Some Christmastime DIY


I added two switches, one for the undercounter light, the other for a downlighter I still need to fit. Not the most professional installation, but it’ll work.


Remember the bathroom we built from scratch back in November 2008? I ripped it all apart again. The bath (a Libra Neptune Euro) was too big for Tanya, so Frank and I fitted a smaller (1700 x 700 as opposed to 1800 x 800) and much cheaper bath.

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Here’s the redone tiling. Look at the clever gyppo [1] in the corner. The grout line would have been on the edge of the bath, so we made a cut-out in the front tile so that the front edge matches the rear wall.


If the front edge looks like it gets narrower towards the right, that’s because… it gets narrower towards the right. The (professional) tiler tiled the rear wall at an angle (I know I built the box square to the rear wall, before the tiling happened) and I opted to square the bath at the back. I’m sure by next week I won’t notice it any longer.

[1] In the sense of “avoiding work”.

Happy Anniversary

Today, a year ago, we took possession of the house. It’s been… a journey. A long one, and we’re still on it.

Maybe it’s time for the long awaited kitchen sink backsplash post. Frank finished the tiling and grouting last Friday, but I’ve been somewhat busy, so blogging had to wait.

Drip tray hardware from A&D Distributors in Maitland.

We invited some people over on Saturday evening, so the rush was on to finish the bathroom shelves (only way I get things done, invite people over :-)

These rods are also from A&D…

..and this is what they look like installed. Since this particular wall consists of tile over shutterboard, I just drilled a hole and used a 6mm bolt from the other side to hold the rod to the wall.

For the shelf on the other side, I used two lengths of 12mm aliminium angle, cut and filed and drilled. This is where I noticed that the whole thing is completely out of square, the tiler could have done a lot better.

I still have to change the bath… *sigh* but it’ll be nice when it’s done. And Tanya wants “her” light on the same circuit as the downlighters, there’s a DB in the ceiling, I just have to get up there…

I would have liked to go and see the Kontiki rafts, but driving to the Fruit & Veg in Bellville to buy snack-ey party stuff, and putting up the shelves, took my whole day. OK, I also spent an hour at the range early on Saturday but that doesn’t count :-) Found a pretty good 7mm TC/U cast bullet load. Subject of another posting, maybe.

Monday evening sunset, straight off the camera, no Photoshoppery.

The long-awaited shower post.

It’s been a quiet few weeks, blog-wise, and I prefer to think it’s because I had, for however brief a time, a life.

That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, the shower in the main-en-suite. My original design featured two shower heads, a conventional rose at conventional height, and a large overhead rose. All of this controlled by a standard bathtub diverter tap (the type you would normally use for a bathtub / shower combination, or a bathtub with a telephone shower).

This is the best picture I have, I’m afraid — I was photographing the curved wall.

The large rose was a given — Tanya likes it, a lot. The idea behind the lower rose is that Tanya could use it if she didn’t want to get her hair wet.

Well, this arrangement worked, but the large rose kept dripping for hours afterwards. And Tanya ended up using the large rose exclusively anyway.

So yours truly devised Plan B, which is to fit a vacuum breaker, figuring that this would make the upper circuit drain more quickly. I also removed the lower arm and rose, what with it not being used and all.

Result : no change, large rose still dripped for hours… I think the water in the rose and pipe didn’t provide enough suction to open the vacuum breaker, maybe.

A lot of late night insomnia led to Plan C.

Spot the difference? Yup, those curved pipes are not for show. The shower now stops dripping almost immediately.

So, if you want a large overhead shower rose, you also need the pipe with the bend in it. Trust me.

It doesn’t look like much…

…but it means one less extension cord to trip over.

The wire runs down through the ceiling behind the Colossal Cupboard, under the Hidden Door, and up along the door frame to the plugpoint.

With hindsight it would have been easier to fit the plugpoint before mounting the bookcase on the other side of the wall.

This is the second-last electrical run required. I still need to extend it to Jessica’s room and to the outside plug point for the washer, dryer and chest freezer. (The last electrical run will be for a plug point for Tamsyn’s computer). Edit : of course I’m lying, we still need plug points in the master bedroom, but for some reason that doesn’t come up on my radar…

The master bathroom’s looking good.

Tomato and Beef Kofta, Pita bread, and a bit of bathroom progress

I’ve been browsing through Lex Culinaria, which is not something to do while hungry. The Tomato and Beef Kofta recipe looked good. So I made that (first time I’ve made meatballs, would you believe it?). Also tried my hand at Farmgirl’s pita bread, but slipped up, used too much water, had to add flour, and basically ended up with something closer to naan. No worries, it was great.

It’s easy to lose track of the fact that the house is far from finished when you’re having fun in the kitchen. I suppose I have to start from one side, and since the kids’ rooms are almost there (Jessica has a mirror that still has to go up, and the notwork and computer power points still have to go in) the bathroom’s high on the list.

I don’t know how one is supposed to keep the bath apron in place (note strategic use of batten and screwdriver) but I’m hoping that copious amounts of silicone will do. (I had to cut the tile on the far wall in a curved shape to fit, which is why this took so long. That, and the bath was leaking.)

Crazy season is upon us

I’m not 22 anymore. It used to be that I could go out drinking till 4 in the morning and be walking around like nothing happened by 9 am. But your 30s are different from your 20s, and not necessarilly in a good way.

