Variation costs

Do you like the good news or the bad news first?

I always prefer the good:

  • We have a new and super-organised “pre start consultant”.  She writes me emails full of lists.  She answers all my questions.  AND, she is currently celebrating her own slab.  I think her heart is in her job.
  • Most of the pre start variations have been costed.  The driveway variation cost makes the retaining walls look good.
  • There are a few credits in our variation list, for example, we deleted the timber look kick board and wall oven surround in the kitchen.  $1907.
  • We are getting closer to something actually happening on our block.

And now for the bad.  We’ve had to cross a few nice things off our list because the cost is just plain silly:

  • Cobblestone driveway. ~$60K or $550 per square metre.  I know that cobblestones aren’t cheap (in Australia) and require a solid base, but I had a figure of ~$200/m2 in my mind.  Looks like it’s back to standard paving for us.  We may pull it all up later and put in the cobblestones ourselves.  I’ve been checking out the standard paving options, but I’m also getting an independent quote for a cobblestone driveway.

    Cobblestones in "Endicott", $110/sqm.

    Cobblestones in “Endicott”, $110/sqm (not installed).

  • Wooden hand rails on our balustrades instead of polished stainless steel.   Plus $4000.  We have about 12 metres of balustrade, including a curved section.  Hmph.  The polished stainless steel looks quite harsh.  I hope our wood floors will soften the look.  (Wrought iron is an affordable alternative but I’m not keen on that either.)
  • Calacatta Caesarstone for the kitchen island instead of standard Caesarstone.  Plus $8600!  Whoah.  Just for the (waterfall-edged) island bench – not including the benches either side of the stove top or in the scullery.   Plan B is Caesarstone Alpine Mist – that’s $4652 for all the kitchen and scullery bench tops including the island bench.  The “Nice Wolf” doesn’t know that yet though, so I might have to work on a Plan C.  (Nice Wolf – please see credit note for deleting timber-look laminate in kitchen.)
  • Fancy shower drain $880 for 2.  I wonder if these can be retrofitted ($60 each online)?  Probably not….

    Bermuda shower grate.

    Bermuda shower grate.

  • USB wall outlets – $140 each (downstairs), $180 each (upstairs) including installation.

And now here is a small “maybe pile”:

  • Upgrade to a different front door that matches a decorative screen door better.  $950.  Would you?

And finally, the “OK, wish it was cheaper, but we want it pile”:

This list does not include variations that we added before signing the building contract.

  • Build the right size hole for the firebox.  $1422.
  • A hole in the wall, electrical connection, a concrete plinth and admin fees to accommodate the air-conditioning $1595.
  • Entry door “rebate” to fit future flyscreen $106.
  • Niche in shower to sit the shampoo bottle $446.
  • Viewing windows in the meter box for Synergy (electricity) and Alinta (gas) $138 each.
  • Rail change in WIR $51.
  • Change from clear to translucent glazing to the ensuite WC door $80.
  • 10 pullout pot drawers in pantry $1563.
  • Minor tweaks to bathrooms and laundry $255.
  • Change from stainless steel to ceramic laundry trough  $217.
  • Change toilets to avoid icky dust collections behind older style toilets.  $349 for 3 toilets.
  • Cold water tap to fridge $266.
  • Extra electrical/lighting costs (over and above the $10000 allowance – note this does not include the actual lights). $2874.
  • Extra tiling costs $4256.
  • Changed taps in kitchen and laundry $26 each.

Ooh,  I wish I hadn’t just written that.

We are facing at least $13 000 in extras on this list.  There have been a lot of emails back and forth to Webb and Brown-Neaves this week.  This is our last chance to get everything right before any further changes incur financial penalties.



21 thoughts on “Variation costs

  1. kristielrick says:

    Everything is so pricey, isn’t it! I worked out we made over $100k in changes from the original base model incl approx $40k at Prestart to get to where our house is now!

    Re: the shower drains (nice, by the way!) the builder could leave the cutout and a spare tile to allow you to retrofit. The drain itself is standard pipe work under the tiling usually and the grate is just fitted to suit, so if you wanted to do it cheaper after handover it might be doable!

