Wednesday, 29 December 2010

[Others.053] Is your upstairs window easily accessbile from outside?

The Story
One of the neighbours knocked on our door the other day. No, it's not the very unfriendly one who keep throwing fallen twigs and branches over the fence just because the tree is on our side of the fence, it's one of the better ones and thank God most of them are like that in the neighbourhood...

They told us someone broke into their house on a windy Friday night. The couple were watching tele in the family room downstairs (from around 9 pm to 1 am) and their 2 school age kids were sleeping upstairs in their own room. The intruder somehow climbed up the roof of family room from the backyard undetected, removed the fly screen from the guest bedroom window, forced the "closed and locked" sliding window open, sneaked into the main bedroom, took some valuable stuffs, and left the house probably also using the same path. And they didn't even notice it until the husband found the fly screen on the floor in the backyard next morning.

We all thought it would be a disaster if the intruder enter either of the kids' room and accidentally woke up the kid - hope they would be smart enough not to scream or make any noise - this would be a very important thing to teach/remind your kids...

Why bother?
You might think most new houses have alarm installed and this shouldn't be a major issue. Don't forget that for situations like my neighbour's, the alarm isn't even on yet. Also, we all know that most alarms can be configured to only monitor downstairs while family members were sleeping in bedrooms upstairs, if intruder entered the house through upstairs windows, it's basically useless...

A few things I can think of...
Please note that I am NOT an expert on home security, you should always consult your builder or some security specialist for professional advice. This post is just to share some of my thoughts...

If you are still in design and planning phase, a reminder for you to think and check whether any of your upstairs windows can be easily accessed from outside (normally through roof of rooms downstairs), would suggest to change it if possible.

If you are way over that phase, a few things below might help too, please be patient and read on :-)

If you are using awning window, it should be safer as I think it's much more difficult to enter from outside for awning window (just guessing as I don't have awning windows, please correct me if you think this is incorrect). For sliding windows, there are quite a few options:

1) install window locks, google for "window locks" and you should be able to get lots of information.

One of the simplest ones are locks like below, personally I don't quite like it as I have seen windows been scratched and the paint came off due to this lock.

2) some builders provide extra options of windows with built-in locks, for example, something similar to this one I mentioned before. It looks much better and should be more secure... and more expensive....

3) just get a small wood/steel stick, cut to suitable size and use it to block the sliding window from opening, as shown below. Sorry for my awful drawing skill, but I think you should get the idea.

I have seen quite a few families using the 3rd simple and cheap "stick" trick, however, after a few simple experiments, I think it's not 100% perfect. Most of the sliding windows have one panel fixed, while the other movable one, is designed to allow you to easily remove it by lifting it up. So if you have a suction pad, or by using your hand to push the movable panel up slowly, you can still sort of force it to open from outside (note: assuming window lock already been damaged)

My suggestion will be as shown below, install one or two little screws at the top of your windows (marked with red cross), this will stop the windows from been easily pushed upwards as before. The catch is, when it comes to window cleaning time, you have to remove those screws before you can remove the panel for proper cleaning.
Please note that this requires driving a screw into your window panel and special skills might be required. If not done properly, this could break your window glass or void your warranty. So please don't try it yourself unless you are confident with your skill. Always get help from professionals if possible.

What if the intruder just break the glass?
Well... Normally that would make quite a bit of noise and hopefully no one would do that. The next option would be to install some sort of bars. Make sure you choose a good looking one, otherwise it would look like a jail. I found a few photos from the net as below...

Oh, almost forgot, one other option, get a german shepherd or properly trained dog. Sometimes they are more efficient than any alarm system. Just make sure it has been properly trained to only accept food from family member...

Hope you find this information helpful, if you have any other ideas, please let me know...

Hope everyone have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year break!


Thursday, 16 December 2010

[Others.052] Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036

The NSW government just released Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036.

Personally, I certainly don't think the Keneally government would win the next election....

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

[Others.051] More scary news about US banks!

Saw this scary news on Sydney Morning Herald today about lots of US Banks having problem with paper work. Hope this won't cause another "subprime collapse" of the banks. Main concern is, does this mean US Dollars going to keep going down??

Sunday, 13 June 2010

[Others.050] Cheaper supplier for water tank filter found!

Good to be in beautiful Spring time again!

In the past few months, I didn't do much except:
1. Spent a few weeks in Shanghai, mainly visiting World Expo 2010 with family.
2. Finished my 4th City2Surf 14 km run.

Other than that, basically quite busy with work.

I mentiond in this post around Dec 2009 about paying $75 for 2 water tank filter.

