Archive for August, 2008

Getting the Doors Right

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

You might not think much about door handles – who does! But if you are confronted everyday with using a door handle that is difficult to grab, things change. We spent a lot of time researching what door handles would be the easiest to operate. Here is what we came up with:

  • Levers are better than knobs. With a lever you can use the “lever” action to unsnib the latch. Turning a knob can sometimes be impossible. Particularly when there might be pressure on the door.
  • Straight levers are not so good. Once you get the lever moving, if the lever is straight your hand often slips off. A lever with a turn back is best.
  • The handle needs to have some substance. It needs to be easy to grab and take some rough and tough abuse.

Using the above criteria we found a handle called Samoa produced by an Italian door furniture company called Parisi . I contacted Parisi in Australia to see if they wanted to become involved with our project. Unfortunately they were not so helpful and would not deal with me as I was just a member of the public. As the product they made was the best for our needs I needed to invoke plan B. I contacted a friend at Integrity Locksmiths to see if he would help facilitate the transaction. Thankfully he agreed and we now have our Parisi Samoa door handles.

 Parisi Samoa Door Handle  Parisi Door Handles in place

You can clearly see the turnback on the lever on the Parisi Samoa door handles. They are constructed of solid stainless steel so they will hold up to the salt air down in Merimbula.

Hi-Tech Traditional Products – Lightweight Boral Blocks

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

A number of our readers would know that we used about two B – Double Semi trailer loads of Boral masonry blocks when we reconstructed the lower level of the project. While I could have fitted them all on one semi from a space point of view, the load was just too heavy. Splitting it in two cost us an extra $1,800 in freight – ouch!

 Boral masonry blocks in position.           Boral Masonry block walls

Well Boral have just developed a product (wish it had been available when we were building our walls) that is about 25 – 30% lighter than standard masonry blocks. Boral have trade marked the term Masonry One to use as the brand for this new product.

Not only is the product lighter, reducing transport and handling costs, but it is made from an ash by product from power stations, which has got to make the product more eco-friendly than standard masonry blocks. A by-product of using the ash is that the final block product has exceptional resistance to chlorides and sulphates which would make them ideal for coastal locations.

Read more about this revolutionary product at Boral Masonry One.

Or download a brochure from the link below.

Boral Masonry One Brochure

Who said that you could not revolutionize a brick? – Next they will say there is not a better mousetrap.

Floors & Stairs All Done.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

When we decided to use compressed bamboo from Style Plantations as a floor it was mainly on the basis that this was a material made from a fully renewable resource. Now that the team has finished installing on the upper level the look is fantastic. As the floor is fully glued in place there is not a nail in sight. This matches with the Deck-Max system we used for the decking. We ended up with expanses of decking without a nail in sight. Check out the floor for yourself.

Style Plantation Compressed Bamboo Flooring 1         Style Plantation Compressed Bamboo Flooring 2

 To match the natural timber look of the place we specified a natural black butt staircase. So that the structure looked light we opted to have the stair treads open. We knew that this would look good. The joiners came to the site and took all of the measurements. This is a “U” shaped stair so the construction was quite complicated. I was a bit skeptical about the process to begin with but John Bennett the builder said that this was the best way and that he had confidence in the joinery team. Well it all worked out perfectly. The stairs arrived on the back of a ute, and just plugged perfectly into place. No adjustment needed.

 Need to think about a gate.  Stairs Up they Go  Stair handrails and trim

 We want to use the stairs for physio practice so we will need to work out how to put handrails on both sides. We will also need to put a boom gate on upstairs to avoid nasty accidents with wheel chairs.

An Exterior Texture Coating System – Acratex

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Dulux Acratex Logo

I was talking with our friends at Dulux today about the finer points of the finishes we are using on the project. We had not finalized the exterior finishes. After a number of discussions we all concluded that the Dulux Acratex system would perfect for our needs. The construction of the project is basically in two parts. The lower level has been built using Boral cement blocks , while the upper level has been constructed using Hebel Power Panel . The Dulux Acratex system can accommodate both substrates, all be it with different products. The products that we will use will be:

You can click on the above to download a datasheet about the product.