    Love the toilet suites too, are they creating a false cavity to conceal the cistern pipe work?

      • The only thing that might cause an issue if the council’s certification – it depends on whether they will sign it off without the drain grate fitted, i’m not sure if there’s a health regulation requiring it before occupation or not. Definitely worth a chat to the plumber and tiler though – plumber will be able to confirm the pipework required is 100% the same and won’t cause future issues with potential floor chasing etc.

    • I think we will arrive at a similar extras cost to you – a change in our roof line being the biggest cost . At least most of it was done pre-contract signing when we still had some power! (This does not include the site works, retaining walls, landscaping, air con, and floors.) Thanks for the suggestion about the drain – I’ll file it away in the hope that we get a “flexible” tiler. (Not sure about the toilet suites, sorry.)

  2. It is crazy how quickly things add up. To make your driveway look like the cobblestone less expensively could you score concrete. Just an idea. I love your drain…..we are going with a linear drain, it goes along the wall of the shower. I know how you are feeling, I am hoping for American clay plaster walls……but I don’t think they will fit our budget, but a girl can dream.

    • We had “scored concrete” at our last place Happy Laughs. It was fine for our reno, but, well, it looked like scored concrete! We are not having that drain. It’s not something I’m prepared to spend a lot of money on. I prefer the linear drains but was told that they were more expensive still. But, this could be different to the U.S. Australian prices are usually much worse than American. I’m off to look up clay plaster walls now…

  3. OMG! I can’t believe how expense renovations are in other parts of the world. 😮 We got new silk wallpaper for every wall of our 3 bedroom apartment, new Corian kitchen counter, kitchen sink, faucets, full bathroom remodel, some wood floors repaired/changed, new light fixtures, door handles, trim on all doors and a bunch of other small details for less than $10,000 here in Korea….and all done in less than a week (cleaning included!) I know…I couldn’t believe it either!! 😉

  4. trixee says:

    Yipes! That driveway cost is insane! If you’ve really got your heart set on it, can you delete the driveway from your contract altogether and do it yourself? The cost for the shower niche seems a bit high – we’ve just asked to make ours larger but I haven’t got a cost back on that yet. On the other hand, your pullout pot drawers sound cheap, I thought they were in the order of about $800 each. Some of those smaller items seem a bit petulant. I mean, $26 for taps, really? Couldn’t they just throw that one in? It boggles the mind how the small things add up to so much!

    • Trixee, don’t get excited too about pot drawers yet – these are “drawers” that are basically pullout shelves inside the pantry door. (We are not having a WIP.) We had the same ones at our last place except we bought them from Ikea and DIY’ed. Still looking at driveway options….cobblestones are a “nice to have”. No heartstrings attached.

  5. Miranda says:

    Oh I’m so sorry about your bad news items. I really loved your cobblestones and Caesarstone Calacatta.

    A couple of comments:
    – I’m glad to hear you’re getting an independent quote for the driveway. We were in a similar position with our stonework on the front elevation and under the kitchen bench (and our stone comes from Eco Outdoors as well). We deleted it from our contract and are getting it done ourselves for less than half the price quoted by the builder. So it’s definitely worth investigating the option of deleting items and organising them yourself after handover. Even though it would be more complicated for benchtops, it might be worth finding out for these too.
    – Most of the items in your last list seem reasonable, compared with what we had. For example, our fridge tap was $212, just changing the length of our ensuite niche size cost $147, and we were charged $310 to upgrade our laundry trough to a ceramic one.
    – But those fancy shower drain prices are ridiculous. We were quoted $578 for swapping over five of the shower wastes to those Bermuda ones. Instead, we deleted them from the contract, and supplied them ourselves (probably the same $60 ones you found online). We got a $99 credit for the original round ones. I’d ask for a breakdown of the $880 cost and also ask about the option of supplying these yourself.
    – And I can confirm that the linear shower grates are even more ridiculously expensive than the Bermuda ones. We have one in our ensuite.

    Good luck!

