Large or Small

While new houses are getting bigger apartments are getting smaller . . . so how much room to we really need?

Reasons We Need Less Space

  • Flat screen televisions can now be mounted flat on the wall.
  • Saving your music on a smart phones mean your music collection now fits in your pocket.
  • With a Kindle, or other E-book reader, a thousand books can be reduced to the size of one.
  • The new standard for computers is the laptop or tablet computer 20% or the size of the old tower and monitor computer of 10 years ago. You might also save on having a desk..
  • With computer storage being so cheap you might not need filing cabinets, or even a home office.
  • When I was small I had boxes and boxes of toys but now its all about the games console.

Reasons Why We Need More Space

  • Home theatres, when you already have a large TVs!
  • Butlers Pantries.
  • Kitchens with 2 dishwashers and Multiple Ovens. (I blame ‘The Block’)
  • Because the screen size is so big you need to sit further away.
  • Reclining chairs take up more floor space than ordinary chairs.
  • Kitchen Cupboards for all those kitchen gadgets you never use.
  • The treadmill you never use but bought instead of taking a walk outside.


Do you need more space, or have you got too much room?


For more posts about planning how to build a new house see Design


Insulation Basics – Double Glazing

Large single glazed windows are one of the biggest reasons for heat loss in a modern house.

It is also a major source of heat coming into the house in summer.

So what can you do?……………here is a comparison between single and double glazing.

Single Glazing
A single glazed window with an aluminium frame has a U value of around 7watts/degree C/m2 (an R value of 0.14 )

So if your house has got 30m2 of windows and its 5 degrees C outside.

You will be losing the following amount of heat through the windows if you keep the house at 20 degree C

30 x (20-5) x 7 = 3,150watts = 3.15kW/hour

For refrigerated cooling from 300C to 200C you will need the following amount of cooling to balance heat gain through windows:

30 x (30-20) x 7 = 2,100watts = 2.1kW/hour

Double Glazing

If you have double glazing with timber or uPVC frames you will reduce the U value to around 3 watts/degree C/m2 (An R value of 0.33 ).

For the same conditions as the above example the heat loss through the windows will be reduced to:

30 x (20-5) x 3 = 1350watts = 1.35kW/hour

For refrigerated cooling from 300C to 200C your heat gain through windows will be reduced to:

30 x (30-20) x 3 = 900watts = 0.9kW/hour

Other ways to reduce heat loss are

  • Reduce window size. As walls are better insulation than windows this can offer significant reductions in heat loss
  • Curtains or Blinds. Will provide similar performance to double glazing. . . but only during the time when they are closed.

Extra Benefits of Double Gazing

Improved Security: Its much more difficult, and noisy, to break in through a double glazed window.

External Noise Reduction The bigger the gap between glass the better the performance.

See Insulation for similar Posts

For Posts about Green Building see Sustainability


Electrical Planning – Kitchen

I was walking around a ‘Good Guys’ electrical store last week looking at the kitchen equipment.

In addition to the items we have got there must have been 20 or 30 items we haven’t got.

For example appliances for making: bread, pies, crepes, yoghurt, popcorn, donuts, hot dogs, etc, etc.

Well here are the Appliances you will most likely need power for:

  • Oven and Hob. Even if they are gas you will probably need power to run the ignition system, warning lights and timers. If you go for one of those electrical commercial ranges you may need a heavy duty supply.
  • Range hood. Some people question them but I wouldn’t be without one, with extraction to outside!
  • Microwaves. We have got one but I have heard of people having two, and can understand why.
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge
  • Freezer
  • Kettle, unless you have one of those boiling water taps
  • Toaster

Beyond these items its up to you what you think you will need.

In our case its:

  • George Foreman Grill
  • Slow Cooker
  • Coffee maker
  • Milk frother
  • Stick mixer

Non cooking items include:

  • Lap top charger (See Mission Control)
  • Phone charger
  • Cordless phone charger

For the worktop items you will need plenty of sockets either just under or just over the benchtops.

For fixed appliances its best to have the power inside the cupboards.

In addition to the power lighting is fairly important. We have the following:

  • Centrally mounted ceiling fitting for general lighting
  • Wall lights either side of the hob
  • LED downlights over the bench

What are your ‘must have items’ that’s not on my list?

For similar posts see Electrical

More Electrical Planning including 24 pages of Check Lists in the‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


How Much Longer For Artificial Stone?

Over the last 20 years artificial stone benchtops have become more and more popular. . . . but there is a dark side to this material.

There has been a massive rise in cases of Silicosis (260 in the last 3 years), a disease which has been linked to exposure to the dust when manufacturing and cutting stone benchtops.

What Is Silicosis?

Silicosis is lung disease which can be fatel, caused by breathing in small pieces of silica.

Silica is a mineral found in natural materials, including sand, rock, and ore.

When these materials are cut, ground, or blasted, the dust contains varying amounts of silica.

Compared to natural stone, many artificial stones contain over twice the amount of silica.

