In spring 2008, with considerable help from my friend CJ, I managed to build a verandah on
our house in Dereel. As a project it was
nothing special, and it took nearly four months, but it was the first time I had ever done
something like this, and though CJ has had more experience than I, it was mainly in putting
up sheds, so it was quite a learning experience for both of us. This page shows excerpts
from my online diary, along with many photos.
Had planned to continue with the garage today, and also to transplant some plants ahead of
our planned building of the east verandah, but the weather was really terrible, wet and
windy, making it difficult for our brain-damaged air conditioners to keep even a normal
temperature through the day. Later discovered that we had had 19.2 mm rain, the fifth
highest reading since we started measurements.
CJ along this morning to talk about the planned verandah, and also some fences (or is that
hedges? We're planning to make minimal supports for climbers such
and Jasmine to screen off all the tin
sheds currently visible from the garden. If I finally get round to it, it'll vastly change
the appearance of the garden quite quickly.
One thing that's been worrying us for a while are the swallows under the roof. I like
birds, but, like kangaroos, they can become a nuisance. In particular, they leave droppings
in what will be part of the main verandah when we finally get around to doing something:
Also put in some wooden slats to block off one of the two rafters, so that they'll have time
to migrate before being left completely out in the cold. It seems to work: when I looked
later in the evening, the other rafter wasn't full.
Saturday's my weekly photograph the garden day, but gradually the sheer number of photos is becoming an issue: I started with 4
photos last September, but in the meantime it has grown
to 24, and today it became apparent that I need two more to show what the verandah will look
like when it's done:
The weather's been pretty terrible, but we still managed to do some more work in the garden,
adding some irrigation to the nectarine tree west of the house, in the process relocating
many more succulents, which Yvonne planted in a part of the
garden newly freed (we hope!) of grass. Also more work in preparation for building the
verandah, transplanting irises and pruning
CJ in this morning dressed as an 1850s miner: he was on the way to Sovereign Hill to do some acting work. He had a
whole lot of ideas about how to build the verandah. After he was gone, started writing down
things to buy, and realised that I still had a lot of unanswered questions. So sent
Yvonne off to buy posts for the fences, and we'll finalize
the bill of materials for the verandah tomorrow—hopefully.
Back home, where CJ was attending to the fences. Had yet another discussion about the
verandah, and I think I'm now in a position to order the materials. With any luck we'll
start the first stage (floor frame and concrete posts) on Thursday. Also did some more work
in the garden. We're training
and Wisterias on wire, and put in the
first of those. So far nothing much can reach it.
In more detail, finished wiring the fences, planted most of the creepers—only the tree
fern (waiting for the grass in its new bed to die down) and those for the new verandah are
still waiting for completion of the verandah, which probably won't be until the end of next
week, planted the Ginkgo (which I think
I'll call “Ginkyo” instead, because “Ginkgo” isn't easy to pronounce
distinctly from “Gingko”). I still have to sort out the irrigation for the
newly planted plants.
Lots of things to do in town today, most importantly ordering the materials for the
verandah. In the process looked again through a brochure I got at Home Timber and Hardware and discovered they had
a video tape (so they said, anyway) on the topic, so decided it would be a good idea to look
at that first. Another postponement.
Finally I'm in a position to order the wood for the verandah! Into town to Whiteheads to
order the timber, spending at $2200 odd, nearly double what I had expected. In particular,
the roofing was much more expensive than I had expected. Still, it's a relief to have the
stuff under way—should arrive on Tuesday. I wonder what surprises we'll have.
The instructions are positively an intelligence test, and it seems that I failed. Called up
the company, only to find that they had been sold out some years ago—it proves that
the mixer was manufactured in November 2003—and there was no assistance available.
Continued for some time and finally got the thing assembled, apart from the tip lever. The
Insert tilting handle into the handle mounting tube add secure with large cotter pin.
What mounting tube? I didn't see one. This is the first mention, so it can't be a lost
non-attached component. I'm baffled.