  6. Really sorry to hear all the bad news, but it can only be a good thing that you have a switched on, communicative pre-start person – that should save you a fair bit of stress! Some of the markups are just crazy aren’t they? We asked for timber balustrades and they gave us a quote of $15k (that’s without paint or staining, and I think it was about 9m worth). Eventually they agreed to let us do the balustrades ourselves and they cost us just over $5k. So I agree, try and take out as much of those crazy-price things as you can and get them done yourself. Seems SO unfair that after waiting all this time for the Calacatta Classic they price it out of everyone’s reach (though it’d be interesting to find out how much it would cost to supply it yourself and just get them to fit it…) Re the pull out ‘drawers’ in the scullery, we paid $2200 for our 10 (the absolute basic ones that nobody sees). I’d have asked for more except the cabinetry costs were already out of control.

    I’d pay the 950 for the front door you want. Mind you, I’m too ashamed to volunteer how much our upgrades came to in total!

  7. Make sure you leave enough in your budget for a few cases of Margaret River white, and still afford to cool them. That’s my advice 😉

  8. We spent nearly $20,000 at pre start on our single story house on a 450 sqm block (after already spending $40,000+ before signing) and that was with doing paving, floors, window treatments and painting ourselves. To be honest, the changes we made were worth every last cent and I’m so glad we made them.

    My advice is to be honest about what you can live without and what you can’t. And also be aware that sometimes the convenience of having a builder do something is totally worth the inflated cost. If we ever build again, we’ll budget to have EVERYTHING done as part of the build. The post-handover stress can be worse than the actual build!

    Good luck making your decisions. And I second the cases of Margaret River white! 🙂

  9. Pen says:

    Hubby calls them Webb & Brown (think of a word that rhymes with Neaves). You have to ask for a breakdown of costs each time, for every item. Don’t fall for the oldest trick in the book of not being credited for the original item. Check and double check. Driveway is a no brainer you have to get your own contractor in, your 60k quote includes mark up 25% + gst (13k). Don’t worry about items under $100 just go with the flow, your going to get more than enough stress when the construction starts. All the sales/marketing boasts ‘build without compromise’ but that’s exactly what you are being forced to do. Everything has to be nailed down before prestart or you’ll have to pay handsomely for it. Cost for the floor wastes is clearly wrong, ask for the breakdown. Floor wastes cannot be done retro fit cost effectively. Most other finishing items can be done after handover by your own contractors. Still not sure about those stacking doors in Mandurah unless they can be fly screened effectively. Keep smiling.

    • Ha, ha! I’m surprised my husband hasn’t thought of that one. It sounds like you are speaking from experience? If I have a good quality house, finished well, at the end of this process, I will not be complaining. As for the driveway, I’m working on it. And, I’m determined to enjoy the process, so I am still smiling.

  10. Oh my, you are having to walk a tightrope it seems before you can even start. We’ve never had to deal with that, thank goodness. And you are charged to install a shampoo bottle niche in the shower? That seems a bit outrageous. But, narrowing down decisions before building is a very wise thing so there are no financial surprises (or, at least, very minimal). We also knew what we wanted and crossed things off our “would like” list to get what we knew we would regret not getting. It was very nice to stay under budget. Consider pricing your own contractor to do the driveway later; is stamped concrete cobblestone any alternative to real cobblestone? The driveway should be done last so big trucks are not driving over it.

  11. Hi Johanne, I’m loving your blog! It’s providing a great source of inspiration and ideas for our house build. I’m desperate to put in the new Calacatta Nuvo caesarstone and I always knew it was going to be an expensive upgrade but $8,600??? I’m curious to know your bench dimensions? Our island bench is 3m long x 1.2m wide with a waterfall edge on one side.

    • Thank you Sheilzy. Our kitchen island is almost the same dimensions as yours, just 5 cm narrower (3 x 1.15m), with waterfall edges at both ends. $8600 is crazy and now that I’ve given up on it, I’m very happy with the idea of Alpine Mist, especially since I can afford to have it match all my kitchen bench tops. Do go ahead with a quote though, because I’m guessing that our builders have included a significant mark up (up to 50% ??). It doesn’t cost you money to ask! Kitchen companies represented on the HomeOne forum have agreed that Calacatta Nuvo is expensive but I’ve never seen any other figures. Good luck. I’ll be keeping an eye out for what you find out.

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