Tuesday, 30 October 2007

[Progress.064] More than 50% of brick work for 1st floor finished

Spoke with the brick layer this morning, they are quite confident that all brick work will be finished early next week the latest.

The annoying rain finally stopped and for the past 2 days they have been working on the 1st floor area that is at the back of the house. I think they already finished more than 50% of the brick work for 1st floor. I have posted a few photos below.

This one is behind the main bedroom.

This one is the bedroom above the kitchen.

3 of the 4 posts for alfresco already done. I still don't understand why they didn't start on the 4th one (to replace the timber one). Is it because of the joined steel beam??

Friday, 26 October 2007

[Progress.063] Letter full of jargons

I mentioned about the shocking extra charge our builder asked the other day, we received a letter full of jargons, basically saying how more than 50% of the $89xx we paid were already spent and the quote was for the other half and shows some figures explaining why we need to pay extra $890... We will be meeting the supervisor sometime next week, will wait and see how he is going to explain it. But looks like we don't have any knowledge to fight against all those jargons they used. See how it goes...

[WeeklySummary.012] Week 12 (18/10/2007) - (24/10/2007)

Brick work continued, brick work above garage door finished, alfresco brick post started, brick work for 1st floor also started.

Unplanned expenses:
Builder tried to ask for extra $800-900 for sewer connection, still fighting for it...

1. Steel beams in Alfresco been joined instead of one full piece, painted with orange paint. Not sure if this is structurely sound and safe
2. Found a hole on the floor board of bedroom above garage
3. 2 "Noggings" in frames of bedroom above garage damaged
4. Sewage pipe (in front of property) broken
5. 1st floor main bathroom windows was installed with clear glass windows instead of obscured/glazed ones
6. Right hand side supporting steel beam in garage not bolted to groung ==>Issue resolved!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

[PropertyInfo.018] No goodwill left for private certifications

There was this article from page 5 of Sydney Morning Herald yesterday (24/10/2007) titled "No goodwill left for private certifications". I tried to search for it from their web site but couldn't find it, so I scanned and attached as below:

"The 74 councils represented at the conference, which cover a majority of NSW residents, voted unanimously to lobby the State Government of significant changes to the system."

"A Baulkham Hills Shire councillor, Ray Harty, said in his area a private certifier had allowed a developer to remove a parking lot, while Bankstown councillor said he had seen a private certifier allow a developer to build an extra three units without council approval."

They are only talking about the much bigger developments, smaller ones like our construction could have the same issue as well. Looks that we are not the only ones not happy with the private certification system!

Imagine you are the private certifier, if you found some problems, would you offend the builder who gives you lots of jobs every year and inform the property owner & council, who might not even have the skills/knowledge/resource to check all the details? I would say most of you would just ask the builder to fix it and won't put it in the record. Problems not been tracked properly tend to be missed or forgotten or not fixed properly. In the end, it's the owner/council that suffers...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

[Progress.062] Bricks for garage door finished, works on alfresco posts started

Started from yesterday, we have 4 brick layers instead of 2 and the progress is indeed much faster. As shown in photo below, they already finished the brick work for garage door today. If you have a closer look at the areas under all the windows on first floor, you will see that they actually done some brick works on that as well.

This is a closer look at the garage door, hopefully with the darker bricks been used above garage door, this will make it looks better and sort of stand out a bit.

When I checked the back of the house, I was surprised to see brick works for 3 of the 4 alfresco posts already started.

Tried to fit the back of the whole house in this photo, again you can see most of the area under the first floor windows also covered with brick.

Got a new question this time, I noticed the ground floor powder room (bathroom) got some extra black paint applied. Don't know what's that for and can't understand why was it applied like that. I was thinking of water proofing, but why wasn't it applied to the shower drain (in the right hand side corner, not shown in the photo) and why the triangle drawing?

Sunday, 21 October 2007

[Progress.061] Brick work for ground floor all done, lots of plumbing work done

We finally finished all the ground floor brick work. As shown in right hand side of photo below, the shelves for scaffoldings all been moved upwards, preparing for 1st floor brick work.

