How to salvage floorboards

Big blue house #3 (our renovation blog):  How to get a house load of salvaged Rimu hardwood floorboards for free.

“Do you want to go to that auction?” asks Rebekah.

“What auction, I don’t remember talking about an auction.” I’m suspicious.

“We’ll just go for a look.”

That should have been my first warning.  (The last auction she went to, she came home with a box of old paints and a rug that you wouldn’t step on in bare feet without a tetanus shot).


Rebekah has signed up to the e-mailing list of the local auctioneer John Walker and he’s tipped her off about a demolition sale for a 1950’s bungalow.  The house belongs to a young couple who are knocking it down and starting again – and they are selling off all the pieces in an effort to see them reused and to save on landfill costs.  There’s an automatic garage door (sold for $110), a heat pump (sold for $140 but cost another $100 to be degassed) a 30m2 deck (sold for $50) a kitchen (sold for $50), an aluminum external door (sold for $10) as well as internal doors, bathroom fittings, windows, carpet, a fridge, a stereo, a coffee table and even a couple of framed art prints.

But we were there for the floor.  Turns out, Bob was too. Bob is an old pensioner who’s building a loft at his house and needed the joists but had no use for the Rimu floorboards attached to them.  We met him before the auction started and came to a deal not to bid against each other.  The floor was the last item to go under the hammer and when the bidding started, it was only us interested and we bought it for $10. That’s $5 each, but when we went to pay Bob he said not to worry about it.  So effectively we got a house lot of floorboards free.


Bargain! The only catch was that I had to remove it. By hand. By myself.

demolition man

demolition man…

What followed was 8 days (hours spent after my day job and on the weekends) of the hardest, dirtiest, s#@test work of my life.  Without boring you with all the details it went something like this:  Bend, bang, squat, jimmy, squat, cut, squat, cough, choke, squat some more, groan, step on nail, limp, swear, borrow boots from neighbor, get kick-arse power tool, catch red hot metal in your lips, lay on broken tiles, roll in spider webs, break the mother-in-law’s tail light (don’t tell her, she hasn’t notice yet)….



the walls and roof were removed while I was lifting the floorboards

After getting practically nowhere for 6 days, I was ready to give up when the brother-in-law (everybody needs a builder brother-in-law) lent me his reciprocating (repo saw) saw and I got up most of the floor in the final two days. I’m sure there are plenty of smarter people out there who could give you a better way but this is what I found best:


The foreman keeping watch on my progress

  •          Step 1: Get under the floor and use a sledge hammer to bang up at each board directly to next to each joist.  You need to hit the board hard enough to lift the nails (and create a gap between the board and joist), but not so hard that you shatter the board.  (Old Rimu is really dry and really brittle and easy to crack)
  •          Step 2: Insert repo saw blade between joist and boards
  •          Step 3: unleash the power!  If you’ve lifted each board enough, the saw will slice through the nails like butter.  (There’s nothing as satisfying as feeling each one ping). And once you’ve cut all the nails, the boards should just wriggle apart.

In the end I managed to salvage a little over 60m2 of boards.  It’s 82mm wide rimu that if you look on trade me goes for upwards of $5m/per lineal metre.  That’s approx. $60/m2 which means I managed to harvest about $3600 worth of floorboards.

IMAG0105 (1)

A labourer’s impression of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ – I call it, The Stinker

As well as being a massive saving for our budget, the hard work we put into salvaging those boards will make them a sentimental favourite feature of the finished project.

On a sad note, I’d like acknowledge my favorite pair of old footy shorts that sacrificed themselves for these floorboards.  Although much loved, they were just not up to all that squatting and split down the seam from too much squatting.


Got wood: the salvaged floorboards all tucked up in my garage

If you’re interesting in salvaging your own materials here’s a few things to consider:

  •          (Demolition/salvage auctions don’t come up every day and they’re generally not well publicized.  To ensure you’re ready when they do come up, it’s worth phoning/googling your local auction houses to get an idea of who specializes in these types of auctions and then join their mailing list.
  •          The young couple who owned the house were quoted upwards of $12,000 for the demolition and removal of their house.  By running the auction they made a small profit, saved thousands in dumping fees and gave much of their old home a new life. But before you consider opening your home up to the amateur salvagers, check with your local council to find out about permits and health and safety requirements.
  •          Invest in some basic safety equipment – ear muffs, glasses, and footy shorts at the least.  Also, if working with floorboards, a decent pair of builder’s gloves will save you heaps of pain – trust me!


