Friday, 30 September 2011

Day 1: Site Cut

Despite the almost constant rain yesterday, the excavation went ahead on site and we are now officially into Construction phase!

Our Site Manager Clive called mid morning to introduce himself, reassure me that he would build our home to the quality as if it were his own, and asked if we had any queries, concerns or things we would like to bring to his attention at this point.  He seems a very friendly, down to earth guy and was familiar with our plans and specs which is reassuring.  We discussed a few items I had questions about, such as where the storm water gets connected, as Council has advised we need to move the current outlet given it is situated in the middle of our future vehicle crossing.  I questioned whether we need to organise this ourselves before the slab so we don't end up paying for storm water work twice.  The plans show the kerb connection to the left of the new driveway so it may already be catered for.  The SM will speak to the drainage guys about what needs to be done.  I hope the Telstra pit isn't in the way!  Given they didn't move it as far as the scope of works requested, I'll be annoyed if they need to move it again!

Our Construction Manager Alannah called today to introduce herself as taking over from our CSC in regards to all things contractual from here on.

The activity forecast we have so far is:

  • Next Week: Prep work such as crushed rock to driveway, site compaction, retaining walls, preparation for piers, etc.
  • 10th Oct: Drainage
  • 18th Oct: Slab

They were still excavating the site when I went past today.  It started raining again quite steadily about half an hour later, so I'm not sure if they got finished today.

Here's some pics of the work in progress:

Hmmm...where's the tree protection fence we've paid for?...TBA

It's quite a deep cutting at the back... we thought we'd do something like this paved courtyard with steps leading up to lawn area, in light coloured pavers to reflect as much light into the house as possible:


Either that or we'll terrace it somehow.  The desired size of the courtyard and distance to the back fence will dictate the best option I think.  We'll be better able to tell when the slab goes in.  I think they've only excavated about 1.5m from the back of the house and ideally we'd want a depth of about 4m for an outdoor paved area, but given the existing trees we've kept we didn't want additional excavation in case they damaged tree roots.  Guess we'll work it out (with a landscape designer) after handover!

The weather forecast shows showers clearing tomorrow and then 4 days without rain, so hopefully the work can continue next week unhindered!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

T...minus one and counting

Happened to be in the area this afternoon and thought I should swing by the block and check on the asbestos removal and that our plumber had replaced the water meter and tap.

I arrived at our mud slick and what did i see but a big blue dunny had arrived!! Now you have to know that work is imminent when the crapper arrives!!

I only managed to avoid the temptation to christen the big blue portable airline tub, by the fact that Mark, a friendly surveyor from the earthworks company was pegging out our slab. He was very friendly and told me they would be performing our site scrape tomorrow or Friday Morning. You Beauty!!

You will also notice the massive engineering marvel of a structure that is our temporary power pole. Now given we paid $1000+ for this I somehow had greater expectations.

Now I had a chat to Mark and he showed me what all the pegs, and blue lines were for and what the nails indicated. Apparently the nail with blue tape in this photo is our ground level after scrape. Our slab then sits on that. It seems really high.

oh yeah, and here is our new water meter and tap. Could it be any more awkward.

And then as I left a truck rolled up, and they put up our temporary fence in a matter of minutes. Talk about progress.

I think I could not have timed my visit any more perfectly, as a massive torrential downpour hit not long after i left. I hope this doesn't delay our scrape!!

Sunday, 25 September 2011


It seems there's always some form of hiccup just when things start to get moving.  One of the Construction guys went out to our site last Thursday to check everything was in order for site start and he unfortunately discovered bits of asbestos lying around.

Our demolisher had an asbestos company come in before demolition and remove the asbestos eaves and the electricity box, and they also had the foresight to remove tiles in the bathroom and discovered the walls were also lined with asbestos.  So there was no reason to think there was any more lurking around. We have every faith in our demolisher and the company he used to clear the site.  He was quite apologetic when he called.  We accept that it's just one of those things when dealing with old houses rather than a greenfields site.  He went and took a look himself on Friday and most of it appears to be concentrated around the location of the old garage.  The garage itself was steel on a concrete slab, so the demolisher theorised that perhaps the slab was lined with asbestos. I'm wondering if in fact that once upon a time there was an asbestos garage there and when it was replaced with the new garage, someone made a poor, cheap, lazy decision to literally bury the problem. Of course, because the giant excavator has been over the entire site, there are bits of asbestos to be found from one side of the block to the other.

