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


Rooms over Garage

Will your new house have a bedroom above the garage?

If so you should check what the builder specifies in the way of Insulation between the garage and the room floor.

Although regulations quite often specify insulation on external walls they usually don’t consider above the garage.

Why this matters

In winter garages can get very cold, particularly if the garage door is left open.

In summer the garage can get very hot. . . more so if the garage door faces west and absorbs the afternoon sun..

This means that in both summer and winter the lack of insulation can make the room uncomfortable!

What You Can Do

Make sure you discuss with the builder the option of putting insulation in the garage roof before the ceiling is installed.

Doing it then is going to be much cheaper than trying to do it later.

Already built? . . . perhaps you could add Insualtion to the garage door.

After The Deposit

If you decide that you want a house built by a builder you will normally be given a budget price and asked to pay a deposit.

What happens next?

These are the steps that follow in progressing to a full contract:

1. Survey

A survey of your site need to be completed if one hasn’t already been done.

This will allow the builder to work out if there is any additional excavation, or fill required over the standard allowance.

2. Soil Test

A Soil test needs to be done.

From this the builder will work out if there is change in foundation requirements, over the standard allowance.

3. Initial Meetings With Builder

This has two parts

Initial Contractual Discussions

      • Being informed of the cost implications of the survey and soil investigation
      • Making any changes to layout and elevations
      • Agree the position on the Block.

Selection  (sometimes called Gallery.)

Items selected typically include:

          • Bricks
          • Roof tiles
          • Heating and cooling
          • Electrical fit out
          • Floor tiles
          • Wall tiles
          • Kitchen units
          • Oven and hob
          • Bathroom and toilet fittings
          • Paint colours.

NB. Sometimes Builders do this meeting after Signing of Contract when it is normally called Pre-start

Much more information is included in my  Selection Guide 

4. Finalisation meeting with Builder

This will be to sign the Contract Documents.

Before the meeting:

        • All the details should be confirmed together with the final price.
        • The council approvals should have been obtained.

You need to make sure that all the changes you want are included both in the words of the specification and in the drawings. My advice would be to ask for the contract documents a few days before the meeting so you have plenty of time to check them.


You then have to wait until the builder is ready to start Construction which hopefully won’t be too long.


For similar posts see Selection and Contract Documentation

Are You Going To Have A Washing Line?

When I was growing up all the washing lines looked like this. . . . long straight nylon ropes.

Since then things have changed backyards have got  smaller and some people don’t even have washing lines, everything goes in the tumble dryer

Well I think there are some good reasons why you should have a washing line.

Reasons for a washing line


A full cycle of a modern tumble dryer uses around $1 of power.

With just two of us at home now we would still do around 4 loads of washing a week. . . . That means tumble drying everything would cost around $200 a year.


As well as the cost there is also the sustainability aspect.

If the electricity from that full cycle comes from a coal power station it will release around 4kg of CO2.


Unless you have got a venting kit you could be putting around half a litre of water into the air which can result in condensation problems.

If you start getting damp patches on the walls and ceiling mold can then become an issue.

Better Results

UV radiation from the sunlight kills bacteria and dust mites.

In addition nothing really beats the smell and feel of freshly air dried cotton sheets.

Less Wear Of Your Clothes

All that lint in the filter is the result of wear as the clothes rub against each other and the sides of the tumble drier drum.


So how much space do you need?

The load from a typical front loading washing machine will take up around 10m of line, with a top loader it could be nearer 15m.

I would look at providing enough line for at least a couple of washes.

To get that amount of line in a typical backyard a good option would be a rotary clothes line (the traditional Hills Hoist) with line lengths ranging from 40 – 60m.

Limited on space? you could go for a wall, or fence, mounted rectangular folding frame which should give you around 20m of line.



Wants and Needs – 5 Luxury Home Additions With Practical Benefits

Guest Post by Hubert Dwight

There are some things in life that are needs.

Things like shelter, water, food and clothing are needs.

We have to have them, otherwise life just kinda doesn’t work for us.

Then there are some things in life that are wants; and these are things like champagne, caviar, plush carpet, luxury beach holidays and open fireplaces in wintertime.

But let’s face it, if you’re in Victoria during wintertime, fireplaces in Melbourne are kind of a need.

You might be thinking – well, a fireplace, that’s a little indulgent, isn’t it?

But I have long been of the opinion that if you’re in a position to treat yourself, you should.

This article is all about how you can enjoy adding some other luxury items to your home, while still getting the most out of the practical benefit of these little luxury add-ons.

So let’s take a look at my top five luxury home additions with practical benefits.

A new kitchen

A brand new kitchen is something that so many of us want, and yet we continue to work away, making do with the kitchen that we have and just hoping for something better to be there one morning when we wake up.

But not going to happen and you need to be the one to make the call.

Now, no one ever said that kitchens were going to be cheap – but the fact is that a new kitchen can actually add a whole heap of value to your home.

You can afford to spend a little more on a new kitchen knowing that it’s going to add value, which can potentially appear in the form of equity on your home loan.

Just so long as you don’t over-capitalise you’ll be laughing.

Plus, with the money that you make back on your home loan, you can afford to splash out on some kitchen gadgets.

A fireplace

This is a need, not a want, if you’re lucky enough to live in Victoria, don’t you think? In all seriousness though – a fireplace is a great option for your home.

You can install one fairly cheaply and it ensures that you save on your heating costs during wintertime.

You might even double the usage of your hearth by turning your fireplace into a meat roasting pit!

Now if that’s not enough of an incentive I don’t know what is…

LED lighting

While this isn’t technically a ‘luxury’ add on, many people are still reluctant to invest in it due to the initial cost.

