Recycling Builder’s Waste

During the building process there can be a lot of materials that would go to waste if you don’t speak to the builder and make sure they are left on site.

Here are some of the materials we have saved and reused to save us considerable time and money.

Bricks being used as path edge
    • Broken bricks and roof tiles were used to form the foundations of most of the paths around our property. A topping of Tuscan chippings has formed some great rustic paths.
    • Some complete roof tiles were saved, to be used in case of any future damage.
    • Sand was spread over an area that had been dug over to help break up the clay.
    • Complete bricks were used as path edging and Scoria from the drainage pipe surrounds was used to infill the area between paving slabs. (see photo )
    • Timber was used for formwork for additional concrete paths.
    • Large rocks from the excavation were used as garden features.
    • Small rocks were used to edge rustic paths and walls etc.
    • One piece of broken drainage pipe was used to make a washing basket stand near the washing hoist. Another was used to form a small bridge as a garden feature.

      Pipe as washing basket stand


What builder’s waste have you found useful?

For similar posts see Settling In


Tall Front Boundary Fences – A Good Idea?

As I walk many km’s along suburban streets every day I am surprised by how many tall front boundary fences I see.

So are they a good idea?…………………… Well here are my thoughts:


Well a 1.8m fence could keep some people out. But how much of a challenge is a 6 foot fence to a fit, determined thief,?

Once they are over they can concentrate on breaking into your house without worrying about being seen by passers by.

Also these days most of the high value items in your house can easily be passed over a wall,……………. most will probably fit in a thief’s pockets.


Yes they do make things more private but how often are you doing something in the front yard that needs privacy?

If you are ill, or as you age, you may miss the ability to watch what is happening in the street.


Can help to keep low sun from the west out of the house, but well spaced shrubs will do it as well.

Sound Barrier

If you live on a main road a brick fence will help keep the noise down, although double glazing will probably have a similar effect at lower cost, with heating and cooling benefits.

Kerbside Appeal

Estate agents are always going on about ‘kerbside appeal’ when selling houses.

How much kerbside appeal is there in a big featureless fence.


Although I have never had a front fence on any of my new houses I can see the benefit in stopping people walking on the garden and stopping dogs c___ing there.

I just think a fence of 6-900mm is generally enough for keeping dogs off.

If you have a tall fence why not tell me why you like it?

See Brick Fences for design recommendations.

Microclimate, And Why It’s Important To Your New House

A microclimate is a local atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area.

The term can refer to areas as small as a few square feet (for example a garden bed) or as large as many square miles.

When we are talking about providing a microclimate for a house the things can do for are things like:

      • Providing shade trees to keep the summer sun out of the house, particularly on the west side where eaves don’t work as well. (see Photo)
      • Overhanging eaves, and verandas to keep the walls dry. (Once brick walls get wet winter winds cause evaporation which chills the brickwork speeding the loss of heat through the wall)
      • Providing shrubs and plants close to the walls to retain a layer of still air which slows heat loss in winter. The plants also help shade the walls in summer.
      • Soft leaved plants that can help reduce summer heat due to evaporation from their leaves.
      • Fences, bushes or trees to deflect or break up winter winds.


Have you provided a microclimate around your house?

For More post about the garden and finishing off a house see Settling In


While The House Is Built

If you are getting a house built you can feel lost with not much to do between the contracts being signed and being ready to move.

Here are some suggestions for you to be doing during the wait.

Inspect Progress

I have always made at least weekly visits to inspect progress during construction.

It’s surprising how it gives you a better idea of what’s behind the walls. Y

ou might even discover some mistakes at an early stage and avoid time wasting corrections being needed later.

Growing Plants

With a new garden you will probably need lots of new plants.

One we way we saved money was by buying lots of plants in 50mm pots, some compost and 100mm pots.

We then replanted all the new plants in the larger pots and refilled the smaller pots with either seeds or cuttings from our garden.

To make it easier to water them I set up a very basic spray system.

By the time we were ready to move we had over a hundred reasonably sized plants ready to go.

Making Garden Features and Furniture

I quite like making mosaics so for our last house I made a number of mosaics on concrete paving slabs, which were then set in paths around the house.

These made interesting features.

I also used mosaics to make a small garden table.

Another project could be to build wooden benches and garden tables.

Start a Worm Farm

With most new houses by the time the builder has finished there isn’t much good soil left.

Although you can buy compost and top soil there aren’t many worms and other organisms in it.