We went to Parklea Market the other day and saw this stand from a company called OnTap Water Filters selling $25 each or 4 for $50.

Yes, the sign says "Today only", but based on the amount of dust on it, I don't think it's new, probably showing "Today only" price everyday...

The stand is right next to the "Information Centre" near one of the gates, you won't miss it.

As below, they also have many other filters on the shelf:

The size for ours is 10 inch. We weren't very sure if the size is correct so we only bought one, later compared with the existing one and the size is exactly the same! Yes!

So, there you go, another tip to save some money for everyone (around Sydney I guess :-P )!

Friday, 21 May 2010

[Giveaway.002] Result of my first giveaway announced

This is to announce the result of my first giveaway. There were 42 comments, the result is as below, the lucky number is #30.

My template doesn't show the comment order numbers, so I manually counted each of them (twice), and added in the screen dump as below, congratulation to "Annette D"!

An email will be sent to Annette to contact the CSN Stores marketing team within 48 hours.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, 3 May 2010

[PropertyInfo.040] I can hear the bubble cracking....

I mentioned in this previous post "Bubbles, bubbles everywhere the other day about the almost crazy, wild rush we witnessed in a few auctions. Remember the little timber cottage with only 404m2 land with a long queue outside I mentioned? I went to the auction last Saturday and guess how much it was sold for...

I can give you the sold price of 2 other properties as reference:
*A 2 bedroom brick veneer with 316m2 land sold for $726K on 27th March in Auction (mentioned in the same post)

*A 3 bedroom timber cottage with slightly bigger land of 416m2 sold for $760K on 16th April.

The answer is as below:

$806,000 !

Yes, this is really crazy.

There's this article from The Australians today talking about Edward Chancellor, of US investment management firm GMO who predicted the GFC, saying:

"estimates Australian house prices are more than 50 per cent above their fair value -- a once in 40-year event. " If house prices were to revert to their historic long-term average (ratio of average price to average income) they would fall quite considerably,"

He said prices would have to fall by more than a third to reach fair value -- although some of this fall would be cushioned by income growth."

There's also reports about RBA might announce another rate increase tomorrow afternoon due to the soaring house prices. Let's wait and see how everything goes... But for sure, I can hear the bubble cracking...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

[Progress.161] Thanks to excellent service from maintenance guy

Recently we have 2 water/plumber related issues which has been bugging us for a few weeks.

First is the toilet in the main bedroom ensuite. We noticed after every flush, when it refills the tank from the rain water tank, the noise seems to be a lot noisier than the other 2 toilets. The loud squeaking noise was really annoying specially during late nights. We tried pressing the flush buttons harder/softer/slowly, but none of them seem to make any difference.

The next one is the shower. Have a look at the photo below, it might look normal, but if you look closely at the bottom, you will notice there's lots of water coming down the hose too.

At first I thought it has something to do with the shower rose/head. Quickly unscrew it and as below, very simple structure.

I tried to wrap it with the white plumber's tape, but there's still lots of water coming out.

Did a few simple test by holding the shower head/rose on different height. Then I noticed it's actually the shower hose that's leaking!

Went to Bunning's Warehouse and as below, saw 2 type of shower hose available both under $40 range. Struggled a bit as not sure it would fit or not, so I just took down some details and went home.

Discussed with wife, and she prefer to give our builder's maintenance guy a call first as he has always been very helpful in the past 2 years.

Surprisingly after a quick chat, the maintenance guy said he will get the plumber to have a look very soon, cool!

That's why I always let my wife handle the builder/trades person, somehow she can always manage to get things done/move forward without much tension/trouble compared to me... That's also how we share the work: I do all the technical things: investigation, research,...etc, while she handles the non-technical "talking" part.

After a few days, a "assistant" plumber arrived and replaced the shower hose within minutes. Somehow after a few attempts, he wasn't able to "quiet down" the toilet on the first visit. He had to go back to ask his boss for further instruction. On the next day, he returned and fixed the toilet quite quickly. Wife asked him what's wrong, and the response was "trade secret, can't tell you"... I am fine with that as the noise is gone, and I saved $40, we were all very happy with the service and quick response!

Special thanks to our maintenance guy for another excellent service. And tip to whoever just moved in to your new house. If there's any problem, before spending any extra money or fixing anything yourself, try give the maintenance guy a call first... And don't forge to have good relationship with the builder/maintenance guy!!

Friday, 23 April 2010

[BlogSite.030] Have you tried the new Blogger Template Designer?

I saw this post from about a new Template Designer available from Blogger. I have changed my style again using the new tool.

