Glass bricks

So, Frank built a 900mm high wall closing off about a third of the back stoep, the idea is to build a glass block wall all the way to the top. This will shelter the jacuzzi-corner from the Fish Hoek wind, which blows up the valley from the sea and gives me a permanent runny nose.

But Frank doesn’t know how to build with glass blocks.

Neither do I.

Homebase makes it look complex, DIY Divas makes it look easy. Fine Homebuilding says it’s somewhere in between. With those three references, I’m sure we’ll get it right. I’ll ask some questions at the hardware store tomorrow morning.

Edit : Frank ended up building the glass wall just like a normal brick wall, using 5mm tile spacers, and normal cement. He strung wire between the wall and the steel pole (self tappers on the steel side, nail-in anchors into the wall) every two courses, and it came out well. Well, sorta well, see later post on same subject.

Broke 100k

This morning I had R500 to go to hit the R100 000 mark, so I went out and spent R4 000.

It’s officially cheaper to shoot someone than to throw a brick at them. As long as you load your own ammo. R1.50 a common garden ROK brick? Yoiks.

Win a few, lose a few.

Tanya’s colour scheme looks good :-)

I’ve been scanning the Cape Ads for a jacuzzi for a while. Found one for what I thought to be a rather reasonable price, R 7500 for a freestanding unit. It’s a Superior Spa Barracuda, and it’s currently living on a trailer in the driveway — getting it there was fun too. You see, we have a flatbed trailer in the family, but it wasn’t roadworthy, since they recently made reflective strips down the side of the trailer mandatory — not a bad idea IMO. But that meant I first had to get two strips of galvanised steel which I could poprivit to the side of the trailer so that I could stick the tape to it. OK, there’s a place down the road which sells all kinds of steel, R30 later, we’re done. Cheap, compared to the cost of the tape.

So on Saturday I drove through to Bellville, fitted the steel strips and reflective tape while my father watched the Bokke klup the All Blacks, and dragged the trailer to Kenilworth. By now I’d realised that I was running late, so instead of going through to Fish Hoek to pick up the guys, I asked Tanya to bring them through. Loaded the jacuzzi on the trailer with much grunting and groaning, and strapped it down. Drove back rather slowly (there are three routes, over Ou Kaapse Weg (steep, especially the uphill bit), over Boyes Drive (also somewhat steep, specifically the downhill bit, and Muizenberg Main Road (where they have roadworks and a stop & go system). We went via Muizenberg. Lesser of three evils.

So, for geeks like me — the anatomy of a jacuzzi. (Non-geeks, skip down).

The main pump is the black thing left of centre (left hand pic). It draws water from underneath, pumps it through the canister filter (far left) and then around to the manifold (picture on right) where the water gets split five ways to the five main jets. The main jets also have an air hose each, air feed being controlled by the valve on the jacuzzi rim (top left on left hand pic).

On the bottom right hand side of the first pic, there’s a blue canister. That contains the heater element. Water is again drawn from the bottom, though the heater via the small pump (just right of centre) and into the jet behind it.

So basically the water in the jacuzzi is circulated via the main jets, and the heater circuit is on the side.

The third “pump” is the black thing on the right hand side, it pumps air via an airlock (the U above the deck — to make sure it doesn’t get flooded) and into the bottom of the jacuzzi.

This thing needs a serious power supply. It has four trip switches, 10 and 15 amp for the pumps, and 30A for the heater. Now I have a “spare” (used to be the stove) 20A 3 phase circuit, and the question is whether this would be sufficient — the heater is advertised as 4kW, which is 18A or so, so I don’t know why they needed a 30A trip. Current (*cough*) planning : use one 20A circuit for the heater, use another for the rest, and use the third for the oven — basically replacing a four plate stove with a jacuzzi, electrically speaking.

^^^ Non-geeks : you can skip to here.

The jacuzzi’s going into the corner there. Lekker.

OK, so I mentioned “lose a few” in the topic. Went down to Muizenberg for my weekly brass fix, R72’s worth this time. Almost there. I also bought 6m of 15mm polycop. Only slightly cheaper than the hardware store, R3.50 as opposed to around R4/m. And the bloody stuff is out of spec. Too thick by just enough to make it almost impossible to fit the little ring of the compression fitting. Bugger.

