Baby, it’s cold outside

Unsurprisingly it is also cold inside too. Due to budgetary restrictions on our part we haven’t had the fireplaces and chimneys looked at. Part of this is because almost all the fireplaces have no fireplace mantles or surroundings as they were all stripped out except for two. Looking at prices for replacements has been, shall we say, interesting. The other thing is when the rooms were carpeted the carpet was placed over the outer hearth stones. So there is a big flat lump under the carpet in front of each fireplace. Not optimal for running a fire in it.

This morning the subzero temperatures froze the inlet water in the pipes for the hot water system. So no water coming out of the hot taps. Fortunately within a couple of hours it was back to normal. Hopefully we should only see these temperatures for another few weeks at the most. As this particular pipe runs outside the building on the shaded South side of the building I’m not too surprised. Having looked at the pipe it does have some insulation on it but not for its entire length. It appears to be a black close celled foam strip that has been wound around the easy part of the pipe. It is harder to add to the vertical pipe as a retrofit. It is quite high off the ground too as it runs up the wall to the middle floor. There are simply so many pipes stuck on the outside. Electricity, gas, and water run to and fro everywhere. In any case we need to rethink the hot water-shower arrangements as the wind occasionally blows the pilot light out (= cold showers) and the “dressing room” outside the cramped bathroom has an opening at the ceiling to the outside: twice there has been solid ice on the inside of the windows!

I have been adding temporary Victorian portieres to the empty doorways in order to trap the heat that we have been generating with electric oil heaters. They are much faster and cheaper to add than actual doors and work quite well. A portiere is a door hanging made of a heavy fabric. Being Victorian there are rules about the best kind of fabrics and the design of images on the fabric. At this point it’s about warmth, not style or accuracy. I’ve been making do with bedspreads and curtains from op-shops. They have made a big difference to keeping the rooms warm. The Lady of the House is really happy with the second thick lined curtain in our bedroom and simply can’t believe how much difference a simple extra curtain has made to the levels of noise, light and warmth. The original window covering is a thin wooden venetian blind. She is certainly sleeping much better and has now been known to snooze through the cockatoos and the emergency helicopter. Heavy blankets, hot water bottles, slippers and gowns are all still needed though: -6.6 C is cold.

General Update

I’ve been busy doing normal life stuff and very frustrated in not having done much on the house. It hasn’t helped that I hurt my arm shifting knee high plant pots and got a virus. Part of this is simply being overwhelmed with how much there is to do. How does one decide where to start? The other part is I’ve been dealing with day to day issues to make the house liveable right now, like putting up temporary Victorian portieres to cut down on the drafts. Also temporarily sealing up the empty fireplace holes to stop the wind and keep the warmth in. I added a small door bolt to a set of French doors leading out to the front balcony as the door handle doesn’t have a bolt of its own to keep it shut. (This also proved particularly helpful during the strong winds of recent months). I’ve done some plumbing, that I don’t like doing, to stop a drip on the working grown floor toilet. The rubber seal on the water pipe into the bowl had perished so badly that it leaked about a teaspoon of the water from each flush. Another small job has been solving the challenges of the leaky roof and strong winds in the bathroom on the balcony. The leak was over the bath but the rain was so heavy and the wind so strong that water would end up literally all over the bathroom: with wet towels on the wall and so on. In the end, another short-term solution has proved successful: a shower curtain has been hung over the bath which funnels the water into the bath-tub and then out through the usual pipes. I’ve made some attempt at gardening too. Lots of apparently small changes that make Cliftoria more liveable. I’ve also made progress on repairing the damaged window from one of the ground floor bathrooms. Making a start on this particular repair makes me feel a lot better.

Scenes from the balcony

The other day there was a bit of a prang at the nearby intersection. We had been warned that the intersection was a bit dangerous. This is the second car crash that we know has happened since we moved in 7 months ago. Both have been so bad that cars have had to be towed away. I’m now very cautious when driving through it.

SONY DSCThe prang as seen from the balcony

Council Papers on Cliftoria

I have been to the council and had a look at the file they have on Cliftoria. Imagine my disappointment to discover that it only goes back to 1993. Apparently there are very few council documents from before 1910 anyway. There went the possibility of finding council documentation on the house for the 19th century. There is obviously nothing on the 1925 change of the house into five flats or of the plans for the conversion of flats back into a house in 2013.

The first set of papers showed that it took from 1993 until 1996 to get the facia boards on the upstairs windows replaced. They had been in a bad way. There were no original photographs in the file. Only a large A3 badly photocopied set of pictures. I wasn’t allowed to get copies of the papers related to this work but was allowed to have a photocopy of the photocopied pictures.

Cliftoria 1994-1996 dormer window 1

Cliftoria 1994-1996 Dormer window 2

Cliftoria 1994-1996 From back of studio 2

Cliftoria 1994-1996 From back of studio 1

Cliftoria 1994-1996 From backyard of corner house

Cliftoria 1994-1996 Front West side

Cliftoria 1994-1996 Front

The second set of papers in the file were from 2006 to 2008 relating to some storm damage to the front balcony. The balcony roof had lifted in a windstorm. This has been repaired with modern ties added to the beam ends. The recent windstorms have shown that it can be very windy here. Hopefully with the updated beams it won’t happen again. I was allowed to have a photocopy of the picture in the file but no copies of the other papers.

Cliftoria and front balcony repairs from wind storm damage 2007

Cliftoria and front balcony repairs from wind storm damage 2007

That was all there was in the file.

The really annoying thing is that we need to get the rates changed for Cliftoria but in order to do that, we have to provide a development application (DA) for a change to the property. The rates are currently assigned as a flat dwelling and we obviously want it to be for a private house. The DA will need a set of architectural plans. Apparently the previous owners didn’t take any documentation to the council before they made the changes to the flats. This is obviously annoying and may be costly. Fortunately we do have title insurance that should cover this. I’m outraged that it has been left to us to have the official documentation created for Cliftoria changing from flats back into a house when we didn’t do any of the work. It’s extra frustrating because we asked both the conveyancer and the council, twice, before we purchased the house about the rates and the change from flats to private house and all four times were assured that “once we owned the property, the council would pop in for a look to verify that the house was a house and not a set of flats and the rates would be changed”. The council has reduced the water rates as promised but they will not change the purpose of the land (and therefore the land rates) until a full DA with architectural drawings of the building as it is now (i.e. when we bought it) is submitted and approved. A further DA (and heritage approval) will be required before we make any major changes to the property. Fortunately the heritage officer did organise an emergency exception for the work on the leaky roof and a few other things that needed immediate work to protect the integrity of the house, instead of having to go through the full process.

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