Friday, September 24, 2010

Week One review - the good, the bad, the ugly!

So we've had the keys to our house for one week now - how's it been?

The Good: It's great to have our own place again. What's the best things so far?
  • Garage with remote door, rear roller & internal access - it's all incredibly convenient, we've never had that before! Only thing is, I wish it was an 8 car garage... or at least had a workshop extension.
  • All the 2 and 3 way switches. Sounds like a minor thing, but having lots of 2 and 3 way switches means you don't have to walk all the way across a room or hallway to turn lights on/off.
  • Tall ceilings and doors. Make you feel small! I've got a feeling we'll have to watch the heating/cooling bill due to the increased internal space, but it's worth it.
  • Huge kitchen. We haven't moved much in, but all our stuff from the old house won't take up half the pot drawers. Plus there's this massive walk-in pantry about 50 times bigger than what we had in the last house. Lots of room for a fridge, beer fridge, and wine fridge (I wish!)
  • Great ensuite shower - we had it redesigned to be big with a rainfall showerhead, and it's incredible! The big size is awesome, and the rainfall showerhead puts out a beautiful spread of water and is great to relax in. Absolutely love it, and very glad we made this change to the ensuite layout. Nice mixer taps everywhere.
  • All the colours worked out beautifully! It's hard to choose all your house colours 3-6 months before the house is even started, but things look fantastic. Might start on painting the home theatre room dark grey this weekend.
The Bad:
  • Had handover with a couple of minor things wrong with various locks and handles, haven't heard from our SS yet about fixes to that. Plus we weren't given a key to the manhole, which we can't open.
  • Doing our clean of the house for the last week, you notice a lot more things once you move in. Mostly you'd never see them, as we've up on stepladders cleaning the tops of window reveals etc, but a couple of paint blemishes are a bit more noticable and we might just repaint or cover up with a mirror or something. I think once we move some furniture in and start enjoying ourselves, it won't be an issue.
  • Carpets have been delayed, so we're squatting in the study until carpets are in and we can move our bed up into the master bedroom. No big deal.
  • Driveway and crossover still not done... various delays with our concreter. Lots of dirt in the garage as a result, but not a big deal either.
  • Stupid fence guy is still missing-in-action a good 5 weeks after he was meant to replace the side fence. I'm sending him an email to say if the job isn't done in the next week, we're going with someone... anyone else who will turn up and get the job done.
  • Stairs are awesome but we definitely have to repaint the walls around it as a lot of stain runs on the wall. Knew this was coming but still a bit of a pain.
Another tip for everyone out there who are installing wired networking with any builder - I bought a cheap network tester for about $5 delivered from China (do a search for "network tester" on ebay if you want to buy one), but due to incredible slowness it arrived too late for our inspection - it only came today! Order this thing at least a month before your inspection date if it's coming from China!

Basically, one end plugs into the hub point powered by a 9V battery, and a seperate bit plugs into the other end. A series of little lights go from 1 - 8, and if everything lights up, all should be good! Our data points were left unlabelled, so this is an easy way to identify which data point goes to which room. All our network points appear to be OK except for the one going to the family room - when I plugged in the jack, the whole jack disappeared into the wall - looks like the data guy didn't secure it properly. Anyway I fished it out, and on testing it appears that the #1 cable isn't connected, and the #4 & #5 cables are joined together as both light up instead of sequentially. I'll test it more thoroughly once our router and internet is installed, it may be a 3 month maintenance item to fix the cabling point and replace the faulty jack.

The Ugly:

Erm... not really much to report, really! I was dreading some of the horror stories I've heard from other people once they had moved in. Some of them I recall include bathtubs/sinks flooding the whole room, being locked into you master bedroom because the door jammed, gas leaks from hot water systems, toilets backing up because the sewer pipes weren't connected right - but for us, no disasters like that (touch wood!!!)

