The view from the porch

Porch, through kitchen

In, towards the kitchen, that is.

Frank & co made a breakthrough (*coff*) yesterday, the result being an extremely open-plan kitchen.

They also started knocking out the false ceiling, which is going to be a major mission, but we believe the results will be worth it.

The false ceiling runs at a different slope than the roof, so we’ll gain more headroom at the bottom and less at the top. But it’s going to work (we hope…)

Shopping around

We looked at different options for baths and sinks, with aesthetics being more important for the baths and price (and size) being the factor for the sinks. I’ve been set on the Libra Misty bath for a while (it would have been in Jessica’s en-suite bathroom in our previous plans), and Tanya decided on the Libra Neptune Euro for our main bathroom (The “Euro” is the 800mm wide version). When it comes to kitchen sinks, the Franke Curvline is their narrowest option, at 435mm, so I asked for quotes on both the 1235 and 1500mm long versions (all quotes from Exquisite Bathrooms, because they’re just down the road from where I work and because while I’ve been bothering them on and off for a long time they’re still nice to me :-).

Meanwhile Mica in Bellville was running a special on the Neptune Euro, at 1499, but Exquisite Bathrooms came through and quoted 1307 + VAT = 1489. The Misty is expensive at R 4 162 with the front panel included, but it’s… nice. We also like the Verona cloakroom basin (as an addition to the main toilet), but I guess it’s imported, since it goes for about R820, more than I want to spend on a small handbasin (I can get something similar from Mica for under R200).

Exquisite quoted 1066 for the shorter Franke and 1556 for the longer one. The extra 265mm is not worth it in my opinion.

I also balked at paying R605 for a basic round stainless prep bowl, and picked one up at Muizenberg market for R150.

Cheap prep bowl

Comparative shopping also works for toilets — a basic close-coupled dual-flush unit goes for 2200 at one place, but we got a different model from Brights for 499.

And then of course there’s the price of plumbing fittings. Copper pipe is… unaffordable. Which is why I’m reusing as much as possible (unfortunately the existing T fittings are really old, requiring one to flare the pipe over a ferrule, rather than slipping the ferrule over the pipe). There’s a plastic composite alternative, which also uses compression fitting and sells for R11/m. But I can get polycop at Muizenberg market for R3/m (this is all for the 15mm stuff). OK, polycop flows less than the other alternatives, but I can fit 22mm polycop for a lot less than 15mm anything else.

Of course when working with copper one can use the solder type fittings (Solder elbow 5.75, compression elbow 16.50. Solder T 9.50, compression T 21.25) but you need a gas torch, which will set you back a few hundred, so it’s not economical for small jobs. I have the torch, so I’ll be using solder fittings and left-over pipe for some of the plumbing, and polycop for the rest.


Once we knock out the wall between the kitchen and the living room, we’ll have a 3.030m hole in the wall — and that weight needs to be supported, not only later, but while doing the actual knocking out.

I went down to the hardware store this morning and bought a number of lintels, from 1 200 for over the doors to 3 600 for the kitchen / living room / living room door arrangement. The wall between the dining room and living room is a single course of brick, around 130mm. The wall between the kitchen and the living room (the one we’re breaking out) is double, 260mm.

So the instructions to the Malawian Trio is to remove a single row of bricks, leaving the wall supported by the other course of the double wall, and to then build the lintel into the resulting hole. We will then prop the lintel up and break out the wall below it.

Update : 2008-04-22.

Lintels, part 1Lintel, part 1.

So I got there to see that they found an existing lintel over the existing door. It was cast in place, too, so it ain’t gonna come out. Hmmm. Should have thought of that. Looks like they then thought to put the new lintel under the old one, which will work, but maybe that makes the doorway too low.

So the new plan is to keep the existing lintel and to add a shorter-than-originally-anticipated lintel to the right, with some kind of a bearing place to support the whole mess.

The pipes! The pipes!

The horror! The horror!

