-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Sunday, February 25, 2007

tweaks to the verandah

To make sure we avoided making any clanging mistakes, I asked Eric for his thoughts about the verandah design. He liked it except was a bit wary of the raised up bit over the front door and suggested a revision:

"I think that the verandah gable might clash with the house gable. How about adding some extra detail to highlight the entry, but locating in under the verandah and at a smaller scale. One idea to consider is the location of the viewer and where their eye will be filled with the view. In the sketch below, from a distance the dominant form would be the house gable. From closer, the house gable would disappear outside of the "cone of vision" of the eye, and the detail right around the entry would take over. You see this in a lot of classical architecture. St Paul's cathedral, for example. The dome, the main gable, and the detail around the door all dominate the view depending on where you are. A long way from St Paul's to Amherst, but the principle remains. Well, there is another idea to ponder. Let me know what you decide."

199 Old house 1

We talked about it quite a lot with Dad, as he really liked the idea of the gable. But both Dave and I can see Eric's point. So, we've decided to go back to the original with no gable. Wait and see if the lack of light is actually a problem before we bother with solutions for it! Now we've got rid of the verandah at the back end of the house & there's just a small canopy over the door, a lot more light will come through from that end than when there was a full verandah, so there's a good chance it'll be OK.

Monday, February 12, 2007

More on the cottage verandah

We'd previously promised Dad we'd get back to him with more details on the verandah post design for the old house, aka the cottage, and an idea for the gable.

Here is what we came up with, in Dave's words.

Here's a sketch of the front door side (East):


It shows the use of a gable over the front door area. Not really sure what pitch the roof of the gable is to be, but it needs to stick up a little bit. There is a little canopy over the bedroom window but no verandah. Also you can see from this sketch that, if possible, Lyn doesn't want a bannister in the section in front of the lounge window. (If that means we have to get creative and add an extra long 'step' or something to meet requirements of minimum drop, so be it, but Lyn is keen that there is at least a small section of verandah she can sit on the edge of and look out with unimpeded view).

This next picture is a rough sketch showing the front door and gable/verandah in closer view. You'll see the verandah posts have big pillars at their bottom... more on this later.

front door.jpg

Now look at this next picture which shows the side view of the house (North).


You can see the arrangement with the steps leading directly opposite the french doors. There are thick (pillared bottomed), and thin verandah posts. More on that later. Note the roofline matches at each end.

Now look at this picture which shows the back of the house (West).


Note that the steps now come out sideways, with the house on one side, rather than straight out the back. As there is no verandah here, we have put sunshades over windows, and also a small canopy over the back door/laundry door.

A closer-up view of the backdoor canopy is shown in this next picture. Note that there is no pillar to hold it up, it is supported by being joined on two sides to the building.

back door.jpg

This next picture gives the overall view as to where the steps are, and which way they go, plus where 'big' and little' pillars go.


All the posts are roughly in the location Lyn wants them. May need to be some final adjustments here and there, but the principle is that even though they are not symmetrical in terms of precise measurements between posts, they appear nice to the eye because they're balanced & in line with other features. Most importantly, there are no pillars in front of doors and windows.

Finally, look at the pictures of the pillars that we mocked up in SketchUp. These show the styling of big pillars Lyn would like to have.

pillar.jpg pillar2.jpg

Each has the fat bottom part and then 3 smaller pillars up, then topped with some kind of 'fat' section to finish it off. The thin pillars are just a single pillar of size like the posts you used before, topped with the same 'fat' section. The idea is to have these 'fat sections' at the top of all posts that serve to tie it all together, and thus avoid the need to have a freize.

We aren't sure how to make the pillars, but think of californian bungalow type except square not tapered. I think they are probably not the norm for Australia but they seem to be like a kind of verandah posts that the house would have probably had were it built in America during that period. (So long as it looks good together and is consistent in terms of broad heritage, Lyn doesn't mind if it is American rather than Australian influenced!)

The fat bottom bit (large squarish box) are usually brick I think, but does that make it impossible to build because of height from floor to ground? If so, perhaps we could get creative in terms of building them hollow and putting cladding on or something. We aren't sure yet what the pillars would be covered with, ultimately... Lyn is toying with the idea of weatherboards, or, if they are brick, then rendering ala california bungalow style.

In terms of the smaller posts, we aren't sure as yet regarding degree of decoration, but they'd need an edge routing. Something we can sort out perhaps when we see a set of edging patterns.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

articles about swimming ponds

This is something I have thought about for a while, ever since first coming across the concept. I really don't like 'normal' swimming pools, they just look fake and require too much maintenance. But it is going to be so hot there that having somewhere to go for a dip would be good.

