Saturday, August 9, 2014

En Suite Shower / Changing Room with new toilet. Fed by Pressure Pumped Solar heated water (400 litres).

The en suite shower & changing room project took over 4 months + of part-time work by Arnie to complete and more time before that, really thinking about what was desired and planning in every aspect. For me this was a particularly interesting project as there are so many variables. It involved selection of all the best components that are good at doing a job and give a combined aesthetic result, so the job will only have to be completed once. Then it’s a matter of assembly, which on a house as I've come to learn is often much slower than I anticipate at first.

First, here's the finished shower & changing room.(Sorry the pictures are on their sides - I have tried to save them after rotation & before uploading, but BlogSpot insists on placing them on their sides again. *Sigh!*)!

And here are some pictures in reverse chronological order showing some of the stages we went through to get to the final result.

The total floor area is a little less than 2 square metres, but it's amazing how much thought needs to go into making a completely waterproof luxury shower room, then planning all the pieces to match, purchase them (mostly online from the US) and then hope they'll all work together.

These components that were ordered in readiness for the building of the shower room:

(1). 8 head Shower Tower with additional overhead shower and hand held head. Different modes will be selectable.
(2). High Pressure Booster Pump to ensure water pressure is strong enough to give plenty of massage.
(3). 90mm Stainless Steel Drain Tray, to be counter sunk into the floor.
(4). Powerful but quiet Extractor Fan which has a humidity sensor and also a timer, both of which are adjustable.
(5). Recesses to fit either side of the shower Tower, where shampoos, body soaps and other things can be easily placed.
(6). Wall mounted Soap Holder that won't trap water and make the bar of soap mushy!
(7). Folding Aluminium Door with Frosted Glass for the shower room.
(8). Heated Towel Rail in the changing area with integrated cabinet and sink area.
(9). French tiles (White & deep blue) for the walls & ceilings, with dark tan coloured floor tiles or rough texture to avoid being slippery when wet.
(10). Heated Mirror in the changing area.
(11). Raised Rectangular Sink with safety overflow (We have kids!).
(12). Toto Faucet with retractable shower head, so the women of the house can wash their hair in the sink if they ever feel the need to.
(13). Antique Bronze styled wall sconces to illuminate either side of the mirror.
(14). Warm LED Lighting in the shower & changing rooms.
(15). Electrical receptacles with illuminated on/off switches suitably high enough to be safe from splashes of water (For use with hairdryers, hair curlers, etc).
(16). Ceramic Wall Plates for switches & electrical receptacles - to match with the tiles.
(17). A surprisingly large amount of French tiles & corner edging. These included mosaics which were to be laid on the cabinet top and sides, entrance door frame and in the recesses either side of the shower tower.
(18). 5 custom sized aluminium window frames with double glazed glass. Frosted in the shower room.
(19). Solid antique bronze towel & clothes hangers to be fitted to the inner side of the door from the hall.

The area started out as a disused corner of the house with a little link in the corner and the remains of what used to be a men's urinal, next to which is the existing toilet. These were of course not part of the original structure of the house, but something built around 40 years ago. Not really very strongly made as the rest of the house, but it's still solid enough so there was no need to knock it down.
Instead Arnie replaced the exterior cladding first, then came inside to work on the rest.

First he framed the area and put up plywood walls. There were then all covered with 2 layers of FRP matting and plenty of resin to make them and made impermiable to moisture. This rough surface was also ideal for attaching tiles onto. We didn’t want plastic walls and the typical Japanese wet room style, since these are apparently prone to getting mouldy on the trapped air areas behind the plastic. Our solution nas the same functions, but with more facilities. The result will be much more characterful & aesthetically pleasing too.

This is the back-side of the shower mounting wall, which is left open for now so the plumbing can be completed, tested, etc. before an easily openable wall is fitted and an old framed mirror we bought from Bali a long time ago is placed on the face.

We also got a new fancy high-tech Toto toilet with all the funky Japanese washlet stuff – which I don’t like myself, but my wife really does.
She also wanted a wash basin, so I found a tiny little corner one with a nice little antique brass faucet. I also found a matching antique brass toilet roll holder.
The walls and ceiling in the toilet don't need replacement, as I had already wallpapered it (Asian styled print in blue & white - which gives hints of traditional Portuguese ceramic wall tiles).
Here is what the toilet that came with the house originally looks like currently - with the new wallpaper. It won't change much, just a sleeker toilet, new tiled floor & corner sink + fixtures to come.

The 40 year old plywood floor is currently delaminating, so that'll be replaced before it's sealed with FRP, protected from beneath with plastic insulation and tiled bwith the same non-slip floor of the shower room before being fitted with the new toilet & wash basin.

Meanwhile, here's some pictures of the frame Arnie built to support the 400 litres of solar water heaters (2 x 200L). This will feed very hot water (It should be scalding hot even in winter, but if not - we can always have an additional thermostatically controlled propane gas heater added in series should the need arise). Part of the structure alongside is for an enclosed chicken run too.

