Sitting on the fence.

The kitchen at House By The Water has been getting a good work out. Cake for 70 people last weekend and curries for 20 people this weekend. It has been such a pleasure to spend time in the kitchen, chopping, baking, stirring, all the while overlooking the family action going on in the living room and keeping an eye out for the dolphins herding salmon in the canal.  The pinch-me moments continue.

Kitchen time takes from gardening time though, so the landscaping report is rather slim:

  • More dirt shifted.
  • 3 coastal banksias planted.
  • 3 holes chipped in brickwork for step lights.
  • And one day of tiling by the landscapers (sigh).

The Nice Wolf has been wrestling with stone pavers trying to create steps, which has of course involved the purchase of new tools, and is most certainly a labour of love.

While we are outside, new home builders, please tell me about these sticky-out things:

What is going on here?

What is going on here?

I thought they were weep holes.  Maybe they are.  Should they be trimmed?  They look a bit ridiculous.  I should put them on my 6 month maintenance list for the builders….

We are trying to stay focussed on working on the landscaping, though there are a zillion interior distractions.  (Save picture of lovely rug option until later.)  The front fence debate has been going on for quite some time. Railway sleepers versus rendered brick with decorative steel infills.  Railway sleepers are currently in the lead, but before we actually spend any money on it, I thought I’d take one last hypothetical look at both options:

Steel infills.

Steel infills.

Railway sleepers.

Railway sleepers.

*Credit to Trixee at EcoHome Style for the blog title idea.  (Trixee, post pics of your amazing gabion walls soon!)

That out of the way, who can resist dreaming about interiors?  There is so much that could be done at House By The Water, and if I’m honest, so little that needs to be done.  So for the sake of our finances, I’m trying to curb my interiors spending.  It’s rather fortunate that this current resolution was made AFTER the purchase of our new sofa:

Lazio Daybed.

Lazio Daybed from Weylandts.  Real living room.

but somewhat unfortunate that Armadillo and Co’s divine new rug range has been released after my self-imposed ban on interiors spending. Wouldn’t this rug look so good with our new sofa?  It would lighten and soften the room.

Living room mood board.

Future living room.

Aaah!  The butterfly chair, leather ottoman and a new coffee table would be nice too.

 

Landscaping slowgress.

Snail’s pace is the only way to describe it.  The current rate of  work seems to be one job per month.

Hardscaping progress.

Current state. Work in progress (occasionally).

  • December- deck.
  • January – glass fence
  • February- remove scaffolding over pool.
  • March- concrete around pool
  • April – start tiling, concrete roof of storage area.
TDL plan

Landscape plan by Tim Davies Landscaping.

The grand plan for landscaping on our canal and pool side was conjured up 3 years ago.  We were wooed by smart landscaping around display homes and the existing relationship between our builder Webb and Brown-Neaves and Tim Davies Landscaping.  We decided to pay the big bucks for a clever design and for the luxury of not having to find and co-ordinate trades to make a pool, concrete, lay tiles, build a deck, install fences, etc.  Turns out the experts also have trouble finding and co-ordinating trades and so it has been a sloooww going.

To keep within some sort of budget, we kept at least half of our garden space to landscape ourselves, plus all the planting preparation and planting because that really shouldn’t be rocket science.  There is a lot to be done, so we are breaking it into chunks and trying to set some reasonable goals for completion time.  I really want the canal-side planter boxes to be filled before Winter.

I’ve been having an internal debate about whether the planting should be massed rows, or “randomly artistic”.  I can argue either way.  I am so inspired by modern coastal gardens designed by the likes of Peter Fudge and Fiona Brockhoff:

Fiona Brockhoff coastal garden

Fiona Brockhoff Design

Peter Fudge modern garden

Peter Fudge Gardens

The apparently random planting on the very impressive Esperance foreshore and good ol’ mother nature herself in Australia’s south-west on our recent holiday had me convinced that “au naturale” was the way to go.

