Interview with new home owners, Miranda and Cameron.

HBTW's slightly older sister:  Cameron and Miranda's house.  Sketch by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

HBTW’s slightly older sister: Cameron and Miranda’s house.  Sketch by Webb and Brown-Neaves.

It’s no secret that I’m home-building obsessed.  But I’m not the only one. There’s a zillion people like me, and worse, hanging about on the “HomeOne Forum“.  There are first-time home builders, repeat offenders, and even professionals.  No question is too silly, tips are given and mistakes are shared.  It’s on the HomeOne Forum that I (virtually) met Miranda and Cameron, fellow customers of Webb and Brown-Neaves. Miranda and Cameron recently moved into their new home and it’s a home to drool over.  Miranda has been such a fantastic help to me during our build process so far, warning me of traps for beginners, sharing details of trades she recommends and answering my endless questions.

I’m so excited to introduce awesome couple, Miranda and Cameron, and their equally awesome new home to you!

When Miranda, a lawyer, and Cameron, a management consultant, became engaged and started searching for a family home in Perth, they were looking for established homes.  During their search they viewed a house built by Webb and Brown-Neaves a decade earlier.  The block was too small to accommodate a double garage and was crossed off the list but the house made a lasting impression on Cameron and Miranda, particularly how well it suited the neighbourhood.  This lead to some research into building costs, the purchase of an old house fit for demolition and the decision to build a new home.

HBTW:  What were your new house “must haves”?

M & C:  3+ bedrooms, study, home theatre, large WIR, scullery/ pantry, island bench in kitchen, large living areas at rear opening to alfresco, pool, storage spaces, as large a backyard as possible and a rear garage.

HBTW:  And “nice to haves”?

M & C:  Free standing bath, storage space that could become a cellar, 4th bedroom/ activity room, very high ceilings in the living areas (at least 33 courses), slightly larger minor bedrooms than the norm and the pool located beside the living area.

Freestanding bath

Freestanding bath (from The Stone Super Store), complete with view over the bedroom to the garden.  It took 6 men to move the bath inside!

HBTW:  What inspired your home layout and material choice decisions?

M & C:  Having a corner block with a rear lane way and a North-facing back yard dictated much of the design.  In terms of style, we are drawn to natural, organic but elegant spaces.  We stayed in some inspiring accommodation in the Maldives for our honeymoon just before we had to make a lot of the decisions for our house.

M:  I searched for a ceiling fan like the one we saw in the Maldives and was lucky that Beacon released the “artemis” just in time for our builders to install it.

HBTW:  What or who was your best source of building information?

M & C:  Hours of research on google, the HomeOne Forum, Miranda’s dad who is an engineer and friends who have built before.

HBTW:  How did you divide the planning and decision making between you?

C:  I looked after the electronics, cabling, sound and TVs.  Also the pool equipment and heating.

M:  Most decisions were made together.  Even though this takes time, the house belongs to both of us and we are both indecisive.  We usually wanted a second opinion, or third, or fourth!

We took a six-week interior design course at Home Base.  I think it was great that we did the course together. We learnt a lot and it gave us some structure to be able to work out what style we liked and why, which choices work together and the pros and cons of various options.  I was surprised that there were very few men at the course.

Oozing style!  Sofa and coffee table from Natuzzi.

Oozing style!  Sofa and coffee table from Natuzzi.

HBTW:  What are your top tips for those starting the process of building a new house?

M & C:

  1. Sales consultants can make a big impact on your experience.  Visit different display homes until you find one that you feel comfortable with.
  2. Get everything in writing.  Make lists of what you have to do and what the builders have said they’ll do.
  3. Check all drawings, addendas, variations and costings very carefully.
  4. If something is very important to you, be prepared to do the research yourself.  The “impossible” may actually be possible.
  5. Really think about your block, not just its aspect, but also the ground levels in relation to privacy and views.

HBTW:  How about tips for people already building?  Like me!

M & C:  Sorry HBTW, some of our tips won’t work for you…

  1. Visit your site often and take lots of photos.  They might not be relevant immediately but could be useful later.
  2. If issues arise and the builder proposes a solution, make sure you know the cost implications before you agree.
  3. Be able to describe your style in a way that makes sense to the various people you’ll be working with.  (Pinterest helps!)
  4. Add conduits everywhere, especially for motorised blinds.
  5. Watch out for quotes that don’t include GST or other essentials, like delivery.

HBTW:  What was your biggest mistake?

M & C:  Believing that Webb and Brown-Neaves could accommodate a custom design or even substantial changes to their normal designs.  The majority of mistakes we noticed were related to these changes. Their processes just aren’t set up for that, and it didn’t work well.

