As it comes to the time of year where people take breaks from work and spend more time with their families, or more relaxed time around the home, it’s generally the time where you start to think about your plans for the new year. That extension to your home might enter your mind again because you’re tired of not being able to comfortably entertain your guests, or you may reconsider your options for building a new home because you’re sick of hearing your kids argue in their shared bedrooms… or simply because you’re growing out of your home.
Whatever it may be, BEFORE you make the call on what it is you want to do, we can’t stress enough that you know your BUDGET. Know what it is you have to spend BEFORE meeting with your designer or builder. You don’t want to go through the whole process of designing something that looks great, it’s big, it’s got all that you ‘want’ and then get to the building stage and your quotes are coming back as figures way out of your budget. Not only is that a waste of time and money, but it’s going to cost more again in redesigning.
You also don’t want to go to your designer or builder with your absolute maximum figure that you’ve got to spend. Be reasonable and safe. Understand that sometimes unexpected construction costs may arise (especially in extensions due to findings upon commencement of works), or you may REALLY want that Caesar stone benchtop when you thought you’d be ok settling on Laminex. Leave yourself some room for play if need be, don’t max yourself out upon the acceptance of a building quote (and be weary of hidden costs with some builders – especially in the base/slab stage).
It’s important that you feel comfortable with your designer. You want to be able to ask all the questions you may think are silly, but in actual fact are questions that are putting you at ease about where you’re spending your money. It’s also important that your designer has an understanding of these four things: 1. Your budget 2. Your needs 3. Your lifestyle 4. Your wants. Upon meeting with your designer, these are the four things that are important to cover to ensure you’re wasting minimal time on going back and forth with the design (time is money) and that the design meets your brief. The reason ‘Your wants’ is number 4 is because the designer will work with your budget to first suit your ‘needs’ for your ‘lifestyle’ according to your ‘budget’ and then can incorporate the ‘wants’ if there is allowance for it.
As designers and builders, we like to offer an estimate budget quotation for the construction works at the preliminary design stage before finalising the architectural working drawings. It’s only an estimate as until final design elements are completed ie. engineering, soil test reports, energy rating reports, client specifications etc., a firm quotation cannot be given. In saying that, we like to tell our clients to allow approximately 10-20% from the budget price as a guide so they can do their rough calculations according to the preliminary design before taking things further.
Therefore, before doing anything, know how much money you’ve got to work with. There’s no point spending money on designs that are out of your reach then having to rework and rework designs until they are anywhere near your budget. Make sure you and your designer are on the same page and, finally, look at getting an estimate construction quote prior to finalizing your design and architectural drawings.
When buying an investment property or first home, I can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring the foundations are in good health. As a building designer and builder, I can tell you that the most expensive item on a house initially and also the most expensive part to repair if it starts to fail is the foundations. Always avoid large trees around the house as they are a major cause of foundation movement. Also, look at what type and size of trees are in the neighbouring properties as they can at some stage affect your foundations (consider that you may need to install root barrier at some stage if neighbouring trees are affecting foundations). Generally trees should be at least 1 x the mature height to 1.5 times the mature height away from the residence pending the species of tree. So, keep this in mind when next looking to purchase a property. Below are some general foundation tips on recognising foundation problems for when you’re looking to purchase your next investment
a) Brick Veneer Homes
- Look for visible signs of cracks in brickwork
- Inspect expansion joints to see if gap is consistent. If gap at bottom is eg. 10mm and at top say 40mm then this is generally a sign that there is foundation movement.
- Squeaks in flooring
- Cracks in wall
- Out of level door header. This is sometimes a sign that there has been movement and repairs have been carried out
- Check if down pipes are connected and not just running onto the ground as this is a major cause of foundation footing movement
b) Weatherboard Homes
- Check if stumps are timber or concrete (if timber, it’s almost a guarantee that it will need restumping in the not too distant future).
- If you look along the walls down the length of the weatherboards, you can generally tell if the house has moved. If the weatherboards drop at ends or are like a speed hump this is a good indication that the house is out of level.
- If flooring squeaks then this is an indication that you may need to have a re-stumper look under the house and provide levelling and blocking (generally over time stumps will move independently especially in clay sites like the western suburbs)
- Also refer to items iv, v and vi of ‘Brick Veneer Homes’ as this will also apply.
Aside from the obvious of knowing how many bedrooms, bathrooms, single/double/triple garage etc. we have listed some tips and things to consider when designing your new house plans.
- Land contour: Before anything, if you are looking for land and are budget conscious, you should consider a level block of land rather than an elevated block to minimise site costs. Wherever possible, always obtain a soil test report prior to purchasing the land so you are aware of any excessive land fill or rock formation that could bump your site costs up.
- Orientation: Again, if you haven’t already got a block of land and are looking to buy, it is highly recommended to consider the site placement. A correctly orientated block allows for a more solar efficient design. If you have land already, you should consider custom designing your home in order to plan your design around the solar orientation to allow for maximum energy efficiency, in turn, saving money in the long term. With standard display homes, you only have the option of mirror imaging the floor plan which may not necessarily be suitable for your orientation. Of course, you have the option of shopping around until you find the right design you are happy with and suits your requirements.
- Future House Extensions: As much as you plan you won’t know exactly how well your house will suit you in the following years, therefore, it’s always wise to have a design that allows for future extensions to be made easy (if the land permits) without major structural changes.
- Wish list: When you are at the design concept stage, it is highly recommended to have a wish list which incorporates items such as style of house, minimum room sizes, ceiling heights, window sizes/type, any features you wish to incorporate and most of all the preferred maximum house size. The more information provided to the designer initially will save you in preliminary design fees, so be sure to do some homework!
- Budgeting for construction: Once the preliminary concept design is completed, it is always advisable to be in contact with a Master Builder to obtain a budget costing for your preliminary design to ensure you are within your budget before progressing to the final design stage.
All in all, be sure to know what falls within your budget and work with your designer to meet your requirements and your budget. The last thing you would want is to spend thousands of dollars on your design and engineering then realise the construction costs will be out of your range.
Be wishful but realistic and don’t be afraid to ask questions!