Total cost of salvage:

$40: koha (donation to neighbor) for electricity
$75: for saw blades
Priceless:  my old footy shorts
Total: $115

Total cost of project so far:

$1100 Architect concepts
$115 Floorboard salvage

$1215 Total so far


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Big Blue House #2: What’s the plan Stan

Status update:

  • Draftsman working on plans
  • Rebekah entered final trimester (and fell down the stairs) – 12 weeks to go!
  • Alvin stole a family size block of chocolate then spewed on the brother-in-law’s new shag-pile carpet (awkward!)
  • Tasman rode his pedal bike all by himself (= one very proud dad)


Tip of the week

  • Maximise your planning spend by getting an architect to create design concepts and a draftsman to turn them into working drawings.


So, What’s the plan Stan……..


As my brother-in-law the builder likes to say: ‘a good build starts with good drawings”.

Our drawings started with two tables for sale on TradeMe.

We’d already had a couple of draftsmen around to quote on our renovation project when I bought two work desks (fashioned from old doors with Kermit-green legs) for The Inside’s show room.  As fate would have it, the desks were being retired from local architect firm Arthouse, and its founder David Wallace gave up his lunch break to help me carry our new character pieces down the stairs. What a champion.

david wallace

David Wallace

Next thing, David is up at our house talking over our grand plans and sharing his blend of artistic flare and practical design experience gained over 20 years in the game.

With our budget, it simply wasn’t feasible to contract an architect as they operate on a project-management-like basis as opposed to just supplying a set of building plans (and their fee schedule is based around a per centage of your build cost which will work out more expensive than a standard draftsman’s drawings).

But we were lucky enough to be able to get David to create some hand-drawn concepts for us.  Much more than delivering a set of sketches, David led us through a process and helped us realise a balance between what we desired, what we needed, what we could afford, how to maximise existing space and how best to tailor it to our family’s needs. He was also very clever at using existing walls and window openings to minimise cost.


With projects like these, you have to choose where you spend your money (and where you don’t) so at $1100, this was approximately 1% of our budget – and a big call.  At the beginning, it’s impossible to see around all the corners ahead but David helped deliver clarity and focus and a sense that we are heading on the right path.  I think we’ll look back on it as money well spent.

So, this is the plan, Stan.  We are going to convert our 2 bedroom 1970’s retirement home into a modern 4-bedroom home for a young family.  The rabbit warren that is our existing bottom level, will be turned into our main sleeping quarters with three bedrooms, a master bathroom and plenty of storage.

14121 (C01) Hicks Adam - 6 Britannia Heights Nelson - 03 Mar 2014_Page_1

Downstairs current (left) and future floor plans

The over ’80s couples retreat that is our top level, will be transformed in a large open-plan space with kitchen, dinning and lounge with a separate guest bedroom/playroom with an ensuite.

14121 (C01) Hicks Adam - 6 Britannia Heights Nelson v 2- 03 Mar 2014_Page_2

Upstairs current (left) and future floor plans


We’re going to replace the conservatory with a new deck to create a good indoor-outdoor flow, and bring the great views into our main living quarters by putting in as much glass as possible. We’re talking all new joinery, a new staircase, new kitchen, new bathroom, levelling floors, new log burner, re-insulating all walls, and re-jibbing.  And that’s just off the top of my head (I’ll talk budgets and costs in a coming post – but already I’m having heart palpitations at the thought of the mortgage…breathe Ads, just breathe…).

We’ve taken David’s concepts to our draftsman, Jeremy at Gowan’s Walters who turned them into these floor plans.  In the long run, we hope that having the architect concepts sorted before going to Jeremy will cut down on his time and work out to be a similar cost as if we just used a draftsman – except at the end we can say that we have an architecturally-designed renno….

It has been a real process to arrive at this layout and we’re satisfied this will give us a good balance of practical family living and maximising it’s best asset: the view.

