How do you build a new home? Sometimes the best way to learn, is from the experience of others.
We follow the Andersons as they build their new home for their family of 5. Here are the top tips for all Project Updates, and links to each update as well.
Head through to the links on each Project Update to read more info and explanation.
To meet the Andersons and learn more about how and why they started their journey, head to “Let’s Meet the Family” first.
Project Update #01 | Top tips
- When choosing the land, choose based on orientation, topography and location to give you the most options and create the best outcome.
- If creating family home, consider including a study nook, keep kids’ bedrooms at a minimum of 3×3.2m (plus robe), and use voids and the stairs to get natural light into the guts of the floor plan.
- Don’t be scared to ask the builders you’re speaking to lots of questions about how long they’ve been around for, their contractors and crew, who builds their displays (and do those same contractors build their customers’ houses), and how many customers have built with them for a second or third time (and can you speak to these customers). There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Ask. Ask. Ask.
Project Update #02 | Top tips
- Think about your arrival home with kids and shopping and mail and work gear, and think about where everything gets dumped as you walk in. Having a dedicated entry and exit zone makes life a lot less stressful when you’re arriving and leaving, so you know where to find everything, and it’s not all sitting in the middle of your living spaces.
- Locate the main bathroom close to the kids’ bedrooms is so that they’re not traversing more public areas of the house to get to it. Keep private areas that are used in association with each other, close to each other in the floor plan.
- Sizing a main bedroom? For a queen size bed, with bedside tables and space either side, you need a minimum of 3.5m in width. In a family home, I always aim for 4m on the wall where the bed will be furnished (so you can get a king in as an option). And then I aim for 4m in the other direction as well, but you can get away with 3.8m depending on where doors are to enter and for the ensuite and robe.
- As a basic rule, when you’re looking at a house design, and how it suits your land, start with this simple step: Can you get the main living area to face north / north-east? Can you get the garage on the south/south-west/west? By ‘face’ I mean its main outlook, so the garage door, and the outside wall of the living area. If these two things can’t happen easily … keep looking. Because honestly, it will be all up hill from there.
- Regardless of whether or not it is YOUR dream home, it CAN and SHOULD still be the best home for is site. A home that optimizes the site conditions, makes the most of the money you’re investing in it and the life you’ll live in it for the next few years. It will be around for LONGER THAN YOU live in it, and even if it’s not your dream home, it may well be someone else’s. So make it important. Care about your choices. This is about your life, and the life others will live in this home after you.
Project Update #03 | Top tips
Whether you’re considering a big project home builder like Metricon or Clarendon or Stylemaster, or a builder who does 3 houses a year – always visit a finished house. Remember the following:
- If a builder presents a house as their ‘display’ (like in the villages you wander around on the weekend) … it will represent the best of what their standards are.
- If you can find lots of faults, what do you think your build will be when it’s not a display, or the one they’re going to show off to everyone?
- Think of the display as the pinnacle. It should be perfect. It should be exemplary. Then anything they build for their customers stands half a chance of being a great quality build.
- Look at a display with an eagle eye. Most people, when viewing a home, look between their knees and their foreheads. Watch them. How many people are looking up, around, down on the floor, getting close to the carpet, poking heads inside cupboards to see how the ceiling are finished in there? Be that person. It’s a big investment you’re making here.
Project Update #04 | Top tips
- Ask a builder about how they operate. How long have they been in business? Do they use their own teams or sub-contract their work out? How many homes do they build per year? The answers sometimes aren’t as important as gauging the builder’s willingness and honesty in answering them – open answers can be a good indicator of an honest and efficient operator.
- If you want to put a pool in, discuss how that will work with the overall construction of your home. Not all home builders can build pools as well. In coordinating this work, you need to consider access, protection of various components during construction, and who is responsible for coordinating the workflow.
- Never be frightened to ask questions. If I think I’m about to ask a silly or naive question, I’ll preface it with “pardon my ignorance”, or “this may be a stupid question”. I find the best people to work with are very willing to answer ‘stupid’ questions. You have the right to know about the process of designing your home, building your home, spending money on your home. It’s YOUR home!
Project Update #05 | Top tips
- Don’t be scared to use a designer who isn’t local to your area, if you like their work, their way of working and are confident in their abilities to manage things remotely and work with you this way.
- Often what you DON’T is as important as what you DO like. Make sure you keep tabs on this, and if working with a designer, keep them informed.
- Clear, direct communication is king. Don’t be afraid you’ll offend. Don’t be worried if you can’t explain it properly. It is your designer’s job to make sure they understand what you want. Use every tool at your disposal – verbal, written, drawn, pictorial. Just keep trying until you know that everyone is on the same page as you.
