Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Our House Build - Builder Visit Debrief

Wow. Plenty to take in tonight! I should mention how great it is that our builder is flexible enough to meet us at 5.45pm and hang around as long as it takes. Sarah and I both work in sales roles ourselves and can't easily co-ordinate time off during the day so this is super helpful in allowing us both to be there!

First surprise - our block has 3.35m of fall across the front. Umm. There's proof I have no idea how high things are by looking at them, and that I can't assume the height indicated by contour lines... whoops! The builder has drawn the house 1.335m cut from the north boundary (although this doesn't conceal any windows as the block drops close to a meter to the rear or east boundary, and it is tallest at the ensuite which doesn't have any windows facing north).

  • This will mean I need a retaining wall around 12m long and approx 1.2m high at a very approximate $250/m2 or around $3600!! I'll need to get a few quotes/options there I think.

The next is our site is BAL12.5. Because we've chosen (so far, at least) Colorbond roofing, we're looking at $1780 to upgrade to BAL12.5. This is the only itemised cost listed, although I'm told the flyscreens are aluminium instead of fibreglass as well to resist ember attacks. Bugger.

Gas central heating is costed around $3,000 and if we want to add a single split system its just under $3,500. I think given what I've worked on we will probably do inverter central heat and air instead as it's a pretty marginal difference. It's probably best to do this directly with the business rather than through the builder. My mortgage broker tells me we should be ok for up to 20% of the total build to be done via suppliers other than the builder; but that it's easier to use the builder where possible.

Some other itemised "extra" costs:

  • Supply and fit basic ceiling fans in place of normal batten fix lighting - $792 for 6
  • Hot water continuous loop - gas boosted solar instant system - $937.20
  • NBN connection $720 (FTTH, this will beat the hell out of 5Kbps DSL2 sync we currently hit)
  • Smart Stone benchtops - $4,293.85 

Good surprises:

  • Brick upgrade to Mocha from standard inclusion - $888.62
  • External gas connection for BBQ - $198
  • Window upgrade to Scarlett's room shouldn't cost anything as the bricks cost and window cost should cancel each other out.
  • Most of the tiles we like are in the inclusion level we've been quoted.
  • The builder will provide the screen in the entry way at no cost - from hardwood 32mm vertical beams, stained.
  • Driveway crossover will be included in site costs
  • This price includes the butlers pantry

Things for me to remember:

  • Carpet inclusion - we probably need to step up one level to get a carpet finish Sarah likes; alternatively price external suppliers.
  • There's no costings done for render. This isn't overly necessary as we can always add that later if we dislike a complete brick facade. The builder would prefer to use the same brick all round for logistics so we don't save any brick cost by going a cheaper brick to render over.
  • The wider panels of sliding door don't have flyscreen as they can't make a fixed one in the size we want. We can always retrofit the A&L retractable units for around $1000 a door later.
  • Sarah wants/needs a door on the shower screen in the ensuite - the current drawings don't show this and it'll cost a bit more - the current side screens will likely need to run to the roof to limit flex.

Once I add the shed costs, we're about $36,000 over our original pre-approval amount. Add the estimated cost of the retaining wall and we probably need to ask for another $40,000. Good thing we've continued saving so should have enough deposit to cover that by the time we get to that point in the process.

There are still some other factors to consider;

  • We haven't allowed for any fencing, I probably should organise some quotes to at least have an idea for that. We've got neighboring owners (although no building works yet) on our north and east sides, and one of the two blocks that back onto our south boundary looks to have been sold; so at least we're likely to only have to worry about half the cost of the fences.
  • We haven't allowed for landscaping. That can wait. Grass seed will have to do for a while; unless people want to bring us a few m2 of turf each as a house warming gift!
  • The garage floor had only been dropped about 100mm. I've insisted that even if it costs a little more (there will be a few more brick courses at the bottom, we need to drop it by 300mm to allow close to 2400mm door openings; for drive-through to the backyard shed. This will also level the driveway out a little; the fill at this end of the block  is between 1 and 1.6m from one side of the shed to the other, so dropping the floor height for the shed by 200mm means for a relatively gentle slope, especially on the side that goes through to the back yard (13% to 23% from one side to the other)
The most upsetting news is that over the top of everything above, we're looking around $10,000 to do polished concrete. The default quote is for vinyl plank flooring (mFLOR is the product the builder uses and recommends). Despite the fact polished concrete on its own would add around $4500 to the standard inclusion we've got to accept that the builder needs to allow for other factors such as harder concrete (spec from concrete polishers is 32MPA, builder would prefer to use at least 40MPA, but they have to do this for the entire slab pour, it's harder to work because there is less water added and an elasticiser) and then protect the surface, avoid nailing supports to the slab and just generally work other trades around the floor surface, so the extra cost is

Initially my thoughts were why not go to a large format tile; however that's an increase of $2,000 over where we're at for our floor area, plus Sarah hates the idea of trying to keep the grout clean. I am not super keen on timber floating floors because they're noisy,  and thankfully the vinyl floors aren't like that (we've seen a few in display homes). My first concern for our application was thermal resistance.

A study of the website states they're compatible with under-floor heating - viola - 0.010m2K/W-0.013m2K/W (or R-value) depending on the product thickness. Compare this with ceramic tiles at approx 0.012m2K/W or natural stone tiles at 0.017m2K/W and the vinyl planks (at least in thin form) are actually still a good option. (For passive solar, you want heat to freely transfer between the sun and your thermal mass, then back from the thermal mass to the room - in our case the thermal mass is the slab)

At this point I think the vinyl floor is the way we will go- I think we'll need to go with a dark, fairly neutral colour to leave our options open for wall colours and to ensure good heat absorption from the winter northern sun exposure.


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