Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Check, check again and again and again.

When dollars are tight you can't afford to make any mistakes.  I learnt a valuable lesson today - even when you think something is right get your builder to check it and then check it again.

Just as James clicked the send button to the place the hardwood flooring and decking order I decided to compare the provisional cost indicated in our quotation with the final price received.  As soon as I saw the prices, $4500 vs $5900, I knew something was amiss.  We were getting an exceptionally good price and I had expected it to be way under the provisional cost than over.  In fact some of the other decisions I am making are based on that I am expecting to be under, rather than over budget on the timber used.

As soon as our builder arrived I mentioned this to him.  It was decided that it might be a good idea to re-measure now that the framework is up.  Thank goodness we did as the original measurements, taken off the plan, were incorrect as the laundry and powder room had been included.  They should not have as they will be tiled with nice penny rounds.  It also became apparent that the flooring for the kitchen/living area had not been factored into the original quote as the builder had assumed there would be original flooring that was usable - not too happy about this but need to look on the bright side that it could be a whole lot worse if we weren't getting such a discount.

This certainly gave me a wake-up call.  I've been coasting along assuming that the builder will get it all right.  The fact of the matter is that mistakes do happen and I need to get on top of things to ensure they don't. We've decided to get up early in the morning and do a bit of measuring and checking to make sure that since the frameworks up that all the doors and windows are in the right place!

Guess it pays to be living on site!

Friday, 16 November 2012

As I sit and write this there are three strong, very hot (as in heat not looks) men carrying framework up our narrow side path.   Things have been moving fairly slowly over the last 10 days since the ground work finished but I understand that once the framework goes up its entirely possible that the roof could be going on next Friday

Since the picture below was taken the back part (the old kitchen) has been removed.   Seeing the "footprint" of the space and the deck has been reassuring - we've always been a little concerned that the area wasn't going to be big enough, however we can see now that it will be very functional and the deck is going to be huge - big enough for complete outdoor living - table/chairs and a lounge suite.  I'm very excited about this as I have always loved a lounge outside.  I've been busying googling rattan lounge suites on ebay in a hope to get one and restore it.  The deck area is basically from where you see the gap between the particle board.

Gone are the old cement steps, these will be covered in lovely spotted gum decking, the space under the floor on the right is standing room heigh and we're thinking that this can be used for a tool room and space for messy activities like mosaics - something I love doing but don't always want to have to clean up afterwards.

Unfortunately we have to remove two trees that we were hoping to keep - they were going to be just too close to the roof line.  James says he is never going to remove another tree stump in his life - given that he has been know to walk around wearing t-shirts stating "trees spoil city views" - I'm not quite sure that I believe him!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Bored by board width

The amount of bandwidth I've used looking at board widths is concerning.  Why is it that just when you think you've got a decision locked in something throws a spanner in the works?

I've really got no-one else to blame but myself really considering I've got Queensland's God of Timber in the office next to me at work and I left it until today, the day I was supposed to order the floorboards, to casually mention over a glass of champagne at the Melbourne Cup lunch, that I was planning on using 180mm Spotted Gum floorboards.

What I really wanted my floor to look like.
Well I'm not anymore....

Apparently the wider the board the more likely the floor will "cup".  Cupping in solid hardwood means the boards raise slightly at their edges making the hardwood flooring uneven across its width. The cause of cupping is an imbalance of moisture through the timber.  Given our unstable climate - throwing itself between extreme wet and extreme dry - the potential of this occurring concerns me.

Narrow width solid hardwoods are always more stable and less prone to movement than wider width flooring. I've been advised 80mm boards would be the safest to use but I really want wide boards - the existing pine boards in are 150mm, so I think I will have to choose between 130mm and 150mm. 

I guess erring on the side of caution would be sensible - but who says the girl who goes shoe shopping after four glasses of champagne is sensible?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hot, cold and sparkling!

I've won a couple of scratchies before, and I even won a crocheted rug in a raffle once but nothing comes event close to the competition I won on Friday!

In a fabulous piece of timing and luck I won a Zip HydroTap.  YAY!!!  For those not in the know this is a beautiful piece of equipment that instantly provides boiling, chilled and sparkling filtered water.  