Finally we have started building the verandah! First thing we looked at was the cement
mixer, and finally found where to insert the tilting handle. Nothing to do with a mounting
tube: it slid in through a hole next to the motor, where it had to be tilted to miss the
First did some discussion about how to tackle the task. One of the issues was that there
are a number of pipes in the area, and CJ suspected a septic tank. Spent a lot of time
digging test holes. We didn't find an active septic tank, though the plans for the
extension indicated that the extension would use the existing septic tank. It seems that
there used to be an outside toilet to the right of the house in the photo above, and we
thought there might be a septic tank there, but there were pipes in all directions:
Also found the soakage, quite a way from the tank and on a feature that I had already noticed in Google Maps. It continues down across the road on a bearing of about 260°; but could
part of it be the soakage? That's the way it points.
Fortunately, that was the last one, and the rest of the day's work went relatively smoothly,
though laying out the beams accurately and putting them together with the posts took quite
some time, but by 17:40 we had everything in place, ready for concreting in tomorrow.
We've been trying to get rid of the swallows in the verandah area for some time, but when
they rebuilt their nest so quickly, we felt a little guilty, and are half thinking of
letting them stay. Today, though, we saw a strange sight:
We had intended to continue with the verandah today, but the weather determined otherwise.
It started off mildly enough with an outside temperature of 17°, but in the course of the
day it dropped to 9°, and in the process we had 11 mm rain and lots of wind. Decided right
at the beginning to put off the work until Wednesday.
Woke up in the middle of the night with a throbbing foot—bloody gout again! And what
an inappropriate time, with the next stage of the verandah due in the morning. Took a
couple of pills and went back to sleep.
CJ arrived on time, and I thought we might be able to get through today's
task—erecting the three main pillars in the front, along with the beams in between
them—in a similar time to the 2½ hours it took us last
Friday. No such luck: it took all day, mainly adjusting levels. Fortunately my foot
recovered well, and by the evening there was no pain at all.
One of the mistakes I made when setting out this thing was to assume that the timber was
straight. The result were “levels” that contradicted each other, fortunately
all in the range of 1 to 2 mm. What a pity that we didn't have a laser level. We've
decided to use shims to adjust things. At least the all-important transition to the
existing deck looks right.
We're having a party on Sunday to celebrate (if that's the correct action) my 60th
birthday. That's a welcome excuse to finally make the place look a little more presentable,
though we're resigned of course to having a half-completed verandah and a cement mixer in
the garden. But we finally recharged the battery of the lawn mower and Yvonne performed the first mow of the new season.
We were supposed to continue with the verandah today, but it started raining, and it
occurred to me that I had enough other stuff to do. Called up CJ and left a message on the
answering service, but he showed up anyway, so we got him to take the cement mixer to the
Yeardleys and put the rest off until tomorrow.
CJ and Sue along this morning to help with the verandah. I've identified my issues with the
construction: if I work all day on it, I don't have time for other things I want to do.
Today discussed it with the others, and they agreed that they'd rather only do half a day at
a time, so today we only did 3½ hours work (should have been 4, but 3½ proved to be a
convenient point to stop). Spent most of that time trying to align joists and bearers, some
of which don't quite line up:
On with the verandah in the morning. All this takes longer than we expected, but with a bit
of work we managed to get the joists all laid out correctly and remarkably level. In fact,
it looks like one of our problems will be that it has to join on to the old mini-verandah,
which isn't as level. The following photo shows how the decking rises to the left:
Finally we've got to the point of putting the decking on the verandah. And once again, it
wasn't the fastest thing in the world: the decking was almost all twisted or bowed, and some
of it had knot holes. In addition, keeping things parallel was more of an issue than I had
expected. After laying four widths (of 7 cm each), discovered that the last one was 2 cm
out of parallel with the front of the verandah. Interestingly, that required a compensation
of only 0.4 mm per board to get back into alignment by the other side of the verandah, so
used a rather incongruous tool for the adjustment: a feeler gauge, in steps of 0.1 mm across
the width of the verandah:
The weather was also quite warm, up to 26°, something I was no longer used to after the
winter, and it wasn't very pleasant in the sun. Gave up after 3 hours, by which time we had
done all of 8 boards out of 56. At this rate we'll take weeks to get it finished.