Esperance park

City of Esperance, stunning foreshore development.

Coastal garden Esperance.

Coastal garden inspiration.

In the end, I’m going for the easier option and the one that was originally intended for our landscape design, rows and repetition.  (Don’t try to talk me out of it!  I’ve changed my mind daily for the past month.)

I’m about to head off to the Perth Garden Festival, but a few pictures of our current DIY landscaping progress.  (Yes, equally slow to progress.)

Front entrance.

The Nice Wolf did a stella job constructing our “jetty” front entrance.  (Front door is still to be replaced.)

Mum and Dad at work.

My Mum and Dad love a good day’s work in the garden.

Planter box.

My Dad moved the lion’s share of a truck load of dirt from our front yard to this giant planter box at the back.

Dianella.

I had the fun of the first plantings. Dianella.

 

Jetty Christmas!

Santa on the canals.

Santa delivers lollies on Christmas Eve.

In the scheme of things, I thought that a jetty was low priority.  After all, we don’t actually have a boat.  But The Nice Wolf had other ideas and last week the Jetty Man motored up to House By The Water, drilled in a couple of poles and attached a brand new jetty.  Just like that!

The Three Little Pigs watched the jetty poles go in.

The Three Little Pigs watched the jetty poles go in.  Jetty by West Coast Jetties.

The Nice Wolf paid attention to the functionality of our jetty design, I oversaw the aesthetics and I am rather pleased with the result.  An unexpected bonus of the jetty is that it visually extends our “back yard”.  Suddenly our canal side area seems so much larger.  The jetty has been well used already:  breakfast while dangling feet over the water and many boating guests, including Santa, a previously anonymous blog reader and some new neighbours who welcomed us with a gift of champagne!  Plus, there has been plenty of shenanigans on our kayaks and the Three Little Pigs’ Christmas gift, a blow up paddle board/windsurfer.

Another highlight of the week was the installation of our cray pot pendants.    They are not quite finished yet, but already I love them, especially at night.

Christmas baking provided a good test for our ovens and kitchen space.  Pavlova?  Check!  3.5 kg salmon?  Check!  2 adults cooking at once?  No problem.

Kitchen

Kitchen in use.

Kitchen crowd.

Boxing Day kitchen crowd.

Guess The Handover Date Competition.

Congratulations to John!  John guessed December 24th would be the day we received keys to House By The Water, 6 days later than our actual handover day.  A good bottle of West Australian bubbly is  available for collection or delivery.  Thanks to all blog readers who joined in with this competition.

House progress

How did you choose your builder?

I’m back tracking a bit today, by about 2 and a half years. To that compulsive moment when we decided to buy a block of land and build a house on it. I admit that it was a fairly emotional decision, with very little comparison of alternatives, in terms of land or building versus buying a house. In our favour, we knew the area very well, having already lived nearby and we knew the location was not one we would regret. To our demise was our complete naivety about the cost of building.

I’m thinking of these things again now, because one of my sisters, let’s call her The Sensible One, is considering buying land with the plan to build her family home.

Choosing land:

Aside from the obvious fact that land should be somewhere you want or need to live, here are my thoughts based of the luxury of hindsight and from reading many a saga on the HomeOne Forum.

  • Siteworks, site works, site works!!! $$$$. Site works costs are not included in the sticker price of an “off-the-shelf” (volume builder’s) house. Site works vary greatly depending on the contour of the land and the geology. A “site survey” before you purchase can help builders to estimate some of the costs to prepare the land for building, but there is still the possibility of hitting unexpected problems (rock!) once site works start.
  • Location can limit your choice of builders.
  • Location can dictate some of your building choices, especially in a developer’s estate.  You’ll need to comply with their guidelines in addition to council regulations.
  • Orientation.  If you are aiming for a solar passive house, this factor might be critical, but let’s face it, not everyone in suburbia can choose the perfect North-facing block.  Volume builders will easily “flip” a house plan to improve a home’s thermal performance, while trees, screens and blinds (interior and exterior) are all simple solutions to reducing the impact of that pesky sun as it sets.

