Going going gone … a contract is signed, a house is demolished, lots of hoops are jumped through to get the services arranged, approvals are achieved, and all systems are go!
In our last update, we reviewed how Clare and Darren had commissioned Tara Dennis of TD Creative Agency (now called Archie Bolden) to help them with interior concepts for their home, and the process of working with an interior designer.
This week, our update looks at where things are at in starting construction on site. If you remember, I had worked with Clare and Darren to resolve the overall design of their home, and had prepared a package of drawings and written information for them to give to their builder (you can read about that here).
For an overall summary of the top tips on our journey so far, head to the Hit List here.
Progress on site
Clare and Darren’s home purchase was actually an existing home, sitting across two lots. They only plan to build on one of these lots and use some of the proceeds from selling the other lot to finance their build.
So whilst they’ve been working with me on the design of their home, they’ve also been navigating getting approval for demolition of the existing home and finding a buyer for the neighbouring block of land.
Clare and Darren have some prior knowledge about how to achieve approvals such as this, and it does take some expert understanding to do properly. So if you haven’t done this before, I recommend you get some advice from a town planning professional or a design professional, to assist you with the paperwork and processes involved.
The good news is that Clare and Darren’s agent has found them a buyer, and they can settle on that block of land once the house is removed.
And demolition is underway. Clare tells me … “There have been some delays with electricity and gas supply disconnections that has slowed the process down a little, but it is still moving forward which is great. Always cool to see some physical work being done, rather than just the paper shuffling!”
Clare recounts some of the challenges associated with this step though … “Because we bought the house vacant and we did not intend to move into the dwelling we didn’t consider changing the power and gas into our name. As such the companies ‘disconnected’ them from the house (i.e. turned the supply off). So when Darren called to seek them to physically disconnect these services he actually had to establish a reconnection first and then have them physically disconnect them.
Darren has also had to arrange the delivery and erection of safety fencing (as the property is now a construction zone) and also the delivery of a builders pole, being a pole that the power and meter box get connected to so that the builders have power on site while they are building, which will then get transferred onto the house once built.”
As you can imagine, knowing that the house needs to be gone for them to ‘settle’ on the lot they’ve sold (and get those proceeds into their account), these delays would be very frustrating.
Signing on the dotted line …
Meanwhile, Clare and Darren have been progressing things forward with their builder, Landmark. Landmark include the price of formal documentation (required for Building Approvals and construction) as part of their build cost, and have their own draftspeople who carry this work out.
Landmark were able to finalise a price based on my package of drawings, and prepare a contract for Clare and Darren to sign. Most builders use standard template contract documents from organisations such as the Housing Industry Association (HIA) or the Master Builders Association (MBA). I always recommend getting legal advice when signing anything like this, as there can be terms used and obligations put on you and it is wise to understand what your responsibilities and liabilities will be.
Clare and Darren also have some prior experience in this, and for them, the most significant issue was making sure that everything was identified and included, to minimise surprises and unexpected costs.
TOP TIP: Any information you provide to the builder in drawings and written documents can and will form part of the contract, so be sure that there aren’t discrepancies between the pieces of information, and that everything you want is included.
Finalising the drawings [documentation]
Landmark’s draftsperson has been preparing formal documentation, which has been issued to Clare and Darren for their review. To ensure the design intent is maintained, I’ve been helping them review the drawings and providing feedback which then has been going back to the draftsperson for amendment.
TOP TIP: It’s a great idea if you’re splitting up the work of designing and documenting your new home or renovation between a few different professionals, that you get help from the original designer in reviewing work along the way. You invest a lot of energy, time and money in getting the design right – and sometime you can miss the changes and decisions being made through the drawing process that will have a radical impact on how the home feels or looks when it is built.
Part of this work of drawing the home has been resolving exactly how it will sit on the site. There is a small fall from the street to the rear of the property, which can appear like a big one when you’re trying to put a flat object (like a house) on it! Figuring out exactly how and where the home will sit, and whether you take up all the fall in the driveway (and sink the home from the street), or build the home up a little at the rear with piers … well this is all part of the juggle. It impacts the amount of retaining walls you need to build, additional structure and how you will run services (as generally, water needs to run downhill!)
These drawings all need to be completed and these decisions made to really lock things down before construction starts on site, and to achieve the required building approvals to commence construction. So, you can imagine Clare and Darren are keen to push this through quickly and make their decisions … and just get going!
What else are Clare and Darren having to do during this time?
Things are really starting to happen for the Andersons in their new home becoming a reality.
