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Meet Jai The Carpenter

January 07, 2015

When Jai began the part demolition and total renovation of his soon-to-be-family home he knew there’d be plenty of challenges. But he certainly didn’t anticipate a 20-tonne palm tree becoming one of them…

Yet in many ways uprooting the stubborn tree, manipulating it through a particularly narrow squeeze and transporting it to its new home in the St Kilda Botanic Gardens is water off this duck’s back given everything else the project has thrown at him.

Jai is four months into a minimum nine-month family home renovation, and he’s a man with a lot on his plate and little in his belly. We caught him early one afternoon fuelled on one coffee only – “I just get here, get started, and time runs away on me,” he explained.

With 15 years carpentry experience under his belt, Jai has put his business on hold whilst he knuckles down on Project Family Home, which has been four years in the planning.

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He doesn’t quite acknowledge just how dog tired he is at this moment. In Jai’s mind, he’s grateful to be right here, right now – a husband and a father responsible for literally building a roof to go over his family. Not everyone can say they’ve been lucky enough to do that.

From an outsider’s perspective, luck might not be the first word that comes to mind.

We caught Jai in the future bathroom, but currently the make-shift project management room awash with plans, measuring tapes, shovels, free-standing spot lights and plenty and plenty of dust. Still in the early stages, Jai is doing most of the work for now, which revolves around a lot of wheelbarrowing and just honest, hard labour.

The solid brick single fronted Victorian terrace with heritage overlay had to retain the three front rooms of the original building, but everything down the back is a totally new build. For now, it’s all about dealing with the demolition. Given the narrow boundary Jai only had a day of mechanical assisted work; the rest had to be done by hand to ensure no harm was done to properties either side. A colossal job in itself.

Sitting in the future bathroom, Jai’s probably relieved to get to this point; nothing about the home reno has been straight-forward. Even the original plans got scratched; the restrictions imposed by heritage overlay and the narrow confines became too much of a compromise, and so Jai and his wife decided to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. In some ways, it was a much harder path to take, but it will ultimately lead to a home that’s right for Jai, his wife and their two young boys.

At five and three, it’s the lads Jai’s ultimately building this place for – knowing he will create for them a bigger space that’s better suited to a couple of growing boys is a big motivation. The eldest will be starting school in this new area next year, so this budding home signifies a whole new family chapter in many ways. Jai and his wife are keen to expose the kids to the build as often as they can, so the two really grow to understand that they will be leaving their current house behind. They’ll soon get to know a superb two-storey, three-bedroom, one study, open living/kitchen and separate dining room space, not to mention the deep yard out the back; the result of their parents hard work.

It makes it easier for Jai to justify how much time away from his boys this project dictates. But in his mind it is a relative short nine-12 month trade-off for a better quality of life down the track. And besides, if he wasn’t creating his family home he’d probably be away from the boys creating someone else’s.

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Jai and his wife manage the barrage of logistics as best they can. She takes the mornings and he works to finish in time for school/care pick-ups, followed by some play, bath-time, dinner and bed. It doesn’t always work out so neatly and the two cut a fine balancing act, but in Jai’s mind that’s the modern day family for you – it’s all about adapting, accommodating and just somehow making it come together, even if it’s just by the skin of the chinny chin-chin some times.

Given the manic weeks and the limited time with their boys, Jai and his wife dedicate weekends to family. It’s all about letting their ‘high voltage’ sons burn off as much energy as they possibly can – out in the park, at swimming lessons, putting on impromptu drama performances; whatever lets them run themselves ragged so they have a ball, hit the sack exhausted and wake up fresh ready to do it all again the next day.

In a way, Jai’s living two lives right now and wearing umpteen caps. On one hand he’s the tradie dealing with council, working with neighbours, finding solutions for every obstacle his home puts in front of him, and working himself almost physically ragged. On the other hand he’s the husband and dad who needs to come home, get that second spark of energy and be there for his boys.

So when it comes to helping him maintain the balancing act and keep moving forward, his vehicle has to do more than just get him from A to B. For Jai, the Holden Colorado LS lets him shift seamlessly between both worlds. For tradie work, it delivers; he’s yet to reach its 3.5-tonne towing capacity, but it’s a reliable work horse that moves him and his myriad tools (the palm tree however, called for even heavier machinery!).

Despite its size it doesn’t handle like a big, clunky 4x4. In Jai’s words, it moves super smoothly and handles like a much smaller car. He’s a big fan of the ABS (anti-lock braking system) – Melbourne’s spring has delivered a fair share of rainy days and Jai’s found himself braking on wet roads feeling in control, versus feeling like he’s sliding like glass.

His wife was adamant the new car had to deliver big on safety, and the Holden crew cab comes with 5-star ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program). Jai’s also a fan of the steering wheel controls, which he sees as a safety feature given he’s not messing around at the dashboard. Although he’s still very fond of his original Holden, this one comes with great features like rear park assist, which he finds handy given the car sits so high off the ground; the sensors assure him he’s not going to run into anything when navigating into a parking space.

Where the car really scores brownie points for this family is the fact it can indeed be a family vehicle. There’s generous cabin space for the boys in the back, and they love it (they really do – we spotted one of them kissing the back windows whilst we were there!). It’s a car that just makes life easier and more efficient. As Jai confesses, they might have just at this moment bitten off a bit more than they can chew, and so they appreciate anything that will help the days become that little smoother!

We ask Jai where he’ll be a year from today.

He’ll have a huge sense of pride in a house that will have become a home, the eldest child will be at school, life will have settled into a bit of an appreciated routine, and the car will be parked out the front packed to the rafters, with the whole family about to jump in and head north.

Gone fishing.

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