Taking down our terrace roof – part II

A few months ago I started tearing down a portion of the roof that covers our terrace. The wood used in its construction was untreated and this meant that all manner of creatures had started making it their home.

The main beam holding up half of the roof had started sagging to the point that the houses previous owner propped it up with another wooden pole, which was jammed between the beam and a stair. This made me feel incredibly uneasy.

A rotting mess

As the wood was untreated the beam near the end, which got wet any time it rained, was completely rotten. It was right near the road and I was very worried that the tiles on it would fall off and into the road, leading to an accident.

This too had a pole propping it up. Here you can see the sad state it was in.

This was how far I got for a while, with the tiles off, the immediate danger was out of the way. Much of the weight had been removed from the main beam so I had bought some time, as you may know I focussed on redoing the kitchen and bathroom downstairs to prepare it for when my mother-in-law moved in.

Some progress, rotten to the core

Fast forward two months and I started taking some of the wooden beams down, not an easy task when you are so high and working on top of a ladder on the terrace.

I took the above photo to show my wife just exactly how rotten and weakened the main beam was. I got quite a surprise when looking at it from this angle.

I had managed to take the end bean off and it practically crumbled in my hands as I took it down. If not for the pole holding it up it would have fallen down a long time ago.

I managed to get two beams down in a day, but working so near the edge of the terrace meant my nerves were shot. I was very glad to be down from the ladder for a while.

A little while later ( a few days) I put a different light up outside so that I could disconnect the ones fixed to the beams. With the tiles off I did not want water to go into them and cause a short. Better safe than sorry.

As life has it I got not one but two freelance deals so I had to take a break from the DIY stuff for a while and sort out the two clients.

DIY gates and fencing – recycle old gates.

She ain’t purdy but she works. Another image heavy post, this after I culled a few!

Let’s jump right into it, gates are up and dogs can now be let loose in the back yard without going into the street, WINNING!

A note on rawl bolts and quality

Also known as sleeve anchor bolts it seems. I bought a box of 10 at the hardware store, on the box it showed you should use a 14mm drill bit when installing them, I did not have one so picked one of those up too.

When installing I noticed they were awful loose in the holes, as if the drill bit was oversized. I managed to mess a few of them up as I tried drilling a smaller hole, eventually I ran short on this fence post, so bought a few loose sleeves from another hardware store. I only needed the sleeves as I still had the bolts that were left over from the ones I destroyed.

Lets take a look at some pictures, first picture you will notice the nut that’s inside the sleeve is almost at the top.

The following hazy photo id of the sleeve I bought loose. See how far down the sleeve it is?

The only deduction I can make is that the box of bolts I bought were really cheap and nasty and undersized. The loose sleeves I bought went in snug with the 14mm hole and I could feel they were tightening up much sooner and had more bite.

OK, boring I know…

Miranda do Corvo on fire

There was a fire near us and for some time there were a fleet of firefighting planes going overhead. Every so often the five (yes 5!!) planes would fly overhead as they picked up more water to dump on the fires.

I only managed to get two in one shot though.

Moving the fence

The length of fence was attached to a pole, which by this point was hanging on for dear life as Roxy, the bigger dog had been digging a hole right by it.

I had attached it with some simple binding wire a while back.

The bush had managed to go through the fence, so getting it loose ended up being more of a struggle than I expected.

Eventually I got it loose and boy was I relieved that it was long enough to make it to the post I had installed. After much pulling and dragging and stretching I had figured out where I wanted to anchor it.

I had explained in my last post, but heres a picture, showing how I clamp the fence to the wood using screws and the roofing washers.

Close up view shows a bit more, I install the screws in such a way that the trap the fence, so pulling it up, or down, left or right won’t free it up.

Because I want to be absolutely sure you get it, here a photo of the screw in the washer pre-installation 😉

French drain access hole

After getting the fence connected to the post, I cleaned off some of the sand and muck from the cement, should have done that first!

I actually found the cover that would be used to pump out the ‘stuff’ from the drain if it gets full. I had been wondering where it was and found it quite by chance.

I pulled the fence to once side to clear it, so that if we needed to get it emptied, the fence would not be in the way.

Day over, it rained

It had been threatening for a while, so I decided to pack up before my tools got rained on and got soaked.

