Monday, 28 May 2012

Theft Confirmed

I spoke to the Site Manager first thing this morning to ask about the missing gas meter and he confirmed that there was no legitimate reason for it to be gone.  So we've officially been robbed.  He's going to the house this morning to check it out.  I told him there's no cap on the mains line and was therefore concerned about rain getting in the line (if it hasn't already - it was pouring for a couple of days last week and given we haven't been on site between Tuesday and Sunday, we don't know when it was actually stolen).  I also wasn't sure if the tap was in the on or off position (although I'm assuming off because I didn't smell gas around the house and it surely would have been quite noticeable if it was open).

TruEnergy advised me that because the gas account is in my name I have to file a police report of the theft before the builder can start the process of getting a new meter.  It's costly to replace one apparently and the police report is the only avenue to avoid having to pay for a new one, and prove I didn't give the meter away (?!).  Fortunately it appears there's no risk of being charged for someone else's gas usage - they informed me that usually they never see the meters again - the thieves lock their gates and put their dogs in the yard so the distributor can't get access to read the meter.  Also the meter number is tied to the street address in their database so it's easy to catch the thieves if they get access to the meter.

I phoned the local police station and they allowed me to file a report over the phone thankfully, because getting out there was going to be difficult today.  I have a sick 21 month old at home and being 38 weeks pregnant I'm avoiding driving where I can.

I also phoned our CSC to advise him of the event and ask about the process to follow, but got his voicemail and left a message.

All in all, an unexpected busy morning of phone calls.  Now that one sick toddler is in bed asleep, I think I'll take the opportunity to do the same!

What's the start of a week without a drama, eh?  Although I thought giving birth would be the next drama on my list!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Build? What Build?

It's been just over a year now since we purchased the property and started the journey to building a new house.  After 2 years of searching we had given up trying to find a house that would fit our 5 year needs in the Melbourne Eastern suburbs that was in our price range.  So we instead selected a 'kit' home that we liked the design of, and then changed our property search criteria to fit our chosen house and backyard requirements.

I was reminded that it's been a year because Australia Post sent me a letter the other day to renew our mail redirection.  And given the house has been practically complete since the beginning of March, I just couldn't bring myself to renew the redirection.

So we went to the house today and installed a letterbox on one of the paling fences.  Checking the mailbox won't be a trial.  We feel it's necessary to visit the house on a weekly basis anyway, because of the amount of times we've arrived to find lights on and doors open, it's good to at least make sure the house is secure and hasn't been broken into....or that squatters have decided it's fair game...

And there sits our house.  Cold and lonely atop its muddy clay embankment; just begging for a little family to move in and warm the place up.  The batteries in the smoke detectors beeping away every minute around the clock, echoing throughout the house - in fact you can hear them from outside the house.  The shrill cry of a lonely, empty house.

There's red and green stickers dotted all over the place; little markings to indicate the 'defects' that require attention.  But that's just it.  They're not getting any attention.  It's been 2 whole weeks since the Construction Manager did his inspection and not a single trade has been onsite since.  Well, actually maybe there has been a trade onsite: our gas meter is missing.  But you could hardly classify items being removed as progress, rather a step backward really.  Given I didn't get a call from the Site Manager this week I've no idea if there's a problem with the meter that necessitated it's removal, or whether there's a scam to steal someone's meter and put it on another house so you pay for their gas.  A call to TruEnergy is therefore in order.  In any case, I think I'm within my rights to suspend the account, seeing as we've been paying 'Supply Charges' since the 22nd March and the gas was never even connected to the house.

Gas Meter on 12th May
...and today...out for a walk perhaps?

It's all good and well for the Site and Construction Managers to say they want to make sure the house is up to the utmost quality standards before they'll hand it over, but the truth of the matter is that with 8 jobs on his books, the workload is obviously too much to cope with if a single trade can't be scheduled in a 10 day working period.  And it's a hard pill to swallow when the defects are mostly cosmetic, subjective and could have been rectified months ago (example: the tiles on the bath the CM wants removed - why wasn't this done BEFORE the bath and tapware were installed and the bathroom caulked?  To fix it now will require not only the tiler, but the waterproofer, plumber and caulker to all come back, one after the other).

