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This is it, the long-awaited day has arrived. We have a final inspection tonight then we’re handed the keys to our new home.

The song ‘This is it’ by Dannii Minogue has been running through my head all morning… here’s a little sample of the high quality pop music Dannii produced in the 90’s to give you a taste of the mood I’m in:

To give you an update on what’s been happening inside for the last 2 months here are some photos…

The painter has done an AMAZING job both inside and out. We loved that he really thought about what he was doing, and offered suggestions for better ways to use the colours and different strengths to improve the way it would look…

The electrician has installed all the lighting, power points, fans, external lights etc. Adding the pendant lights above the dining table has really finished that area, and created a feeling of intimacy…

The tiling and plumbing is completed, and looks great with the shiny porcelain tiles and the goose-neck taps. We chose to run the rectangular floor tile lengthwise along the bathroom, then continue with that line up the wall – creating a line for the eye to follow.

Bathroom (you are looking at where the free-standing bath will go)

Powder room and toilet

Laundry…

Ensuite…

The floorboards have been polished, and the carpet is down in the bedrooms and living room.

I will follow with a video walk-through I will take during our handover tonight, and some final shots before we move in, and then after. I still have a few more posts to write about the window furnishings (being installed next week), contract variations and some general tips when building. In the meantime we will be busy moving in!

Cheers,

Bernice

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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:

Heating

  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)

Cooling

  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;

Heating

  • 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.

Cooling

  • 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.

Cheers,

Bernice
www.heybernice.com


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Things have started to happen indoors (thank goodness they’re working inside now – with the cold and rainy weather we have been having!)…all the plasterboard is up now, and the ‘stopper’ started this week. I refer to the stopper like I know what I am talking about – I really have no idea. I only know the term ‘stopper’ because we met ‘The Stopper’ when we were at the house on Saturday. He was there looking over the place before he started on the Monday. I can only assume that now the plasterboard is up he makes it all neat on the edges and corners, and smooths over where they have nailed the plasterboard onto the wall. Anyway, enough about guessing job descriptions… here’s what it looks like:

The plan as a reminder…

Front door…

Front Living room …

Study ‘nook’ (low height wall) with linen cupboard behind, and walk-though to laundry …

Study ‘nook’ to left, looking towards the front door …

Study ‘nook’ (will have built in bench and drawers)…

Bedroom 4…

Bathroom…

Standing on stairs, looking through the kitchen to the dining area …

Standing in the kitchen, looking through the dining area to the family room …

Standing in the dining area, kitchen to the left, family room to the right …

Standing in the dining area, looking through the kitchen to the front door …

Standing in the Family room looking towards the dining area and kitchen …

Until next time…

Cheers,

Bernice
www.heybernice.com


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We went down to Torquay for breakfast yesterday morning, then ventured on a walk along the coast from Torquay to Jan Juc – there was a northerly wind blowing, which made for some lovely waves, and mild air temperature – it was beautiful:

After the walk we ducked into the house for a look, not really expecting much… and were thrilled to find that the two decks were almost complete, along with all the insulation internally. I’m struggling to keep up! Here are some photos of the latest progress:

The house plan to refresh your memory…

Decks

Internal deck (using merbu), standing in the kitchen sliding doors, facing East …

Standing in the living room at the front of the house, looking back towards the internal deck (through the sliding doors!) the vertically placed horizontal wood slates will be painted the colour of the house…

Same deck with the privacy screen completed …

Same deck area, turning to face the house (looking at the family room)…

The back (golf) viewing deck, looking west (this deck will have a pergola along the length of it)…

The back (golf) viewing deck looking East …

Although our deck is only 90cm off the ground, which means we don’t legally need a guard rail/balustrade (according to the Building Code of Australia – BCA), we think we might change our minds and have one added. Standing on the deck without a balustrade made me very nervous about kids falling off the edge (or tipsy adults!). We just don’t want to take that risk, so we will speak to the builder about adding some kind of safety rail. Until we were able to stand on it yesterday, we didn’t realise how high off the ground it actually was. The whole point of the deck is for entertaining, and having friends (with their kids) over. It won’t be much fun if they are worried about their kids falling off the deck the entire time!!