As I took this photo, after having just finished packing everything away it started to drizzle. I had made it just in time!

I took a break on the terrace and tried to get a photo of the rain, but it’s lost in this photo. Whilst I was a bit disappointed that I had not finished I was thankful that the rain would at least be helping the firefighters a bit in their task.

I heard from my wife the next day that it seemed the rain was what helped the firefighters get the blaze under control, so all good in the end.

I was sitting outside and was about to start writing this when the rain subsided, I decided to take my chance as I could get away with fewer tools in case it rained again.

Support needed

I anchored the fence into the cement slab, so that it would stay out of the way.

I used a simple plastic wall plug here as it is not under much strain.

The fence had enough tension on it to pull the post away from the gate, so much so that there was a very noticeable gap. I did not like the look of that so grabbed a length of wood we had dragged in from the forest next door and made it work as lateral support for the fence post.

Final bits to do were to add some cross bracing on the gate, it was still quite flimsy. I too two lengths of brandering that I had taken off of the terrace roof and put one on each side of the gate, so that they crossed over in the middle. The wood that the gate is made up of is quite soft, so I added metal washers to the screw head, so that it would tighten up against the wood and not get pulled all the way through.

An example of how the wood had already split, the washers worked well enough even on such a damaged piece.

Finally I cut a hole in the fence by each of the latches, so that you can open it easily no matter which side of the gate you are. This gate was done.

As I was packing up I thought I should add a lateral brace on the front gate too, so did that as quick as I could as it was about to rain again. It does not look too bad from far.

So my gates are up, I bought a few rawl bolts, screws and additional latches. Pretty much everything else was re-used from the original gates or from other stuff I had salvaged.

Not pretty but definitely functional, have you managed to reuse something lately?

Recycling gates to set our dogs free…

Here are the two mutts, in front the attention hogging Roxy and hiding almost out of view Chilli. Both are rescue dogs and complete characters in their own right.

Free as in more space

We are fortunate enough to have a sizeable back yard with tons of space for the dogs to run around, unfortunately the fence needs repairs and whole gaps filled in some places. Because of this we cannot let the dogs roam free there without supervision as they would both get out eventually.

We live right next to a road, where people do unfortunately not obey the speed limits meaning we could have a tragedy on our hands if the dogs got into the road.

I have run through a multitude of possibilities for making the back yard more accessible. Right now we walk out the gate by our houses entrance, then walk on the road next to the house, gaining access to the back yard by going through another set of gates on the left side of the house. This means when our kids want to go play they also have to walk next to the road, it’s really not ideal.

My wife and I agreed it would be better to have a gate at the back, so that for now we could keep the dogs out, until we fix the fencing, while giving us all easier and safer access to the yard.

Two becomes one

I am a big fan of using what you have, we did price up ready made gates and the cost of buying new posts etc. but baulked at the prices. We need to make sure we can put the gates up without having the dogs run loose.

I managed to figure a way to move the gates around in such a way that we could keep the dogs in place and have the minimal time frame where they could make a break for it.

On the side of our house we have these two gates, my plan was to remove one, then move it around to the back of the house.

By the time I took this photo I was already part way into the process, the right hand gate was mounted on the post you see between the gates. I took the gate off, mounted a strip of woo against the wall and then screwed the gates hinges to that.

The post was moved to the middle, you will see why soon.

These gates are home made and quite loose and weak. A section of fencing is sandwiched between strips of wood, quite a neat idea actually, I will be using some left over wood from another part of the house to give these a bit of rigidity. Fortunately we live in an area where the crime rate is low, so these gates are meant to keep out wild pigs, foxes and keep our dogs in.

Re-use, recycle! Even the strip of wood against the wall is repurposed junk. This happens to be part of a door frame that had been left outside to rot. I cut it in half and use one piece here, the other would be for the back.

More trash being repurposed. This time a bit of fence will be used as a …


I lay it down in the road and stood on it a few times to get it straighter. I did not take photo’s but one side was attached to the wall on the left of the photo, using wall plugs and screws with the washers used on roofing, these have a metal washer and a rubber washer in one. They seem to keep a good hold on the wire of the fence.

The other side of fixed to the wooden post, using screws with the same roofing washers.