    Our land

    Don’t be fooled by a relatively innocent looking piece of land. The “provisional sum” for earth works on our 747 sqm block is $20 000, not including retaining walls.

Choosing a builder:

We chose our builders, Webb and Brown-Neaves, from a fairly limited pack.  The field was narrowed by our key requirements of the house, namely:

  • A footprint small enough to leave us with lots of outdoor space.
  • A house plan with rear living areas to make the most of a rear view.
  • Four bedrooms.

My shortlist of “off-the-shelf” (pre-designed) houses that fitted these requirements was very small. In the end, we were wooed by a floor plan with a void space above the living area.  It seemed to us to take a house from ordinary to amazing.  Although we didn’t know any one who had built with Webb and Brown-Neaves, they had a good reputation, having built houses on the Mandurah canals for a long time.  Of course, I looked for online reviews for WBN and found a mixed bag.   With only 22 reviews over 7 years, I didn’t really trust this source.  It seemed to me that the minority of customers that couldn’t resolve problems with their build had headed there to seek revenge.  And a few blissfully happy customers had been encouraged to submit a review to balance the ratings.  Every one had either rated Excellent or Bad/Terrible.  There was no in-between.

I’ve noticed that many of the mega building companies, particularly in the East of Australia, have many more reviews.  Take Metricon, for example.  They have 400+ reviews.  Perhaps you can give it some credence but I wouldn’t use these reviews alone.  In fact, one of Metricon’s competitors was accused of offering rewards for customers positive reviews.

My big-sisterly suggestions for selecting a “volume builder” are:

  • Stalk the area you plan to build in for new homes recently built by the companies that interest you.  (Or you could try asking the companies for references.)  Talk to the home owners and ask how they found the process and how satisfied they are with their home.
  • Stalk the area you plan to build in to see home building in progress.  If you go on weekends, you might get to chat with some customers.
  • Get acquainted with the HomeOne Forum.   Lots of Australians thinking about building, going through the process, recently built and even repeat-building customers hang out there.  There are some building professionals there too, adding their two-bobs worth from time to time.  Follow some threads from your area.  You’ll soon discover that very few builds are stress free and problems arise.  Most customers quickly forget the problems when they move into a new house that they are happy with, others stay unhappy.  For the larger building companies, in the low to medium price spectrum, there are enough people on the Forum to form a balanced idea about how the companies generally perform.   You can get an idea of pre-construction issues, build times, the range of costs that are added on to sticker prices, customer service and how companies deal with problems.
  • Last, but definitely not least, read some independent blogs written by builder’s customers.   (Duh!!!)  There are plenty out there.  Some are tricky to find, but once you find one addressing a particular company, it will often lead you to many more.  Ask the blogger questions.  Bloggers are friendly people!

So, readers, since I’m no expert here;

What advice would you give my sister for selecting land and a builder?

The Sensible One, all the answers are just for you.  Feel free to pipe in with questions. xxx

Construction site visit

I’d mentally prepared myself to expect some disappointment.  Maybe the house would seem small.  Maybe the retaining wall – house relationship was not right.  Perhaps I’d added a big window where there was nothing to see but brick wall, or the building neighbours might have blocked out all the morning sun.

But my first (and probably only) visit to our house whilst under construction revealed nothing but excitement.  Naturally I took a zillion photos, but I’ve narrowed it down to just 10 for you.

1.  The first floor brick work is complete.  The scaffolding and planks are installed in preparation for pouring the second floor slab at the end of this month.

House front

Bottom half of front facade. L to R: garage, entrance, bedroom.

2.  Our fireplace in the living room.  The First Little Pig was a bit worried that Santa won’t fit down the chimney.

Fireplace.

Living room fire place.

