plex is not available.

For the audio I have started to purchase the Samsung Shape speakers to put around the house. This is Samsung’s version of Sonos and seems to be fairly decent from the reviews I have read. Hopefully they are true when it is time to use them. I’ll use these speakers for the TV and also to stream music from Spotify throughout the house and out onto the back deck.

We’ll see what else I can do with a limited budget…

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Finalising the Kitchen

6-01-2015 12-53-31 PMJust before Christmas we placed the order for our kitchen cabinets. It was actually quite a difficult choice in the end. We didn’t want to play it safe and go with an all white Kitchen that seems popular now. Everywhere we went seemed to display glossy white cabinets with a white benchtop. So stark and boring!

We played with the idea of having half timber and half black cabinets with “Sleek Concrete” stone benchtop but it was something we struggled with visualise so decided against it. We knew we wanted to use black in the kitchen so replaced the timber look with matte white. It continued to evolve until we finally decided on matte black, matte white and a marble style benchtop.

After sitting on this design for a while we were nervous to lock it in and go ahead with the order. Black is such a statement in a kitchen so it would be a bold move. We’d have to like it and we’d have to live with it if we didn’t. No matter how many photos we looked at online we were apprehensive to take the plunge. In the end the builder forced our hand as if we didn’t place the order it would have delayed the build so we had to move.

We are still yet to decide on the benchtop but are thinking Caesarstone Frosty Carrina as our original choice of Calacatta Nuvo is way above our price range.

I have created a mockup of the kitchen in Google Sketchup, hopefully it turns out the same!

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No Longer a Fibro

As of late last week, the house is now a weatherboard house! The Fibro and Asbestos are nowhere to be seen! It has been a big few weeks.  The roof is on, all internal walls have been built, the new plumbing is done and the electrician has ran all of the new wiring to the extension. Late last week most of the Windows went in and our builder started cladding the house in Weathertex Old Colonial. By the end of this week the majority of the cladding should be on, the deck built and by next week we’ll be ready for the plasterboard!

Photos below…


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Last Minute Decisions

The past few weeks have been fairly hectic! We are at the stage now where the decisions we make are final. We can no longer sit on ideas and designs, it has to be decided on and we have to be happy with the choices we have made. The issue of late is that we have had so long to sit on our ideas, that when the builder asks for things we have a late minute change of mind and have to rush around Sydney buying things so we don’t hold anything up.

An example of this was a few weeks ago when the builder asked about our main bathroom Vanity. As documented in an earlier post, we were going to custom make our vanities. We sat on that idea for a few weeks and then all of a sudden we needed to know the specs of the vanity as the plumber was coming to “rough in”. This was on a Monday morning right before were we going to leave for work. We have to cancel our meetings, head out and buy a bathroom vanity. In the end we were happy with the choice but these last minute decisions under pressure could potentially lead to some bad decisions.

Over the past week we have gone through our choices and confirmed them, placing orders and buying everything so it is all ready to go, and that means the choices we make are final.  Our bathrooms accessories are all purchased so there is no going back now!


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2 Months In

It has been a few weeks since the last update! Aside from trying to decide on vanities and other fittings for the bathroom and kitchens, the builder has been busy getting the framing finished off, demolishing the existing internal walls, ceiling, kitchen and bathroom and the roofer has been on site this week putting on the fascia. We were hoping the majority of the roof would be on by the end of this week but it looks like it’ll happen next week now.

The electrician has been on site this week relocating our power box. It has to be moved as the wall it is currently on is going to get removed.

By the end of next week the roof should be on, the windows and doors installed in the new extension ready for the cladding to begin. The builder says we’ll be all locked up by Christmas!

Take a look at the progress below.

Altereco_Cottesloe Drive_78

Vanity Blues

So we are at that stage of the build now where actually have to start making decisions and purchases. Up until now it has all been looking at display homes, showrooms and photos online. By now we have an idea of what we want and the look we are going for so now we just need to spend some money! Sounds easy, but not quite.

