Your Garage – A Fire Risk?

How big a fire risk is your garage?

Well in my garage there are the following fuel sources

  • 50 Litres of Petrol. (in the car fuel tank)
  • A litre of white spirit.
  • A litre turps substitute.
  • 2 x 5kg gas bottles.
  • Several tins of half used gloss and enamel paint.
  • Large box of scrap wood.
  • Various cardboard boxes.

As far as ignition sources go there is

  • Electrical Sparks from 240 volt power tools
  • Sparks from angle grinder
  • Car electrical system

And I don’t even have a welder or brazing torch!

If a fire started, and was undiscovered, how long would it take to spread to the rest of the house?………………….Not very long if you have got a standard internal door and one layer of standard plasterboard on the walls and ceiling. (In the UK if there is a room above a garage the standard is two layers of plasterboard with off set joints between sheets)

It could well be worth upgrading the specification for your new house to improve the fire resistance of garage walls, ceilings and doors! Perhaps you might also consider fitting a sprinkler point.

At least I have a fire extinguisher …. do you?

For Similar posts look in the Design Category


Placing Your House On The Block – 10 Things To Consider

There’s lots to think about when you are positioning a house on a block.

Here are some things that you should consider when comparing blocks and then deciding how to place your house,

    • Statutory Limits There are usually the following limits on where you can place your house:
    • Local Council Setbacks (the rules should be on the council website, it may refer to the building envelope)
    • Sewer or Drainage Easements (check your title documents for these)
    • Driveway Crossover Many blocks now come with the driveway crossover already constructed which causes further restrictions unless you want the expense of removing the crossover and constructing a new one in a different location.
    • Take Advantage of the Sun My aim to get most of the main rooms facing North for a solar passive performance and which helps with the energy rating performance (A good orientation can boost the environmental rating by at least one star).
    • Avoid Shading I like to place the house fairly close to the Southern Boundary so that the I can have a garden on the sunny side of the block which you can see from those North facing rooms. The wider garden also helps prevent shading from the house next door.
    • Overheating from Afternoon Sun Avoid or at least minimise West facing windows.
    • Welcoming Entrance Front doors should be facing, and clearly visible from, the street . . . it looks more welcoming and improves security.
    • Outdoor Entertaining Areas Decks and alfresco areas with a westerly aspect are good for having a beer in the evening while watching the setting sun.
    • Kitchen Views In our last house the kitchen window had the most interesting view. . . as that is the one you find yourself looking out of the most.
    • Storage Areas Do you want to store a caravan, trailer or boat on the site.
    • Pets If you have a dog does it have somewhere to run around without damaging your main garden? and somewhere where it can sleep away from rain and summer sun?


What do you think is important when placing you house?

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?

House Style or Fashion Victim

Appearance is very much a matter of taste with different people liking different styles, there no right solution.

If I put up a picture of something as the way to go than more people would think I was wrong, than would think I was right.

But here are a couple  of thoughts:

  • Avoid being a fashion victim, by going for the latest builders style, which was designed with the aim of grabbing your attention…………… The ‘WOW’ factor……………. In a year or two the ‘WOW’ gimmick and fashion will have moved on. For example about 30 years ago in Australia there was a trend for white bricks, which looks really dated now.
  • Going for the Victorian look, which seems popular, but can be risky. . . One mistake I have seen is this big two storey Victorian mansion on a small block surrounded by single story modern houses. It looks more like a pub than a home.

I try and go for what you could call a timeless appearance but what’s that look like?

The best suggestion I can make is to walk round an estate near where you live that is around 20-30 years old.

Some of the houses you see will look very dated.

Other will look as though they could have been built a couple of years ago.

They won’t all look the same……………….. just timeless.

Take some photos of the ones you like to help you compare with other designs you come across.

Here are some things you should consider avoiding:

      • Too many different materials. Brick, render, stone, painted wood, stained wood, all on the same façade can look very messy.
      • Different sized windows. The human brain likes to see order and a range of different window heights and widths on the same wall looks confusing.
      • Too many decorative elements.
      • Garage dominating the house.
      • Anything with a structural appearance that looks obviously stuck on.
      • Roof out of proportion with house. Could be either too large or too small.
      • A front façade that doesn’t link in with rest of the house. Some really look as though they have been stuck on the front face, particularly when they stop at the corner rather that continuing to a natural break point.

 What trend do you think will mark a house as a Fashion Victim?

Timber or Steel Frame

The most common frame for the standard brick veneer house uses timber.

Steel frames however are becoming much more common. . . . So why should you choose one or the other?

Advantages of Timber

  • Well understood by builders;
  • Cheaper;
  • Easy to adapt or modify during construction or later;
  • Is a sustainable resource;
  • Better sound and heat insulation;
  • Easier to fix fittings into;
  • Lock away carbon.

Advantages of Steel

  • Cannot be attacked by termites or borers; (that doesn’t mean you don’t need termite protection as there will still be plenty of wood in door frames and cupboards etc);
  • Prefabricated frames are lighter than timber;
  • Steel doesn’t have to be treated with chemicals;
  • Doesn’t rot;
  • Doesn’t shrink warp or twist;
  • Doesn’t burn;

NB. Inside a building rust will not be a problem, but just in case most steel frames are galvanised.

All my houses up to now have had timber frames and I have been happy with the result so I would probably continue to use timber if I was getting someone else to erect it.

If I was planning to erect the frame myself I would probably go for steel for the weight saving.


To find out more about house frames follow this link: House Construction – The Frame

For similar posts look in the Design Category



Rendered Foam Walls

This addendum was added to an original Post from 2014 as there has been a lot of publicity recently (late February 2019) about foam panels and certification has been removed from certain types of panels.

