Renovation Rescue – Two Weeks Down!

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun. After 14 solid days of 8am starts and 6pm finishes I’ve come to the point where time has gotten the better of me and I’m due back to work tomorrow. Whilst I had grand plans of having everything finished in 14 days I’ve come to the realisation that there is always going to be more things than you imagined. Whilst most of the big ticket items are competed and went according to schedule (painting, electrical, plastering and floor coverings) it has been all of the little things that you don’t think about that add extra jobs into your day. I’m anticipating that I’ll need an additional 4 days to complete the project and with work beckoning that means another 2 weekends. I’m not sure if it’s wishful thinking but I’ll give it a damn good shot.

This morning was the last visit to the property before having to depart for the week and I managed to finish two coats of ceiling paint in the bathroom which only leaves the bathroom walls to complete which is a half day job. The other surprise that we came across in the bathroom was the plaster above the shower. For some (initially) unknown reason there were 2 full sheets of plaster above the shower. The plasterer took the 1st sheet down earlier this week as the plaster underneath was perfectly fine. Still thinking there must have been a reason for the 2 sheets it quickly became apparent when I went to fit the new exhaust fan in. The initial hole that was cut out was not only too big but an odd shape. The fan just would not stay in. This obviously happened a long time ago and the way the problem was solved was to nail on another sheet of plaster. We’ve adjusted this approach by cutting out a square of plaster, placing it on an angle in a diamond position and using the same theory, making a modest feature out of it. Advice from my friend Ryan this week, if you can’t remove it or fix it…make a feature of it, so we did. The pics below show the current state with the plaster being fixed to the base sheet. I’ll remove this, paint it out and install the new fan next week. Morning gone, it was time to hit the road. I’m increadibly proud of what has been achieved in 2 weeks and cannot wait to get back in to the place for a few extra days and finish it off.

Keep an eye out next weekend for days 15 and 16.

Have a great week, and thanks for all of the support everyone!

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Renovation rescue – Day 13

After the painting in the lounge yesterday, today I felt a lot more confident that we could easily get through the kitchen and have it looking good by the end of the day. Once again it was ceilings first and then walls. One thing that I did today after the ceiling had dried was to replace the ceiling fan. Years of cooking grime had accumulated in the old one and it’s an easy update to give a more modern look. For around $20 you can get a new ceiling fan and replace it yourself as there is usually a plug mounted in the ceiling cavity so no electrician is required. 2 minutes…done! Whilst the first coat was drying back on went the over counter cupboard doors which had already had a fresh coat of paint and a set of the new door handles, easy. We also put back on the larger cupboard door in the lounge that had the ‘concealment device’ for the old hot water system as designed by the foreman. It came up really well and you’d never know what it is hiding (see the pictures below).

When the property first settled one of the very first things I did was to get in and measure up the windows for new window furnishings. Ordering blinds can take a long time but fortunately the venetian blind I had ordered arrive early this week (just in time). I ordered through who are based in Sydney and I found their prices to be some of the most reasonable for made to measure. The annoying thing with older places are that many of the windows, door handles etc are in imperial measurements so it’s difficult to get things that fit ‘off the rack’. It’s an expense to be aware of. Once the blind was up though I was really pleased and looking at the before and after pictures below you’ll see what a transformation the kitchen window has had compared to day one.

The afternoon was finished off with the second coats of paint and after that it was finally time to take all of the plastic covers off the kitchen cupboards, lift up the drop sheets and see what the finished product looked like. Unfortunately my current time frame is not going to allow for me to get the final feature of the kitchen finished until next weekend now (work beckons), from the pictures below I’m sure you’ll be able to see what this final feature will be (note the unpainted sections).

Overall the kitchen looks completely refreshed compared to the original and I’m thrilled. I’d even be game enough to cook a meal there now after mum gave the oven a good once over today. It’s amazing what 4 year old oven bake chips look like, think Amazonian shrunken heads but with more potato. There are a few 10 minute things left to complete in the kitchen such as sealant around the sink and some trim around the cupboards but it’s very close now.

Tomorrow I walk back in to the property after 2 flat out weeks and evaluate where we are at and importantly what’s left to do!