This is not me - I am allergic to dogs and have milk in my tea. I do have brown hair though.
I went to the HIA Home Show a couple of months ago and entered a competition which required me to state why I would like a Zip HydroTap - my response was:

“Because water is life! And we love life!”

Clearly I am going to start loving my life even more when I've got this tap in my shiny, sparkly new kitchen.  Think of all the time I'm going to save not filling up water bottles, boiling the kettle and going to Coles to buy replacement soda stream canisters!  

James was excited with my win but ever-budget conscious his thoughts immediately turned to how much this would add to the power bill.  Having had a look at the product website it appears not too much - you can set it to only heat at certain times which translates the cost to less than $1.90 a week in power.  

Now all I have to do is work out where to place it my fancy new kitchen - which I am getting for an amazing price.   I'll tell you all about it next time...j

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Progress report

Coming home from work each day at the moment is almost like Christmas morning.  There is something that's exciting and has cost a lot waiting for us every single day!!  We returned from holidays   without too much having been demolished, however a couple of days later John the Digger Man arrived.

And he dug.

And he dug.

And he kept digging until he removed four layers of concrete!  This was considerably more than the initial layer of concrete and a layer of bricks that was expected to be there.  There were layers of tiles, more layers of bricks and more layers of tiles.  And then they hit paydirt - rock! (on the other side of the hill we live on is the old Windsor Quarry so rock was expected - thank god we decided against a pool for the rock reason) Twelve truck loads of fill were removed - so that's the first cost variation!

Following all the excavation we had a few days delay as the timber order for the retaining walls and flooring joists was delayed.  However, it was very exciting when it arrived and a big thank you has to go to Bretts Hardware at Windsor for the great prices they are providing.  

Apparently he was a super duper delivery driver because it was a tricky delivery that he got spot on.  We're on a hill and trying to place large, heavy pallets of timber as far as possible up a steep driveway with a swinging crane is no easy task.  I watched this and then thought of the effort Ross and Shane will have to make carrying it all up the back and blessed my cotton socks for my air-conditioned office.

Plenty more has been done but it's taken me about 2 weeks to finish this post - so it's going up now like it or not!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Necessity is the mother of all invention during a live-in reno

I'm not really going to  miss this room.
While living in the middle of a building site for several months sounds like a nightmare to most, to James and I it just makes good sense.  I'd rather be able to afford to have a few more bells and whistles in our fit out than cook cordon bleu for a while!

After a hectic weekend of sorting out, letting the boys watch copious amounts of television and several bouts of takeaway the boxes were all packed and our kitchen was ready to be removed.  I put an ad up on Gumtree a few weeks ago to sell the whole kit and caboodle (cabinetry, stovetop, oven, sink, rangehood) for $350.  Given it was a timber kitchen it really was a steal (10 calls in 12 hours was also a good indication that it was priced well) but I couldn't bear the thought of it going into landfill and we didn't want to have to do any removing ourselves, so the deal was the buyer did all the hard yakka taking it out.  This all happened yesterday without too much drama.  It's fascinating to see the remaining carcass - all this will be demolished.

The main reason that we're able to stay here whilst the renovation takes place is that all the work is happening at the rear of the property and Ross is able to board off the work area leaving us with what is essentially a safe and secure 2 bed apartment.  We've got 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a large living area at our disposal.

The room will be "boarded off" from where the architrave is (and if anyone wants it let me know)

My solution to make our "apartment" work was for the boys to move into the front bedroom (previously used as a study),  turn the main bathroom (which is pretty big) into a kitchen and for us all to use our ensuite for the duration.  I must say I am pretty pleased with the kitchen.  The pictures speak for themselves:
Ta da! Note the toilet is taped up!
I've got microwave, weber bbq, 2 burner gas top, slow cooker and about 20 pre-cooked meals  and lots of baking in the freezer!
My dining table is sitting over the top of the bath - all my appliances (whizz, sandwich press etc) are sitting underneath.
Yes that is a pantry in the shower!
(note the taps weren't removed until after one small boy decided to see if they still worked...they did)
Check out my sink - sourced on Gumtree for $30.  Simply took the bathroom vanity out and voila!
I must admit I don't think the whole kitchen-bathroom deal would work so well without this fabulous find. 
Two breakfasts, two school lunches and two dinners down and no complaints...yet.
The paper towel holder of champions!! 
'What's for dinner?" - the question on everyone's lips at the end of the day!
So I'm feeling pretty relaxed about the whole live-in arrangement at present. Of course that's before it's all started and I might change my tune fairly quickly.  We're off to South West Rocks for the holidays and the demolition should happen whilst we're away.  No point hanging around asbestos removal; it's so expensive - about $1200 a room - just imagine I could be going 5 star rather than camping under the stars if we didn't have to pay for that!!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Signed, sealed and to be delivered!