Meanwhile ’round back

Please excuse the state of the back yard, between the internal renovations and taking on 2 extra projects after hours I have managed to completely neglect my yard 🙁

Here you can see the second gate as I was planning where to put it. The bits of wood on the right are what I have managed to pull off of out terrace roof so far. The thin strips will be used to strengthen these gates up a bit.

I mounted the length of wood on the wall by drilling holes through the wood, the drilled the top most hole in the wall.

After inserting the wall plug and turning a screw into it, I used the handle of my hammer to try and get the bottom of the wood at an equal distance from the edge of the wall to the top. I used a small diameter drill bit in the drilling maching to mark on the wall the position of the other two holes.

Then I move the wood out of the way and drilled the other two holes.

Heres one of the wall plus and its corresponding hole in the wood.

All the screws are in, oddly it looks very skew in this photo. Maybe it’s the angle it’s taken at?

Keep me posted…

You may have noticed from an earlier photo that this gate was also mounted to a post. Well same as the front, I decided to reuse that post so that I can latch the gate onto something, and to attach the fence to.

Fortunately (unfortunately?!?) , we have a french drain right next to the house so I was able to reuse the base that the wooden post goes into as well. I simple cleaned up a spot (it really needs some cleaning…) and drilled small holes in each of the corners where the holes in the base are.

I then proceeded to drill those holes out to the correct size and installed rawl bolts. I need 4, but only have 2. It seems even when I buy a box of screws / bolts I run out some how 🙁

I mounted the base nonetheless, as it will be easy to remove to install the missing two.

Above is a photo with the wooden pole dropped in loosely. I will fix this in place when the base is secured.

At that point I will be able to remove the fence from the pole in the background and bring it around to meet this post. Then we will super easy (and safe) access to out back yard! But first I need to go to town to buy supplies.

And so out day ends

It was time to head inside and have dinner, so my son and I packed up, but I could not resist taking a shot of the gate. The work is not all done yet, but we need to stand back and appreciate not wasting money sometimes.

All I have purchased for this so far were a few screws, washers and rawl bolts. Everything else was repurposed.

Yes new gates would have looked nicer, but at what cost? Sometimes having something look nice is about more than just the financial side. I deplore buying stuff to replace other stuff, so am happy with the compromises I made here.

DIY Replacing a bath with a shower – Dusty mess to success!

This is an image heavy post, no apologies made.

I felt under a lot of pressure to get the shower done, so much of the progress is missing. At least I stopped to take photos periodically!

Dusty haze and clean beginnings

I wanted to remove the tiling cement from the section where I had chopped tiles off of the wall. Unfortunately chipping it away led to me breaking holes in the wall, no matter how slow I went. I thought it might work better if I were to cut grooves into the tiling cement to make it weaker and easier to chip pieces off.

Using my large angle grinder and the same disc I used in the kitchen to cut the bricks, I proceeded to cut a number of grooves in the tiling cement. Here you can get an idea of the dust that is kicked up whilst cutting with that disc. Before I opened the door and took the photo I could hardly see past my hand, it’s insane!

The floor was swept clean before I started, but now you can get an idea of the amount of dust, just look for my footprints. I did not even cut that much!

Even with the grooves I was breaking through the bricks, so I stopped and checked that I would at least be able to match the tiles I had with the existing tiles. It looked like I would so I decided to start on the wall of glass bricks.

Look closely at the photo and you will see two metal rods poking up between the glass blocks. I drilled holes into the layer of bricks and fixed those rods in there to provide a bit of extra strength for the wall. Would it help? I don’t know, but it’s my wall so I will do as I please 😉

Walls up!

I do wish I had taken more photo’s, but was running between the kitchen and bathroom at this point trying to get more than one room done concurrently.

As you can see above, I started and almost completed the tiling at this point.We decided to highlight the difference in tiles rather than trying to hide it. It would have been impossible to match the tiles on the wall anyway, so we added a border of pink tiles. Not my first choice but it matches, kind of, the rest of the bathroom floor.

So you should tile bottom up, for the vertical tile I started at the top, meaning the tiles wanted to slide down pulled down by their weight and gravity. I had expected this and did it like that anyway, so that I could be absolutely sure that the top tile matched perfectly.

I could cut a slim piece off of the tile near the bottom and it would not look out of place, but it would look terrible if I did it near the top.

It’s a wide shower but holy cow it felt tight working in there!

