Archives for posts with tag: house

This morning we had a site meeting with Bernard (our architect), our demolition contractor, Mark, who would also like to build the new house and the consulting engineer, Eric, who we had not met before.  This was mostly to discuss getting the levels on the property right before building can start.  The engineer now needs a few more days to work things out more precisely.  In the end we will be looking at three separate levels:  the first, at street level will be where the cottage will be built.  There will be a retaining wall built behind the cottage.  The driveway will slope down past the cottage and curve to the right into the garage which will be on the second level, the same as that on which the house will be built.  The third level will be the garden which will be one or two shallow steps below the front verandah.

Working out where rubble has to be used as filler etc is quite complicated and one thing I am quite sure about is that I don’t want to discover broken bricks and tiles just a few metres down in the garden.  So the preparation of the site is very important and it’s going to take a bit of time to get it right.

Today at last we were able to get a very clear view of the whole property from the street down to the garden wall bordering the park.  We are thrilled with it.  I was also really pleased to hear some lovely bird calls there this morning despite the prevailing wreckage.  There were grey louries around and a black collared barbet fluted continuously.  Leaving behind the prolific bird life in our present garden is the thing I feel most concerned about so it was reassuring to hear all the singing today.

South to North View.  I stood almost where the driveway gate will be to take this. It gives quite a good sense of the length of the site.

South to North View. I stood almost where the driveway gate will be to take this. It gives quite a good sense of the length of the site.

Opposite view from North to South.  Taken from almost the 'park' wall.

Opposite view from North to South. Taken from almost the ‘park’ wall.

Watchman's Hut in bottom  right hand corner.

Watchman’s Hut in bottom right hand corner.

Eric and Bernard in discussion

Eric and Bernard in discussion

More discussion...

More discussion…

And even more...

And even more…

In this last picture we have Phineas who seems to be in charge of the site at the moment, Greg who is one of Mark’s project managers, Eric the engineer and Mark.  Esprit Contractors have an arrangement whereby they donate salvaged materials like the tiles and pavers here, bath tubs, sinks etc to building projects in the townships.  Everything that can possibly be used again, will be.

Stacked up bath tubs and a few window frames waiting to go.

Stacked up bath tubs and a few window frames waiting to go.

A few things have happened since I last wrote.

The ‘written permission’ from Phrag proved elusive.  Having heard on Thursday the 9th of May that permission to demolish had been granted, it was Friday the 24th before Bernard was able to actually collect the letter from the Phrag offices.  Only when we studied the letter did we realise that a copy had to be posted on the outside wall of the property for a further two weeks before the demolition could begin in earnest.  This was to allow for any ‘late’ objections.

We wasted no time in affixing the 'late objection' letter to the wall.

We wasted no time in affixing the ‘late objection’ letter to the wall.

While waiting for that time to pass, we established from the planning department that we needed the neighbours on both sides to sign our plans before we could submit them for approval.  Given our previous encounters with our neighbour on the left, this was not good news.

We were able to contact our neighbour on the right quite easily and he was delighted to give us his support.  He went so far as to say that if we hadn’t bought the property, he would have, if only to ensure that something positive would be done to it.  He also asked if we would be prepared to ‘straighten out’ and raise the height of the wall between our two properties and offered to share the costs of doing so.  We are only too happy to do this and will be pleased to reduce the number of steps in the wall as it stands now.

We deliberately got the “righthand” signature before approaching the “lefthand” one.

This was not so straightforward.

Neighbour on the left insisted that the plans be dropped off at her office so she could discuss them with ‘her town planner .’  This is somewhat out of the ordinary but in an effort to keep things on an even keel, this is what we did.  Leading up to this point, we had had several altercations with this neighbour who for reasons that remain quite unfathomable, is insisting that the existing scruffy precast wall between our two properties, remains in place and untouched.  This despite our offer to build a new wall, twice as high, plastered and topped with a coping, at our expense.  And despite this same neighbour, a few months back, stating in writing that ‘high walls make good neighbours.’  Logic seems to be lacking.

Following a particularly difficult confrontation earlier in the year, we stepped back from the “wall debate” and agreed to leave the existing wall as is and looked on bemused as she had electric fencing erected above it.  We still believe it would have been in her best interests to have allowed us to build a new and substantial wall between the two properties before the building gets underway, but have been quite unable to reason with her in this regard.

Two days after dropping off the plans, we received an email saying that they were signed and ready for collection on the understanding that her little wall remains untouched.  I wasted no time in picking them up before there could be any change of heart and the very next day, Friday the 7th, Bernard submitted the signed plans to the city council for approval.  And so the second waiting game begins.

On the plus side, the additional two week wait in case of ‘new’ objections, passed without incident and demolition of the original house is now properly underway.  This is what the property looked like today:

(In this photo you can see the ‘stepped’ green wall on the right that will be adjusted and on the left, one section of high wall that is painted yellow.  This was the originally the back wall of the kitchen.  In front of it you can just make out a green precast wall with electric fencing above it.  This is part of the precast walling that is deemed too special to replace.)

View of the site from south to north.

View of the site from south to north.

The west wall of the house on our right.  We'll not see this once our new house is built.

The west wall of the house on our right. We’ll not see this once our new house is built.

All I can say now is “Bring on the rubble removal trucks ASAP.”

On Thursday the 9th, 10 days ago, we finally heard that permission to demolish had been granted.  But with one proviso:  we were told to wait until we had received a letter putting the approval in writing before we could officially knock down the old house.  We’re still waiting. Apparently our architect will be able to collect the letter from the Phrag offices on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow.  The offices are in town, so that is in itself something of a mission, but letters like this cannot be entrusted to the vagaries of our postal service.  But at least some progress does seem to have been made and so we inch along.