Finished or just starting? It's an interesting conumdrum.  It's felt like a journey getting to the point of having FINAL APPROVED PLANS!

It's been an busy10 days in our household, aside from hosting the flu from hell and dealing with possible a possible job redundancy (avoided..phew!) we've been focused on a paper trail to get those approved plans in our hot little hands.

Our aim has been for the work to start no later than the end of September and there has been a myriad of hurdles to jump before going hat in hand to the bank for final approval of funds, who then take up to 4 weeks us the nod and provide the builder with a "notice to proceed."

We used Les Kirby at Catalyst Building Approvals , he informed us that before he would provide building approval we needed to

1. Builders Registration Insurance is required before the release of the plans for construction. Would you please have your registered builder lodge his insurance fees with the Queensland Building Services Authority and provide a copy of the confirmation number to our office. For additional information contact Building Services Authority www.bsa.qld.gov.au or 32252800

2. Qleave is applicable to building works in excess of $80000. This levy is payable at an Australia Post Office calculated on the total value of works. Additional information regarding this call 1800 803481 or www.qleave.qld.gov.au

But to get these documents we needed a signed builders contract (which we didn't realise, we thought you could get the approval and then shop around with builders - apparently not) .  So we finally made the decision confirmed with Ross Stone, Prestige Building Group and signed a contract.  

Then it was back to the bank with all of the documentation above, plus plenty more to get the final funds.

This all took place about 10 days ago and life has been chaotic since then.  I'm writing this on the couch in the middle of absolute chaos - packing boxes, a temporary kitchen half set up in the bathroom and a huge day of sorting things out tomorrow before our kitchen is removed on Monday!!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Superwoman has been on a short holiday

It would be so easy to start this entry by disparaging myself for all the reasons I haven't updated this blog for far too long.

Rather than that I'll just show off by saying I've just been busy being super-woman; doing extra freelance work (lets pay for this reno!),  fighting off the flu (nothing will get me down!), volunteering for the school fair (school captain for my boys one day!?!), training for last weekend's City2Surf in Sydney (anyone know a good orthopaedic surgeon!) all while working with Peter to get our final working drawings completed.

I'm pleased to announce (drum roll)- we are DONE and super happy with the results.  We've got ourselves an stylish extension that ticks virtually all of the boxes in our extensive design brief.  Have a look for yourself....

Looking inside from the backyard

The laundry door - windows are into laundry, powder room & pantry

In the kitchen/family room (grey door is into laundry)

My small but functional laundry - right next the kitchen exactly where I wanted it!

Anyone feel like sitting at my breakfast bar with me?  Wine or milk?
The final floor plan!

Electrical plan - can you have too many plugs?

Turn the bloody lights off...ie the lighting plan.  Good thing we've got solar
 So now it's time to get this baby built, let the fun and games begin!

Thursday, 21 June 2012


As a mother I know plenty about guilt; I didn't breastfeed, I let my kids watch TV during the week and to top it off some afternoons when I have managed to force them into the garden I lock the back door so they can't come back inside.

There's plenty more to anguish over but at present this guilt pales in comparison to what I am experiencing in relation to obtaining builders quotes.  My whole life I've have it drummed into me to get three quotes for everything, it just plain common sense!  Consequently I am now the world's best bargain hunter (have you heard the one about the $1050 boots I got for $150?) and never feel comfortable paying full price or buying anything unless I have visited every shop and supplier around town to make sure I'm getting the best deal.

So why in the world do I feel so dreadful getting three different builders to quote on our renovation?

