Moving In – Removalist or DIY

It’s possible to save a fair bit of money by moving yourself but should you do it?…………….Well I’ve moved myself many times and used removalists several times as well so here are my thoughts:

Volume of Stuff

I reckon my limit on volume for DIY is emptying a house or flat consisting of two bedrooms, lounge dining room and kitchen.

You can normally fit all this inside one of those self drive trucks.

Any more and you have to think about making 2 trips when it all gets too hard.


If you need to move everything on one day even with a fairly small house its gets hard to do it yourself.

I think if you are going to move yourself it better to plan to do it over a couple of days.


Distance can be a real problem because its hard to go back and pick up extra stuff that didn’t fit in the van.

My limit for DIY moves is around 100km.

Packing Loose Items and Valuables

You can save money when using a professional if you pack most of the small items yourself.

You need to be aware however the removalist won’t be responsible for breakages in boxes they didn’t pack.

We tend to put valuable items we pack in our car to avoid this issue.

If you are going to pack yourself its worth reading the post on Removal Boxes


The photograph was taken by Alain Delorme in Shanghai in 2010

Buying A Sloping Block.

It doesn’t take much of a slope to mean that costs will increase.

For the last house I built, in 2005, a 0.8m slope over a 26m wide by 32m deep block added $4,800 to the cost.

That’s for much less of a slope than the block in the picture.

The extra cost was for some cut and fill ($2,900) to level the site under the slab, and about 12m of 450mm high timber retaining wall ($1,900).

Much more of a slope and the costs can really shoot up. As well as cut and fill costs you could have:

  • Drop Edge Beams – A sort of retaining wall as part of the foundation to make sure that the fill stays under the foundation.
  • Concrete Pier, or Screw Piles may be needed because the different depths of fill under the slab will have varying strengths.
  • Higher Strength Slab – Needed to span between the piles.
  • Extensive Retaining Walls – Once Retaining Walls go above 1m high the costs increase significantly.

One advantage of double storey houses on slopes is that the additional cost of foundations will be lower than those for a single storey house of similar total floor area due to the smaller foundation area.

For really steep slopes you may need to go for a Split Level Home or even build on ‘Stilts’. Either way you are definitely going outside the typical project builders territory and probably looking to get a custom builder and architect involved in the house.

So why build on a slope? Well for many people its a view, and means you may only be overlooked on one side of the house.

Without a view and I would only be looking at building on a slope if the block was significantly cheaper, compared to a similar sized flat block, to offset the additional costs.

For Similar Posts see Choosing Blocks

Or see Understanding Retaining Walls


Rainwater Tank Problems

Rainwater Tanks aren’t always trouble free, so here is some advice on a couple of problems that you can encounter.


Even with pre-filters there will eventually be a build up of dirt and cloudy water at the bottom of the tank.

There are professional tank cleaning companies that will provide the safest way of cleaning a tank. As they can filter the water out of the sludge they minimise the water lost from your tank.

If you are going to do it yourself the best time is to do it when the tank is low. Working from out side the tank use a pressure washer to wash the sides and agitate the sludge in the bottom, then flush it out of the drain.

Whatever you do DO NOT Climb Inside The Tank.  Working inside tanks (known as Confined Space Work) is a very risky thing and several people have been killed.


Regular chlorination of your rainwater tank should not be necessary, although there will be some bugs in the water you will develop an immunity.

However if people are getting ill, or you suspect the water in your tank is contaminated you can chlorinate the water.

If you are going to be getting elderly or small children visiting who are used to drinking town water it can be sometimes safer to chlorinate before they come. it would be sad if your visitors became ill because they weren’t used to drinking tank water.

To chlorinate add either swimming pool chlorine (calcium hypochlorite 60-70%) or sodium hypochlorite (bleach) 12.5% by volume.

The dose to treat the contamination should be 7 grams of calcium hypochlorite or 40mL of sodium hypochlorite per 1000 litres of water in the tank at the time of treatment.

Rather than just add the chlorine fill a plastic bucket with water to 2/3 full and then add the chlorine, in the open air.

DO NOT add Water to Chlorine. Empty the bucket into the tank, being careful not to spill it, and then mix the contents of the tank.

An easy way of mixing if you have a pressure pump is to put a hose into the tank and leave it running for 15 – 20 minutes.

Once the water is mixed leave it to stand for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine taste and smell to dissipate.

Have you had rainwater tank problems?


For more about tank water quality see Rainwater Safety

For similar posts see Sustainability


How Often Do You Visit The Site

For our first Australian house we lived and worked close by and visited every evening.

During our latest build it was 40km away so I only visited once or twice a week.

Many builders will tell you that you are not allowed to visit the site for OH&S reasons, unless the Site Supervisor accompanies you. There are two reasons for this:

  1. If you have an accident they have evidence that you have been told not to be on the site.
  2. They would prefer to get on with the building with the minimum interference from you.

I didn’t let this stop me from visiting although I have got a construction industry site card and I understood I was there at my own risk.

I think that in the early stages you only that its more important to keep a close eye on things if you have made a lot of changes from a standard design or you are having a house built to your own design.

