Kaye and Geoff's tent House

owner builder sign

Soon after we moved from the city to the farm, we pulled down the old house there and built a new one. We designed and sub-contracted the construction of our house ourselves, completing it early in 2002. When we decided to move in to town, to a block we already owned, we repeated the process, demolishing the cottage on our block and owner-building a new house.

The slope of the area and the orientation of the block made for a few challenges in combining our desire for a solar-passive house with the practicalities of designing a house which would serve our needs, especially as we got older. The resulting house faces north east and is reverse brick veneer, with a concrete pad, steel frame and Colorbond steel cladding and roof. The 700 millimetre eaves will shade the walls and windows in summer but allow the sun in during the winter. The house is one story with no internal changes of level and the outside areas are basically flat. The walls and ceiling are packed with insulation, the hot water system is solar and we have eleven solar panels on the roof.

The huge central atrium opens via stacker doors to a north west facing courtyard. There are two bedrooms each with en-suite, a kitchen, living/dining room, computer room/office, laundry and large studio. Almost all the doors are wide enough to allow for a wheelchair and the showers are spacious with no enclosure or hob. Installed heating is under-floor, limited to the bathrooms and the living room, controlled by thermostats and timers. There is no active cooling.

The back yard has a six metre square workshop and a shadehouse and garden shed which we will erect.

The house plan looks like this:

house plan
Building:

It took a long time but in January 2018 we actually started constructing our new house, with only a few changes to the plan shown above. However in the time it took to get to this stage, we had not been idle.

 
To provide a level surface for the house (and the yard) we constructed a retaining wall from Besser blocks at one side, to a maximum height of about one metre. This wall was continued along the back boundary and then continued further up the other side. All this involved huge amounts of concrete and reinforcing steel. We installed steel panel fences on top of the block wall.

While wall and fence building was proceeding, we demolished the old wooden cottage which was on the site. It was in even worse condition than we suspected, with an abandoned bee hive in one wall, very rotted timber stumps, and stringers in the roof with huge splits. The slightly dangerous job of removing the roof and the roofing timbers was completed without significant injury, and many of the materials were recycled - given to our friends - and some are already incorporated into other buildings. We saved the jarrah floor boards and some other stuff for ourselves, hoping that most of it would find a home in the new house.


We were glad that we did the demolition ourselves, ignoring the advice from some friends: "why not just pay someone to do it?". Apart from the fact that we saved money and managed to recycle a lot of the materials, it turned out that there was loose fluffy asbestos in a cavity above the wood-burning fire in the lounge. When we discovered it we had it professionally removed, but a contractor using a machine to push the house over would not have realised it was there, and it would no doubt have blown over a large area of Denmark.

Once the cottage plus at least six electrical earths, a variety of used and unused drainage pipes, buried granite pavers and the stump of a large palm were removed, soil was excavated and new fill added and compacted ready for the concrete house footings and slab.
 
Demolition had started with the old free-standing laundry plus the removal of rocks and pipes and rubbish. A building site needs a toilet, so some of the materials from the laundry plus timber and a door we had "hanging around" were used to construct a small rough shed. We purchased a small Clivus Maltrum composting toilet and installed it with a solar panel and battery to run the fan.

Since access to the rear of the block would be restricted once the actual house building got under way, and because having a lock-up shed would be useful during this process, we purchased a kit for a six by six metre shed and erected it against the back fence. The instructions that came with it were very poor and it was only due to the fact that we had a qualified engineer on the "build team" that it ended up being erected properly. Ultimately it was to be Geoff's workshop, but in the mean time it turned out to be very useful for storing tools and materials and providing a place to shelter from the sun and the rain.


 
In October and November 2017 the concrete foundations and slab were poured. The limited access meant that a pump was required (with a huge "arm" to span the slab) but it also seemed to speed the process up considerably. Apart from a few weather-induced delays and last-minute hitches such as pipes moved or "reshaped" and some termite protection difficulties, it turned out well. The concreter also did the foundations for the boundary wall, so we had the wall constructed (in limestone-look brick) straight away - the neighbours on that side have been very patient and accommodating, so we did not want to leave them exposed to our construction activity any longer than necessary.


