Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Day 81: Lockup - Merry Christmas!

With the eaves installed on Monday we are now officially at Lockup!  Just in time for Christmas.  Funnily enough, we're only a few days work away from completing the 'Fixing' stage also.

So much for M's Accounts Dept closing last Friday; we received our Lockup Invoice yesterday (via email and notification by SMS, and today via snail mail), a nice 25% invoice just before Christmas!

We'll have another 20% invoice pretty soon when we complete Fixing stage.  That's nearly half the cost of the build within a month!



In the Fixing Stage they've completed the following so far:

- Plaster installed
- Cabinets installed

The final task is 'Fixing Complete', which is all internal doors, skirtings and architraves.  The carpenter is working through Christmas, so these will be finished by the time we get back from our Christmas break.

Then the painters start on Monday 9th January.  Woo hoo!  That's the first task scheduled for the 'Home Completion' stage!

We received news of a nice unexpected Christmas present yesterday.  The Site Manager called to ask why we were painting the nice hardwood ceiling on the front portico 'Dune' and yet staining the beam 'Dark Oak' - surely we would want all the hardwood stained?  Hmmm....we didn't order a hardwood ceiling...we didn't want the expense of fully lining the front portico ceiling and beams with hardwood, so we just paid to have the beam lined and stained, leaving a plaster ceiling for the portico...oh well, there was enough wood delivered, so we got it!  I'm wrapped!

"Yes, please stain the portico ceiling dark oak!".

This also inadvertently fixes our issue of the bricks and lintel not being flush above the front door.  It all worked out rather nicely!

Timber lined portico (beams yet to be clad)


The bricks were also cleaned yesterday, so here's how the house is looking now:




And the cabinetry:

I think this guy was measuring for the stone benchtop

Kitchen

Ensuite
Bathroom

Laundry




Merry Christmas everyone!


Friday, 16 December 2011

Day 78: Joinery Invasion

Cabinetry, doors, architraves, skirting boards and fibre cement sheeting have moved into our main living space; all awaiting installation in their final resting places.




It's good to see the colour selections we made all those months ago.  I was never completely sure about any of the laminex colours I chose, and probably still won't be until I see them against their respective neighbours of floorboards, tiles, caesarstone and splashbacks.

At least the colours all look familiar to me, so I haven't completely forgotten the selections - they are in real life as I have remembered them in my head!

Kitchen drawers in Lustrous Elm:



Bathroom and Laundry cabinets in Hazlenut Wood:



Bedroom doors and wardrobes:
(interestingly, the hinges are already mounted to the architraves!)



A maze of cabinetry - great fun for little boys!


M's Accounts Department closed today, so I can be sure that we won't see a 'lockup' invoice before Christmas!

We will be having a site visit with the SS mid next week to view the cabinetry and other joinery installed. Then it's down tools and a quiet site until the 16th January when the painters arrive!


Monday, 12 December 2011

Aria

Once you've made your colour selections you really shouldn't visit any more display homes.  Yet I was unable to help myself yesterday and just had to go and see the new Metricon display home in Caulfield.  I convinced myself the aim was to get inspiration for furnishing and landscaping, but I know the real truth is I'm unashamedly addicted to viewing display homes.

When you first get the idea to build a house and consequently make the trip to your first round of display homes, there is an indescribable feeling of desire as you walk through each house; an almost giddy feeling.  For every visit thereafter, you try to maintain the dreamy, wistful feeling of owning one of these brand new houses, so neatly furnished and just begging to be lived in.  However, as with all things done repeatedly, the feeling is hard to maintain.  But you attempt to relive it again anyway...and again...and again!

And so it was that I dragged Paul and Oli off to yet another display home, in search of the elusive 'new house high'.

The Aria is a brand new home design in Metricon's Signature range, called the Aria.  It fits on a narrow 13.5m width block and has a very contemporary choice of facades.

http://www.metricon.com.au/melbourne/homes/aria

Perhaps it's the combination of seeing our own house with plaster the day before, and the fact that the kitchen/dining area in the Aria is furnished in loosely the Danish Modern style that Paul and I love, that allowed us to once again experience the 'rush' as we stood in the open living space downstairs.  We also loved the paving in the backyard (and of course the lap pool, which we'll NEVER have...).  I think we just stood there in silence for a good 10 minutes or so and soaked in the bits and pieces we each liked.



