Introduction

Share our trials and tribulations as we build our new home - a custom Dominico by Fairmont Homes NSW

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our Top Tips For Anyone Building

We promised this list a long time ago, but better late than never right..?

To help perspective home builders/renovators, here is a list of our tips and tricks:

- Go over your design and inclusions list with a fine-toothed comb BEFORE you sign the contract with the builder. It can be a battle afterwards and, because they are no longer keen for your business, more expensive. Ask them upfront how flexible they are with changes at various stages of the process. Consider hiring a design firm (architect or draftsman) to get your plans down-pat first. They're often easier/quicker to deal with than builders and many spec-home builders offer a custom service these days and will happily quote off your own plans. It also helps you to more quickly and easily compare builders. If going for a house and land package, ask if they allow changes (if you want them).

- On the issue of the tender, Mick has reminded me of its importance so I have given it several points. Make sure you go into the most detail you can. We're talking right down to the type of paint specified. "Low Sheen Acrylic" (which is standard in most contracts) is unbelievably vague - just see our post on it here. Make sure you pick a specific type i.e. "Dulux Wash and Wear" and put it in. Check the builder's standard range on everything. It might be great, it might not be. Better to get this changed before you sign the contract, not just at your "selections appointment." Keep in mind that not all builder's quotes are created equal. Some may seem really expensive and some seem really cheap. Check what they include in their price and try as best you can to compare apples with apples by getting them to up/down-grade finishes as you like and re-quote. And consider having a lawyer review the contract, especially if there are any tricky points in your build/land/estate.

- Do not make the mistake of thinking that it's too early to start planning things like where your laundry sink should go and what type it is. Little things like that effect plumbing placement and will annoy you forever if you can't change it once the slab is poured. If you're renovating, live in a space for a while first and think about how you use it and what you do and don't like. In fact, do this for every place you've lived in and compile a list of wants in order of priority. This will help you pick a plan. Don't allow display homes to bamboozle you. They are rarely setup for REAL family living. They look awful shiny, but they offer an ideal rather than what is necessarily practical.

- If you can, map out each room and see the proportions. Try to map out key furniture pieces too so you won't be shocked when the walls go up and your favourite lounge doesn't fit.

- It's a bit tough, but try to line up (height as well) where windows will be placed so you can plan around the view (or lack-there-of). Move windows if the placement is less than ideal or consider frosting them or changing their size if necessary. Highlight windows (long, skinny windows often placed at the top of a wall) allow more light in and often help negate any privacy issues.

- Check the plumbing plan and make sure that it looks right before the concrete is poured for the slab (including external taps/drains). Wish we had gone with our gut on that one and brought it to our builder's attention. It is never a good thing to have to rebate a new slab (especially near an edge) after it is poured. Do not settle for waste stacks going through your study (that was another epic battle we had).

- Approach the project from the perspective of it being A) your forever home - unless you know it's not, it will make it cheaper if you can avoid it, but not as personal, B) up for sale the day you get keys. Try to limit the over-capitalisation and over-personalisation so that if you need to sell it not long after you move in, it's still possible. You just never know what life has in-store for you. Best to be prepared for anything as best you can.

- Keep your eye on the builders every step of the way. They are only human and use sub-contractors who mostly don't care about your house, well certainly not to the degree you do! Ask your builder before you sign how much involvement they let you have during the build phase. Ask how many site visits they allow and whether or not getting your white card (quick cheap course) will allow you more visits (note: white card still means you need to be inducted to the site and visit under an insured trade such as the builder). Also consider hiring a building inspector to review the build before each progress payment.

- Try and make sure the a/c ducting is planned before the timber frame is made (especially important for two-story homes and/or homes with raked ceilings). We had to compromise on where our ducts were placed and it could limit the efficiency (and therefore costs more to run) of our A/C. Also make sure you specify which outlets you want on which zones and that just because your A/C can do so many, doesn't mean it can in your place. Depends on the room sizes/location, roof size and A/C unit power etc. Ensure you plan outlet, control and sensor locations. Also make sure the unit included in the tender is actually powerful enough for the size of your home. Under-powered units are often quoted to save money, but spending more upfront on a bigger unit can cost less in the long-run as it won't struggle or need to run as much.

- If you're after downlights, they are VERY expensive through the builder, so where there is roof above a room just go with a single batten point in the room and have your own sparky install downlights after the build (you can save even more money by supplying the lights yourself). Only have the builder install downlights where there will be a floor or raked ceiling above the room you want them in as it's near impossible to install them after the build (same as for ducted air-conditioning or any ducting/cabling)

- Put in the best insulation you can afford and insulate EVERYWHERE. Standard contracts rarely insulate everywhere or offer best quality. It will save you so much on heating/cooling and make your house much more comfortable. Insulate the garage and between the floor joists of two-story homes. Also consider installing whirly-birds; they're cheap and make a big difference. And if you can afford it, double-glaze.

