Share our trials and tribulations as we build our new home - a custom Dominico by Fairmont Homes NSW

Monday, March 28, 2011

Colour Selection Update

We have submitted Check Plans and colours mentioned in previous blog to the Developer so they have granted us a six week extension to get final plans and colours to them. Still unsure about whether or not the roof conforms to guidelines but I choose to take their lack of objection as a confirmation of sorts… I will however remain dubious until I see final, written approval.
We have also submitted external colour selection to Rawson this arvo (which is slightly different to the colours chosen in the last post). Seeing as we are still unsure about whether or not to go ahead with the build we have submitted exactly what we want and will reserve final judgment pending the cost variation that will come from it.
One piece of good news is that our conveyancor has confirmed that Mick can get his bond back if we do on-sell the land (it’s always good to have options). The things to consider however are that the block is in the best location and we love the house design. The block is in the best street of the estate, has wonderful views and is close to public transport, hospitals, restaurants and shops. What we do need to take into account is that Mick doesn’t over-capitalise or overstretch his budget. There’s nothing worse than struggling to repay a mortgage (having done that myself for years…thank you very much Reserve Bank!) or limiting your options because you can’t sell without taking a big loss. Spending lots of money on building your dream house is only practical if you are confident you can get the money back in re-sale relatively quickly, or if you have more cents than sense!
Anyway, tonight Mick and I will go over the design one more time and mark-up any structural changes we want for final plans to be drawn up. Then, it’s decision time…
This is our facade and we have kept the colour palette and finish very similar:

Check plans marking external colours and finishes:

Main facade colours from Taubmans range...Mick most liked their names:

Good old faithful Colourbond roof colour:
 Colour bond and Taubmans colour for guttering, window/door/flyscreen frames, cladding and balustrading:
 We had a choice of grey, grey or light yellow for driveway colours so we went with...grey! This is a cool colour that will be in-keeping with the facade pallette...I also thought it was similar to the roof and together they would frame our, I sound very designer-like!
 These bricks will only be seen from the rear and sides of the house but they really did look great when we saw them last weekend and I think they will complement our colour choices and go well with the garden:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Battlefield Rawson

We are currently no closer to resolving issues with the builder Rawson Homes…in fact we may be further away.
They want to charge us an extra $2k to upgrade to the inverter model of the lesser air-con unit they’ve schlept us with under the guise that the $13.9k unit they promised is really an $8k unit PLUS installation. Mick ended up showing them a quote for the top-of-the-line model including installation for $13.9k, suggesting they change supplier. Apparently we haven’t taken into consideration that the $8k unit requires, “truss support, boxing in duct droppers, concrete slab and builders margin.” I would like suggest that they look up the meaning of the word ‘installation’ in the dictionary.  
On top of this they can’t guarantee us that the roof of the house conforms to estate guidelines and say that they can’t be sure unless we give them another $7K for final plans to be drawn up and submitted for approval and then bill us for more money if we have to make changes. We were promised by the salesmen that the house structurally conforms to the estate guidelines. We understand that colour selection approval is up to us but something like the roof should be their area of expertise. As Mick said to them in an email, “it was reasonably assumed that, being one of only three listed builders for the estate, you would be aware of which houses structurally meet the requirements and a verbal guarantee was given by your sales office more than once. To take my money and turn around now and say you are unsure (and ask for more money to check!) is not acceptable.”
Valiantly trudging ahead (mainly because we need to submit external colours today, regardless of issues, to the developer just so we don’t lose our $20k bond), we looked at bricks on the weekend. We’ve selected Austral Bricks Silver in their Urban One range. They are a light, neutral brick that are interesting to look at (photos don’t do them justice but I took some nevertheless). They looked good in full sun and over-cast light, as we were fortunate enough to see them in both. They will go well with feature colours, the roof, and plants/grass out the back. We have also submitted “lagoon” as a feature brick around the garage and upstairs balcony, which is part of the Austral Colour Brick range and looks rendered because the brick and mortar have a colour application on them. We were also considering using one of the neutral colours from that series as the main façade brick and if we did this, we would then pick a dark brick like “iron” as the feature brick for the façade, as we cannot have any one finish for more than 70% of the façade.
Also interesting to note is that the people at Austral had no idea what is meant on our plans where it says, “1.5mm raked feature joint every 9th course of brick.” When asked about it, Rawson was also unable to explain it or provide photos of it. Nice to know we’re in such capable hands…(sarcasm is hard to convey on a blog).
We also managed to head back to Winnings Appliances and check if the smaller Smeg oven fits my roasting pan…which it does (thank God for small miracles). Mum has suggested we just have the oven on the block…at this rate, I think that may just happen!
Anyway, as always I have photos to show to soften this depressing post:

Austral - Urban One - Silver - Facebrickwork (will be at back and sides of house):

Feature brick colour - Austral Colour Brick Lagoon (around garage and upstairs balcony):

Austral Colour Brick - Lagoon and Seagrass:

Austral - Urban One - Silver:

 Colourbond and Taubmans Colour - Surfmist - (Metal Railing/downpipes/fascia/guttering/cladding)

 Drivethru Coloured Concrete Driveway - Golden Tan:

 Taubmans Morokka Render - Cable Ash (right of facade and right side of house):

 Taubmans - Gravel - (Timber Pergola for Balconies/Front Door (also similar to the roof colour - Colourbond Woodland Grey)):

The Willy Wag Tail who kept me entertained during the grueling brick selection process:

Our Facade (we're sticking to the colour scheme as well):

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rawson Homes Suck

Ok, where do I begin…
After some thorough investigating, it has become apparent that the standard appliances are HORRIBLE and as Mick put it, “Not going anywhere near our kitchen.” So, we visited Winning Appliances and fell in love with Smeg. We’re still not 100% certain on what we will choose, but they are looking good and the ones we like can be viewed on the following links:
...And everything was happy until we got the Check Plans…Here are the issues:
-          Air-con provided is not the powerful, inverter valued at $13.9k as promised, but a lesser model valued at $8k
-          No A/C ducting provision for upstairs except where the downstairs ducts run through to the roof and take away space in two of the built-in robes
-          The water tank is 500L smaller than intended (at least this one they are giving us money back for)
-          The front door is 50cm smaller than intended
-          The cavity-sliding door requested doesn’t recess into a wall but instead takes up half the hallway
-          The kitchen is smaller than thought (this one is my fault for not reading the plans properly) and so the sink can’t fit where we want it
-          Render as displayed in the brochure is not included and our ever-helpful <insert sarcasm here> Rawson consultant doesn't know what the "selected brick with 15mm raked feature joints every 9th course" is that has been listed on the check plans. But she is certain that it is not the render as displayed in the brochure "for illustration purposes only"
-          Ground floor tiling only extends a few meters into the entry-way
-          The A/C exchange unit is taking up valuable lawn space
-          Windows have been taken out and no compensation given
The list goes on.
Needless to say, Mick and I are very disappointed in Rawson and are feeling cheated. Especially with regards to the A/C. This is not a cheap house we’re building and if we keep having to pay extras for things, it’ll get ridiculous. We’re more than happy to pay extra for things like Smeg appliances and timber floor-boards but no a/c ducting to second story? That’s not on. Mick has emailed Rawson and they have said that they will get back to us either today or tomorrow. However Mick is at the point now where he’s considering moving to another builder or just selling the land.
UPDATE: Mick just called Rawson as he is sick of waiting and has been told the following…
“The AirCon stays as-is, and does both floors even though it isn’t marked on the plan. She says the $13,900 price is because that includes the installation. I asked for a quote to upgrade to the inverter model.
I just called WestAir ( and the prices on their site are FITTED. Not just for the pieces.”
Mick will be sending an email to Rawson with the cheaper install quote and suggest they change supplier.
AND the latest update is that Rawson are now going to the Estate Developer as they are not sure our house conforms to the estate guidelines...something I have been hassling them about for months!
So, it’s not looking good. A word of caution to anyone building a home, DO NOT BELIEVE THE BUILDER IF THEY SAY THEIR TENDER IS “ALL-INCLUSIVE” and NEVER take them at face value, no matter how sincere the salesmen seem.
But we will trudge on for now, so Saturday we will visit an Austral Bricks display centre. Hopefully things will be resolved by then *fingers crossed*

