Do You Want A Phone Line?

A few years ago having a land line phone was a must have have………….. but is this still the case?

We have always had a land line phone but both of us also have mobile phones. Really the mobile is the most reliable way for people to get in contact with us.

About the only people who call on the home phone used to be telemarketers.  When we went on the do not call register the telemarketers disappeared.

Now its just the Indian call centre scammers telling me they had detected a problem with my computer’s Window operating system. Sometimes I string them along for a while before I tell them I have a Mac, but they are still annoying.

Having recently joined Skype (with call costs of less than 3c a minute to an English Land Line) we now hardly make land line calls anymore.

If it wasn’t for the fact that my mother, who doesn’t have a computer, and occasionally phones we wouldn’t need a phone at all. A data line with a single socket at the wireless router would easily meet our needs.

When was the last time you used your land line?


For more  see the Electrical Category


Garage Doors

Originally garages doors were hinged doors, then tilt and lift doors came in. More recently the main choice for garage doors is between roller doors or sectional panels.

Roller Doors

Fairly common as its the most used door in commercial applications.

Has the advantage in that its a fairly compact unit although it does need a bit more height to fit the roll over the opening.

Normally fairly draught proof but very hard to insulate.

Sectional Panel Doors

I think these look a bit more classy than roller doors, after all you want to look more like a house than a commercial garage.

They are available in a wide range of styles.

If you don’t have windows in the garage it might be worth having a door with windows to bring a bit of extra light in.

They can be quite easily insulated if your garage is your workshop (or man cave) but are harder to draft proof.

One disadvantage is that the door takes up a lot of ceiling space which restricts where you can put ceiling light.


Last time we built I didn’t bother about a remote opener but after a couple of years I was served with the ultimatum ” Remote opening or else” My wife said afterwards well worth the money!”


For more posts on garages see: Garage Electrics and How much garage do you need?

More on doors including 24 pages of Check Lists for your new house choices in the‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


Laundry Door Fail

I don’t know if builders are still providing patio doors in the laundry. It was fairly common in 2005 when we last bought a new house.

I really don’t understand the concept!

  • What’s the point of a full length window looking at the side of the laundry tub
  • Because of the window the trough can’t be against the outside wall wasting space in the room.
  • Most laundries seem to face a fence so there is no view.
  • Minimal insulation value.
  • Lower security.
  • Experience has shown me that with daily use the life of patio door wheels is around 5-6years.

About the only positive I can think of is its probably cheap!


For more Fails and Unusual Houses go to What the………………….?


Floor Drains

Up until we moved to our current place we have never had floor drains.

Now we have them in bathroom, laundry and the walk in shower. I’m quite impressed and would definitely specify them for another build.

Having had one washing machine overflow in the past I think they are a great idea to give you added security against internal flooding.

So what does it mean if this is the way you want to go?

      • For them to be fully effective the floor needs to slope down to the drain at least 1:80 (13mm in 1m), preferably 1:60 (17mm in 1m).
      • The normal procedure is to cast the slab in the room 25mm below the main slab.
      • A cement grout bed is then laid on the slab, at the appropriate fall to the drain, before waterproofing and tiling.

If you are going to have a walk in shower it can be neater to have a rectangular floor drain like this one.

This example has a stainless steel finish but you can also get covers with a tray that you can fix matching tiles in. All you can then see is a narrow slot.


For similar posts see  Plumbing in the Selection Category.

More plumbing information and 24 pages of Check Lists in the ‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


Developer Rules/Guidelines

Most developments have some sort of design rules placed on the blocks they sell. For our last house the only rules were;

  • Only one house to be built on the block.
  • All side and rear fences must be green colorbond.
  • No second hand houses to be moved onto a site.

As far as we were concerned none of these were any problem.

Some developers guidelines however can be very stringent which can add considerably to the cost of your build and limit what you can do with the block.

Examples of Developers Guidelines include:

  • Minimum and maximum size living space.
  • Minimum setbacks from each boundary.
  • Maximum heights.
  • Facade must not be entirely brickwork and bricks must be single colour.
  • Limited choise of external paintwork colour.
  • Specified Roof colour, material and/or slope.
  • All houses must have minimum 450mm eaves.
  • Fencing must be masonry or timber.
  • Garage doors set back from front facade.
  • Landscaping must be finished within 6 months of occupation.
  • All outbuildings (sheds) must be constructed using the same material as the dwelling.
  • Restrictions on which builders you can use.

I’m not saying this is all bad. Lots of people like these sort of rules as it prevents their neighbours building anything outlandish and spoiling the look of the street. Just make sure you are happy with the developers guidelines before you sign on a new block!

Did your developer have any unusual guidelines?

See Restrictions for more limitations on how you develop your block.