I'm perhaps making it sound worse than it is. When we visited the block yesterday we sighted a few pieces, none bigger than the size of your palm, and the pile is only about one shovel load.  However, the reality is that if M find any asbestos onsite, they'll stop work and put the job on hold until the owner can get someone to clear the site and provide a certificate to say it has been cleared.  We don't want to delay the start, and we certainly don't want to pay the $250 a week penalty either!  So needless to say, I'll be quite nervous until the slab is done I think!

It's times like this I'm glad we chose to use the demolishers that M used for their Balwyn knock downs, as our CSC offered to speak directly with him.  The demolisher confirmed he would get his guys back to re-rake the site. I really hope they do...thoroughly...and before Friday!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Approval to Commence Construction

After a busy afternoon performing a final review of the colour schedule, pre construction variations and construction plans, we have officially signed off!  Which means we can now proceed to Construction!!

Our CSC contacted me to say we were able to meet today's deadline to book the site cut for...

wait for it!...

NEXT FRIDAY!!  Woo hoo!

If we'd missed today we would have had to wait a few weeks into October.

She also raised the issue of our damaged water meter.  Our demolisher accidentally ripped out the tap we left operational at the front of the property (despite numerous conversations that we wanted to retain it for the build).  But not only this, they ripped half the water meter off.  So we now have to pay a plumber to install a new water meter.  Frustrating, but what do you do?  So I'll be onto one tomorrow to get that fixed - hopefully next week!

It's all feeling a little surreal at the moment; but it won't be come this time next week!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Final Construction Drawings Received

Yesterday we received our final construction drawings and pre construction variations from our CSC.  I was relieved that the net result of the provisional costs from the contract was only an additional $1000.  This won't break the piggy bank (too much).

The site cut was reduced by about 200mm so this reduced both that cost and the retaining walls to the Northern and Southern boundaries.

The slab price increased a little - there is now mention of piers in addition to deepened edge beams so I assume this is where the extra cost is (less than $1000).  I personally don't mind if they've over-spec'd the slab a little, it's where I'd like the most peace of mind!

Kirsten - as predicted our sewer depth was greater than 1.5m (came in at 2.6m) so it was an additional $2100.

The only items QA picked up were small and logical: needed to slightly move the Rumpus sliding door to fit the cavity in the wall, and moved the light switch to closer to the door which is better to reach as you enter the room.  They also picked up that they hadn't costed our handle upgrade to the Laundry cabinetry and fingerless handles to the overhead kitchen cupboards.  The tiling and hydronic heating costs were also present and correct.

Our solar gas boosted hot water system was upgraded from one panel to two at no cost.  Assume this is either a newly released model, or something to do with the 6 star energy rating now required, as opposed to 5 star back when we paid the initial deposit.

The only thing that was overlooked was removing all references to ducted heating on the drawings (the unit in the roofspace, the ceiling vents and return air grille in the entry wall) and similarly, the addition of the hydronic boiler, thermostat, radiators and heated towel rails.  A quick email and phone call to the CSC this morning and they're on top of it.  They overlooked the last page in the heating quote.  I also asked if we could have an additional linen cupboard in the void designed for the ducted heating return air grille, which she's checking with Drafting.  In a house with 4 bedrooms there's a surprisingly small amount of storage space so we need all the cupboards we can get!

Hopefully the next version will be ready to sign off!  The amended building permit should come back today also.

The excitement levels are on the rise again!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Boy on the Move

Ikea Ekkore Toddle Truck
Our precious little rascal has just this week started standing on his own - almost 13 months old to the day. I'm predicting it will only be a matter of days until he takes his first steps.

I was so excited to see him standing unaided in the middle of the lounge room floor, excitedly clapping his hands in recognition of his achievement!  Bless him, he's now practising this new skill every chance he gets.

This milestone in the life of our little boy makes me all the more excited about the build - if that's possible!  To watch him stand and clap, or trundle up and down the hallway with his little blue Ikea trolley makes me daydream about having a backyard for him to run around.  Presently we are living in an inner suburban apartment on the second floor with a narrow balcony.  Whilst it's great to always have him within eye and ear shot, pretty soon he'll be needing more space to stretch his little legs - and to burn off that seemingly never ending supply of energy.  There is a huge choice of parks in our neighbourhood, and now that the weather is improving we've been having lunch at the park on a picnic rug most days.  It gives O a taste of grass and freedom (somewhat), and me a break from cleaning the high chair...and the floor, but there are so many people with big dogs off the leash that I'm constantly on guard and it means he can't wander more than a leap and a lunge away from me.