- Builder's standard NEVER allows for enough power outlets. At the very least always upgrade any single points to doubles and consider adding as many extra points as you can afford. If you cannot afford as many as you'd like, just remember that's it's relatively easy for a sparky to piggy-back a second outlet from another on the same wall, so plan placement with that in-mind e.g. you can usually easily install a power point on the other side of a wall with a point on it. Also carefully consider placement and number of external points (and don't forget the eaves if you're a Christmas lights fan!).

- For ease of access, consider having the power sub-board installed inside, such as in the garage.

- Data cabling including Foxtel, TV aerials: consider every room and where you want anything in the future, even if you don't have the money to connect it up yet. It will save you much headache later when you already have the cabling in the wall/roof especially in inaccessible areas such as bottom level of a two-story house.

- Take photos of EVERY wall at framing stage for you to refer to later. It is very helpful to know where cabling/ducting/pipes/studs run after gyprock is up.

- Allow a tap-point for your fridge. Fridges that provide filtered water and/or ice need a tap. Even if you're current fridge doesn't need it, it's simpler to install the plumbing now in case you upgrade your fridge later, and it's handy for re-sale.

- Bathroom lighting is often an afterthought. Give it some good consideration including possibly a waterproof downlight in the shower. Bathrooms can have some odd angles/corners these days with space being tight in many new builds, and dark corners are not ideal in a place you get gussied up!

- Specify placement of EVERYTHING before-hand such as the alarm, A/C control panels, doorbells etc. It's surprising (and very frustrating) how illogically trades will place these things sometimes!

- If space allows, consider widening your kitchen benches. You generally pay for benchtops by the meter length, not width, so it usually doesn't cost extra to slightly widen your counters. We wanted a Caesarstone splashback but it's thicker than glass or tile so we simply widened the benchtop and pulled the cabinets out from the wall a little. This way we didn't lose any bench space. And while you're at it, widen your breakfast bar if you can. Standard size is often impractical for actually sitting at the counter.

- When funds won't stretch the full distance, prioritise what's important to your family and what cannot easily/cheaply be done after the build. Installing flashy taps/sinks/doors can easily be changed after hand-over, but installing a steel beam to open a space up can't. I know the structural stuff isn't as pretty as the fit-out, but quality of the building itself should come first.


We will be sure to add to this if/when we think of any more points.

Anyone out there about to start or currently building, I wish you lots of luck! Remember, when it all seems to be taking too much time and effort, I promise that you will forget the heartache (assuming it's a quality build) once you're in <3

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

So Long and Thanks for all the Memories...

Hello Internet World. Long-time-no-type! Sorry for my lack of posts. We have been very busy finishing the house, getting married, honeymooning, having a baby (yep, been a big two years!) and just generally being busy. In the course of that time, we have decided to sell this gem and start a new chapter, because, you know, we obviously aren't busy enough. But before I go into much detail about our path ahead, I thought I'd take the time to reflect on the beauty we built:




Backyard

Formal Lounge and Dining

Kitchen/Meals

Media Room

Main Bathroom

Ensuite

Upstairs TV Room

Simplified floor plan

We put our heart and soul into the house, but it never quite suited us, building it and living in it has taught us much, and now the universe has pulled us in a different direction. But we wish the lovely new owners all the very best and lots of love and luck on their new chapter in the house. May they love it as much as, if not more than, we did.

We will miss the view...



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

We're in!

As I'm sure you all know, moving is no easy task! Our move was especially complicated as our timber floors weren't ready for shoes (trying to explain to removalists that they can’t walk beyond the protective matting was impossible! I hope the scuff marks come out…), and we have no storage other than the vanities and kitchen. Our solution…move everything in to the garage! We are far from settled, however despite the chaos, we do have some pretty photos to show:

Our kitchen! - We hope to purchase some bar stools this weekend

The kitchen - waiting on blinds to be installed

Kitchen - We will eventually buy a nice, big stainless steel fridge (that's an expense for after the wedding!)

The media room - still needs blinds and a rug (and the projector!). This is also a sneak peak of our carpet. I will post more photos of it later.

Our dining room table and chairs (recently purchased from Ikea) - still waiting on feature cabinetry in-between the pylons, as well as blinds and a bar, which we will be (eventually) having installed in the niche behind the table. The table is extendable, though we only have six chairs at the moment.