At the expense of a mortgage and rent month after month, it's really hard to be happy to sit and wait indefinitely until someone has time to pay your build some attention.

Pretty soon it's going to work out cheaper if we were able to pay our own trades to finish than pay the additional rent and keep waiting!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Day 232: Walk Through

It's been an anxious week, waiting for news as to whether the Occupancy Certificate has been granted, and whether the Construction Manager did his inspection at the start of the week and has signed off for the house to proceed to QA...

I called the Site Manager Tuesday and left a voicemail asking if he would allow me to have a guy come onsite to quote the installation of our appliances.  As of Thursday lunch time I hadn't had a return phone call, nor the regular Thursday morning progress update.  So the time start ticking by really slowly all afternoon and my paranoia got worse and worse that there couldn't be good news.

So what did I do?  I'm on maternity leave - which means I have far too much time to notice the time!  I firstly checked 'My Metricon' of course - to see if there were any dates published against the Occupancy Cert milestone...  Nope.  QA date?...Nope...  :(

So then I called our Customer Service Consultant (who told me a few weeks ago he'd send through a copy of the Occupancy Cert once received).  He didn't answer the phone so I left a voicemail...

So then I called our local Council to ask if they'd received the Occupancy Certificate from the Building Surveyor...Nope.  Not that this means it hasn't been signed off, of course, I told myself.  Just that it hasn't been lodged with Council yet...

So then as a last resort, I called the Construction Manager.  I was really hesitant because I didn't want it to reflect badly on our Site Manager, who we've been really happy with all build.  But I wanted to ensure the Construction Manager knew we were having a baby in 3 weeks or so and that if the PCI date occurs at the same time I won't be able to attend, either because I'm in hospital, or for the 6 or so weeks afterward when I'm a slave to a feeding baby every 2 hours, 24 hours a day.  Attending a 4 hour PCI walkthrough would be absolutely impossible.  I therefore wanted to know:

a) how likely it was that we could achieve PCI in the next week or two, or

b) could we perhaps do a 'pre PCI' walkthrough in the next week?  Even ahead of QA - so that I could give my list now and then all Paul has to do come real PCI is make sure everything is ticked off the list.

But of course he didn't answer his phone either and so I left a rather long-winded voicemail trying to explain our timing predicament.

At 6pm our Site Manager called.  The CM had phoned him.

The good news is that he confirmed the Surveyor has signed off on the Occupancy Certificate!  Phew, that news alone was a relief!

He also confirmed the Construction Manager did his inspection on Monday and created list of items to be rectified before QA can be scheduled.  These include mostly paint and plaster blemishes, mortar blowout and a few bricks to clean, but also a few things like a cracked roof tile, wobbly guttering on the South side of the house (perhaps missing a clip or two), a loose flyscreen that is too small and a couple of tiles in the bathroom where the edge is rough or there's a lip and he wants them replaced.  I'm wary of these last ones.  To remove the tiles they'll probably damage the tapware removing it, and who can guarantee the fix isn't worse than the current state?  It's so minor aesthetically and such a risk to fix - and costs time of course!  But they seem to be very pedantic about the finishes and won't relent, so we've no choice but wait and see.

The Site Manager suggested we have a walkthrough and we scheduled one for this afternoon.  We spent a couple of hours going through the list the CM created as well as our list of issues we've been tracking throughout the build.  It was good to finally get the opportunity to point them out onsite and hand over a list in writing.

But of course the Site Manager has to fix all these defects ands then get the Construction Manager back to check they're all done (and not find any new items of course!) before they'll hand over to QA.  So this will occupy at least the next couple of weeks.

And as it turns out, my instincts must have been right because a visit to the Obstetrician today confirmed that bubs is head down and ready to go.  "Feel free to give birth any time now" were the doctor's words as I left...


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 224: Some positive news

I received a call from the Site Manager this morning who was in very good spirits and pleased to report...