Starting a worm farm can help.

To make mine develop faster I used to collect the coffee grounds and tea bags from the kitchen at work to add to the stuff from home.

You could also used paper from the shredder or ask you favourite café to save you their coffee grounds.

Build a Dog Kennel

If you have got a pet that spends part of its life outside you need to be sure its got somewhere to keep out of the weather.

You are getting a new house so why not make sure your pet gets looked after.

Make Pelmets

One way of keeping the heat in the house is to fit pelmets above the windows.

These, together with Curtains, stops the heat being drawn down the cold windows at night.

These can be reasonably easily made before your move and fitted as soon as you get possession.


What things have you made, or wished you had made, before you moved into a house?

Also see Settling In

Don’t Hide a Key . . . Get a Key Safe

Have you ever forgotten your keys?

I have! . . . Sometimes its been as soon as I have closed the door.

Other times its when I have got home from a long day at work.

How do You Get In

Wait for your partner to come home/

Have a friendly neighbour who has a key?

I hope you don’t hide a key in the garden!

Most casual thieves will be looking for stones or garden ornaments that may chide a key

The Key Safe Alternative

Since I got one of these key safes everything has been a lot easier.

Typically they cost around $50 plus a couple of strong bolts to fix into the brickwork.

Just fasten it securely to the wall and then set the combination to a number you remember.

Since I got one three years back I reckon I have used it around 4 times . . . . but if I had only used it once it would have been worth the money!


Before You Move In

Once you get the keys for your new house you will probably want to move in straight away.

Here are a few reasons why it’s best to stage your move:

    • Time to get window fittings such as blinds and curtains installed without furniture in the way.
    • There may be things that have been missed that need attending to. It was only when I started putting up light fittings I realised one of the light was missing.
    • Making sure that fences and gates are in place and secure if you have pets. Its not just having the fences in place, but making sure the dog can’t squeeze or dig under them!
    • Have the television aerials fitted, and if you want cable TV arrange for that to be installed.
    • Get the phone line/internet connected.
    • Make sure the water, electricity and gas are connected.
    • Paint any feature walls.
    • Opportunity to get carpets fitted if they aren’t in the overall package, without furniture in the way.
    • Paint the garage floor . . .easy to do with an empty garage and you will be glad you have done it.
    • Install the washing hoist.
    • Lay gravel in any areas that you need to get to that haven’t got a path. This will stop you bringing mud into the house.
    • Get a post box and number installed and check mail is redirected before you move out of your existing home.

What I did was move in myself with a single bed and put curtains up.

This made the house look lived in while I did those jobs around the place.

After a week or so we were ready for the big move!


For similar posts see Settling In

Easy to grow vegetables for beginners 

Guest Post from Tristan

There’s no better feeling than growing your own vegetables.

It’s not only fun and healthy, its super rewarding.

When thinking of starting your own little veggie garden, sometimes getting it started can be the hardest part.

While choosing things to grow, it’s important to grow produce that is easy to grow rather than your favourite produce, save this till next year.

Growing produce that is simple, gives you the confidence to begin taking on bigger challenges, and before long your whole yards will be a little veggie garden.

Growing crops that require little maintenance and have a short harvest time is a great way to start.


Pick a part of your garden that is sheltered but sunny.

Exceptions to this rule include salad leaves and some herbs.


The quality of your soil is another important factor for your grow, chances are if things are already growing there, your produce will to.

First step is to prepare the soil, this is done by removing weeds and turning over the soil, loosening things up.

Only grow what you have space for, don’t grow plants too closely together, so follow the recommendation on the seed packets.


Potatoes are one of my favourites to grow.

Plant them in the ground or even in a box.

Wait until the first leaves begin to show, then you cover these with soil.

This helps them grow faster for the next few weeks, then its harvest time.

Depending on what time of year you plant your potatoes, between planting and harvesting is roughly 3 – 4 months.


Beetroot is another simple vegetable to grow as and can be planted by simply twisting it into the soil like a drill.

Beetroot leaves can be harvested after 6 weeks or so (leaves are great for salads) and the bulb harvested after 3 months.


Cucumber seeds are simple to sow, and are best placed roughly 2cm under the soil.

Cucumbers enjoy the sun like the rest of us, and prefer warm temperatures.

Providing they are watered regularly, and have plenty of sun, they grow like crazy.

Cucumbers crawl along the ground or you can use a trellis.