I think the reason is that we know the builder we would prefer to use - a lovely man Ross Stone from Prestige Building Group.  Our building designer introduced us when we first started on the plans and he has been a font of advice already.  He has given us an estimate price which is pretty close to what we budgeted (I will be happy to share this with you once I receive the other estimates).  For some people I know, this would close the deal - they would sign up with Ross pronto.

My builder-guilt stems not only from being unwilling to commit to Ross immediately, its because I feel that I'm wasting the other builders time.  Wasting these poor guys time when business is so tough at the moment.  Wasting their time when they could be at home with their families.  Wasting their time when they could be quoting on a job they have more of a chance of winning. Wasting their time when they could be at the pub having a beer after a long days work.

Because we really do want to use Ross.  Of course this may not end up being the case - one of the other builders quotes could be tens and ten of thousands of dollars cheaper.  But emotionally I feel that I would then be questioning why they are so cheap anyway.   Am I just going through the motions of getting the quotes to appease another type of guilt - the guilt of not doing the right thing?  Or is a case of first with the head, then with the heart?

I've been trying to appease the builder-guilt with the knowledge that builders factor quoting time into each job and if they don't win the job they just add it onto the next job they do win (or so I have been told). But then I just start feeling guilty about the poor sod who might end up paying for my actions down the track.

There's are real guilt-a-thon going on round here!

How many quotes did you get if you have done a renovation?  Did you choose for cost or like-ability?  Any regrets?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Measure twice, cut once.

My grandfather, Bill Seward, always told me to measure twice and cut once.  I have discovered when you apply this principle to developing plans it's more like measure fifty times, pace things things out at least thirty-two times, draw it on the ground with chalk and try to envisage what furniture would fit where twenty times and then have about seventeen anxiety attacks that perhaps the economy is stuffed and you shouldn't be renovating at all.

So that's what James and I have been doing recently and is the reason you may have noticed my blog has been quite of late.  However, we think with a few tweaks the latest iteration of our plans will give us what we need. Plus the economy needs building industry needs stimulating so we might as well be the trendsetters.

You may recall in my last instalment I had to tell our building designer that whilst his plans were great they weren't going to work for us. About a fortnight ago we received new plans, straight away we were much happier - the whole thing seemed to provide us with the space and the requirements we wanted and was along the lines of what we always thought would happen to this house - basically a box on the back.

Click on the picture to see the plans clearly.
Peter Latemore said to have a good think about it all and get back to him.  You might be interested to know the approach James and I took to considering the layout and functionality of each room. It may seem over the top but remember I am anal and James is a business analyst...you put these things together and you get this...a spreadsheet which lists each room and the things we needed to think about for each room eg light, security, storage, entry/exit, heating/cooling etc.  You can see the spreadsheet here and the list of things that that we came up with here.

Once we felt that we had measured, paced, discussed and debated enough we made a time to meet with Peter and ran through what we thought needed to change.  The main things are that the pantry will swap places with the laundry, the drying area will move to the side of the house and the screen that divides the deck into two areas will be removed.  One of the windows in the kitchen will be removed to make space for a hutch for the kettle etc.  There are few other things - I guess we will get another plan soon that I can show you.

So now we are approaching the stage of the working drawings being produced and council approval.  We also need to start confirming the cost  - that will be the topic of my next post and I guess what has been worrying us most of all - BUDGET!!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The best laid plans...

Does anyone else get scared of tape measures?  Functional tools but when they retract the zooming sharp sides freak me out, I'm terrified I'll end up with a massive cut, like a paper cut but bigger.  This week I've confronted my fear as I've obsessively been measuring lengths, widths and trying to envisage room sizes because (drum roll please)...we received our plans. 

Here is the existing floorplan:

 and here is what was proposed:

Proposed floor plan

I received the plans at 9am on Monday morning with a busy day ahead  of me - excitement combined with excruciating pain, all I wanted to do was rush home and feast my eyes. 

What an overwhelming experience it was when I finally had the chance to look at them closely.  As a novice I quickly realised reading a plan isn't as easy as reading a book - understanding perspectives, measurements, elevations, roof lines - these things take time. From my experience this week, getting a feel for a plan isn't something that should be rushed.