 
The engineering requirements for the large central room (we changed its name from "inner courtyard" to "atrium" because it involves less typing) in the centre of the house were more heavy-duty than we assumed when we were working on the design. The fact that we specified a sloping diagonal ridge also led to a lot more complexity than we could ever have imagined. In the end it required 125 x 50 millimetre steel posts bolted with chemical anchors to the slab to support the steel H beams forming the perimeter of the roof. The ridge beam was too big for manual installation, so we had to hire a crane from Albany to get it in place. With only a few hiccups and the assistance of a lot of scaffolding, a scissor lift and Mark and his welding gear it all went together before Christmas. Serious scaffolding was required for safety reasons and for ease of working, hired from a specialist Albany company who deliver it and put it together. As a result it was expensive (more for the erection cost than the hire) so the entire atrium roof, including insulation and guttering, was built while the scaffolding was in place.


 
This also meant that we had to choose the colours of the cladding and roof rather earlier than we expected to. None of the colours on offer got us very excited, but in the end we selected a dark colour for the roof and a cream for the walls. We figured we could break up the large area of plain colour of the cladding and provide a bit of interest with a smaller area of accent colour and/or some stone "tiles". Also, once the building was completed and a garden established, we hoped it would not matter much what the cladding looked like.

Erecting the perimeter prefabricated steel wall panels turned out to be fast and relatively easy. Several panels were put aside, to be erected after the bricks had been delivered to the site and placed on the slab. The steel frame was finally completed half way through February.

The steel erection took all our concentration and lots of our time, so we welcomed a small hiatus in building activity before the bricklaying got underway. This allowed us to work on organising the bricks, steel and masonry lintels, brick ties, reflective insulation, dampcourse, door frames, internal window frames, an electrical sub-box, a cat door frame and all the other stuff which had to be available for the bricklaying.


  
The bricklaying took almost four weeks and was finally completed by the end of February. It went fairly smoothly after we came to a common view of what type of bricks the brick coursing was referring to, and despite having to apply reflective insulation to the cavity of all the external walls as the work proceeded. All the walls were to be covered in plaster so we used cheaper "Maxibrick" everywhere except for a single line of face bricks forming an arch between the living room and the atrium. The only other "problem" was working out what heights the walls should go to in the living room, which was to have exposed beams. It had taken us a long time to get our heads around the required beam arrangement and the brickie had the same difficulty - we are not sure if we convinced him in the end that our approach would work out and in fact was the only reasonable way to go.


Our roofing team was not ready to start when the bricklaying was completed but they eventually got going. As the work continued we seemed to be ordering huge amounts of timber, but in the end most of it, except for a big pile of waste offcuts, ended up somewhere in the building. All the timber which would be on show was painted before it was used; this involved extra effort at this stage but it would have been even more difficult once it was in place. After initially thinking that the plasterboard for the exposed beam ceiling would have to go up after the beams but before the battens (and before any rain!) we found out that we could leave this step until after the roof was on - a lot easier and safer.

After a few false starts and with help from our neighbours, we sourced the verandah posts from a farmer 150 kilometres away in Gnowangerup, who cut them the day before we went to collect them. They are jam trees, a variety of Acacia often used for fence posts due to their natural resistance to termites and rotting. The timber is very hard and heavy, and installing the posts involved quite a bit of muscle. We were told that the bark will come off in a year or two but the timber underneath will still look good.

 
Most of the roofing was prefabricated trusses, but they still took quite a bit of "working out" and effort to get them in place, especially since the truss designers failed to appreciate that some of the walls shown on the plans did not extend all the way to ceiling height. A lot of the remaining timber other than the battens was 290mm x 45mm treated pine, ordered and often used in six metre lengths. The timber work was completed by the start of May including (after a lot of discussion and changes of detail) the carport. The gutters, insulation and roofing Colorbond went on in three weeks during a very unseasonal period of dry and windless weather.

 
The cold and rain had to come eventually (and our builders had to go to another job) which put a brake on building progress. The appearance of the house did not change much during the winter months but there was some progress - the plumber and the electrician worked on installing pipes and wires and the initial data/phone/TV and solar panel cables were put in place. In several rooms the electical conduit chased into the wall had to be "bent" around the end of a masonry lintel over the doorway, and the en-suite light and heating switches were put in the bedroom for similar reasons. One other milestone was the installation of the bifold door frames, with the glass and insect screens to be put in later.

 
At the start of September the crew were ready to resume work but the weather prospects were not very good. Nevertheless it turned out that there were enough clear periods to get the atrium external wall clad in red-brown Colorbond steel which reflected the red colour of the verandah beams and trim. On wet days work continued on the outer courtyard and the back verandah since they provided protection and were also clad in "terrain". When all this was completed the house was semi-watertight since the only path left for the rain to enter was the lower window and door openings, which were generally covered by verandahs or by the 700 millimetre-wide eaves.