This is the finished front porch, I don't understand why there's a hole on the post at left hand side (10th row counting from the top), other than that I am quite happy with the quality.

This one viewed from the back, scaffolding shelves also moved upwards. The wall for meals room, study and powder room all done. You can also see the big white ugly sewer pipe coming down from 1st floor, this is for the main bath room. May be we should try to paint that into red so that it won't be so obvious...

I mentioned about the plumber on site the other day, we now have lots of pipes in the ground floor ceiling. We can see all the bathrooms been connected. Have a look at the photo below and see how good you are in identifying the purpose of each pipe. First of all, the big white drain pipes are quite obvious. Counting from the left, the 2 black ones are for hot/cold water, green one is for rain water, the brown copper one at the far right is the gas pipe...

I only heard about "wonder bra", didn't know there's also this thing called "wonder cap". There're a few of these in every bathroom...

There's also this pipe going straight up through the roof.

This photo was taken on Friday night. We have a few concrete steps at the front of the house, I though we won't need them until almost final handover stage. Can't understand why did they deliver it so early, probably because no one would be interested in stealing these ugly, heavy concrete thing??

Finally have some thing exciting for this week, they fixed the steel supporting beam in the garage! As shown in the photo, finally been bolted to the ground. One more thing to tick-off from the issue list...

Another achievement we have is, after so many phone calls, emails and fax complaints, our demolisher finally removed their smelly portable loo.... what a relief from the smell...

[WeeklySummary.011] Week 11 (11/10/2007) - (17/10/2007)

Scaffolding for whole house finished
Brick work continued, external garage walls finished and back bay windows fully covered with bricks

Unplanned expenses:
Builder tried to ask for extra $800-900 for sewer connection, still fighting for it...

1. Steel beams in Alfresco been joined instead of one full piece, painted with orange paint. Not sure if this is structurely sound and safe
2. Found a hole on the floor board of bedroom above garage
3. 2 "Noggings" in frames of bedroom above garage damaged
4. Sewage pipe (in front of property) broken
5. 1st floor main bathroom windows was installed with clear glass windows instead of obscured/glazed ones
6. Right hand side supporting steel beam in garage not bolted to groun

Thursday, 18 October 2007

[Progress.060] Front porch almost finished, plumber on site

I took this photo this morning from my mobile. One of the brick layers was working on the front porch while the other one is busy cutting bricks. Looking good!

We also saw the plumber for the first time, he was busy connecting pipes and drilling holes for bathrooms drains up-stair. Wonder what would it look like with all the drainage pipes connected.

[PropertyInfo.017] Are you suffering "Mortgage Stress"? There are super rules that can save your mortgage!

There's this article from investsmart.com.au titled "Super rules that will save your mortage" (yes, the word "mortgage" has a missing "g") which talks about some super funds have special rules which allow members to access super benefits under "severe financial hardship" provisions. I hope we won't ever need to use that!

I am actually more interested in the first half of the article which talks about "mortgage stress" and "rent stress", some info from the article:

"More than half a million Australian households (547,000) were suffering mortgage stress, and another half a million were suffering rental stress, when the census survey was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006. Mortgage or rental stress is defined as spending more than 30% of your gross income to cover home loan payments, or rental payments."

"The situation has worsened in the year since the census was taken, with a third of households with mortgages (624,000) now being in mortgage stress, according to the Housing Industry Association (see table below). The research, conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), also found that the city under greatest stress was Sydney, with 41% of home-owners under mortgage stress."

"The most disturbing sign of things to come is the spectacular increase in the number of mortgage insurance claims due to homeowners defaulting on their mortgage repayments. Since 2005, mortgage insurance claims have increased from $49 million a year to $210 million - a 329% rise, according to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. The $210 million is a drop in the ocean in a $14 billion-plus mortgage market, but such a dramatic increase in claims indicates that mortgage stress is taking its toll."

I guess we all need to be more cautious with our spending and try not to build/purchase a house we could not afford. Plus need to have some insurance or spare $$ in case something unpredictable happened...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

[Progress.059] Shocking

My builder called this afternoon, sent us a quote they received and want to ask for extra $800-$900 for connecting the sewer line.

