Seasonal advice

Container conversion: Part 1

Southern side of studio (entrance)
Southern side of studio (entrance)

Just before Christmas last year we had a 40ft hi-cube container delivered to our block where it was installed in the bottom of the garden with the intention of converting it into a workshop/studio space for the resident artist. While said artist had some flash CAD plans prepared and was already visualising a New York loft-style space, at the end of the day it will be a glorified shed and storage space, which will hopefully reduce the amount of things piling up in my workshop.

Mounted on concrete piers, the long sides of the container face north/south and two sets of double doors (2.05×1.63m) and window spaces (1.06×2.3m) have been cut into the walls in preparation for French doors and louvred windows to be installed. There will be about 2m x 8m of workable space inside for a table and seating and a kitchenette (an old $10 school desk with a small sink cut into it). A 2mx2m store room will be positioned on the eastern end where the existing double doors are – one of these will remain useable so it can opened for airflow and to manoeuvre large items into the store room. We’re looking into a self-contained composting toilet for this space too.

Aerial view of container design
Aerial view of container design

The container will be wired up and insulated then lined with plasterboard. A roof will be built over it, extending on to the southern side to provide an outdoor, undercover area which we’ll pave with recycled pavers from an existing pergola construction currently sitting alongside the container. This, along with the space provided underneath by the piers, will provide air flow both under and over the container, helping with the climate control that will be required, given the artist is insisting she doesn’t want heating or cooling in the space. The first summer might test her.

There are plans for a recycled timber deck on the northern side looking down the paddock. Plumbing will be minimal, just enough to supply the kitchenette and to make a cuppa from time to time. As we often do here when it’s dry, waste water will be bucketed from the sink into the native garden surrounding the space. Water needs won’t be high with a composting toilet, and the artist is more into high-tech art making these days rather than painting.

It’s been a bit of a learning curve working out the how-tos for this conversion and I’ve been getting advice from various sources along the way, but we’re now into it and it’s really starting to take shape. We’ll keep you updated as it progresses…and when the resident artist finally takes over the space. Meanwhile she’s selecting lighting, flooring and working out paint colours…

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Saving every last drop

Dripping tapDrip, drip, drip…There’s nothing more annoying in the middle of the night than listening to a dripping tap!

You can lose a few litres of water an hour from a slow dripping tap and thousands of litres a day from a constantly running toilet. Dubbo City Council estimate that by fixing a dripping tap in your home you can save 5-50 litres of water/day – that can add up to more than $5! A leaking toilet can waste 5-100 litres/day.

Don’t you think it’s time you had a go at some basic home maintenance?

One of the big hardware stores has a very easy to watch video on how to change a tap washer, which is worth viewing if you’re keen to have a go.

Just note, when replacing a tap seal it’s generally a good idea to replace the spindle O-ring as well. This video doesn’t cover that part of the process. If you get stuck – you know who to call!

Remember not to turn taps off too hard and replace washers as soon as taps begin to leak.

Sydney Water have a great tip here for testing your toilet for leaks. Place a small piece of dry toilet paper at the back of the toilet bowl and check that it stays dry until the next flush. Toilet cisterns shouldn’t release any water between flushes.

Another way to test for leaks in your toilet is to put some food colouring in the cistern. Don’t flush but return at least an hour later. If the colouring is showing in the toilet bowl, the cistern is leaking. Don’t forget to look at your water meter in the process of checking for leaks.

Any major work on plumbing needs the care of a licensed plumber, but if you’re not quite sure where to start, give me call.

The Handyman’s 12 Days of Christmas

Cameron the HandymanOn the first day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“Toilet’s blocked again – you won’t be using it to even pee!”

On the second day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

”There’s still no water in the toilet, the bathroom light has shorted and you’ll have to use a candle to see.”

On the third day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“The front gate is off its hinges, the dogs are down the street and I’m looking like I’ll be a busy little B@*#%!@*.”

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“I hear four birds are calling in, three of them are artists, two own cats and one of them has my key.”

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“Fair dinkum, doesn’t anyone make outdoor furniture that isn’t put together with Chinese instructions and an Allen key?”