Acratex Renderwall
We will use this product on the Boral cement blockwork on the ground level. It is designed to fill in all of the surface imperfections and give a level base for the Acratex texture layer.

Acratex Hebel Skimcoat
This product provides a similar function to the renerwall but is specifically designed for the Hebel Power Panel .

Acratex AcraPrime
The function of the AcraPrime is to unify the porosity of the base material. I guess what this means is that the final texture coat will be consistent across wide areas. Not using a primer could result in a patchy finish and an inconsistent adhesion. As with all painting products the success is based in proper preparation.

Acratex Tuscony Fine Texture Coat
We had originally thought that a bagged finish might be suitable, however after a number of discussion we changed to the Tuscony Fine. The difference here is that the finish is much finer, so that if someone rubs up against it they are less likely to sustain injury. With a bagged finish it can be rough in places which could lead to injury. In our situation where we will have people who are unstable on their feet and in wheelchairs it is important to consider these type of circumstances.

Acratex Acrashield
As we are located in a coastal area, and on top of a hill the property is subject to sea breezes. These breezes can be corrosive, so we decided that we should finish the Acretex off with a protective coating of AcraShield. The AcraShield will improve washability and reduces dirt accumulation which will lead to a much lower maintenance regime. The AcraShield will also help with the colour consistency.

Dulux Acratex Finish 1        Dulux Acratex Tuscany Fine        Dulux Acratex Finish 2

 I really think that the Dulux Acratex system will fill all of our specifications perfectly. I am really looking forward to the application process and the finished job.

More Shower Safety Measures – Altro for the Bathrooms

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Altro Safety Flooring Logo

As many of our readers know, we have paid particular attention in the project to avoiding fall hazards. There is a good reason for this. Falls are the number one accident that people have in the home. This is particularly so for anyone that is unsteady on their feet. In the first 4 months after Desiree was home after 5 months in rehab hospital, she needed to learn to walk again. This was a pretty tough time. She had extreme will and wanted to get back on her feet. This inevitably lead to a number of mishaps. All in all she fell about 6 times during the period of relearning. Thankfully she never seriously injured herself. (although most incidents resulted in an ambulance visit to get her back on her feet) What it did do however was to teach us where the hazards were. The number one danger area was the bathroom and shower. Our existing bathroom and shower are traditional tiles and when they get wet they become a real danger for someone who is not steady.

This lead me to do some serious research to try and eliminate this source of danger. My research lead me to a company called Altro Safety Flooring . They made a non slip vinyl floor covering that not only could we use in the bathroom but also into the shower. So in conjunction with the Stormtech drains we could have a sill-less surface that was non slip even when it was wet. Here are some of the features of Altro .

  • Altro safety flooring appears smooth on the surface but provides a high level of slip resistance when walked on.
  • Altro safety flooring is a unique combination of plastic vinyl, aluminum oxide grains with a glass fiber reinforcement. Some ranges also include quartz aggregates.
  • The safety performance of Altro safety flooring relies on the way in which the vinyl compresses under load, leaving the abrasive grain protruding above the surface to provide a reliable grip.
  • This is why Altro safety flooring remains slip resistant even when wet.

Laying Altro safety flooring is a pretty precise job. Particularly on our project. We are having the Altro cove up the wall 200mm so that there are no sharp corners on the floor to collect dust and dirt. Hopefully this will lead to really easy cleaning.

The Altro laying team will be on the job next week after we have put all of the right falls in the wet areas. We need to have a tolerance of about 2 mm across the floor so that the final job is super smooth.  You can get some idea of the precision of the job when you look at the photo below.

Main shower ready for fall

I will be writing up some more postings about the Altro product as we progress through the installation phase over the next couple of weeks.

It’s All by Design

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

I was talking with John Bennett the builder yesterday in our weekly phone hook up, (we are doing this renovation remotely, the project is about 700kms away from Sydney where we live) and he mentioned now that all the windows and floors were in the place was looking great. Nice bright, light and airy. Reflecting on this comment I thought about all the time we spent planning the little details with Harry Sprintz our architect. As there is an airport in Merimbula, there is also a weather station. This would be the start of our data collection to plan some of the finer details of the project. I logged onto the Weather Bureau website and found that they kept all of the records from thier weather stations, including Merimbula.

