27 May 2012

Heating & Driveway

     For the first time in so many years in Japan, we finally spent winter in a well-insulated house with double-paned windows.  We no longer had to deal with dripping wet glass and humidity.  No mouldy walls either, incredible!

     As opposed to houses back home in Canada, ours here does not have central heating. The weather in Tokyo doesn't warrant such a powerful system, and yet we didn't want to rely solely on air conditionners to heat the house. So we opted for "yuka danbo" or underfloor heating.  As soon as we started using it, we knew this was one of the best decision we made about the house: it is simply amazing!

     All through winter, we did not use the airconditioner on the first floor and hardly ever upstairs. The kids don't feel the cold anyways, and since we use down comforters, there's really no need for heating during the night. An extra layer, comfy slipper boots and a nice hot water bottle did the trick for me!

    Oh, and of course, the life saver during nighttime trips to the toilet: the seat warmer!  Absolutely indispensible!

     Now, onto a differet topic, we made a of progress with our driveway.  No, it wasn't easy, and it took a lot of planning to figure out the best way to go about it.  We also had to look for the perfect pavers, assemble all the materials and tools, and finally get some help to do the actual work. 

     Here's Efrain's brother unloading the pavers we had ordered from DoIt in Kokubunji.  The store would not deliver all the way to Mitaka-shi, so we had to rent a small truck and pick them up ourselves.

     Then we went to pick up the sand, the gravel and the cement we needed for the job at our nearby J-mart.  This time we were able to use the store's trucks to bring the materials home.

     A lot of work was involved in preparing the driveway for cement.  The area was first covered with gravel and pounded.  The tricky thing here was to ensure an encline from back to front and left to right. 

Then came the stenuous work of preparing the mortar and laying the individual pavers at just the right height and location.

The job took a few days to finish...

but we now have a clean driveway!

      Efrain also finished the area to the right of the stairs to the main door, where we have our water meter.  The stones had to be cut to fit just right.

      We also added a handy tool shed that we painted and protected against the rain.

Now we still need to get some green to liven up our front area!

19 November 2011

Interior Design

       The summer holiday, or what was left of it after we moved into our new home, went by real fast.  The kids had friends stay over, which we totally enjoyed now that we have space!

       We managed to finish a bit of the exterior work, but we haven't yet done the driveway with pavers.  That's taking a while because we've had contradicting opinions about how this is supposed to be done, either with a layer of cement below or just with gravel and sand.  We'll try to get this job done soon and explain the process...

       Meanwhile we've tried to accommodate the inside and so far we're pretty happy with the results.  We found a Japanese importer of European style furniture (Furniture House) that is both functional and affordable, so we ordered this stylish Scandinavian-made desk from them.  Very heavy and sturdy.  This corner has been adopted by our daughter, as she can listen to her favorite music on the computer while doing her homework.

      We still haven't managed to furnish the rest of the study/living room but let's stay hopeful: one thing at a time.  Work and the kids take precedence over home design, especially after months of home planning which consumed us totally.

      For simple furniture, we've always liked Ikea.  We decided to give their Billy Series a try for the Studio.  The closest store is located in Funabashi, so about 1h and 20 minutes away...  We carried most of the furniture we wanted ourselves on the train since we don't have a car, but we decided to use their delivery service for the larger and heavier units.  We were very pleased with the service, and since we were shopping in November, which is my birthday month, we got a discount!

      By the way, Ikea's new catalog comes out in September every year, a time when they introduce a number of new products.  Right now they are rearranging the showroom so many areas are closed off to the public (the revamped showrrom is set to be ready for December 12th).

     For the studio, we are so incredibly happy that we did not go for custom cabinets and chose to wait and pick furniture ourselves instead.  Assembling the furniture was really easy and overall cost for the series of cabinets and doors was very reasonable. This is the result for now...

      One less area to worry about...  The curtains are our next target!

10 October 2011

Finally home

      It's been two months now that we've settled into our new home.  It feels fantastic!  The greatest thing about this place is the amount of light that we get.  And the space!  We finally have a spot for everything!

     To cut down on costs, we decided to finish the landscaping ourselves.  Things have been moving slowly but we've so far managed to finish the low walls on either side of the house that we will later fill with plants.  Here's Efrain and Teo, our Bolivian friend, mixing cement and carefully laying the stones we purchased at J-mart.

     The cement needs a few hours to dry, then it needs to be brushed for a clean finish.

   Once the walls were finished, we needed to address the pretty lame concrete wall bordering our house. We bought cleaning products to make sure we had a clean surface before painting, but we ended up not using any of these as they seemed to dirty the wall even more.  What we did was brush the wall completely, taking out years of accumulated sand and dirt.

     Then came the fun part, paiting the wall.  Efrain was in charge of the roller while I painted between the stones with a brush.  Our kids also took their turn helping out!

     We used BIG 10 (水性ビッグ10多用途) by Asahi Paint and selected a grayish blue - Newport Blue - that we thought would contrast well with the plants (when we finally get them...). 

     It took a couple of days to do it all, leisurely: cleaning, rinsing, drying and applying two coats of paint.  We also decided to extend the area to get a nicer view from our living room windows.  Kinda tight in there, with 3 aircons lined up between the house and the wall, but we managed, creatively...


     Our neighbor thought it looked so nice she casually asked if we could do her side of the wall!  Well, we're quite happy with the result, but we do need to focus on the pavers now.  We'll report on that soon.

18 August 2011

Our new digs!

     We've been living in our new house for a little over a week now, and we are definitely enjoying the change!  It's been simply amazing!  We still have a lot of boxes to go through, items to send to recycling and furniture to buy, but we can still function pretty well.