One purchase we need to make shortly is a bathroom vanity. The first bathroom completed will be the main bathroom which will feature a freestanding bath and all the other usual things you’d find in a bathroom. We have already chosen our floor tiles…

Bathroom Tiles

We have spent the last few weeks looking for the vanity for this bathroom and just can’t find something we like. Everything seems to be shiny white that just won’t suit the look we are going for. The floor tiles will be as above, white subway wall tiles and the walls above the tiles painted a dark grey. We’ll have a long pendant light over the bath, most probably black. We like the idea of a raw timber look vanity. Originally we thought a single slab of timber with a basin, but then the lack of storage was bothering us so we now want a raw timber vanity, with drawers and 2 basins.

Something similar to this…
Photo from

As of yet we are unable to find anything at all similar to this, or even in raw timber so we are going to explore the option of having it made for us rather than purchased off the shelf. At least this way we’ll get what we want rather than settling for a white shiny reflective vanity!

Featured photo from


Full Steam Ahead!

Things have really started to move over the past week! All of the ground work was completed last week and the floor bearers and joists started going in last Friday. Over the weekend we decided it would probably be best to move out of the house so the builders could get stuck into it properly. Us being there was just holding things up and it would have meant some trades would have to visit twice which probably would have cost us more money in the long run. We packed our bags and moved out on Monday afternoon.

Since Monday the floors have been laid, the frames have gone up and the new roof trusses have gone in. The house is no longer a fibro house, all fibro was removed on Tuesday morning. The builders have also started demolishing the inside of the existing house.

Over the next few days most of the work will be in the roof, getting it ready for the colorbond to go on next Thursday. The windows for the extension should also go in next week and once they are in we can start cladding it. We have gone for the Weathertex Selflok Old Colonial Smooth which we’ll probably paint a mid-dark gray. The colour we have chosen for the Colorbond roof, widows and fascia is Surfmist.





Slow Movin’

So we are at the start of week 4 and are barely out of the ground. The weather over the past week has put the builder slightly behind. By now we were hoping the brickwork should have been completed and we’d be ready for the frames when they arrive.

The bricklayer is due back on site this Thursday but only if the builder is able to waterproof the retaining wall and backfill behind it.

The frames will arrive on Thursday and if all goes well they’ll be up by the end of next week.

Then things should move a bit faster…


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Day 1 is finally here!

We have finally began breaking ground! We have to level the backyard in order to lay the foundations an brick piers for the extension. The excavator hit some unexpected rock, so this may add another day or so to the excavation, and probably more cost. Other than that, there is not too much more to report! Some photos are below…


Tribute to an Australian 1950’s Fibro

aerialLater this month (pending weather), we finally start the long planned renovations to our 1950’s fibro and timber cottage. Built in the post-war housing boom, the land was originally owned by the government and built for the Department of Housing. This house is pretty much all original, minus a wall that divides the kitchen from the dining and living that looks like it was knocked out around 2008 judging by old real estate photos. From what we can tell from a grainy 1955 aerial photo, there was also an outhouse that was knocked down sometime before 1965.

There isn’t much in terms of “features” in the current house. It is a 2 bedder and has a total size of about 70sqm. It’s typical of a 1950’s affordable housing build, consisting of fibro exterior (and some interior) walls, pine timber floors, timber double-hung sash windows, 3/4 height dado rails and nice 9ft (2.8m) high ceilings. The lighting has been updated to modern down-lights and the kitchen had an Ikea upgrade sometime this decade. There was once a fireplace however this was boarded up in the early 2000’s and is now home to a possum. Another possum also inhabits the roof space. Sometimes they fight in the middle of the night.

Insulation mustn’t have been a “thing” in the 50’s because this house has none of it. The house is freezing cold in the winter and stinking hot in the summer. It is almost impossible to control the temperature and if it wasn’t for the $400-a-quarter-to-run split system reverse cycle air conditioning we would have moved out a long time ago. Even still, in the middle of winter we wake up to dripping wet walls and and have to regularly scrub the mould off them. During summer it is usually warmer inside the house than outside and the air-con runs all night. As soon as we turn it off the cool air escapes from the non-insulated walls and quickly climbs to a balmy 35 degrees.