I managed to find weather data that went back 28 years for the Merimbula airport. From this data I compiled the following two tables. We used these as part of our design brief to Harry Sprintz .

Using this information we were able to orientate windows and place rooms to take advantage of the sun and ensure that we had great flow through ventilation.

We chose to use a number of louvre windows and vented skylights in the project. These were made by Breezway an Australian company based in Queensland. This would give us great flow through ventilation and eliminate any need for airconditioning. This helps with the green credentials of the project.

 Breezway Louvre Windows          Fakro vented skylight

You can see the louvres in the above photo on the left and the way that the Fakro vented skylights open to let the breeze through.

 Sun streaming in

So I guess that it is no accident that the rooms are nice and bright and comfortable. It all boils down to design.

23 Days in the Shower

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I never used to think that much about showers. But then I guess that there aren’t that many people who do. Desiree’s stroke paralysed her down the left side and has left her wheelchair bound. One of the hardest tasks of our day is getting her showered. All up it currently takes us about an hour and a half (if everything goes well) from start to finish.  I sat down and worked it out. At this rate I am going to spend almost 23 days in the shower over the next 12 months. I now have a new found respect for shower design.

I have consequently spent a lot of time and trouble designing the showers in the project. As Desiree cant stand for any length of time she relies on a shower chair. Most showers have the waste in the centre of the shower. What this means is that the floor of the shower has to fall (slope) in two directions towards the plug hole. Have you ever tried to place a four legged chair on a surface that slopes in two directions. No matter how hard you try you always end up with a wobble. Boy is that annoying. We have solved this problem by installing gutter drains with stainless steel grids made by a company called Stormtech . You can get an idea of these in the pictures below.

Stormtech Drain 1         Stormtech drain 2

Installing these drains means that we only need to have the shower floor fall one way. Hey no more wobbly (and dangerous) shower chairs. Now I needed to address how we could make the showering process quicker. The first thing was to have “drive up” (for wheelchairs) entries. You have no idea how many showers we have been in where it takes us at least 10 minutes to manoeuvre into the right position and then I have to adopt the skills of a contortionist just to get us in the door. Once in, there is certainly not any chance of swinging cats, not even a kitten could squeeze in. So no doors or screens and big enough for two. I figure if I am going to spend the best part of a month in the shower I might as well shower myself at the same time.

When it came to choosing the shower system I turned to our partners at Dorf for suggestions. They had just released a new shower system called the Orbit 5.  Orbit System 5 features a two way diverter that allows you to isolate either the overhead rain shower or the rail shower. The height of the rail shower is easily adjusted at the push of a button, and the durable chrome finish and sleek construction with a smooth surface hose ensures your bathroom always looks good and is easy to clean. They suggested that I match this up with on of the Eclipse family mixer taps. The Eclipse’s distinctive styling employs Dorf Ceradisc technology for complete water flow and temperature control, and Dorf Water Efficient Tapware (W.E.T.) technology to ensure minimal water use without compromising on performance. The combination of a polished chrome exterior and solid brass construction would ensure low maintenance and durability.  The Dorf Smart Eclipse range of tapware, offers an original Australian design with contemporary styling and subtle curves and is engineered to meet all applicable Australian Standards Certification of quality.

 Dorf Orbit 5 Shower System          Dorf Eclipse Shower Mixer

 As well as working well and looking good these tap fittings had to be water wise and relatively easy to install. The Orbit shower system has a three star WELS rating which means it uses about 9 litres of water a minute. Here is a copy of the Orbit 5 WELS certificate and Orbit 5 installation guide.

So hopefully with a bit of clever design and the use of great products I can achieve some efficiency in the showering process.

A Unique Floor – Yes it’s made of Grass ! A Renewable Resource

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

 Style Plantation Logo

I was wandering around the Sydney Home Show almost 2 years ago and I came across Style Plantations . This company was displaying a new flooring product. I struck up a conversation with Brendon, who was representing the company on the stand, he explained the benefits of using compressed bamboo as a flooring material. What initially attracted me was that here was a product that was durable (it was 66% harder than Jarrah), had a good slip rating and came prefinished so no additional sanding, staining or coating was required.