Tiling done…

With all of the tiles on the wall I could turn my attention to getting it all grouted up.

I could have sworn I held the phone straight for this shot, anyway, look at the top of the vertical line of pink tiles and you will see why I started at the top. It would be hard to hide any smaller tiles there.

Just another view showing the entrance too, I tiled the step into the shower as well, it looks more finished like that.

Not the best lit shot, but I like that some light makes it through the blocks, with a solid wall it would have made the bathroom too dark I think.

… let’s get grouty!

No photo’s taken unfortunately, here is the almost finished product.

Eeeeek I can see how poorly I matched those glass blocks, the grout really highlights it :(. This is just post cleaning the extra grout off, I realised a wire brush was super effective at removing the excess grout from the glass block and did no damage to them at all. That’s all the dust lying on the floor there.

The walls still need a wash but looking tons better! Only the floor lets it down now.

More of the same, slightly different angle. It’s been a hectic journey so I am but chuffed it’s almost done.

Not too shabby considering my day job involves sitting behind a screen all day?

Paint, the, floor?!?

Yes, It would have been nicer tiled, but we thought that using the kind of paint you use to seal cement water tanks etc. would work well and not be slippery when wet.

It also does not look too bad, it’s hardly even noticeable when you are in the bathroom. It did cover well, though I gave a few coats. I tried to apply more thin coats so that it would cover the cement, but not become too smooth.

Same photo, sans all the stuff. I only pulled the masking tape off a few days later as we were preparing other stuff too.

And so this journey comes to an end, I still have a ton of stuff to do around the house (thats a good thing, I enjoy these projects!).

I hope, if you read this far, that you actually enjoyed it.

DIY Breaking out a fireplace – The Finale!

After a long time and copious amounts of work and time I managed to get the kitchen finished. I would not say that I am super happy with the result, but much of the worst parts are hidden by a cupboard so it’s not noticeable how bad a job I did with the plastering…

When my wife explained to my mother-in-law I was taking a photo for a blog, she insisted that she had to be in the photo, so there she is, posing in her kitchen!

With all the soot that was on the wall, every coat of paint I put on would end up with the outline of the inside of the fireplace bleeding through. I had no choice but to keep applying layer after layer of undercoat, so that when I painted with the final paint it would not be so obvious.

Here you can see it extended all the way up to the roof and was obvious from any angle. After the above photo was taken I turned my attention to the bathroom (as can be seen in my other posts) so neglected to take more photo’s of my progress in the kitchen.

I tried to optimise my time by running between the two, applying a coat of paint in the kitchen, then going back to do work in the bathroom, whilst the paint dried. I would then take lunch at some point, then paint another coat in the kitchen and go carry on with the work in the bathroom.

Skip forward to after having painted and tiled. Yes, those are a different colour, These are leftovers from the bathroom. I did try find similar tiles at the hardware store, but it’s nigh on impossible to match tiles that are years old with something in the store now.Most of the tiles would be covered by the cupboard and my mother-in-law is not a person who will blow up because tiles don’t match, thankfully.

I tried to match the space as well as possible, given that the tiles were different sizes I tried to find the best compromise. It turned out ok I think.

If you look hard enough you can still see parts where it is off-white. Thankfully standing in the kitchen it’s not nearly as obvious as in the pictures.

With some furniture in, its still noticeable, but not nearly as glaring as without.

Most important of all, my mother-in-law is happy with the result, this in turn makes my wife happy and you know what they say;

Happy wife happy life!

DIY Replacing a bath with a shower – Part III

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but I am building a walk in shower. The reason being that I can have a large entrance, so that it would be easier and less effort to go shower.

It also fits well in the space left by taking out the bath, bases for showers can be quite inexpensive, however if you start looking at bases for walk in showers things get crazy.

So we make our own. Above is the layout I chose, still having the bricks form the outline of the shower, but arranged differently so that the profile was as low as possible.

All the bricks mortared in place. I was considering chopping out the tiles underneath but considering that I will be casting cement over it, I doubt it would be an issue.

I split the base in two so that I can taper the portion with the drain inward and make sure all the water flows nicely away. The part on the right of the screen will also be tapered, but can have a simple slope which is easier to do.

Remember I am in IT, I am not a builder so I wing it and improvise / learn as I go along.

