Thursday, 31 May 2007

[Progress.005] Water pipe fixed, trees pruned

The pipe connecting to main tap was finally fixed yesterday morning and the hole also been filled up. I contacted Sydney Water to find out the cost for the emergency service, and was surprised to be told it's free. Sounds too good to be true. Will call again tomorrow to re-confirm...

Photo of hole filled up:

Philip from Tall Timber Tree Services was here this morning to prune the 2 big trees. As shown below, they did a pretty good job.



After spending almost $1000 on this pruning work, Philip told us they found some "bracket Fungus" and big mushrooms on the taller, white colour, blue gum tree at the right hand side. They reckon that tree is very sick, and will die and probably collapse in 6 to 12 months time. Don't know what the hell is that, Philips said it's quite common for gum trees to attract those fungus during dry weather, and as they grow inside the trunk, when it's been discovered it's normally too late and almost impossible to remove or kill it.

We are quite shocked and don't want to worry about the huge tree might collapse during the construction. Philip said it would cost at least another $2000 to remove the whole tree, sugar, another unexpected surprise... Will get a few more quotes from others... We also contacted council to confirm these details, quickly lodged a tree removal application, and another long, painful wait for council decision. Hopefully all these will be over before the construction starts...

Photo of Philip's huge machine behind the truck:

[Tips.002] Ask you builder not to fasten/fix the skirting boards if you are installing timber floors latter

Everyone likes to have timber floors in her/his new house. Problem is, project home builders charged a lot for that. So far, we haven't seen many owners installing timber floor with the builder. Most of them just leave the floor as it is, and then install timber/carpet or other floor coverings after hand-over, and that's what we planned to do as well. After a few discussions with some new home owners, we found a common problem - the skirting board.

Project home builders always fasten/nailed the skirting board and have it painted before the hand-over. Unfortunately when the flooring people tried to install the timber floors, the skirting boards need to come off, otherwise the edges under the wall won't be covered properly. And yes, that could easily damage your brand new wall - also don't forget that it's every single wall surrounding the area you are installing timber floors!

Yes, there's another option - to install an extra edging in front of the skirting boards. Well, you then get an extra layer under every surrounding wall. Personally, I don't think that looks good, but it's one possible solution.

We also tried to ask the builder to leave the walls as it is and don't install any skirting board in the whole house. Guess how much credit for that? Less than $350! Yes I am not joking. They charge you arms and legs for any variation, and only give you peanuts if you ask for any credit. That's how these project home builders make money...

Finally, the last option is the recommended one: ask the builder not to fasten/fix the skirting boards. Just use a few nails to "tack" it (tacked skirting). Unfortunately not many builders are willing to do that. Domaine, Clarendon, Bellmarch all said no. Our builder has no problem with that, but even though we have been talking about this since day 1, we made a big mistake - we didn't get it written into the tender!! When we latter discovered this, they want to charge us $400 for that. We fought very hard for it, but as all drawings are done and approved, colour selection also almost done, we can't do much about that.

This is another lesson we learned - try to get everything covered and negotiate the price with the sales at the beginning. When it comes to the colour selection or latter stage, you are already hooked and lost most of your bargain power. The sales are more willing to negotiate as they are trying to get your business.

[Blog Site.005] More organised and user friendly

Made a few changes today during lunch time:
1. Added Google AdSense
2. Added Google Search function - haven't try it yet
3. Updated the title of all posts with a small tag to make it more organised
4. Added "labels" to all posts - you can click on each label and only posts marked with that label will be displayed, I like this idea.

Now, back to work...

[Tips.001] Do you have a hob under your shower screens?

We are currently living in a house not far away from where we are building. It's a duplex and according to Council record, the house was built around 1995.

This house has 2.5 bathrooms. Both bathrooms upstairs have a shower area, but none of them comes with hob under the shower screens. That is, the shower screen was installed directly on top of the flooring tiles. There wasn't any tiled barrier (hob) normally constructed from masonry to divide the shower area.

Since we moved in about 3 years ago, there were some cracks on the wall next to the Main bathroom shower, recently the tile starts to crack as well.

Spoke to some plumbers and tilers, they all said the same thing - shower screens installed directly on top of flooring tiles won't last long and will definitely leak after a few years.

This is one of the reasons we choose our builder, they have tiled hob included in all bathroom shower areas as standard. If you are building a house or renovating, strongly recommend installing a hob for your showers.

Found a few links related to this:
Link #1
Link #2

Photo of Tiled Hob in builder's display home Ground Floor Bathroom

Photo of Tiled Hob in our builder's display home 1st Floor Bathroom

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

[Progress.004] Main Tap

I took a much clearer photo of the Main tap this morning. As shown below, the red dashed line I added shows where the main pipe is located, right below the Main Tap. The smaller pipe on the right is the copper pipe that connects to our water meter.

Photos of the hole from differeng angle:

[Progress.003] Plumber on-site, Sand Stone vs Timber retaining walls

Plumber was on-site this morning to fix the broken pipe, hopefully the water supply will be fixed and also the hole filled up when I get back home tonight.

Geoff, our Landscaper was there as well to assist, he checked the pipe and confirmed it's copper, therefore don't have to worry about bending it and ok to use the existing one. We also make sure that when the plumber install the pipe, there's enough space reserved and when Geoff put in the wall footing, the same pipe-cemented-into-the-footing scenario won't happen again.

Sand Stone vs Timber Retaining Walls
Geoff is a funny guy, he always said that we worried too much. We saw the quality of his sand stone block wall the other day, quite like it, and decided to change our original timber retaining wall to sand stone wall. We expressed our concern whether this change would require further council approval (landscape drawing, retaining wall engineering details all submitted to council and approved). Geoff contacted council and builder, and confirmed the builder is using their private certifier, no council approval is needed, just need to confirm with the certifier and he quickly got it all settled. This was a big relief as timber walls won't look as good as sand stone ones.

