Susan in Birchgrove got a new dog, a little toy poodle. She worried that it would fall between the balusters. The solution had to be affordable, practical and still look good. I installed pvc plastic sheets, cut to fit, all the way up the stairs. (The TV image in the photo is a reflection from the clear plastic.) Susan was pleased that they were relatively unobtrusive and easy to remove. Just clip the white cable ties.
Lee just bought an apartment in Petersham and wanted to install a really big video screen, but one that could roll away unseen. The protruding fireplace presented several problems, so I installed a pelmet on a timber frame and hid the screen behind that. It extends far enough for the screen to clear the fireplace without protruding into the living area. An electrician ran wires for six speakers under the floor and installed the speakers on the rendered wall using conduit. I installed a shelf on the opposite wall to support the projector. All Lee needs now is a popcorn maker.
Jane Brown Interiors rang me with a special job: Mark's square coffee table had a lot of sentimental value, but the shape wasn't working in his new space. Could I convert it into three shelves and mount them on the wall? After taking some measurements, I deconstructed it, cut out the shelves and put it back together. I hung it on some industrial-looking brackets, but they were a bit flexible. So with Jane's help, we used the extra bits to share the load and add an interesting asymmetrical look.
I came across these two examples of poor practice recently. In the first case, a homeowner was attempting to prepare her home for sale and decided to whiten the grout in her bathroom. She used wall patching compound which certainly made the grout white, but since it is water soluble, the material will soon wash off.
In the second case, a homeowner was faced with a structural failure in her deck. She'd bought the home four years ago and for whatever reason, the previous owner didn't use the right materials during construction. Whether he didn't know to use treated pine or was just trying to save a few dollars, the result is the same: A lot of wasted effort and materials and a big headache for the next person.
I do my best to provide lasting solutions. There's a lot to know about building, more than meets the eye. I prefer to give you the right solution. And while that may require higher up-front costs, doing it right is better for everyone. It's important to treat people fairly, even if you will never meet them. We make the world a better place when we do the right thing.
I love straight lines and so did this Marrickville customer. There's something calming and peaceful about right angles so when this fellow wanted these elements installed, I was happy to help. Truth be told, it's not always easy. For one, the boxes have to stay on the wall. Secondly, they need precise alignment. In this project, I had to find the studs in the wall to ensure a solid fixing.
Fortunately, the customer bought Ikea flat-packs which are always good quality. Sometimes people find similar products on-line and they don't measure up. If you are considering a project like this, spend the extra for a quality product. Whatever extra you spend on the product, you'll save in installation.
With a stud behind each box I could screw directly into them. And I added a hollow-wall anchor to level the bracket. Not everyone is as concerned with symmetry as this client, but he was pleasantly surprised that it came out exactly as he'd imagined.
I'm always on the lookout for good suppliers. One of my favourite hardware stores is Booth & Taylor in Annandale. I like them because the guys who work there really know their stuff. The other day, I went in to get some paint and the sample I had couldn't be put on the computer for matching. So the paint guy expertly matched the paint by hand. They also have nearly everything I need, are close to home and offer really good solutions and suggestions for how to do things better. A good hardware store is a dying breed, largely displaced by the big box chain store where service is hit or miss and products are often out of stock. While that store's prices are usually lower, when I factor in all the elements that mean 'value', the guys at Booth & Taylor get my vote.
Sometimes I've found trades suppliers to be condescending. At one place I went to recently, I asked for a trade discount and the guy asked for my trade card. Being a handyman, the state doesn't have a licensing scheme for us, so I don't have a trade card. Being a foreigner to this country, I didn't even know what one was. And the smarmy guy behind the counter wasn't cutting me any slack. I felt like he was telling me I wasn't allowed into his club.
Sometimes homeowners plan to do things themselves to save some money and despite their best intentions, it doesn't work out. Case in point: Today a client asked me to install a retractable clothesline, strung between a building and a post. The new one looked just like the old one. I removed the old one, drilled new fixing points, installed it and pulled the new line out to connect to the post. Only it didn't reach. Because it was a meter short. The homeowner didn't check the length specified on the box (6.7 meters maximum) and bought one that was too short. And they bought it so long ago, they can't exchange it for the right one. So now we have to get a new post, dig a hole and plant the post in concrete. An expensive addition to a simple project. Carpenters like to say "measure twice, cut once." In this case, just measuring once would have saved a lot of time, effort and money. This is the kind of thing I work hard to avoid by following procedures that ensure things fit before I make the effort of installing them. Measure twice, buy once is always cheaper than measure once, buy twice.
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Contrast that with the help I get at Inner West Security. I've bought stuff from them several times and have always had a good experience. The other day I was having trouble on an installation and I rang them up and the guy talked me right through the problem. They recently installed the intercom system in my townhouse complex. The guy who installed it gave us each a tutorial, at 7am, so no one missed work. He too was really courteous and polite. I think they're tops.
Helping Hands Helpful Hints
Here are some product hints, helpful links, resources and information that I find helpful. Feel free to suggest others, including tradesmen or other professionals that you like.