The quote is as shown below, with our address masked out for privacy reason.

The content is as below:
"Quotation to extend 100mm sewer line 5 meters beyond property boundary. Disconnect existing sewer line fr(om) Sydney Water Sewer Main located adjacent to kerb to allow for connection of new service."

"Pay Council Road Opening Permi(t)."

"Pay Sydney Water Inspection Fees."


"Removal of overburden from site"

The right hand side of the quote was cut-off and you can't see the exact figure. But luckily from the lower left hand side you see the notes: "4180 x 1.25 = 5225.00".

Our guess for that is, the quote is "$4180" (can roughly see first 2 letter "41" from the image), plus 25% profit margin (as they normally do), and they will charge us $5225.

Wonder how you feel about that. Well, I won't complaint if they charged us about $4,500 and then asked for extra $700-800. Problem is we already paid $8,980.00 in the contract for "water sewer and stormwater pipes connection" in the contract!

[PropertyInfo.016] Woes of US housing market are dragging on longer than expected

There's this article from news.com.au today titled Million US home foreclosures forecast". Some of the stuffs it mentioned are quite scary:

"The woes of the US housing market are dragging on longer than expected, and may lead to over one million foreclosure notices this year for homeowners, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said overnight."

"the problems in housing represent "the most significant current risk" to the US economy."

"Current trends suggest there will be just over one million foreclosure starts this year, of which 620,000 are subprime"

[Progress.058] Bricks for back bay windows done

When I was on-site this morning, the brick layers were working on the front porch. Hopefully we can see it finished when I get back home tonight. If they can finish the front porch today, the only area left for ground floor will be the upper part of study room & meals room.

Yesterday they finished the bay windows at the back and I took some photos. But there seems to be some problem with blogger.com site and I can't upload any photos. Will try again tonight.

All 3 photos finally uploaded...

You can clearly see the newly laid bricks on the upper half as the mortar colour is darker. This is the bay window at the back.

This is the sliding door (right next to bay window) to enter the alfresco.

This is the kitchen wall (right next to the sliding door).

Sunday, 14 October 2007

[Progress.057] Joined steel beam got new skin

I took some photos yesterday, as shown below the 2 pallets of bricks at the front were gone, some new ones were delivered, probably on Friday.

A closer look at the garage shows they have finished the garage wall, with the windows also installed.

From the side shows the scaffoldings also have some green coloured nets installed to protect neighbour's house.

What I don't understand is, why did they spray orange paint on the joined steel beam. Is this to make it look like the other part??!! What's the point??!!

This one from other side...

Friday, 12 October 2007

[WeeklySummary.010] Week 10 (04/10/2007) - (10/10/2007)

Brick work continued, front bay windows and kitchen fully covered with bricks, rest of ground floor walls all done up to about 1.5M high.

Unplanned expenses:

1. Found a hole on the floor board of bedroom above garage --> discussed with supervisor, will be fixed later. Can't replace the board as that requires removing the whole board, which might damage other areas. Will have extra supporting beams installed under it.

2. 2 "Noggings" in frames of bedroom above garage damaged - Noggings removed, front of frames covered by board --> discussed with supervisor, will be fixed when internal walls are up.

3. Sewage pipe (in front of property) broken --> discussed with supervisor, no point fixing it now as there will still be many truck deliveries for at least a few more months. It will be fixed later.

4. 1st floor main bathroom windows was installed with clear glass windows instead of obscured/glazed ones. --> discussed with supervisor, will be fixed after brick work done.

5. Right hand side supporting steel beam in garage not bolted to ground --> discussed with supervisor, he said he is waiting for the concrete guy to come back to cut off some concrete next to that steel beam, about 20mm. Once that's done it will be bolted correctly.

6. One of the bricks near water tank in different colour --> discussed with brick layer, decided to leave it as it is, issue closed.