It was getting close to the time for my mother-in-law to move in, so I was trying to get things done quickly, hence no in between photo’s 🙁

Here I am chipping the tiles away from the wall, I will be building a wall of glass blocks and wanted to make sure that they would be more secure against the wall. Mortar does not stick well to tiles, so they had to go.

Fortunately the existing tiles got up to about the same height as I want the wall to go, it’s as if it was meant to be!

Here I was doing a trial fit to see how well I had calculated the need for the blocks. Even though the length was largely determined by the mark left on the wall where the bath was, it works out ok.

A different view with the blocks. Is it starting to make sense? For me this is the part where this project became more rewarding, seeing how something you had, only in your mind, seeing how that develops and progresses.

More in the next post!

Replacing a bath with a shower – part 2

This project is actually done, but I went on leave and stayed quite far away from the computer, pretty much because I was finishing this off!

With the bath removed, I moved onto taking out the sand that was behind it as well as the cement that had been cast around it. Fortunately most of it near the foot of the bath was quite weak, and was poured on top of tiles, so it chipped off quite quickly.

The rest took a fair bit more effort, more photos would have been great I know, but I was pretty focussed on getting part this step, so I could see some progress.

Here you can see I was taking measurements to try work out how many bricks and glass blocks to buy.

A day on and I had bought the bricks and 1 block, for checking sizing etc.

I have always found that holding something in your hands gives a much better sense of the dimensions and how it fits together with other pieces than just having its measurements.

This was my initial idea, the bricks all round form the ‘base’ of the shower, inside I wanted to cast a cement floor. Having arranged the bricks in this way I noticed that you have to step up quite high to get pas the bricks, seeing as it is for my mother-in-law, who has slipped getting into the bath before, I decided in practice this really was not going to work.

I played around with a number of configurations, having the bricks available to make changes and test if it worked help immensely, while the bath was in I had planned it out in my head, but saw quickly that in reality it did not work so well.

Replacing a bath with a shower – Part I

Just when I thought I was nearing the end of the work in the granny flat, my wife suggests we replace the bath with a shower.

I could not find reason to argue though as her reasoning is quite sound. Her mother will be moving in towards the end of August, so we are trying to make sure it’s all cleaned and sorted by then.

So why add more work? Well my mother-in-law is not as young as she used to be, recently she slipped getting into the bath when she lost grip. That got my wife thinking, what will it be like for her to get into a bath in a year or two’s time? We discussed installing bars for her to hold on to, but that depends on her having enough strength in her hand to hold herself up.

With a shower it would be much safer in the long term, so the decision was made.

No dogs were harmed in the removal of the bath!

Roxy is a rescue dog and decided she wanted to be in the photo of the bathroom before the demolition. Here’s the bath in pretty much the same state it was when the previous owners tenant moved out.

Here we go from another angle and just an excuse to include another photo of Roxy.

The destruction was underway, I started in the corner, where I thought there would be the most hollow space behind the bricks and tiles. I was hoping to get the bath out in a good condition.

A close up view of the side. I was pretty much just hitting the tiles directly with the hammer, the bricks are hollow and after a few blows, they would break into smaller pieces and crumble. At this point I really had not had to swing the hammer very hard.

Up until this point things had gone pretty easy, my arm had started tiring from swinging the hammer, but no damage done to the bath.

The drain has a cover screwed into a part which is most likely cast in cement, so I removed the screw so it would not prevent the bath from moving.

Wow, if I could carry across the amount of effort and perspiration that went into getting to this point! I struggled for quite some time as the bath was caught between the tiles and the cement at the bottom of the bath. I chipped away at the cement bit by bit, unfortunately I managed to chip some of the enamel of of the bath where the cement was forced into the bath with a hammer blow.

On the closest corner of the bath on the right hand side you can see how I deformed it by bending it up and shuffling the bath out. The bath is made of steel, and the edges are rolled over such that there is a lip at the bottom.

Somehow when the bath was installed, cement was forced into that lip and it held the bath quite tightly up against the wall.

First job before continuing is to clean up this mess. But not at that point I was incredibly tired and disappointed as I had damaged the bath whilst trying to get it out.

Will take a few loads with a bucket to get it all picked up. The tiles help with cleaning so its bound to be a quick job. Chopping up the rest of that cement however…..

The chips and bend on the bath in closer detail. I am pretty bummed about this. I guess we will have to see what we do with the tub now.

