The great front door escapade begins

One of the issues with the house is the placement of the “front” door, which is on the side of the house. It’s actually a bit confusing which side of the house is the front, and sometimes people go wandering down to the laundry door when looking to come in.

On top of that, the front door opens into the dining area. This makes the dining area a traffic area that needs to be kept relatively clear. That in turn thwarts any attempts to make the dining table bigger and have more people around.

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Making the table bigger would severely cramp this entryway, so we’re stuck with a maximum of 6 or 7 at the table

On top of that, the portico hanging off the side of the house is dead ugly and I don’t like it. It’s also an impediment to getting things into the house. Anything remotely bulky gets stuck in the portico trying to get around a narrow corner. Like, for example, a new range and oven for the kitchen, which won’t get past the doorways if it’s anything bigger than a poky-small 60cm job. We can’t use the laundry door either, because the embankment right outside means that, too, is a cramped entryway.

So to increase awesomeness we’re going to move the front door. There’s a window to one side of the kitchen that’s in about the right spot, given that it faces out onto the driveway and doesn’t have an embankment in the way.

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Oddly-placed window. Space at the right lets the door of the equally-oddly-placed linen cupboard open.

Coming in that way will make the dining area into a cul-de-sac, allowing a bigger table to go in. Later, after the kitchen is moved downstairs, the kitchen and dining area will be turned into rooms. The new front door spot will lead into a little entry area that will lead either down into the lounge, up to upstairs or left into the bathroom and laundry. When the stairs are moved we’ll be able to open up the whole area which should help airflow which is particularly a problem in winter, where the heat from the fire has to travel to other parts of the house to warm them up. Currently the heat stops at the end of the hall and the whole upstairs remains an icebox.

So: many benefits. The only setback is that the floor where we want the new front door to go is a good 60cm above the ground level outside. There’s also a garden bed there, which receives some drainage from the driveway when it rains. We’d like to raise that whole outside bit up and make a barrier for the rain to flow around so it can go past the house on its way downhill.

Given that we want to build some rammed-earth walls around the garden, it seems like a good idea to get some practice on this area. We can build a low wall with a drain on the uphill side to deal with the water, and pop a deck on top to connect it to the house and raise the outside level to the inside floor level. This will be the first rammed earth we’ll be attempting, so much science and thought will go into it.

Here’s the area in question:

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The driveway level is about half way up the top sleeper that’s keeping those scrappy lavenders under control. Next to that little bed is a patch that we put bulbs into.

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The bulbs are here because they were part of a bulk gift from the kinder’s garden, and we didn’t know what they were. It was a bare patch where we could plant them and find out what they were. Mostly snowbells, as it turns out.

We’re going to run our rammed earth wall basically down the middle of this garden bed. When the deck goes on, we’ll have to make sure we engineer a way for the gas meter to still be read – although future plans don’t include having gas at all since it can’t be made renewable.

The garden bed is only fit for bulbs in its current state: the soil is heavy and gluggy from driveway run-off, and the light that falls here is patchy: next to nothing over winter due to shading from the house, but scorched during summer afternoons as the sun lingers in the west.

The end of the wall has to marry up with the eventual garage. There’s a nail in the side of the house showing where the garage has to come up to to fit the car inside. We’ll have the cladding turn a corner, remove the kitchen window in favour of french doors on the eastern side, and move the electrical¬†box to the new wall which will make the front side of the garage.

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Because dodgy Photoshop is the best kind of Photoshop, let’s do a little on this spot. Let’s wipe that kitchen window and the distributor box, put the end wall of the garage in, add some drainage and mock-up a little rammed-earth wall.

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Now let’s add a blackbutt deck.

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We’ll have to imagine for the moment that the window is a nice wood door. And we’re also seriously considering shou sugi ban-ing the cladding, so it could very well be black. Which will likely be an improvement against the blackbutt.

We procured a bit of formply to start doing the wall the other day. It’s hanging around in the shed getting in the way, so lets chop it up.

We’ll attack our rammed-earth walls in 600mm increments, so the 1200mm formply can be cut in two. Two pieces gives us 4.8m of potential formwork, which should cover this bit (this part of the house is 5m from end to end, and we aren’t going all the way to the end).

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We got some sawhorses to help with this bit. The previous method of trying to cut panels on the workbench in the shed was just way too hard.

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Easy!