Something that was immediately obvious, even to my untrained eye, was despite the plan ticking nearly every box on our very detailed brief it didn't solve a fundamental problem with the way we live.

It seemed that our current issue of the kitchen area being too small for two growing boys would remain somewhat. What we had wanted was a big family dining table (not just breakfast bar) adjacent to the kitchen plus a small lounge area.

James and I spent about 4 hours trying to work out different ways our need could be met with the proposed plan.   Changing the family room to a meals zone seemed like a very big space just for a table (it's not big enough for dining plus lounge) and the space adjacent to the breakfast bar called "reading" just seemed too small, I felt it would be redundant.

I went to bed feeling dreadful, in my odd way I was feeling as though not getting the plans right first go was all my fault. Was my brief too brief after all?  Were we unclear about what we really wanted?  Were we overwhelmed by Peter's enthusiasm for his initial concept of adding an extra bedroom, forgetting about what we really wanted?

I woke the next day determined to resolve this and called Peter as soon as I could.  I felt very nervous making the call, it was like ringing to tell someone you think their baby is ugly.  He reassured me not to worry, that this was a normal part of the design process and that we could resolve it.  We told him our ideas and with his suggestions we came up with this (the pink lines are what the new plans will be - hard to see I know, hoping for another plan soon!) :

We've spent the weekend with the tape measure (panic!), pacing out rooms and trying to envisage the various spaces.  It's interesting to observe the different approaches different people take to visualising spaces; some can do it on paper, some need to stand in certain directions, others need to measure out a space in a completely different place to see how large a particular size is.  Whatever works!  James and I have drawn chalk lines on the ground and in an OMG moment I didn't freak out when I saw he had drawn on the kitchen wall in permanent marker - it's all going soon enough anyway!!
The roof line - we have decided to "settle" for a hip roof over the fancy skillion option Peter provided - by doing so we will save enough to put in a powder room.

The deck - anyone ready for a BBQ?
So it's been a big week, an exciting week.  What have I learned?

When you are on a tight budget you can't get everything you want  (farewell kitchen desk nook) - it's about getting what you need (apparently I need a butlers pantry! - I didn't expect to get one! have you got one?  Do you like it?)

What do you think of our plans?  (if you can't see them leave a comment below and I will try to upload in a different manner)

PS - a BIG congratulations goes to our lovely designer Peter Latemore, not only was it his birthday his week but he won the "Designing the Dream" Award at the Building Designers of Queensland Brisbane  North Awards.  If only we had the budget that would have been spent on that house....

Monday, 16 April 2012

Brief briefs? Not for me.

It has been suggested that I am slightly anal.

This outlandish claim was made after I wrote a list for a new cleaner describing how each room and item of furniture should be cleaned.  Apparently cross-tabulating the list with appropriate cleaning products to use was where I crossed the line... 

To me this list just made good sense. Ensuring a job is done right the first time is easier than correcting mistakes down the track.

Consequently it will be no surprise to you that I took the job of briefing our designer, outlining what we wanted to achieve in our renovation, extremely seriously.   Having never written this type of brief before I wasn't sure what to include, so turning to my friend Google I asked "how to brief an architect" and "architect brief template". This research delivered lots of ideas and questions to consider when putting the brief together.

I also spent many pleasurable hours looking at house porn; Australian House & Garden, Inside Out, Home Beautiful and the hottest of all Architectural Digest.  I salivated over the dreamlike images, ripping and tearing out pages, slapping glue on the pretty pictures to create a scrapbook of visuals to stimulate our thinking.

The end product?  I produced the brief (which is pretty long) using the following headings, you can read the full document by clicking here.
  • Who are we, what are we like & what do we like?
  • What is our house like now and what do we like about it?
  • What don’t we like?
  • What we would like done: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 
  • What are our priorities, must haves, would be nice to have...
  • In a perfect world the house would have...
  • What are our must haves...
  • Would be nice to haves...
  • What what we envisage each room to include where possible: Kitchen / Family room, Laundry, Outdoor area, Main Bedroom, Garage
We sent the brief to our building designer, Peter Latemore, before he came over to view the house and then come up with an initial concept.  He said he hadn't received such a detailed brief before. Had I crossed that line again?  Apparently not! He said the brief helped him understand our goals before he even crossed our threshold.  It would also avoid him having to drag information out of us and providing a greater insight into what our goals are.  In fact he had never received such a detailed brief before and was extremely pleased to receive it. It would help him get the design right upfront.