The best feature I like is as shown below, you can choose lots of different layouts and adjust the width on-the-fly. This is really cool!

But I guess may be it's still "Draft", the "edit post" function runs very slowly and I have problem uploading images.

May be we still have to wait a bit longer for it to be officially published!!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

[Giveaway.001] [CLOSED] My First Giveaway - Blomus Tewo Key Board - Ends on 20/May/2010 [CLOSED]

[Update] This Giveaway is now closed! Please see this post for the result.

Thanks to CSN Stores, I'm excited to announce my first ever giveaway!

CSN is an online shopping center which has over 200 online shops where you can find practically anything for your home: TV Stands, tools, kids stuffs, pets and lots more.

Now, the giveaway: this is a very stylish stainless steel key board for you to hang your keys by the door, and you don't have to worry about losing your keys or wasting time searching for them any more. Just slide your key through the well designed opening, and it will keep the keys in order within seconds. The gorgeous design adds to the ambience of any setting and it's definitely a perfect accessaory for any home or office.

Dimension: 2.4"H x 8.3"

Win It!!
Here are the rules to enter:

Please leave a separate comment for EACH entry and include your e-mail or have it in your profile so I can contact you if you win.

Visit one of the CSN stores and tell me which is your favorite item and from what store! Please be specific, any duplicate entries will be deleted. This first entry is mandatory and must be done before any extra entries.

For extra entries:
1. extra entry (maximum 3): comment on other posts in my blog and tell me which post you commented on
2. extra 3 entry: follow my blog via Google Friend Connect (on the left side of this page) and leave a comment to tell me about it. If you are already a follower, please indicate this in the comment.
3. extra entry (maximum 5): tweet about this giveaway - make sure to leave a separate comment for each of them!
4. extra 5 entries: if you have a blog, blog about this giveaway with link to this post and TV Stands, and leave me the comment with a link to your blog post.

Unfortunately, this giveaway is open only to residents of the US. Sorry to my Aussie readers and others from other countries/continents... Will try to arrange other giveways in the future!

This giveaway will end on 20th May 2010 (AEST) and a winner will be chosen through Winner will be announce on the next day, notified via email and asked to respond with full contact information within 48 hours of being notified. Failure to do so will result in another winner being picked.

If you have any other question or further information required regarding this giveaway, please send me an email, my email address: building(dot)our(dot)first(dot)house(at)gmail(dot)com

Thanks to CSN who supplied the products for the giveaway and good luck everyone!

Buy It!!
As we can only have one winner, in case you were not chosen you can still buy this stylish key board from here.

[Update] This Giveaway is now closed! Please see this post for the result.

*The Blomus Tewo Key Board being given away in this post has been provided by CSN Stores. It will be shipped directly to the winner of the giveaway by the sponsor. Prize distribution is the sole responsibility of the sponsor, this site and the individuals associated with it are not liable for prize delivery.
*I have not seen or tried the product for myself. I was not paid to give my opinion and the opinions are mine alone and may vary from others.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

[PropertyInfo.039] Bubbles, bubbles everywhere...

There were reports of property bubbles left, right, and centre from all media recently. Wonder if you agree or not? From what we observed in the past few weekends, everyone seems to have gone crazy, even worst than the peak back in 2003...

27/3 was called "Super Saturday" as it's the last Saturday before Easter break, with 34 on-site auction scheduled, and we witnessed 2 that day.

On 27/3 morning, we went to this Charles St house featured in previous week's local paper in Putney with friend.

The house was packed...

From the recent sales record of houses in the area, we estimate the land probably worth around $1.2M. From the quality of the house, we think it definitely won't cost more than $500K.

The auction was held at the backyard...

However the most shocking news was, the council still haven't approve OC (Occupation Certificate) yet due to some storm water issue. Looks like the owner must be in some sort of cash flow issue to put the property on the market in such rush...

There were quite a few active bidders and our friend was one of them. He quite "reasonably" stopped at about $1.9M, while the others just kept going. Finally, the young Asian lady with glasses, dressed in black in the middle of the photo below was the highest bidder with $2.118M. Unfortunately it still didn't reach the owner's "shocking" expectation of $2.5M.

We all think the house doesn't worth that much... Later this week, from the local paper, the property was listed as sold for $2.118M...

In the afternoon, we went to another on-site auction in Epping. All the streets around the area were fully parked, and we heard a couple mentioned they have to walk almost 100m to come to the house... Unbelievable, just look at the crowd from the photo below...

It's a tiny 2 bedroom house, with only 316 m2 of land. Record from On the house as below showed it was sold in Oct 2005 for $560K.