Aria Caulfield Kitchen / Dining pics from www.metricon.com.au

I love these floor to ceiling double sliding doors.
Thinking of doing something similar for our Sitting Room

A glimpse of the pool.
We are debating either rendered retaining walls or stacked stone for our elevated areas in the front and back yards. 

Timber feature wall


Upstairs is styled a little too South Yarra Male for my liking, so we whisked fairly quickly through each room.  I did however, love the sheer curtains in the master bedroom, and will be enquiring with Metricon where I can get them:



If, like me, you're a display home junkie, do take the opportunity on a lovely sunny afternoon and visit the Aria display.  Even if the house isn't to your taste, it's a nice change from the furnishing styles in recent display homes.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Day 70: Plastered!

What a transformation plaster makes!  The plasterers started on Wednesday and finished on Friday - even the cornices are done.  They only need to sand, which I'm assuming will occur on Monday.  Walking through the rooms, the house feels somewhat familiar now.  Having traipsed through the display homes so many times, I can now see the resemblance between the model we selected and what we've been delivered.  It's a great feeling.  I could have stood in the rooms for hours, envisaging our future days there.

The brickwork didn't quite get finished on Friday, they are coming back Monday to do all the window sills and the front portico pillars.  Other than that it's all complete.  The brickies have done a great job, really pleased with the levels, particularly that all the bricks sit flush on the window lintels.  The Contract stipulated an acceptable tolerance up to 85mm which is an entire brick height!  I was nervous about paying extra to have brick infills and then not actually getting them completely!  So very happy the brickies measured the courses properly.  The front door lintel is another story, but the Site Manager pointed out at the start of the job that the door height wouldn't line up with the brick courses.  You can see what I mean in the picture below.

I'm still not sold on the Hawksburn brick.  I wish Austral hadn't discontinued the Hawthorn, it had much better variation and richer browns.

The other work scheduled to be squeezed in before Christmas are:

  • The bricks will be cleaned in about a week's time
  • Skirting boards and architraves to be installed Monday week (19th)
  • Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry installed Wednesday 21st

I'm not sure when the eaves will be installed.  Technically they're the only item left in the 'lock up' stage.  Would probably be better to have the next stage payment occur before I finish Christmas shopping!  Not great to have the big January credit card bill and 20% house payment at the same time!  Ewww!

Our Site Manager will be on leave until 11th January, and I'm assuming (read: hoping) painting will commence sometime soon thereafter!

Here's the external shots:



As you can see in the picture below, the lintel doesn't sit on the door frame which is disappointing, but unavoidable if the brick courses are to line up.  Hopefully they fill the gap with a piece of timber and stain it, so it looks like part of the door frame.  Will check with the Site Manager next week.







And the internal shots:
Entrance Hallway view from front door

Laundry

Bathroom

Rear hallway

Dining room

Left: Family Room
Right: Rumpus Room

Left: Kitchen, through to walk in pantry.
Right: Entrance hallway 

Ensuite: bath view

Ensuite: Shower and WC view

The pictures below show some pipework protruding from the hallway wall.  It does the same on the other side of the wall, which is in the kitchen, but will be covered by cabinetry.  The pipe runs under the slab and serves as conduit for power cables to the kitchen island bench.  I think they should have chosen a slimmer pipe!  Hopefully the carpenter will make skilful work of the skirting to hide it seamlessly...

Pipe protruding from the hallway wall. 



And finally, this is how a 16 month old keeps himself amused in a big empty house; by testing the ensuite sliding door...repeatedly...back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...

Runs smooth Mum!


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Which Comes First...the Nest or the Egg?

They say time waits for no man.  In this case, it seems we don't wait for a house - we start filling it anyway!



And so the race is on.  This, our second baby, is due sometime around the second week of June.  Will the house be ready by then?  Will it be ready perhaps a couple of months before, when I might not be too large, clumsy and tired to pack and move house?!  Or will it all come to a grinding halt and will we then face the uphill battle of a move on top of those first few weeks when one is so sleep deprived from witnessing most of the 24 hours in a day?  Only time will tell...

So much for returning to work in Feb to earn some money for furnishing the house!  Best laid plans and all that!