What do you think of our plans?

How have you handled your own design process?

Drop us a comment below or hit us on our facebook page.

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Big Blue House

We’re a normal-ish family.

This is Rebekah. She’s the boss, the brains and energy behind The Inside. She’s 23 weeks pregnant and would dearly love a sleep in. “Just once. That’s not too much to ask is it?”



Tasman is our nearly 5 year old boy.  He can eat dinner, get dressed and brush his teeth all by himself, but most of the time he chooses not to. He prefers drama.


Alvin is our dog that Tasman named after the neighbour’s guinea pig.  It’s a she. Her mother is a shih tsu who found love with a poodle in a park. That makes her a Shipoo  – and lucky her father wasn’t a bulldog.


I’m the dad. Ad the dad. I work in an office fulltime, go riding in the hills on Tuesday afternoons and dress like a giant pukeko in my spare time.


And this is our house. It’s big. It’s blue. And it’s on a hill in Nelson (a small town on the Top of the South Island of New Zealand) with wide-sweeping views over the port.


It was built in 1974 and had three previous owners.  We bought it from Brian and Bev, a couple in their 80s who renovated about 20 years ago.  It is set over two floors, has axeminster carpet, four toilets, yes 4, off-street parking for at least 8 cars, a 600m2 section but not a blade of grass, three decks, a conservatory, one-and-a-half kitchens and a glass house.  It has a low water pressure and when I wash upstairs, it takes 5 minutes to get wet and both elbows touch opposite walls of the shower at the same time.  It has a floor area of 250m2 yet only has 2 dedicated bedrooms at opposite ends of the house which has resulted in us all sleeping in the one room for the past 8 months.  Us, the boy and the dog….

In short: It’s outdated. It’s impractical for a young family. It’s time for a change.

We desperately need to convert it into a modern, four bedroom family home before the baby arrives in late June.  We’ve got a modest budget, limited time and massive task ahead. That’s normal-ish, right?

This is not our first time.  We renovated our old place (see the pics here)but this is a whole new ballpark….


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Renovate and save

What happens when you find a great house for a great price and buy it with great plans?

You buy it. Thinking you’ll do some minor renovations and hey presto ‘dream home’ and happy families.

That is pretty much what we thought.

Only its not working out that way.

Our draughtsman told us our minor renovations will cost up to $200 000.

We could sell. Or we could be smart and try and reduce, re-use and recycle. It sounds simple but actually it isn’t always that easy. The first thing we did was research.

Turns out one of the costs or renovating that often isn’t accounted for is ‘dumping’. There is a lot of stuff that needs to come out but before all that nice shiny stuff can go in.

We took one small load of off cuts and used timber to the tip and it came to $60 (later somebody told us that they would have paid for that timber to build their chicken coop). Not only could we have saved a bunch of useless landfill, we could have saved ourselves $60 and made a profit from it by being smarter.

Sure listing all that stuff on trademe or ebay is painful but the results can add up.

Below is a list of ideas and things we have done to not only save ourselves but to create less landfill. We will be adding to  our wee project as we sell, uplift and offload more.

1. When we had our back yard landscaped (or semi – it’s still a work in progress) we up-rooted a lot of trees. Several Azaleia’s and Rhododendrons were bound for the green waste pile but my clever father-in-law transformed them in to Bonsai’s. Once they get a few more leaves on them they sell for around $100.00. We got 2, so not only do I save $20 at the green-waste station for dumping them but I make $200 (well I should have made $200 but I decided to keep them).


2. Sell of all you can. This is the section I will be adding more to as time goes by.

I have already sold the old dishwasher that came with the house. It went for $15, so I just saved myself $40 to dump it and made $15.

Carpet. The house if full of that old patterned carpet they used to love back in the day. To dump it would cost a fortune (or at least half a skip). Instead I’m going to sell it off bit by bit to people who love to make hall runners or items like that. I would love to do it myself but I am time pressed. So I will just put it on trademe. Look at the before and ‘possibly’ after.


Below is the start of  a table I will be adding to from bits and pieces I salvage from the house. The aim is to save on skip and dump fees and to actually generate some cash whilst saving the earth from precious landfill. Wish us luck!