Over the next two weeks, they’ll be working with the builder and the building certifier to achieve their building approval. During this process, the building certifier works with the documentation to achieve council approvals for building, plumbing, any earthworks and other certifications required to give the go ahead for construction. The certifier will also be undertaking the energy efficiency assessment to satisfy the required 6 star energy rating.
Clare and Darren will be using this time to meet with their cabinet maker and decide on kitchen and bathroom joinery finishes. Having some overall direction from Tara Dennis’ interior concepts will certainly help this process. They’ll also be visiting the plumbing supplier and tiling stores to start refining their choices of tapware and flooring.
Clare adds: “We are also going to seek a free electrical / lighting designer review by a lighting company (these are free we have discovered thanks to Undercover Architect), so that we get the lighting levels in each room correct. The draft plans for documentation had the lighting really overcooked in some areas (9 lights in the master bedroom!) and undercooked in others (1 light in the kids rooms).”
TOP TIP: Often your builder will have relationships with specific suppliers. Speak to those suppliers about getting help and expert input. They do it everyday, and can often give you extra insight into the best way to use their products in your home. As with everything, keep a balanced view, and get second opinions for clarity and confidence.
As you can imagine, with day jobs to keep going, kids and family life to juggle and the house about to start construction, Clare and Darren are keen to tick as many things off their ‘to-do’ list as they can. Chances are when things are under construction, unexpected questions and demands can arise … so getting all the other decisions made and sorted as soon as you can will free up your time and energy down the track when you may have to act urgently on other decisions.
A few weeks on …
Clare and Darren have achieved their building approval, and this is what their site looks like!
Dealing with services …
A couple of details from Clare, which may be relevant for your site …
The site has a sewer line running through it …
(Clare and Darren knew this before they bought it). This requires the lodgement of a “BOS” or “Build-Over-Sewer” application as part of your building approval. Words from Clare … “The existing sewer line runs across the property about 10m in from the rear boundary, so it means that our back tiles patio area will be constructed over this line. It’s not a massive deal, but does require some minor changes to the way the slab goes down in the area, including some piers either side of the sewer so that the slab effectively straddles the existing line.”
And remember how I mentioned the site fell from the street to the rear?
Normally, you have to run all your roof water out to the street (which requires gravity to make that work). So what happens when the rear of your site is the low point? And you’re dealing with an old site that doesn’t actually take any roofwater off into the street? This is what Clare and Darren had to do …. “The first [challenge] was that because the house was old that was on the site, and the site is located on an old established neighbourhood, the roofwater from the existing dwelling was just ‘going to ground’. This meant that the rainwater from the roof was collected in downpipes and then discharged onto the ground to be absorbed. This management of roofwater is no longer an acceptable practice, and all new developments (and many older suburbs have had then retrofitted where water is an issue) have what is called ‘roofwater line’. This is where the site does not slope to the street and water needs to be collected at the rear of the site. Because we didn’t have a roofwater line through the lots and we fall away from the street frontage we needed to work out how we would manage our stormwater and get the roofwater to drain to a ‘legal point of discharge’ (i.e. the street). Luckily for us Darren was able to contact the owner of the house to the rear of us who was very kind to deal with us. The result was that he has allowed us to run a roofwater drainage pipe through his site to the kerb of the road behind us. We paid for the work to be done and to thank him for the disruption we also connected in his roofwater downpipes into the drain and replaced some old broken up concrete where we needed to run the line. All in all it was pretty stress free, but it still took a bit of time and energy and money to resolve. We could have ‘managed’ the water onsite through what is known as a ‘rubble pit’ which basically holds the water underground on your site to allow it to slowly drain away, but the costs associated with this, the potential for issues with soggy ground both at our home and the property to the rear, we decided that piping the water directly off the site was a far better solution long term.”
So that deals with the stormwater … and what about the sewer?
“The other issue was that we needed to add a new sewer connection for our lot. The existing sewer connection is located in the land that we sold, and we knew that we were going to have to create a new connection, but had thought that this was wrapped up in the works the builder would do. As it turns out we needed the connection created in order to get our BA approval. So Darren took on QUU and managed to arrange everything that he needed to, and thankfully QUU were able to book us in to do the work the same day the builder planned to commence clearing the site”. Phew …no wonder it can be overwhelming sometimes to build a home. Lots of little issues and challenges that need to be dealt with in a sequential order to enable the next step to happen. Your builder won’t do all of it, so make sure you understand and get advice and help where you need.
And finally … Clare has this advice for you.
“Embrace the decisions, don’t be daunted by the number and magnitude of choices and decisions to be made. Just think one thing at a time. Ok, powder room….what does this space need? And then go from there. It’s pretty overwhelming as a whole to look at this decision time, but one thing at a time and it’s totally manageable…and fun!