103 blog posts and 40,000 page views later…

27 05 2013

Overnight we have reached 40,000 page views!!! Woo hoo!

The blog visits has reflected our journey to date, a bit slow at the start but the last 6 months has seen good progress.

Thanks for dropping by for a visit.  And for those who are building or about to do a build with Metricon, hopefully our journey and advice has been helpful.



Independent Building Inspections

28 01 2013

Construction inspectionBuilding a new house is a big investment and such a significant transaction requires thorough inspections.  This will ensure any defects (by reference to the Building Code of Australia and/or relevant Australian Standards) that exist are identified so they can be rectified early.  It also gives a peace of mind that multiple (knowledgeable) eyes have looked over the house.

Here are the results of a survey we posted in the HomeOne Forum of the stages that people have organised their own independent inspections.


It seems the 3 most common inspections are:

  • Frame
  • Pre-plaster
  • Pre-handover

Friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances of ours who have built homes used inspetions at pre-plaster and pre-handover stages.  We found that the independent inspector in all cases found issues and defects (some were significant) which the builder fixed without any problems.  To highlight the benefits, here are a couple of comments we got directly from people who used independent inspectors:

  • “We got frame stage ,pre-plaster and will also get one at hand over. He found many faults at frame stage some were potentially detrimental to future validity of the home. He paid for himself at the end of the day. Only costing us around $1400 for the “key 3″ inspections.”
  • “We have completed our Frame stage inspection with our independent inspector and he found 8 issues and 6 are major issues according to Australian standards.”

Metricon use their contracted building surveyors to do their indpendent inspections.  In addition to this, we have decided to also engage our own independent inspection to have another set of eyes to go over the work.  We originally were planning to have 2 (pre-plaster and pre-handover) inspections, but given the cost of the inspection compared with the cost of the entire house we decided to go for the 3 most common ones.

Inspection prices varies between $260 – $900 per inspection depending on size of house, whether its single or double story and stage of inspection.  We are not sure if price is a reflection of the quality of the inspection.  If someone has a comment on this, we would like to hear from you.

We had several first hand recommendations and in the end we have engaged New Home Inspections.  We will organise the frame stage inspection soon as its nearing frame completion.

Here is a list of building inspectors in the Melbourne area that we have come across (some of which also have services in other states):

We’ll post our experience with the independent inspections as we go through them.


House Demolition

14 05 2012

Here is some information regarding house demolitions and getting quotes based on our experience.

It may take a few weeks to obtain the best demolition quote to suit your needs and obtain a demolition permit, not to mention time for disconnecting the services etc.  In addition to allowing time for a demolisher to respond to your quote requests (some took 2 weeks), you should also allow some time before the demolisher starts their job as they may have jobs already planned.  But once the demolition starts, it doesn’t take long to complete it (ours took 9 days).

You may wish to ask a few additional questions when obtaining a quote, please find below a list to get you started.  This is not an exhaustive list, but should get you started.

  • What’s included and what’s not in the price?
  • Do they arrange Demolition Permits?
  • Do they remove vegetation?
  • Do they have insurance, what for? (permit approval requires the demolisher to have insurance)
  • Timeframes for starting & completing the works?
  • Items removed other than the house, existing drains, retaining walls, asbestos etc..?
  • Front Meter and upright tap to remain
  • Sewer pipes are to be removed and taken back to Sewer tie
  • Gas to be terminated back to main
  • Power to be terminated at power pole.
  • Phone line to be placed back into Telstra pit.

We found the quotes provided varied in price greatly (+/- 40%), so make sure you get several quotes.

Before demolition can begin, you will need to apply and pay to get the gas and electricity abolished.  Make sure you request to get the services abolished and not just disconnection.  Disconnection just stops services being provided to the property whereas abolishment is the removal of the services entirely – electricity and gas meters are removed and wires are cut to the site.  You may also need to contact Telstra to disconnect the phone line.

If you have asbestos make sure your demolisher provides a asbestos clearance certificate.  Builders will not go on site if there is any asbestos contamination on the block.  Our demolisher from VicWide Demolition (aka Victoria Wide Demolition Services) finished their job but left asbestos residual on our site and we had to get an independent asbestos removalist (at additional cost) to decontaminate the site and provide an asbestos clearance certificate.  Make sure the asbestos clearance certificate is part of your quote – if there is any residual after demolition you should be able to get the demolisher back in to clean it up.

