Indoor outdoor flow renovation experience

In this column from the Last Word series, Ducan Stuart talks about his experience creating indoor outdoor flow and comments on its common issues.

A picture of indoor outdoor flow design
COLUMN Duncan Stuart 

“You’ll love this place,” exclaimed the real estate agent without a trace of irony. He leaned on the sticking ranch slider, gave it a heave and opened it to reveal a tiny deck.  “You see! It’s got indoor-outdoor flow. Watch your step.”
The house was renovated in the summer of 1979-1980 when every new homeowner, the baby-boom generation, felt the primal urge to buy a Skilsaw and add a deck to their mean little bungalow. At the same time we added ‘flow’, usually in the form of an aluminium sliding door.
I can see the reason. Until then New Zealand houses had mostly been designed by people who were afraid of sunlight and aware that glass was in short supply. As a rule, the biggest windows in any house faced the street rather than North, and we’d shiver by day. Our houses were cold.
So with Split Enz on the radio the suburbs came alive to the grinding, ripping sound as electric saws were used to attack weatherboards and the studs that lay behind, as well as the nails that held everything together.
A sunny living room with outdoor flow
After cutting the gap for the door our attention turned to the completion of the deck. That Saturday over the barbecue, even while the opening in the house was temporarily filled with a flapping curtain of polythene, we boasted about all the advantages of indoor-outdoor living. It was a great summer that year.  
By winter time we finally employed our master renovator skills, along with around 30 useful wooden spacers and wedges, and – with the helping hand of a few mates – in went the aluminum sliding door. Sure, it didn’t have a decent lock, but there it was, in its anodized glory and more or less level: project complete!
But get this. Just a year later New Zealand experienced a bumper year for house burglaries. There were four contributing factors. First, most owners were leaving their homes unattended as they marched for or against the Springbok tour. Second, that was the year when microwaves and VCRs were the hot ticket for the criminal underworld. Back then a thief needed to steal a VCR every day to support his heroin habit. That was the going rate. Third was the rise of the criminal gangs. But the biggest contributor to the crime spree was, of course, our houses which now featured easy indoor-outdoor flow not only for pets, but for burglars. You see the problem?
A wooden bedroom with outdoor flow
There’s more. First, the poorly designed aluminum products. They didn’t slide easily, they were difficult to secure and every time we flowed outdoors to the barbecue with a tray of sausages we stubbed our toes on the nasty little lip of the door frame. And another thing: the new door in the lounge meant more interior thoroughfare. Our living rooms were no longer a cosy cul-de-sac, they’d been transformed into Grand Central Station from where the kids could feed their array of Lego out through the cat flap. 
Then came the winter and, now with all that glass, our houses were even colder! The expansive panes on the sliding doors were dripping with condensation. You never looked up of course. You wouldn’t want to. Why depress yourself with those stalactites of mildew that hung from the ceiling?  
Today, 30 years later, I almost fell into the same traps. In our latest project we have big aluminum doors. Aha! This time around I ordered double glazed. No more permafrost in our living room. But I was so hung up on the glass that I forgot about the joinery. Thank goodness for a specialist. He pointed out that our aluminum frames need a thermal barrier to stop the heat loss though the frames (good point) and of course the sliders these days can, if you pay a little extra, be flush with the floor. I forgot that. Could this be the last time my partner asks me to watch my lip?

You might be interested in reading this Indoor/outdoor flow ideas.

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This column by Duncan Stuart featured on page 184 in Issue 04 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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