If you are using a standard design the Site Supervisor and the Tradies will generally know what they are doing. When there have been lots of changes to the design they may lose the plan/or forget and revert to the standard design.

Later when it comes to fit out you need to keep more of a watch on things. A couple of examples from our last house:

  • The wrong laundry trough was initially fitted and had to be ripped out.
  • The wrong kitchen tiles were delivered but we spotted them before they were fixed.

As an absolute minimum you should do an inspection when each stage payment is claimed.

If you spot what may be a problem it can be best to be tactful and ask questions in such a way that the Builder has a chance to explain what is going on. If you are not convinced then its time to do some research.

Best thing to do is also get to know your Builder.Build a good relationship first (also see ‘Working with your Site Supervisor’)

If the Builder get’s annoyed and is impossible to talk to you should contact the Housing Industry Association and/or the Master Builders Association for advice.

How often did you visit your build?


For more posts about quality see Gettting It Right


Why I Used Jenman System Agents To Sell

Unless your new house is the first house you own you are going to have to sell your existing house.

Lots of people in Melbourne use auctions but I have never been very keen on that approach.

We have now sold two houses using Jenman System Agents and have been very satisfied.

We recently sold our home in Wydham Vale using Brian Mark Real Estate of Werribee. Previously we we sold an investment property in Chadstone about 7 years ago using T G Newton Real Estate of Oakleigh

If you look through their websites you will see lots of reasons for using them but the three advantages that I really like are:

  • They are quite clear that their duty is to you as seller of the house.

In my experience they go all out to get the best price for the house rather than tell buyers you may be willing to drop the price.

  • They carefully vet all people that are taken through your house.

Much better than ‘Open for Inspections’ when criminals could ‘case’ your house anonymously by giving a false name to the agent.

  • You only pay when the house is sold

I have often wonder if those advertising campaigns some agents charge you for upfront are really advertising the house for you, or the Agent to get more interest in all his offerings.

If there is a local Jenman Agent why not give them a try?



I have not been paid for this post and did not receive any discount on the sale of either house


Five Interior Design Improvements You Can Make

Post contributed by Emma Lamb, on behalf of Steel-line

Improving the interior of a home can enhance your enjoyment of your surroundings as well as add value to the house. Whether making a small change or planning a substantial renovation, you can dramatically alter the way you live for the better.

The following alterations are just a few ways to upgrade the look of your home:

Bamboo Flooring

You may have been longing for a new hard wood floor in the kitchen or dining room, but the high cost of materials has kept the project on hold.

Consider a greener alternative and opt for a bamboo floor. You can achieve the gorgeous look of a hard wood floor at a significantly decreased price tag—sometimes half the cost of hard wood! Moreover, a bamboo floor is also durable and long-lasting.

Many homeowners install bamboo flooring as a healthy alternative to other types of flooring since bamboo does not harbor dust mites and is easy to keep clean. In any case, installing green flooring (bamboo is an easily-renewable resource) will remain a popular design trend in 2012.

Brighten Up Your Space

Brighter colors, in general,  can update the look of any room. If four walls of neon green are too much for you, consider a few painted accents such as cornices, shelves, or closet doors.

Even painting a single wall a brighter color can improve the look of a room. You might add some bright paint to a fireplace screen, picture frames, wooden rocking chairs, or side tables to add color pizzazz to your décor.

Knock Down Walls

With the trend for a cheaply constructed mansions waning fast, many homeowners are opting to make the most from smaller spaces. Taking down a wall in the home is never a light consideration, but doing just that can dramatically change the way you live.

Consider expanding your small bathroom into a bathroom suite. If you’ve got a spare room near a bathroom, you can combine the two spaces to create a luxurious suite.

You might also simply want to take a portion of the spare room for the bathroom suite and use the rest of the space to create a large walk-in closet or a small office nook.

Energy-Friendly Window Treatments

Once upon a time, medieval people hung tapestries on walls to keep draughts out of the castle; interestingly enough, the same practice still applies for today’s homes.

Many people are choosing draperies billed to cut down on energy costs; these fabrics help keep out winter draughts that creep in through the windows and to keep cool air inside during summer months. Not only will new draperies add visual appeal to any room, but they can also save you money on gas and electric bills in the long run.

Reupholster It

Design trends change year by year; one way to keep up with changing decorative styles is to simply change fabric around the house. In many cases, reupholstering large pieces of furniture can be as costly as buying new furniture; however, many projects can be tackled at home with even the most modest know-how.

Reupholstering the seats of dining room chairs, for instance, is a simple project that can add new life to the look of the room and remain a cost-effective upgrade. You can also rescue a great vintage piece of furniture by making over its upholstery to suit your decorative style.

Making design improvements to your living space can be cost-effective, simple, and even fun. With careful planning, major renovations can be tackled smoothly and have considerable impact on the way you live at home and even small projects can have a large impact on your home’s design plan.


The Settling In Section contains lots more advice on what

to do after you have moved in your new house.


Why I Don’t Have Mono-Crystalline Solar Panels

Several people have commented that my panels look different to those on other houses.

Most solar PV installations use Mono-Crystalline panels, because they are smaller for the same power rating.