Whoever did the piping had… interesting ideas. I found the main feed, 3/4″, going to the geyser in the roof. Coming from the geyser there’s another 3/4″ pipe, which disappears under the cement stoep and from there presumably some magic happens, resulting in hot and cold water pipes sprouting from the stoep where required.

Cold going up on left, hot coming down on right*shudder*Manifold destiny

Of course this means that the water will take a while to get hot. And I don’t know what the heat loss in or under the cement stoep is — suffice to say that This Must Go.

OK, I need to take bits of the stoep up to plumb in the new bathroom, and other bits of the stoep are cracked, so chopping it all up to get at the pipes is no biggie. En ek skrik nie vir plumbing nie, net vir die prys van koper.

A friend pointed me at a new product on the market — some plastic composite type water pipe that’s compatible with compression fittings (there are also plastic compression fittings available but I’m not sure I trust them). It’s a lot cheaper than copper and flows a lot better than polycop, it might just work.

So I’m off to buy a rather large geyser [1] from De La Rey (which is called Builder’s Warehouse these days but who cares). I’ll see about plumbing a solar collector into this [2].

And then the pipes will run straight and to the point and I’ll even wrap some insulation around them.

Oh Danny Boy..

[1] The geyser that’s in there at the moment sports a five-digit Cape Town phone number (we’re up to 7 these days) which sort of hints at the age of the house. And it’s rusting from the outside in. But mostly it’s one of those horribly inefficient tank types, and now’s a good time to replace it.

[2] Buying a solar, electrically assisted geyser would be easier, good for the environment (or maybe just for Eskom), and roughly ten times as expensive if you include everything. I can’t afford to pay for Eishkom’s mistakes, I’m afraid.

It’s not SMEG but it’ll do.

I grew up in a gas stove house. But I hate what gas does to your pot handles — in my opinion, electric plates work best for simmering. But of course electric plates take ages to heat up (spirals are not too bad, we have those at Amperbo at the moment, but they have a habit of trapping bits and needing disassembly to clean). At Tanya’s place we had a small solid plate electric, which worked well (but took ages to change gears) until the oven door hinge broke. We replaced it with a small all-gas unit, which is OK, but I discovered that gas ovens don’t work so well. Clearly, the oven should be electric.

But when it comes to choice of hob, the answer is clearly… both.

There are some really lekker combo hobs on the market, they’re also really lekker expensive. As an alternative, I’ve been eyeballing the “domino” hobs — small units you can fit together to build larger systems, with the option of gas or electric or “ceran” or you name it — from Defy at around R1000 for the least expensive (gas plate) to systems clocking R7k per domino.

So I hied myself off to Tafelberg Furnishers in Durban road, spoke to Werner a bit, and decided on the Whirlpool range. Same price as the Defy (i.e. bargain basement), nicer look. Bought two AKT301 gas dominos, one AKT315 “radiant” electric domino, and an AKP286 thermofan oven. Cost a little under R7k for the lot

It’s not SMEG but it’ll do.

Zen and the Art of Kitchen Design

Our kitchen is rather small. 3650 x 2860 or thereabouts. There’s also not much in it that we can keep, see Tanya’s blog for pictures.

Firstly, we decided to move the door(way). That opens the kitchen up, or splits it down the middle, depending on how you look at it. The opening can’t be too far to the left, because the electrical distribution box (DB) and prepaid electricity meter is there. Also, it gets too close to the semi-private area. And it can’t go too far to the right, since that infringes on my (I’m the cook in the family) work space.


Currently I’m thinking that either the fridge or the oven should go in the corner. I’m also thinking I can steal some space by using the hole in the wall where the door currently is. Putting the fridge way over there splits the work triangle, but keeps the kids out of my hair when they do the “let’s stare at the inside of the fridge” thing. Putting the oven in the corner means that the fridge has to go somewhere else, which in turn means that the new door will probably move to the left, which takes it further away from the living room on the right.