See mum, nothing wrong with being so anal after all!!  And who wants brief briefs after all - they just aren't a good fit.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Reno remorse?

Suddenly, struggling to open and shut the door isn't filling me with dread...why is this so?
I've bought plenty of "they might fit one day" dresses and felt remorse.  Years ago I met a few shady characters in nightclubs that evoked similar feelings the following day.  But I've never experienced quite the type of nervousness I'm currently feeling.

For the past 12 months there have been things about this house that have been driving me spare. But suddenly the horrific non-sliding, sliding back door doesn't seem as bad as normal, the 2m x 1.5m kitchen space that four people all want to cook, stack the dishwasher, cry, do homework and wash their hands in at the same time doesn't feel as crowded and the leaking, mouldy shower doesn't feel so dirty as it did six weeks ago.  In fact, I've started to wonder - do we really need to renovate at all?  Is there really any point taking on more debt?

Rationally I'm attributing these unsettling thoughts to the fact that I'm pretty relaxed right now.  It's school holidays, I'm not rushing here and there, wanting my house to work for me - make my life smooth and clean around the edges.  It's lovely at home with my two beautiful brown eyed, brown haired boys. The sun is shining and memories of how happy we've been in this house are flooding around me daily.

Do you think I'm experiencing "pre-reno remorse"?

DISCLAIMER !!! Please note I work part-time as Communications Manager for Timber Queensland.  TQ represents everyone from the growers of timber to end users eg architects and growers.  I'm fortunate that I will have access to people that might help answer some of my questions during the renovation.  However, it's important to note that this blog is my personal opinion piece and does not represent the opinions of Timber Queensland.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Show us the money!!

Renovating is the second most expensive thing that James and I have done in our lives*.

To find fast cash we raided the boys piggy banks, but all those five and ten cent coins didn't amount to much.  However, a quick call to our trusty mortgage broker Ian Morgans paid off. Ian organised our loan when we bought the house so understands our situation well.

He said that between us we could borrow another $550,000. Gee thanks Ian, nice offer but how do we feed the kids and manage the repayments on that amount?

Being sensible folk who don't require gold encrusted tapware we declined his kind offer and suggested around $250 000 would be a more appropriate figure. We're not planning on spending that amount but need to have an extra 10-20% available "just in case". Ian outlined the packages various banks are offering at present but pointed out to us:

"We can use any Bank, but after the latest shake-up in interest rates, unless you are unhappy with ANZ, it probably does not pay to switch lenders. The ANZ rate is 6.46%. Suncorp and NAB are the only others that are fractionally less. However, it is not worth the cost and effort of switching, unless you expect considerably better service from either of them."

We've been happy with the ANZ, and to be honest the thought of more paperwork is offputting so we decided to stick with what we know and obtain a line of credit via the ANZ BreakFree Package. Ian said:

"A line of credit is just like a credit card with a huge limit. You only have to pay interest monthly, which is calculated on your daily balance, and you don’t have to pay off the debt. If you have paid off the debt to zero, then you will not have to make any payments and you will always have access to the full loan limit (even if you are not working or unable to borrow money)."

The first step in obtaining this line of credit was to have the house valued. This is paid for by the ANZ as part of the BreakFree package. A nice man called George from Herron Todd White valuers spent about 15 minutes walking around the property measuring and taking notes. I smiled at him very nicely, ensured the children had clean faces and pointed out the nice city views in an attempt to butter him up. He declined my offer of a cup of tea but said he would write a report and send it to Ian Morgans.

The end result is best described in Ian's words:

"As mentioned, the valuations are extremely conservative because there are currently several valuers being sued in Brisbane by banks that have repossessed properties and sold them below the certified valuation figure. So the very conservative valuation for Whish St has come back at $700,000. "

This figure was good news to me - having a good handle on the market we had expected less, so I guess George liked us well enough! However, this valuation meant to avoid paying mortgage insurance the maximum line of credit available is $217 000. This is probably a good thing as will enforce us to stick to budget. And as Ian pointed out:

"Under the ANZ Breakfree Package, it is free to re-apply or change your loan once per year. So, should you require further funds later, it is a simple process to get another valuation done that takes into account the renovations completed, to achieve a much higher valuation figure. We can do this either once renovations are completed or before then, by applying for a construction loan and providing final quotes and builders plans."

