How Often Do You Visit The Site

For the first Australian house we built welived and worked close by and could visit every evening.

During our last build the site 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 (red) card and I understood I was there at my own risk.

I think that in the early stages 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.

The Minimum

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

 

10 Things Needed For An Occupancy Permit

When Can You Get an Occupanct Permit

Did you know you can get an Occupancy Permit before your house is finished?.

Useful to know for all those owner builders who want to move in while they finish.

The point of an Occupancy permit is to protect the safety and health of people who occupy and visit the house and to enhance the amenity.

What Needs To Be Completed

Here’s the list of things that will need to be checked off before you get a Certificate of Occupancy:

    1. Building is watertight. (roof and walls)
    2. Damp prevented. (Damp proof course OK and ground below DPC sloping away from house}
    3. Roof drainage connected to an approved point of discharge.
    4. At least the kitchen sink and one bathroom are connected and working.
    5. All handrails and balustrades installed. If you have a swimming pool the fences should also be in place. (Even if the pool is empty there is a falling hazard)
    6. Waterproofing of wet areas completed.
    7. Smoke detector/alarms installed and fully operational.
    8. Power installation completed to the satisfaction of the electricity supply authority. (Power company’s seal on meter)
    9. If gas cooking is to be provided, the pipework is connected to the unit and the house ready for connection to the gas supply.
    10. Water supply connected to the building.

An occupancy permit is not evidence that the building complies with the provisions of Building Codes and Regulations 2006.”

See Types of New House Permits to see what permits you need before you Start

How Much Should Stage (Progress) Payments Be

When you contract someone to build a new house you are required to make regular payment as each STAGE is completed. . . . But how much?

Well builders want to get paid as soon as possible so they will want the early payments to be as big as possible.

You as the purchaser need to make sure you aren’t paying for work that’s yet to be done. (See this link: If The Builder Goes Bust) You will need enough money to finish the house!

A good guide to what’s fair is found in a Victorian Government Act which lay down the following percentages of the full contract price:

    1. Deposit 5%
    2. Base 10% – (Check on this link to find  what you get; Base )
    3. Frame 15% – (link at: Frame 15)
    4. Lock Up 35% – (link at :Lock Up)
    5. Fixing 25% – (link at Fixing 25%)
    6. Completion 10% – (link at: Completion)

In Victoria many builders will ask you to sign an agreement accepting that the above payment levels don’t apply and the percentages will be similar to those shown below.

In other Australian states where there is no Act controlling the amount of progress payments then the builder is more likely to want the following values of progress payments.

    1. Deposit 5%
    2. Base 20%
    3. Frame 20%
    4. Lock Up 25%
    5. Fixing 20%
    6. Completion 10%

Think very carefully before you accept these different payments, as it increases your level of risk if things go wrong.

Before you make each progress payment, you need to check the work comprising the stage is:

    • Complete
    • Meets your contract requirements
    • Meets the building regulations

If you are not confident checking the work it may be worthwhile using an independent building consultant to check everything before you make progress payments.

If you want to check yourself you may find this link: PCI Guide useful

Whatever happens do not pay any money in advance of when the contract requires it.

 

For more information about when Progress Payments are made see Construction Stages

For similar posts see this link: Contract Documents

 

Construction Stages – Background

For readers unfamiliar with the building process I thought I would provide some information on the various construction activities that will be carried out in the full schedule.

This schedule has been generally be based on the typical single storey brick veneer house, on slab, which I am most familiar with.(Every builder will have slightly different items in each stage but this provides a general guide)

As there are a lot of steps I will break it up into the separate work packages that comprise the the stage payments after a 5% deposit has been paid.

These work packages are

  • BASE ( approx 20% of Cost)

This package covers all the work in site preparation, up to ground floor level.

See this link for more details: Base

  •  FRAME (approx 20% of Costs)

This is when the frame for the house and the roof trusses have been fixed and the windows have been fixed in position.

See this link for more details: Frame

  • LOCK UP (approx 25% of Costs)

This includes external brickwork, or cladding, final covering of roof and fixing of house doors. (often the front door will be a temporary door)

See this link for more details: Lock Up

  • FIXING (approx 20% of Costs)

Comprises all the work up to completion of drylining walls and ceilings and installation of bathroom and kitchen cabinets.

Completion of attached garages, porticos. and carports.

