Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Well, it took three weeks longer than expected (partly because we had a few issue finding the most discrete brackets we could), but yesterday we tore down the old spouting and installed the new.

There was never any doubt that they needed replacing, you could see the sky through parts of them:

And rust was obvious throughout.

However, we didn't quite realise how bad they were until they were taken down and we could see up close:

Hardly any of the original metal was functional, they were warped and full of forty years of debris.

But no more! Now we have lovely sturdy new continuous spouting, in a matching colour and profile. The regulations regarding brackets have changed, and they have to be much closer together than back in the day, which means more of them, but it still looks pretty good.

We also made sure we replicated the way in which the original spouting extended past the wall (exactly 8 inches) and wrapped the lip around the end of each section, returning it to the building. Details,'s all in the details.

And with the final coat of silicone sealant applied to the roof today, we thought that would be the end of the scaffolding, but then I realised that the new gutters didn't have the leaf-guard thingamee jig that we had organised to be installed, so we have another 24 hours before it can come down. Ah well. At least the end is in sight.

Monday, 29 March 2010


Once we decided last week to tackle the toilet and bathroom, we had to figure out a match for the orange in the toilet (which is also the orange on the chimney in the bedroom, and was the original colour of the master bedroom cupboards, before they were painted purple). Matt initially picked a colour on Friday morning at 6.30am, in the dark. Unsurprisingly it wasn't right (it was some sort of fluoro safety orange).

We ended up scraping some small samples from a strip of the original paint inside one of the cupboards and getting it matched.

The colour we were after was "Rock Spray". The painters applied the first coat last night - looking great already!

We're still debating whether we go for the same colour on the cupboard doors - there's a fine line with restoring a house to it's former glory and recognising that some things (particularly colours) do date, and the last thing we want is for our decorating to be described as 'retro'...

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Before and After - the shower tiles get a new life

The bathroom walls are tiled with small brown tiles, which are a bit dated, but pretty cool, and far too fun to consider replacing right now. When we moved in, they were covered in scale as were the taps:

In the past six weeks, I have scrubbed them with Janola, Handy Andy, Chemico, Jif, and some fancy Harpic "scale remover". None of it has budged (the 'before' photo above was taken yesterday morning).

The tiler was here yesterday (yes, on a Saturday - he got some fresh chocolate cake to take away with him as a thanks for working on a weekend), and he gave me some stuff called 'Nano Scrub' which finally made a difference:

Apologies for the blurriness of the above 'after' photo, but you get the general idea.

After cleaning with the new super cleaner, I have sealed the tiles to make them a bit more waterproof and protect the grout for a few more years.

We are really hoping that this next week is the last week of tradespeople. The guttering is taking weeks longer than scheduled (due mostly to a change in mind on our part) and getting the aluminium door reconditioning has also been postponed a couple of weeks. Hopefully both will be sorted by Easter, the scaffolding can come down and we can live in a proper house rather than a construction site. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The painters move indoors

The painters have finished the exterior of the house today. We ended up needing three topcoats instead of two, as the leftover ivy was still showing through after two coats. We figured it was best to do it properly now, while we had the scaffolding up.

So this morning, the painters moved indoors and started the painstaking process of prepping and painting the window frames and the black recessed detail around them.

We weren't going to even think about doing anything in the bathroom and upstairs toilet this time round, but these guys are working so quickly and getting things done to such a high standard, that we figured we'd just keep going, so we are tidying up the bathroom walls and roof.

Today the roof got sanded back and the first coat of Sikkens (a German wood treatment) was applied. It looks so so so much better, just like that. Unfortunately I didn't get a decent 'before' photo to compare it with.

And in case you're wondering, yes that is a hole in the new glass in the bathroom - it is for the extractor fan which is being installed on Monday. Neither of us are that keen on getting one, but the bathroom needs some sort of active ventilation, and we felt that a window fan was the best option because it was the least invasive (we hated the idea of cutting through the tongue & groove to install a ceiling fan, and there is only a very small ceiling cavity anyway). We figure that if it is just too ugly and horrible, all we have to do is re-glaze the window and it will be like the fan never existed.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Matt nearly wet his pants yesterday

When we first purchased our little house, we attempted to make contact with a number of people involved with it in it's first twenty years or so, including:

  • the original owner,
  • a senior architect at Warren & Mahoney who was a junior in the office at the time the house was built,
  • the architect who acted as project manager during the build, and
  • Sir Miles Warren - the architect principally responsible for the design.
Matt was brave enough to telephone the owner directly, and he has since visited the house. With regards to Sir Miles, Matt posted a letter, letting him know what had happened to one of his small pixie houses and inviting him to visit if he was interested.