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Renovation Rescue – Day 12

So today I think I have come to the unfortunate realisation that my 2 week time frame for this project is just a bit tight. Not tight like your jeans after Christmas lunch, more like when you’ve just taken them out of the tumble dryer (there’s still some stretching to do and they’ll fit perfectly). That’s what I feel like, stretching it out right to the last minute I can work on it and then review where I’m at. I’m confident that by Sunday the property will be 95% complete but being a bit OCD as I sometimes tend to be, 100% would have been nice. Anyhow, let’s not dwell on what has not happened yet and focus on today’s activities.

I’d been eagerly awaiting the plasterer to come back and finish sanding off all of the work he had done and I was not dissapointed when he turned up at 8:30 and got to work with his fantastic vacuum powered sanding machine. It took him about 30 minutes, to do it by hand would have taken hours and been very messy. Often it pays to pay a professional to do things. Advice to self: don’t think that you have to do everything yourself (or have the skills to do so!). Whilst he was doing this I thought I’d work on some of the last areas to wash down being the bathroom. I really am finding it difficult to describe how filthy the bathroom is. How it got so filthy I’m sure is a combination of many things but check out the pictures below so see a few of the shots from when I was half way through, they speak for themselves. After finishing this and feeling like I needed a good shower myself it was time to get on with the major project for today, the lounge.

With the lounge now plastered to within an inch of it’s life it was on with the paint. Now painting is one of those things that I’m always really excited about doing as you know you’ll usually get a good result. This enthusiasm today lasted for about 15 minutes until I realised the magnitude of today’s task to get two coats on both the ceiling and walls. If they were in a clean condition then it would have been a lot easier but this truly felt like one of the longest days of the entire project. Just getting the cornices to come up well seemed to take forever. But with a few coffees under my belt and the hits of today that we all love from such fine artists as Miley Cyrus playing in the background two coats on the ceiling and walls was completed by the end of the day. A very, very boring and time consuming job to be doing but I’m pleased with the end result.

The day finished up with a visit from my long-time property manager Jamie who has a great eye for detail (knowing almost every property in the area) and the feedback so far was really positive. Thanks Jamie!

With the front half of the property now almost complete tomorrow we head into the kitchen.

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Renovation Rescue – Day 11

Day 11 of the reno and even though I’m absolutely exhausted at the end of each day, today I couldn’t get back to the property fast enough as I had planned to do what I anticipated to be the most fun activity of the entire project and it certainly didn’t let me down. I actually did the first part of this project yesterday (as it takes 48 hours to complete) but didn’t want to blog about it until I could display the finished product to my trusty followers. It was time to re-surface the benchtops!

Now usually most people probably would not get all that excited about bench re-surfacing but I had discovered this product called Rustoleum Countertop Transformations. It’s so much cheaper than having to get new benchtops and a stack of fun to actually do. The benchtops were a revolting green colour (once again a remnant from the 70’s) and were in fairly ordinary condition. Whilst intact, they were faded and had several nail and screw holes throughout them from various things. There were a number of steps involved including sanding the benchtops, giving them a coat of an adhesive base paint, spraying ‘decorative chips’ over the surface (as well as about half of the kitchen), waiting overnight, scraping and then sanding back, then finally applying a  2-part protective coat over the top. Throw in a visit from my friend Dora as well as a quick lunch with friend and fellow renovator Ryan and it was a hugely successful day. I need to say no more, I’ll let the videos and photos below show you the fun part!

The award winning masterpiece below filmed by the technologically savvy foreman shows the highlight of the process (besides the finished product). The Sir David Attenborough style narration is excellent.

And this is the product instructional video showing some very smiley Americans having a great time with their countertop transformation!

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Renovation Rescue – Day 10

After a week and a half of going hard at this renovation, I’m really starting to feel for the contestants on The Block. Two weeks of this full-time is going to be pretty exhausting, eight weeks must be crazy but I’m sure I’d be finding it easier if I was being followed around by TV cameras every day. After having a few wet and cold days last week today it was almost 30 degrees so although the other extreme it was a great day to get a heap of things done. Fortunately for me the partner of one of the owners in this block of units is a plasterer, so calling in a favor I was able to get him to really tidy up a lot of the damaged plaster throughout the house as well as cover the brickwork in the kitchen. A lot of these style of units have exposed brickwork and although a hit in the 70’s now it’s not so much of a feature. I decided to go halfway and cover the kitchen brickwork and leave the lounge. It also helps to brighten up the kitchen and make it feel like a truly separate space. Unfortunately the plasterer won’t be back until Friday morning to sand it all down (and there’s a surprising amount to do) so that will delay the rest of my painting by a day but it won’t be a big issue as there are plenty of other jobs for tomorrow.

