Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Renovating 2nd hand doors

Principle 6: Produce no waste

Painting doors are one of the last (internal) jobs to be done in an owner builder house. Ours were all second hand (except one which was a second) and needed quite a lot of work to bring them up to scratch. I'd kept some of the original door plates and handles from the old bungalow which I cleaned up and fitted on freshly painted toilet and bathroom doors. The old paint was difficult to remove, but the putty knife did the trick, with smaller flecs removed with steel wool.

Removing paint from a door handle plate using a putty knife and steel wool

Renovated door handle and plate on newly painted door for the toilet, same was done for the bathroom door

Our front and carport entry doors are the same design. My glazing mate Dylan suggested that I replace the wooden panels with opaque white glass, that he could supply for me from left over stock he had laying around. I liked the idea and went ahead with it, completing the front door some time ago.
The carport entry door was a little more complicated as many of the beads had been eaten through by borers. I ended up replacing all of the internal ones with beads that I had recovered from the house deconstruction - just having enough for the job. I had enough of the original beads in reasonable condition to complete the outside. Quite a bit of putty filling and sanding later I got to paint it. I used a second hand door handle on it to finish it off, the same style that I used on the bedrooom doors in the house.

Graffitied door panel before renovation

Carport entry door with external beads and panels removed, many internal beads damaged by borers

Completed carport entry door renovated with opaque glass panels installed and internal beads all replaced
These slated cupboard doors were given to me by another mate, Mark. They had been gathering dust in his shed for years, and another couple of years in my shed before I finally put them to use. I had thought about using them on the cupboard in one of the bedrooms, and so had set the shelf at the right height when I built it. The doors were all slightly different lengths so I docked them and squared them off after I gave them a good clean.
I needed a frame to attach the doors too, and so found a piece of hardwood suitable for the job which I ripped into three pieces, and then oiled with linseed - twice. The widths of each piece measured so that when the doors and frames come together they all fit in the space that I've got.
The doors took a long time to paint, requiring three coats, and quite a fiddly job. The fitting of the doors was quite a job too, it's an art that I haven't quite mastered - but I am getting better.
The cupboard door handles were replaced with recycled army cupboard door handles, as per the cool cupboard ones. I used magnets to keep the doors closed.

Cupboard doors cleaned up reaady for painting and docked either end so they are all the same length.

Single piece of timber ripped into three, sanded and oiled with linseed to be used to frame the doors

Bedroom cupboard doors fitted with cleaned up recycled handles, as per cool cupboard

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cool cupboad link to cellar switched off

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

Temperatures in the cool cupboard in May (late Autumn) were averaging 14º to 16º at 1300mm above ground level and typically a degree or two lower closer to the floor level. Humidity is fairly constant in the cool cupboard averaging 65-75%.
Now that outdoor temperatures aren't getting much higher than the earth surrounding the duct of 14º I have closed off the main duct and added a small air vent into the base of the cool cupboard so that air can be drawn from directly under the house. This has helped reduce temperatures to 8º to 14º on average, with a low of 5º so far. Temperatures and humidity fluctuate more than when the main duct is used. I will need to keep my eye on the temperatures to know when it's best to close of the vent and open the large duct, probably during early Spring.
I've also added some wire shelves at the top of the cupboard that will allow us to hang or store produce. I was thinking that it would be particularly good for aging dried meats and cheeses. We store a small ladder in the cool cupboard so that we can access the higher shelves in the house.