Fitting a quart into a pint pot

We had my folks over last Sunday, they couldn’t contain their curiosity any longer I guess. I told them I’m prepared to ignore any advice they wanted to give :-)

One of the opinions was that trying to fit a bedroom + en-suite bathroom into the ex-single-garage is crazy. Too cramped.

Well, OK, we know it will be tight. But we think we can live with it. On the other hand, I’m now doubting this (while I say that I happily ignore all advice, in truth… I don’t).

So the measuring tape came out again.

As a sanity check, I measured Tanya’s existing bedroom last night. She lives there full-time, I only sleep over two or three nights a week, living from a tog bag. What I’m saying is, we’d need more storage than she currently has.

But storage isn’t the main concern, it’s being able to move around the place without having to climb over the bed to get to the loo. We sort of manage at Tanya’s place, but it’s not ideal.

So I CADded to compare. (Top is Tanya’s existing place, bottom is work in progress).

The good news is, I just realised that the bed I’ve been using for these exercises is a king, and we were planning to use a queen, so I gain a whole 200mm!

Hey! Where’d the kitchen door go?

So there we were, sitting, talking, drinking red wine (this is the planning stage, see?)… and we talked about which way the bathroom door should swing. And a few minutes later we’d moved the kitchen door.

OK, to understand all of this you would need to look at the rough floor plan. See that area labelled “Hall”? It’s semi-private space — between the bedrooms and the communal bathroom. But the kitchen also opens up into it. So what happens when you have a party? I don’t know about you, but our friends hang out in the kitchen. And that makes the “hall” public. Not good for the kids who maybe want to withdraw from the party.

So, we decided to close the existing kitchen door, and to relocate the doorway to the wall between the “entrance” and the kitchen. I’ll then build a cupboard or something into the dead corner — unused space has always bothered me, and in this house design, the “hall” area is not used for anything more than a glorified passage. A good house design doesn’t have passages :-)

Plan B

After we put in the offer on the house, I fired up my architectural CAD package (of which I have several, all quirky in different ways) and drew the floorplan as I remembered it. I then figured out how to add what we wanted to the basic plan without going so far as breaking the whole place down and rebuilding.

It’s scary how close that original floorplan I drew matches the place, once we took possession and measured everything and CADded it up. (pic <- background is my original drawing, foreground the rough actual measurements).

But we looked at the place, and firstly Tamsyn’s room (Bedroom 3) was frightfully small, and secondly there’s a huge big electrical box of frogs on the wall where I wanted to break through to extend the main bathroom.

So plans B and C were hatched, plan B being that the existing activity room (which started out life as a single garage) becomes the main bedroom, with Tamsyn going into Jessica’s room (Bedroom 2) and Jessica going into the main bedroom, and plan C involving building. Which relies on plans being approved. Which may or may not (with a large bias towards “may”) lead to old age terminating the waiting process.

OK, Plan B it is. The existing activity room is 6100 x 3050. We want a queen size bed, cupboard space, and a full bathroom (bath, separate shower, toilet, and of course a basin). Plans B-A, B-B, B-C, and so forth, and so on, were hatched. We’re currently on B-lostcount, somewhere around H.

Stay tuned to our exciting programme to find out whether we can fit all these elements into the available space!

So… we bought a house.

It’s a long story, starting with an idea which didn’t work out, progressing via choosing a high school for Jessica, and culminating in a decision to look at places in Fish Hoek. Budget : under or slightly over a million. Which is pretty much entry level in Cape Town at the time of writing.

So I phoned all the agents in the area (or at least the ones I could find on the web) — later found out that the agents in FH work together in a strange way, unlike the agents I know. Not that that matters, Major Kim phoned back, took us to see four places. The first was great but in need of attention, the next two were too small, and Tanya didn’t like the other one at all. So we put a very low offer in on the first place.

And got it, after a round of negotiations… for a little under a mil. So when you hear reports of the property market in downswing — we pretty much started it :-)

So now we have… one fixer upper, in Fish Hoek, close to everything (except the liquor store, but that’s Fish Hoek for you).