Ian said that it should take about 10 days to get unconditional approval, loan documents and settlement of funds. Awesome! So easy! Let's start shopping.............OR NOT. WHAT?

So here's where we've faced the first bump in our reno roadmap. Out of the blue we heard from Ian that the bank changed their mind about providing us with the full amount as a line of credit. They only want to give $11,000 until we have:
  • a fully signed fixed price builders contract
  • council approved plans
  • building specifications
  • builders insurance
  • final amount of new funds required
This poses a problem because to get council approved plans and a contract with a builder we need to spend $20,000. Hmm how to pull a rabbit out of a hat?

On hearing this news I quickly contacted Peter Latemore because it meant we would need to jiggle money around for a few months and could change the time we would be able to pay certain bills. He said:

"This sort of thing has begun happening much more. It annoys me too because it essentially says you, their client, cannot be trusted. It is quite short sighted of banks to insist on approved plans, because that is the very last thing that happens. I could go on but they have become rather unknowledgeable about how the industry operates. Every project ends up with a Catch 22 instigated by the bank – they will not ‘approve’ payments or sometimes the loan itself, until you have obtained all the documentation necessary to build. To get to that point, as you well know now, requires some expenditure, roughly 10-15%. So banks have by default insisted that owners self-fund all the preliminaries. Developers are caught by this too. It is nuts. Banks are stifling things."

In the end we discovered that our BreakFree package came with an extra credit card with a $6000 limit, so we can put the extra funds on this and repay when we get the full loan approved. I wonder if this is a money making ploy by the ANZ, the interest rate on the credit card is way more than that on the line of credit.

Whatever the case it's now all sorted and we can start paying surveyors, engineers and others to get this show on the road.

*The first most expensive thing was actually buying the house. James grandfather said to us "One day this will seem like the cheapest thing you have ever done." Given the increase in property values over the last 7 years he is right, not sure what the future will bring though....

DISCLAIMER !!! Please note I work part-time as Communications Manager for Timber Queensland.  TQ represents everyone from the growers of timber to end users eg architects and growers.  I'm fortunate that I will have access to people that might help answer some of my questions during the renovation.  However, it's important to note that this blog is my personal opinion piece and does not represent the opinions of Timber Queensland.

Monday, 5 March 2012

How big is yours?

Do you know how big yours is?

According to our building designers, Latemore Design, today ours was big and wet.

Getting the house measured is a big box ticked - the first step in the design process. Like anything in life it's hard to make a plan until you know really what you are working with.  Today was Peter Latemore and his team's chance to understand just how big the sow's ear is.  Now they just have to turn it into a silk purse!

Peter & Andrew measure the dining room that will become a bedroom
I asked Peter if he could explain to me what happens at a "measure" because I let them in but then had to race off in the rain to work.  This is what he had to say...
"My boutique building design firm, Latemore Design, turned up today to measure Clarissa and James' house.  Three of us, plus a deluge of rain.  Luckily, because we always engage a surveyor to do a detail & contour survey, we did not have to measure the ‘yard’.  So we only got quite damp, not drenched.  We find it is better to measure regardless of the weather, otherwise things can bank up. 

Poor Andrew was the sketcher, and the 100% humidity meant he had to use several sheets, as each would nearly disintegrate from the dampness.  

We did it in just under 3 hours, as planned, so we did ok.  We use a laser measuring device, plus traditional tape, because the laser cannot deal with those smaller spaces or things like windows and doors.  We took hundreds of photos, as they help so much.  Julie wandered the yard with camera in one hand and an umbrella in the other – what a trooper!

We need to measure a building quite thoroughly, well I think so anyway.  Because everything depends upon that accuracy.  We produce an existing model of the house in the computer, and with a Queenslander this can include things like bearers and joists, the belt rails, door posts, vj walls.  We use that model to then ‘demolish’ and add ‘new’ things.  