M:  On a smaller scale, I regret letting the lighting consultant talk me into keeping oyster lights in the walk-in-robe and laundry.  Even if the light is better from oyster lights, I don’t like how they look (especially how green they look when they’re on). We’ll need to replace those.

HBTW:  Were there any companies that were so good, you’d like to give them a plug?

M & C:

1. Aussie Clotheslines.  Their sales people were really helpful.  It was easy to book in a convenient time only a couple of days after I rang them.  They turned up on time and did what they said they’d do for the original price and didn’t leave any mess or damage anything in the process. If I could say that about everyone involved in building, it would have been a thousand times easier!

2.  Just Blinds.  Andy organised our blinds and shutters and has been very helpful.  He came back a couple of times, for example, when the electrician was struggling with the connections to motorise the blinds. He doesn’t have a shop so he comes to you, with all the samples to choose from and all the info. It was a very easy process.

3.  Freedom’s Decorator Service.  Felicia, from Freedom in Osborne Park was excellent. She really listened and understood what we wanted.  She made great suggestions and not just for Freedom things.  She helped us with all sorts of decisions like skirting, blinds and paint colours.  She gave us the confidence to do a few things that we wouldn’t otherwise have done, but really like: for example, having a couple of non-matching dining chairs; using several different types of timber in our living area and having a fitball in the study instead of a second office chair.  She was going for a feeling that was more “young and fun”, rather than trying to re-create the kind of rooms our parents would want.  No disrespect to our parents intended!

HBTW:  What is your favourite part of the house now?

M:  My favourite part of the house is looking into the kitchen from the living area, where you can see the kitchen, pendant lights, stonework and bar stools.   (HBTW:  Mine too, Miranda.  The combination is amazing.)

Caesarstone , under bench stone by   ,  Stanley hammered copper pendants from Dunlin,  stools.

Osprey Caesarstone (chosen by 90% of WBN’s clients!), under bench stone from EcoOutdoor , Stanley hammered copper pendants from Dunlin, Replica Norman Cherner barstools from Matt Blatt.

C:  My favourite part of the house is probably the home theatre, though I really like our bedroom and living area too.

Living area.

Living area.

HBTW:  What was you biggest splurge?

M:  At the time of purchase, my pendants and freestanding bath felt like big splurges but now that we’ve been worn down by all sorts of high costs, we’ve become a bit numb and those amounts don’t seem so high any more.

C:  Have you forgotten the cost of the ovens?

M:  Yes, the Miele warming drawer, normal oven and steam oven.  They were definitely my biggest splurge.

C:  My biggest splurge was the pool.  And putting the pool up against the house  – with the extra cost of footings and engineering work that required.  The plan is to put a tv in our alfresco so I can sit in the pool and still being able to watch the cricket!  I’m thinking of a housewarming party on boxing day, watching the Boxing Day Test from the pool.

HBTW:  What was the first thing you did upon receiving the keys to your new house?

M & C:  We rushed straight back to the house to let in the flooring people.  They needed to get started that day to get their work done in time for other people who were booked in. We had re-shuffled everything following a few delays.

The weekend we moved in was much happier – champagne was involved that day.

HBTW:  Thanks Miranda and Cameron for sharing your home pictures and all the nitty, gritty details.  I hope you have many happy years in your beautiful new family home!

Dining and kitchen.

Dining and kitchen.

 

 

 

Jetties

It’s almost Father’s Day, so hand the laptop over to the Dad in your household. This post is for him.

The “nice wolf” (a.k.a. husband) has been requesting that I post about jetties for months. He has a boat obsession to rival my house obsession. (Okay, slight exaggeration.) One of the reasons that we bought our block on the canal is that my husband would like to be a sailor. At the age of 7, he sailed with his parents, from Darwin (N.T.) to Paris and ever since he’s dreamt of boats. Our particular part of the canal is catamaran friendly. There are no bridges between our canal and the sea. Ultimately, (read “retirement goal”,) my husband would like a catamaran large enough to sail the family around the top half of Australia, but for the near future he’ll be very happy with a little motor vessel that can fit an esky, a few crab pots and the three little pigs.

So let’s talk jetties….

Fixed or floating?  L shaped, T shaped, finger shaped, land-backed?  Wood or steel?

Fixed jetties:

Advantages of fixed jetties:

  • Cheaper than floating (to be confirmed.)
  • Good looking.
  • No movement = less opportunities to go wrong???
  • Won’t tilt with heavy loads.

Floating jetties:Floating jetty.