A natural pool, aka a swimming pond, seems like it would be a good solution. My only concerns are 1) if it was natural would that mean we risk snakes going into it (my pet horror), and 2) would not the natural appearance be spoiled by the legal requirement to have a fence around it? Or perhaps it would be spared that, by virtue of not being an official swimming pool, like dams are spared.

I have toyed with the idea of it being dug into the hillside, in the space where there's a kind of mini hollow, just down from the olive trees. It would have lovely views there and, if fencing were required, the ground is steep enough that perhaps we could have the fence out view when you're in the pond.

Obviously, this is a luxury so not something we'd rush into, but still worth thinking over.

Here are a couple of articles about it, and I'll add more as I find them.

Take a swim on the wild side
- The Garden, July 2005

swimming pond p520 The Garden Jul 2005

Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6

Swimming ponds - The Garden, May 2004

swimming ponds p394 The Garden May 2004

(This is part of my slightly insane project to 'file' potentially useful articles that I read, so I have a chance of finding them in future)

article about Wigandia garden in Australia

I was captivated when I read this article... one day I would love to visit it in person. The only thing that put me off a bit was the guy's attitude - to him, if the article is to be believed, the notion that someone might actually WANT to spend a lot of time working in their garden is stupid. But, to me, gardening is a hobby and frankly the more time I can spend pottering on it the better! (update: I take this back - see comments)

He has a lovely garden none-the-less and some great ideas for using dry plants in a lush-appearing way. I also like how he incorporates materials like corrugated iron and old bits of machinery into the garden. I'll be thrilled if we can get the garden at Amherst even close to this. :-)

The art of not gardening (profile of Wigandia garden)

Wigandia p36 The Garden Jan 2005

Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6

Here are some links to other articles about Wigandia garden:

Update: click here for more photos and video from my Mum's visit to Wigandia

(This is part of my slightly insane project to 'file' potentially useful articles that I read, so I have a chance of finding them in future)

Article about wollemi pines

As you might remember, we splurged and got some wollemi pines last year. They're thriving in the care of Dave's parents, until we can adopt them ourselves when we return.

Here's an article I found about them from The Garden magazine, January 2005.

"Walking with pinosaurs"

Wollemi Pine p30 The Garden Jan 2005

Page 2, Page 3, Page 4

(This is part of my slightly insane project to 'file' potentially useful articles that I read, so I have a chance of finding them in future)

Article about Beth Chatto's garden

Last summer I posted about our visit to Beth Chatto's garden in Essex, which is famous for it's dry garden areas.

Here is an article about it from The Garden magazine from December 2005:

"Where problems become inspired solutions"

Beth Chatto p 874 The Garden Dec 2005

Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8

(This is part of my slightly insane project to 'file' potentially useful articles that I read, so I have a chance of finding them in future!)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ebay wins: tulip gutters, chimney pots & verandah

Here's some more architectural stuff we've scavenged that will, one day, make its way into one or more of the buildings at Amherst. Oh how I love Ebay... I may not be able to physically make progress, but at least I can shop and find stuff that will save us a fortune in the end. :-)

First up, some amazing 'tulip' thingy's that go on your guttering and connect it to the drainpipe. Plus a roof vent. They're all brand new, handmade and we got them for less than 10% of the original price. The guy selling them said the builders put the wrong shape of drainpipes on his house and he couldn't face the upheaval to change it. If it were me I'd have got creative with making a funnel but hey, I adore them so his loss is our gain. :-)

downpipe rain collector 'tulips' and vent

From the description:
"1 large decorative vent and 13 period style tulips made of galvanised tin, never used. Tulips are suited for standard round down pipe and are 37 cm wide, 37 cm long and 20 cm deep"

Next, an old terracotta chimney pot. It's chipped at the base but that's OK. We haven't decided yet if this is going to be put to it's original use on one of the chimneys, or be a garden ornament. Either would be cool.

terracotta chimney pot

Finally, 60m worth of bullnose verandah sheets. Ironically, we're most likely not going to use these on the houses, as I prefer verandahs with straight edges or that kind of S shape. But they were so cheap that it seemed stupid to pass them up considering we're going to need loads of roof sheets for things like a carport, garden sheds, chook house, etc... and the fact that it is bullnosed will make them more interesting. :-)

bullnose verandah sheets

From the Ebay description:
"80 colourbond bullnose verandah sheets, beige colour and no rust. Each sheet is 1.5m long and covers 760mm in width so that would give you a total of 60m of verandah 1.5 m deep"

Monday, February 05, 2007

A life-size tonka toy for Dave

Given how expensive hiring equipment has turned out to be, and just how much excavation we have to do, Dave floated the idea with Dad to invest in a second-hand digger. For the record, here's the various emails where they discussed it.

