It won’t fall down in a hurry, but…

It is a truly crappy job!

Damian Clarke
Feb 27 · 4 min read

Mrs Albion’s Dad is a mere have, in the have and have-yachts world of Queensland property development, largely because he has been building retirement homes for elderly people without much money — which eats into the profit margin a little. If that is not bad enough for the bottom line, in an industry where the profit is dictated by how much you cut off the corners, he also builds decent buildings — well-constructed homes and offices for people who, he always recognises, are spending their savings on the product of his labour. (Well, the product of his labourers’ labour, but you get the picture.) He is the kind of guy you want to build your house, because he has a pathological inability to let anyone down — and would feel wounded for years if he did.

I was thinking about this as I finished our laundry — the room that I built under our front stairs. To give you more detail, I was thinking that, had it been one of Mrs Albion’s Dad’s jobs, I would have been out on my ear the day the spackling started.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a solid room. It’s built to the same standard you would build the walls of a house, except that the framing doesn’t need to support a roof, or outside cladding, or stand-up in a gale, because it is a room inside a room. In fact, it’s built to a higher standard, because, by virtue of the room’s geometry, I had to go much smaller than the statutory spacing between all the timbers. It’s solid. It’s damn solid.

It’s also very clever. You see the space under our stairs is a bit damp, so I have designed the frames to achieve maximum air flow around the outside of the room — between the timber and plasterboard inner skin of the laundry, and the 18″ thick brick and stone outer skin of the house’s walls. Even the floor joists are suspended above the concrete floor on 28 little galvanised steel feet — in the form of coach bolts — screwed into the bottom of the joists, to allow me to simultaneously adjust the floor height and level as I was building it, and to allow air to flow under the floor as well as around the walls.

Cross ventilation is provided by an eight-inch circular tunnel which I drilled — using a diamond core cutter — through the front wall of the house, and the existing vent, high on the other wall. A room that was always a damp, smelly cupboard is now a dry, pleasant smelling, slightly dusty space. All these things are good, and Mrs Albion’s dad would approve.

The timber frames are clad, on the inside with plaster board, mounted dab and nail style, onto the interior of the frames. The floor is plywood with a clean surface of cork tiles.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I initially thought the tiles looked a bit rough. But in hindsight — and following the judicious use of an orbital sander and three or four coats of quick-dry satin varnish, they are looking good — despite the fact that they were laid between midnight and 1am two days before Mrs Albion returned from her business trip.

The weak point of the room is the walls. And it’s at this point that Mrs Albion’s Dad would have sent me home and hired another contractor.

You see the walls are a bit rough.

When you join two pieces of plasterboard, you use gauze over the crack between the two pieces of board, and spackle over the top. Spackle is beautiful stuff — it has a smooth, buttery consistency that flows off the end of the filling knife with a satisfying, slightly sticky, swish sound and leaves almost invisible join.

My spackle didn’t.

My tubs of Polyfilla were thick, and a bit gluggy, trowelled on all lumpy and unpleasant. It wasn’t until I ran out, halfway through, that I discovered the horrible truth.

Multi-purpose polyfilla, that comes pre-mixed in a tub, is thicker and more unpleasant than powered Polyfilla that you mix yourself. I made this discovery after a late-night visit to our local Homebase store where, thinking of the budget, I bought powdered Polyfilla. It went on smooth, it went on slick, it went on over the lumps and made the walls…

…slightly less lumpy.

A lumpy, bumpy, poorly finished wall
A lumpy, bumpy, poorly finished wall
It doesn’t look this bad, but to my ego, it feels worse. (Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash)

Ever conscious of the deadline — Mrs Albion’s return from overseas at 6am Monday morning, I soldiered on. I finished the lumpy walls at about 2am Saturday, and at 8am Sunday I was sanding like a mad thing. Then I painted. Then I painted another coat — except the bit near the ceiling which I discovered a few days later. I cleared away the dust sheets, I moved the washing machine in, I turned on the lights, and…

The light shines down the walls — highlighting every lump and bump, every dip and divot. It is a truly crappy job.

I consoled myself that it was Mrs Albion returning from the business trip, and not her dad.

There is talk of a parental visit around September. That gives me seven months to get it right.

Copyright © Damian Clarke, 2020. Original post first published on the Our Albion blog, 27 January 2007.

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old…

Damian Clarke

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Our Albion

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