Cutting and grinding artificial stone to create benchtops thus massivly increases the risk of exposure to silica dust.

Acute silicosis can lead to weight loss and fatigue with just a few weeks of exposure.

Is A Ban Likely?

Australia has strict regulations for activities that generate silica dust.

They require the use of extraction fans, water spray systems, and respirators. helped severely reduce the prevalence of silicosis.

This sort of equipment is not however common on construction sites where the stone is installed!

Without stricter enforcement of health and safety regulations, Australia will  continue to see a rise in silicosis.

There already calls for the material to be banned.

As with the asbestos ban in the late 20th century, implementing a ban on engineered stone benchtops will help save Australian lives.

In the meantime increasing public awareness of the dangers of silica dust may reduce demand for engineered stone benchtops.


Silicosis ris a threat to thousands of workers throughout Australia.

Until a total ban occurs consumers and businesses can help reduce exposure by selecting other materials for their kitchens.

What’s On The Roof?


This covers zincalume, galvanised steel and colorbond. Following are a few thoughts:

  • In general a metal roof is noisier as you can hear the rain (which I like)
  • They are fairly light so they don’t put as much load on the structure.
  • With modern screw fittings they can be extremely resistant to very high winds and hail.
  • Might get dented but will still be weatherproof in extreme hailstorms.
  • Less likely to leak.
  • Can be laid at lower pitch Which means the roof isn’t as high.
  • They are capable of lasting over a 100 years with minimal rusting.
  • Available in zinc finish or a wide range of colorbond colours. Zinc finish will be best for reflecting heat, followed by lighter colorbond colours.
  • Can be more expensive than tiles.
  • Fitting solar panels will be cheaper and easier on a steel roof.

One drawback is that you will need an external TV aerial and mobile phone coverage may be worse than under a tiled roof.


Can be clay, terracotta or concrete. Their characteristics are:

  • Concrete has lower initial cost although some clay tiles and terracotta tiles can be very expensive.
  • Provide better insulation both heat and noise.
  • Heavier.
  • Brittle.
  • Need to be individually screwed down in high wind areas.
  • Wide range of colours.
  • Can add character especially as they age.

I have previously had a steel roof but now have tiles.

If building again I would probably go for metal.

Do you like the sound of rain on the roof?

For Similar posts look in the Design Category

Why I don’t like a Flat Roof!



Upstairs and Downstairs

In my first 35 years living in England I always lived in 2 storey homes.

I was never that keen on stairs for the following reasons:

    • During that time I thought that the worst job around the house, when helping my mother, and later my wife, was cleaning the stairs!
    • When we had young children there was always the worry about them falling downstairs.
    • If you got a leg injury you could be forced to stay on the ground floor until you recovered.
    • As you got older, if you didn’t want too move, you might need to buy a stair lift.
    • Moving new furniture is also a problem with 2 storey houses particularly when the stairs have a bend in them. . .The ones that double back are the worst!

Most people in Britain aspired to living in a single storey house, or as they call them in England ‘a Bungalow’.

Imagine my surprise when we moved to Australia and found that two storey houses were seen as the premium end of the market. I quickly said there was no way I would be living in a 2 storey house again.

Changing Circumstances

If I was a first time buyer with the current problems of urban sprawl and housing affordability I might be forced to think differently.

Perhaps the developers and builders also need to think again and start offering designs and subdivisions that are aimed at smaller two storey houses.

You do see a few smaller houses but they tend to be in body corporate infill developments as these are generally built closer to the city there isn’t the same saving for the first time buyer compared with newer subdivisions.

There are also often issues of limited parking.


Would you be happy to get a start in the housing market by buying a smaller 2 storey house, and then moving up to a larger two storey house as your family grow?

Changing Builders Standard Plans

Most builders will change their standard designs to some extent.

The builder of the last house we built, Metricon, was fairly flexible.

Here are some of the changes that you could talk with the builder about if their standard is close to what you want.

    • Handing. This means swapping the design around so rooms on the left become rooms on the right. Generally this should be available at no cost.
    • Partial handing. This means swapping either the front or the back of the house while leaving the remainder the same. We have done this when we wanted the bedroom and the garage on the opposite sides of the house to the original plan. (Again this didn’t add to the cost)
    • Raising the cill height of windows. We adjusted the cill height of most windows on the south side of the house decreasing the the size . At that time this was a no cost alteration. N.B. The builder will not usually allow any changes to the front of the house.
    • Swapping position of  windows. We wanted to change the position of a patio door with a window, this was a no cost for this as long as the total of windows and patio doors stayed the same.
    • Providing additional internal walls and doors. We wanted this to reduce the amount of open plan living. This was achieved at what we thought was a reasonable cost.
    • Relocating internal walls. This was a no cost alteration.
    • Decreasing the size of  rooms. We wanted to reduce the size of one room by 1 metre which reduced the overall length of the house by the same amount. For this change we made a saving.
    • Additional power outlets, light fittings and switches. These were standard extras.
    • Extra outside taps. Makes watering the garden, and washing the car easiser. These were standard extras.