[WeeklySummary.009] Week 9 (27/09/2007) - (03/10/2007)

Brick work started

Unplanned expenses:

1. Found a hole on the floor board of bedroom above garage
2. 2 "Noggings" in frames of bedroom above garage damaged - Noggings removed, front of frames covered by board
3. Sewage pipe (in front of property) broken
4. 1st floor main bathroom windows was installed with clear glass windows instead of obscured/glazed ones.

[Progress.056] Scaffoldings for whole house all done

The first set of photos were taken on Wednesday (10/10). In the morning, I saw them start removing the boards in front of the front bay windows. Compared to the previous post, it's much clearer during the day light.

When I returned later that night, they also finished the upper half of the walls surrounding the kitchen at the back. The newly done bricks on the top have a slightly darker mortar colour.

This one shows the back of the kitchen wall. And I noticed they cleaned up the site, there used to be bricks everywhere around the house. That night, all those broken bricks and small pieces were gone, and the ones in good shape were nicely stacked up at the back.

On Thursday (11/10), the brick layers didn't turn up, we met the supervisor at the other Eastwood site and he told us we will have the scaffoldings completed. That night, we had the first shower since the brick work started in late September and I wasn't able to check the site.

This morning (12/10), this is what we have, as shown below all scaffoldings for the whole house done, yeah! And it's quite amaze to see the way they installed the scaffoldings through the garage/porch roof frames and up to the 1st floor roof height.

The guys were working on the garage side, wonder which wall will they complete today.

As shown below, there wasn't much bricks left. Hopefully we can see more bricks been delivered early next week, otherwise we will be running out of bricks very soon...

I haven't update my weekly summaries for 2 weeks, will definitely get it done this weekend. Hope it would stop raining as well...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

[Progress.055] Brick work - finished front bay window, back bay window half done

As shown in photo below, after 7 days of brick work, we finally have an area fully finished for ground floor - the front bay window.

Even half of the bay window at the back was done as well!

We are progressing slowly, keep moving forward everyday! Can't wait to see the whole house covered in bricks!

Monday, 8 October 2007

[Progress.054] Brick work continued - front bay windows covered

As shown in photo below, part of the front bay windows has been completed, and they also set up part of the scaffoldings.

From what I can see so far, they used about 3 pallets of bricks everyday. Only the bay windows at the back still not covered. With the scaffoldings they should start with the higher levels. We also reported the new issues to builder today, hopefully they can quickly fix it.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

[Progress.053] Brick work continued - 3 sets of photos and 2 new issues

I have been very busy for the whole week. So this post will cover a lot more details/photos than usual.

#1/3 - First Set - 03 Oct (Wed)
The first set of photos are from 3/10 (Wed), after the long weekend, on Wed morning we noticed more bricks been delivered, almost blocked the front gate.

They have finished the right hand side of the house up to about half the windows height on last Friday.

This one viewed from inside the bay windows at the front. They attached a small metal thing every few bricks so that they can later nail it to the timber frames.

When I returned on Wed night, they have finished all the walls surrounding the kitchen. The wall also stopped at the same height as previous work, they probably need the scaffolding to be setup before they can continue to work on higher levels.

I saw this thing called "Alcor Aluminium Dampcourse" which they installed at the bottom of the 2nd row of bricks on every walls. Not sure whether it's for water proofing, protection against termits/white ants or something else.

#2/3 - Second Set - 04 Oct (Thu)
The next set of photos were taken on 4/10 (Thu). We both took a day off and visited our tile supplier, chose some tiles and hopefully will get the quote within a week. When we returned in the afternoon, the garage wall at the left hand side of the house was also finished up to the same height.

We also saw this steel beam been delivered. During the drawing phase, we were quite worried about my wife's shocking driving skill, so we decided to upgrade from the standard 2 single garage doors (with a brick post in the middle) to the wide double garage door. I think this beam will be installed on top of the garage door to support the bricks above it.

This one taken outside the kitchen, the meals room windows has been raised as requested. Hopefully when the air con been installed, it won't be that obvious when looking from inside. Please don't make this mistake like us -- never install your air con right under the window, it would be quite noisy and it won't look good when viewed from inside the house.

This is a closer look of the wall, please pay attention to the bottom of the wall, see if you can pick up something unusual.

