Making spiders……

30 05 2017

It’s wet and cold, the building site’s a quagmire, and I feel like writing a story……

I seem to make a habit of one thing leading to another when it comes to building. Just prior to moving to the Huon in ute I,  I decided to see if I could buy a bidet or two on eBay. I really like the idea of going toilet paper free, as much as possible… Sure enough, I found quite a few, in Melbourne. Not just any old bidets it turned out, but high end Italian designer models! And they were $19 each – no, not a typo – which must have been less than 10% of their normal cost….. I told the seller I was moving to Tasmania, and I’d pick them up on my way through, and he was cool about holding onto them until I arrived.

bidetLittle did I know the seller was a large business that bought out other firms going under. They would buy their entire stock for an agreed sum, and anything a bit slow to move, was sold off dirt cheap. Like bidets. When I arrived, I was gobsmacked to find a huge warehouse, easily 20 times the size of my large shed, full of building goodies; not least same brand double handbasins that matched my bidets, and they too were a bargain at $35…. They are quite unusual,Image result for hatria you and me bidet double handbasin being circular in design. I even bought all the taps I need for a song. I recently saw handbasins for $500 that weren’t half as nice as these….

Then one day, while watching Grand Designs on TV, I saw a circular bathtub. I’d never ever seen one like that before, and it got me thinking that maybe we could get one to match the rest of the bathroom fittings I had already bought. Sure enough, I found some, not cheap though…… from around $1500 to ‘the sky is the limit’ kind of designer prices.

Then when I drove down from Queensland in ute III (the 4WD one), I had another look, and found something in Sydney I could pick up on the way down. Luckily, as it turns out, they were out of stock, and so arrived in Geeveston empty-handed. Six months later, Matt next door was going to Melbourne to pick up a new ute, and he suggested that if I needed anything picked up there, he’d bring it back for me. And you guessed it….. I found someone who manufactured fibreglass Japanese Plunge Baths, for half the price of the one I missed out on in Sydney…….. some things are just meant to happen! Even better, the factory was two streets from where Matt was picking up his ute! You couldn’t make this stuff up……

Of course, our original drawings don’t show any of these things, and as I’m now contemplating pouring the house slab, I have to bury all the waste plumbing underneath, and so the bathrooms have to be planned properly. Once the slab is poured, the bathroom layout is literally cast in concrete. Obviously, Glenda wants to have a say in how this all pans out, and spent several days drawing 1:50 plans on graph paper and sending them electronically. She could not be convinced it would all fit in the allocated space, until that is, I came up with the brilliant idea of making a full-scale mockup of the bathroom with the bath in the shed.

20170518_122523Using the form ply that came out of the footing pour, I laid out the bathroom outline on the shed floor. I then brought all the fittings from the container down to the shed on the back of a ute, and methodically laid it out on the floor.

Because our ensuite bathrooms are ‘walk through’, like a corridor between the living space and bedrooms, the layout has to allow free flow of movement….. and after moving things around to both suit Glenda’s sense of aesthetics and my needs to make the plumbing practical, we agreed on something. One good thing about technology, is that pictures are easily and conveniently sent now, facilitating decision-making no end… There’s no way we could do this 2,500km apart without smart phones!

Now that I had the bathroom all laid out in front of me, it became obvious that I had a golden opportunity to set out and put together the underslab plumbing right there and then…. No plumber would ever go to this much trouble to get it ‘perfect’; last time we did this, our plumber just ‘roughed it in’, and the pipes were not where I wanted them, requiring a lot of ‘fudging’ to solve issues………20170528_154853

Modern plastic plumbing fittings make this sort of work a cinch. It’s not rocket science either, all you need to remember is that water flows downhill! If you ever do anything like this, make sure you do it properly and use primer before gluing, because once it’s all buried in concrete, there’s no going back to fixing leaks!

Once finished, the whole thing looked like a spider…… and I carried it in one piece to the house site where I dug the shallow trenches in the gloop to drop the whole assembly to its correct level where it will be buried with crusher dust to within 100mm of the top of the slab that will go over the whole thing. Eventually.


I say eventually, because I now fear I have missed the boat when it comes to the weather… as you can see in the above photo, there’s water in my trenches, but worse, it’s getting cold with winter looming, and pouring concrete and cold don’t mix…..

Cold weather concrete can be classified as a period of more than three days where some specific conditions occur under certain temperatures. The American Concrete Institute under ACI 306 defines that concrete will be exposed to cold weather when the following conditions exist:

  • The average daily air temperature is less than 5°C and,

  • The air temperature is not greater than 10°C for more than one-half of any 24 hour period.

  • Fresh concrete frozen during the first 24 hours can lose 50% of its potential 28-day strength!

This is not something you have to concern yourself with in Queensland, but here…….? coordinating the weather, a concretor, and the concrete trucks all together on the same day where the above conditions don’t occur could be very tricky. I may have to resign myself to having to wait until at least october……. which doesn’t exactly fill me with glee, but there you go, the owner builder’s lot is not known to be simple. I’ve watched enough Grand Designs to know this!



11 responses

30 05 2017

“all you need to remember is that water flows downhill!”

That was the first of the three rules I was taught about plumbing.

Rule 2: Shit floats.

Rule 3: Don’t put your fingers in your mouth.

30 05 2017


30 05 2017

I have my own plumbing rule here….. don’t waste two precious resources by mixing them together and turning them into waste. Then you don’t have to worry about sticking your fingers in your mouth!

30 05 2017

Did you get to see Sunday’s Aurora? It’s on my bucket list. Photos show a grand sight.

30 05 2017

No, sorry. I don’t have views to the south. Can’t have everything I guess.

30 05 2017

Wondering how much an owner builder can save?

31 05 2017

It really all depends on how much of the work you do yourself. Shopping around also helps a great deal. I probably saved $2500 just on those bathroom fittings alone!

By doing all my own concreting I expect to save between 10 and 20K. Not everyone is as handy unfortunately, I have years of experience behind me now….

31 05 2017
Dr Bob Rich

Hey Mike, can you let me have the name and address of this mob that flogs off stuff for cheap? I am renovating the house I built 35 years ago…

31 05 2017


I’m pretty sure it’s the one, it was definitely in Kilsyth…….

31 05 2017

I’ll just note that it’s most usual and considered most hygenic to have the toilet and bidét side-by-side. It does seem, from your pictures if I understand them correctl, that you have to move a bit between those… It’s considered better to move a bit from the bidét to the washbasin rather than from the toilet to the bidét.

IDK – maybe it’s too late or I misunderstood/you don’t care, but I thougth I’d mention it 🙂

And keeping the nitrogen-rich (and more easily handled/easy fertillizer) urine from the rest is common here among the cabin toilets.

1 06 2017

Because the toilet is dry, all the plumbing is on the same wall, that opposite the toilet. So that’s where the bidet goes. The lone 40mm pipe going to the composting toilet side is there to collect the urine, which will be mixed with the greywater and will end up on the apple orchard.

I personally almost never pee in my toilet……. if I’m outside, I pee where I’m standing, and at night, I pee in a bucket full of sawdust, because I frankly can’t be bothered getting all dressed up to go outside my warm cocoon to the freezing shed in winter!

When the bucket’s full, and it doesn’t start smelling until it is, I take it to my compost heap, adding lots of C and N to the heap.

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