We are also surprised to find that although the cost of sand stone wall is higher than timber wall, it's actually cheaper than brick wall and much stronger. I guess as the sand stone blocks are much bigger than brick, it would require less labour to install...

Photos of Geoff's work:

Main Tap
According to the 2 gentlemen from Sydney Water the other day, the Main tap which connects our water meter to the main Sydney Water pipe is currently located quite close to where our future drive way will be built. Should there be any need to service the Main tap, they will need to dig a big hole, similar to what we seen the other day, and would cause damage to our drive way. After some discussion, we decided to ignore it as it's too late change the drive way now, plus the cost and delay involved is unclear, and the chance should be very very low. Even if this should happen, as we are putting pavings on the drive way, any damage should be easily recovered. But if anyone planning to have new drive way on different side of their property like us, should consider this issue.

Builder Post-Demolition Inspection
We are doing some tree pruning tomorrow morning, after that the builder will come for post demolition inspection. They also suggest us to withhold at least $2000 with the demolition payment until they are satisfied with the inspection, which is a good idea. Hopefully everything will be fine...

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

[Blog Site.004] Counter added!

Just addedd a SiteMeter counter at the bottom of the page.
Also joined Google Analytics...
It's quite interesting watching the number changing....

[Progress.002] Demolition work finished yesterday

The demolition finally finished late yesterday afternoon. Everything went quite smoothly except 2 hiccups:

1. The old timber fence was slightly damaged. Due to our neighbour's power cable running across the front of our property (we tried very hard but still wasn't able to convince them to relocate it, even if at our cost... this is another story...), Fred has to bring in a smaller machine to demolish the concrete pathway and brick fence at the front. The smaller machine isn't as powerful as the big one, therefore took a while to remove the 3 tree stumps near the fence. The operator made a small mistake, and part of the old timber fence cracked and fell off. It wasn't a big deal as the fence has to be replaced in the future anyway...

2. When the smaller machine removed the brick fence at the front, the whole water meter and pipe came off as well. As shown in the picture below, whoever built the footing ages ago didn't bother to separate the pipe and cemented it together with the footing.

We were all examining the pipe, and didn't notice something more interesting happening outside. Near where Fred parked his car, water started coming out of the ground.

Sydney Water was contacted, and 2 gentlemen arrived very quickly. They digged a big hole, did something to the main pipe, used a pump to pump out the water, and quickly turned off the "Main tap" and stopped the water.

We now have a big hole in front of the house, waiting for the plumber to fix the connection, hopefully tomorrow morning.

[Our Story.001] Once upon a time....

Should have put this post in the beginning...

We purchased our house through Auction in early 2006. We went to HomeWorld/Kellyville and a few other exhibition homes in that area many times during the first few months and did a lot of research.

The first project home builder we had some commitment was Clarendon. It was a bit rush as we loved the "Hollywood stair" and "Julian Balcony" in their Edgewater design a lot - even though a few friends suggested to have the stairs facing directly to the front entrance is not good fong-shai.... The sales person Margaret was very helpful, and after a few visits, plus a few struggles, we paid $600 for the land survey and initial drawing to be done. Unfortunately things after that didn't go very well...

First, as they used a junior draft person for the drawing, what we first received on the presentation day wasn't quite right. The garage could only fit one and a half car - what a joke!

Next, Sarah, the lady who did the presentation insisted we should have a split in the middle of the house with 2 or 3 steps due to our land has about 1.8M drop (back of the land is higher). That is, after you entered the house, you need to climb up a few steps before you can access kitchen, family room and other parts at the back of the house.

We understood that this would make the application easier for council approval. We refused to accept this due to concern of safety. Latter, one of their engineers consulted council and confirmed as the drop is not that bad, council "verbally" confirmed the split shouldn't be required.

We calmed down a bit, and after some further research, we found that the upgrade charges was a lot higher then others. They even charge something called "council liaison" fee, which we never heard of with other builders. We even joked if that's some kind of bribery to make the application easier/faster for processing...

The drawing was latter revised with the garage fixed and the split removed. But Sarah still insisted to put a line in the tender saying it's on our request to have the house without the split and should council reject the application it would be our responsibility. We totally lost our interest and confidence with the company and stopped all activities.

Margaret tried very hard to get us back, unfortunately Sarah still wouldn't remove that clause in the tender, plus a few other things, and that's the end with Clarendon.

The next builder we approached, was Domaine home...

To be continued....

Sunday, 27 May 2007

[Progress.001] House finally demolished on 26/5

After last Wednesday (23/5) asbestos, windows, door, linens, cupboards,...etc timber stuff removed, we waited for 2 days without any progress with the demolition...

After a few phone calls with Dhilas, Fred finally squeezed our job into his busy schedule. We were a bit surprise to see his big machines delivered outside the house late Friday night. Early Saturday morning 7:30 and it all started... After whole day's hard work, the whole house was gone, well almost, still got some more bricks, rubbish, and most importantly some trees and 20+ tree stumps all over the back yard to be removed.

According to Fred, just need another full day's work on Monday (28/5) to get ride of everything.

I have attached a few photos, to record what it looked like before and after the demolition...
(1) This one was around April/2007, after council approval received.

(2) This one was in Mid May with tree protection fence (I did it myself...) and the temporary fence by Dhilas

(3)This one was after last Wednesday's work, with windows and other timber stuffs removed

(4)This one was this afternoon, just before the last part of the house - the front bedroom in the left hand side of previous windows been demolished...

(5)This one was late in the afternoon, all gone...