03 April 2009


A lot has been happening lately.

1. We picked our bricks. We wanted to go with a lighter colour, partly for aesthetics and party for environmental and energy concerns. We selected PGH Cement as the base brick colour. We also have a veranda and portico at the front of the house which is ordinarily rendered and then painted. We decided we didn't want to render... to be honest it didn't seem worth the extra $17,000 it was going to cost. But we also didn't relish having to repaint every 5 years. We've been noticing a lot of rendered houses with streams of dried dirt from years of dust and then rivulets formed by the occasional rain. Whereas I think my parents' brick house has been pressure cleaned once in almost 25 years and still looks great.

So we decided to just use a different colour brick for the portico to provide a contrast. We selected PGH Greenway. I say "selected" rather than "agreed" because after three visits to Schofields, we still couldn't agree on a colour. In the end, I was worn down by the fact that we had to make a decision and we didn't seem to be making any progress. Ghost loves it. I.... don't.

2. We received our plans from Masterton last week. Yay!! Only a few minor changes here and there. We're really happy with them and can't wait to get started. We're meeting with Eileen at Masterton tomorrow to go through the changes so hopefully it won't be too much longer after that that we can agree on the final plans and go to council.

3. Eileen recommended Ryan to do our landscape plan and he has been absolutley awesome!! We spoke over the phone about what we intended to do with the yard and I emailed him a very rough draft of our version and what he came back with was fantastic. He really knows what he's doing and we're so happy with the outcome. A bit concerned about what the actual costs of the landscaping will be but we'll come to that when we have to.

We've also decided to do a Colorbond fence around the perimiter. Not sure how our neighbours will react. At the moment we have an old paling fence which is falling apart. It has, at various stages over the last ten years, fallen down almost flat on all three sides. Thanks to the work of Ghost and my father in constantly hammering supporting poles and the like in, it's still standing. If we get any pushback from the neighbours, we might just have to remove our supporting poles. ;)

21 March 2009


Today's useful tip: Ask the brick suppliers for addresses of houses built using their bricks.

I can't remember where we learned this tip, but I cannot understate its usefulness. Lizzy and I went to a Boral reseller today and had a look at their display wall. We'd just about agreed on the bricks to use as the main and the contrast colour, and so we thought we'd drive around to see what they looked like on the finished product. It makes a huge difference. The main colour we'd chosen looked hideous (to us), and the contrast colour turned out to be a good candidate for the main colour. Go figure.

This last part is almost funny. Lizzy and I have been arguing about what colour bricks we want for almost a week now. I like the light-coloured bricks, and she likes the darker colours. As we were driving away from house hideous, we saw another house in the middle of construction, and their bricks were just fabulous. Too bad we don't know what that colour is named, or who makes them...


This week we gained our login to Pathway, Masterton's website specifically for individual customers. People have raved about Pathway and it's won all sorts of awards, so I was really looking forward to seeing what all the hoopla was about.

I work in the internet industry. Web pages and applications are my lifeblood. And honestly, Pathway left me a bit underwhelmed. There's no doubt that it's useful, and I'm sure its usefulness will improve as we go further in the milestones, but five minutes of playing around with it highlighted a few flaws.

First, the good: Pathway is a document repository. Every document created in the course of your building is scanned and uploaded to Pathway. Top marks for that. Secondly, there will be photos taken of the construction (once it begins) and those photos will be uploaded to Pathway as well.

Each stage of Pathway is called a milestone, and clicking on each milestone shows you the steps to be completed in that milestone. But there's no way to tell exactly what step you're currently on -- and by the time you've gotten a login to Pathway, you're usually already on the second milestone -- at least we were. As it is, I think we're going to end up using Pathway as a document and photo repository, and then using Google Documents to track our progress, so we can cross off the steps we've already accomplished.

Next post: Bricks!

14 March 2009

Where's the plan?

Alas, no signs of our draft plan yet. Our rep at Masterton did say it may take around 4 weeks, and it's been... well, only 3 weeks, but we're getting impatient! The house behind us has, in the last month, been demolished, slabs poured and in the last week had frames and windows up. It's all very exciting... I feel like I'm living the building experience through them vicariously. :) Now, if only we could get started on our own home!

We did hear back about the oven though. The Omega oven we were quoted in our Tender for $2200 was apparently wrong, and in fact costs closer to $2800. Which is odd, because I've been shopping around and it's $1999 at the Good Guys in Bankstown right now. In any case, apparently Masterton are ending their partnership with Omega/Smeg so they can no longer supply that oven at all. They are now working with AEG (Electrolux) for the supply of their appliances. The only problem is that AEG do not make, suprisingly, a 900mm freestanding electric oven with gas hobs. So it looks like we'll have to supply our own oven. I'm not too unhappy about that because then I can get exactly what I want without being constrained by brand, but I'm a little concerned about ensuring that installation is correct, since I"m assuming that we will have to get our own installer. One of the things I hate about our current oven is that there is a very slight gap (probably around no more than 5mm) on either side of our oven when it should be flush against the kitchen cabinetry. I don't even want to contemplate all the gunk and goo that might have fallen in those gaps over the years. And I definitely do not want to have to live with that in our new home. So... we'll see. I'll talk to our rep at Masterton and see what she suggests about installation.