When we have a bit more time (and hopefully some proper internet) I will post more photos.

The house still has some issues, but Fairmont are working through fixing them and overall we’re loving the house and location.

Still to go:

-       Our blinds have been ordered and will go up in a few weeks.
-       Mick’s father will be installing our laundry cabinetry (if it arrives in time) next week and helping Mick get started on the hard landscaping
-       We had the house measured for security screens and fly screens today and are awaiting the quote
-       Mick’s friend is finishing off the data-cabling and is bringing another friend (they are all data electricians) to install our TV antenna and hook up our projector this Sunday
- Unpacking, unpacking and more unpacking! (oh, and have I mentioned the washing that comes with unpacking..? *sigh*) 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sneak Peak at the Timber Floors

Mick and I spent Sunday preparing our house for the timber floors being finished Monday and Tuesday. Mick put up a black plastic barrier between the upstairs and downstairs while I swept the entire downstairs. We also covered the oven and range hood with black plastic. The aim: to try to stop the onslaught of red dust that will come from the sanding. Whether we were successful or not, we won't know until tomorrow night when we can walk in socks on our floor. 

Plastic barrier to the upstairs.
Plastic on our appliances.


The preparation we feel will be worth it (not to mention the expense) as our floors look MAGNIFICENT!!! They aren't the best pics, but here are some sneak peaks:

Hallway.
Study

View into formal living room from the garage.
And the maple step has come up beautifully!

I am seriously in love with our floor. It is beautiful and rustic (a lovely juxtaposition to the more contemporary elements in our home). Even though I am now unwell (thanks Mick), I don't care and have even been happy to brave the cold just to be around our floors. Silly I know!

Still to come: The carpet goes down Friday, the removalists turn up 7am Saturday and I'm meeting Tracey, our Kresta rep, Sat morning for a final measure and quote on our blinds. I will also be double-checking my blind colour choices, especially now the flooring will be done - I've already decided to tone-down the choices for the formal living rooms and kitchen/meals so as not to compete with the very strong floor.

The count down to move in day has begun!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Window Coverings

On Saturday I met with Tracey, our Kresta Blinds rep, and selected our window coverings. Tracey was extremely helpful (as were the ladies in the Campbelltown store when we popped in a week or so ago) as Mick and I were quite unsure what to choose at first. Tracey recommended roller blinds, which was an option we were considering, to suit the contemporary vibe of the house. As I was looking through her amazing samples, Tracey set about measuring, and I soon fell in love with a very vibrant and contemporary aubergine-coloured fabric. Tracey confirmed it went with our feature wall colour (it was great to have another person's perspective). I soon discovered that there were several other colours in the same patterned fabric that leads me to believe that the company that designed them must have had our house in mind! They are a blockout fabric, which is great for privacy and avoiding the sun, but I also wanted something that would provide privacy during the day, but still allow the sun in. So, I quickly found a beautiful geometric sheer. It looks like rice paper! We will be coupling the sheer with the blockouts throughout (I also hope the sheer will disguise the view of our neighbour's house).

Without further ado, here is a sneak peak of our choices:


From top to bottom: Sheer, red, black, white and purple.

The purple will go throughout the downstairs, except in the study (shame they didn't have a blue) which will be white. Then the red will go in the TV room, the black in the master bedroom and white in all the other bedrooms. The only fly in the ointment are the french doors that lead onto the balcony. Because they open inwards, and have a large handle, the blinds have to be mounted on the outside (rather than under) the frame of the doors, and we're not sure how this will look... Hmmm, will have to do some more thinking.

At any rate, I am very excited about our selections and can't wait to see them installed!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Quick Update

Mick is still unwell so he worked from home today and, for the first time, he could do it from OUR home! Yep, we bought Mick a fancy fold-up chair so he could work in (relative) comfort. This also meant that Fairmont could send some trades out to connect the hot plates and fix the balcony doors which didn't close properly when unlocked. Mick also installed the pendant light bulbs. Here's a pic:


Tomorrow Mick and his friend are finishing their data-cabling handiwork and I'm meeting with a lady to order our window coverings. Exciting times ahead!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Keys at Last!

Poor Mick has been off sick the last couple of days, but at least it meant he was able to collect our keys yesterday afternoon. Yippee!

The house isn't without it's issues (for one, the gas cooktop isn't connected and we don't have the second garage/alarm clicker or alarm pin...), but at least we finally have a house!

The timber flooring is scheduled to be sanded and polished Monday-Tuesday. We also hope to book in the carpet installers for the following Friday and removalists Saturday-week.

More photos and updates to come...