Archive for the ‘fitout’ Category

It’s been another one of those weeks full of surprises, I went to the house not expecting a huge amount to have happened, and was a little overwhelmed…

I ventured to the house to meet the cabinet maker to assist in the positioning of our vanity basins, and was greeted by a huge amount of progress.

– the enormous mound of dirt in the back garden had been spread around the block making the back garden look much bigger, and allowing for a better view of the 7th hole from the house…

– All the privacy screens are up  (along the garage-to-house walkway, outside the second bathroom window, and hiding the clothes line and water tank from the neighbours)…

The screen running the length of the walkway (to the right of the front entrance), the second panel from the right is a gate:

The privacy screens in the service yard to hide the water tank clothes line and garbage bins:

– The front door handle was on!!! Very thrilling….

– The ensuite cabinetry was being installed…

I needed to provide input into the positioning of the beautiful apaiser basins (because the basins are not symmetrical I wanted to make sure they were positioned correctly). For more info about our bathrooms, and the products/colours chosen view this post:

These are these apaiser pebble basins in ‘seed pearl’…

– The powder room and bathroom cabinetry had been installed…

One of the apaiser basins will sit on the bench in both of these rooms:

– The study nook had been completed…

– All the wardrobes were done…

– The pantry shelving was in (will be covered with laminate)…

– The most exciting part was the kitchen, almost complete…

My poor husband misses out on seeing all this progress (unlike me, he goes to work during the week!). He gets to keep up with it all on this blog like you! I must say, being on maternity leave during the build has been really handy, it has given me the flexibility to visit the site when I want  to have a quick look (with permission from the site supervisor) and when any tradespeople need me there.

There’s lots going on at the moment, so keep coming back for updates.




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We are almost at the end of the fixing stage…

“when all internal cladding, architraves, skirting, doors, built in shelves, baths, basins, troughs, sinks, cabinets and cupboards of a home are fitted and fixed into position”

It was about time I did another movie for you all… so here is the ‘Fixing extravaganza’. Again, it is set to one of my husband’s awesome chill-out songs. I think he downloaded this to use when he was giving me a massage (back in the day when he was studying massage). I just sold his massage table last week, so I don’t think I will be receiving to many massages to this song in the future!!

I’ve been busy organising fencing quotes, and fitting that into the timeline. We have the landscaping starting mid September, and the driveway around then too. Next week the kitchen is going in, and we are meeting with our window furnisher to discuss blinds for the house. I will go into all of that in more detail in a a future post.

It’s all starting to take shape, we’ll be in before we know it.


PS. Apologies if there is a little movement with the camera in the movie. I had Heidi strapped to the front of me, and a camera held above her head was too enticing to ignore on occasions!

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It was a busy few days last week….

Not only were the floorboards finished (not polished, just laid), but the painter started a rough coat on the outside. We also noticed the balustrades are up on the external decks (our last minute change). One feature we liked about the balustrades is that the horizontal plank of wood is wide enough to safely rest a drink on – a very important feature indeed! I also have images of kids (in years to come) using this as a make-shift beam (of the gymnastics kind!).

When I dropped in on Friday it was a hive of activity, there were about four guys there – hammering and sawing was coming from all corners of the house. Enough describing, you can see it all for yourself below…

Here are the external paint colours we chose…

And below is a plan of which colour is being used where… (We made one last minute change to colours, recommended by Michael at Pivot, to paint the front of the garage Woodland grey to break it up a bit):

External Paint Colours

The front entrance section is painted in the Woodland Grey, whilst the remainder of the front cladding is in Bushland. All the gutters and woodwork is (will be) painted in Dune...

You can see the contrast of the woodland and Bushland here…

Looking at the west side of the house (across the vacant block). The front of the garage (far left) will be painted in the Woodland to break up the bushland a little…

Looking in the service yard (clothesline, bin storage, water tank etc) on the West side of the house, with the walkway from the garage to the laundry on the left…

The West side of the house…

The back of the house (you can see the Balustrades are up – all that woodwork will be painted Dune)…

The internal deck. All the woodwork (except the privacy screen) will be painted in Dune…

The internal courtyard looking towards the front of the house …

Here are some pictures of the completed floorboards inside…


Dining and family room …

Kitchen and dining room …

Stairs down to the front of the house ..

Hallway to front door …

Hallway to bedrooms …

The transition from floorboards to carpet, nicely done with some angled wood….