Sunday, March 13, 2011

No such thing as final...

I guess no decision is final until we’ve signed on the dotted line as Mick and I have re-opened the oven and cooktop discussion for debate:
With the current layout of the kitchen, it would sacrifice too much bench space/flow/windows to have an inbuilt oven (above bench height anyway). This, coupled with our resolve not to get old and feeble for a few more years (fingers crossed), Mick and I have agreed that we will get an upright oven and cooktop. Ideally it must be large enough to accommodate my huge roasting pan (a major part of Mick’s decision to build a house…true story!) and be at least catalytic if not pyralytic. Unfortunately, there is still much debate over whether or not to go gas or electric for the cooktop. Ceran is easier to clean and use, but gas is better for cooking and not reliant on electricity. I really like both so don’t mind either way, but all-in-all (and there’s a long list of pros and cons) I’m leaning towards gas and Mick is leaning towards ceran. We’ll be thinking on this for a while yet!
Just to add further fuel to the debate, Baumatic as a brand do not have good reviews, though I can’t find any reviews on the exact ovens we’re looking at. In fact, most Baumatic products get a rating of one or two out of five, and it seems to be common that the oven doors shatter and knobs break after about three months. This does not fill us with confidence, so Mick will be looking at the option of getting a credit back from Rawson and choosing a different oven. As always, we’ll keep you posted.
There’s not too much else to report. Next door have most of their first story bricked and glazed (from what we saw on our quick drive-by to check on the land) and there’s a new temporary fence there now. Soon most of the plants will be removed (this needs to be done prior to building commencing) and the left side possibly levelled.  We have a quote for the plant removal, but not the levelling. Also, I would like to try and sell (for cheap) the sculptural plants (they look like Yuccas) as they’re expensive to purchase that large and could be a good deal for someone, and I would like to see them have a good home. Also Mum and I will save the Agapanthus for transplanting and the hedge on the left side can stay as long as it doesn’t interfere with the driveway…but the rest are for the chop! We just don’t have the yard to spare at the back and the side needs to be clear for access. We had hoped to keep the rear hedging but it’s too far out from the fence (smack bang in the middle of our lawn!) and against the fence are trees which are too large and have an insect problem. The long-term plan is to replace the fence (which is like a pool-fence) with a wooden one and plant along it for our garden, but to save on money, the short-term solution for privacy will be to run bamboo screening (cheap from Bunnings) along it. No point planting a screening hedge if we’re going to replace the fence.
Anyway, I will continue my research efforts (and earn my keep as “Project Lead!”) as we wait for check plans. That’s when the fun really begins as we can get costing on render and make final decisions on external colours and finishes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Colour Selection Update