The only really annoying thing is I think the antenna hasn't been connected to the Starserve unit, as there's no TV signal from any of the 7 TV outlets in the house. Would be nice to watch TV once we've finished moving in properly! Should be an easy fix, will get in touch with our SS and see if he can get the data or antenna guy in quickly to fix that.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carpet delayed, Metricon house for sale in Balwyn North

Got a call from Fowles today, saying that our booked carpet installer had an injury on the job today, so we won't be having our carpets installed tomorrow. A minor setback for us, but having experience a work injury a few years back, I just hope the bloke involved recovers 100%. So maybe sometime next week or week after - they'll call me back to confirm a day.

And what did we do, the day after handover last week? Went to check out a home for sale (of course) in Balwyn North - a Liberty that was finished about 3 months ago.

Quite a nice facade. Uses our bricks in 50mm, timber windows all around, and a big light aggregate driveway that extends in front for extra parking space. Zero maintenance gargens all around are great too. Up and down lights on the ground floor plus eave downlights are really nice for external lighting. The only issue for me is that the ground floor is below street level, set down a metre or so - bad feng shui!

Nice big kitchen. Tower wall oven allows more pot drawers.

The bathrooms all have this colour scheme - it looks OK in this photo, but in real life is horribly dark and claustrophobic. Tiling goes all the way up to the cornice, which wasn't offered to us when doing our selections.

A steal at $2.25m or so - includes a pool out the back too! If you want more details on it, click here. Looks like it's a private sale, so no auction date to attend.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Staining stairs, Day 3

For the final third day, Mark was working from 7:30 to about 3 filling in nail holes and other defects, resanding and applying the final coat of stain and tread.

Love the end result - a real feature in the centre of the house. Like a masterpiece of woodwork (which it is!) these stairs are functional, but also look incredible!

So if anyone wants the best quality result for your hardwood stairs, give Mark a call at Propolish Stairways (if you want a contact number, see the comments section below). Free plug for a great tradesman! One very important point about staining stairs - you get what you pay for. Anyone can say they sand and stain stairs, but without the proper preparation and attention to detail, you'll end up with a bad end product, which may not be able to be redone. And with about 17 hours of labour put into our stairs, very happy with the end result. Plus you will also want to have a certified product - we have certification that our stairs meet all safety standards for hardwood treads. Depending on your stair design, how much preparation is required, what the working environment is like, you could pay up to $2000 for a professional job like ours - so don't call Mark if you want a cheap result, but call him if you want a great result. No-one ever said building or finishing a house was cheap!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Staining stairs, Day 2

Mark was back for another long session on our stairs, from 8am to 1pm. We had the first two coats of stain applied today.

The stain brings out the grain lines in the hardwood, and with the custom mix of stain we chose it's slightly lighter than our front & rear door stain.

Tomorrow will be the final sanding and final coat of stain, and on Thursday we can remove the protective tape. For anyone who is building with raw hardwood stairs, ideally see if you can get them stained before carpets go in - apparently any new carpet will release fluff everywhere and it's very difficult to prevent the fluff getting caught in the new stain.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Staining stairs, Day 1

Mark turned up at 7am this morning and unloaded his ute of tools, and apparently worked all the way through to 5pm! Our stairs are Vic Ash hardwood by Slattery & Acquroff, and today Mark did the sanding plus first coat of sealer.

What do you think? Modern but still elegant, and a great dark feature colour against the wall colour. There are some sealer runs on the walls, but with three coats to go, we'll see whether we need to repaint the walls. I think we'll keep the wall colour the same here, which doesn't distract from the feature stairs themselves.

Close up details of the hardwood treads - woooo love it! The colour so far isn't quite as dark as our front/rear door stains, but because the stairs are hidden in the centre of the house with no natural light hitting it, probably better not to go any darker than this current shade. Two coats of stain goes on tomorrow, and a final coat and seal on Wednesday, and we should be OK to walk on it Thursday.