The balustrades we added at the last minute…

I think the next week or so is all about painting, inside and out – I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any major milestones.


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Choosing heating and cooling options for your home can be challenging – not only are there many options available to choose from, but the design of your home can often dictate your options or what is best suited to your home.

Firstly, it is important to invest time and money in building an energy efficient home that will provide less of a need to rely on mechanical heating and cooling.  Passive design is an important factor when designing your home – it is design that does not require mechanical heating or cooling. Homes that are passively designed take advantage of natural climate to maintain thermal comfort.  Passive design is brilliant for the environment, especially when heating and cooling utilises around 38% of your home energy.

Whilst passive design should be utilised where possible, it is still important to take into account mechanical heating and cooling options when designing your home, or you could be disappointed down the track when there isn’t enough ceiling space for the ducted air conditioning system you wanted to install. Or building your home on a slab won’t allow for ducted floor heating.

Below is a basic (and by no means exhaustive) list of heating and cooling options:


  1. Ducted gas heating (reverse cycle)
    – in the floor;
    – in the ceiling;
  2. Electric heating
    – heating units attached to the wall
    – reverse cycle heating and cooling attached to the wall
  3. Gas log fire
  4. Wood fire
  5. Hydronic heating (water heating)
  6. Floor heating (in the slab)
  7. Ceiling fans (to work with your heating to push the heat down from the ceiling)


  1. Ducted air conditioning (reverse cycle)
  2. Split system (reverse cycle) electric air-conditioning on the wall
  3. Ducted evaporative cooling system
  4. Ceiling fan

It’s essential to understand the operating costs of different heating and cooling options before you make your final decision, you may find the more expensive system to install saves you more in the long term in energy bills (especially at the rate electricity is increasing in price). Don’t forget to look at the energy rating of each option – that will give you an idea of the comparative running costs of each system.

To give you a snapshot of how different systems stack up against each other I have included some tables below:

Comparison of central heating systems (click image to enlarge)…

And cooling running costs (in Australian dollars/cents)……

The Your Home  website (A joint initiative of the Australian Government and the design and construction industries) is great for explaining the different types of heating and cooling options  (and which one is better suited for different sized rooms or houses). It also has heaps of other info on building a home, and choosing materials and appliances for your new home. Or view their Heating and Cooling PDF brochure.

Our home

Because half of our house is on a slab, and the the other half was on stumps we went for a unique combination of heating and cooling options to fit the house design, and to minimise running costs.

On the topic of passive design we chose to do the following to minimise the use of mechanical heating and cooling options:

– No West facing windows to minimise the hot afternoon sun/heat in the summer;
– Large North facing windows in the two living areas to capture the north sun/heat in winter;
– Double glaze the house throughout;
– Allow air flow through the main living areas (with large sliding doors on both sides of the room) to allow cross-ventilation to cool the house in Summer;


  • The location of the ducts:
    • Coming from the floor in the back section where the house is on stumps (kitchen, family, dining, master bedroom);
    • Ducted into bedroom two, three and four above the wardrobes (because the rooms are on a slab, and there is limited space in the ceiling to run the ducts);
    • A wall duct above the hallway stairs to heat the study nook and front entrance/living room;
    • We specifically chose not to have any heating in the front living room. This room will not be used very frequently, and because the room is open (and facing North), we hope that the heat will travel down there from the hallway ceiling duct, and be heated by the North sun in Winter. We agreed that if the room was too cold to use in winter we would consider a heating option for that room in the future;

Whilst we would have preferred floor ducts throughout the house, we have them in the main living area, Master bedroom and kitchen, which is where it will be used more frequently.

We also had a gas pipe plumbed into the family room at the back if we ever wanted to install a gas fire down the track – we were undecided at the time of building.


  • We are installing 2 ceiling fans
    • one in the master bedroom;
    • one in the family room;

Brushed Chrome ceiling fan…

  • We are also installing 3 split system Daikin wall mounted units for air-conditioning use:
    • One in the master bedroom (model: FTXS35, 3.5kW);
    • One in the dining/family room (model: FTXS100, 9.4kW);
    • One in the hallway servicing bedroom two, three and four (Model:FTXS50, 5.0kW);

View the location of our heating ducts and wall mounted cooling:

Heating and cooling Outlet locations

There is a lot of information out there on this topic which can make it quite overwhelming. Be guided by your builder, do your own research, and most of all ask people who have the type of heater or cooling system you are considering – they’re the best people to learn from. That’s where we got the following info:

our ducted heating from the ceiling didn’t warm the lower part of the room in our large living area, we always had to wear socks because our feet would get cold

“we had one of those wall mounted electric panel heaters – it cost a fortune to run”, and

always get gas-powered heating, not electric – it is much cheaper to run

I hope this has been somewhat helpful in your heating and cooling learning curve and decision making.