Advantages of floating jetties:

  • Easy to board/load boats regardless of the tide.
  • Easy to moor boat.
  • Less strain on lines and cleats.
  • Won’t submerge during storm surges.
  • Partly transferrable, for example, if you move up the street or give up boating and decide to sell the jetty.

Note: tidal variation in Mandurah is less than 0.75m.

You can tell I’m flailing here.  My research into the pros and cons of floating and fixed jetties has mostly lead me to other parts of the world that either have much greater tidal variation or are exposed to stormy weather.  Neither have I been able to establish likely costs.  I sent a few email queries, but I think jetty builders are old-fashioned telephone types!

Jetty shapes:L and T shaped jetties. Finger jetty and land-backed jetty.

These options and jetty size limits are taken from “Jetties and Moorings” by the City of Mandurah.  Some shapes offer greater mooring flexibility than others.  For example, once you’ve moored a big boat on the land-backed jetty, you’re not going to be able to accommodate anything else.

Our mooring envelope looks like this:

The outer square shows our mooring envelope

The outer square shows our mooring envelope, with the inner square being the jetty envelope.

So Boaties!  We need help.  Which jetty type do you think is best for mooring a 40ft catamaran in the Mandurah canals?  It should also allow access for a couple of surf-skis or maybe the boat of friends, dropping by for dinner.  What do you think it might cost?  Throw a ball-park figure at me, we are starting from scratch.

(Edit:  News just in!  I did get a reply from a company specialising in floating jetties.  First rough guess, with a few variables, the most obvious being size, is $40-50K.)

And for those you who might be less concerned about the boat, how does this tickle your fancy?

Picture sources:  1. Pinterest (original source not found).  2.  10 Travel 10 Nature.

First dip into the pool.

Design by Tim Davies Landscaping.

Design by Tim Davies Landscaping.

This week work on our pool began.   I’m told that if we built the house first, deeper footings would be necessary to accommodate the pool so close to the house.  The down side is that the builders will have to work around the pool, and for that to happen safely, the pool will be covered by scaffolding.  Tim Davies Landscaping (TDL) have designed the pool and its surrounds and have subcontracted Future Pools to actually construct it.

The bare facts about our future pool:

  • Concrete.
  • 6.7 x 3.8 metres
  • $45 650 (not including fencing or paving, includes TDL’s fee).

Pool plan

 

We went backwards and forwards with the concrete versus fibreglass decision.  I’m not commenting on this debate because my findings on the subject were inconclusive.  However, choosing a fibreglass pool of this size could have saved us $14000.  In the end, we went with our “gut feeling”, influenced in part by the historical superiority of concrete pools and the wisdom of my Uncle, who’s occupation is servicing pools.

The basics are organised by TDL:

  • Pool construction and finishing.
  • Tiled deck.
  • Gates and fencing –  a mix of glass, aluminium “slats” and modutech screen.  (The latter may be replaced at a later date by a “pool/sauna house”.
  • Lighting.
  • Screen for the pool equipment.

We will need to organise:

  • Pool blanket and somewhere to keep it when not in use.
  • Heating (solar).
  • Cleaning and maintenance.

I shall be leaving the finer details of that to he-who-wants-the-pool, however any pool dwellers out there with advice, you know I’m all ears…  And while I’m at it, my favourite-neighbour-ever is moving to Perth (yippee!) and is in the market for a new pool.  W.A. readers with recommendations for pool installers, please do leave a comment.

And just because I love to daydream about House By The Water, I made a pool mood board.

Poolside at House By The Water.

  • Tiles: Marazzi “block” for outdoors in Grey and Silver.
  • Finish:  Duraquartz in “sky blue” (TBC).
  • Trees:  Pleached Lilly Pilly trees (or pears/olives/evergreen ash?) and a feature Frangipani.
  • Outdoor lounge: Lujo sun lounge.
  • House render:  Dulux Grey Pebble (shown as background colour).

It’s looking good, if I may say so myself!

 

 

 

So fa, no good.

A sofa for appreciating the view.  Source:  Houzz.

A sofa for appreciating the view and conversation.  Source: Houzz.

While the builders are preparing to cavity fill our brick retaining walls with concrete, I’m doing important things like browsing sofas.

The current state of sofa affairs is not up to standard.

Exhibit A:

I've repositioned the seat cushions at least 3 times already today.

I’ve repositioned the seat cushions at least 3 times already today.

  • Ikea’s Ekeskog sofa bed.
  • 8 years old.
  • Very comfortable for television viewing as long as no one moves.
  • Can seat the whole family at once.
  • Performs well as a sofa bed, being sag free and able to accommodate bodies that are longer than 6 feet.
  • Removable, washable covers.
  • Ripped on the corners.
  • Categorically cannot keep the seat cushions in place.
  • Daggy/slouchy.