Also got a call today from Metricon head office to see how handover went. I did mention our antenna isn't working, and they said to call our SS end of the week if he hasn't got in touch with us by then. Otherwise, very happy with how things went!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Handover pics continued

It's Sunday night, about 48 hours after getting our keys. Spent all weekend cleaning and moving in basic items, the place now looks a mess all over again with half-opened boxes, rags & mops everywhere, temporary foldup tables and chairs... but anyway, here's a couple of pics taken at handover on Friday, before all the moving chaos began.

The front door - part of the promotion when we signed on for the house. 1020 x 2340, clear glass, stained Intergrain Charcoal. 750mm Gainsborough pull handle upgrade. Not sure whether we'll keep the clear glass, or add some obsure tint - I quite like the clear glass at the moment. Bricks are Austral Melbourne series Hawthorn with offwhite flush mortar - absolutely love them! That portico light, we'll change to a sensor light... getting all the plain light fittings changed will happen, but it's low on the huge list of things to do.

Entry hallway, and the feature upgrade stairs. Cantilevered hardwood with continuous handrail. and stainless steel balusters. The downside to these stairs is that they look awesome, but you can't really have any under-stair storage due to all the supporting framework under the stairs. Currently in raw finish - we have the stairs guy booked in tomorrow for sanding & staining over 3 days; if he does a good job, we'll put his details up. We will probably need to touch up or repaint the walls surrounding the stairs after staining (as the stain will run onto the walls), so might even change to a feature colour around the stairs - we'll see how much stain bleeding there is and decide after that. Three step lights illuminate the treads and look very very nice! We didn't add in a light over the stairwell, as it wouldn't be very visible from the ground floor. Some designs like the Liberty have the stairwell turning 180 degrees, and I think we would have added a stair light in that case.

Laundry. Got to have one, but will be trying to avoid spending any time in here unless absolutely necessary. We decided to put the taps on the all above the washing machine position, so the taps are easily turned on/off when the machine isn't in use. Usually they're in the cabinet right at the bottom, a bit of a pain to crawl down and turn off. Had plenty of experience with split washing machine hoses that were left on all the time, that end up flooding the laundry and beyond, so turn off your taps when not in use! We also put in a floor waste under the washing machine, just in case. Colours here: floor tiles are Tecnico Charcoal 400x400, wall tiles are Linea Grey 200x300, cabinet is Laminex Polar White with Laminex New Graphite benchtop.

Standing in the family room area, looking towards the kitchen in front and dining to the left. Needs more furniture, and more food, and lots more beer & wine. Ceilings are Dulux White on White, walls are Dulux Natural White. Of course, at night with downlights or fluoros on, everything looks creamier than in daylight.

And finally, we cracked open a bottle of champagne - this was given to us by the real estate agents when we bought the old house back in May 2009, and we'd been saving it for handover day!

We had handover with a missing kitchen drawer handle, and a bloke came around Saturday afternoon to replace it, so that was pretty good. There's a couple of problems that need to be sorted out soon rather than at 90 day maintenance (mainly we can't watch TV because someone forgot to connect the antenna to the Starserve system!), but we're pretty sure John will get in touch with us soonish about them, as he's on our street all the time building our neighbour's Chelsea!

And for all you housebuilders out there - when you do get handover, with shiny new keys in your pocket, driving up to your house with the facade lit up, parking your car in your garage and walking into your house - it makes all the planning, waiting, stressing, moving, mortgage payments all worthwhile!

More handover pics another day!


Friday, September 17, 2010


And we have HANDOVER! The house is OURS!

We're far too tired to write the huge amount of text this entry really deserves, so for now, there's just this teaser picture - yes, we got a really nice keyring too! We'll update this post and add to it over the next few days.

Short summary: We swapped our final cheque for keys at 6:10, and over the next 5 hours worked madly to get enough basic things into the house so that we could spend tonight in our bed, in our house - no, in our home. We're tired, but it's worth it - we've been waiting about 16 months for this day, since we originally bought the old house that used to be on this plot of land!