My wife has already hinted at using it as a planter for vegetables, so we may get some use out of it anyway. I hate throwing away perfectly usable stuff.

On to chipping out the cement so that we can plan our way forward. We already have an idea of what to do, with the bath out of the way we can make more plausible plans and put them into action.

Breaking out a fireplace part III – Plastering done!

This was meant to be separate posts but my progress was so slow I thought it may as well be one. Now keep in mind I have no training in plastering or rendering, all I know I learnt by trial and error.

To start off with I bought two 25 kilogram bags of river sand and five kilograms of cement. I ran out of cement in no time at all.

Moreover, the cement I bought was some ultra fast setting cement, so I had very little time to work the plaster before it would start setting. This was a pain and led to a really bad finish.

The fact that I have not plastered in years also did not help. Here you can see the results of my efforts. It does not look good at all.

I ran out of that cement pretty quickly, so asked my wife to buy more, this time a 25 kilogram bag. The hardware store unfortunately sold her refractory cement. I noticed as I was taking it out of the car, my wife did not as someone else helped her and put the bag into the car for her.

Well, the city is not exactly close, so I decided to work with what I had, if it did not work then I would have to just buy another bag. My haste stems from the fact that I am doing the bulk of the work after hours, so any delay basically sets me back a day.

As you can see in the above 2 photo’s it seemed to actually work pretty well.

It was still not great and I put that down to the sand. I managed to work through the 2 bags I had bought earlier. Again my wife went to buy the supplies for me whilst I was at work. The sand she bought from a local hardware supplier had a much finer aggregate. More sand and less pebbles.

With the new sand and the darker cement I finally managed a finish that I felt was good enough. I had enough time to work it, and still go back and integrate the multiple batches that I had applied.

Nearing the end, getting the new cement and the old to match has proven difficult as the old plaster is quite uneven and rough. I blended it as best I can.

There are still some ugly patches, these will be hidden by the stove though. If it is really bad once painted I will make an attempt at fixing it though.

A few closer pictures of the wall. What remains now is to paint and patch some tiles in the gap left by the fireplace. I will take a photo of the tiles and try get a box that at least matches the existing tiles closely.

At least the bulk of the hard work has been done. I am looking forward to slapping some paint on it, once the plaster has had a few days to dry though.

Breaking out a fireplace part II

Every now and then you do something that makes you stop and think, ‘wow I have grown up a bit!’, I got that whilst cleaning the kitchen, again…

Once I got the bulk of the breaking out done, I switched to clearing out the rubble, very mature. In my youth I would have just worked on top of it, stumbling and cursing as I went.

No, it’s not perfectly clean, but the floor is free from rubble, I even vacuumed! Well, the main are where I am working.

Here you can see there was already a cornice, which made me sure the fireplace was added later. I still don’t know why.

I took this photo after cleaning up a bit and vacuuming, but I had already started knocking some loose plaster off of the wall. Heat from a fire is usually enough to weaken cement quite a bit, it seems it did affect the plaster on the walls, some of it crubled off like sand. I continued hitting the wall with a hammer to take off the worst bits.

Comparing this image, with the one below, you mat see there are chunks of plaster missing in the lower image. In many places a few well placed taps with the hammer were enough to have the plaster fall to the floor. You can see how fine it broke up when breaking off the wall. Additionally I used a wire brush on the whole portion of the wall where the fireplace was, that removed quite a bit of loose and weak cement too.

Before doing any more work, I stopped again and cleaned up that mess. I must be getting old! It is much less of a chore when your work are is clean though.

I was so keen to get some plaster over this big hole that I forgot to take photos of the process where I made a board to fit inside. That way the plaster will stick to the board and not just be swallowed up by the large hole. This saves cement and time.

Here you can see a bit of the board. I was adding cement in stages so that it would not be too heavy and fall off.

I did take a photo of another hole where I did something similar, It’s much smaller so I simply broke up some smaller pieces and arranged them to stop the cement falling in.

This hole does not go through the wall, so I skipped trying to block it. Probably just because I got lazy here…

There is still much to do, I am not a builder so I figure things out as I go, sometimes it means taking 2 steps back and re-doing stuff, but I am learning as I go and improving.

I could have paid someone and it would probably be done already, but where’s the fun in that?