Thursday, 8 March 2018

Manage your expectations (and don't sweat the small stuff)

Hello again!

It's really panning out to be an eventful week, with our brickies starting a few days earlier than expected and now looking to be almost finished by week's end. And the impact is amazing. Thank goodness.

You see, the bricks is one of the elements we had to adjust our thinking on several times. I wrote here about some of the constraints of building that we encountered. One of them was regarding the cladding material, which meant we had to adjust the mental picture of our new house from a weatherboard-look, to being mostly brick.

This wasn't an easy thing to do, because we'd built up an emotional attachment to a particular outcome. Detaching from that, and adjusting to the idea of a partly brick house was a fair shift, and finding a brick we liked, that would fit the bill aesthetically was a bit of a struggle.

However, we did find a brick we liked, and then became quite attached to it. It was a recycled brick, which fitted with my idea of trying to bring recycled or preloved elements into the build. I loved it.
But of course, recycled is de rigour now, and it's a material which is not easily sourced or cleaned.

When the builder tried to order for us, disaster struck. To our utter dismay, we found that the demand for our lovely recycled brick way outstripped supply. We were looking at minimum three to four months waiting, with no guarantees. We were gutted. We rang supplier after supplier but it was no good. Our brick was not going to be a part of our build.

At this point we were in a fair pickle. Bricks needed to be ordered quickly to keep the build moving so we had to make a quick decision about a replacement, which seemed crazy given how long it took to find the other one and then fall in love with it. And yes, I'm saying this about bricks, such is the nature of building a home.

Our local brick supplier, to their credit, offered a pretty good alternative, which was a brand new brick just released to the market, so new that the mortar on their own brick display wall hadn't even dried yet. It's a brick made to resemble a recycled product, with glaze and tumbling applied. Although not quite as red as the other one, and obviously lacking the provenance, we settled on our brick, the brick which now graces the walls of our new home.
It's the Tribeca 'Manhattan' brick from PGH, with an off-white mortar.

I can't say that this choice sits totally comfortably with me yet, but it's growing and I'm feeling very positive about the final outcome. Being a totally new product, I've only found one very small wall on a half-built house locally to give me a sense of how it might look on a larger scale. After seeing that small wall I had two reactions: the first was that I was worried I would hate it (being that I was comparing it in my mind to the previous brick), and that the mortar had to be light to give it a chance to get the antiquey look we wanted.

So after some eleventh-hour emails, we upgraded to an off-white mortar, which I'm glad we did, because it's going to look great once it fully dries. We also decided to go to an upright header above the windows and doors which really lifts the finish.

And the brickies love it. They thought it was a recycled product, so good is the effect. They also like that it's lighter than old bricks and is consistent in shape and size, making it easier to lay.
There have been several instances similar to this, albeit not as major, where we've had to readjust our expectations of how things are going to look. This can be a result of lack of communication, assumptions on behalf of various stakeholders, financial squeeze, or, as in the case of our bricks, availability.

Having to shift mindset from one expectation to another at short notice, is somewhat difficult, but sometimes it just needs to be. Losing sleep over our brick was a possibility, but now I know that was probably a waste of energy and desperately needed rest.
My philosophy now is to try to keep an open mind about alternative possibilities. There's often upside, so long as there's not an unwarranted or significant financial impact. Don't sweat the small stuff, just open your mind and let go of old ideas.

And in the case of our bricks, I can definitely see a new friendship developing.

Monday, 5 March 2018

No time to think: we're in the thick of it.


It's been 14 weeks since we began the project of building our new house and we can't quite believe how far we've come.
Through the very hot and dry month of February we saw the trusses, roof, fascia and guttering go on. Last week the windows and door frames were installed and the Scyon boards were put onto the front of the house. The bricks were delivered, and after a last-minute change of mind about mortar colour, the bricklayers will start a few days early tomorrow.

The action has pulled lots of tradespeople to the site already, and even a few curious and furry macropods, by the look of the footprints.
This would all be very exciting, apart from the fact that it puts lots of pressure on my dear electrician who is finding himself doing his dayjob and then going off to his sidegig wiring the house until very late nearly every night.

This is the time of the build when everything is in motion, there's barely time for thinking, only for doing. Any decisions not already made need to be made. Already.
In only a couple of weeks we'll be talking to plasterers and tilers. It's thrilling and terrifying all at once. C'est formidable, the French might say.

It's also not been without some niggles on small details with our builders, or without some concessions on  details or many hours of debating bathroom sink shapes and how to balance work, family and new house demands. It wouldn't be a genuine housebuild without it's share of stress.
But we will get through this. the more I see our house grow and spend time walking the land and feeling a part of it, the more I feel connected to what we are creating. And it will be worth it.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Week 11: Putting a lid on it - the roof

Hello! What a lot has happened since I last posted. February has been super-busy and doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon.
The start of framing heralded the start of wiring in the house, after we secured the tick of approval from the Electrical Safety Inspector for our mains. This meant me walking around the house and marking the kajillion or so powerpoints which we're going to need.
Admittedly there is definitely an advantage to having an electrician husband when it comes to this, because the cost of having our builder do it would have been very expensive. Next weekend I'll do the same for light switches and then we need to get ordering them. We've decided to take a different approach with this in order to be able to afford some fanciness - more on that in a later post.
But what a surprise greeted me when I thought I would sneak up to the building site this morning to get some pictures. Not having been able to find child-free time in the past two weeks, I had a 30 minute window of opportunity.
I found three enthusiastic roofers, energetically laying roof insulation and sheets of Colorbond! On a Sunday! What dedication!

Admittedly, it was a fabulous morning for it - all sunshine and a zephyr of a breeze playing across the valley. It was great to see the first skerrick of colour being applied.

The colour we've chosen for our roof is Colorbond Shale Grey with matching guttering. The fascia and downpipes are in Colorbond Thredbo White.

This will go back with white trim on the doors and windows (apart from the front door - this will POP!).

I made my way very quickly around the house and got home before my curfew was up. Looking at these pictures now is pretty exciting - soon the bricks and Scyon cladding will arrive and we won't know ourselves.......