Item Sale Price                                         Savings:
Dishwasher $13                                                 $40 dump fee
Taps $45 (scrap metal merchant)
Gas Hob $55
Trees $200 (average Bonsai price)               $15 Green fee
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Cool Cafe & Brooklyn Tin Tiles Wallpaper

What happens when a quaint cafe begins searching for a new look?

They come to The Inside and get a total facelift! Based in Arrowtown, all the way down the South Island of New Zealand, ”The Chop Shop Food Merchants’ are a local institution. I even had customers from Nelson (just a ten hour drive away) come and ask me if it was our wallpaper. So proudly I can say ‘yes’.

O.K we can’t take total credit. The blackboard paint, art deco mirrors and cool crate shelving are all them (and the mazing food is probably a big plus for them too). But I am really excited about how dynamic their new look is. Judging from some of the comments on their facebook page the look is called ‘Steam-Punk’ (a term I struggle to understand). I would call it more industrial/class, but hey I am getting old.

Enough said. I will leave you with pictures I have taken from their facebook page. If your ever in Arrowtown, Queenstown or Wanaka then a visit to the Chop Shop is highly recommended.

tile_wallpaper_new_zealand_The_Inside Distressed WallpaperBrooklyn_tin_tiles_kitchen_wallpaper_NZMerci WallpaperBreakfast Bar WallpaperAmazing Kitchen WallpaperBronze WallpaperAmazing Steam Punk Wallpaper

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Julia’s daydreaming

From the designer who brought you digital-watch temporary tattoos and wrote the style book for My Little Pony, comes The Inside’s latest wallpaper – Daydreams.

This playful, yet tasteful wallpaper features hand-drawn birds and clouds by Brooklyn-based designer and artist Julia Rothman.


The large scale, modern pattern mixes a classic design with modern colours screen printed (for that feel hand painted look) on quality paper in the USA.

Julia is also the creative mind behind Nethercote (named after a small country home in Northern England – a modest home with a sprawling manicured garden complete with swans) a wallpaper where traditional blends with modern.


Although she is fast gaining attention for wallcoverings, Julia is better known for her pop-art and experimental designs that have seen her publish several book as well as featuring in major titles like, The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and even the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.


Besides working, Julia enjoys going on walks with her terrier Rudy, playing Boggle on the iPhone and rating Bloody Marys on a scale of 1-10.

She grew up on a small island in the Bronx called CityIsland, which few New Yorkers know about.


One of her first ever design gigs was making patterns for toy company Hasbro on well known brands like The Littlest Pet Shop, Playskool and Transformers.

We love Julia’s work and are very proud to be the only store offering her creations in New Zealand and Australia.

Julia is also part of a small company with partners Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe. Check out the websites, animations, books and print projects they have worked on together at

Julia also has a book blog (which is on a little break right now) where she writes and shows pictures of art, design, handmade, comics or children’s books she thinks are nice. Check it out at

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Quickup – Paste The Wall

People often ask me ‘how hard is it to wallpaper’?

Recently a customer called who had never wallpapered before. We got into a ‘discussion’.

‘If you want to do it yourself,’ I advised, ‘buy a wallpaper that is ‘Quickup’ or ‘Paste the Wall’. (‘Quickup’ and ‘Paste the Wall’ are the same thing. They are just made by different companies and therefore have different names).

Instead of having to submerge the wallpaper in to water and muck around with a trail of wet paper you literally just roll wallpaper paste on the wall and put the paper on. Its easy.

After some thought I decided to try it in my own house. After all it’s pretty hard to recommend a product if you haven’t actually tried it. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing and  I didn’t know my partner in crime was going to be taking photos (or I would have done my hair at least – blush).

But, I am happy to report that ‘Quickup’ really is the easiest wallpapering I have ever done.

1. Simply roll wallpaper paste (we always advise ready mixed for a consistent result – unless the directions state otherwise) on the wall.

2. Use a brush to do corners and edges to make sure they stick down.

3. Put the wallpaper up.

4. Smooth the wallpaper to the wall and get rid of any lumps and bumps.

It too me an hour and a half to do a 3.5 metre feature wall. No size, messy pasting (some pasting was involved) or water involved. I am really happy with the result and I love this wallpaper Om Natten – Om Dagen.