Yesterday Matt received a reply by post.

It really is remarkable how well (and how fondly) he remembered both the house and the client. I can't help but feel that we really have 'rescued' what is a very special house from what could have been an unfortunate demise.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The wood at the front door..

As you can see above, the wooden fascia at the front door was a little worse for wear.

But as of today we have a shiny new piece of wood up there. All it needs now is some paint.

Things are coming along nicely - see how glossy and white the walls are now.

New window sash..

Goodbye old rotten spare room sash..

Hello sparkling new sash:

Oh, and hello mess:

Monday, 22 March 2010

The sash and frame colour debate update.

See. They look awesome.

The sash and frame colour debate.

Most Warren & Mahoney pixie houses from the same era as ours have a similar colour palette - pure white concrete block with grey frames and rust red sashes.

At sometime in our house's history, someone has applied a chocolate poo-brown paint to most of the windows, destroying the original, well thought-out colour scheme.

As the painters are here this week, we have had to really sort out what was supposed to be what. We knew that all opening sashes were originally the rust red surrounded by a grey frame, but there are a couple of windows which don't open (like the really large one in the front room shown above), and these ones were difficult to decide whether to go for the red or grey.

To help sort it out we went for an evening wander on Saturday to this house down the road.

The original owner was at home and happily chatted to us about how we are supposed to do it.

As a result, we are painting the unopening windows back to the original grey colour, rather than rust red.

The most exciting part is that they are being painted right now, as I type. And they look really good.

Our first casualty...

We only had a couple of things on the 'to do' list this weekend - we have decided to try and tone it down a little as it was becoming a bit overwhelming spending all of every weekend on the house (not to mention exhausting).

One of the things on the list, was to clear the particularly entwined and stubborn ivy to the right of the entrance (which was growing around the stump of what would have been a very large tree):

I went out and left Matt + Dad + chainsaw to do the deed. As Matt put it when he phoned me a couple of hours later - there was some good news and bad news. The good news was they did a splendid job of clearing the fence:

The bad news was that Matt was calling from the hospital as Dad did a splendid job of cutting open his knee with the chainsaw.

Oops. Several stitches later he was all patched up. Until sepsis set in that night. And now he can't walk for the next four days and has to have a nurse visit daily for intravenous antibiotics.

True story.

In other house news, the painters are working hard on the exterior - as they say, it's 90% preparation and 10% application so there's lots and lots of sanding, hole filling and primer application going on. The block work has had an undercoat, now all the sashes and frames are being done. These guys are awesome.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

We have paint.

Nearly the whole first coat has been applied to the block work - it looks so much better already. And there'll be more to follow tomorrow...

Could it be?

See that - that's a painter. At our house. Getting set up to start painting. Incroyable!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The spare room cupboards: Part 3

Finally, I've finished the spare room cupboards. We're happy with the colour, if anything it's a bit boring, but it's a huge improvement on the buttercup yellow that was there previously. The photos make it look more washed-out than it is - it's much more of a rish sage green. I've done the other spare room in the same colour, and polished the handles.

We are missing a handle, so I have spent a few days calling round trying to find a replacement - turns out they don't make any handles in that length anymore (quelle surprise!), but some guy in Wellington had a box of them 'out the back' so I have ordered a couple of them. I won't know for sure if they're okay until we get them, but I'm optimistic.

We still haven't decided on what colour to paint the main bedroom cupboards - Matt is keen on the original bright orange, but I'm not so sure.

ps it has been raining here today, so no painters, but apparently they will be here first thing tomorrow...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Good painting weather? Apparently not...