See this link for more details: Fixing

  •  COMPLETION (approx 10% of Costs)

Everything left to make you home ready to move in.

See this link for more details: Completion

Although you will be asked to visit site for the a Pre-Completion Inspection (PCI) I would recommend at least a visit at the end of each of the stages, to check how things are going, and ask questions.

 

For similar psts see Construction Stages

For more on stage payments see Progress Payments

 

Construction Stage 5 – Completion

After Fixing comes Completion

Its probably been a long haul but we are getting to the last lap now.

Nevertheless there is still a fair bit to do including:

  • Complete Plumbing

Internally install taps, mixers, shower fittings, shower screens, and toilets

Externally finish downspouts and fix external taps.

  • Painting, Internal and External.

Internal painting will be in at least two stages. The walls and ceiling will be done before fitting of electrical fittings while woodwork/doors may well be later in the process.

  • Complete electrical.

Fitting all the power points and batten fittings.

If you are having a high level of home automation this might be quite complex and involve various stages. This stage also includes bringing the NBN service.

  • Paths and Driveways

Generally this is the front path and driveway unless you ask for more. I find it is cheaper to do the rest separately after the move.

  • Carpentry Final Fix

Room doors and cabinet doors and drawers.

  • Internal floor Finishes

Timber floating floors, tiles, or carpets.

  • Clean Up

Outside all rubbish will be removed and the site left flat. Inside it will probably be whats known as a builders clean – Dust brushed up and surfaces wiped, but not polished!

  • Pre-Completion Inspection

See PCI posts and the PCI Guide to help you through this stage

  • Deal With PCI Issues

Normally this should take one to two weeks but could be longer if there are a lot of defects.

  • Install Appliances

This will normally include oven, hob and any other expensive appliances and the hot water service. Frequently this occurs on the day of handover.

  • Hand Over Day 

The keys at last!  Make sure you are insured from the morning of handover. Also see this post on Construction Locks

Good Luck with your New House!

 

Settling In has more posts about getting your new house just right

For more on stage payments see Progress Payments

 

Construction Stage 4 – Fixing

Fixing follows on from Lock Up.

The fixing stage is moving from a very rough looking interior to something resembling the house you are expecting.

During this stage the following works will be taking place:

  • Install Insulation This includes both roof and wall insulation Although the wall insulation will be installed before dry walling the ceiling insulation may be installed following ceiling board installation.
  • Electrical – Rough in Running cables/conduits and installing switch and outlet boxes to the frame.
  • Plumbing – Rough In Running pipes inside walls
  • Plasterboard installation This will include ceiling boards, wall boards and cornices.
  • Air conditioning / Ducted Heating If a large main unit is mounted in the roof space it may be installed before the ceiling boards are in place.
  • Waterproofing Wet Areas The waterproofing membrane is applied to floors and walls before tiling
  • Carpentry – First Fix This sees the kitchen cupboards and bathroom vanities carcasses installed. (Doors, drawers, and counter tops are often left off at this stage) Skirting boards and architraves and internal window sills are also installed.
  • Main Plumbing Fixtures Baths, basins, sinks shower trays and laundry troughs are installed and connected to the drainage system. Taps, mixers and toilet bowls are often left off until after tiling.
  • Tiling Both wall and floor tiling are normally completed at this stage.
  • Portico and Carports These will be constructed at this stage together with any freestanding garage. It’s likely that the garage door however will be left until later.

The next stage is 5; Completion

The Practical Completion Inspection (PCI) will be coming up soon. This PCI Guide tells you what you need to look out for.

For similar posts see Construction Stages

For more on stage payments see Progress Payments

 

Construction Stage 3 – Lock Up

The house really starts to look more like what you expected as the build advances from the Frame Stage to Lock up.

Looks however can be deceptive… in actual fact the building process is really only 50% completed at Lock Up.

Here are the work items that comprise this stage of the works:

  • Building Wrap This wrap is used to protect the building, retain the insulation, prevent drafts, and allow moisture vapor to escape from the insulation. In its basic form a reinforced paper such as Tyvek may be used. Higher specification materials include additional insulation and/or reflective coatings.
  • Attach Windows Normally the window frames are attached to the frame before the brickwork starts and the brickwork is then built against the frames and tied in.
  • Clad Roof This may or may not include sarking under the tiles or roof steel. (Sarking is only required for certain wind strengths and roof slopes, although I think its always worthwhile.
  • Completed Walls This will be the brickwork or the typical house. In the case of a rendered house it may be blocks or even an insulation system instead of bricks. The render is not applied until later in the construction process
  • Attach Facia boards and Gutters Once the external walls are finished the facia boards, and soffiet boards if you have got eves, are fitted. Gutters are often fitted at this stage although the downpipes are frequently left until later.
  • Install Doors Of course to lock up the house you need doors. If you have specified expensive doors the builder may well fit temporary doors to make the house secure. The proper doors will only be fitted before the final inspection to minimise the chance of damage.