Whilst the plasterer was inside it put a hold on any work in there so I got back into the front garden. Some advice to gardeners of the 70’s – please don’t cover your garden beds in black plastic sheeting to try and keep the weeds down, it doesn’t work and it’s a nightmare to pull up 40 years later. Moaning over, I dug up the garden bed, made an edging out of the many volcanic rocks that I dug up and started planting out more of my long suffering agapanthus. I got half done before the combination of heat, the plasterer finishing up as well as it being lunchtime and I threw in the garden shovel for the day.

After lunch it was time to start hanging up some curtains that were purchased last week, these were for the bedroom and the lounge area (a venetian blind for the kitchen arrived by courier today but that will go up later). Coupled with a few sturdy but inexpensive curtain rods from Ikea they didn’t take too long to go up. One thing I must say though is although the Ikea rods are great their curtain rings are terrible. They do the job but in a not-quite-right and quirky Ikea way. I was eager to get these up so that the creases have a chance to start falling out of them. They are a touch too long but the rods can be raised up so that they will sit correctly.

Finally today it was time to do something special in the kitchen in order to prep it for my next fun activity that I’ve been busting to do for ages. As you’ll see by the photos it looks like I might be concerned that the oven had a case of ebola, don’t fret though, the oven is perfectly fine (if in need of a good clean). Stay tuned tomorrow to see one of the most fun activities that I’ve been up to so far!

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Renovation Rescue – Day 9

Today really felt like a major turning point in the renovation. In what is quite a small property it seems that there are hundreds of tiny jobs to do all the time and you get to the end of the day and think what have I achieved? Even though you’ve been flat out since 8am you look back and think, well I spent 3 hours washing down walls or 2 hours digging up old roots out of the front garden…not exactly something to write home about. So after the success of the vinyl installation yesterday I was very excited to be finishing off the floors with the carpet being installed for the lounge and bedroom. I have been looking forward to a big ticket item and this was just the one! Yesterday the vinyl installer arrived right on 8am so I was there ready to go at the same time today. 8am…9am…10am…11am…and then a phone call. Wavering between glass half full and half empty as I sometimes do I was expecting a no-show but fortunately they were just confirming the address and would be there in 5 minutes. As promised they soon arrived and got straight to work.

Having already removed the carpets and underlay was a huge time saver and after a brief inspection (and confirming the carpet was the one I selected) things progressed really quickly. The carpet underlay was amazingly put down in less than 10 minutes. Rolled out, cut to size and stapled down in no time. My glass had suddenly turned to more than half full! The rolls of carpet were soon in and the two guys had it down in just over an hour, they even trimmed up a nice section to finish off the base of the bedroom wardrobe. I couldn’t be happier with the end result and it has made an enormous transformation to the place. I’m really starting to see what the end result is going to look like now.

The other interesting achievement today was something that ‘the foreman’ had been thinking about for a few days. There is a cupboard in the lounge that has 4 shelves in it and on the top shelf gracefully sits the old hot water heater. Now I have no idea how it would have been put in there in the first place but even less of an idea how we could ever get it out (without some sort of helicopter and cable setup) so we needed to cover it whilst still allowing the cupboard door to close. Along comes the foreman with a tailor made piece of plywood with two holes with string through them. Liquid nails goes around the outside and it’s inserted into the cupboard, pulled tight and fastened to a nail either side (see the pictures for this to make sense). Once the liquid nails has dried the string is cut and the holes filled. The end result once painted is a neatly covered up old hot water service that no one will need to ever know about! Very impressed.

Tomorrow I’m going to be in the mood to get plastered!   

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Renovation Rescue – Day 8

Now that things are on the home stretch and I have a maximum of 6 days left before I have to go back to the delights of my full time job, I’m starting to get a bit nervous about the amount of stuff I have left to do. Probably not so much that there is a lot, more so that what is remaining is fairly time consuming and not necessarily things that I have done before. Whilst I feel pretty confident with a paintbrush, screwdriver or garden shovel in my hand this week will test my skills with some fun activities planned for the remainder of the kitchen and bathroom!