Cool cupboard and cellar diagram showing airflow and design features

Control installed below floor level, allowing air to be drawn directly from under the house during winter

Wire baskets below head height with wire shelves installed above, allowing air to flow through


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Drinking unfiltered rainwater

Principle 3: Obtain a yield

We collect and use all rainwater off the roof for drinking, washing and irrigation with no problems. Our house uses a pump to create water pressure, while we irrigate with gravity feed using 19mm (3/4 inch) hoses; which is quite slow but allow me to weed at the same time. We prefer to drink and wash with pure rainwater rather than contaminated mains water, which according to our water supplier Goulburn Valley Water, contains chlorine / fluoride / aluminium sulphate and flocculant polmer which is used to 'clean' the water. The water then goes through km's of old metal and plastic pipes before coming out your tap. Why go to all that effort and expense to clean and transport water when you can catch it clean from the sky right where you use it?
I calculated the surface area of our roof recently so I could figure out how much water we were collecting. The total collection area is approximately 176m sq, with about 97m sq going directly to our main tank (23,000lt) 66m sq going to our reserve tank (8000lt) - which overflow to each other - and another 13m sq going to a small 200lt drum at ground level. We have 163m sq collection area for our main tanks, so we get 163 litres of water going into them for every mm of rain that falls on our roof (not including evaporation). With an average rainfall of 597.9mm per year we can expect to collect nearly 100,000lt per year (in a perfect world). Problem is, sometimes it rains when the tanks are already full. In fact in one 24 hour stretch this February we got 152mm of rain, nearly 25,000lt.
Collecting and using water on site helps to rehydrate the soil and recharge aquifers, while reducing runoff during extreme rain events. This is particularly effective in combination with earthworks, like the infiltration basins that we have set up around our garden beds, that hold water until they fill up, helping irrigate our plants.
Our property is connected to mains water, but mains water is only used as a back-up for irrigation purposes. We used mains water for the first time since we moved into the house for about a month over January - February when the water tanks were getting low, which causes low flow rates with our gravity fed hoses. We used about 10,000lt for irrigating @ a cost of A$9.36, while the water service fee was A$47.99. While I enjoyed the 'power' of using pressurised mains water, I didn't manage to do the weeding while I watered because it was so quick and intense. I've considered getting the mains water disconnected, but think that I'd be up for a fight, and it's a handy back-up.

Principle 4: Apply self regulation and accept feedback

Cheap plastic gutter guard proved to be more of a liability than an asset, blocking the gutters with debris
I probably got onto this job a bit late, as Autumn has well and truly set in, the leaf fall is a timely reminder. We haven't noticed the water becoming dirty or tasting bad, but I had noticed the gutters overflowing during heavy rainfalls and the plastic 'guards' that I installed falling out. Cheap plastic guards are a complete waste of time, so I decided to install heavy duty metal gutter guards to reduce maintenance and possibly improve water quality.
People may find the idea of drinking unfiltered rainwater a little hard to swallow, but a study of 300 households in Adelaide "showed that people who drank unfiltered rainwater displayed no measurable increase in illness compared to those whose rainwater was filtered". I've been drinking unfiltered rainwater for over seven years straight and have had no problems. I will not drink mains or bottled water unless there is no other choice -  I think processed water taste awful.

Heavy duty mesh gutter guard was installed and should reduce ongoing maintenance and help keep the water clean.

Water collected here runs into the smaller 8000lt tank, we've cut into the side of the gutter to maximise the height water enters the tank, which is taller than the gutter.
The quality of rainwater is ensured by a natural treatment chain in the tank that reduces the presence of bacterial and metal contaminants. Bacteria, organics and chemicals form flocs that become biofilms on surfaces or settle to the bottom of the tanks to the sludge. The processes of flocculation, settlement and biofilms in tanks act to improve the quality of rainwater. The majority of bacteria in rainwater tanks are harmless and from the environment.  -  Dr Peter Coombes (see report for more)
As our understanding of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system grows we have been feeling more and more confident about eating or drinking foods that may contain 'bad' bacteria. The idea being, feed the goodies, to fight the baddies. The thought of using antibiotics really frighten us, and we would only consider it in an extreme circumstance - why wipe out all that good bacteria if you don't need to? It's okay to let your body get sick sometimes, it'll figure out what to do, and it will strengthen your immune system in the process. We've been getting into a wide variety of fermented foods, to make our bodies more resiliant, but that's another story...

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