As you can see, it is a glorious day here today, which you would assume would be perfect weather to commence painting. However, it is forecast to rain later this evening, and as our first coat needs a good 8 hours dry time, it seems that we cannot start today....


Monday, 15 March 2010

Clean clean house

Another busy weekend, with Matt spending hours and hours on the scaffolding scraping the ivy off. Then this morning the nice man came to waterblast the rest of the walls in preparation for the painters tomorrow. He reckoned that Matt's (and Sam and Ang's) work with the ivy saved him a couple of hours, so that was nice to hear.

Being indoors while he worked was a bit like taking your house through a car wash...noisy and wet. Fortunately I'm getting used to this and so had sheets and towels laid down in front of the windows to catch any leakage.

The results were impressive:

Clean clean clean walls. All ready for lovely fresh paint. Hopefully starting tomorrow (I am quickly learning that just because you set a date for something to happen, it by no means necessarily goes ahead. There is always a reason to delay things another day).

Saturday, 13 March 2010


This week also heralded the construction of our scaffolding. Erected over three days (the access to the site isn't great when it comes to lugging steel up from the road), we now have access to every inch of the walls.

So now Matt is spending this weekend trying to remove the remainder of the ivy (you can see the demarcation in the above photo) which he couldn't reach last weekend.

I, on the other hand, am finishing painting the cupboards in the spare rooms. Turns out we chose the wrong green. What old Karen Walker named "Beryl Green" should simply have been called "Mint Green". Urgh. It looked really bad. I tried a patch with a test-pot prior, but somehow you couldn't really tell the full effect until the first whole coat had been applied. Now we're going for a shade called "Washed Green", which looks much better. I will post photos when it's done.

The window sills

Finally, back with broadband! Some updating to do:

Although things felt like they were moving frustratingly slow, we have had a very big week. It took four days, but we have the sills re-tiled. After washing them all last weekend, when the tiler arrived on Monday I spent the day cracking old grout off the tiles.

Then the backs were ground down with an angle grinder to remove old adhesive and clean them up.. this process alone took the poor guy helping the tiler over eight hours (actually, there were two guys - the first one on Monday did about five hours, but couldn't come on Tuesday because he got heat stroke - true story, last week Christchurch got it's whole summer jammed into five days).

Finally, the fronts of all the tiles had to be scrubbed with turps to remove paint splotches that had gathered during some slap-dash paint job in years past. I don't have a photo of this, as I was the one doing the most of it - it was about 30 degrees outside, my ankles swelled like footballs, my hands were shredded by turps and scouring pads and I got sunburnt. Don't need a photo, as I'm sure you can imagine how attractive I looked.

This took hours and hours. About three hours in I really started to question why we didn't just buy new tiles. They don't make them anymore, but they make ones that are very similar....

Anyway, while we were prepping the tiles, the tiler was sealing the sills.

And then the real action started:

Finally, at the end of day three, tiles were laid.

And on day four, the grout was applied..

New sills! Hoorah!

The best news is that that's not all we achieved last week - more to follow shortly!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Leaps and Bounds

Things are moving ahead at great speed this week, but we are having internet issues and are back on dial-up speed so it is far to difficult to post photos! Aaargh! Should be sorted by the end of the week and I will reveal such things as: scaffolding! New window sills!

Stay tuned....

Sunday, 7 March 2010


We were lucky enough to have house-guests to put to work this weekend (be warned any who are thinking of coming to stay - board is provided in exchange for hard labour!)..

Sam and Ang got to work with the waterblaster and scraper to help clear the ivy residue:

Despite the bleak forecast, the weather was hot hot hot again, great for our purposes. It is hard work clearing this stuff - scraping, then blasting then scraping again.

But as the before and after photos below show - it's well worth it.

Now hopefully the painters can come in a couple of weeks and paint without the need for too much prep.

Meanwhile, I attacked the sills - removing all the tiles (which mostly fell off)..

..scrubbing them all (they don't make them anymore, so we are going to try to re-use them)...

...and scrubbing the exposed sills in preparation for the tiler who is coming Monday morning...

All in all a very productive weekend, with (hopefully) a very productive week to follow. We are supposed to be getting scaffolding erected tomorrow, but are having a little hitch which I may explain in due course, depending on how things pan out..