Today though saw two exciting things happen in the property. First was the removal of the hideous brown veneer bench extension that sat between the kitchen and the lounge and secondly, the first of the new floor coverings was delivered and installed…a momentous occasion! From the day I saw the pictures of this place for sale on the internet I immediately disliked the bench extension. Not only was it dated, it looked out of place with the rest of the kitchen being both a different colour and a different height to the other benches (it felt like more of a breakfast table). The other thing was that I felt it made the place feel smaller (it’s small enough as it is) and anything to make it feel larger and more spacious I think is a good thing. So out it came in about 5 minutes. I was so thrilled once it was gone and you can see from the photos below that it instantly made a great difference in the space.

A quick clean of the floor (which was soon rendered pointless anyhow) and Errol the vinyl installer arrived ready to go. Initially it was discussed that when installing the vinyl they would simply go over the top of the old stuff but upon further inspection it was decided that it should go. Most of it was loose-layed anyhow so it was removed pretty easily. The preparation seemed to take the longest amount of time here and Errol was pretty busy for a good hour or two making sure the surface was prepped and ready to lay the new vinyl. The selection of the vinyl is something that I don’t think I’ll be certain about until I see the place completed at the end of this week. Initially I was eager to go for a wood look but was convinced otherwise by the flooring supplier to go for something that would not as clearly show any damage over the years, this design I was told is easier to repair if you have to and not be noticed rather than something with a distinct pattern in it. I took the advice and whilst I’m 90% happy with the end result I’m keeping the other 10% up my sleeve until the end of this week. The great thing was that there was also a lot of large off-cuts so I’ll be putting them to use later in the week. I’ve got to admit though, it mad a HUGE difference in the kitchen and once I paint around the kick-boards under the cupboards that’s pretty much all of the hideous brown skirting gone…hooray!

Tomorrow will be the last day we need to look at the stained floorboards.

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Renovation Rescue – Day 7

It’s finally the half way point!

After one busy week I’m really pleased with the progress that has been made and the renovation is pretty much going to plan and is on schedule. Considering that it’s been 7 full days of 8am starts and 5pm finishes (just like being at work really) I thought that to keep myself motivated and to top up my energy I needed to take a short break. Finishing up early at 3pm yesterday I got in the car and headed back to Melbourne for a night in my own bed and a glass or two of wine. Waking up refreshed it was a good opportunity to do some shopping in the big smoke prior to heading back to the property so off I went to Ikea. After and hour or two out I walked with armfuls of purchases including curtain rods, roller blinds, towel rails and some other great (and inexpensive) bits and pieces. The other thing I did prior to heading back to the reno was to raid our garden at home in preparation for planting out the gardens beds at the property.

It’s great to have a well maintained garden but in a rental property you have to be fortunate to get a tenant that is eager to look after a garden, so if you can include greenery but also low maintenance then it’s win-win. We have a garden full of agapanthus at our home that I was eager to get rid of and they were still very healthy…problem solved. These would be perfect to split up and plant out in the garden beds at the property. They’ll fill out the garden beds, keep the weeds down, survive dry environments and require minimal care. Within a short time not only did I have my Ikea purchases but also a car full of plants and along the freeway I went back to the property!

Although it was only a short break away I felt refreshed and was eager to get back to the work. Once back it was time to dig up the smaller of the garden beds and get some of the plants in. Instantly the outside of the place looked much better. Although wilted at the moment, I’m sure the plants will take off after a good drink of water and fill out well. I can’t wait to also plant out the larger garden bed (maybe in a few days time). As you’ll see in the pictures I also installed some sheer blinds in the new veranda window, thanks Ikea, they are just what I was after! 

Tomorrow I’ll be removing something from the property that I’ve hated from day one…

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Renovation Rescue – Day 6

Day 6 of the renovation was shaping up to be a big one from the beginning. I overlooked mentioning yesterday that I decided to put the carpet up for sale online and actually had a bite. Unfortunately I had only pulled up the carpet in the bedroom so still had the lounge carpet to tear up. As an interlude before I continue, it reminded me of this video…

At 8:30 am I had a call from the purchaser and I still hadn’t torn it up so within about 3 minutes it was pulled up, rolled up and out the front of the house just as the man was walking down the driveway…phew! $20 and 10 minutes later he was driving off with a truck full of 30 year old carpet, there’s obviously a buyer for everything out there.