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This is going to be a really quick update… I did a drive-by the house today (on the way to mothers group), to find that the floorboards had started… and the entire house had been given an undercoat inside. When speaking to the guy doing the flooring he said the painter usually comes in after him, but they must have had a few spare days up their sleeve and managed to squeeze in an undercoat. The place looked amazing – the walls were so clean and neat.

The flooring gives the entrance a really warm feeling – I love it!

I will take some more detailed photos of the flooring next week when it is completed, but here’s a squiz at what he had done today…

This is the floor prepped ready to have the glue and floorboards placed ontop…

Here’s a quick look at the undercoat…



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Building a house is a little bit different to buying one, not surprisingly the money matters surrounding the experience are different too.

There are some key money related things to know if you are considering building your home (apologies for those from outside of Australia – some of this may not be relevant to you):

First home owners grants
In Australia (and each state is different) there are incentives offered by the government to encourage buying/building new homes, if you are a first home buyer (refer to this site for the current details of this scheme). At the time of writing this in Victoria, the Australian Government would provide close to $30,000 towards your new home if you were a first home buyer, building a new home in regional Victoria – how good is that!

– $7000 federal first home owners grant (as long as the value of the house does not exceed $600,00);
–  $13,000 new home bonus (only if building a new home);
–  A further $6,500 if building in regional Victoria (this is only for contacts signed before 30 June 2011);

Make sure you check out what grants you may be entitled to, unfortunately this was not an option for us with our home.

Banks and loans
If you need to borrow money to build, determining your budget is an important first step. Refer to my previous post about determining your building budget to help you do this. The first thing a bank will ask you when you go to see them is “How much money do you want to borrow?”. If you haven’t factored in everything required to complete the house (landscaping, fences, window furnishings and driveway) you could come up short with funds post loan approval.

The land loan
If you have found your land, but not finalised the building side of things you will approach the loan for the land like you would for buying a house. Gain pre-approval from the bank for a loan amount to cover the land. It is also a good idea to get pre-approval for the total amount you think you might need to build the house as well. You don’t want a situation where you have bought your land, and the bank won’t lend you the amount you need to build the home you want. You will make your offer on the land, the agent/sales person will accept the offer (on behalf of the vendor/developer), contracts will be signed and a deposit paid (we paid a 10% deposit). These signed contracts will then be used by the bank to process your loan and send the balance of payment to the agent/solicitors to finalise the purchase of the land at settlement. The bank will send a valuer out to the land to verify it is worth the amount you have paid for it (all very straight forward and normal for a property loan).

We didn’t do a house and land package, so I am not in a position to comment on the process there. The large building groups that do these type of packages can walk you through this process, often they will have their own finance options/affiliations you can look into using.

Stamp Duty Savings
The other bonus when building, as apposed to buying, stamp duty is only paid on the land value – stamp duty is not paid on the value of the house you are planning to build. So if you get a good deal on your block of land, or buy in a regional area (where the price of land is not as high as the city), you will save quite significantly on stamp duty.

The house, landscaping and other bits
When borrowing to build a house it is not as straight forward as buying land or an existing house. You don’t tell the bank how much you want to borrow, they give you the money, then you decide how to spend it (wouldn’t that be nice!). You will need to do a lot of work with your architect/builder first, and provide a copy of the following to gain loan approval from the bank (this was what was required by our bank – this may vary with other institutions):

– signed building contract with the final contract price to complete the house (you will have decided on your builder, and completed all the details for your house plans, and signed the contract with them);
– approved building plans (approved by the council and stamped/signed on every page by them),
– a building permit issued by your council;
– copy of the certificate of currency for domestic building insurance (the builder provides this)

The bank will need copies of all these documents to pass onto their back office to use in the approval process.

You will also need rough estimates (ball park figures you determine) for the other work that will also be covered by the loan eg. landscaping, driveway, fences (that are not covered in the building contract). You may want to include these costs in your loan total too, if you don’t have the money in the bank to cover these yourselves.

