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.......

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Bucking the Trend: why we ditched the Parents v Kids Zone

Once upon a time, or so we are led to believe, designing the Australian family home was as easy as assembling a Vegemite and cheese sandwich. It was just a case of putting together the tried and true basics, again and again, because everybody likes it.

You knew you needed a kitchen and laundry, a dining room, a lounge room, a bathroom (yes, just one) and a few bedrooms, usually three. When you walked through the front door into the hallway (vestibules hadn't been invented in Australia yet), the order of layout was generally lounge on one side, Mum and Dad's room on the other, then the kitchen and bathroom opposing each other, then the assortment of kid's bedrooms, and with the laundry hanging off the back of the house. The toilet was always next to the laundry, not in the bathroom (only American sitcoms had this, which is when I finally understood why they called going to the toilet, going to the 'bathroom').

There were some variations, but essentially this was the quintessential Aussie Family Home. On a 1/4 acre block. If in doubt, refresh your memory by watching a movie which demonstrates this clearly: The Castle. Okay, I forgot about the poolroom (they were obviously rich).

Ah, utopian times.

Now, as time-passengers of the twenty-first century teenies, we accept that house plans must be dissected, masticated, ruminated upon and finally examined for a spark of joy or alternative facts. We must have a plebiscite and present our prospective plan to complete strangers on social media for their edification and blessing.

Or, you can get liberated and do what's right for you and not worry about everyone else.

Liberated is how we felt when we made a radical change to our house design. We had spent several months on it, and it felt okay......except for the bedrooms. It literally kept me up at night. I worried about not hearing our kids when they had nightmares or a tummy bug, and the thought of them calling and crying while we slumbered obliviously was the clincher. 

Our initial plan followed the current design default with the kids bedrooms and the master bedroom at opposite ends of the house. We stepped it out, and discovered that it would take about 35 steps from our bed to our son's. If that doesn't sound like much, try walking it in the dark at 2am down a hall, through several doorways, past the couch, kitchen table and most likely through a pile of schoolbags and toys. Now three times. Now every night.

Not so easy, huh?

I knew we had to have a conversation with our builder and they weren't going to like it because it meant starting the plan from scratch, after almost 12 months of planning.

The fact is, our kids are still relatively young at 6 and 9. It's complicated by the fact that our son has a disability which means he needs help nearly every night, usually several times. No matter how much we thought about it, the modern bias for a kids zone and parents zone wasn't going to fit our family. We bit the bullet and had the tough conversation with our designer.

Essentially we decided to not the take the advice of those who told us teenagers need their space and privacy. That we needed our own space and privacy. That when our kids have parties we would want to get as far away as possible.

My husband and I agreed that we want our kids to know we're not far away. We want them to be able to call out if they need us, to be able to pass their bedroom each morning and ask how they slept, you're late for school, I love you. Life is short and you're dead a long time.

And, just quietly, there's nothing wrong with your kids knowing that there's the teeniest chance Mum or Dad might spring them doing something that perhaps they shouldn't be doing - after all, this is how most of us were brought up, right? And we turned out okay.....right?

So there isn't a 'kids zone' in our house design. There isn't a 'parents retreat', either. I suppose the whole thing is one big Family Zone. A family home, even.

If need be, the kids can escape to a rumpus room, the lounge room or living room. There's lots of space outside and they will have their own bedrooms. In times of extreme teen angst, there are even doors on those bedrooms.

It's hard for many Aussies to understand, but there are people out there who don't like Vegemite and cheese sandwiches. It must be the cheese, I dunno. But it's true.

So it stands to reason that all house designs don't fit all families. The standard book of house designs that most builders show you doesn't always contain a design that works the way you need it to. It's absolutely okay to want or need something else, and to ask how a house plan can work better for you. Don't be afraid to challenge your builder to think outside the box. It might just be one of the most liberating thing you do.

That, and truly loving a Vegemite and cheese sandwich. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Give and take: the top 3 building constraints to our build (so far)


On Monday we begin Week 7 of our house build. This week and the next few are going to be big because the frames will be delivered this week and everything will become three dimensional at last - yippee!
As much as possible, we've tried to select an exterior style which fits our love of classic Australian farmhouses. When I say 'as much as possible' I mean that there are constraints that we've had to work within.

The top 3 building constraints to our build (so far)

1. 6 star Energy Efficiency Performance requirement

Ideally, I would have loved to have been renovating an old farmhouse, which would have meant we could keep heritage features and wouldn't be held as tightly to the energy star rating required for new buildings in Victoria. However, we were unable to find the amount of land we wanted in a zone close enough to our town and amenities to avoid spending a lot of time driving.

The 6 star rating works on a points system where different energy-saving applications have a star value. These star values add up until finally you get to the required minimum value of 6 stars which is necessary for your building permit to be approved.

For us, this meant reducing the amount of glass facing north, applying double-glazing, reducing the amount of verandah overhanging the north side of the house, including high-rated insulation in the external walls and ceiling, and orientating the house more closely to due north, which changed our view slightly.

2. Building on land with restrictive covenants

The land we bought is great - it's a good size at 7 acres, ideal location, great view - but it does have a covenant, meaning there are restrictions on some of the materials we can use to build our house and also where on our land we can build it.

Being a lover of old Aussie homes, I'm quite partial to a rusty old tin roof. Used in Australia since the 1840's, it's been widely used country-wide and is now part of the architectural narrative. The image of a plain corrugated roof was part of how I imagined our new house, so I was pretty disappointed to discover this was a no-no in our covenant. Understandably, modern corrugated steel is highly reflective and can be very visually intrusive for neighbours and flying craft, so we chose the Colorbond colour Shale Grey, which is still very pale but still carries the tin roof vibe that we wanted.

Another major concession that we had to make was the cladding. Initially, we were all for a house which looked like a traditional weatherboard house, and we'd chosen to clad the whole house in Scyon Linea, a modern composite product which is resistant to rot and termites, making it a better alternative to the timber weatherboards of yore.

Again, it was a bit of a blow to learn that our house needed to be clad by the majority in a masonry product. So in the spirit of trying to channel a bit more of a vintage look, we decided to clad just the front aspect of the house in Scyon and the rest in recycled red bricks from building demolitions around the state. These bricks are only lightly cleaned and will still bear the patina of past buildings, bringing the lived-in look that we were trying to achieve. It's a different approach which isn't for everyone but we're confident it's going to look pretty cute.

3. Money doesn't grow on trees

Lastly, and I'm know you're all nodding with me here: spendoolies. Yep, there's never enough cash to go around when you're looking at how much it costs to build. We've had to make decisions all the way through on where we would spend a little more (and have had no choice in spending more - hello double-glazing!) and where we would choose more frugally.

But more about where we splashed out and reigned it in another time.

Let's get those frames up!