What have your experiences been when looking to change a standard design?

For changing things see Selection


West, or East, Facing Windows

Well the first rule is to avoid West, or East, facing windows . . . or at least keep them as small as possible….and here is why:


West windows get direct sunlight from mid-afternoon to late in the evening in summer causing overheating.

East facing windows get sun from sunrise to midday.

This isn’t normally as bad because the house is cooler in the morning, but the heat built up during the morning does stay making the house hotter later in the day.

Because of the low angle of morning, afternoon and evening sun the over window shading that works well with North Facing windows will be inadequate for West and East facing windows.


In the winter there is minimal heating benefit with little or no direct sunlight getting into West or East facing windows.

In the last house we built the master bedroom full length windows all face west.

I would have preferred to decrease the size of the windows but the builder would not alter the size of the windows on the front. (They were quite happy to change all the other windows, just not on the front)


To shade, our west facing windows, we adopted the following three stage strategy.

  1. A highly reflective tint was applied to the window, by Tint-a-car. This had the immediate effect of lowering the temperature in the room by about five degrees on a sunny afternoon. Even the installer was amazed at the difference it made. Expect to pay around $50-60/m2,
  2. We planted shrubs in front of the windows to shade the bottom third of the windows and also provide a micro-climate to reduce heat loss in winter.
  3. We have fertilised and trimmed a couple of trees on the nature strip, in front of the house, to encourage dense foliage which now shades the window from mid afternoon to sunset.(see photo below)

For similar posts see Passive Solar

Choosing a House . . . A new E-book for only $4 to help plan your new house


The Entertainer

“Just the thing for Entertainment” or something similar is a common theme in house builder’s brochures and estate agent descriptions.

It’s really a way of trying to upsize you into a bigger (more expensive) house.

Before you get sucked in with these statements for your new house here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How often do you actually “Entertain”?
    • Every week?
    • Once a month?
    •  Or hardly ever?
  • Will you be trying to impress. . . . or just aiming to have a good time?
  • How many is it really going to be?
    • Is it going to be one or two couples around for brunch or dinner or;
    • A party for 30 or 40 people?
  • Is a barby your normal way of entertaining? It is for most Australians. . . . .In that case you are more likely to need plenty of outdoor areas, which probably include plenty of space for children to run around. . . . .Not easy if you have filled your block up with a house that has big rooms for “Entertainers”.
  • For family occasions most people won’t mind if the garage is pressed into service for a meal if it is presentable. If it isn’t perhaps you can just cover the front of the shelves with some fabric.
  • Think back to the parties you went to that you really enjoyed. Some of the better ones that I went to were in small houses and flats. . .  you would normally find me, along with half of the other people there, packed into a tiny kitchen.

Alternatives for Entertaining

When our children were young we used to live in small houses so when it came to birthday parties we used to hire a village, or community hall.

You can normally hire a big room including a kitchen for half a day at very reasonable rates.

That meant lots of room for kids to run around and play games.

You don’t need good weather.

Just put paper tablecloths on the provided trestle tables, afterwards roll it up with the paper plates and plastic cutlery and in the bin.

No worry about damaging your carpet, just brush the floor and mop any spills and go home.


What are some of the parties you have enjoyed and what was the place were you held them?


Budget has more posts about finding a house the right size for you


Window Size

Building Code Rules on Size

The Building Code of Australia requires you to have at least 10% of the floor area as windows with at least 5% of the floor area being able to be opened.

If you go in many show houses you will see windows that are much bigger, typically 40 – 50% of the floor area.

They do this to give a light airy feel to the house.

In reality, for most modern house on a typical size blocks you could finish up with floor to ceiling windows looking directly at a fence!

Why Have Smaller Windows?

  • Well glazing is an expensive building element. You may save money on a custom build by having smaller windows. Even with project homes builders will often reduce the size of windows as a no cost option.
  • Single glazing transfers over 20 times as much heat as a modern brick veneer wall. With the step up in cost to double glazing you will still transfer more than 10 times the heat through windows compared with a brick wall.
  • Windows that go down to the floor restricts where you can put furniture.

If you stick to sensible glazing ratios and get away from floor to ceiling glazing by raising sill heights, you can reduce the area of glazing considerably.

By considering the positioning of glazing and room layout relative to external shading elements you do not really need to compromise on natural light.

The surprising thing is that if you follow these principles you can get a more sustainable house and save on heating and cooling.

If you also want the added benefits of double glazing you will also save money as the smaller windows will be cheaper. (See the following link for more information: Smaller Windows or Double Glazing?)

For myself I have tended to aim for glazing around 20-25% of floor area in South facing rooms and around 40% in North facing rooms.

West or East facing windows are avoided, or if there is no alternative, minimised.


Did you change window sizes on your new house?

See Insulation for similar Posts

For Posts about Green Building see Sustainability