A particular issue for apartment blocks has been related to high speed spread across the surface of the panels to other flats.

On a standard house the render should protect the insulation from external flames. (If flames penetrate the plasterboard, from the inside, it is likely that the occupants will either have already evacuated, or be dead before the insulation ignites) n

Nevertheless you should review whether the potential risks from foam panels are acceptable to you.

Original Article

Rendered Foam walls are becoming much more common, particularly in the upper floor of 2 storey homes. They offer a real advantage in situations where it would be difficult to provide adequate suppport for a heavy brick wall (For example when the upper floor needs to be set back from the ground floor)

If you are worried about strength you need to be aware that the real strength of the house is in the frame. (see: House Construction – The Frame)


  • The Foam boards, which are manufactured with an external mesh face, are fixed to the frame with special galvanised screws that incorporate spreader washers.
  • Joints are sealed with a polyurethane foam and have mesh jointing tape.
  • External corners are reinforced with metal strips.
  • A minimum of 5mm of  acrylic render  is applied, normally in a three layer system.

Polystyrene Foam

There are 2 different types of foam used in this construction method:

  • Expanded polystyrene( EPS) – Good thermal performance but limited impact resistance/structural strength.
  • Extruded polystyrene (XPS) – Similar thermal performance and looks similar  but the production method is different which results in increased impact resistance and structural strength. Higher cost

Insulation values for the various board thicknesses are:

  • 50mm    – R 1.2
  • 75mm    – R 1.8
  • 100mm – R 2.4

Final Thoughts

Although there are some advantages in this system it does require careful detailing and construction otherwise leakage can occur damaging your house.

The advantage of masonry on the lower part of the house is that it is less likely to be damaged by the bumps and bangs of daily life. Once the wall is above head height damage becomes less of an issue and the rendered foam board should be fine.

I’d prefer XPS to EPS.

Although the insulation values are good the builder will most likely want to save the cost of the insulation batts in the frame. If you ask for the wall to include insulation batts you will have an exceptionally well insulated wall at very little extra cost.


For similar posts see Insulation

For more about house design see Choosing a House . . . A new E-book for only $4 to help plan your new house


Will Your Roof Take Solar Panels?

Plenty of people are thinking about solar panels as they can save a lot of money.

But is your roof strong enough?

In the old days a house roof had a good factor of safety so they could take the additional weight of solar panels, or a solar hot water system easily.

These days it would seem some builders are cutting costs by using lighter trusses in the roof.

This means that the roof doesn’t have  the strength to take the weight of solar panels.

I have heard of new builders asking for $300, or more to upgrade the roof.

If you think you might want solar panels, and I suggest that it is a good idea, make sure you ask the builder if the roof is strong enough.

What are balustrades and why are they important for safety in your home?

Guest post by James Andrew

If you have invested in buying a property, you want it to look good and you want it to be a safe place.

The last thing you want to happen is for someone to get hurt while living in, or visiting, your home.

This is why you need to pay attention to aspects of your property that provide protection.

Once such aspect is the balustrades in your home.

The aim of this article is to explain what balustrades are and why you need to ensure that they are installed in your home, and well maintained.

What are balustrades?

The word balustrade sounds very grand; but balustrades are actually very common place, they consist of a series of posts or columns, topped by a rail.

You find them on staircases, platforms and terraces, including in your own home.

The foremost aim of a balustrade is to provide protection.

They can also form an important part of the interior décor of a property.

From a safety point of view if you do not have secure balustrades in place in your home, it’s easy for people to have accidents.

Looking at balustrades as a item of décor, it’s important that they fit within their surroundings.

Why are balustrades important?

We have already touched on the importance of balustrades for safety purposes; let’s look at this in

more detail.

Imagine someone is visiting your home.

You have a balustrade fitted to your raised terrace but it’s old and you do not pay much attention to it.

Your visitor leans on the balustrade, it gives way and they fall to the ground below.

Not only is the person likely to get hurt, you will feel guilty and could be sued by the injured party.

It’s not worth taking the chance when it comes to balustrades.

You need to ensure that they are good quality, securely fitted and well maintained.

If you want information about the fitting of balustrades, click here for more information.

The decorative aspect of a balustrade

We have established that balustrades are essential in your home.

This being the case, it’s important that you see them as an integral part of your décor.

If you do this well you can actually use them as an impressive feature that catches the eye.

Balustrades can be made from different materials, with the most popular being timber, metal and glass.

The material you choose will depend on how your home is decorated as well as your budget.

Do not forget that it’s also possible to have balustrades outside your property.

They can still be used to add to the overall visual appeal.

You also need to ensure that this type of balustrade is able to withstand varying weather conditions.

Now you know what balustrades are, and why they are so important.

Do not neglect the balustrades in your property.

Doing so could be dangerous and someone could end getting seriously hurt which is not something you want to happen in your home.

Floor Loadings

One of the things with blogging about houses is you can’t stop looking at buildings.

I was on holiday in Cairns a couple of weeks ago and looking out of my hotel saw this balcony.

What a great idea to have a Spa on the balcony! . . or is it?

That spa when full of water and with 4 adults could weigh in excess of 1,500kg (1.5 tonnes)

With the pumps running there could also be quite a bit of vibration.

I wonder what the building engineer thought of the idea?

Any Plans For Heavy Items?

Heavy items such as Spas, or even Pianos will be fine on a slab ground floor.

If however you want them on the first or second floor make sure the building engineer knows what your want.

Most structural frames should be able to take the load but you could get considerable deflection of the supporting beams.


Something that is often forgotten is how you would get large and/or heavy items up stairs.

In one investment property I owned it was hard enough getting a double mattress up the stairs!