What we built together in the first day (10cm sq. pillars sunk 70cm into the ground and re-inforced with stones & concrete,

After 2 more day's work:

By the 5th day it was finished and shortly after this picture was taken, Arnie finished applying creosote to the to sections & together we assembled the solar heaters on the roof, which would have been difficult for him to do when working on the house alone.

The long structure carries the water to & from the solar panels and is the beginnings of one perimeter of the intended Chicken Run / Greenhouse, which when combined will be triangular shaped.This is because we need to allow access with a small truck to the forested land behind the house, since the intention is to also build projects there in future, such as woofer accommodation, hidden parking for cars, etc.

There will be some roof space left unused for now (We built it large & wide enough for cars & smaller trucks to be able to drive through the lower structure to have access to the forest behind the house).
The intention is to find some suitably sized electrical solar panels so we can use this sunny area (It's angled due south, for optimal exposure to the sun year-round). These could provide some power to charge a bank of 12V batteries to in turn supply power via an inverter to our intended greenhouse which is to be built next to the chicken run... It could also power a pump to lift water from the intended duck pond below & store in drums placed under the solar panels. Duck water is very nutritious for plants, so would make an ideal way to water them in future. So there are other exciting ideas in store yet!

Arnie replaces & repairs old facades of the house's external walls.

For the last 5 months or so Arnie (our carpenter friend) has been helping us around 2 days per week, steadily completing repairs and improvements wherever there is a need.
One of the jobs has been to go around the perimeter of the house and continue replacing old wooden cladding, with new & repairing the previously damaged white cladding above the wood.

For the toilet and intended shower / changing room, we wanted the walls to not just be renewed, but insulated too, complete with plenty of creosote to ward off insects from nesting inside the walls, as they have been for quite some time! In the first year we moved in, there was a hornet's nest within the walls of the toilet, which made for some entertainment each time we flushed the toilet. That first year I learnt how to get rid of a wasp / hornet's nest using a compressed canister full of soapy water...

These three pictures show where Arnie removed the horrible old corrugated iron cladding and replacing it with pretty & new Sugi (Cedar) cladding, much like in other areas where he's rebuilt the walls.

The window grilles shown above and below are actually no longer there now, since we replaced the old & draughty wooden window frames with double glazed aluminium framed ones instead.

The pictures below show the cladding outside the kitchen which hadn't yet been replaced, probably well over 100 years old and quite fragile.

Arnie also repaired all the cracked off original plaster fa├žade at the side & front of the building, with the same material as originally used.
Now the house looks a lot better as we approach it, although it'll benefit from a coat of fresh white paint on these facades when I find the time to do some work on it.

Will update this post with better pics soon and again once I have painted it all, soonish - hopefully, before winter sets in.

There is still other work to do. Before winter I'd like to replace the front doors & windows to the room upstairs with aluminium framed double glazed glass. Later on, all the glass doors around the perimeter of the house too - with aluminium double glazed items, similar to what we've had fitted to the front of the house and more recently the bathroom, but this is going to take at least another year or so... Yet another project in the works.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A well engineered Wardrobe - made by Arine our carpenter.

I must apologise as the pictures I have here are incomplete, since the only show part of the installation process and don't include pictures of the doors hung in place.
When I get a chance, I'll shoot some more and update with newer photos if anybody is interested in seeing more.

Apologies in advance that the pictures are each on their sides.
I did rotate & save each so it was in an upright position before uploading, but being a free blog website it's not that good and rotates them sideways again. Grrr! :_)

This is a wardrobe that was built by Arnie at home over the period of around 70 days, before he brought it in kit form and spent a day or so assembling it (September 2013).

In the dining room it holds the sound system for the house, which has speaker selection for each of the lounge rooms, in addition to this dining room and the upstairs room also. I'm not sure yet if we'll have waterproof speakers in the intended bathroom Which is yet to be rebuilt), but this could feasibly power speakers there also.

There are custom built CD & DVD shelves as well as book shelves & 2 areas for a dehumidifier and an air purifier too. Channels are made within the structure so the dehumidifier can also draw air from behind, where there is another wardrobe.

This opposing side is for our daughter's bedroom, which has a stout hanging rail, smooth closing drawers and shelves for books. The doors were also beautifully made by hand and glide smoothly on rails, but are made in the style of the other original shoji doors in the house.

The shorter exposed side is a wall on which pictures have been hung as part of the bedroom area.

We brought down more tall & dangerous trees!

Our home is surrounded by forest and as those who have followed the blog will know, our priority was to remove all the dangerous ones, which could be in danger of falling on the roof when there's a big typhoon. There was actually one tree that did fall, but thankfully it's crown only just scraped past the roof so there was no damage at all.

I'm glad we did manage to take down most of the dangerous ones before anything happened.

