Container conversion: Part 3

Cameron the Handyman Dubbo

It’s been nearly 12 months since we’ve done an update on the container, largely because all the paid jobs have been a priority. It’s been a busy year.

However, over the past four months significant inroads have been made progressing this project – much to the relief of the resident Artist.

Over the past summer, the stud walls and ceiling joists went up and the doors went in after the Artist did her thing on the staining. That was a pain in the bum job and whoever suggested using Black Japan stain on French doors obviously wasn’t thinking of the work involved. There were a few problems with the stain as the timber in the doors wasn’t a consistent density. However, after the fourth coat (sealer), there was no going back.

We were into March when we started to have problems with our septic system. Something we hadn’t budgeted for in the studio project was a new septic. However, given the desperate need to do something, we made the decision to relocate it so that not only would we have a septic that better serves the house and northern garden (it’s an onsite waste water treatment system), we could now easily incorporate plumbing into the studio design (see pic above). So, no more talk of composting toilets (thank goodness). The studio will have a small bathroom/store-room and a kitchenette on the other side of the wall.

At about the same time, the electrician finally turned up (a saga in itself). It only took a few hours to wire up the studio with plenty of powerpoints, light switches, an outdoor light, a ceiling fan and a split system air conditioner (the Artist was out-voted by me and the electrician on that). The power will run from the house, so the next part of that job was up to me – digging the trench for the power cable. Not long after this was finished we had some much welcome rain and weeks later the trench is still full of water.

While I had the dingo trencher, we took advantage of moving around a truckload of mulch that we’d had delivered when the septic was going in. A large slab of the northern garden was wiped out in the process of putting the septic in and the Artist has taken advantage of that by redesigning the layout of the garden, which will now incorporate fruit trees, native grasses, granite pathways and landscaping around the studio, all watered by the Earthsafe recycled watering system.

So, after a couple of months off due to work being busy again, we were into May and with the timber work up inside, I was able to get started on the insulation, starting with the Space Blanket, an Earthwool® ceiling insulation with a laminate of reflective foil to stop condensation build up. Then it was on to plaster boarding the walls, which I unfortunately started on a rainy weekend. Working with damp plasterboard makes the job twice as hard.

It took a couple of weekends, which took us into June and finally, the main studio space is now insulated and walled. In all there was about 72msq of plasterboard and Earthwool® insulation (four packs for the walls and two packs of the thicker stuff for the ceiling). The bathroom/store-room is doing its job storing stuff at the moment – I’ll get to that eventually.

One other problem that arose over the past couple of months was with the Solar Whiz solar roof ventilator and heat extractor. I liked the flatter design of it compared to the conventional whirlybirds, which was going to work well with the skillion roof that will go over the studio. I took the Solar Whiz on to the roof of the studio and was about to cut a hole to fit the unit, when it started up. The noise of the fan was incredible! The Artist could hear it from the house. We’re still trying to work through this issue.

Next on the list is the installation of the fittings, getting the power switched on, putting in the kitchenette, then painting and laying the flooring…at least another six months worth of weekends, I reckon.

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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.

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.