On the plus side, having had all this time to think about and pore over our plans, we decided just three days ago to change the upstairs layout. We have swapped the position of the north-facing, middle, en-suite bedroom, with the south-facing pyjama lounge/tv room.  We were always a little concerned about the size and position of that ‘middle’ bathroom.  It was going to be rather narrow and needed to have a window onto the upstairs verandah and downpipes built into a channel going down onto the downstairs patio.

Now we’ll have a sunny upstairs study/tv room with the additional space that the bathroom would have used, while the south-facing room will be become the third bedroom with an en-suite bathroom having an east-facing window.  Our second bedroom remains north facing and its bathroom and the third bathroom will be separated by a linen cupboard and all the plumbing will be on the eastern side of the house, along with the plumbing from the kitchen below.  It all seems to make better sense.  We met with Bernard on Friday afternoon to discuss this change and he was very happy to make the adjustment.  We are able to give the third bedroom an additional west-facing window which will brighten the room and allow it to get some afternoon sun.

By having both spare bedrooms and bathrooms on the eastern post of the H-shape, we are effectively getting a guest ‘wing’ and we think it will work well.  And the third bedroom is likely to be the least-used room in the house while a park-facing, bright study will be in daily use.

At this stage of our lives we could probably manage with only two bedrooms and we had originally discussed that possibility but have decided to go with three for two main reasons:  Firstly, resale options are better with three bedrooms under one roof and secondly, with both our children currently living in London and showing no signs of returning any time soon, we still want a home that can accommodate them and their partners when they visit. And maybe, one day, their children.

We’re also putting a bed-sitting room and bathroom above the double garage which would be able to serve either as staff accommodation or a guest suite, so in total the house will have 4 bedrooms.

The more we’ve thought about this change, the more it seems to be a better option than what we had before and so, in the end, having to wait all this time for approval has had something of a silver lining.

In the meantime, the doll’s house is benefitting from my otherwise-delayed creative energy:

Roof and outside walls almost done.

Roof and outside walls almost done.

View from the street

View from the street

We’re hoping that today will prove to have had special relevance:  The Heritage Association were supposed to be meeting to discuss our application to demolish the house.  With any luck we’ll get the all clear within the next few days and then two things can happen:  The contractor can go ahead and demolish the building in its entirety and secondly, we can finally submit out plans for council approval.

In the meantime, the ‘younger’ parts of the house are being steadily dismantled.  On Thursday I visited the site for the first time in almost three weeks and found some progress and lots of rubble.  It’s a dreadful mess.

View from just inside the front gate.

View from just inside the front gate.

View from existing front door looking back up to front gate.

View from existing front door looking back up to front gate.

Brick by Brick.  Right hand side neighbouring house behind.

Brick by Brick. Right hand side neighbouring house behind.

Looking back up to partially demolished house, from bottom of garden.

Looking back up to partially demolished house, from bottom of garden.

Looking down the garden towards the park.  Poolhouse has been demolished.

Looking down the garden towards the park. Poolhouse has been demolished.

The remaining back wall of the pool house is higher than our boundary wall will eventually be.  The existing boundary wall can be seen (painted dark green) to the left of the white pool house wall.  The new wall, between our garden and the park, will be approximately that height.

At this stage, things seem to be moving really, really slowly.  It’s easy to believe that this time next year we’ll still be living right where we are today.

Sometime last year we decided that the time had come for us to think seriously about downsizing; about creating a simpler, cleaner, clearer, home environment on a smaller footprint and with far less clutter.  Now that it’s just the two of us with only occasional visits from the children but quite frequent visits from friends and family, we feel we can live more practically in far less space.

So we started to look around for either a stand on which to build exactly what we would like, or an older home that would lend itself easily to a major renovation.  We wanted to stay in our general area so we could still be close to friends and all our usual ‘haunts’.

Parktown North was our first choice of suburb but we could find neither a house that was bad enough to demolish, nor an appealing stand.  The Parkhurst stands seemed very small for a household still dominated by pets; three dogs and one cat and counting… And then, quite unexpectedly, we encountered an estate agent who listened carefully and then persuaded us to look at a ‘double’ stand in Parkhurst that opened onto a park.  Initially, we resisted but thought we had nothing to lose by just seeing it.  And the rest is history…

Park view to stream

Park view to stream

Late last year we bought a tumbledown house on what promises to be a lovely property.  The stand is 842 sq metres, so considerably smaller than the 3oo0 on which we currently live.  But facing out over a pretty park gives it an illusion of much more space and having a gate in the wall at the bottom of the garden giving direct access onto the green belt, makes it viable for two very elderly retrievers and one very lively spaniel.  So far I’m trying not to think about the adventures the cat might embark on with that untamed extended ‘garden’ as his disposal…

Park view

Park view

Because it was late in the year, things moved slowly and transfer of the property into our name only happened towards the end of January.  Then the past owners had to move out and now, with plans drawn up and waiting to be submitted to the Johannesburg City Council,  we find ourselves waiting – and waiting – for the Heritage Committee to meet and give approval for the demolition of the existing structure.  It seems a new law has come into being requiring that this committee has to grant permission for the demolition of any building more than 60 years old.  In principle I agree with this as I hate seeing beautiful old house flattened but I can’t help wondering if it would be more realistic to have some parameters to this rule, such as any building that was architect-designed or had any sort of special history attached to it.  Neither of which would apply to the property we have acquired.