Despite its age, the house is pretty solid. We have had some high winds and heavy rain over the years and the ceiling has remained dry. The stormwater drains are all blocked up and during heavy downpours we have our own waterfall. We also could have got all of this fixed over the past 4 years, but we always planned to renovate. It has just taken us longer than we thought it would to get to this point.

The government sold the house around 2004 and we are the third owners since then. The previous owner also had big plans for this house however they had a child and it all understandable become a bit too hard so we purchased it in 2010 for around $550,000. Similar houses in the area are now selling for $750,000+.

While this neat and tidy house has served many families over the years, some who probably needed it more than others, it is nearly 65 years old. Although we love living with native Australian wildlife, it is time to give it a bit of a facelift and create some more space to hopefully one day be home to our family.

September 2013


Planning a renovation isn’t easy. You think you know what you want until you see it on a plan, then all of the sudden you have all these new, great ideas. It is very easy to get carried away with it all and you think if you add a bit here, take from there, make this room bigger, make the hall a little wider, that it won’t all impact the cost. It is easy to get ahead of yourself until you realise you have to pay for it all.

We started the design “process” in April 2013. We had some ideas so we went to the draftsman and he drew up a few plans for us. The first design we chose was this one below, and slowly it evolved over a 10 month process to what we have today. As it stands right now (January 2014) we are still yet to be certified so who knows if will will have to make more changes.


April 2013

From this plan we wanted a few changes so we ended up with the below in May 2013

May 2013
May 2013

We sat on this for a few weeks and then decided we didn’t like the front of the house. We also didn’t like the position of the kitchen. Ok, we didn’t like much about this anymore. At this point we didn’t know what we wanted. We decided to change a few things around and ended up with the below…

June 2013
June 2013

This is basically a entirely new design to what we had before. We liked this design much better so we went with it. The final version of the house is based on this, although we did make a few changes. After a few small tweaks we ended up with this in July…

July 2013
July 2013

Between July and August we made small changes to the above plans and ended up sending them to a builder to quote. Things were moving in the right direction!

Not for long. The builder said due to us extended to the left of the existing house, we would need to change the roof so much that it would probably be cheaper to just knock the house down and start again.

Back to square one. We had a design we linked, it just needed to be made a bit smaller. In September we had this….

September 2013
September 2013

A few more tweaks in October and November. Nothing changed too much and we went back to the builder to get some quotes. The builder came back with a few small changes, mainly around the roof line so we had to redesign it. During this time we also decided that we’d prefer the laundry in the garage as we preferred the rooms to be bigger.

Our latest, and final design is below. After what feels like forever we’ll go to the certifier in the next few weeks and see if we can get these approved so we can start building in March/April. Fingers crossed!


January 2014
January 2014

Apartment or House?

When we started our property search back in 2010 we thought we knew what we wanted. It was an apartment in Sydney’s Inner West. At the time we were looking for something close to the city, cafes, restaurants and a suburb that was trendy. Our search brought us to Summer Hill, Dulwich Hill, Marrickville, Earlwood and surrounding suburbs.

We thought we couldn’t go wrong and were prepared to spend over half a million dollars on an apartment that would have shared common areas with an unknown amount of people, as well as common walls, with people living above and below you. The only outdoor space we would have had would have been a small balcony or at best a courtyard.

In 2010 the Inner West property market was red hot. We were fighting with thousands of other young couples wanting to live in the trendiest part of Sydney. We went to a few auctions and lost out on countless amounts of our “dream home” for prices sometimes more than $120,000 over our budget.

After a while we were trying to figure out why we actually wanted to live in these small, over populated, old, damp and over priced units. We thought we wanted it, but after some reflection we realised it actually was something that we didn’t. We wanted our own piece of land, a backyard we could spent time in, something with potential and a house we could really make our own.

It seems the rest of Gen Y are only catching on to this dream now. It was reported this week that people our age who are looking to get their foot on the property ladder are finally realising what they want.

GENERATION Y’s love affair with inner city apartments could begin to sour in coming years as the lure of a house and a backyard proves too strong.

Three years on and we have definitely made the right choice. If we had bought a unit, we would be now looking to sell. We are about to renovate our house as it is a bit too small for our future dreams. At least we have that option as if we had a unit it would be time to sell and we’d most probably loose money.