You just can't beat the privacy of your own backyard.  I'm keen to start a veggie garden also - O and I can both learn how to plant and take care of them together!  Paul bought me a membership to the Diggers Club for my birthday this year, so I have a few months up my sleeve to study up on garden design, soil types, companion planting and 'what grows when'.  From the looks of this apple I cut up yesterday, I guess Golden Delicious apples aren't in season at the moment.  It just doesn't seem natural to me for an apple to rot from the inside out!

I love the raised garden beds in the Ian Potter Children's Garden at the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens.  My inspiration for our own little plots of kitchen garden:

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Emailed our CSC a couple of days ago to advise that the power pit is ready to go, and ask for an update on when we are likely to get a copy of the final plans and site costs.  So here's the status as it currently stands:

Our file is currently with the drafting department awaiting amended final construction drawings to be completed (I assume this is to factor in the hydronic heating and tiling variations - which were completed before contract signing by the way!).  This will hopefully be finalised by the end of this week and then next week they can arrange our amended engineering, as our soil report and feature survey results were received by M last Friday.

Once the amended Engineering is obtained they'll provide our final variation to lock in our site costs, and then arrange an amended building permit.


So we're not expecting to see our plans until late next week, maybe start of the following week.  Then I assume we'll have a couple of back and forths that week to correct any errors.  Then, judging by other blog timelines, it will take 2-3 weeks for ordering to occur.

So I'm guessing it will be a mid-late October site start.  BOO!! :(

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Telstra Pit Moved

During our visit to the site yesterday to check if the power pit had been installed, I noticed the Telstra pit has also been moved.  This will make way for our new driveway after the build.  It wasn't something that needed to be done now, but our logic was to move it sooner rather than later, before we spent funds on other things, and also because prices inevitably increase the longer you wait, so it was a necessary evil we wanted to get out of the way quickly and forget about!

We paid for it a few weeks ago, but had no idea when the work was scheduled to occur.  I'm glad it didn't happen during the build.  Don't need to risk interfering with M's work!

Telstra's proposed scope of work was to move the pit 3 metres to the north, onto our neighbours nature strip, but the subcontractor has only moved it about a metre, so it's right on the boundary of the two properties.  I hope it is sufficient distance that the new driveway kerb won't interfere with it.  I guess we'll find out sometime next year!

Here's a shot of the offending infrastructure in the location of our proposed driveway:

And a closer shot of the old pit.  The PMC branding wasn't obvious as being a Telstra pit, and a Google search yielded no results either.  In the end, a phone call to 'Dial Before you Dig' identified Telstra as the owner.  The pit contains lead-ins for our property and our next door neighbour for Telstra Cable Internet and Foxtel.

The new pit, 1 metre to the left of the old one:

Power Pit Installed

After a two month process, the power pit has now been installed.  It was due for installation last Monday 5th, but when I called Wednesday to confirm completion they checked with the field tech and called me back to say it would be installed Thursday.  So it seems the job was overlooked.  Not that it mattered really, as we are still a few weeks away from site start.  In any case it's done now!

From past experience with my last build, the clean up crew should arrive in the coming weeks to concrete the footpath around the pit and restore the nature strip to something a little less of an eyesore!

The outline was in place for the last month

Power to your pits!

The destruction of the nature strip

Friday, 9 September 2011

First Artwork Purchase

It was Paulie's 2nd Fathers Day last weekend, and I (on behalf of Oli of course!) decided to satisfy two of his passions in one gift: namely Formula 1 and the new house.

We got him a framed (replica) vintage poster of the 1957 Monaco Grand Prix from Expressions Gallery of Armadale, who also have a small shop on Malvern Rd Prahran.  They are having a sale at the moment, so I got it for almost half price.  It's huge and I'm looking forward to Paul choosing a spot for it in the new house!

Here's a picture of it from

Friday, 2 September 2011

OMG! What happened to our House!!

Went to site this afternoon to survey the damage. The demolishers certainly cleared the block. How can something seem so immense and so small at the same time. Really struggled to get an idea on the scale of the house and what will be the backyard.

From the Front

Back Corner

The demolishers did a Bang up Job! They managed to even leave the water meter mostly intact. Seems our tap went missing though. We asked them to leave the fruit trees and the liquid amber at the back, which will at least give us something in the backyard once we are done. (Plums and some other Mystery fruit)

Water Meter

Our Trees

Nat emailed CSC that our block is clear and she replied straight away. She said Re-survey and second soil test is booked for Monday. Woo Hoo!

Feels quite real now. I'm really keen to get cracking!!