All you have to do is look at the way in which you can save money thanks to the lifespan and energy use, and you’ll see that LED is the way of the future.

So many of the top homes have LED lighting thanks to its industry esteem, so it makes sense that you would pick it for a splash of luxury in your home.

A bathtub

If you have the space for a luxury tub in your home, you had better think about investing in one.

Some people will choose a home (or not) based on the presence of a bathtub.

And for dedicated tub bathers, it’s a no-deal if you don’t have one.

So don’t eliminate some people from the market – get a tub for your home.

There are plenty of great options available.

A luxe laundry

You might not think laundry when you think luxury, but there you go!

A spacious and tasteful laundry is a great option for your home, and you can be as creative as you like with surfaces and finishes.

Good luck with making your home a luxury paradise, while still enjoying the benefits of practicality.

Your wallet and common sense will thank you!

Laundries – The Latest Source Of Profit

Over the years I have seen many builders put up many reasons for making houses bigger and more expensive. . . . which means more profit for them.

When they can’t think of another room then its how can they make a room more expensive.

A typical laundry used to be a washing machine, drier and a trough a bit like this.

Additional Costs

Some of the laundries I see these days are huge rooms with:

  • Built in cupboards
  • Stone counter tops
  • Expensive floor to ceiling tiles
  • Downlights

All this can mean several thousand extra dollars on the price of your house.

Yes is does look nice . . . but how many people are you going to be showing round the laundry?

Thanks to Maegan Tintari  for the photo which was on her Flickr page.

Avoiding Splitting Responsibility

I often come across people who want to exclude certain items of the work from a house building contract to save money.

They may want to do the work themselves, use their own tradie (relative or friend) or use a different supplier to install things before or during the build.

Liability for Problems

The main issue of splitting the House contract is that you can finish up with split responsibility,  giving the Builder a  ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’.

If there is a problem during construction, or defect that is any way related to the service you excluded from the contract then:

  • Who do you chase for remedy; Builder, Supplier, or even accept responsibility yourself?
  • The Builder, and the Supplier, will usually deny all liability blaming the other.
  • Whoever you believe is at fault you will to take it to an appeal, or arbitration,which will take time and money
  • To support your claim you will probably need an independent professional opinion which will add to the cost.
  • There is no guarantee that the finding will be totally in your favour.

Examples of Issues

Here are a few common issues:

  • Delay If your build contract goes over time one of the Builder’s strategies to avoid paying Liquidated Damages is to claims your supplier delayed the works as they were slower than his normal supplier.
  • Theft Stealing is rife on building sites. Even though the Builder lets your supplier on the site there is normally an exclusion of liability for theft.
  • Damage Scratches, dents, marks, breakages, at best the builder may provide compensation at a level related to the cost related to the value of the cheapest standard replacement. (for example a standard GRP bath not your $2000 free standing ceramic bath)
  • Failure To Work Properly This mainly occurs on issues like plumbing or electrical items. Because of a lack of communication the wrong pipe or wiring has been installed, or the locations are incorrect. Again each blames the other and you can be up for an extra cost.
  • Damage Scratches, dents, marks, breakages, at best the builder may provide compensation at a level related to the cost related to the value of the cheapest standard replacement. (for example a standard GRP bath not your $2000 free standing ceramic bath)
  • Future Building Movement I have heard of people doing their own site preparation including cut or fill. In WA I know some people want to install their own drainage work (Soak wells). If you then get any building movement you may find you have given the builder a get out to avoid bills of tens of thousand of dollars.

I hope this helps you understand the issues, and also the risks, of splitting supply and/or work from the main building contract.

Personally I have always let the Builder provide a finished house and installed any extras later.





Understanding Builders

“The Builder is ripping me off!” and ‘The Builder is overcharging for upgrades!” are two comments I hear regularly. Some of these cries may be justified, but a lot are because the customer doesn’t understand the Builder.

Why A Builder Is The Same As Other Businesses


The aim of all businesses is to make a profit so don’t expect a builder to be any different. Its not that easy to achieve and if you follow the press you will see plenty of builders don’t, and go bust.

It is in your interest that the builder makes a profit. If the builder goes bust while building your house its likely to cost lots of money and cause major delays in completing your new house.


Builders want to get customers in and then up-sell them. They do this by providing a keen initial price for a standard house. Once you have signed you find there are extra costs for: site works, nicer bricks, different roof tiles, trendy bathroom fittings, swish kitchens, etc,etc.

Of course the builders profit margins are higher on these extras. This is the builders cream. Make  sure you understand as much of the costs as possible before you sign.

For much more information on choosing upgrades from the standard see my  Selection Guide 


You hear a lot about big business outsourcing and builders are no different

The majority of new house builders outsource most of their work to sub-contractors. This may be to either smaller specialist suppliers or individual tradies.  In some cases the sub-contractor may buy the materials then contract the actual work to a labour only subcontractor.

Why a Builder is Different to  Other Businesses

Extended Delivery

Nearly everything you buy is made when you buy it. If it’s a car, or electrical goods. and you know its been built in a factory under tight quality control measures. You know no matter how hard you bargain it won’t affect the quality of the item you buy.

But it can take a year or more to build your new house.  During that time the builder will make many decisions on who is employed during the build and what quality is expected.  If you bargained the price down heavily do you think the builder is going to pick the better tradies or the cheapest?

Unique Product

No house is the same. Even for the same house design all the following can affect the build:

  • The topography (shape of thesite)
  • The type of soil
  • The weather during the build
  • The individual fitments selected

All this means that there is a lot of risk  about the final cost of the build. To cover this risk the builder will want to ensure there is enough profit to cover any unforeseen circumstances, or have an out that allows extra costs to be charged to the home owner.


Have you had problems understanding your builder?