This one from the other side of the garage wall, again have a look at the first row of bricks at the bottom.

Now, the answer to why I asked you to pay attention to the bottom bricks in the previous photos... Well, almost... Look at the bricks in the photo below, the left hand side ones are done on Wed and the right hand side ones are done on Thu. Can you see the difference in the mortar colour? Left hand sides are in white but the right hand sides are in grey! Look at the bottom bricks in previous photos carefully again, they were done last Friday with white mortat, and all bricks above are done on the day photo taken also have grey mortar.

The photo below is a closer look of the bottom row of bricks from front of garage wall, you can see it's a lot more obvious compared to previous ones. We thought they might have used the wrong cement/mortar, quickly checked all the packages left on site but they were all marked as "off-white" colour as we requested.

We were all in panic mode straight away, as this means all the brick work done on Thu have to be knocked down and restart again... We were also thinking about contacting the supervisor straight way and put a sign on the brick wall to ask the brick layers to stop the work the next day morning...

So did we complaint to the supervisor about this? No, we didn't... After we calmed down a bit and had some discussion, we think it's because the brick work was just done during the day and it's probably not fully dried yet. Instead of jumping up and down and lodge a complaint -- which might humiliate ourselves, we decided to wait until next morning and double check with the brick layers...

Early next morning (5/10 Fri), we spoke with the brick layers and confirmed our assumption. We carefully checked the mortar colour of the garage wall again and were very happy to see they all turned into white colour after been left over night. The brick layers also told us the mortar colour would be even more white after a few weeks... What a relief!

No wonder there's always so many arguments between owners and trades person/builders, there's indeed a huge gap between both sides regarding the knowledge/understanding of the building process...

#3/3 - Last Set - 06 Oct (Sat)
The last set of photos were taken this afternoon. If you compare with the photos in the 2nd set above, you can see that they have finished the other side of garage wall and the two posts for the front porch. The only 2 areas left without brick coverage for ground floor will be the 2 bay windows: one at the front and one at the back. It's looking better everyday!!

This one taken from the front of the porch. The main entrance door frame has been installed as well during the frame stage.

This photo shows the smaller beams been delivered this week. I believe they will be installed above all the windows to support the bricks. We paid extra for this, as we like the traditional look of having a few bricks above all windows.

Most project homes provide lots of large windows which extends the height up to the ceiling. They claimed that this will brighten up the house and it's good for you. Well, yes and no. My understanding is, too many windows actually hurts your BASIX score and they actually do it like this to save the cost of brick laying plus the steel beams above the windows as the labour cost for windows are a lot cheaper than brick laying. So, if your BASIX score wasn't that good, you might want to consider removing some windows or reduce the height of the windows and add some bricks on top like us...

2 new issues
Unfortunately, I need to mention 2 new issues I picked up today... First, about the right hand side supporting steel beams in garage as shown below, can you see any problem from the photo below?

This is a closer look at the bottom/base part of the beam... Still can't see anything unusual?

Some of you might notice it, for those who don't, it would be much more obvious by making a comparison with the "correct" one from the other side... The following photo is from the left hand side. Did you get it now? Yes, the right hand side steel beam was not bolted to the ground, what a #^@%$!@$ mistake! And as the brick layers already put some bricks on it, I wonder how are they going to fix it...

The next issue is about the bricks, we have been quite happy with the brick work so far, until this happened... Have a look at the bricks in the photo below:

Don't know where did that came from, but the 2nd brick from the 3rd row in the photo above is definitely not in the same colour as any of the other over thousands of bricks we have seen so far... As it should be located somewhere behind one of the pipes for water tank system, it might not be that obvious unless you carefully checked every wall like we did.

Yes, I know we are very fussy as this is definitely quite minor compared to the first issue. But we all need to grab every opportunity to increase our negotiation power against the builder, if you know what I mean... Again, don't know how are they going to fix it...

The brick laying stage takes a few weeks and it's quite promising to see new walls been built every day. Hope you enjoy this extremely long post and I will definitely let you know if there's any update! Cheers!