Trends or Lasting Impressions?

I remember painting our house matt black. It was in 2003 and it took five attempts to achieve the right colour. Carl, at Porters Paints then located in Waterloo in Sydneys Eastern Suburbs, patiently mixed batch after batch of Stone Paint Coarse making it darker each time. 

If you look at any paint manufacturers colour specifiers today you will find a wide range of rich, dark colours, but fifteen years ago that wasn't the case. 

Each time I asked for a shade darker we were running the risk of making the finished product glossier than desired. I wanted a matt black, or nearly black, but not quite. But it had to be matt. Not glossy. Poor Carl, but the end result was stunning and head turner for neighbours and passers by alike. 

It's funny to think back to that moment now as almost every second house is painted dark with white or a version thereof. 



The Importance of Water Proofing

Regularly we have friends and clients asking us why their bathrooms and wet areas are leaking through to the walls, floors and ceilings around them. 

Most often they haven't been adequately water proofed during construction by a licensed, experienced water proofer. Sometimes the membranes have been affected by surrounding elements and have developed pinprick holes where the water finds a way through. Other times the products used by non-professionals are not compatible or gets damaged by careless trades during construction and fit-out.

This sort of failure can cause extensive damage to your house and be an expensive exercise to rectify. 

So, how can you avoid it?

1. Make sure your renovation builder is qualified to water proof or uses a licensed contractor who will give you a Water Proofing Certificate at the end of the job. 

2. Ensure all products used are compatible with each other. Always ask the product supplier for advice and product information prior to starting a project and ensure adequate time is allowed for each layer of product to set and dry prior to completion.

3. Protect the membranes from damage during tiling and fit-out. Often trades forget about the membranes when attaching handrails, toilet roll holders and other accessories to the walls and floor and can easily cause a leak unintentionally. 

Don't risk it; use a licensed builder!



Tiling Crash Course

Even though tiling is not for the novice a keen eye and a little background knowledge can get you going in no time. 

First, make sure your wall or floor is properly waterproofed and inspected should you require approval. 

Next step is making sure you have done a tile layout PRIOR to mixing your first batch of glue. If you have access to a Laser Level this will make your job a lot easier, if not you have to work with the stock standard spirit level and tape measure.

Mark your tile pattern on the wall depending on the size tile, this way you will alway have a point to go back to if you end up with a stray tile. Try to lay your pattern out in a way that you end up with minimal cuts around the edges and close to windows or door frames. 

Set up a base level at screed hight if you are doing a wall. This can be a piece of timber or similar that the bottom tiles will be able to rest on. 

Mix your glue in small batches according to manufacturers instructions before using a screening trowel to evenly distribute. Make sure you only work two or three tile rows at the time depending on the size tile to avoid the glue going off. Always allow the glue to set after a few rows to avoid slippage. 

Refer back to your tile pattern often to ensure you're on the right track. It's much easier to fix a mistake if your glue hasn't set before you notice.

Gently rub off any excess glue with a damp rag and let set hard before moving on to the grouting.

Mix the grout according to manufacturers instructions again in smaller batches. Work the grout in using circular movements with a hard foam trowel. Make sure its evenly spread and fills all gaps. Wipe of the excess grout with a wet rag and dry off. 

Good luck!


Briefly about Bush Fires & Design

With Christmas just around the corner yet another year has flown by. And I am still sitting here procrastinating weather or not I should start a blog. A blog to encourage business as we establish ourselves in this new amazing location, a blog to get stuff off my chest (there is a lot in there) and voice my opinion (I have a few of those too) or a blog just to share what I know and see in the world around me.

Design is our passion. We design buildings and we construct those buildings to ensure our clients have a beautiful and functional canvas to create a home out of. I’d like this blog, my blog, to showcase what we do, how we do it and what makes us tick. Or not. I’d like to teach you and share with you what i know, and learn a few new things myself along the way. 

Today, as I sit in my makeshift office at the dining table of our Tent House, a 40m2 Luxury Canvas Tent temporary structure, waiting for my new studio to be weather proof, the view across Pittwater to the western foreshore national park and the rising summer temperatures reminds me that bushfire season is here.

Even if you are not building in a Bush Fire Rated Zone where specific construction requirements are warranted, there are things to keep in mind if you're in the early stages of planning and designing a new home or embarking on a major renovation in bushfire prone areas where stray embers travelling great distances can start secondary fires.

No matter how well designed and built a home is there are few things that will keep a roaring fire at bay. Choosing the right materials, elements of construction and systems suitable to meet the requirements of the building regulations and standards applicable in you area is important. Your local council website will have up to date legislation and easily accessed checklists available.

When deciding on a design for your home take into consideration the level and ease of maintenance the building and landscaping will require to keep you safe. Using materials, techniques and features that are flame resistant and reduce the risk of fire doesn’t necessary have to change the looks of your dream home, but incorporating them into your plans can help manage the maintenance and reduce the impact of bushfires. 

A simple, uncluttered building design will prevent embers from getting caught in nooks and crannies. The ever popular raked metal roof will allow for cross ventilation and ample light to enter the building giving the interior a sense of space, whilst the sloping roof allows leaves and twigs to slide off the edge rather than accumulate creating a fire hazard. Installing metal gutter guards is essential but regular cleaning is still necessary. Rooftop sprinkler systems and extra water tanks connected to a generator can also be planned in but must be regularly maintained to ensure reliability. 

If you are building on a steep or sloping block your house design can be constructed underground or bermed into the side of the hill to offer extra protection from the elements and a place to take shelter in the event of fire. The thermal mass of earth and concrete or masonry will stabilise the internal environment and serve as strong retaining walls. A steel frame above ground is a non-combustible, solid choice that will engender a feeling of confidence and security in times of bushfire threats. 

Large spans of glass can be protected using metal retractable shutters or stainless steel screens that keeps embers and insects in check. Large verandah overhangs and eaves are proven weak links in bushfires, retractable shutters and perforated metal awnings can help protect from sun, glare and wind as well as embers and radiant heat.

Fire is a natural event in the Australian landscape and is essential for the life cycle of many native species. However, it’s impact on the landscape can be catastrophic. When planning your garden its important that you select appropriate species to help manage the bushfire potential and protect your home. Using plants that have high moisture and salt content and low oil content whilst separating all flammable elements using gravel, rock edging and stone paths will prevent a fire from taking hold. Regular maintenance, such as ensuring there are no overhanging branches on the roof, no litter, especially bark around the trees and regular mowing of lawns is important. Fire resistant native trees planted away from the house can provide shade and protection from the wind which may slow the movement of a fire down. 

So, here I am! I just wrote my first blog and I really enjoyed it albeit the rather serious subject choice. Stay safe, bushfire safe, and enjoy the coming months of the best an Australian summer has to offer.