Today’s other major activity was to have the front windows on the veranda replaced. Although a somewhat unusual arrangement (and probably not original) this glassed in area creates a nice entrance to the house and somewhat of a small sun room at the front. It’s also consistent with all of the other units in the block. Unfortunately although the glass was ok the frame had seen better days and was ready to fall out (check out the photos to see how bad it was). A new window had been measured and ordered a few weeks prior so it was timed to be installed whilst all of the works were being completed. Fortunately the installers were right into it and in no time the old window was out. I gave them a hand to put the new window in (like I know what I’m doing) and they finished it off nicely with some neat flashing around the framework. Whilst I was initially unsure about having this replaced (I thought we’d just get rid of it completely) I’m glad that we did as it looks really good and gives the impression of an additional space attached to the unit. It’s also good as the winters here get pretty cold. I still have a few finishing touches to do here which I’ll complete over the next week and will finish it off nicely.

Finally, it was a really pleasant surprise to get a visit from my long-time friend Ryan who is a much more accomplished renovator than I am (check out he’s work here…yes, I’ve pinched his blogging idea). I greatly appreciated his encouragement and I cannot wait for him to see the finished product next week. The picture of us below shows us highlighting the mystery stains all over the internal brick wall…we have some theories but it may forever remain a mystery.

Tomorrow it’s time to finally put my green thumb to work!

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Renovation Rescue – Day 5

One thing that I think can really date a place and make it look old and tired are the light fittings. This place had a far from delightful selection including the kitchen fluorescent light that I think looked more suited to a garage, a range of batten fixtures that were starting to disintegrate when you took the globes out and a ceiling fan in the lounge that you could possibly date by cutting it in half and counting the layers of dirt that had built up each year. The other thing that you will notice in older places is that they are not designed for the 21st century lifestyle that constantly needs somewhere to plug in and recharge. The two individual power outlets in the lounge I think will struggle once you need to plug in the phone, laptop, tv, dvd player, PlayStation, lamp, heater, vacuum cleaner, personal foot spa etc, etc. So additional power points are a necessity. A knock on the front door at 8:30 am and in walks my new best friend for the day, Grant the electrician. Within about 10 minutes he had converted the majority of single power points to double outlets instantly improving the ability to power-up once you walk in the front door. Then up the ladder he goes to replace the kitchen fluorescent with a more modern and less intrusive kitchen light. 10 minutes later he’s removed the ceiling fan and is working on removing the wall control for it which is approximately the size of a small European car. A few replacement batten fixtures and he’s finished. Although batten fixtures themselves are not design features, I do like them in an investment property as they give you the flexibility to add whatever addition you like as far as light shades and fixtures go. There is an increasing amount of DIY fitting for batten fixtures and it gives you the option to easily update the look in the future as tastes change.

Whilst this was all going on and my offer to hold the ladder steady for the electrician was politely turned down, I got on with removing the tiles from the kitchen splash-back in preparation for a great new look next week. Fortunately the tiles were either put on in a hurry by a very lazy tiler or age had just worked its magic, as most of them came off easily with some gentle encouragement of just a few choice words. Tiles removed and electrician farewelled, I had a mirror awaiting installation in the bedroom that I purchased the other day. Now one thing I’ve started to notice is that in older places things often shift over the years and things are not always as square as they once were. I noticed this when taking the measurements to place the mirror in the correct position in the bedroom. Once I realised it wasn’t meant to go on the ceiling I installed it above the dresser and I think it looks a great improvement on the original (and smaller one) that was there.

At the end of some days I like to get a taste of what I have planned for the following day. Bedroom almost finished, tomorrow I need to start washing the walls and ceiling in the lounge so I thought I’d do a test patch. With the former owner being a pipe smoker I knew it would be noticeable but wow, I ‘m considering tomorrow bringing along the high pressure hose and just going nuts…if only the floor had drainage holes.

In tomorrow’s exciting installment we’ll see if I can get some poor sod to part with their hard earned money in order to buy 20 square metres of 30 year old carpet!


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