Project Update #06 | Top tips
- Really pay attention and be a design detective. When you’re about to have input into something you’ll use everyday, do some research. For something like a kitchen, look at what you want to store and how big it is. Drawers are more expensive than cupboards, but perhaps you can have just a few to store things like plates, cups, saucepans and your cutlery. That way, the things you use everyday are easily accessible, and then the things you use less frequently are in cupboards (which are cheaper to build) so it doesn’t bother you so much to have to move things around to get them in and out.
- Use different methods to explain your design to a builder. The aim is to remove the opportunity for assumption, and ensure you’re both on the same page with what you’re seeking to build. And get your quoting sorted early in the design phase. Before you’ve got your approvals and enlisted the help of a big team that are costing you time and money. Builders can quote from design sketches if they’re drawn accurately, and provide sufficient information to explain the standard, quality and scope of what you intend to build.
- Always, and I mean ALWAYS, get a builder to quote your project before you proceed with approvals and full documentation. There’s no point investing money and time in all those processes just to find you’re over budget when you start construction – and then have to start all over again.
Project Update #07 | Top tips
- Don’t be frightened that taking on a professional designer means you have to do things ‘their’ way. Good quality designers will have their own systems, processes and methods … however the aim is to work together flexibly to your needs, and their skills to enhance and guide your journey – not stifle it. Look for that feeling of collaboration or strong listening and communication from the outset. How the designer collects your brief and re-states it back to you (which they should do in their fee proposal or early communication) is a good indicator of whether you’re on the same wavelength for your project.
- The interior design should also expand upon the architectural design, such a highlighting focal elements, supporting spatial transitions, reflecting the integrity of the materials etc, so it’s important that the interiors and the architectural design a collaborative. The best interiors have a sense of harmony between architectural and interior design, so collaboration between the two is vital.
- Remember your designer is providing a service for YOU. So, if you like a trend, or want something you’ve seen on The Block, then it’s their job to find the best way to interpret it – and (more importantly) give it longevity so you are still happy with it even after the trend has passed. And also remember, trends do come and go, however your home is permanent. Make sure you build in flexibility with your choices so ‘trendy’ items can be replaced easily when you grow tired of them.
Project Update #08 | Top tips
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Project Update #09 | Top tips
- Remember that the site is actually the builder’s whilst it’s under construction. Yes, you’re paying the bills, but it’s up to the builder whether you get to access the site or not. So get that organised BEFORE you sign with them, and establish some ground rules that suit both you and the builder.
- If you’ve never done this before, you’ll be surprised at just how many details need to be resolved. I know from experience, it’s all these detail decisions that can start to overwhelm home-owners, when building or renovating their homes. Some enjoy it, and some hate it and find it all too much. You’ll probably know already which camp you’ll fall into, from how you approach shopping and choosing in other areas of your life! Get help if you know it will be something you hate, or will find overwhelming. Even if you suspect you’ll love it, it will still take a lot of time and energy (as there are lots of choices to be made, and generally a lot to choose from!), so get help there also. Chunk it down – whether room by room, surface by surface, or trade by trade. Step by step, piece by piece, you’ll get through it.
- You can see from Clare and Darren’s ‘extras’ that they are mainly for upgrades or additional amounts of things. Budgeting for these so they’re not nasty surprises means you need to understand exactly what is allowed for in your contract. Understand what is in the builder’s range and whether you’ll be happy with it. Understand how much tiling there’ll be in your bathrooms. Understand how many paint colours you can choose. It’s a detailed understanding of these things that will prevent budget overruns down the track if you’re not happy with the choices available to you.
Project Update #10 | Top tips
- Attend site regularly with your drawings. Check progress against your drawings. If you note an error, speak to the builder or site supervisor. Make sure if you speak directly to a tradesperson, that the builder/site supervisor is also aware of the issue.
- Photograph progress on site so you have a record for future use – for evidence if things go wrong, to know where your services are if you need to do work on them, and to keep a diary of your build you’ll enjoy viewing later.
Project Update 011 | Top tips
No top tips – this Project Update is a site visit by Undercover Architect to check out progress on site.
This family moves in (and out!) …
Want to see the finished home? Well, you can do that here.
If you’re keen to see some thoughts on the external colours chosen for this home (and my tips on how to choose external paint colours for your home), head here.
And in an interesting turn of events, the Andersons, having spent a year in the home, got an offer too good to refuse to move back to their homeland of New Zealand. They’re building their forever home there (that Amelia has designed) and we’ll be following along. Stay tuned!