At the same time the electrician returned to complete the first phase of the electrical installation. We asked if we could get power to the shed at the back, and within a day it was done, including LED lights and three double power points. This saved us from running a very long extension lead to the rear of the block when we needed power behind the house.

 
With some better weather progress was made on cladding (in "paperbark" - a light cream colour) the north-west and south-west walls. They were completed before another enforced break as the build team took more holidays and started other jobs. This delay was used to prepare for the next stage in the build, the hardwall plastering. As the windows were installed the "reveals" were lined with cement sheet (required since with our reverse brick veneer method of construction the window frames did not cover the cavity). Also the internal door frames which our cabinet-maker neighbour had put together finally found their rightful place after several months of storage.

 
At the same time we took advantage of the hiatus to constuct a permanent set of steps down into the sunken area in the rear corner of the back yard, and also a base for the 2500 litre water tank. It will have a pressure-controlled demand pump to feed water to a single tap in the kitchen. We also got started on some "landscaping", moving excess sand and removing a tree from the area which would become the driveway.

The weather improved considerably as the steel cladding was finally completed. It was sunny and over 30 degrees C. when the team attached cement sheeting to the front verandah walls ready for them to be clad in manufactured stone by a husband and wife bricklaying duo from Albany. They took a couple of weeks to complete the job because every piece had to be fitted into its place, involving careful selection and often some cutting with an angle grinder. The stone had the effect which we hoped for; it breaks up what would otherwise be a large expanse of corrugated steel cladding.

 
The plasterer turned up with a team of four or five colleagues so initially we saw significant progress every time we turned up on site. However after the first week most of them transferred to another job, something we were getting used to, and thereafter we only had one person, or two at most. By Christmas the first float was completed but it was not until the second half of January that one man arrived to get started on the top coat. But he worked hard and most of the job was completed in the second week of February. With just the door and window reveals to be done, even our lone plasterer disappeared and it was another month until he returned. A fairly new product which we were promised was superior to traditional plaster - it is harder and has an almost glassy finish - was used in most of the rooms but a different textured finish which was coloured and so did not need painting was used in the lounge room.

 
Between Christmas and New Year the gutter guard mesh and the downpipes were installed, so with the site to ourselves we could work on the stormwater system. We installed the rainwater tank and connected three downpipes to a soakwell at the back. The remaining downpipes were connected to piping down each side of the house to the front, but their soakwells had to wait until the sand and piles of plasterer's waste in front of the house was dealt with. Several downpipes have "diverters" on them which can be used to channel water from the roof through a hose or pipe to some more useful place than a soakwell. One can be directed to the fish pond which we hoped to build as part of the patio and the others to the garden.

Early in the New Year the windows, sliding doors and bi-fold doors were glazed. This meant we had to be careful not to walk into the glass; quite a risk since we had become used to using various windows and the closed doors to come and go. We already had a solid jarrah front door, made from the floor boards salvaged from the demolished cottage, so we were now close to lock-up stage.

 
While the wall plasterers were missing in the second half of February the ceiling plasterers got started. Their first task was to install metal "shirring channels" which the gyprock sheets are screwed to; not a technique which we were used to (in the past the plaster would have been screwed directly to the ceiling joists). In our case the channels were probably a good idea since it turned out that the joists in one area were not all exactly at the same level. We had the job of placing the bulk ceiling insulation on top of the channels before the plaster sheets were attached. Half way through the job the ceiling plasterers took a week off, although to be fair in this case we all agreed to the hiatus since it gave us a chance to borrow their scaffolding and add a layer of insulation in between the exposed beams in the living room, and complete the last areas of bulk insulation in several other rooms. It even meant that the wall plasterers returned to finish the window reveals!

 
Once the ceiling gyprock was in place, the plasterer worked on filling all the gaps and attaching the cornices. In the living room this was a very slow process since each sheet between a pair of exposed beams was like a little "room" on its own, and it all had to be done from scaffolding. Half way through this task, out bricklayer unexpectedly turned up and said that he could lay the manufactured limestone blocks to make a low wall in the backyard, and the perimeter "wall" in the atrium, starting immediately. We had to quickly arrange for our cabinetmaker to install the door frame for the living room / atrium arch and three days later the walls were complete. Having a limestone wall inside your house might be considered a bit weird, but it fits in with our idea of the atrium as a "semi-outdoor" space.