Many thanks to our tireless site supervisor John A, who spent many hours day and night to get our house in tip-top condition for today. It really comes down to the tradespeople who build your house - the chippies, plumbers, sparkies, brickies and everyone else, and definitely your site supervisor who is in charge of it all. We appreciate all the hard work and personal attention you've put into our house, and we'll be enjoying it for the next few decades! Also huge thanks to Monique who managed the first half of the build and did a stellar job there too, Mendo who was probably the best CSC Metricon has ever had, and all the way back to Ainslee who we signed up with.

Thanks too to all the readers too who have followed us so far on our home building journey, we've appreciated all the comments left on the blog and also hope you've been entertained along the way. This isn't the end, just the beginning of the next phase - stay tuned for more details and pics from today, handover day!

Lots of love

Tim & Tina

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 267: Working... late!

After dinner and some late-night shopping madness, drove past our house - can you believe our hard-working SS and trades were still going at it, at 10pm?!

Only had my phone on me, but the facade lights look great when lit up. Will have to get some better pics with my SLR.

Spoke to John earlier today, and there should be a mad rush of activity in the next few days - scratched kitchen handles to be replaced tomorrow, and finishing painting top & bottom of internal doors, amongst other things. My job tomorrow? Get to the bank and make sure (again!) that our payment side of things is still on track.

Not often you'd find a tradie working past 3pm, and not often you'll see your SS on the job when most people would be getting ready for bed - top effort!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Handover cheques and house insurance

Luckily I had a day off work today, as I spent most of the day on the fax & phone. Most of that time was spent on hold, waiting for Heritage to sort out their issues - anyway, the good news is, at 4:50pm I was finally able to log on to our account correctly and get the right amount drawn out to my other bank account for a bank cheque to be prepared! Still a bit peeved that things weren't working last night, but because this final payment is a little tricky to organise maybe that's why things weren't going smoothly.

Also called AAMI to organise insurance on the new house. Interestingly enough, the original insurance we paid was based on a 50 year old weatherboard/asbestos cottage that was lucky to be 10 squares.

And with our new 43 square brick veneer 2 storey house, the annual insurance premium increases massively... by $41. I guess not many houses burn down nowadays, so the risk of the insurer actually having to pay to rebuild our house is almost zero. Also added on contents insurance; haven't calculated what the actual content value will be, so will recalculate and re-insure contents at the end of the year.

Been planning to get our superduper home alarm with video surveillance/recording, mobile notification and internet remote monitoring installed once we've settled in. Sorry - not giving away any more details on this for obvious reasons! But if someone drops a coin on the footpath in front of our house in the middle of the night, we'll be able to tell if it's heads or tails!

Stopped by the house today, and noticed the overflow has been drilled into the rainhead. It was suggested to hide it around the side of the rainhead so it wouldn't be visible from the street or side of house, which was a good idea.,

Getting superexcited about handover now, not long to go! I even bought a shower caddy thing today - the plan is, Tina gets exclusive use of the ensuite shower (and niche!) while I use the bathroom shower; at least for the first 3 months, so we can see if there's any leaks or problems that need to be fixed at the end of the 3 month maintenance period.

Stair guy called me today to confirmed he's booked in our job for after handover - it's 3 solid days of work, with the first day being 7am to 5pm for preparation, taping, sanding and hopefully the first coat of stain. Given the amount of hours of work involved, his quote actually seems quite reasonable now - so we're just hoping the final result will be good! Will also need to buy some small pots of our wall colour - Dulux Natural White - so we can touch up, or repaint walls where the stain will run. Or maybe change the walls adjacent to the stairs to a feature colour, depending on how much repainting is required.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Getting ready for handover...

Organised for after handover.... driveway, stairs, carpet.

Not organised before handover... final cheque.

Though the T-shirt should really read "I HATE BUILDING SOCIETIES" because at the moment, it's Heritage Building Society letting us down. I think they recently revised their internet site, because when I logged on tonight to organise funds for the final cheque for our house, it says we have all of $0.00 available to withdraw - but on the main page it says we have 100% of our loan available. After being stuck on hold for 30 minutes, a nice young man admitted he couldn't figure out what was wrong, and someone will get back to me tomorrow.

