They say that everything comes to those who wait. Well, we have been waiting a long time for work to start on refurbishing our en-suites, but work has finally started and Building No 14 was selected to be the first cab off the rank.
Like much of the renovation and refurbishment work done on the Homes, it hasn’t been easy. Our best guess is the buildings were erected sometime in the 1950’s, but we have been unable to locate any plans or drawings, so we’ve settled on a construction period between 1955 and 1960.
Our building contractor, Gareth, who was also involved in retrofitting the lifts in Buildings 12 and 14, said that the work was a learning experience. Not having any plans meant that time and again he came across gas and electrical conduits buried in the concrete floors and not where they were expected. However, as he said, “With building No 14 now well underway, we hope that we have now found all the surprises these older buildings tend to throw at us!”
Looking back, in 2001 the Committee required the provision of an en-suite in every room. Originally there was one bathroom at the end of each corridor. Think back, if you can, to the old country hotels scattered across Australia. Not the most comfortable of environments, particularly on chilly mornings. But more of that later.
About 20 years ago the Committee re-roofed Buildings 12 and 14 to create an asbestos free environment for our residents and in 2016 installation of lifts in both buildings was completed.
Now to the en-suite refurbishment. These were installed some 20 years ago. The decision was taken at the time to line the shower recesses with laminate panels. These were efficient to install, easy to clean and long lasting. But after 20 years they have now started to show their age and the joints in the corners were beginning to deteriorate. Apart from being unsightly and difficult to clean this allowed water to migrate behind the panels which had the potential to create other problems. The shower base was of a concrete construction painted with a special epoxy resin, non-slip surface. But like the wall panels this surface was also starting to deteriorate. No matter how hard the cleaners worked to keep the surfaces looking fresh, they looked dirty, so they had to be replaced as well.
With many hours of hard work by Carol Wines, one of our Committee members, and Gary Hancock, our architect, they managed to source large format porcelain tiles for the walls of the en-suites and the floors. These were chosen because the larger the tile the better as this led to ease of installation, easy cleaning but more importantly less grouting. When grouting starts to break down it allows water to migrate behind the tiles.
But finding appropriate tiles was not easy. Most tiles these days are imported, particularly in the larger format we required. Suitable porcelain wall and floor tiles were sourced here in Melbourne, suppliers were located in Spain and Italy, and orders lodged. And then Covid-19 struck. We were concerned that our orders would be stranded overseas, but our fears proved groundless and the tiles are now on site ready for installation.
Additionally, the refurbishment of the en-suites has provided the Committee with the opportunity to complete other works. The toilets in the en-suites were also 20 years old and repairs were becoming a real problem as parts are now unavailable. Our plumber showed great improvisational skills in keeping them serviceable, but he could not keep this up for much longer so new toilets are being installed. This also gave us the opportunity to update the en-suite hardware. The existing taps are of the ‘cross’ design with sharp edges which were hard on the hands of many of our residents, so they are being replaced with new, easy to operate taps.
We are also updating the ventilation vents in the kitchenettes. To comply with safety standards a sprinkler system is being installed in all three Buildings. Because Buildings 12 and 14 are basically of a concrete construction, each room is essentially a fire-proof unit, but entry/exit doors can be a weak point, so they are being fireproofed as part of the overall refurbishment.
We are hopeful that work in both Building 12 and 14 will be completed around October, but like all construction works this date may have to be a bit elastic. However, work has now commenced, and the Committee is convinced that it will all be worth the wait.