DIY stairway to heaven

Staying on top of a hill means you have beautiful sunsets and views of rolling hills that never end…

It also means a loop-run from home ends in tears or swearing, and your yard is gardening hell. We have a three-tier backyard. Getting from the first tier to the second involves planning, hiking shoes and is not recommended for people over 65.

Tier two is the perfect size for a nice thatch lapa and a pool, so we decided to improve accessibility by building flight of stairs.

We weren’t too sure about the structural integrity of the embankment, so we decided to use concrete to build our stairs. With some advice from my handy dad, we decided our stairs should be a comfortable 29mm(h) x 29mm(w) at 45º with a landing or two every five steps. This would give us enough freedom to not cast the whole thing in one batch, but rather do it in sections using the same frame.

We would build a reusable wood frame that we would assemble, cast concrete, disassemble and repeat till the stairs reached the top.

I drew up some plans. We wanted to work out what the least amount of treated super-plywood sheets were that we had to buy.

12We headed to Timbercity and we asked them politely to give us four treated super-plywood sheets, pre-cut into the sizes above, and delivered to our home.

This took quite some time as they had a Christmas/New years backlog.

The wood arrived on Friday while we were attending a wedding. Saturday morning we got started.

3456We finished the frames and we decided to move them to the garden the following morning as it started to rain.

Moving these frames from the 1st floor to our garden was going to be a task as they were bulky and heavy. While we were deciding if we were going to disassemble the frames or not, we discovered that the rain had damaged one of our panels.

This was in fact not treated wood like we politely requested. If we should pour concrete onto these frames, the water would damage them. Our stairs would need a lot of finishing as it would be wrinkled and we would have to throw away the wood after using it only once. We were stressed. A week earlier we had organised two guys to come and help with the concrete on Monday. It was now Sunday.

I eagerly volunteered to go back to Timbercity as I wanted to give them a piece of my mind. My husband said he would start disassembling the frames and carry all the wood downstairs to the garden.

Timbercity was obviously closed because it was Sunday.

I went to the hardware store, and they suggested I use varnish. It would’ve costed an arm and a leg, so I decided to phone handy dad again. He suggested Creosote. The hardware store guy told me it would take 3 days to dry.

I decided that Builders Warehouse was my last hope. A guy there suggested that carbolineum was the answer to all my problems.

7Carbolineum is a blend of creasote and coal-tar. It smells like the stuff they used to make our roads from and is sticky as hell.

89The husband assembled all the parts and we started painting. We even got a friend to help us out.

101113It felt like 45ºC, but the man at Builders assured me that the hot, sunny weather would help our cause.

The beer, I assured everyone, would help for the sunstroke.

12So Monday the concrete started flowing:


14Tuesday it continued but it rained out:



1920Eventually it ended up here:

IMG_0055We’re still not done… 😉


Design – Designation or Prostitution?

Design Marionette

Designers are not the only victims when it comes to client abuse. I realise that there are several designations where clients feel they pay us to be their monkey-wrenches. As I get a bit older, I realise that a lot of this abuse is frustration caused by a combination of miscommunication, inexperience and immaturity.

As a student, I had passed most subjects cum laude. I came first nationally in most my subjects. I was unbreakable. I was not going to let anyone tell me how to do my job, even if they paid me all the money in the world. As a young designer, I was cocky and supremely self assured. I was building my portfolio, and I wanted it to reflect my skills, not my clients skills. My attitude was way more destructive than productive. I was telling anyone who was willing to listen how unfair the design-world was: “No one would tell a dentist to do their job.” & “Why does every creatively-challenged retard think they’re a designer?” & “Why does every client want to change things, just to put their fingerprint on my perfectly balanced design.”

Obviously the bounty for being a childish, enraged, ill-equipped designer was not very high. My bullheadedness did not result in phenomenal communication skills either. I felt like a prostitute every time I had to give in to a clients design opinion. I felt used, and I fought them as much as I could. I had misplaced inexperience and immaturity for passion and pride.

I am by no means cured from all my bullheadedness. I’m still confident in my work. I have learned however that clients are people, that pay for a product. A clients bad taste does not make you a prostitute – It makes him a tricky client. You need patience, you need good communication skills, and you need to learn how to compromise. You need to fight less and sell more. Always remember, when clients drive you insane with unrealistic expectations – Woosah…

Do less.