...that the drainage riser at the back of the house has finally been located and connected to the downpipe!  Yay!  Apparently the drainage guys were at the house last Saturday morning (along with our SS and the painters) looking for the riser, but it didn't get connected until yesterday.  Something about needing a camera, which I'm guessing means they were checking if the buried pipe had introduced any blockages.  They've also installed a stormwater inspection point at the front of the block.

The offending downpipe

Drainage Riser - present before slab

Drainage Riser - missing after slab

This now clears the way for the Certificate of Occupancy, so the Site Manager has booked the Surveyor for tomorrow.  I'm not sure how long it takes for Council to issue the CoA after the Surveyor's report, but given the Building Permit took less than a week, I'm hoping the same applies! 

The hole in the bath has been repaired and the painters have finished the touch ups, so the house is also finally ready for the Construction Manager to do his walk through and give the ok to proceed to QA.  He's booked for next Monday/Tuesday.

Then the QA team will spend about 4-5 hrs doing their inspection and they almost always find items requiring touch up, but the SS has done his best to identify and fix everything, so fingers crossed QA is a speedy process - even if the painters have to return for a dab here and there.  Then it's our turn for inspection.

Handover is finally starting to feel like a tangible milestone.  It's my last day at work tomorrow before going on maternity leave and so from next week I'll be using my time to obtain the last few quotes we need for the driveway, TV aerial and kitchen appliances installation.

I'll be relieved when QA is actually booked for a definite date.  Bring on next week!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Last Mile

There's been so little progress over the last 2 weeks (well two months really!) that I couldn't bring myself to write about it. But finally this week there's a few noteworthy items ticked off the list.

The Building Surveyor conducted the final inspection as a precursor to getting the Occupancy Certificate and our CSC advised us there's 3 defects to be fixed before we can get the certificate. The correspondence was via email and he didn't elaborate on what the 3 defects were, but I know the unconnected downpipe at the rear would be one of them!

The Plasterer has finished patching all the bits and pieces around the house.

The Carpenter has trimmed the kitchen end panels so the splash back is now fully installed and the cupboards are all back together again! Finally, a completed kitchen! (well, it will be after the Sparky returns to fit off the powerpoints in the splashback).

Brickwork has had expansion joints siliconed, mortar holes patched and render applied to brickwork above lintels on the facade of the house. Not sure if they do this to the whole house or just the facade - will see next weekend if the rest are done. It's a nice finishing touch, especially to bricks that aren't solid all the way through so you don't see the holes.
The external laundry door has been replaced (thanks to our SS for making this call. Given the door is stained, any patching of the gouges was going to be visible).

The manhole has a cover and trim, and temporary door handles with locks have been installed on the external laundry and garage doors. So a full four months after paying our lockup invoice we have finally actually achieved physical lockup! It means we have no means of access (hence no photos) but I'm more than fine with that as it means no one else does either! After arriving on ANZAC day the other week and finding all the lights on in the house and the laundry door wide open (thanks to the plasterer who obviously left the house that way the night before!) I'm relieved to have some security in place. We've been so lucky not to have had any theft or vandalism occur to date. We don't need any more reasons for further delay!

The painters have applied the final coat on the front door, stained the new laundry door and given the Rumpus door one coat of stain. They'll be back Monday to continue with all the final touch ups.

The storm water has finally been connected to the kerb channel (although they pulled the phone cable out of the underground conduit in the process, it seems that has been rectified in the past week too). As I mentioned earlier, the drainage guys have still not managed to locate the riser for the unconnected downpipe out the back. I printed pictures of the pipe before and after the slab and left copies on site a week ago so they could use them to locate it. I can see they've been digging in the correct location this week, but unfortunately still have not found it. I hope it gets resolved this week, as most other items will be finished and it will then be the one thing holding up all the inspections.

The house is getting another clean early next week. It will be good to see it free from plaster dust again!

It's now 5 weeks till bubs is due.
QA -> PCI -> Handover is a minimum 3 week process.
On top of that we've got kitchen appliances, curtains, light fittings and air conditioning all lined up waiting for installation before we move in...

...then there's also a 20,000L concrete water tank to sink in the front yard and driveway to lay so we can get in the house without mud and grit...

Hmmm...the maths isn't adding up in our favour. Oh, the things we put ourselves through! What's life without challenges, eh?!