I did also raise the possibility that we'll want the standalone 60cm wall oven installed as well, the one that comes with the New Mansion Package. I haven't heard back about that - although I don't see why we couldn't do it. It's effectively already paid for as part of the package.

Can't wait to see the plans! Ghost and I have been thinking about where we want the extra powerpoints and light fittings so hopefully we won't have to stuff around with the plans for too long before we can finalise them and get them to council. And then beigins the longest wait!

24 February 2009

Bits and bobs.

We're waiting patiently for our plans to be prepared for our review. We're trying to work out how much backyard we're going to have as having a largish yard was the main reason we decided to build instead of buy.

Our kitchen is already giving us problems. We had decided to upgrade the standard 60cm cooktop and oven to a 90cm version. After toing and froing a bit, we agreed on an Omega freestanding oven. We were initially quoted around $2200 but now that the plans are being drawn up and the assessors are reviewing our tender, we've been advised that the assessors don't agree with that valuation.

We're waiting to hear what the outcome is. Our sales consultant is fantastic so I expect she'll fight for us, and we have the email evidence of the amount she quotes us. But we'll see what happens.

I'm seriously thinking about leaving the standard 60cm oven in (minus the cooktop) as well as getting the 90cm freestanding. My husband thinks that's overkill, but I figure, we've already paid for the standard oven in our package so it's just going to go to waste anyway. And I have visions of all the baking I'm going to do every single weekend! Ummm... yeah. We'll see.

We've also received a couple of quotes for demolition. So far they range from $9,500 to $11,000. This includes removal of all trees and stumps, all structures, and getting all the necessary permits. It's weird to think that demolition is still almost six months away. I kind of imagined that once we paid our deposit things would start moving quickly. Well, they may be well but it's all in the background. It will be a month before we even see the draft plans and then at least another four months, possibly (probably?) more going through council before they even lay a peg in the ground. Getting impatient now...

21 February 2009

We're on our way

So we paid our deposit today. Next step, Masterton will draft the plan, we'll approve it, and then it will be submitted to Bankstown Council for approval, where it will sit for at least four months.

We've started to look at details now, like brickwork and roofing tiles, and already we can't agree with each other. :)

Another detail to be worked out later with the electricians, which I only considered today: LAN points. We'll rely on wireless access to our router for things like the bedrooms, But we're definitely going to ask for LAN cabling into the study, the rumpus/tv room (my ps3 uses the internet), and the upstairs lounge (which will eventually house the second desktop computer in the house (where the kids can do homework and play games).

30 January 2009

The second tender.

Hello World.

We got the new tender today. Time for a little background: we love the idea of having an al fresco area outside near the family room and the rumpus room. It would be great for parties, or even for a summer barbecue. We asked Masterton about it, and got a quote from them fore around $20,000 for it. This was all before we'd remembered to ask about the ceiling heights and selected our fa├žade.

But we think we have found a cheaper alternative. We're yet to get some quotes, but we're going to talk to whoever pours and stencils our driveway and see what they can do in terms of a concrete slab as a base for our al fresco area. Masterton would pour the same kind of slab as they do for the house -- one designed to bear the weight of a house or structure on top of it, and that's not what we're going for here. We're still not sure what we're going to do for a covering over that slab, but we don't need to decide that straight away.

So... changes we requested and are included in this latest tender:
  • a 900mm oven instead of the standard 600mm version,

  • removal of the spa bath in the en suite, replaced by a double shower (sheer indulgence on our part, and one our salesperson has included at no extra cost),

  • swapping the sliding doors from the rumpus room (which is going to be our TV/media room) into the family room,

  • adding double sliding doors between the rumpus room and the rest of the house,

  • added an under the stairs storage area (aka "Harry's room"),

  • 2700mm ceiling heights on the ground floor instead of the standard 2400mm,

and a few other items, like a larger capacity solar hot water heater. The standard was a simple 135 litre tank. We're a growing family, and we already use a 315 litre tank. It's no small stretch to see that the standard tank was not going to be sufficient.

All in all, our variations have increased the total tender from $290,000 to $299,000. We were pleasantly surprised by some things, like the 2700mm ceilings -- this is going to cost more in terms of bricks (extra rows), extra paint, you name it. That little detail only cost us an extra $5200, and we were expecting it to be a lot more.

We're off to meet with Masterton tomorrow morning to answer a few more questions. Then it's off to the bank this week to see if they'll loan us the money to do all this.