Also it took about 2 months for our demolisher to provide the relevant documentation (demolition permit and inspection certificate).  In the end it took Kristen calling daily for 2 weeks, with each day we were promised to get them the next day only to find we had to call again to follow up.  Your builder will require the demolition permit and inspection certificate when applying for the building permit.

[Update 17 Oct 2012:  Another issue we had with Victoria Wide Demolition Services is that they left a significant amount of building debris behind which required additional work and followup to clean up.  Make sure your demolisher provides a clean site and remove all old building materials as your builder will most likely require this before they perform site works.]

We completed our demolition well in advance to avoid any demolition hold ups preventing the construction starting.

The builder may order 2 site surveys and/or soil tests – once before demolition so they can start on the design and perform a preliminary siting and second after demolition so they can finalise the site costs and house design.  By completing our demolition earlier, the builder was able to finalise the contract earlier.  However, by completing the demolition earlier, it may mean you need to do some additional work to ensure the block is clear of vegetation as over time grass and weeds may grow back.


Metricon responds to recent news about slab heave

28 02 2012

In response to recent news about homes cracking under pressure in the media, Metricon posted the following on their facebook page:

You may have seen recent media coverage about the increase in homes in particular in Melbourne experiencing cracking as a result of structural movement. One of the causes for this has been the extreme change in weather conditions over the last 12 months. Metricon is committed to investigating any concerns fully and to resolve matters as quickly as possible where Metricon workmanship is responsible for the issues. For further information or to notify Metricon of any issues, please refer to the below information.

This was followed by a link to the following latest news article on Metricon’s website.

There have been a number of recent media articles about the increase in homes experiencing cracking in Melbourne as a result of structural movement caused by the extreme change in weather conditions over the last 12 months. This is particularly prevalent in areas with highly reactive soil types such as in Melbourne’s north and west.

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has commented on the issue of ”slab heave” – that is, where there is an upward movement in the concrete slab foundation that can create cracks in the plaster of a home’s internal walls. The association says the problem has been caused by unforeseen movements in the soil after unusually heavy drought-breaking rains.

Metricon advises any of its homeowners who have concerns about their home to contact our Warranty Department. Metricon is committed to investigating any concerns fully and to resolve matters as quickly as possible where Metricon workmanship is responsible for the issues.

The cause of structural movement in homes is always a site specific matter as each home site is different. In many cases, movement may be caused by works not undertaken by the homebuilder such as landscaping and paving as well as works on adjoining home sites.

Metricon notes the importance for homeowners to ensure that the perimeter of their footing systems, landscaping and drainage are adequate and meet the published standards advised by the CSIRO and provided to customers during the building process.

The Foundation Maintenance and Footing Performance: A Homeowner’s Guide report can be found on the CSIRO website at http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/22/pid/3612.htm.

Metricon will assist homeowners with any queries regarding how to protect the footing systems of their home and comply with their obligations.

If you think that your home might be affected or you have questions about your own obligations, please contact Metricon on (03) 9915 5555 and ask for our Warranty Department.


Reference: Recent Media Articles About Slab Heave in Melbourne

Reference: Slab Heave Tips & Tricks

Electrical Appointment

24 02 2012

On Tuesday this week we had our electrical appointment at Studio M with Nathan from the Habitat Group.

A day before the appointment we asked to get a price list of the various selections only to be advised that they had apparently emailed that out 2+ weeks ago.  For some reason it didn’t get to us.  It would have been nice to have received it earlier.  Nevertheless, we did eventually get a copy which we were able to review the night before the appointment.

As part of our preparation for the electrical appointment we set about marking up three copies of A3 printouts of our preliminary contract floor plans.  On each of the three copies respectively we marked up:

  • Light (including downlights) and switch locations (incl. 2-way, 3-way switches).
  • Data points, powerpoints, tv points and external junction boxes.
  • Heating/cooling ducts.

Nathan went through our floorplan with us room by room, starting with the ground floor and captured our requirements using a computer program called Clipspec.  Nathan was great and made the process quite enjoyable.

We were allocated 6 hours for the electrical appointment, but we completed it in under 4.  Our preparation beforehand had really helped and allowed us to be fairly decisive about what we wanted.  Prior to our appointment we had looked at a number of other people’s electrical plans and read a lot of blogs to pick up on other people’s handy hints and ideas. ie. two/three/four way switches, external junction boxes, placement of switches and some slight house plan design challenges that impacted on some of these things too which needed consideration.