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

”I saw six geese a-laying on the farm I was working to lay five metres of paving for a new outdoor area, before Christmas Eve.”

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“Struth, I was offered seven swimming swans, six laying geese, five golden chooks, four calling birds in exchange for my Handyman fee!”

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

”I made a maid happy with my drilling and I told her I’d fix that leaky tap tomorra before it’s time for tea.”

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Handyman to me,

“I had nine ladies dancing in delight about the leaky tap I fixed for the grateful maid…turns out they’re all widows and have lots of jobs for me to come and see!”

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

Why are there ten lords a-leaping naked on our front lawn?” To which I replied, “If you can have nine ladies dancing, I’ll go a couple better…you obviously didn’t see the one hiding behind the tree?”

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“It’s the eleventh hour, we’ve had too much Christmas cheer – your eleven naked lords a-leaping need to go home so I’m ready for my nine dancing ladies who in the morning will be needing me.”

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Handyman said to me,

“There are twelve drummers drumming in my head, after eleven beers drunk ten hours ago on the job for the nine dancing ladies, accompanied by the happy maid and those pesky eleven leaping lords. Shut up those bloomin’ seven swimming swans, six laying geese, five golden chooks, four calling birds and the dogs barking down the street.”

Merry Christmas! Get in early with those jobs before the Christmas cheer kicks in!

Written by the Handyman’s marketing staff over a few drinks…

The birds are a twittering

Willy Wagtail eggs in nesWe’ve certainly had a warm start to spring and everywhere you look there are signs we’re in for a long, hot summer. The only thing holding back lawns at the moment is the lack of rain, but deciduous trees are either flowering or leafing up and spring flowers are coming up everywhere.

While the weather at this time of year can be a little unpredictable, it’s still a good time to start getting ready for the summer ahead. Some things you might want to have a think about for the coming months include:

  • Check your gutters – gutters that overflow back into the roof space are a common cause of damage in homes;
  • Check fly screens – most are easy to replace and stop that bug invasion that happens when the weather warms up;
  • Check your evaporative cooler* before you really need to turn it on – over winter bearings can seize up and the float valves stick shut;
  • Check filters on the internal unit of your reverse cycle air conditioner* – read the manual; it’s usually not a difficult job;
  • Fertilise your lawn and spray out weeds – use a selective broadleaf herbicide. Kamba M gives good control of most broadleaf weeds if use as directed. Spread your fertiliser at least two weeks after spraying for weeds. Tip: It all works better if your lawn is well watered before you start.

*Please take care if you’re climbing on your roof. If you’re not sure about working at heights, seek help.

For some more ideas of what you could be doing this spring to get ready for the long summer days ahead, check out an earlier post – Spring clean your way to a carefree summer!

If you have problems with any of these basic maintenance jobs, give me a call! I’m more than happy to give a quote. Don’t forget though, it’s a busy time of year for blokes like me and a little bit of notice is always appreciated.

Brrrr…keep the heat on the inside

fire in winterWinter is upon us. As the temperatures plummet outside, it’s really unfortunate when they drop inside as well.

No one has enjoyed the hike in electricity prices and unless you’re completely off the grid or well set up with a solar panel system, you’re going to be looking to find ways of maximising the dollars you spend on heating this winter.

So, a few basics to keep in mind over the coming months:

  • Installing ceiling insulation can reduce your annual power bill by 40%* (Energy Use in Your Home, Environment NSW);
  • If you’re in an older house, it might be time to consider renewing your insulation. Don’t forget to check corners of ceilings, walls and floors are properly insulated too, as heat will leak from these areas;
  • If you added up all the cracks and gaps, it would be the equivalent of having a 1 metre by 1.5 metre window open all the time. They can account for 15 – 25% of heat lost in your home* (Environment Victoria). Use weather stripping under doors and around windows to reduce leakage;
  • Polished floor boards in old houses are lovely – but you really will need something underneath to stop heat from escaping;
  • Let in the light! If you have north-facing windows in your house, leave your blinds up through the day to draw in as much free heat as possible;
  • Ensure you have heavy curtains you can draw in the evening, preferably with a pelmet above, so when the sun goes down you can to trap heat in the house;
  • Here’s an easy one…close off any rooms you aren’t using;
  • Insulate your external hot water pipes by wrapping with insulating tape to reduce the heat loss from your hot water tank to the taps, and reduce the energy needed to get your hot water;
  • Finally, watch the temperature and put on extra layers of clothing to reduce the temperature needed to keep you warm inside.