Not good enough! Not only do we get to pay a big upfront application fee and ongoing monthly fees, but then we can't get access to our loan! Hasn't been a problem up to now (of course) so I'm back on the phone to them first thing tomorrow morning - and I'm not getting off the phone until the problem is fixed!

I should go to a branch and get it sorted, right? Easy - if they actually had any offices in Victoria *grumble grumble* stupid building society based in Queensland. So just a heads up to anyone thinking of a home loan or line of credit - forget these guys!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 262... PCI!! PCI PCI PCI!!!

So, today was the day for our completion inspection! We turned up at 9 and met up with our SS John, and another SS (Andrew).

Long story short - PCI went very well!!!

Been quite a while since we've been in the house, and it had been cleaned pretty well inside and out. Almost all the items from our independent inspector's checklist had been addressed, and the ones that weren't done were not major issues for us anyway. Started off inside the house, working out way through the ground floor before tackling upstairs, and finally ending up outside.

We did finish up with a page of defects, but they were all very minor things like paint touchups, scratched handles, a jamming robe sliding door, a bowed ensuite door, checking/painting all internal doors for top & bottom paint sealing (quite a few doors had been adjusted by planing but not repainted afterwards), one articulation joint unsealed, straightening up a crooked downpipe and things like that. All easy to fix, and I can't see any reason why we wouldn't have our keys next... ooo, nearly let slip the handover date there! It's coming real soon!

Apparently, our house went through QA this week and received a score of 98.5%, which sounds good to us and corresponds to the very few defects we found today. Our Certificate of Occupancy was also emailed to us by our CSC, and this is where you've got to love private certifiers - looks like it was approved in 1 day! We also have our statement for the final amount to be paid, so first thing Monday I'll be contacting the bank to sort out a very big cheque to be exchanged for keys at handover.

Not that it's the last big cheque we'll be parting with, there's plenty more trades that we need to employ. We had a stair specialist come in today at the end of our inspection (who does the Metricon display home stairs as well as lots of commercial stairs, including Ikea) to give us a quote on doing our stairs. It'll take quite a few days and isn't cheap, but should last the life of the house. Had to rebook our carpet installation (again) to allow time for the stairs to be done after handover. Still trying to get in touch with our concreter for the new driveway and crossover - it's looking less likely it can be done next week, but if not, it can be done anytime after handover. Plus where has our fence contractor gone? He was meant to fix our fence a month ago!

And the funny thing is, we were so focused on checking out our house that we didn't take any photos today! Here's one we took earlier - our dog Hannah can't wait to move house!

And here's another photo I took earlier - I bought a "power point and earth leakage tester" and plugged it in every socket inside and outside the house to check everything was grounded and connected properly (and everything was!), it also checks that your RCDs work properly. I don't have a need for it anymore, so if anyone wants to buy it ($30 new) I'm selling it for $20 including postage within Australia (Paypal or bank deposit) - first to leave a comment, saying you want it, gets it! Make sure you leave contact details like an email address.

So, right now... feeling pretty exhausted after spending 3 hours at the house this morning, then all afternoon at work. Actually very relieved to be nearly at the end of the house building process - it's been 80% excitement at watching the house spring up from nothing, and 20% stressing about whether our colour selections would work, and whether things were going according to plan or not. But right now, you couldn't wipe the smile off my face with a baseball bat!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 261: PCI date confirmed!

Spoke to our SS yesterday, and it looks like our completion inspection should be going ahead - tomorrow morning! Our inspector went to check out the house back on Day 241, so we're expecting the items from his list to be fixed by now. Alex did make a point to tell us he wouldn't be checking for things like paint defects and other minor cosmetic things, because the painter hadn't come around for final touch-ups at the time of his inspection. So I guess the main things to check tomorrow will be things from Alex's list, plus any paint defects, plus checking things like doors, sinks, drainage, lights, powerpoints etc - basically all the things identified from our earlier post. I've allowed 3 hours before I've got to go back to work in the afternoon :( but we might finish earlier than that if things look good.

