When you are buying a block one of the issues that controls what you can put on a block is the Setbacks of the main structure.

Setbacks vary from council to council and can also vary between neighbourhoods in a council area.

To give you an idea here are typical Setbacks:

Street Setbacks

  • From the front title boundary the minimum setback is typically 5.0m, which is enough to park a car on the driveway.
  • In low density suburbs larger front setbacks may be required.
  • For older inner city suburbs the allowable front setback may be much less.(to match existing properties).
  • Side setbacks for corner blocks are generally less than the front setback, with 2.0m being typical.
  • Some councils will also have maximum setbacks,such as 1/3rd the total block length.

The following structures are usually permitted to project into setbacks:

  • Porches, verandahs and pergolas, with a maximum height of 3.6m.
  • Eaves, fascia, gutters, sunblinds, shade sails, and screens.
  • Decks, steps, or landings less than 800mm in height.

Side and Rear Setbacks to Adjoining Properties

Typical setbacks are:

  • Side 2.0m, plus 0.6m for every metre of height over 3.6m.
  • Rear 3.0m, plus 0.6m for every metre of height over 3.6m.

In addition to the encroachments mentioned above encroachments are also usually allowed for;  masonry chimney backs,  flues, pipes, fuel tanks, water tanks, and heating & cooling equipment.


Don’t want any setback?….see Building on Boundaries


Building Envelope

If you need to fit a large House onto a small block one of the issues you will have to deal with is ‘The Building Envelope”.

What this means is the actual area within your title boundaries that is legally and physically possible to build on.

The building envelope can be affected (reduced) by:

  • The size and positioning of Easements.
  • Required Setbacks from roads.
  • Restrictive Covenants.
  • Setbacks from adjoining blocks.
  • Ability to Build on Boundary.
  • Significant trees.
  • Existing buildings/structures that can’t /  won’t be removed.
  • Neighbourhood amenities.
  • Location of driveway crossovers.
  • Requirement for vehicles to leave the site travelling forward if the block is on a main road.
  • Nature strip assets such as Fire Hydrants.

So when you are looking at buying a block don’t think you can automatically build on all……. or even 75% of the block.

All councils will have different requirements and may even have varying requirements for different neighbourhoods.

It can be worthwhile talking to the council about permissible Building Envelopes, particularly if you want to  build on more than 50% of the block or are on a corner block.


See Blocks for more things to think about when buying a block.




Travel Issues

It’s a Saturday and your partner says “Why don’t we go and look at some blocks that have been advertised in the paper?”

So you jump in the car and in no time at all you are at the Site.

“That was easy!” you say………….but how realistic is Saturday traffic compared with a weekday commute?

Once you move you may find you are spending a long time looking through your windscreen at traffic!

Before you make a decision perhaps you need to try the traffic out:

    • Arrange to meet your partner straight after work and see how how long it will take to get home in rush hour. Twice as long?……….or four times as long!
    • If you are really keen, then get up at 6.00am, and drive to the site. You can then see how long it will take you to get to work.
    • You could also try out the public transport.

Were you surprised how long it took to get to work after you moved?

See Blocks for more information on buying land.


Battleaxe Block

Have you seen a Battleaxe Block advertised and wondered what it is?………….Well it is a block that only has a 3-4m frontage on the street.

Often these blocks are as a result of subdividing a long block with the rear block then becoming the ‘Battleaxe block” – coloured brown as in this plan.

In the plan the existing house has been retained.

You will also often find cases where the original house has been demolished to allow 2 blocks to be sold.

The other way of splitting a large block is a ‘Small Strata’ Development. (see this link: Small Strata)

So what  are the issues with Battle Axe Blocks?


To get access to the site you will require at least 20m of driveway and perhaps a turning area. This will have a substantial costs. I would allow at least $500/m of driveway for a temporary gravel driveway during construction and concrete at completion.

You may save on this cost by going for a Small Strata Development with a common driveway, instead of a Battle Axe Block but:

  • Getting agreement from your neighbour to use the access for the construction can be difficult.
  • In my experience the best way to have good relations with neighbours is minimise causes for dispute. Sharing a driveway means that your parking options are limited.
  • Looking after the shared driveway is like some of the ‘Community Title’ issues (see this link: Community Title )

An advantage of that long driveway is if you put a gate with a childproof lock at the front it gives a safe area for toddlers to play.

Additional Service Costs

You will be need to bring in some if not all of the following service for an extra 20-30m.

  • Power.
  • Phone.
  • Water, could be two services if you want recycled water.
  • Gas, if it is available.
  • Storm water drainage, can be a problem if inadequate fall and property drains to road.
  • Sewer, usually this is at the back of the block but check before you buy.

Additional Building Costs

I have heard additional building costs of more than $15,000 for battleaxe blocks because of a restricted site (see this link to find out more: Restricted Site)


I am not saying don’t buy a Battleaxe Block, just make sure that you think carefully about the implications.

What issues have you found with Battleaxe blocks?


Lots more information in the anewhouse Guide to Buying a Block for only $4

See Blocks for more information on buying land.


Block Orientation

Sponsored by Coral Homes

When looking at block orientation a key issue is using the sun to warm the house in winter and keeping the sun out of the rooms in the summer.

Typical blocks in Australia are rectangular. About twice as long as the block width, as are most home designs. This limits the way you can place the house. In my experience the order of preference of blocks is.

1. Facing East
2. Facing West
3. Facing South
4. Facing North

If you have got a block at an angle it will require a bit more thought unless you can orientate the house in one of the above preferred directions. Larger blocks and square blocks make adjustments to the house orientation easier.

My reasons for the preferences are as follows:

Facing East

This orientation allows one of the long sides to face north making the best use of the sun in a passive solar house. Usually the master bedroom is at the front so even in the summer the low sun morning sun only warms the bedroom from the chill of the night. Windows can be minimised on the west side to stop the house overheating in the afternoon and evening. This orientation also gives you plenty of roof area for the most effective location of solar hot water and solar electricity panels.

Facing West

Again like the east facing block you can have one of the long sides to face north making the best use of the sun in a passive solar house. With a master bedroom at the front you will need to take steps to keep the afternoon sun out of the room to stop overheating. Like the East facing orientation this is useful for solar panels on the roof.

Facing South

With a house facing south the best layout is to have as many rooms as possible having large windows facing north which can be difficult on a narrow block. To make the best of this orientation you may need to have plans drawn up as most standard plans don’t suit this orientation. It’s also best to minimise west facing windows.

Facing North

A north facing house is probably the least desirable on a suburban block as it makes it hard to get the sun into the house. I certainly wouldn’t want big north facing windows allowing passers by to look in.


Lots more information in the anewhouse Guide to Buying a Block for only $4

See similar posts see Choosing a Block and Passive Solar