Aside from our airconditioning, our lighting was our big ticket item.  In order for our house to meet the 6 star energy rating we can only install either compact fluorescent or LED downlights. The LEDs are more energy efficient and brighter.  The compact fluros are cheaper but take a while to warm up and are not as bright. They can be replaced with halogen bulbs down the track (or after handover) whereas the LEDs need a different transformer.

We are trying to do some research on whether we can get LED bulbs that would work in the compact fluro sockets (any info would be greatly appreciated).  The other big factor is the big price difference between the two – $49 for compact fluros verses $90 for the LEDs but then we have to consider the long term savings as well. These prices are just for the ligths too. The price for adding an additional ceiling light point is $56, so the overall cost to install a downlight is –

  • LED: $146 ($90 + $56)
  • Compact Fluro: $105 ($49 + $56)

so things add up pretty quickly. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

We have added a lot of double powerpoints throughout the house.  We have positioned the points based on how we think we will furnish the rooms as well as ensuring we have points on either side of each room opening (eg doorways) to give us a bit of flexibilty should we change our minds.   We added a single powerpoint to the broom cupboard in the laundry for a dustbuster and another in the ensuit vanity cupboard  so we can hide things away  (eg electric shaver charger) and keep the benches a bit tidier.

One thing we found quite amusing was in relation to the 6 Star energy rating. We are adding four nice feature lights to our facade but were advised that these will have to be connected to a sensor, an extra $105  dollars later thankyou very much. On the bright side (haha) we think that in actal fact this is probably a good thing from a security point of view.

Much of our thinking has also included future proofing the house. For example, we have included two datapoints (for tv and multimedia device) in pretty much every room where we think we might put a tv at some stage in the future.  All the data cabling is going to terminate to the storeroom under the stairs where we (well Chris) plan to install computer gear, ADSL modem, WiFi and network switches.  We also included a powerpoint and a network connection in the roof for a Wireless Access Point (WAP) to boost the signal on the first floor if needed.

Unfortuantely we haven’t got the details and price for our refrigerative cooling yet as this couldn’t be quoted on the day and has to be done at Habitat Groups’ head office.  Hopefully we get it soon so as it is a BIG ticket item and impacts on our overall budget.  Here’s hoping that it comes in under what we have estimated.

The only remaining selection appointment is to pick our tiles at Beaumont Tiles. Phew, almost there.

We’ll post our electrical plans and selections soon.


Having fun (and lightening our wallets) at Studio M

11 02 2012

Today was colour selection appointment at Studio M, yay!!!

We arrived right on 9am to start our selections with our colour consultant, Fran. We went along with many of our selections already made up in our minds such as our bricks, timber floors and kithen and laundry cupboard colours. We had a rough idea of the colours that we thought might work for the exterior render colour scheme but happily took expert advice from Fran who really helped us consolidate what it was we really wanted. She was very patient and helpful with all of her suggestions which enabled us to put together a colour palet that flowed through the rest of our selections.

We felt that we moved through the selection process quite easily because we had done a lot of research prior to our appointment. We couldn’t help but notice another couple who were also there for their colour appointment who hadn’t done any preparation and seemed to really struggle. The lesson, preparation is the key!!! When you think how much money you are investing into your new home, you want it to look amazing so it only makes sense to have a good idea about what you want beforehand. As it was, it took us about three and a half hours to go through all the various stages of the process and that was with us knowing a lot of what we wanted already. Had we gone in cold we wouldn’t have got through everything and been able to feel comfortable with our selections.

In addition to Fran, we also delt with Diana our timber flooring consultant who was fabulous, Lyn who was our window furnishings consultant who came up with a beautiful curtain selection which is something we wouldn’t have thought of ourselve but we think it is going to look amazing and Sam who was our carpet consultant who was very honest and helpful.  Sam mentioned that we had made a wise choice in selecting timber for our stairs as it will wear a lot better than carpet. He also mentioned that with our timber flooring we are selecting a species of timber not a colour. As a result, don’t expect to always get the same colour you see in the show room or sample you have.

We finished around 1pm, after four hours and all in all we feel that we had a very successful visit to Studio M today and are really happy with everything we picked and had heaps of fun in the process.