On with the verandah today, in the process discovering that we're still making too many
assumptions about the properties of the boards. In particular, keeping a constant gap from
uneven boards is a good way to make each successive board bow more than the predecessor. In
the end decided we'd have to measure from different places, and do a lot more by eye than by
On the way to that discovery, found that we needed a spacer thinner than the 5 mm sheet of
metal we needed, say 4.5 mm. Where do you find something of that size? It took a while to
dawn: a drill bit. They typically come in sets, and the one CJ bought the other day goes in
0.5 mm steps from 1.5 to 8 mm:
More work on the verandah. The more I look at it, the more complicated things seem to get.
Certainly the feeler gauge approach was seriously flawed because it assumes the planks are
of even thickness. Now I think I'll use drill bits as spacers in 5 different places, and
not deviate by more than 1 mm along the length of the plank.
Finally it's getting warmer—almost too warm, in fact, and I couldn't do any work on
the verandah until afternoon, when the sun was behind the house. Instead more work on my
house photos; the time has come to retire some viewpoints, and to make up for it I'm adding
others, and also some panoramas:
CJ was due to come this morning, but it rained a little, I hadn't quite finished the boards
on the verandah, and I certainly hadn't done my homework about the roof, so we put it off
until Thursday. In the meantime, I finally did finish the boards, coming up
surprisingly neatly at the front. Thank God for that!
CJ along this morning to help put up the roof for the verandah, which I've decided to call
a stage—and I had fresh doubts. The problem is the height of the construct: 20
cm high beam, with 15 cm rafters and 5 cm battens on top of that, a total of 40 cm. The
starting point on the other side is quite low, and even without a drop, I'd end up with the
lower side of the beam about 1.90 metres above the floor, convenient for me to bang my head
against, and also not very attractive.
Did some discussion, and over to the Dereel Hall (next door, about 1.6 km away), where CJ
had seen a similar construction:
This one uses more flimsy wood than I chose, but the height is just as much, so changing
things wouldn't help much. Did some discussion of what we could do, and came to the
conclusion that we should put up more posts on the other side of the stage and put the
rafters between them. But then it occurred to me that I'd need a post in the middle of the
stage, something that I really don't want to do. One way or another, we still don't know
how to do it, so postponed yet again.
We've been waiting to finish the roof before planting the plants around the stage, but the
weather is getting warmer, and we can't wait any more. In the afternoon, set to preparing
beds for vegetables and herbs, not helped much by the flies, which seem a lot worse this
year than last; hopefully that's not a result of the horses round the place.
While doing this work, we saw a lot of traffic to the swallow's nest. Presumably they're
not happy that we're there so often. Well, tough. We tried to warn them two months ago, but they had to rebuild the nest. Maybe they'll change
their mind next year; in the meantime, with the help of a mirror, confirmed that they have
four eggs on the way:
So now we need to start on the next part of building the verandah. Into town to Metroll to buy some gutters,
only to discover that they had to be ordered. On to Gays, where they had something about as
suitable as the others and fractionally cheaper, so took that instead.
CJ and Sue along today to continue with the verandah. The issue today was to set up the
roof, which was complicated by the nature of the wall onto which we needed to anchor the
rafters, and also the guttering. Spent an inordinate amount of time discussing that, and
finally came to the conclusion that the simplest approach would be to leave the existing
gutter on the right side of the wall, and just add another on the left which drains to the
Finally got the ledger up against the right hand side of the wall—only took us three
hours total, most of it discussion:
Next were the rafters. To our surprise, found that they were 4.8 metres long instead of 4.2
metres (these are Australian “metric” sizes, in multiples of 0.6 m, sometimes
0.3 m—you can't get wood 4 metres long, for example). Nothing wrong with them being
too long, of course: we could always cut them to length. But it gave us an opportunity that
I had to consider: should we use the remaining length for some kind of decoration. So,
after only two hours and again fixing only one piece of wood, we called it a day.
It was supposed to rain today, but at 9 am there was no sign of it, and so CJ came along and
we continued work on the verandah. Got up the two remaining rafters and started on the
guttering when the wind picked up and blew over my heaviest ladder. We decided that the
wind was trying to tell us something, and gave up after only an hour. The wind made it
clear that it meant business: the rafters were connected at the house, but not yet nailed
down at the other end, and it blew one of them, weight about 30 kg and held in place by a
bracket, about 1 metre to the side:
More work on the verandah, spending an inordinate amount of time on the guttering, but
finally got it finished, and were in the process with strapping the rafters to the front
beam when we ran into another snag. By that time it was midday—the time we've agreed
to finish anyway—so called it a day and put the rest off until Wednesday.