Sometimes nothing happens for days, then suddenly everyone wants to turn up. The plasterer was still finishing the ceiling when the painters contacted us and said that they would like to start immediately - the weather was preventing them from completing any of their outside jobs. So we agreed and in one day they applied two coats to the living room ceiling, and within a week all the ceilings were done, and the walls had two undercoats and one top coat. The final coat had to wait until most of the cabinetry and tiling was completed.

 
With the two-stone-block (720 millimetres) high perimeter wall in the atrium completed we could start on the atrium lining. We decided to use pine tongue and groove lining boards, stained with a liming paint which hopefully will minimise the yellowing which this timber normally shows over time. The boards are secret nailed to the frame via vertical timber battens which in turn are screwed to the metal framework, which is first covered in building paper to provide a degree of insulation. Bulk insulation is also installed in the higher parts of the wall which face the outside.

Although this whole process involves a lot of time, it is reasonably straight-forward so we decided to do most of it ourselves. We hired the ceiling plasterer's scaffolding and spent several weeks sticking up (literally, using double-sided tape) the building paper and screwing battens into the steel frame. We ordered the pine and were shocked to discover that we needed 1.2 kilometres of it - it came in 5.1 metre lengths.

 
While we worked on the atrium, the cabinetry which had already been constructed off-site was delivered. It only took a couple of days to install the kitchen furniture but the rest had to wait until the tiler worked on the wet-area floors, which it turn had to wait on the delivery and our instalation of the in-screed heating.

Choosing tiles was a major headache. To be "on trend" you apparently have to have tiles which are some shade of grey, which meant this was all the shops stocked. It has certainly changed in the twenty years since we built on the farm. We were not enthused by any of our choices, but once the tiler had completed the two bathrooms we were happy enough. At least we managed to have the two brightly coloured picture tiles purchased in Crete placed in the en-suite shower recess. Yes, we do buy strange souvenirs. At this stage the cabinetmaker (our neighbour) finally installed a lock on the front door which meant that we were officially at lock-up stage - a major milestone!

 
The atrium battens took forever (and extra scaffolding to get up to the highest corner) to complete, but after purchasing a compressor and borrowing a nail gun, we finally started on the baltic pine lining. Along the way we concreted a base for the bifold door fly screen and had more power points fitted, including a couple which were connected to the power supply, making it easier to use the compressor and power tools inside the house. We also went to the Shire and arranged a twelve month extension on our building license.

Our skill at measuring, cutting and placing pine lining boards turned out to be limited, but we found that even fairly large discrepencies merged into the overall "rustic" quality of the wall. At the lower levels, silicone filler covered up a few of our more obvious mistakes. Once the wall lining was completed we moved on to the ceiling, maintaining the rustic theme by using Colorbond corrugated steel with simple overlapping joins, despite the objections of our "metal" tradesman who reluctantly agreed to install it with our help. In the end the task was carried out faster than he predicted and maybe not with a result as bad as he thought.

 
We originally planned to use slate on the floor of the atrium, and the studio, laundry and toilet, but slate is apparently "unfashionable" and it was impossible to find anything suitable locally. Our second choice was terracotta, and even that required a special order for the only colour and size available. The atrium floor area is very large (roughly six by nine metres) so to break up the uniformity we turned to the internet and found a coloured Indian sandstone available from Perth. We ordered it sight unseen and arranged for it to be shipped down. It turned out to exceed our expectations; every piece is a small "picture" in shades of blue and brown with no two pieces the same. The terracotta came pre-sealed but we had to seal the sandstone before the tiler laid it as a simplified quasi-Roman pattern within the terracotta. We were very pleased with the result.

With some of the flooring completed the cabinetmaker installed a double sink and a bench in the laundry and a desk in the studio. The painters applied the final coat to all of the walls, and that allowed the electrician to provide power to most of the lights and power points in the house. A residual current device tripped every time he energised one circuit and it turned out that a screw at the back of a kitchen cabinet had gone straight through the cable. That was fixed with some difficulty and the installation a new power point.

Our cabinetmaker (versatile chap) laid the engineered timber floating floors in the bedrooms and finished them off with jarrah skirting boards salvaged from the flooring of our demolished cottage. The architraves also came from the same source. When the plumber completed a couple of final tasks, we could finally get water out of the taps and light from the lights, including the "chandelier" we bought and carried home from Istanbul.

It was now two years since the concrete slab was poured, and there still seemed to be a lot to do before we could contemplate moving in.

When water was required it was often most convenient to take it from the tank in the backyard. But with summer upon us we needed to preserve this water for drinking, so an outside sink was put together and a tap attached to the side of it.