To view our selection click here or the tab ‘Colour Selections’ in the menu above.


We are missing out on land – our fences are out of whack!

27 01 2012

We have received our title re-establishment survey and it seems the fences are out of whack – they are not on the boundary of the title.  As a result we are missing out on some land. As you can see from the image, the dark black line is the land title boundaries and the dashed red line is where the fence is currently placed (not to scale).

Title re-establishment survey

The back fence is about 21cm at one end and 18cm at the other end short of the boundary.  This may not sound like a lot, but spread over the entire length of the back fence of 16.29m this is about 2.93m2 of land we are missing out on (0.18m x 16.29m = 2.93 m2). This equivalent to a small room and equates to $’000s worth of land!!!!!

No wonder builders do a title re-establishment survey to ensure they build the house on the correct side of the property – you don’t want to build on your neighbour’s property.  This is especially true for the side boundaries where some houses have the garage wall very close to the title boundaries (you are talking centimeters).

The side fences are also out of whack, but only slightly.  The side fences are in bad condition and we will definitely get them replaced and ensure they are put in the right spot. But the back fence is not that old so it’s probably not worth the expense to move it at this stage – we will get it put in the right spot next time we need to replace them.

Sometimes it pays to get a Title Re-establishment survey done to ensure the fence is erected at the correct location.

We have an underground electricity pit

11 01 2012

We didn’t want an overhead power line to our house, so we got an underground electricity pit installed.  Most new houses built in an established area will have an electricity pit included in their contract (if one does not already exist).

We submitted the application for the underground pit on 9 November.  We received the quote to install the pit on 30 November and we paid it the same day.  The pit needs to be installed near a property boundary with the neighbours and we requested the pit to be installed on the side where the meter box would be installed to make connection up to the house easier.  Just prior to Christmas, the power pit location was marked out on the footpath.

Electricity Pit Marking

And yesterday (11 January) we noticed that the underground electricity pit was installed when we visited the site.  When submitting the application for the pit, we were advised that it takes 20 working days from date of payment for the pit to be installed.  In reality it took Jemena, the local electricity distributor, 26 working days to get the pit installed.  Given the slowdown of work during Christmas holiday period, we think they installed it in a reasonable timeframe.  Overall it took 2 months from application to completed installation.

The power poles are on the opposite side on our street and the Jemena field officer who inspected the site determined it required 17 metres of cabling to complete the works.  The cost to install the underground supply, including the service pit and cable was $3392.

We went for 3 phase supply to cater for our future needs.  As technology becomes more interwoven into our lives, our power consumption will increase.  Furthermore, we are looking forward to turning our house into an icebox during the hot summer months so we will be installing a central ducted refrigerative cooling.  A normal 80A single phase supply will provide 19.2 kWe maximum.  So single phase supply could be overloaded when most things are operating (lights, fridge, tv, computer gear, central aircon unit etc) causing the fuse to blow.  This has happened to some friends of ours, especially during the summer months when the air con unit is running.

It is recommended to get the electricity pit installed prior to the builders starting work because 1) it will be cheaper to install 2) will save you money on building site costs as the builder doesn’t need a temporary power pole for the site works.  Here’s a blog post by another Metricon home build, Tim & Tina, about this.

Installed underground power pit


Laminex samples

1 12 2011

Above are some of the Laminex samples we have collected so far.  The Laminex samples you get at Studio M or at most kitchen and bathroom showrooms are quite small (3 depicted at the bottom of the image).  We have found the small samples don’t give a good indication of the colour and patterns compared to what you see at the display homes.

Kristen went to the Laminex showroom in Melbourne (130 Sharps Road, Melbourne Airport) to pick  up some larger samples (8 depicted at the top of the image). The showroom had a larger selection of colours and samples compared with Studio M and the person in the showroom was really helpful and answered lots of questions. Kristen was able to get four of the larger samples which is the maximum number that they are able to give you. They did give us a contact number for the customer service centre (1800 002 204) so that we could phone up to order more. Kristen rang and ordered them yesterday and they arrived today, pretty prompt service hey!!  As you would expect, the showroom also had lots of cupboard and benchtop samples (again a much larger selection than Studio M) so you can get a better idea of what the colours look like on a larger scale.

(PS. Kristen would advise not to drive down the one way street the wrong way when driving into the showroom carpark!!)