It's high time to fix the irrigation problems: some of the plants are dying of thirst. Into
town today to buy some equipment, including new solenoids, only to discover that they didn't
have the kind I want, and the only kind they had was big and expensive. Ended up getting
one anyway. Also bought some wire to build cages for the strawberries—so far the
birds have eaten all the strawberries—and brackets for the verandah, with which we
intend to continue tomorrow.
CJ along this morning to help with the verandah. First, though, Yvonne grabbed him and dragged him off to cut down a tree for her. Got started on
the verandah, removing some of the work we had done last week: the brackets I bought
yesterday were much easier to put in, and they don't look as bad, either.
Then we discovered that some of the battens had badly warped—one of them by 45°
axially over its length of 6 m. That's probably my fault for leaving them lying on the
ground: they were straight when they were delivered two months
ago. Decided to leave them up on the rafters to dry out, in the hope that they would
then recover their form. So another day with only an hour's work to show for itself. And
they're promising rain—that's good in itself, because we desperately need it—but
that would probably mean no more work this week.
CJ along this morning to continue with the never-ending saga of the verandah. Last week we
had stopped early to allow the battens to straighten out. They didn't very much, and we
decided that two of them were no longer usable, so we mounted three pieces of wood and CJ
took the other two back to Ballarat for replacement. Somehow three pieces sounds almost
like a typical number nowadays.
The weather has changed significantly since yesterday: cool and almost windstill, just the
weather we needed for putting the roofing on the verandah. Finally! Getting the sheets up
on the roof wasn't an easy business, especially since the material is so flimsy, and we were
seriously concerned that we might damage it. Finally got CJ's ute, still with the cradle
from carrying the battens yesterday, and used it as a staging position.
Once we had it up there, there were further problems: the (specially designed) screws don't
seem to fit the material. They're intended to go through the ridges in the corrugations,
not the valleys. A short test in the valleys showed why: the screws impede the flow of
water, and the holes allow the water to leak below. But putting them in the ridges distorts
the sheeting, making it a real mess. Somehow the whole system doesn't work well, and I
rather regret buying this material, which was also quite expensive. If I use polycarbonate
next time, I think I'll use flat profiles.
Did a fair amount of the work myself, once I worked out how to use the tools:
Still, by 13:00 we were done. Finally we have a verandah! Well, there are still things to
do, such as the base boards and attaching some mesh for creepers, but we'll do that on
Monday, weather permitting.
Another quiet day. Now that the verandah's finished, there's nothing all too pressing to
do. I just need to do my tax returns (the last ever!), brew some beer, bake some bread,
drive to Maffra to see my father and do a few other things I'd rather not think of right now.
Spent some time planting plants around the verandah, not too early—some of them were
bought 3 months ago, and they were fighting their ways out of the pot.
CJ along today for the final step with the verandah: attaching some wire mesh at the north
end to grow climbing plants. That proved to be much more difficult than we had expected: we
put a board (decking material) at the top to hold the mesh in place, but the beam we were
screwing it to was so hard that I could barely get the screw in; instead it dug its way
through the board:
Still, it wasn't supposed to be a long job, and even with the unexpected problems it only
took a little over an hour.
In the afternoon planted some more plants around the verandah, including
the Jasmine that we bought three months ago. It's not looking overly happy, but then, neither are
the two that we planted shortly after buying them. I wonder if they'll pick up when it gets
Now that the verandah is finished, we have another problem: the swallow's nest. The
swallows are clearly not happy about sharing the area with us, a sentiment that we share,
since they make such a mess. Gradually they seem to be there less and less often—last
night they must have found somewhere else at least for a while—so it's about time that
we remove the next. We'll do that on 1 January 2009. Wrote a
letter of notice.
Also spent a fair amount of time putting more plants and furniture on the verandah. It's
beginning to look quite usable already, though it'll be at least a year before it's even
close to the way we want it to be. It's gratifying to note how little wind gets to the
verandah, even when it's quite windy in the rest of the garden.
At least the rain gives me the opportunity to identify leaks in the roof. There are more
than I would have liked. I wonder how to get up there; I don't think the roofing is strong
enough to take my weight.