     On the day of the move, we went back to our old apartment to make sure everything was in order.  We were in shock when we entered and couldn’t believe we had spent 12 years in such badly lit, depressing place. It actually felt like a great home when it was all furnished and decorated, especially given the great location, but now that it was empty it looked awful.  It was really time to move…

     Here are a few snaps taken just before the movers came to unload our boxes and furniture...


More on how we're coping with the stress of being homeowners shortly.... 

16 August 2011

Home at last...

August 5th was Handover day!

     We went over construction details with our Builder and made some last-minute decision for a few items that have yet to be installed.   We are still missing our post box, our outside lighting, a faucet on the deck and a few other minor things.

A TEPCO team, came to set up the electrical cables.

We've gotten used to the electrical cabling style in Japan:
the cables run from the house to ....


... a large pole on the other side of the street!

     The meeting was brief and interrupted by a visit from representatives from Tokyo Gas, as well as by our Fire Insurance Agent to sign the contract.  We took a few pictures as a keepsake of this memorable moment.

      Because we didn't want to waste any more time, we decided to move that very same day, so I hurried to take a few pictures of the house before our movers would fill it with boxes.  Unfortunately, due to some unexplained technical difficulty, I can't seem to be able to use the Slideshow here, so I'll post the photos later.

     A little while after, the moving truck came and started unloading what seemed like an endless flow of boxes and furniture.  After everything calmed down, we looked forward to a relaxing shower...  but we were unable to operate the water heater!  That's despite "reading" the instructions, by this I mean trying to decipher some familiar kanji and largely basing our assumptions on the manga pictures!   It turns out, we found out 2 days and several cold showers later, that some kind of connection had not been made within our EcoJouzu unit (energy-efficient water heater)...  So I guess it would have been be wise to do a test run with the Tokyo Gas representative on day 1!

We went out for dinner, as we were too tired to go through the IH instruction booklet... 

14 August 2011

Packing, Recycling and Paperwork

Packing    After the inspection of our house, we started sorting through and packing our belongings. Our former apartment was a 53cm2 2LDK, so pretty small, and yet we managed to fill some 100 + boxes.  Plus the furniture and the appliances. Amazing how stuff just accumulates over the years...

Rooms quickly filled with boxes... 
We called several moving companies and settled for XPS Tokyo.

Recycling     We had to dispose of an aircon unit, since we were getting new, more efficient units at the new house.  In Japan, items that fall under the Home Electronics Recycling Law (TVs, air conditioners, washing machines/ driers, refrigerators, and freezers) cannot be collected by the city.  We can either arrange for the store where we purchased the item to collect it or we can one of several garbage disposal services.  Since the store (Laox Kichijoji) where we got this aircon no longer exists, we tried to find low-cost alternatives.  We placed an ad on recycle lists and got many replies.  But we were never able to give away our aircons due to the difficulty of arranging for delivery.  Our research yielded the following results:

#1:  Estimate from the online shop (Aircon no Mori) where we bought 6 units for our new home: 14,000 Y

# 2 Estimate from our mover, XPS Tokyo: between 8,000 to 12,000 Y

#2: Estimate from 24Express: 10,000 Y

#3: Estimate from HandyMan Tokyo: 10,000 Y

#4: Estimate from Nishida Service : 7,000 Y

#5: Mitaka City Recycling Reception Center (Tel: 0422-49-7000): Disposal cost depends on the brand.  Ours was SHARP so, 2,100 Y, plus the cost of pick up, 2,000 Y.

The best choice was obviously #5, but we had a lot of trouble dismounting the unit.  So we called Nishida-san (#4), who came over the very next day, and was done with the job within a stunning 15 minutes!  And he spoke perfect English too...

Paperwork     We had to notify the city of Mitaka-shi of our change of address and get our hankos registered too. We did that in anticipation of our move (8 days before), so as to get our new address on all of our Property Registration papers (Hozon Touki and Hodai Touki).

      To get our Property registration papers in order, we hired the services of a scrivener that our architect introduced us.  We heard these papers can be processed personally, but to avoid the hassle, we just entrusted the work to Tabata-san.
     We also had to notify utility companies of our move and arrange for them to come to our house on the day of the move to connect service.

     And of course, we met our Home Loan officer to fill out the final papers for the Home part of the loan. For this we had to prepare a number of items including Proof of Residence, Hanko Registration, Bank Book, and Hankos. This all went very smoothly.

     In the weeks prior to signing the loan papers, we also had to choose a Fire Insurance Policy.  All this while still working and packing at night...

12 August 2011

Final Details

Back from a long blogging pause...
We have finally moved into our new house! 
     The past 2 weeks have been pretty hectic, with packing and paper work to get done, and finally unpacking and settling.
     Let's backtrack a bit for this post. On the week of the 25th of July, a lot of last-minute work was carried out at our house. The 1F wood deck was installed as well as our 2F balcony.  We were able to catch our carpenters in action as they fitted the beams over support bases.

Coming along real well...

    The exterior lights were also installed and they look just as we'd imagined.  It's good to see that long hours of research for the perfect lights have turned out great results.

     The wood on the 2F balcony is darker.  That's because it's not real wood, it's Composite Decking, to avoid staining the walls.  The beams supporting the balcony were painted white and I just love the contrast.  The light on the pillar supporting the balcony turns on with a sensor or manually.

     Most of the inside lighting was also completed.  The pendant light I chose from Company-B, which has 2 stores right in Kichijoji, is just the perfect decoration for the island.  This was another choice right on target!

    On July 30th, we carried out an inspection of our home, with our architect and building supervisor Kato-san.  We noticed a few things here and there that needed fixing and were told that this would be done during the following week. Most of the items on the list were minor and we were pleased with the overall results.
     At that time we still had no stairway to the main door...  So there was still a lot to accomplish in a week.

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