The panels on my roof are Kaneka Thin Film Panels.

Here are the reasons why:

Efficiency In Real World Temperatures

When you see a panel power rating it is based on laboratory conditions with a panel temperature of 25oC.

In Australia, on your roof, the panel temperature is generally somewhere around double the ambient temperature, thus most panels operate above 25oC most of the time.

Typical crystallines panels lose power @ 0.45% per degree C above 25oC.

Typical thin-film panels lose power @ 0.25% per degree C above 25oC.

This means that on a typical 25oC day with a panel temperature of 50oC

  • A 1000watt mono-crystalline system may be generating 885watts.
  • A 1000watt thin film system is likely to be generating a higher power of 935watts.

On hotter summer days when panel temperature can rise to over 80 degrees the difference will be even greater.


Thin film panels are bigger than mono-crystalline panels means that more of your roof is shaded by the panels helping to keep the house cooler.

Energy Payback

Thin film panels have much lower embodied energy than mono-crystalline panels meaning that the energy involved in the production is recovered within two years of use.

Better Performance When Partially Shaded

Partial shading effects can be quite significant in overall system efficiency. Thin film panels however are less susceptible to shading.


In spite of the above advantages for Thin Film panels the cost per installed watt is around the same as Monocrystaline panels.

More independent information about solar panels in Australian conditions can be found at the Desert Knowledge Solar Centre at Alice Springs


For similar posts see Solar Electricity in the Sustainability Tab


Gas Plumbing

Most people who have mains gas available will have gas connections for hot water and central heating automatically provided by the builder.

But what else do you need to think about?

Meter Location

You will need the meter somewhere where it can be read from the front of the house but is not an eyesore.

Sounds simple but our last builders proposed location was behind a proposed gate that would have been an issue when reading the meter.

Oven and Hob

Our oven and gas hob are together so we have a gas line to that point.

Even if you have all electric cooking it may be worth running a blanked off line to that point if you have an eye on selling the house in the future.

Future Gas Fires

A lot of display houses feature gas log fires.

If you like the idea but can’t afford it now it could be worth getting a gas line put in for the future.

Hot water

If you have thought about the issues with long  Hot Water Pipe Runs you may want a different location to the builders standard for your boiler.

You may even prefer two separate instantaneous hot water units which will affect gas lines.


As previously mentioned in the External Plumbing post its worth considering a mains gas supply to your barbeque if you use it regularly.

What gas plumbing issues concern you?


For similar posts see Plumbing


More plumbing information and 24 pages of Check Lists in the

‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


Electrical Planning – Do You Need 3 Phase Power?

3 phase power is used for heavy duty electrical appliances.

So what is 3 phase power?……………….When power is generated at the power station it comes out as Alternating Current (AC) in three separate phases which are transmitted via individual cables. When power is required the three phases can be combined (3 Phase) or separated(Single Phase).

Most houses only have single phase power.

All the typical electrical equipment in your house such as TV, fridges, freezers lights will be single phase.

The only time a domestic house will need three phase power supply is likely to be:

  • If you have a really big house with a large capacity air conditioner.
  • If you want to have an Electrical Instantaneous Water Heater.
  • If you are want are a car or DIY enthusiast and want to run a commercial size arc welder (Single Phase power should be OK for 275 Amps which is enough for 10mm steel.)

For a new house on a farm where you want to run farm machinery it may be a different matter.

If 3 phase was run to your house and you didn’t need actually need it, it simply means that your single phase circuits (power points, lights, oven) would be shared out over the 3 phases as evenly as possible. For a large house this might be the way to go, but it should not be considered as totally necessary, especially as it will cost more.

If you think you might need 3 phase power I would suggest you contact an electrical contractor and have a chat with them.

For more Posts see the Electrical Category


More Electrical Planning including 24 pages of Check Lists in the

‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


Insulation Basics – Brick Veneer Walls

This post will help you understand how much heat you lose through walls. A previous post has explained ‘R’ and ‘U’ values

When considering insulation a typical brick veneer wall would be:


R value

Outside surface air layer


110mm brick


25mm cavity


R1.5 Insulation


Plasterboard 10mm


Inside surface air layer


Total R value


U value = 1/R


The heat losses or gains for 150 sq m (fairly typical external wall area) of this type of brick veneer wall at 15 degrees above, or below, outside temperature will be:

Area x ‘U’ x temperature difference = watts per hour

150m2 x 0.51 x15degrees = 1178watts per hour

Heating/Cooling Requirement = 1.17kw/hour

To change the U value calculation simply change the value of the element or add an element in.

Example 1 Changing the Insulation to R 2.0

New Total R = 2.41

New U = 0.41

Reduced Heating/Cooling requirement to 0.92kw/hr

Example 2 Adding a reflective building wrap to example 1 (increases cavity R by 0.18

New Total R = 2.59

New U = 0.39

Reduced Heating/Cooling Requirement to 0.87kw/hr

Remember this isn’t the total heating requirement as heat is also lost through windows, ceilings floors and ventilation.


See Insulation for similar Posts

For Posts about Green Building see Sustainability