While all this progress was occuring, we were trying to sort out the kitchen / living room / office flooring. This was to be an engineered timber floating floor, with underfloor heating in the living room. Despite endless internet searches and a few emails, we could not come up with a clear idea of what products to use and how to go about it. After a lot of frustration and with no solution in sight, we decided to ditch the timber floor and go with slate-look ceramic tiles. We found a heating mat kit available on-line which is just 2.2 mm. thick and is designed to go in the tile cement. As a bonus, we saved several thousand dollars - timber flooring is expensive! Unfortunately the 16 amp cabling assigned to the heating was not enough for the total of 18 amps drawn by the heating elements, so a second cable and thermostat had to be installed - we found a location on an outside wall which allowed the power cable to be taken through the cavity and the office ceiling space to the electricity distribution box.

 
In early November we dug the trench and poured the concrete footings for the front retaining wall. Three weeks before Christmas our wall-builders were finally ready to start, and in fact the whole job was completed, more or less, in one day. This was driven by the need to hire an expensive digging machine to lift the approximately 1/4 tonne reconstituted limestone blocks.

With the wall completed the front of the block was levelled by wheel-barrowing the saved top-soil from the backyard. Then we covered the area with wood chips to control the sand blown around by the wind.

The wall really changed the "look" of the house, even before all the earthworks were completed.

  
We managed to get a few things done over the Christmas and New Year period. Sand was moved from the back yard to the front, and two soakwells installed. A small wall was built on the verge to stop our soil moving onto the neighbour's driveway, and the neighbour's kikuyu growing on to our verge. Ten cubic meters of wood chips were delivered and spread out to cover the front yard, critical to try to prevent the fine black dust in the soil from covering everything.

Mark Hewson from Torbay Glass made and installed a splashback and toilet door insert with patterns derived from a printing block that we collected in India and a Malawian carving of a line of young girls. The wooden pieces are used to make a shallow mould in powder in the base of a kiln and the glass is slumped (melted) into it.

Early in January the tiler said that he could start soon so we laid the heating mat for the living room. This went fairly well, but we ended up with heating in the computer room as well - to "use up" the excess mat so thet the 'cold tail' ended in the corner where the cables went through the wall to the thermostat.

 
The tiles we chose for the living room and kitchen were quite dark with a pattern which resembled slate. They were all laid by the start of February and we were very happy with them, the more so because we could get on with the many tasks which were waiting to go - installing built-in desks in the computer room and office, doing skirting boards and completing the electrical fit-out in the computer room and office. Once again having a cavity inside wall saved us - one cable got "lost" somewhere in the building process but with commendable ingenuity we managed to easily feed a new one through the cavity to replace it.

Outside, the driveway gained some edging put together from bricks and coffee rock saved from the demolished cottage, and we started organising a clothes line, a TV aerial, and the installation of solar panels and their inverter. If we needed to, we could have moved in at this stage, but we were not in a rush to leave the farm and in fact there were still a lot of things to do.

  
Towards the end of February the bricklayer said he was ready to complete the wall at the rear of the carport and an hour later the solar panel people told us they planned to install the panels and inverter. So we had two lots of tradesmen on site at the same time, but by the end of the day we had a wall and we were selling power to Synergy. We stayed out of everyone's way by getting started on the shelving in the pantry - attaching metal brackets to the wall.

We could not find any curtains we liked locally, so on a trip to Perth before Christmas we bought curtains for the five windows which needed them. All material sold as curtain fabric seemed to be too heavy, boring and expensive, so we generally went for bright dress fabrics which added a bit of colour to the rooms in addition to controlling the light and people seeing in.

 
We made another trip to Perth in late March, taking the trailer to pick up new chairs which we had found on our previous visit and to look for rugs for the bedrooms. The choices for these items were very limited in Albany. Immediately on our return the NBN was successfully connected - the initial attempt three weeks earlier was aborted when the technician did not like the conduit we had provided. Several weeks later the TV aerial with a mast-head amplifier and three-way splitter was finally installed.

As it turned out, our trip to Perth was just in time - less than a week after we returned the regional areas of the state were isolated due to COVID-19. We continued to work on the house through this period, but almost entirely on our own, with only a couple of tradesmen on site for just a few hours each.