Display House Window Fail

Two of the things that the human eye likes are:

  • Symmetry.
  • Regular repeated patterns.

For example:

  • If you split something down the middle the left side is a mirror image of the right.
  • If you are going to have several windows keep them the same.

It’s a pity no one explained the above to the person who designed this display home. With all the windows looking different it looks a mess. It makes me think they got a mixed lot of windows cheap.

For more Fails and Unusual Houses go to What the………………….?



If you go back 20 years most houses had proper eaves but now they are less common. As I travel around I sometimes see new houses with eaves on the front facade but non elsewhere which I think looks weird.

If you are thinking about Eaves on your new house here are some advantages and disadvantages.


  • The eaves keep the rain off the walls. As well as improving the weather proofing this helps improve the thermal performance of the walls in winter.
  • They will shade north facing windows in summer while letting the winter sun in. (This effect is negligible for windows facing in other directions and only about 50% effective for full length windows and patio doors)
  • Appearance. I think they give a more finished appearance and the shadow line adds interest.


  • Cost. A typical cost is around $60/m2 so 600mm eaves all the way round a typical house can add around $3,000 to the cost. 450mm eaves will be a little bit cheaper.
  • You can’t build as close to the boundary which can be important if you have a narrow block.

As for me my previous house had eaves but my last house doesn’t so I have a foot in both camps. I didn’t mind the look of the design without eaves and I’ve built a pergola on the north side for shading.

Are you for, or against, having eaves on your new house?


To find out how big your eaves need to be… see Shading Northern Windows


Render or Brick?

Rendering is becoming fairly popular at the moment……………… However I think “Why pay more for a something that is only going to require painting in the future?”

As my old woodworking teacher once told me “There’s nothing wrong with being lazy as long as you are intelligently lazy. That means getting the job done but saving effort, both now and in the future.”

Rendering does have its place:

  • It gives a good finish if you are building using Hebel blocks or Foam Panels (See this link: Rendered Foam Walls), which you may prefer to use as they have a better thermal performance than bricks.
  • The render, particularly if painted a light colour, will improve the thermal performance of the walls.
  • You need to do it for some of the Home Builder techniques such as straw bale housing, or even if your DIY bricklaying is a bit rough.
  • Its handy if you are renovating a house and the previous builder has painted the bricks.

Apart from the exceptions above here’s why I don’t like render as a final finish:

  • Additional cost at time of construction.
  • Is it really hiding the use of leftover bricks from previous jobs and perhaps poor workmanship by the builder.
  • It can look fairly flat and bland in large areas like the house below:

  • Future time cost and effort in repainting.
  • If you get building movement it really shows up, with a crack across a flat plain wall. It’s then very hard to satisfactorily repair and hide the crack.
  • Render really shows dirt, spiders webs,and water stains.

Bricks are making a comeback as people who have rendered 10 years ago now find that the additional cost was only the start.

Having a house painted every 10-15 years is an expense that basically starts at $10K. Personally I’d prefer a holiday to Europe.

Render costs approximately $15K on a 30Sq home, plus painting, plus more for maintenance……Brick veneer requires a wash, at the most, with a low pressure hose.

Some people say the modern Acrylic renders are better than the cement renders but I remain to be convinced.

What do you think?.


Whichever you choose the most appropriate Brick Dimensions will make the walls easier to build.

More about selecting finishes including 24 pages of Check Lists in the ‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


Beer Bottle – Recycling

I was walking along a street the other day and saw this unique garden edging…….Upturned beer bottles.

Apart from showing everybody how much you drink I don’t think its very safe if you slip when you are digging…… all that broken glass.

Although looking at the flower beds I don’t think much digging is going on!

Don’t think they are beer bottles/ Here is a close up:


For more Fails and Unusual Houses go to What the………………….?


Geotextile around Drainage Pipes

When researching about installing agricultural drains you will find some books recommend that you place a geotextile in the trench before the initial gravel and then wrap the geotextile over the gravel afterwards. Its something I used to do.

You can also buy agi pipe with a geotextile “sock’ around it like this:

The idea is that the geotextile prevents the gravel,or the pipe getting clogged with fine materials.

I DO NOT  recommend this as practical experience has shown that what happens is:

  • If you wrap the gravel with geotextile the geotextile actually collects all the fine particles on its surface and gets clogged up stopping the water getting to the gravel and through into the pipe.


  • If you wrap the pipe and put the sock around the pipe its only the very fine particles that get through the gravel but they then get caught in the ‘sock” in front of the slot blocking the pipe.

It far better to just go for a 10mm or smaller gravel surround. Any fine material that gets through the gravel will be that fine it will easily pass through the slot and get washed down the pipe.


See Agricultural drains for more information.