In addition the product was made from a totally renewable resource, bamboo.  I am a bit of a cynic so I decided to do some homework on this company. I found out that Style Plantations wasn’t just a sales outlet for this product, but were a joint venture partner with the factory (Anji Tianfeng Bamboo Products ) based in Zhejiang Provence in China. I was dealing with the maker, this cannot be a bad thing. In 2007 they made more than a million square metres of bamboo flooring.

I decided to use this product throughout the project so I struck up a deal with Brendon and he calculated that we needed about 254 square metres to completely floor the project. So I placed our order. In retrospect I could have placed the order a lot later as it took us another 9 months to get to the point where we were ready to lay the floor. Brendon showed great patience during this period as we delayed delivery date after delivery date. Well last week we finally took delivery.

John Bennett the builder lugged five pallets manufactured compressed bamboo floorboards onto the job. The first thing that he noticed were that they were incredibly heavy. These were some dense boards. I guess that this is a result of the manufacturing process where bamboo is stripped into long strands and then these strands are almost woven layer by layer, coated with a special adhesive and compressed into a sheet using incredible pressure. These sheets are then milled into tongue and groove, end matched floorboards. The second thing was how hard these boards were to cut. They were almost like steel.

As these boards are “manufactured” there are far less bows and curves than traditional flooring. But as they are still a natural product, the boards need to be graded colourwise so you get a consistent finish to the floor. After the grading process, John laid the longest run to use as a benchmark to work from.

Edge trimming the bamboo flooring         Completed office compressed bamboo floor

At the doorways you can see that we have included a trim. As the boards are straight and true as well as end matched  this process is not as difficult as normal. The finish looks great.

Getting the compressed bamboo floor straight.         Office compressed bamboo floor complete

 On the upper level the compressed bamboo is laid directly onto a plywood underlay. The boards are glued directly onto this underlay. This job has been made a lot easier by using the Ultraspreader that my friend Ray Greenslade developed. I have written about this tool before to read more detail on the Ultraspreader click here.

On the ground floor the compressed bamboo floorboards are glued to battens that are fixed directly to the concrete slab. Over the next few days the floor will be complete.

Getting the Paint Right with Dulux

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Dulux Logo

The paint division and woodcare division of Dulux have agreed to become our partners. We will be using the following products in the project.

Product Situation Product Code Data Sheet Universal Design Context
1 Step Acylic Primer Sealer Undercoat for all internal walls 630-89139 AUDD1192 Will give superior adhesion for topcoat and therefore give a more resilient surface.
White Ceiling Paint Paint for all of the ceilings 615-32276 AUDD0024 Flat white surface will ensure that illumination is consistent.
Weathershield Roof & Trim Exterior downpipes & guttering 594-Line AUDD0056 No particular UD context
Suede Effects Interior walls & feature walls 690-82584 AUDD0045 This finish resists burnishing which means it will perform well in a wheelchair environment.
Intergrain Reviva All exterior woodwork 552-94814 AUDW0767 This system will allow for a slip resistant decking surface.
Intergrain Ultradeck All exterior decking 552-Line AUDW1285 As above.
Intergrain Ultragrip All exterior decking 55294992 AUDW1399 As above.

We have engaged a professional painter to do this application. We intend to report on the application process as we progress.

Hafele Another Partner

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Hafele Logo

We are now down to the finer details of the job. All of the hardware for the kitchens, bathrooms and office will be supplied by Hafele .  Hafele Australia Pty. Ltd. is a subsidiary or Häfele GmbH & Co. (Germany). The Hafele group was first established in 1923 and today is an international leader in supplying quality furniture fittings and architectural hardware worldwide.

A lot of the gear that Hafele supplies can be used in the context of Universal Design.

 Hafele Corner Unit 2

Things like swing out shelves increase accessiblity ease. We have put together a shopping list of Hafele product to use throughout the project.