The greenie in me will not throw out sofas without a good reason, so here’s the plan:

Move Exhibit A to the second floor, out of sight.  It can see out its days in the upstairs living room that will be a multipurpose space: study, secondary television viewing area, kids’ hangout, spare bed when we have a full house.  If it lasts, it will be palmed off to the first lucky “Little Pig” to leave home and require share-house furnishings.  I will consider recovering it with off-the-shelf slip covers such as these made by Comfort Works:

Not bad for $460, but it wouldn’t solve the problem of the slipping seat cushions.  I’d staple those in place except for the need to remove them to use the bed.

 

Exhibit B:

Actually, having a looking-good day.

Actually, having a looking-good day.

  • Freedom 3 seaters (x2)
  • 10-15 years old.
  • Dignified survivor of 3 projectile vomiting babies.  (Okay, you probably didn’t need to know that.)
  • Good bones.
  • In some light you can see heat damage from spending years in storage/transit.
  • A bit of light wear on the arms.
  • Old fashioned shape.
  • Has a green tinge in some light.

Plan:

Use Exhibit B in the library.  These couches are too old-fashioned and small for the large space that will be our main living area but they’ll fit nicely in the smaller library.  I’ve been researching the cost of re-upholstering these sofas.  Without actually asking for quotes I estimate that each couch would cost approximately $700 in labour, plus material.  Roughly, a minimum of $1000 per sofa, more likely $1500 considering my love of 100% linen.  Too much.  I’m not into sewing, although I did buy a sewing machine years ago for the specific purpose of recovering a foam couch.  My skills are basic, but some of these simple sofa cover options are within the realms of possibility (if not for me, then certainly for my handy Mum):

(Pictures:  1.  The Design Files  2. Graham and Green  3. House of Turquoise  4. Alvhem Mäkleri  5.  RTL Woon Magazine.)

Finally, this leaves a vacancy in the main living room, open to the kitchen and dining room, for

Exhibit C:

Any of these will do.  (Picture sources: 1.  Houzz.  2 & 3.  Jardan.  3.  Domayne.

  • Modular, fabric sofa.
  • Australian-made (except for the first sofa).
  • Expected to last 20 years plus, with a warranty to prove it.
  • Not too slouchy so that you can converse with guests.
  • Not so modern that it goes out of fashion in the next 5 years.
  • Price unknown – $5000-10000.  (The Domayne sofa is just under $5000, but Jardan do not list their prices which is never a good sign.)

I really like the sofas with a “chaise longue” (the bit without the back rest) for their flexibility.  You could perch on the end to face the kitchen or turn around to admire the view or fireplace.  Or rest your feet on it at the end of the day.

Have I missed any Australian-made options that might fit my criteria?  Have you successfully breathed new life into an old sofa?  Got a sofa that you can’t bear, but it stays because you don’t want to add to landfill?

 

Healthy tradies.

August is Tradies National Health Month.  As luck would have it, I have some shining examples of Tradies demonstrating healthy work habits on site at House By The Water.

(Photos thanks to our Site Supervisor.)

Please note:

  • Team work.
  • Beautiful weather conditions.
  • Upright backs.
  • Area cleared and bricks delivered close to work.
  • Sun smart hats.
  • High visibility shirts.
  • Eskies, presumably filled with water for good hydration.
  • Use of carts.
  • BYO microwave to reheat leftovers.  (No hamburgers for lunch for these Brickies.)
  • Some kind of metal teepee that is surely an ergonomic device???

I’m giving these fellas 10 out of 10.  I hope they enjoy dangling their feet over the canal wall as they take their lunch breaks this week.

When I’m not galavanting around the world and obsessing over house building, I’m a physiotherapist.  I’ve seen a few painter’s shoulders and brickie’s backs over the years.  It ain’t comfortable!  Without harping on the message, here are my tips for keeping a Tradie’s body in good working order.

5 Top Tips for Healthy Tradies:

  1. Be fit.  Physical work doesn’t always count.  Regular exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep, increases energy and is great for your heart.
  2. Take time to think about the task before you do it.  Work smart.
  3. Little things can add up to big problems over time.  Watch out for repetitive work and poor postures.
  4. Look after each other.  Share the load.  Ask for or offer help.
  5. Speak up.  If something doesn’t look safe, say so.

For the special Tradie in you life, please refer them to the National Tradies Health website for more information and a quiz with adventure holiday prizes.

