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Q&A

Home Renovations - - Outdoors -

When An­drew and Vic­to­ria Zekveld walked off with the big prize in our an­nual Fix it with Flair com­pe­ti­tion last year, we knew it wouldn’t be the last we’d see of them; it was clear that this cre­ative cou­ple was on a roll with the ren­o­va­tion of their town­house in Claren­don near Pietermaritzburg in KZN.

“One of the things we wanted to change was the cramped yard,” says Vic­to­ria. “The prop­erty is only a lit­tle more than 400m² and the house is plopped awk­wardly in the mid­dle of this un­even and steeply slop­ing site. A dark 1.5m-wide ve­randa was the only en­ter­tain­ment space we had.”

When a friend dis­man­tled his deck and was about to dump the wood, An­drew and Vic­to­ria swooped in and res­cued the balau tim­ber that hadn’t been dam­aged by mois­ture or ter­mites. They wanted to ex­tend their nar­row ve­randa with a deck and level the ground be­low to cre­ate a cosy en­ter­tain­ment area with re­tain­ing walls, a fire pit and built-in bench.

The cou­ple started the ren­o­va­tion in May 2016 and had their first party in their new space on New Year’s Eve that same year. “We love that we can spend the evenings out­side un­der the stars, with­out hav­ing to drag out dusty chairs to sit on,” says Vic­to­ria.

with Vic­to­ria

Any cost-cut­ting tips? We buried our rub­ble deep be­neath the grass and worked out our lev­els care­fully so we wouldn’t need to truck in any ex­tra soil. Be­fore we started dig­ging, we lifted our own grass, set it aside and re­planted it as it was needed. I also used 3D soft­ware Trim­ble Sketchup to plan the space be­fore­hand – this helped to pre­vent mis­takes and saved us lots of money. What would you do dif­fer­ently next time? We didn’t wipe down the con­crete blocks af­ter they were built in and there’s quite a lot of ex­tra mortar on them that would have been much eas­ier to re­move be­fore it dried com­pletely. We would also use oven-baked fire bricks in the con­crete slab of the fire pit – the mois­ture re­tained in the con­crete turned to steam and caused an ex­plo­sion! Luck­ily, no-one was in­jured and we now make fires on oven-baked fire bricks. We love the nifty benches; were they your idea? My back­ground is in ar­chi­tec­ture and I’ve al­ways liked how well built-in benches work in small spa­ces. How­ever, there al­ways seem to be damp is­sues when it comes to paint­ing them, so we used left­over balau from the deck to clad the seats. What do you en­joy most about the com­pleted project? I love watch­ing my three lit­tle boys en­gage with the space. For them, it’s like hav­ing a jun­gle gym and it’s the perfect place to ‘drive cars’ or bal­ance, climb and jump. What’s next? We’re in the process of sell­ing our cur­rent home; we’ve made a good profit, thanks to all our DIY ren­o­va­tions. Now we’re buy­ing an­other house across town – it’s a real fixer-up­per!

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