Once the loan amount has been decided and approved (including all your extras mentioned above), the funds do not get released until the builder has invoiced you for completion of a formal stage in the building process. These stages are referred to as progress payments. These invoices are then forwarded onto your bank and they pay the builder directly – subject to a formal inspection and approval of the work that has been completed.

Progress payments are usually made at the following stages (according to our bank):

Stage                       $
Slab down/base    15%
Frame                     25%
Roof On                  25%
Lock up                   15%
Completion            20%

However our Builder structured the progress payments a little differently:

Stage                       $

Deposit                     5%
Base Stage             10%
Frame stage           15%
Lock up stage        35%
Fixing Stage          25%
Completion           10%

Most banks will have forms you must complete and submit at each payment stage, along with the builders invoice.

Independent Inspections
One of the things we noted during our research was the importance of having an independent inspection undertaken at each building stage (before progressing any further). Unless you are a qualified builder, do you really think you would be able to pick-up on something that is not constructed to industry standards? We didn’t feel comfortable relying on our limited construction/building knowledge at each site inspection, so we looked into getting someone to do this for us. It was going to cost between $500 – $1000 to get an independent building inspection completed by a consultant – each time! We were pleasantly surprised when Pivot told us that they organised independent inspections at the completion of each stage with Building Ethics Australia (BEA):

Quality Assured
BEA understand how a good builder should operate. They check their builders carefully before they can gain accreditation. This check involves a financial check and they speak to a number of their previous clients. Only competent builders become BEA Accredited Builders, which guarantee’s you a first-class job without all the worry and stress that comes with being in unfamiliar territory.

Independent Industry-Leading Inspections
BEA’s Quality Assurance Program provides the highest level of consumer protection in the industry today.  BEA Accredited Builders subject themselves to critical independent site inspections during the construction of a home at every progress payment stage. BEA builders agree to not being paid for any stage other than deposit until BEA has inspected the work to ensure it meets industry standards.

Protection & Peace of Mind
When you appoint a BEA Accredited Builder, you only make progress payments after having received confirmation from BEA that the work meets the industry standard. This confirms that an independent inspection has been carried out prior to each progress payment stage, verifying all aspects of your building project meet the prescribed industry standards.

Additionally, in the unlikely event of any dispute between the builder and client, BEA is there to offer independent assistance in resolving the issue.

Once BEA have completed the inspection, and are happy with the work completed, they issue an Authority to Pay Certificate to Pivot, who send it on to us, to forward to the bank. My understanding is that the bank would organise an independent inspection of the house build at each stage if Pivot didn’t already use BEA – after all, they need to ensure they protect their investment (it’s the bank’s funds that are building the home!).

The experience with our bank…Members Equity

We chose to move all our banking over to Members Equity (ME) when we sold our house in Melbourne, we were looking for a different bank for our personal banking and new property loans. Previously we were with one of the large banks, and didn’t find their customer service or the fees charged particularly appealing.

We chose members Equity because a friend’s husband worked there, and informed us of the 0.5% rate reduction we would get if our Superannuation was with an industry super fund (who own ME Bank). Members Equity has only been around since 1999.

“From day one, ME Bank’s goal was to give industry super fund members better value banking and better service with a no-nonsense approach to borrowing and with products that were simple, straightforward and offered value-for-money to working Australians.All with low or no fees, low interest rates and higher returns built in for industry super fund members.”

That’s exactly what we get, and they were one of the few banks who didn’t put rates up recently when all the other major banks did.

I cannot fault the personal service we have received with Members Equity. From the initial discussions seated at a desk with a consultant (over a latte they provided!), to the personal phone calls to give us updates, and to tell us our loan was approved – the entire experience has really blown us away. Even Pivot builders can’t believe how quickly Members Equity process the progress payments – within 24 hours!! It’s perfect to keep the ball rolling on the house build, avoiding stops and starts. We have the phone number and email address for our loan manager, allowing us to deal directly with them – it’s brilliant. I never thought I would speak so positively about a bank.

Also, we weren’t forced to take a loan package with offset accounts, Visa cards and a whole lot of things we didn’t need. We just wanted a loan, access to internet banking and good service!

This post has been jam-packed with lots of info… I hope it hasn’t been too overwhelming? All these topics are linked in some way, so I thought it best to cover them together.



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