It looks like Dave will get his life-size Tonka Toy after all! :-)


Dad said:

You asked if I thought getting a piece of equipment would be wise. At last you have come to an idea which I have long entertained.

I cannot stress how important to you and Dave it is to have a piece of equipment to do the hard digging and moving of soil to make the house and land to the shape you need. Buying one means you will save heaps in the long run, not least because you are so distant from places to rent

However, getting one piece of equipment to do all things is the hard part, and maintaining an old piece could be a factor.

But I have looked at several types of equipment over this past 1 1/2 years since I finally bit the bullet and hired the equipment to excavate the hobbithole. I have learned a lot from my experimenting, but I feel the way forward for you guys is to look at equipment being sold from such departments as councils, forestry, vicroads in country areas. I have seen such items on ebay asking for bids. These are well maintained, little used, and go for very cheap prices. Also the big equipment auction places... they sell large lots of building materials cheaply when you know what you want. I will talk at length about this if you decide to explore this concept further.

Dave replied: The more I think about it, getting hold of a tractor/excavator seems a must, considering we've spent well over $1000 on hiring them already, and hardly scratched the surface (pardon the pun). I figured we could, once purchased, put it in the garage you got off my brother.) I had a quick look online. What sort of machine do you reckon will be best?

Dad replied:

Great!!! Now we are talking.

The machine we need is this:

It must be in pretty good nick or will be a large waste of money and time when getting on with a project when you are here for a brief time

It must be affordable as a machine which will be idle most of the time and not earning it's keep.

It must be robust enough to do the job of moving hard earth reasonably well: Dingo is too gutless for your work, though good in many way.

It must endure to be versatile enough for other uses once you have shaped the land into the areas you wish level, and those which are slopes or even heaps of soil to provide support for the level areas. The capacity to carry in the bucket is necessary to avoid double handling.

I think trenching capacity is essential, as well as digging with an auger for postholes.

I believe a smallish tyred tractor with attachments is likely to be the best. Or something surplus from the forestry than is larger but affordable. I looked at a Case frontend loader and backhoe for $16,000 last year but could not get it as we had not discussed any such things, and I felt I was way ahead of the game to spend my money on equipment that I would need to sell on should you not like the idea of keeping and maintaining it. Perhaps getting such a piece would be better than worrying about the smaller function of posthole digging as to hire a machine like a dingo to posthole dig is relatively cheap compared to hiring even the mini excavator. But should you get a decent backhoe/frontend loader you would be able to shape so much of the land to retain water and soil nutrients.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dad's ideas for verandah

Dad emailed a few days ago with some more ideas for the verandah. Here's extracts from the email, along with Dave's replies in blue:

Dad said...

I've been reading a book at the place where I work at night. It is a series published by the Australian National Trust, and this book is a two volume set called Äustralian Homesteads". The approach we take to building the verandah will be greatly affected by the ultimate design we decide on. So I photocopied some images to help in discussion.

First is the image of Gidleigh, NSW, which is in it's main house very like your house, in terms of roof and size and with a setback for the lounge portion of the house creating the interesting prospect for the entranceway and veranda.

Gidleigh NSW near ACT border.jpg

Your house was built as a terrace house, but is now placed in a large space without the confines originally placed on it so it needs to be rounded out to look comfortable. Your idea of the L-shaped veranda, even going only partway down the side of the house facing the lake would achieve this and would be more harmonious with the new house when built ultimately.

The second image is of the cottage veranda floor. This is included as you sent some images of this alternative as demonstrated by a house in Queensland.

Gidleigh verandah floor using planks.jpg

If we used this approach I would be costing it first, using 6x1 OB unseasoned hardwood unless you have another idea for planking, and allowing that it would have gaps between the boards once airdried. I used this flooring type on the house veranda I built at Healesville. It was cheap, and very good as it did not hold water on the floor when water was swept in by the wind. It also allowed me to do the less expensive framing approach, eliminating a complete row of stumps and bearers. Costing this approach and considering it is something I would suggest for now before we go further in discussions of labour.

Dave replied: "We like the floorboard style you suggest and will probably use that in parts of the verandah on the 'new house'. We almost got to the point of thinking to have that for the old house too, but then Lyn became concerned that it might not be in keeping with the original style of the old house... that it might clash stylistically with the level of detailing on the window frames and patterning on the top. So, at present, we've come back to favouring the T & G floor"

In this next image, I want to encourage you to seek the frieze pattern for both houses if you think making this old house harmonious with the new house is important.

a pleasant post and frieze pattern.jpg

I do not think the old house needs to be as nice as the new. Treat it as the "cottage"it is and you will come close to my concept of it in the scheme of the whole project.