Thanks to our tradies this week for some very impressive looking retaining walls:Retaining wall text

And for a good laugh for everyone, take a look at this short video clip:  S#!t Tradies NEVER say.

S#!t Tradies NEVER Say.  (Click on link or photo to watch video.)

S#!t Tradies NEVER Say.   (Click on link or photo to watch video.)

 

Building inspections.

Our house is being built in Australia and we are not there yet.  You’ve heard me fretting, rather pathetically, about not seeing our house grow up and desperately dropping hints for our local friends to send me progress photos.  You can imagine my delight to learn that our Site Supervisor is not only adept at typing an informative email but can also take a great photo!

This photo comes to you care of Brian, our Site Supervisor:

Since it is Tradies Health Month, I am

Since it is Tradies Health Month, I can only be pleased that such great access has been created for delivering bricks right to the work site for minimal handling.

Last week the area surrounding our retaining wall footings was cleared to allow access for bricks.  Bricks, sand and cement should now be on site and the bricklayer will take about a week to build up the retaining walls and planter boxes.  The walls will then be “cavity filled” with concrete.

In the mean time, I’ve been looking into building inspections.  I consider building inspections to be a layer of insurance – protecting against human error.  Even if we were around to regularly view the work of our builders, we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we could judge the correctness of all the work.  Building is such a huge investment that getting an independent inspector in at key stages of the build seems like a “no brainer”.  So my research has been about the timing and number of inspections and the cost.

There are various opinions regarding when it’s best to inspect – some are based on payment instalments, others based on the building process.  Brian Ashworth from A New House suggests either a 3 or 5 inspection approach:

5 inspections:

  • Base – before slab pouring to check slab location, plumbing and site drainage.
  • Frame – to check frame and slab.
  • Lockup – to check the outer shell of the house for weather proofing and brickwork quality.  Plumbing, electrical work and insulation may also be checked now.
  • Fixing – to check waterproofing of wet areas and the location of all fixtures (sinks, cabinets, architraves, etc.)
  • Practical Completion – for the last chance to address any errors before handover.

3 inspections:

  • Base – as above.
  • Pre plaster – a combine frame/lockup inspection before plasterboards are installed.
  • Practical Completion – as above.

From a quick wiz around the web, I would say that an average price per inspection and report is about $500, with inspections at some stages costing more than others.  Some companies offer a package price for the series of inspections.

So far the quote I’ve received is more expensive than this, but the inspector has been recommended by one of my trusty readers. We are also building a large house (432 square metres including garage, alfresco and porch) and are probably located an hour away from the inspector’s office, so perhaps we can expect to pay a bit more.

We are planning to inspect at these stages:

  1. Base/Pre slab.  $595.
  2. Brickwork completed and roof frame erected to check brickwork, cavities, cavity trays, lintels, concrete slab, wall plate, roof frame etc.  $695.
  3. Practical completion.  $995.

Have you used an inspector?  What problems might you have had if you didn’t?  If I pay an inspector a couple of thousand dollars and he can honestly tell me that the builders have done a great job with high standards and in accordance with our plans, then I’ll be very happy.

Building Lingo Quiz

What does it all mean?  That is the question.  Photo source:

What does it all mean? That is the question. Photo source: Pinterest (original source not found).

Hands up if you understand every word of your building contract?   Hmmm… I thought so.  What about your house plans?

A recent email from our builders (to explain a change in our retaining wall dimensions) may as well have been written in Dutch.  Like every industry, construction has plenty of jargon.  But when technical language requires my signature at the end of it, I want to know what it all means.  Already, there have been many occasions during our building process that I’ve had to look up word meanings or request more information.

For some serious help with understanding your builders, here are some references:

And for a light-hearted challenge, come this way….

Can you talk the talk?  Test your knowledge on House By The Water’s Building Lingo Quiz.

Click here to take the quiz:  Building Lingo Quiz.

(The link will open up a new tab in your browser.  The quiz should take less than 5 minutes.  Return here with your score.)

 What do your results mean?

80-100%:   You are probably in the trade.  This blog is the place for you.  I need your help.  Stick around and I’ll see what I can do about a slab.

60-79%:  You’ve done this before.  This blog is the place for you.  We’d love to see pictures of your new home and any good tips you might have to share.

40-59%:  You may not speak the language of construction, but at least you know your Australian slang.  This blog is the place for you.  I love a bit of an Aussie yarn.

0-39%:  Room(s) for improvement.  This blog is the place for you.  Stick with me and we’ll learn together.

*  Bonus points will be awarded for adding a comment about a new word you’ve learnt while building a home.