Cucumber vines grow up to 2.4m so if you have a small garden it’s important to let them grow.

When crammed they produce a smaller more bitter yield, so give them plenty of room to breathe.


Spinach is similar to growing Lettuce, something we should all be able to master.

Its best planted in well-drained soil as it encourages root growth.

It’s a plant that can grow year-round as its not deterred by the cold.

When you plant your spinach seeds, you will need to go through and thin where you planted a few weeks later.

Just be sure to remove any area where you see clusters appears.

After you have done this your spinach will be ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks.

Tristan is a writer from Sydney Gardeners, his passion for writing stemmed from his experience in the gardening industry. Writing first hand from years of practical knowledge.

Soil Heave – Protecting the Slab After Construction

Once the house is completed it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned about the foundations.

This is particularly the case if your house is Built on Clay as there is a risk of ‘Slab Heave’.

This is the result of moisture getting into the clay under the slab causing the clay to swell pushing the slab upwards.

Protection Against  Soil Heave

In South Australia there is a requirement for a 1m path around the building if there is a risk of ‘Soil Heave’,

That is good practice whichever state you live in.

The diagram below shows a suitable detail to protect the ground under your slab.

The key issues are:

  • Paving falls away from external walls for at least 1m with a minimum fall of 1:20 (50mm of fall in 1m)
  • Where the water will not continue to flow away from the edge of the path an Aggi Drain in a trench backfilled with granular material should be provided.
  • Although the requirement for an aggi drain is not as critical where the ground slopes away from the slab, it is nevertheless good practice to have one.

Got Problems?

Generally there aren’t easy fixes for foundation problems, and the cures aren’t DIY jobs

You really need to get an expert involved like Geotech Built 


Also see Agricultural Drains

Your letter box

I know that a lot of communications come via Email  and Facebook now but I still like to receive mail.

A nice card means a lot more to me than a Happy Birthday tweet.

If you are like me and like to get letters, make sure that you take a bit of care with your letter box.

After all how hard can it be?…………Unfortunately from my experiences its too hard for lots of people!

Here are just some of the faults that I commonly come across:

  • Difficult to find
  • The box behind and below the fence line
  • The letter slot too small
  • The box can’t fit a normal envelope without folding
  • The box is too low

So what should you do about a letter box for your new home?

  1. Have a look at a DIY store you will see plenty of choice. A good tip is to get a piece of card at least 230mm x 325 mm and try it in each box you like.
  2. If you have the skills why not make one. I think they are far more interesting than the run of the mill boxes.
  3. Make sure the box is on the boundary and not obscured by the fence or bushes.
  4. These are the important dimensions when choosing, making, and installing a letter box:
      • A delivery opening of at least 235mm x 30mm
      • Minimum internal dimensions below the delivery opening of 240mm x 340mm x 160mm
      • The delivery opening should be no lower than 900mm and no higher than 1200mm above the ground.

One question I do have is . . . . . Why do they still have a newspaper tube? . . . . I have had a daily newspaper delivered for more than 25 years and its always thrown on the garden. . . . never put in the tube!

NB These dimensions are slightly different to the Australia Standard Dimensions, but better too big than too small.

For more thoughts why not see Is Bigger Better


The Settling In Section also has advice for after

you have moved in your new house


Being A Good Neighbour – Noise

Somethings that can spoil you life in a new home is falling out with the neighbours!

One way to reduce the chance of arguments is to make sure you show consideration to your new neighbours with regard to Noise.

What is Unreasonable Noise?

Everybody is different but here are my thoughts about noise that can be heard outside your house that is unreasonable.

  • Working On An Engine between 8.00pm and 8.00am (9.00am at weekends)
  • Mowing the Lawn between 8.00pm and 8.00am (10.00am at weekends)
  • Using Power Tools between 8.00pm and 8.00am (9.00am at weekends)
  • Domestic Appliances* between 11.00pm and 8.00am (9.00am at weekends)
  • Music between 10pm (11.00pm at weekends) and 9.00am

* includes noisy air conditioning

If you  are going to have a party . . . make sure you  invite the neighbours along!


Resorting to the law if you are troubled by noisy neighbours is best avoided.

It is worthwhile knowing what the law in your State if you are planning to talk to a neighbour about a problem.

Normally the best source of information is the Environmental Protection Department.

Can’t stand the neighbours? . . see this link: Neighbours Solution