Not sure whether to break the news to the Site Manager before or after Christmas...don't want to jinx our good progress thus far with added pressure!

Plaster is due for installation today.  I haven't heard from the Site Manager yet on whether the house passed the pre-plaster quality re-inspection yesterday.  Hopefully!


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wired for Sound (and other things)

On Saturday, my very generous friend George and I, set about wiring the house for Network, TV, Security, Intercom, and Sound. Added to which we decided to add some acoustic insulation to the 2nd bedroom, next to the laundry, and the area surrounding the Rumpus sliding door.  Possibly too much to tackle in one day? It was now or never, as plaster goes up on Wednesday.

After a a quick trip to Bunnings to pick up the insulation and some drill bits and a knife to cut the insulation, we were ready to go.



In all we ran 22 CAT6 cables for Data, 11 Coax for TV, 2 for intercom, 5 for security and 7 for speakers in the Rumpus - over 1km of cable! 90% of these we will probably never use, but I hate the thought of trying to run it down the walls later (done that before).

If you're going to attempt to wire your own house, here are a few tips:

1. Make sure you clear it with your SS before you do this. Most of them are pretty cool with it, but technically you should not be on-site without being supervised, Health and Safety reasons.
2. Sort out where you want all the cable points to be on the electrical plan, well before you go there. This way you can work out how much cable you need to buy.
3. I bought 2 x 300m boxes of CAT6, and one of Quad Core Coax, as well as 50m of 2mm copper speaker cable (from Middys). Unless you are going to run 10GB over it, CAT5e is fine, there is very little difference between the two. Don't forget to buy the nail-in backplates, to mount the switch plates on later.
4. Pick a central accessible point to run all the cables too (where there is power), below stairs, the garage, or in my case in the laundry near the man-hole.
5. When running the cable, there are a few simple rules of thumb.
a) Never run low-voltage cable in parallel to any power cable within 30cm. I always ran it in the next stud gap.
 b) If you have to cross any power cable, do it at 90 degrees to the cable, this reduces the area of magnetic field interference.
c) Never drill more than one hole in a noggin, and never larger than 30mm. This can effect the structural integrity of the noggin, and will avoid you getting in trouble with the frame inspector.
d) Try to avoid drilling holes in the studs, or the roof trusses as well. Metricon does not like this.
e) Leave some slack in the ceiling and don't tie it down too much, this allows the insulation guys to lift it up to get the insulation under. You can clean it up later, to make sure its all neat and tidy, and away from power.
f) Leave yourself enough at the ends to terminate the cable later (plasterer should make a hole and pull it through).
g) Make sure you take photos, with measurements of the plate placement. In case the plasterer does not pull it through, its a B*tch to find later! Where I wasn't sure what I would want there, I left a draw string in the wall to pull cable through later (Dayglo Yellow).

Some additional cabling that we ran was for future projects. Video Intercom, in-ceiling speakers for ensuite and rumpus, security cameras, sensors, and Alarm Panel.

After all this, it was getting dark, so we madly tried to place Acoustic Insulation (Tontine 2.5 Acoustic Bats) in the stud-work. This took a lot longer than we anticipated as we had to cut around all the plumbing and electrical as well as the noggins.

The Sun had well and truly set by then. A big thank you to George, who worked tirelessly all day. A few cases of beer coming your way mate.


Paul









Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Happy Anniversary

It was Paul and my 3rd anniversary yesterday.  I thought I'd attempt a special dinner to celebrate and set about looking for a recipe for a smoked salmon tart, as Paul had bought some recently.  Then off down to the market for dill, capers and preserved lemon.  I used Maggie Beer's sour cream short cut pastry recipe, as this stays nice and soft and crumbly - nothing worse than a stiff crust on a quiche...

Anyway, two hours in the kitchen that evening and Paul and I sat down to my baking effort.  The taste was fantastic, just how I'd envisaged, but as I only had a deep pie dish at my disposal rather than a flat quiche dish, the presentation left a bit to be desired (think half filled open pie!).

We retired after dinner to the couch and watched an hour of TV, then off to bed.

... no flowers ... no card ... no back massage ... (crickets) ...

(Sigh) Three years in and the romance is dead already...

