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  • Julie @ Home On The Hill

Building a house - things I learnt on the way

Would I do it again? Certainly would - it was worth all the work to get a house built to my own unique design. BUT, there are some things I learnt on the way that if I had known before I started I could have saved time, money or both.

When you design your own home there is no 'show home' to walk through, to see the room sizes in real life, how the roof will look and so on. You have to imagine it in your mind and also with the help of some online house planning tools that give you a 3D walk through you can get a fair idea of how things will look.

Pacing out sizes of rooms in the house you are living in at the time helps to get a feel for what is too small or a waste of space, but when all is said and done, the reality will always be slightly different. Luckily for us there were no big surprises and although we would have liked to enlarge some rooms, it was more budget constraint than anything else that determined the final size.

We put our money into the things we couldn't do later or easily change, like 9ft ceilings, high skirting boards, decorative cornice etc. We kept the budget tight on the things we could upgrade in the future like some taps, door handles, light fixtures and  so on.

To keep costs down we took on as much work as we could do ourselves, things we felt we could do a decent job of. So we painted the whole exterior and interior of the house. Luckily the builders left their scaffolding here long enough for us to use it to paint the high side of the house, it would have been very hard to do the job without it.

It was no easy task at times with all the gables, the in and outs, the high eaves, the cutting in around the windows and then all the window architraves, but I much preferred it to painting the inside!

What I learnt from the experience that I would do differently was you need to explain every little detail - in detail - to your builder. A picture of what you like doesn't always translate to the builder in the way you expect - you show them a picture of a veranda you like, you think they see all the details you see - like the post thickness, the way the stairs are constructed with closed in steps, the distance between the railing verticals, the caps on the posts etc. But they just a see a veranda in general and don't always realise you are expecting that they will see it in details like you do.

Never assume anything should be the motto for building a home from scratch, builders aren't mind readers as much as that would be handy, so you need to drive the conversation about the detail.

The second motto you should have is - nothing is free - EVERYTHING costs! Things you expect to pay for are obvious, it's the little things you don't realise will take a lot longer for your builder to do that cost in labour hours. One little thing that cost me several hundred dollars extra was when one of the builders asked if I wanted extra noggins in any of the walls where I would be hanging something on the wall. Sure - why not? So off we went adding noggins here, noggins there, me not thinking that it would cost any extra- assuming it's just part of the building process - that was until I got the 'extras' bill. He didn't indicate to me that every extra noggin had a price - and I did let my boss builder know how I was caught unawares on this and he took it on board to make sure in future his tradies let clients know upfront there would be an extra cost involved.

My advice to all you would be custom built house owners out there, is that the devil is, as they say, in the detail. Ask lots of questions, ask your builder ahead of time what everything will look like - so you can avoid any changes which will save you money, time and stress.


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