3.  From the canal side, looking through the dining room to the kitchen (marked by pipes for the sink).  The three openings at the back of the kitchen are for the hallway, cellar and scullery (L to R).  I was relieved to feel that the ceiling not too close.  The dining room is 31 courses high.

Dining room.

Dining room through to kitchen.

4.  View from the future couch location.  Looking from the living room, through the alfresco area to the canals.  Both traditional paddlers and stand-up paddlers passed by while I was there.

Couch view.

Testing out the couch view.

5.  Stairwell.  And a bit of blatant evidence that I missed an opportunity in the planning stage to incorporate access to the under stairs space.  Never mind, my lovely old Tasmanian buffet table is going to look perfect right there.

Stairs

Pre stairs.

6.  The alfresco area seemed huge.  Probably large enough for sofa and dining set.

Alfresco

The alfresco area as seen from the canal front.

7.  Checking out the deck width from the dining room to the planter boxes.  Could be a bit squeezy for outdoor dining. (2.2 metres across.)

Deck.

Measuring up the deck.

8.  Kitchen sink view test.

Kitchen sink view test passes.

Pass!

9.  The First Little Pig made a movie starring brick walls, scaffolding and herself.

First little pig.

Tools of the visit: camera, measuring tape, chalk.  Looking through the living room to the hallway.

10.  This week’s work.  Steel reinforcements for the second floor slab.  I had no idea so much steel would be involved.  I find it very reassuring.  I met the fellow who is singlehandedly going to lay the steel this week.  He said he’d been doing this job for 25 years.  He looked tough!

Steel.

Steel reinforcements for second floor slab.

I met our site supervisor from Webb and Brown-Neaves, really just to be acquainted.  We discussed a few minor details and he explained the process for the next few weeks.

There wasn’t a lot of time for soaking up the atmosphere but I had my fix of all-things-house for a while and now have a better picture in my head of the scale of things.

Next week I’ll post about my other activities and discoveries during my visit to Mandurah and Perth.

 

Slab!

Slab

My friend, who was wishing for a concrete pool lining for her birthday this week, tells me that concrete is the new diamonds. Cut, clarity, colour and carat (weight) are all looking good.

 Happy Birthday to me!

Our building inspector, visited our block prior to the slab pour and gave everything the thumbs up.  He very kindly sent me some extra photos.

Under the slab.

Just prior to slab pour.

Pre-slab pour.

Retaining walls

Our fancy (read expensive!) retaining walls.  Later they’ll be rendered.

There will be celebrations here tonight.  We will be trialling the first contender for House By The Water’s signature drink, a Blueberry Mojito.

Blueberry Mojito

Source: Inspired Taste. Thanks for the suggestion, Miranda!

Cheers!

 

 

Earthworks and slab preparation.

My blogging fingers are poised above the letters “S, L, A and B”.  My local sources are at the ready to snap photographic evidence.  The invoice has been received!  The sun is shining on Mandurah.  And, ingredients for trial #1 of House By The Water’s signature cocktail have been purchased.  Any moment now…

Last week, Nearmap‘s plane flew over our block and captured pictures of a big yellow machine back filling and levelling our land.

Earthworks.

Pool scaffolded over, backfilling earth up to the retaining walls, levelling the block. Could that be piles of bricks already?

Yesterday the block looked like a hive of activity.  It’s quite incredible the amount of work that will soon be hidden under the slab.

Front entrance.  Downpipes will be hidden in the exterior walls.

Front entrance. Downpipes will be hidden in the exterior walls.

Looking from the laundry across to the living areas.

Looking from the laundry across to the living areas.

Concrete pour for footings.

Concrete funnel?

Slab preparation.

Concrete footings going in? Garage area yet to be prepared.

I hope I’m not leading any one up the wrong tree with my captions.  I’m only guessing what is going on.

Thanks to Progress Realty Photo Services for the photos.  Apologies for the not quite perfect photo quality – I think their camera was hidden in a shoe.  Stay tuned for the next post!