The location is excellent as it's quite close to one of the best primary school in the area, and the competition was even hotter than the Putney one. Starting bid was $560K, and it jumped very quickly, finally sold at surprising high price of $726K, WOW!!

Consider another house on the same street with 697 m2 of land was only sold in May 2009 for $710K, paying $726K for a small house with 316 m2 is really ridiculous!

The property was chosen as the feature property in this weekend's local paper as below.

This morning (10/4) we went to another open house in Epping, and we were quite surprise to see a long queue outside the house as photo below. Same as the previous mentioned one, the location was also quite close to the same primary school, no wonder it's so popular. But having so many people for the first open house is still quite amazing... What's going on? I thought RBA's rate increase this week would somehow calm the over-heated property market down a bit...

It's another small 3 bedroom house with 404 m2 land, price guide was over $675K and scheduled for auction on 1/5.

As below, there's still lots of people after we left... Would be interested to see how the auction goes a few weeks later.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

[BlogSite.029] Human calendar added

Found this Human calendar from Annie's blog: A View on Design which is quite interesting - with photos of different people shown everyday.

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

[Tips.018] 2 Bathroom Ideas

Was chatting with a friend about some bathroom ideas the other day. While most of the ideas available on the Internet emphasize on tape ware and/or bath tub, there are 2 little things I like to share with everyone.

First one is shown in photo below from one of the display homes we visited during our last US trip. Did you notice other than the main mirror in the middle, there's an extra smaller mirror on the right hand side? At first I thought it was some sort of Makeup Mirror to allow you to look at different angles (from side/behind?), then I noticed it has some hidden secret in it.

As shown below, when it opens up, there's actually a small cabinet hidden behind. I think that's a pretty cool idea.

The second one is about the shower area. As shown in photo below - from a Domaine (now part of Clarenton) display home back around 2006, by simply extending the bath tub towards the shower area, you can easily create a little sitting area inside your shower where you can either sit down or hold/put other stuffs. This would be quite handy.

We also saw a shower during our US trip as below with similar design.

During our construction, we did ask for similar changes to our main ensuite, unfortunately the price quoted by our builder was quite expensive and it was later removed.

Hope you find this little tip helpful!

Monday, 15 March 2010

[Progress.160] Having fun with Blocks/Paving cleaning

The big garden blocks looks great in our backyard, but after moved in almost 2 years, recently we having been quite annoyed about the dirts all around it. Here's a photo of the stairs area, the dirts are on the capping, under the steps, ...etc everywhere!

A closer look shows all the dirty black things all over the place. we tried scrapping, brushing, ...etc but none of them seem to work as expected. One of our neighbours used these blocks for the fence at the front of their house, and as they probably haven't wash it for years it looks really ugly!

Someone told us about spraying some chemicals to remove it, but we were not really sure if that's a good idea. What if it just changed colour with the dirts still remained there??

Then a quick chat with our builder's maintenance guy the other day and he suggested to wash it with high pressure washer. Have a quick look at Bunnings and saw a few of them within $100-$200 range. Struggled a bit about whether should we buy one as we probably just going to use it once or twice every few years??

Luckily we have a neighbour who kindly borrowed us his little old "Karcher 300" as below:

It's quite noisy, and it took a while to connect the host, the long extension cable and move things out of the way. The machine is at least a few years old (can't find it in Karcher Australia web site any more!) and it leaks a bit, but it does the job pretty well!

We tried it on a capping on the side wall first, just in case anything out of control happened... At first we didn't know how to control the nozzle, and the first few trial looks like kids drawing, but the dirts were removed instantly.

We finally worked out how to adjust the nozzle head and after that was quite fun! Especially when all the dirts were removed, it's big relief and achievement to us!

After about an hour of hard work, we got all the stairs and capping cleaned, the final result as below, looks like brand new isn't it??!!

Few days later (before returning the machine actually :-) ...) we noticed we missed the 2 big sand stone cappings at the front... It's probably only a 5 minutes jobs, but it certainly took a lot longer just to setup and connect everything...

Die! You ^%^$%^&#@~@! dirt! Die Die! Ha ha ha.... Yes I was quite exciting....

After the wash, we have 2 beautiful cappings on the front fence...

Also noticed some of the paving gaps were filled with moss after a few weeks of heavy rain, specially near the water tank area.

Just look at all the dirty stuffs removed by the machine!

A slight issue with the paving cleaning is, the strong water also washed off quite a lot of the sand between the paving bricks. Have to get some more sand to fill it up later...

Any way, the whole cleaning experience was quite interesting and we probably would go ahead and buy a high pressure washer!