Back to geek : I also bought a 1gig USB memory stick for R80, which is a good price, I think. But it only works in two of the four slots on my D815EEA2 motherboard, gives errors in the other two. No idea why, but the slots are connected to different USB controllers, according to the mostly useless mobo manual. The memstick works just great with my xcarlink, which is what I got it for, so it’s not all bad.

And BTW the xcarlink *rawks*.

Frank screeded the slasto, using a bag and a half of self levelling screed, mixed with some Bond-It for extra strength. I figured that he should have been able to do the job with one bag, I think the screeding should have been thinner. But it’ll do.

Stupid, stupid, stupid

Me, that is.

I didn’t think, see.

If I’d measured things and told Frank to build the brick wall one brick lower, he would have been able to fit another row of glass bricks in the top.

As it is I’m left with a gap that I now need to fill.


The door is from Cape Ads. It’s a bit small for the frame, actually it’s half of a double door. I’ll have to fit filler strips to the side and top.

Wiring the master bathroom

So after finishing (most of) the plumbing, I turned to wiring the new bathroom (unlike the plumbing, fortunately, only the kitchen and the new master bedroom / bathroom needs extra wiring).

Now in the bathroom we have an alcove where the doorway used to be. We’ll have some glass shelves there, and downlighters. We also have Tanya’s crystal light, which doesn’t really give much light, more like mood lighting with candles and with the main light off.

The main light, of course, needs to be controlled from outside the bathroom. But it would be nice to turn the main light off and the mood lighting on from inside.

My solution is to fit a two way circuit for the main lights, with one switch outside (by the doorway into the MBR) and the other switch next to the door to the outside world. The switch for Tanya’s light then goes next to the door as well. And the downlighters go on the same circuit as the main lights.

OK, all of this sounds terribly confusing, and the wiring is also rather… complicated. Especially since the best way to hide the wire for the downlighters is to take it from the switch up into the ceiling, around to the other switch, then down, under the bath, and up the height of the old doorway… yes, this is the easy way… trust me.

Doing our bit to save the environment.

South Africa is quite a dry country. Hard to believe after the storms that recently hit Cape Town, but our average rainfall is 500mm/year, while the world average is 860mm.

The light blue area in the map is desert. Namaqualand, Richtersveld, Karoo… stunning landscape, but dry.

We are also in the middle of an energy crisis. It seems that our electricity utility and / or government decided that the minimum of maintenance was all that was required to bring the country into the 21st century, so no new power stations were built while the economy and the population boomed.

The greenies suggest hydro-electric, wind and solar power, because they don’t like nuclear. Nothing wrong with hydro-electricity, if you don’t mind pouring your drinking water into the sea (the power you can extract from the water is a function of the mass and the difference in height, so to extract the maximum power the water needs to end up at sea level).

Wind and solar farms don’t seem to work well anywhere in the world, but it does work well on a local, distributed level — especially solar, in the form of solar geysers. Although, with our current low (even after rates increased) cost of electricity, it takes at least five years to break even on the installation cost. Unless you do-it-yourself, which I am planning on doing (Backwoods Home Magazine has some good articles, tips and ideas).

Out-of-the-box way of going solar : hang your clothes on the line instead of using a tumble drier.

Looking at the future, I see three crunches approaching. Two are related — fuel and electricity. With nuclear power stations we can manage the electricity supply, but fuel shortages will force us to change the way we live.

The third crunch is water. We already have periodic shortages, maybe coupled to the 11 year Solar Cycle. With population increasing, we’re going to have to take a serious look at how we use water.

Studies say that 3/4 of the water we use is in the bathroom, with your toilet(s) alone accounting for nearly 1/3. The toilet we’re fitting in the new bathroom is a dual flush unit. These use a lot less water than the traditional toilets, firstly because of a more efficient design (a full flush takes 5 or 6 litres, while the traditional toilets use closer to 18 litres, they tell me — and sticking a brick in the tank does reduce the amount of water per flush, but because the toilet was not designed for it, it also leads to incomplete flushes, so you flush twice, using even more water), and secondly because you can select a “half flush” if there are no floaty bits that need flushing.

Out-of-the-box way of saving water in the bathroom : if you’re a guy, go outside. This not only saves half a flush of water, it also helps water your plants — two savings for the price of one. Oh, and it might even help keeping porcupines away.

It feels like Christmas

So I have a supposedly complete set of kitchen cabinets, in flat format. And I have to make sense of it (they included some very sketchy drawings for some of the stuff but not for all).