The deck/walkway between the garage and the house (will also be covered in Merbu) …

Front entrance decking…


Insulation

Tip: When it came to the insulation we requested to have insulation placed in some of the internal walls too. During our own research we were told by someone that you can hear everything between walls, and to think about placing internal insulation between bedrooms. We also chose to place insulation between the bathroom and the bedroom 4 to cut noise from the shower, and between the kitchen and bedroom 2, to reduce the fridge motor noise. You can see where we have internal insulation on the plan.

The internal insulation in the front entrance wall (facing East) …

The living room …

Standing on the hallway stairs, facing the front of the house, overlooking the study nook and laundry entrance …

Standing at the hallway stairs, looking over the kitchen and dining area, toward the back of the house …

The family room, looking East …

It was lovely to walk through the house with the insulation in – for the first time the elements (mainly the rain and wind) were not working their way through the house. It felt cosy, secure, and very quiet! I guess it is all ready for the plasterer now!

I’ll keep you updated about what we end up doing about the decking safety rail/balustrade.

Cheers,

Bernice
www.heybernice.com


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I met with the builder last week for a site inspection (lock up stage) – it was one of the worst meetings imaginable! Not because of anything to do with the house, but because I had to take Heidi (who had been unusually irritable that week) and she screamed at the top of her lungs the entire time. She reached octaves I had never heard from her before. It was ghastly, we couldn’t hear each other, and I wasn’t able to concentrate. I did the logical thing, and cut the meeting short to get the poor little miss home. The moral of that story is leave the kids at home for any meetings to do with the house (especially when grizzly!!).

So, we are at lock-up stage, and Pivot are getting Building Ethics Australia (BEA) to conduct their building inspection this week. We will forward that certificate onto the bank with the invoice from Pivot, and that will allow us to progress to the next stage (once the bank has paid Pivot). Refer to my previous post for more info about progress payments and the BEA inspection.

Two days after the disastrous baby crying meeting I popped to the house again – and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting much to have changed, and discovered all the electrical wiring had been completed, along with the heating ducts, and air-conditioning. They are quick workers!!!

A link to the electrical plan

Light switch wiring….

TV, speakers, data point and electrical wiring in the family room…



Powerpoint and light switch wiring in the family room …

Down light wiring in the kitchen and family room…

We decided to have gas ducted heating and multiple reverse cycle air- conditioning units for our heating and cooling. I will go into more detail about our heating and cooling choices in a future post:

Air-conditioning wiring and pipes for the master bedroom …

Air-conditioning wiring and pipes for the living area …

Heating duct (green thing!) running from under the house (at the back of the house) to the bulkheads ( for the bedrooms) …

Duct feeding into one of the bedrooms …

I have been informed that the plasterer is booked, and the external painter will be organised soon…. it’s moving along at a great pace right now. When I asked the million dollar question “when do you think it will be finished” we were told around November (5 months away)…. fingers crossed!!

I will have more details about the heating and cooling up soon,

Cheers,

Bernice
www.heybernice.com


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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.

Cheers,

Bernice
www.heybernice.com


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I never realised how much thought goes into an electrical plan, it was like doing a brain teaser – I was exhausted after the meeting with the electrician.

We were presented with a recommended electrical plan from Pivot just prior to contract finalisation. This was a standard recommendation to base the quote and contract on. We were fully aware that this would alter after a detailed meeting with the electrician and result in a contract variation. Because we were trying to fast-track everything to get the loan sorted before our baby was due, a lot of meetings and details were pushed to after contract signing.

Pivot arranged a 1 hour meeting with the electrician and someone from Pivot (Chloe) to run through the proposed electrical plan, and discuss our options, which included:

– switches and which switch will turn on which lights . Where to put 2-way and 3-way switches (this was the brain numbing bit),

– external sensor lights,
– outdoor lighting (feature vs. spotlight),
– down lights vs pendant vs fluorescent,
– exhaust and ceiling fans,
– power points (how many, where to place them, and style),
– connectivity within the house eg. wiring between computer and TV (for sharing data),
– wiring for wall mounted TV & speakers,
– garden lighting.
– location of the external meter box, and the internal switch box.