  
Half way through May saw more fixtures installed - kitchen, pantry and bathroom shelving, towel rails and mirrors. Some used red tingle timber collected when we demolished the house on the farm, and some were made from silky oak trees which we planted on the farm nearly thirty years ago. Silky oaks are a Queensland rainforest tree and do not grow well on the south coast of Western Australia, but we salvaged enough timber for, amongst other things, a beautiful en-suite mirror using the natural edge of the timber, and a toilet roll holder.

With winter upon us we worked on brackets for shelving inside if it was wet and paving outside on fine days. Prior to laying the main area of pavers we put down a single line of pavers on a base of recycled bricks where the paving abutted garden areas.

With our building license extension and our owner-builder insurance due to run out at the end of the month, in the middle of June we filled in the "construction complete" form, and took it and related paperwork to the shire office. We were surprised when they said they would just add the documentation to the file and that no inspection was required. We also insured the house as a habitable building even though we still had no idea when we might move in.

Progress was slow over winter, with delays due to an inexplicable shortage of the brackets we needed at the local hardware store. Externally we installed gates made from recycled jarrah and an outside shower on a post made from the trunk of an ironbark tree which we planted on the farm over twenty years ago. We advertised the composting toilet on the local "buy and sell" and the people who bought it also demolished our toilet shed to use the materials for their own building site. We could then use part of our pile of saved topsoil to level the back yard - with the shed gone the space looked much larger.

Construction of the combination shadehouse / garden shed / compost bins / raised garden beds also got under way, using old pavers and the considerable pile of left-over bricks from house-building. Through spring the pile of left-over bricks decreased as the shadehouse grew. Once we reached the level of the top of the compost bins we could fill the raised garden bed with soil and even managed to plant it out with vegetable seedlings. We also added a couple of new taps. When the brickwork was completed the original large pile was reduced to just a few remaining bricks.

There were just enough left-over patterned sandsone tiles to make a base for the outside shower. We decided to do the garden around the shower in Japanese style; and took time out for several day trips to distant specialised plant nurseries to get some of the plants we wanted. We had enough small slabs of granite saved from the old cottage to make stepping stones to the shower, and limesone block offcuts to add a place to hold the soap.

  
The patio pavers needed to come to the edge of our planned fish pond, so laying pavers halted while we worked out how to excavate about seven cubic meters of sand. Alan and his little digger did the job in 90 minutes; he even took some of the sand away for free since he could use it on another job. However it still left a large pile of sand for us to get rid of, and a hole with about ten centimetres of water in the bottom, which took almost two weeks to dry out. With strips of colorbond for formwork and plastic sheet and reinforcing mesh in place, we could pour the concrete base. We managed to get it vaguely flat and smooth before the concrete started to set.

The pond wall was constructed from two lines of left-over bricks creating a cavity which was filled with concrete. Two courses of full-height bricks topped with one half-height, then pavers for capping, provided a total depth of half a metre. The pond was a "bi-lobed" shape so that we could put a small bridge across the middle.

  
All the paving was finally completed towards the of April. The Japanese garden was started with the snottygobbles, some bamboos, tree ferns, nandinas, a dwarf magnolia and a couple of rocks. We also planted several varieties of ground covers which started to spread out almost immediately. The most interesting is "Corsican mint", a very flat-growing plant with minute round leaves which have a beautiful pepperminty smell when crushed.

The next project was to construct a pergola, hopefully to be covered eventually in grape vines to provide shade in summer but let the sun in during winter. The pergola consisted of four treated pine poles and connecting beams stained to match the existing verandah timbers. Some of our "demolition" timber from the farm was used for cross-beams. Then we finally installed the jarrah gate at the back of the carport to provide some security and privacy.

Our friends had for some time been making jokes about our house-building "hobby", on the basis that it looked like we would never move in. At the start of April we properly connected the gas and the fresh water supply and actually chose a date for the relocation. We arranged a removalist to transport all the large items of furniture and finally moved in on the 19th of May, over five years from when the retaining wall was constructed and the cottage demolished, and more than three and a half years after the foundations for the new house were poured.

  

Although we were living in the new house it did not mean that there was no more work to do. In the following months we worked on the garden and completed the patio pergola, with grape vines planted at the base of each support post. Until the vines grew up to cover the pergola and provide summer shade, it was given a covering of shadecloth. And four months after moving in the final bit of real house-building was completed - the architraves around the atrium stacker doors were put in place.

Having moved from the farm, we had to spend a lot of time clearing out years of accumulated possessions from the farm house and sheds, in preparation for putting the farm on the market. With much more limited storage at the new house, lots of stuff was given away or went to op shops and the rubbish tip.