Wallpapering Is Easy
Using Paste The Wall paper
paste_the_wall_wallpaperMy new favourite wallpaper

Me Wallpapering

Me Wallpapering

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Wallpaper ideas

And so our theme continues….idea’s with wallpaper.

We sometimes get emails from people who love wallpaper but don’t really want to commit to a whole wall. I have always been at a bit of a loss as to what to say. The usual ‘choose simpler designs’, or ‘neutral colours’ crosses my mind but seems a bit obvious.

Then along came Yunmi who is obviously very creative. She ordered some wallpaper samples of us and sent me this wonderful photo of what she created. I will be referring all those ‘wallpaper scaredy cats’ to this photo!

The best thing about using modern wallpapers is that they are ‘strippable’, so when your done they are pretty easy to remove.

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2012 Clearance Sale – Tips on buying clearance wallpapers

We try not to have too many sales. It is part of our ethos to just sell fairly and at good prices.

But when our UK manufacturer approached us with their clearance deals we were flummoxed.

‘We have already had our annual sale,” I wailed. But how can we not pass on these amazing deals to you?

So as I spend my Friday night loading these up, I realise that there are also some important things that people should be aware of when buying clearance wallpapers.

Tips for buying clearance wallpapers:


Wallpaper is not like buying any other product (fabrics excluded). They are printed in batch numbers. It is extremely important to buy the same batch number because colours vary from batch to batch. I have had customers buy one roll of wallpaper and return many months later to buy another. So much time has passed that it is impossible to get the same batch and the initial role is then wasted. When buying online always check that there is more in stock if you are not sure about your calculations.


If you are buying wallpapers and the word ‘clearance’ is attached then this wallpaper is going out of print. That means that the wallpaper will probably be reduced in price. Great it’s cheap. While it’s cheap consider buying a spare roll, in case down the track something happens and you will not be able to replace it.


To be honest clearance sales are usually the less popular stock. The most popular designs are often continued, sold out or there is just one or two rolls left. We have put nearly everything that has been offered up. If you find one colour more expensive than another then it is probably because of this reason.


This is really a tip if you are thinking about buying from our clearance sale. We import in bulk, that means some of these sale items are already in stock.  We were unprepared for this sudden and fabulous offer from our manufactures, so some of these products may take up to two weeks to arrive. Please factor that in to your consideration when buying.


During a genuine clearance sale, items are on a first come first served basis. While we endeavour to cater to everybody (and you know we personally email and reply to every single enquiry) there will be times when the item may sell out. If you love it buy it. We don’t have samples for every item on sale but we do have a lot.


If your not sure, then ask. We would rather answer hundreds of questions that have somebody not fully happy with their product.


Get it up as quickly as possible. Last week a woman called me. She had bought wallpaper from us a year prior and had only just got around to putting it up. She had actually miscalculated and was a roll short. By the time she called me the wallpaper had been discontinued and she didn’t have enough. Sometimes I can find some at a store overseas (as most distributorship’s have to buy in bulk) but in this case I was unable to source any more.

I hope these tips make it a little easier when choosing your clearance wallpapers.

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Room of the Month – Sonya’s Place

Tucked away in Hawkes Bay, as owner Sonya describes it – ‘is a work in progress’. Sounds great, a beautiful old 1910 Villa, complete with timber floors and ceilings, rose & thistle stained glass (over 100 years old) and tons of personality.

She laughs when she says, “we got both rooms renovated so far. Yip, only renovated two haha”.

We both have a good chuckle about this because both of us bought ‘doer uppers’ and have kids. What were we thinking?

“Both rooms have a piece of The Inside in them,” she says kindly. She is referring to the Daiquari wallpaper in her lounge. In fact Sonya was the very first person to buy it in New Zealand. She also bought our cute Pink Floral Cats wall decals for her daughters room. The great thing about decals is you can arrange them in any fashion you please. I like the way Sonya has made on of the cats stretch up to the light switch.

Also of note is the Twinkle Toes fabric from Harlequin and the beautiful art work above the fireplace is by Rakai Karaitiana a local screenprinter.

Great taste Sonya, cant wait until you do the rest of your house!

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