Also got a bloke recommended by our previous SS dropping in, to give us a quote on sanding & staining our stairs after handover. Been trying to get in touch with our concreter regarding the driveway, but haven't had any contact lately, so not sure if he'll be able to do our driveway & crossover next week. If not, no big deal, we'll get it done sometime after. Still haven't really been able to decide on a colour, we'd like to see real-life examples (rather than just pictures) of the driveway before we confirm our colour selection.

And handover? We might have an idea of when we get keys.... but we'll keep you all guessing for now!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Driveways; selecting the right mix/colour

So we think we've picked a concreter to do the driveway and crossover, and he suggested a house in Blackburn we could check out, that was done recently in exposed aggregate.

Not really what we're after with the light base colour- probably want something dark in a charcoal.. like these?

This is called "Moon Dance", whatever that means.

And this one is "Dromana". Both these just random pics found from google images, but if we email them to our concreter, hopefully he can suggest an aggregate with similar mix/finish to these. Of course, these aggregates have a pretty rough surface - not a good playing surface for kids to fall on!

Also got a call from the stair sander guy to confirm he's meeting us on site Friday morning after we inspect the house, to give us a quote on sanding & staining the stairs and to see what stain colours are available. Haven't heard from our SS yet to reconfirm times, but will call him tomorrow to check our appointment is still on!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

More furniture window-shopping

So today we decided to head all the way down to Frankston-Dandenong road, where a whole lot of large furniture shops are located. Every shop had plenty of very ugly furniture - but the point was to find the one or two diamonds in the rough that were worth a second look!

View Larger Map

Now that' we've firmed up a little on what kind of lounge we want for the family room - 5-6 seater with a chaise, it's just a matter of finding a good quality one at the right price. I won't say we're there yet, but getting closer! I don't think we'll put a deposit on one until after handover, as we really need to measure the space available to see what will suit the room. Nothing worse than buying a lounge that would be too big, or too small for the space it's meant to be in!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thinking ahead - what to do in the backyard? Driveway decisions

We're not that interested in gardening, weeding, planting, watering, trimming, cutting, mowing or any other form of outdoors torture, so whatever we do outside the house should ideally be zero maintenance. Wonder if there's anything like "below-zero" maintenance, like a tree that also cleans our windows and washes our cars?

Anyway, we don't have a huge backyard, it'll be about 15m wide and 7m deep with a little slope towards the rear fence. We'll get a big deck from our outdoor room extending past the roofline - still not sure if I'll attempt to build it myself and risk serious loss of limbs from unavoidable powertool-related injury, or pay someone else to risk bodily harm for me. Anyway, apart from the deck, we need to cover up our neighbour's rather hideous garage walls (yep, two of them) that are on our boundary. Most likely use a bamboo screen as in this photo below.

Also really liking the dark bark or whatever it is around those green things (I think they're called plants). Plus the rocks around the scrawny tree - they probably don't need water or trimming, so they're in. As for grass, undecided on "real" or plastic grass - not sure our little Jack Russell will enjoy rolling around in recycled polypropylene!

And for the sides of the house - one side is behind our double garage, the other side has the laundry - thinking of just sticking down some crushed rock or gravel, similar to the above picture.

Also received one quote so far for our driveway & crossover - it's a pretty big driveway at 11m x 5m wide. Exposed aggregate is only $900 more than a coloured concrete (not as much of a premium as we thought it might be) so we'll probably go for a dark grey/charcoal exposed aggregate driveway. Still waiting on one more quote to come in before booking that job in.

Oh yeah - and Tomorrow: When The War Began is on general release today; it's a pretty good screen version of John Marsden's book - go see it!

Margo & Davo from At The Movies seemed to like it too, and you know you're not allowed to disagree with these two legends...



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