Once the house is at Lock Up it’s the last time you will be able to sneak round and inspect the work at night! You will need to make appointments now to check up on things.

For similar posts see Construction Stages

For more on stage payments see Progress Payments

 

Construction Stage 2 – Frame

This stage of the building is fairly quick but gives you a chance to get a feel for the finished house.

Framing usually starts a few days after the slab has finished. Sometimes frame erection may start the day after the slab has been laid. Although not ideal the load from the frame is fairly small compared with the loading from the brickwork and the roof covering.

  • Wall Frames Usually finished in two days for a single storey house although it may take longer for a 2 storey house.
  • Roof Trusses Usually will be completed in another day or two.
  • Roughing In Cables and Pipes Sometimes called first fix, this work involve fitting the cables and pipes that will be hidden behind walls such as;
    • Water Will involve running water pipes from entry point on the slab to all cold tap positions and hot water service. Lines will also be run from hot water service to hot tap positions. In the case of a solar hot water system with remote panels the lines between the hot water service and the roof panel location may also be run.
    • Gas Lines will be run from the proposed meter position to the site of all gas appliances.
    • Electrical In addition to running cable to all power locations steel backing plates for the power outlets are usually fixed to the frame at this stage. some data lines may also be run
  • Wrap
    The building is also wrapped with a plasticised paper wrap which helps protect the interior and insulation during the bricklaying.

It’s worth checking at this stage whether the plumbers and electricians have damaged the frames. Check:  Holes in Frames

 

For similar posts see Construction Stages

For more on stage payments see Progress Payments

 

Construction Stage 1 – Base

Most of the work that comprises this stage of the construction will be hidden when the house is completed

That doesn’t mean it should be ignored as it has a significant impact on the completed house.

This work package can be subdivided as follows:

Site Set Up

  • Temporary Fencing. Most councils now require 1.8m high fencing of sites.
  • Power supply. Originally a temporary box on a pole at the start, These days installation may be delayed until slab construction and then the final box put in at the finished position.
  • Portable Toilet 
  • Silt barriers Only on sites where silt may be washed off site. Can be hay bales or a geotextile (like a shade cloth fence)

Excavation

  • Site clearance Removal of topsoil, vegetation and any rubbish.
  • Initial peg out. To provide enough information to allow excavation works.
  • Cut and fill Providing one or more level ‘platforms’ that the house will be built on.
  • Retaining walls Any major retaining walls that are required to either support or retain the building ‘platform’. Other retaining walls will often be part of landscaping.

Drainage and Pipework

  • Building set out.
  • Sewage and Drainage Pipes.

Slab Construction

For more about Construction Stages check out this link: Background

To find out about Stage Payments see this link: Progress Payments

 

Occupancy Permit – What Does It Mean?

Occupancy Permit (or Certificate of Final Inspection) is not the same as Completion.

It doesn’t even mean the house is ready for PCI Inspection or even that you would be happy to move in.

What’s typically needed for an occupancy permit are:

  • All the structure of the house has been completed and the rooms comply with the minimum dimensions (for example ceiling heights)
  • The roof drainage is connected to an approved point of discharge.
  • Bush fire protection measures are completed(If required)
  • Handrails and balustrades (and pool fences)  installed.
  • Provision of sanitary and other facilities in at least one bathroom.
  • The building is constructed to prevent the penetration of water and dampness to the inner parts.
  • Waterproofing of wet areas completed to the satisfaction of the Inspector.
  • Smoke detectors are working.
  • Power and water connected.
  • If you have gas appliances the pipework is  ready for connection to the gas supply.

 

Three things that you might expect are:

      • Painting
      • Internal Doors
      • Floor Finishes/Coverings

As well as many other things that are included the building contract.

Building Inspection- Compliance or Quality explains why a compliance certificate doesn’t mean the house has been built to the required standard