So I started sorting out things, putting pieces of the same unit together, as far as I can tell. Now, if I had a complete set of everything, I could figure it out, but nooo. Firstly, I’m supposed to have two 300 deep wall units, for over the stove. Turns out I have four. The one extra might be intended to go above the fridge, but I took that out of the design, the other extra is a duplicate of the one over the stove. I guess if I want to stuff something up, that’s where I need to start.

Julian at Lansdowne Boards assures me I didn’t pay for the extra stuff, hy voel ‘n veer.

On the other hand, I’m supposed to have four fixed shelves for the microwave unit, and I only have two.

I also have no idea what this is, but Julian phone-IDed it as part of the drawer assembly, I will have to go there to have a look at where and how it goes.

Sunrise yesterday morning, slightly gippoed (original).

Oh, and why does it feel like Christmas? ‘cos the kids get toys which have to be assembled by Yours Truly, that’s why. Except the toys come with rudimentary instructions…

I’m starting to think that this might have been a bad idea…

The kitchen in kit form, that is.

Good news is I found the shelves for the microwave unit, the ones I thought were missing. I also figured out how the drawers are supposed to be assembled.

Bad news is, they supplied the units that go in front of the kitchen window at the standard 720mm height (for a 900mm counter) instead of 820mm. The doors and panels are right, though. (Edit : the panels next to the dishwasher are 100mm to short too).

More bad news is, they didn’t supply the units that go under the sink, at all. They did supply the doors though.

And while they supplied the correct number (24) of doors, one is the wrong size.

And the corner cupboard front edge is not edged (covered in melamine) but I’m apparently supposed to do that myself. Met mamma se strykyster. Ek gaan gemoer raak, ek voel dit in my water. Not that they supplied the edging, nooooo, I had to go ask.

Edit : and there’s a 200mm wide unit that I’m pretty sure I didn’t get either, will double check tonight.

Took me quite a few hours of cataloguing to learn the above. Fortunately I got Julian to provide me with a full list of the doors and panels, and I made notes as to which doors and panels go where.

Tip : get them to pack each unit separately. It might cost more, but the time saved should be worth it (I still have a few drilled pieces that I have no idea where they’re supposed to go).

Augustus lê nog voor.

Historically, August is the month of storms and heavy rain in Cape Town. Any rain or storms in June or July is traditionally shrugged off with “August is still coming”.

This year, we had some serious weather in July. If August is indeed worse than July, I shall have to start building an ark.

On the other hand, our lime tree thinks it’s spring (photo using my Samsung S630, which is a handy sub R1k camera. Tanya’s FZ-20 would have done a much better job).

One kitchen cupboard, installed, with side panel and door.

The Lansdowne Boards kit cupboards come with trick pin & cam hardware to hold the thing together without screw heads on the outside. But if you assemble the cupboards like this, with foil panels on the outside, the job would actually be neater without the custom hardware.

Oh, and the eagle-eyed among you will notice four screws in the middle of the panel. Freaked Frank out too. Relax, the next cupboard (visible in bottom left corned, with extractor fan in bottom) will cover those screws. Only the bottom quarter of the panel will be visible.

Friday night progress.

On Friday morning I jigsawed the hole into the bottom of the cabinet and sealed / screwed the extractor fan into place. On Friday evening I hung the cupboard and fitted the side panel and doors. The hole for the extractor pipe almost exactly lines up with the smaller hole Frank put in the ceiling when he fell through.

Of course this means yet another hole in the outside wall, for the extractor pipe (I’m using 120mm sewerage pipe, I have two thirds of a length left over).

I hid the front two screws for the side panel under the door hinges, and I used the bottom adjustable shelf holes for the two back screws, which means the shelves can’t go at their lowest setting (actually, once the glue has dried, I can remove the two screws at the back, the panel won’t go anywhere).

The wall is… not so straight. But that’s a reality that one has to deal with. This house is actually more square than most.

Frank fitted a ceiling to our bathroom. He also fixed the cornices — this is nice, but premature. One should actually tile first, I think.

I’ll have to get a professional tiler to tile our bathroom, Frank’s not that good, and this bathroom must be… nice :-)

When I got home on Friday, the power had tripped. Asked Frank about this, he thinks he might have put a screw through the wires when fitting the cornices. I’ll have to climb up there to have a look *sigh*.