Home Improvements

Last time I mentioned the myriad of home improvements in progress in my new home (I played yarn chicken and lost) my storage cage was stuck at half-built, no one could make me a gate for a reasonable price and I had six moving boxes still to be unpacked.

Firstly, I built myself a gate and, with help from my brother Tim, the gate was installed in late December 2013, complete with lock (no more opportunistic attempts at break ins or prowlers on the terrace).


After more drama than I care to revisit, I finally had the second panel of the storage cage installed in mid-February.



And I promptly retrieved the remaining belongings stored in my parent’s garage and filled the cage. It’s not quite so messy as in the photo below – after amalgamating my belongings I sorted through them and placed some of it on Gumtree and sold stuff, and some stuff went in kerbside garbage collections.


So with the freezer shifted to the storage cage, some other rearrangements had to happen – for a time the microwave oven was a problem, taking up precious bench space and needing an extension cord across the kitchen. I was just about ready to drill holes in the back of the cupboard over the fridge to make access to the spare power outlet above the range hood, until I accidentally flooded the dishwasher and by happy accident discovered there was a double power outlet behind the cutlery drawers. One power outlet was for the dishwasher, the other was for the stove ignition system that is broken. I’m happy enough using a gas match to light the stove, so the microwave went into the slot (perfect fit!) and the cutlery drawer contents went to the sideboard – they will get a new set of drawers back in the kitchen down the track…


The next wave of change was to reconfigure the book shelving into a taller, more compact arrangement. This is an Ikea system (Ivar) that I’ve gradually expanded over many years to replace old bookcases that didn’t survive previous house moves too well. By replacing the side units for taller ones, and adding about another 10 shelves (all of which had to be sanded, stained with Japan black and sealed with Cabothane) the whole lot now goes up to the ceiling and takes up less floor space.


It took weeks to sand/stain/seal and two solid days in April to construct and bolt to the wall. But the improvements to the layout of the open plan living/dining/kitchen were huge – mostly because I moved the sideboard across the room and moved the dining table against the wall so that I stopped colliding with furniture that was too close together! The other benefit was that I was finally able to hang pictures on the walls – knowing which bits of wall were going to stay visible. The place finally started looking less temporary.

And then not a lot happened, because I was consumed for months of 2014 on a teaching appraisal that sucked every spare moment of my time. With that successfully completed (hurrah!), in October I ordered the parts to undertake the next major improvement – the pantry. At the start of my summer break in December, I whittled down the six remaining moving boxes (that became five at some earlier stage) to two.


That’s yarn (of course!) in the box on top, and the three other smaller boxes were the pantry parts. I hope to empty those last two boxes soon – then I might finally do something about decorating my bedroom. It is the last room to get any attention as it has been the ‘dumping ground’.


The pantry has been a danger zone from day 1. It isn’t just the angle of the photo above – it really does have a lean on it. And that’s as far as the pull-out mechanism could safely(?) go, which means accessing anything inside it was awkward – especially for the fixed shelf right up the top. And then random pieces of broken plastic and steel fittings started springing off it somewhere, just to add to the level of risk of opening the darn thing. I wanted to do something about that cupboard from when I first moved in, but it is an awkward size – 45cm wide (about 42cm internal width) and about 60cm deep. Most cupboards are 40, 50, 60 etc. not 45cm. So it took a fair bit of searching to source a solution – individual pull-out shelves that came in the right size. Thankfully they did exist! Then I had to have two clear days to take the old pantry apart and install the new shelves and re-hang the door. That was last weekend.


First, everything had to come out. I used the new wire basket shelves to stack the contents into on the dining table. The new baskets are slightly wider than the old ones, and much sturdier.


Then I had to take the door off the front – it weighs about 16kg (I needed to know that for the hinges later) was held on by just five screws – but had about 12 holes drilled into it as someone clearly had problems when they installed it (the door was also catching before but doesn’t now so I think it was crooked!). Then the pull-out frame had to come out – and it was held by 10mm screws that must have only barely had enough grip on the particleboard. And it had originally been installed backwards – there were already filled holes in a mirror pattern to the ones I now needed to fill. Had I known how little had been holding up the pantry, I would have been terrified to touch it! Anyway, gone now. Lots of holes to fill.


Then in with the new shelves. I was very relieved to find they fit perfectly, though I didn’t check the sides walls of the cupboard were exactly parallel – the width is a few millimetres wider at the back, so fitting each basket was a bit tricky, but works. I gained an extra “shelf” on the floor of the pantry where the old rail had been and I made the first pull-out shelf high enough that items like oil and spaghetti would fit (some of these things have be stored under the sink until now).


All the shelves and all the food! The last part was the door. This took the most time because I had to hand chisel out the recess for each hinge (which took about five hours!). I also had to measure very carefully (and repeatedly) so that the door would be in the right position.


I managed to slot the door back on and get it lined up perfectly. For the moment the handle is still in the middle. It is a little awkward, but if I move it across to the side, I will have two holes in the door that I will have to do something about.

The next stage of the kitchen improvements goes to my strata AGM next month – extending the tiling. Actually, I can’t match the existing tiles, so pulling up the current tiles and retiling a larger area. Then the temporary island bench will be replaced by a permanent island (with new cutlery draws to replace the ones I’ve removed) and I will replace the tile splash back (more than half the tiles are cracked). I’m expecting that to take at least until July (tiling in the Easter break; island bench in the mid-year break).

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