It can be quite strange to measure someone’s house.  We have to open a cupboard or two, enter all parts of the building, so we are almost invading someone’s privacy.  We are always quite mindful of this and are very careful what we do with those photos.  I feel it is a privilege to be someone’s building designer, as you get to be involved in a major aspect their lives – their home or haven as I sometimes call it.  I love being able to influence a family’s well-being by designing a great house or wonderful extension and renovation."

Thanks for the insight Peter - I hope piles of unwashed laundry didn't fall out of the cupboards...everything at my house looks neat on the outside but it's all terribly messy when you open things up - perhaps this sums up my personality!  I am sure we will get to know each other very well during this process.

What kind of relationship do you have, or have you had, with builders/designers or anyone that does work in your home?  Got any advice?

DISCLAIMER !!! Please note I work part-time as Communications Manager for Timber Queensland.  TQ represents everyone from the growers of timber to end users eg architects and growers.  I'm fortunate that I will have access to people that might help answer some of my questions during the renovation.  However, it's important to note that this blog is my personal opinion piece and does not represent the opinions of Timber Queensland.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Who, what, where & why?

Welcome to my "We could, We should, We wood renovate" blog.

I'm Clarissa and together with my husband James and our two small brown haired, brown eyed boys William & Robert we live in a nearly 100 year old Queenslander style home in inner city Brisbane.

We've lived here since I was six months pregnant with William, who is now 7, and it's been a perfect house for a growing family - single level, nice flat backyard and easy access to my second home, the dirty old laundry.

But now three boys in a tiny kitchen all wanting me to do something different at the same time has become more than I can handle.  It's time to stop the talking and transform this house into something that will suit us for the next stage of life - bigger kitchen, a new ensuite, two new bedrooms and this time an indoor laundry!

The intention of this blog is to chronicle the experience of using external contractors to design and complete our renovation.

We are not planning to do any renovation work ourselves (although I might have to pick up a paintbrush towards the end if our money runs out!).  I have read many blogs documenting some incredible home handyman skills.  These are interesting; but they don't answer so many of the questions I have (and even questions I don't realise I should be asking) regarding renovating and the process of engaging building professionals.

For example:
  • How do you go around getting a draftsman / designer?
  • What should you find out about a builder before you engage them?
  • What are the "real" & "extra" costs?  eg I didn't realise that builders quotes don't include things like carpets etc which impact budget planning
  • Will living in my house whilst renovating impact budgets/timelines?
So join us on our journey.  Feel free to offer your opinions and give advice!  

Why not start out by telling me the best piece of renovation advice you have given, received or heard?

I should also mention that in my work I do have some links to the building industry.  I work part-time as Communications Manager for Timber Queensland.  TQ represents everyone from the growers of timber to end users eg architects and growers.  I'm fortunate that I will have access to people that might help answer some of my questions during the renovation.  However, it's important to note that this blog is my personal opinion piece and does not represent that of Timber Queensland.

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

It seems to me there are some parallels to starting a blog with making the decision to renovate:

BLOG: I'm not sure I can commit to regular writing
RENO: How will we fit this into our busy lives of work, school, activities and social commitments?

BLOG: How will I ever come up with enough interesting ideas & topics to write about?
RENO: Where will I find inspiration to ensure the renovation is creative, affordable & functional?

BLOG: The technical side of setting up a blog seems a bit tricky, maybe it's just all too hard...
RENO: Dealing with designers, builders and other tradies is stressful.  Maybe we should sell instead?

See what I mean?

It's hard to remember how many Saturday nights over the past seven years my husband James and I have spent walking around the backyard, glass (and tape measure) in hand, determining where the kitchen should go and what would be the best aspect for a new washing line.  However, in the harsh, bright light of Sunday morning it would would all seen too hard and the sketch pad would be put away.

Likewise several false starts have been made in getting this blog up and running.  Uncertainty about what to write and who will read make the power off button easy to press.

But sometimes making a decision is harder that doing the deed.  So now the first entry is now written, and this week there have been deposits paid.

There's no going back now....

Do you find it hard to make decisions?  How long did you live in your house before you renovated?