Dave replied: In terms of the frieze, we are not sure yet what we will do, but agree that it would be an important feature for helping tie the houses together. Depending on how the sketch of the new verandah posts for the old house goes, it may be that we can manage without a frieze on that, but we will see.

We understand where you are coming from here when you say that the old house does not need to be as nice as the new. But, we want to restore and 'improve' the old house, being sympathetic to its style. The things we do to it externally and internally need to reflect that. If we wanted to be minising costs, we'd put up fake brickwork on the outside, for example. Lyn calls it a cottage because of its size. The old house isn't possibly going to be as nice as the new one, and will certainly be a lot smaller, but it doesn't mean it's not going to be nice. Lyn suggests it's perhaps better to think of it as a whimsical cousin rather than a lowly cottage.

Bear in mind that the roof material used can make a significant impact on the design of posts and roof framing. This example is with a slate roof, and so is necessarily of more robust construction. You can use a much lighter approach if you chose to leave out the ceiling. But if you ultimately want the lining of the ceiling the framing of the veranda needs to accomodate this so adding it at a later date is possible.

Dave replied: Agree about building the framing to accommodate a ceiling, but it is something we can do at a later date, unless we spot material to do it in the meantimea a bargain basement price. Ultimately we do definitely plan to line ceiling, but that particular job can be put off til we move there. Lyn wants there to be enough beams in the frame to hang hanging baskets off.

The next image is of an entrance which I thought was able to give you some ideas for the entrance to your house.

interesting entrance on verandah.jpg

This was chosen by the architect to achieve some very good objectives:
1. It makes a statement about the house.
2. It is a gable which lifts the roof above the doorway and permits massive amounts of light to enter the passage without being obvious about it like a skylight or clear sheeting in the roof does.
3. It is in keeping with the period of the house.

I don't like the portico posts but for this house of brick it works. Certainly not on your house. But a veranda post configuration such as this could help with your desire to get the light into the passage, and if made to be like all the other posts of the veranda, but with a difference that makes it stand out a bit, you could achieve such a good effect as this entrance achieves.

Dave replied: We're having a play with verandah post configuration now. The gabled bit is nice, but it's too grand we think for the old house. We have another idea though that we will include in the sketch, as we like the principle of allowing light in without being so obvious about it.

The next image is to show you how I had planned to embellish the square posts I bought for the deck. I would work the centre part with the router and plane, and add the moldings which give it character and dress. The skirting around the post at the bottom is likewise an embellishment which can be added later.

verandah posts embellished.jpg

I like the square posts for the veranda rather than the round look of the turned posts. And they are a fraction of the cost for expenditure right now. Embellishment could be done later when the style is decided and the frieze is decided. All things you and Dave could do in free time as well, given that you can wait for such things and save these sort of jobs for yourself. Getting the moldings is easy, and using the tools easy too.

If you want turned posts, these need to be done before being put in place, however, and do not lend themselves to embellishment at a later date so readily as a decision of how low to keep the unworked part of the post to accomodate the frieze must be made before placing the post in situ.

We replied: In terms of the verandah post shape. Lyn likes turned posts but is worried they may not fit well with the balustrading. So, we are in the process of designing some 'square' post scenarios that Lyn is comfortable with, and I'll try to finish those and get em to you this weekend.

We've also been experimenting with some ideas about the animal protection bit under the floor level on the verandah. We saw a picture of one that was recessed back a set of stumps, to allow shaded space for garden and/or for animals to rest. We think this is a good idea to try on at least part of the house.

Finally, this next image is to give you some idea of the roof structure of the hobbithouse I plan to build.

hobbithouse roof structure image.jpg

I will have a veranda on it of course, and it will be built in a crescent shape following the hill it is carved into, but the roof structure will be quite distinctive and time-consuming. The whole will be quite unseen from your house or the roadway, but will be a pleasant surprise to discover when walking. I will obtain a permit for the structure first as I want it to be a building you can use as a bed and breakfast. But at present it is my dream on paper and in my mind. By getting the permit, I can proceed in a sensible sequence with my foundations and Treebeard and his Entwives which will be posts to support the whole of the structure. (NB: Treebeard and his Entwives are Dad's names for the big tree trunks from the trees taken out at Mum's house).

Dave replied: It'll be great when it's done! It is very interesting, I bet there won't be another house like it in all of Victoria!