Greg's new verandah
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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.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

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.

Monday, 11 August 2008

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 as Clematis 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.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

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:


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I don't want to put them out in the cold in the middle of winter, but I had to act before they started to use the nest again, so we couldn't wait any more:


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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, 16 August 2008

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:


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Friday, 29 August 2008

CJ along today to discuss once again how we do the verandah. Things are a lot more concrete now, and we should be able to start on Tuesday.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

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 the Grevillea rosmarinifolia.

Monday, 1 September 2008

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.

Friday, 5 September 2008

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 the Jasminum_polyanthum and Wisterias on wire, and put in the first of those. So far nothing much can reach it.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

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.

Monday, 8 September 2008

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.

Friday, 12 September 2008

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.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Today the timber for the verandah arrived:


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High time to put the cement mixer together. I've already commented on the appalling instructions; but that was before I tried assembling it. The “7.62cm nut and bolt” proved to be 6.57 cm long:


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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 instructions say:

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.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

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 motor:


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Here's what it looked like before we started.


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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:


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Finally found our septic tank safely outside the area of the verandah:


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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.


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Finally, just as we were sure that everything was OK, we did find parts of a septic tank under the verandah area:


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Apparently it was part of the old septic tank; clearly it wasn't in use, so the only issue was that we had to slightly move the position of a post.

Got as far as putting the first beam in place:


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By then it was 17:48, so we left the rest for tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

CJ arrived later today, along with Sue, and we continued with the verandah. The very first hole we dug showed yet another underground pipe:


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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:


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The swallow seems to be head down in the now-completed nest, but it's dead. How did that happen? I want to leave it there for a day or two to see what the other birds do.

Monday, 22 September 2008

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.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

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.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

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.

Monday, 29 September 2008

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.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

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:


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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

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:


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Thursday, 2 October 2008

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:


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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.

Friday, 3 October 2008

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 straight measurement.

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:


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Finally managed to partially straighten things up, more by eye than by careful measurement:


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CJ's off on travel next week, and he left today, so we only laid another 8 boards; hopefully Yvonne and I will find time to do the rest before CJ comes back.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

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.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

More work on the verandah. Try as I might, I seem to have difficulty getting the warps out of the boards. At least things look tidier now.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

More work on the verandah. Finally I'm getting my act together, and things are both going faster and becoming more accurate. Hopefully we'll have the boards finished by the time CJ comes back.

Friday, 10 October 2008

More work on the verandah; we're finally getting somewhere. 14 boards to go, and rather surprisingly, it looks as if we'll have an exact number of boards.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

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:


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Sunday, 12 October 2008

On with the verandah, getting another four complicated boards attached before Chris came over to discuss her machine and network connection. Only 7 boards to go now.

Monday, 13 October 2008

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!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

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:


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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:


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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Also some irrigation stuff; I'm gradually encircling the stage with irrigation.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

More work in the garden, making slow progress. It's time we put the roof on the stage. Called CJ up, and he's planning to come to look at things on Friday.

Friday, 31 October 2008

We need to progress with the stage. CJ came along on the way back from a funeral and discussed the matter; we're planning to build a back-slanting roof with a gutter against the house.


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Monday, 3 November 2008

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.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

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 left.

Finally got the ledger up against the right hand side of the wall—only took us three hours total, most of it discussion:


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Decided that that would be enough for the day, and put the next step off until tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

On with the work on the verandah today, and got the front beam up:


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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.

Friday, 7 November 2008

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:


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Saturday, 8 November 2008

More work on panoramas. It's quite difficult to do when there are complicated shapes. Here the current state of the verandah:


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For that, I needed five photos, and even then there were jaggies. I wonder if even more would help reconstitute the shape of the table better.

Monday, 10 November 2008

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.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

CJ was supposed to come and help me with the verandah today, but he had a visit from the (horse) dentist and wasn't able to come.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

CJ was due to come along today and help with the verandah, but this time I had other things to do: Yvonne is off to Equitana in Melbourne next week, and we've decided to print a promotional flyer.

Monday, 17 November 2008

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.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

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.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

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.

Friday, 28 November 2008

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:


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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.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

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.

Monday, 1 December 2008

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:


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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 warmer:


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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

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.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The first dinner on the verandah

Finally the weather is better, and today we were able to eat dinner outside on the verandah for the first time:


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Saturday, 13 December 2008

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.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

To our surprise, Chris and I managed to stay awake until midnight our time, which we spent on the verandah—13°!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

After finishing off the garden fence, Yvonne and CJ put the baseboards on the verandah, the final and somewhat belated touch:


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