The people who'd cleared our trees previously - although fast & very professional at their work, had left a lot of work to be completed in clearing the brush, etc. So on this occasion I contacted Edera San, a friend of a local friend for an estimate. Her team would have to do the work a lot more carefully this time, to avoid felling trees anywhere near the house, which included climbing each tree and taking the canopy off before felling the main trunk.

This time we were cutting down mostly Japanese Cedar (Sugi) & Hinoki Cypress, which I'm finding tends to get sick and decay from the inside out, seemingly remaining healthy looking with the only clue to it's demise being climbing vines which apparently know of it's ill health. It's amazing how nature can warn us of what's happening. We just need to be observant & willing to learn.

Apologies in advance that the pictures are each on their sides.
I did rotate & save each so it was in an upright position before uploading, but being a free blog website it's not that good and rotates them sideways again. Grrr! :_)

The gentleman cutting the tops of trees down is a seasoned mountain climber, so to shin up tall trees was no hardship for him, but it was none the less awesome to watch him work.

I have to admit I was glad I'd hired this team to do such work. I really wouldn't have fancied doing it myself.


Tree beheaded!

Once the top foliage & branches of each tree had been cut down, it was time to cut the base and drop the trunk, which tended to fall into the valley below.

One tree got caught on a stout old Oak. Some further surgery & engineering was required, but it came down to safety in the end. Around 7 similar trees were removed from this area during a 2-3 day stint.

Our next job was to remove a wood drying shack that had been erected some 40 years before, to allow access to 4 very tall Japanese cedars behind it, 3 of which were quite old & sick. Jun spent about a day dismantling it and finally we were rid of the 2 shacks which had come with the property. This is also the location where I intend to build a 6 car sized workshop, so all the reason to remove any possibly dangerous trees. Not least they loomed over the gatehouse!
If they ever fell on top of that it would have been catastrophic!

Shortly after the shack was taken down, we had some very heavy snows for a week or so.

Tokyo was the worst hit and had something like 60cm!
But it all soon melted. This picture was taken when I drove a friend home in the early hours of the morning, crossing Rainbow bridge when there was nobody else able to make it through...
I was driving our (4WD with locking front hubs) camper van, equipped with good snow tyres. This was one time I was glad to have plenty of ground clearance too.

Once the snows had mostly melted, on 22nd of February the crew came back to cut down another 6 or so trees!

Hammering a wedge into the cut, so it won't shut & trap the chainsaw.


Coming down!


This tree was around 115 years old.

And another tree coming down.


This was probably the most beautiful Sugi we had on the property, but as we plan to build when we can, now seemed an opportune time to bring it down.


It went deep into the ravine below. About 25m total length!

In all, this past winter around 12 trees of 20-25 metres in height were taken down along the ridge just before there is a steep incline to a flat area below.
This has opened up the path for winds to come from the valley below and we immediately noticed a much cooler and more comfortable atmosphere (Especially over the recent summer weather).

In the spring together with the children we planted lots of replacement trees, as this is a prime area for sunlight. These included Tangerine, Orange, Peach, Cherry, Lemon and Blueberry, in addition to Apple, Japanese pear, Fig, Chestnut and Weeping Cherry Blossoms in other parts of the garden where trees were previously felled last year. We'll see how these saplings survive, but we have fed them with chicken manure and protected each with plenty of mulch, so hopefully they'll grow up well & healthy. We continue to patiently dream of having a range of fruits to juice, eat and preserve to enjoy fresh from the garden throughout the year.

The new tree's roots will help avoid possible land slides and I presume that's why these trees were grown there in the first place. We will continue to plant as time goes on, but I figure it'll be some years before the roots of the trees we cut down rot into deep compost.

I then asked Yo Chan, who is a well known builder who favours natural materials to come by and take the tree trunks he wanted, for free. The most beautiful tree that had fallen deep into the ravine was the one he really wanted. He said this was the most beautiful & perfect Sugi he'd ever had the chance to have.

We used his Unic crane truck as power to pull 5 metre long sections of trunk up from the ravine. These were very heavy & too much for his crane to pull, so we had to engineer ways to bring each section out, using cables and pullies to get better purchase.

Here, Yo Chan climbs an Oak to attach a strap & pulley.

As always it was amazing to watch & spend the day assisting a professional at work. Part of his work has been to make some fantastic tree houses, so he's experienced in how to engineer success with these difficult projects.

Rescuing a piece of 5m length trunk of 100 year old Sugi.

As we loaded the truck the back wheels continued to sink deeper & deeper into the ground!

It didn't drive out of there easily, but with a combination of using the crane to pull, combined with my 3.5 ton Chihoru winch and large chunks of wood under the wheels, eventually we managed to pull it out - and made sure it didn't stop till it got onto harder ground. I expect it probably weighed around 8 tonnes with that load.

We still have logs in the valley and on the slope below which need to be cut. That's a project to do perhaps over next winter... Maybe in combination with building an intended duck pond... One project at a time. No rush, just a little progress as & when it can be made!