And lemme tell ya, your forties are not better… we were invited to three parties, and the only one that didn’t end late was Sunday lunch. Sleep when you’re dead.

On the house side, I chipped out the grouting in Tamsyn’s bathroom, between the lower row of tiles and the bath, so that I can replace it with sealant. Then realised I was out of sealant, had to go buy some. Did so on the way to Bellville for braai #3.

I also (with Tanya’s help) put our bath into position and plumbed in the telephone shower and the inlet. I need to go buy a fitting to make the drain work.

And if your wife said “that’s OK, I only want to bath in that bath once the light is up” — take the hint and install the light!

And we officially started taking stuff out of the container. (This is the container where I stuffed my life into, eight years ago. It contains, among other things, three and a half pinball machines, half the bits to resurrect a Puma, a load of Land-Rover bits, a number of interesting old computers, a few amateur radios, and a shedload of books (SF and fantasy) and magazines (Byte, kilobaud, Elektor, ETI…)).

Found the leak

I’ve been sukkeling with the leaking bath all week.

The first time it really was a leak. I originally approached the plumbing gat-om-kop [1], and cemented the drain pipe into the wall before attaching it to the trap. Which means I had to heat and bend the pipe to get it to the trap, and in the process I got it out-of-round, so the seal didn’t.

I got Frank to break the pipe out of the wall again, and fitted a new (round) pipe. But things still leaked. So I went for option 3, get rid of the trap. Still leaked.

Last night I suspected that the overflow was the culprit, since that’s not tied into anything at the moment. Put a little bowl under it this morning when i showered, and it did catch a bit of water, but there’s still a lot of water under the bath.

Then it dawned — the grouting between the lowest row of tiles and the bath is not sealing, because… it’s grouting. It’s not supposed to seal. I need to remove the grouting at a 45 degree angle and fill the resulting gap with silicone sealer. On the to-do list for this weekend.

Then I’ll fit the front cover and take the pictures people have been asking about for weeks. Patience, my little grasshoppers, patience.

[1] Arse about face. But gat-om-kop sounds so much better. Afrikaans is a wonderful language to swear in, because even when you’re not swearing, it sounds as if you are.

Carpet, Novilon, backsplash

We spoke to the carpet dudes in Fish Hoek a while ago, got a quote etc, but we waited as long as possible before (1) choosing the carpets (to match the kitchen cupboards and bookshelves which are still going in) and (2) having the carpets laid (to get as much work done without getting the carpets too dirty).

Belgotex Sensation Kiat for the living room (the one on the right).

Novilon Liberty Yellow Beech for our bathroom.

And while we were at it, Dakota Mist (floor) tiles for the kitchen backsplash.

The quote came to just under R14k (Carpets in Jessica’s room, passage and living room, Novilon in our bathroom, and the supply of one box of tiles). They’re starting on Thursday, which means we have to clear the place so they can work.

Big update

As mentioned in the previous post, I found a tiler, Glynn Maree, he advertises on Gumtree. I’m very happy with his work.

The border tiles were cheap, and we quite liked them at the time. But Tanya took one look at this, and said that they didn’t look right. So I quickly removed them before the cement hardened. The problem of course is that we now have a strip the width of this specific border tile (80mm) and we need to find something else that fits.

At the time I built the bath surround, I didn’t know what kind of tiles we’d be using, so the gap I left down the middle of the surround (to be able to connect the plumbing) was determined randomly by the board size. Last week, Glynn tiled to a point, and this morning I cut the hole bigger at the bottom and filled the top in. Glynn will stick two tiles to the loose plank, and I’ll fit magnetic catches to keep it in.

I’ve been building this unit out of my favourite material, shutterboard. Tanya and I carried it from the garage to the house (it’s heavy) and wrestled it into position. So what is it, you ask? Well, it’s part of my one built-in cupboard, the one with drawers and shelves that I’m still designing. It’s also a space to store towels, all neatly rolled up.

This is the view from the living room. A bit of cretestone and paint and it will blend right in.

On a totally unrelated topic. I’m around the house on Saturday morning, and my cell phone rings. It’s Tanya, she’s stuck in the toilet.

Now, there’s a story here. When we got the house, the toilet door had no mechanism, and I don’t know what they did to it to damage the door like they did…

I fitted a mechanism, cut a plank sort-of to size, nailed it into place…

… and liberally applied (automotive) body putty (bondo in the USA).

I still have to drill the hole for the square rod… but this explains why Tanya couldn’t get out. I had to unscrew the handle on the outside and use a pair of pliers to open the lock.

Bloody good thing this didn’t happen to me one morning while working alone at the house. Especially since I don’t generally carry my cellphone with me when working.

And yet another unrelated topic — I’m still looking for a wok, so I went to Taste of Asia in Plumstead. Found a mortar & pestle, and umeboshi. The umeboshi is quite expensive, the package above costs about the same as a flat (24 cans) of beer. Havn’t tried it yet.

I also made Cheezy-Lime White Chili with tofu, mostly for Jessica, but I ended up eating most of it. Gooood. Not that I’d call it a chili, it’s more of a (mild) curry. I’ll make it again.

I bet the car’s a writeoff.

Evidence that it hailed in Fish Hoek this morning. Just a bit, but man oh man was it loud on the tin roof of the garage.

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.