If you need help checking your place for drafts and doing some of the more basic winter maintenance jobs, give me a call on 0429 87 92 62.

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Gardens take a hit during a hot, dry Dubbo summer

tap_watertimer_webHappy New Year and here’s hoping for a wet one! One month into the summer of 2012/13 and it’s as dry as the proverbial bone. As we look to the skies for some relief and work at getting into the garden early in the day or during the evening to keep water up to thirsty lawns and plants, it’s a good time to reassess how you’re watering your garden.

Even if you have the luxury of being on a town water supply, you can’t just turn on the tap and walk away. It’s estimated that 2o-25 percent of drinking quality water is used on our gardens! Here are a few things to think about this summer while we wait for the rain.

  • Use a timer where possible for sprinkler systems.
  • Water your garden early morning or evening to reduce evaporation;
  • Water established trees, shrubs and lawns less frequently but deeply, allowing the water to slowly penetrate;
  • Mulch your garden with organic materials and compost to reduce evaporation and weed growth;
  • Choose plants that do well in dry conditions such as natives, succulents and mediterranean plants;
  • Group plants with similar watering requirements.

Dubbo City Council has a water conservation page on their website that is worth looking at, including a PDF document you can download called Sustaining Gardens in Dry Times.

Give me a call if you need a hand with your watering system, installing timers, mulching or general garden tidy-ups. And don’t forget to keep a bit of length in your lawn when you’re cutting it – the roots need some protection from the scorching heat.

Cameron the Handyman will be taking a break from the heat of Dubbo from 9 – 21 January.

Winter DIY tips

Cam the Handyman
Cam the Handyman plastering a brick wall as pre-painting preparation

It might be cold outside, but it can be a great time of year to catch up on some of those jobs inside the home. Here are some winter DIY tips for home maintenance.

  • When patching holes in plasterboard, use patching plaster (such as Lafarge MastaFix 20) as it sets faster and shrinks less than top coat plaster. Fill the hole with plaster and level off with a bread knife – don’t overfill the hole. When dry, apply a second, level coat. Keeping the fill level with the existing plaster will cut back on sanding and plaster dust – which can be very messy!
  • Under the kitchen sink is a prime spot for leaks which can come from a number of sources such as tap valves, O-ring, washers and flexible couplings. All are fairly simple to replace and will stop that swamp developing under your sink.
  • When painting indoors, start painting closest to the light source i.e. window, and working out from there. Light from a window or a floodlight will help you pick up the edge of the wet paint, which is handy when applying the second coat.
  • Door locks and handles get a bit of work in high traffic areas, particularly in winter when you want to keep rooms closed off. If they start to grab a bit and become harder to open, they tend to need replacing. However, before you go to that trouble try a graphite-based lubricant. Hardware stores have a large selection of door sets and most of them are fairly easy to install. If you get stuck you can always ring me!

If the days are warm and the chill factor isn’t too great, winter can be a good time to get some of those areas outside ready for the summer months.

  • Clean your gutters regularly. Anyone living with deciduous trees close by will know what a mess they can make, including clogging up gutters. Blocked gutters are easily fixed with regular maintenance, potentially stopping storm water pipes from blocking or water pooling in the ceiling.
  • Lately I’ve been using Sikkens Cetol HLS as an exterior surface application on timber outdoor furniture. It seems to be an excellent water barrier and looks good too. They have a number of coatings for different applications. If it handles the test of time, which they say is 1-2 years (but you might get longer wear out of it), it’ll be a handy product.

Need a hand with any of your home maintenance jobs this winter? Give me a call!