In hindsight, I probably would have scored better with a steak.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Breakneck Pace!



Just when I thought things would start to slow down, a phone call from the Site Manager this morning tells otherwise!

  • The lock up carpenter will finish wall straightening and door fitting today
  • Pre plaster quality inspection is booked for tomorrow
  • Friday the insulation will be installed
  • Plaster delivery and installation is scheduled for next Wednesday
  • Cabinets booked for 21st December

...And with a bit of luck the fix may also start just before the Christmas break (although realistically I think this is a little too optimistic!)

Wow!  Excited is an understatement!  I'm ecstatic!

Paul on the other hand is a little daunted, as it means he only has this weekend to do his data cabling and additional internal insulation...


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Day 56: Brickwork Begins

It's been a bit of a slow start to the brickwork, perhaps due to the narrow sides of the block they've spent considerable time of the last three days wheelbarrowing bricks to surround the house in neat little stacks.  In any case it's a start and enough to keep the excitement levels up!

So far they've bricked most of the garage wall that's on the fence line, so most of the effort isn't visible.  They've also done one side of the entrance.  When we arrived on Friday evening the mortar was still wet so it's hard to get a feel for the look of the bricks whilst there is little contrast between the brick and mortar colours.

Despite this, the bricks look a little too light in colour and lacking in much of the chocolate and blue variation we've seen on displays and in other builds.  Perhaps it's because every sample we've seen is with off-white mortar, whereas we've chosen natural (light grey), and also because the bricks haven't been cleaned yet, so are sporting a light covering of mortar cement.  The only real way to tell at this stage, is to take the sample brick we have from Austral and compare it to unlaid bricks onsite.  At least check the brown is the right depth of brown...

Here's some pics to illustrate what I mean.  Another flaw with comparing the pictures however, is that all the sample shots are taken on an iPhone, whereas the shots of our house are taken with a digital SLR.

Brickwork progress so far:


Brown looks very medium in colour and no streaks of bluey chocolate running through any of the bricks:



'Hawksburn' brick sample from Austral's website:



'Auburn' brick sample from Austral's website:
(to me our bricks look more like this in tone...)



Hawksburn display in Austral's Richmond display centre:



Austral Hawksburn at a sample address in SE Suburbs:





We plan to visit the site this afternoon with our sample brick.  The mortar should be dry now and I'll take a few iPhone pics for a better photo comparison.  This will hopefully lay my fears to rest!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Day 53: Electrical and Hydronic Rough In

Paul stopped by the house after work yesterday to get some photos of the electrical and hydronic heating rough in.

The Site Manager had called me first thing Monday to discuss a conflict between placement of one of the hydronic heating panels and a power and phone point.  I suspected this may come up, because it took me four attempts with the Drafting department to have them move the phone and power points to another location when the heating plan showed the conflict.  I got it fixed before our final plans were signed off, but it appears that's not the version the Site Manager or Electricians have in their possession!

In any case, our diligent SM called to ask how to resolve it before it became an issue (yay, he's my hero!) All sorted in five minutes over the phone and Paul double checked all is correct when he visited the site yesterday.  The SM said he likes to have a walk through with clients before plaster to check all wiring and plumbing is present and correct, so this will probably be sometime next week.

He also double checked the work order for the solar hot water and confirmed there were two panels ordered but only one installed, so the second one was delivered and installed yesterday.

The lock up carpenter he had booked for last Thursday fell through so a different one will be starting today to straighten walls for plastering and add a few extra noggins here and there.

The SM also called this morning, he was onsite with the brickies and wanted to double check we chose natural mortar colour before they started.  I'm so pleased to know he meets each of the trades on their first day onsite and calls with any queries that pop up.  So reassuring!

So excited to know the bricks are starting today.  Should take about 8 days to complete apparently.  Looking forward to seeing the progress on the weekend as our house takes on its true colours!


Powerpoint and Hydronic heating to the Rumpus Room: 



Hydronic heating to one of the bedrooms:



The contentious location of the phone and power points and hydronic panel in the Family Room (the phone and power moved elsewhere):



Hydronic heating pipework lagged up cosy in the ceiling:



Location of hydronic boiler:



Doors awaiting installation:



Two solar panels :)



Sand ready for the brickies to start!