We made a lot of changes. I didn’t realise how personalised an electrical plan can be, it is directly linked to your preferred living habits and planned movement through the house.

The original plan we were presented with looked like this:

When meeting with the electrician we had to make decisions about a lot of different things that led to some changes, like:

  1. To determine where to put the light switches, and which lights to connect to each switch we needed to work out how we would move around in a house we have never lived in. It sounds simple, but you need to work out which lights you will need switched on (when it’s dark) to walk from the garage, through the laundry, study and up the hall stairs to the kitchen – and then a convenient way to turn them all off again once you are there! Which lights you want connected to the front sensor to provide guests with enough light to walk up the driveway. When going to bed at night, you want to make it easy to turn off the lights and not have to walk in the dark across a room to your bedroom. Where you want dimmers for some lights. All the decisions we made can be seen in the final electrical plan at the end of this post.
  2. How many down lights do we need in each room? eg. avoiding shadows cast over the bench in the kitchen. We added, removed and replaced some down-lights. We chose low voltage brushed chrome fittings (the external down lights are stainless steel):
  3. Where do we want Pendant lights? We decided to have three over the dining room table to create some intimacy. We chose three Jacob Drum Pendant lights in oak/white:

    We also purchased a floor lamp and bedside lamps to match this fitting:

  4. Where do we want fluorescent lights? eg. laundry, pantry, walk-in wardrobe.
    The fitting chosen for these locations:
  5. Power points internal and external eg. How many, where, single or double and the style? (keeping in mind where we might want to have a table/bedside table with a lamp, or a floor lamp/night-light for kids/guests and for vacuuming. also any outdoor work that requires power).
    We chose standard power point fittings throughout the house:

    Except for the two double points located within the splash-back in the kitchen, these will match the splash-back glass (white):
  6. Where do we want ceiling fans, and the switches for them?
    We chose to have stainless steel ceiling fans in the family room and the master bedroom to push the warmth down in the winter (with the high ceilings), and circulate cool air in Summer.
  7. Where do we need exhaust fans? eg. bathrooms and pantry (because we will have the toaster and microwave in there):
    The exhaust fan for the pantry:

    The exhaust fans for the en-suite and bathroom are combined with lights/heaters:


    The exhaust fan for the toilet:

  8. Where do we want our external lights, and what style should they be – floodlight/spotlight (functional), feature light (architectural), entertaining light (functional and architectural). What type of light eg. LED or Halogen globe, and the material they are made from and its suitability for the location eg. coastal sea breezes will cause corrosion and require more upkeep. We chose the following external lights:
    For the entertaining areas and to light up the feature garden next to the front door (Halogen Stainless steel directional baton light):

    Either side of the garage door (Halogen stainless steel vertical baton light):

    To light the utility area (clothes line/rubbish bin storage):
  9. Multimedia considerations eg. how many TV /Pay TV access points do we want and where? Internet points and where, phone points and where? Do we need wiring to allow connectivity between our computer and TV – for sharing music and movies etc (as my husband pointed out, we have an Apple computer, for $99 we can buy an Apple TV, and save ourselves about $1500 in house wiring in the slab!). All these details can be seen in the final electrical plan below.
  10. Do we want to have feature lights in the garden, or at least wiring to add them down the track? We decided not to bother with garden lighting and wiring at this stage.

After all the detailed discussions with the electrician and Pivot the final electrical plan looks like this:

I must say that the electrical decisions have been the hardest aspect for me – it was something I’ve never had to consider before, so required a lot of digestion and thought before a decision could be made. In saying that, if these were the hardest decisions we’ve had to make to build our house then that’s not so bad at all!

The cladding should be going up in the next week or so, which will bring us to lock-up stage – Yay!!

Until next time…

Bernice
http://www.heybernice.com

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