Mick has paid for a new temporary fence for the block while we wait for check plans and slowly work our way through colour selection.
We won’t be able to choose things like brick colour until we know how much of the façade will be rendered, which will be largely dependant on price. It’s a shame that the photos they show you of the different facades show render but render is not actually included in the Tender.  So our house may not look anything like the brochure. We’ll cross that bridge when we know price, though according to the estate guidelines, no more than 40% of the façade can be brick….will keep you posted!
In the meantime, we know roof colour (colourbond Woodland Grey) and that we want dark floorboards, with light carpet and the same main wall colour as they have in their single-story display home we visited (we took lots of pics on Sunday). Still working on feature wall colours (I hope to use some left-over paint from my house).  We’ve chosen the bathroom vanities and accessories (so much is not standard!) as well as doors. We’ve also had trouble finding where the standard single-towel rail will go in the downstairs bathroom. In the end we’ve decided that the 20cm’s either side of the doors is enough room to fit two robe hooks which can be used as towel hooks (we don’t envisage this shower being utilised much, but it’s nice to know there’s somewhere to hang towels if needed). Mick has also decided in his infinite wisdom that the downstairs and main bathrooms get the standard shower head (still pretty nice if you ask me) and the ensuite gets the awesome shower head…two thumbs up from me!
For the kitchen we have decided on the 900mm Baumatic electric upright oven with five-gas burner cooktop. It’s a beast! And the 900mm stainless steel range hood. The only issue we have with regards to the kitchen is the sink. I really want a big, deep sink (more like a laundry tub) because the main things I hand-wash are my large (and they are HUGE) lasagne dish and roasting pan as well as the electric frypan and wok. It’s been difficult though to find one that fits the spec as Mick and I would ideally also like it to have a draining tray. I think I may need to compromise on this one and go with the standard sink. One thing that is definite is that it must have a left drain board so the dishwasher is against the wall. This will keep the dishwasher, pantry and fridge doors nicely spaced.
A small victory though is that in the colour selection folder from Rawson, the list of standard electrical items are that all external doors have a light point where there are eaves and a junction box where there aren’t eaves. Considering we have six external doors (not including garage) and the tender only provides for three external light points, this is a win!
I’ve also noticed that when they move the laundry to above the downstairs bathroom, they will need to flip it so the plumbing of the toilet and shower share a wall with the washing machine and laundry tub and the bathroom door and laundry door are as wide apart as possible (just easier for furniture placement)…I’m sure they’ll think of that themselves…

Anyway, I’m hoping this weekend Mick and I can visit the showrooms for the kitchen and bathroom bench tops as we ideally need to see these in person to make a selection. So hopefully I will have more pics to upload! And if I can figure it out, I will upload video of the site as I have re-discovered my video camera…

Kitchen layout (pending Rawson kitchen professional's input):
Front door (pivot):
Internal doors (don't let the colour put you off):
Wall, carpet and floorboard colours we like:

Wall colour we like (it looks different in different lights):
Oven and cook top:
Range hood:
Double towel rail for ensuite and upstairs bathroom:
Hand towel rail:
Toilet roll holder:
Shelf for ensuite and upstairs showers:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Let the fun and games begin!

Settlement is today and we have just been told that we need approval for our house from the developers BEFORE settlement. Great news to receive the day before settlement! Anyway, one company has approved the design now just waiting on the other. We also just received the community design guidelines in the pack from Rawson. I hate being told what to do! Luckily, there is still some good scope for individuality, though we may have trouble getting approval for our roof because it’s flat. Anyway, that’s a fight for another day.

We visited the block yesterday and realised that the temporary fencing on it was never discussed…another thing for the poor conveyancor to figure out. Also, the “landscaping” (and I use the term loosely) will mostly have to go. It encroaches on where the building will be at the side and takes up most of what will be our back lawn. Another cost for poor Mick. We’ll have to sit down with a landscaper I think and discuss removing the plants and whether or not we need retaining walls. I was hoping to do most of the landscaping myself but these things call for professionals. If we can, it’s best to get the plants removed before they start building.

Anyway, we took some more photos (see below) and checked the estate out. It gave Mick and I a good chance to see what design elements the neighbours have (for privacy reasons I haven't uploaded these pics). There are pretty strict guidelines we have to follow but it’s nice to see what variations others have gone with. Interestingly if we choose colourbond for the roof (as we have been thinking), there is only one other house in the estate with it. Mick has decided that as long as there is one other house with it, we can have it too (and It’s allowed in the guidelines), so colourbond in Woodland Grey it is (the only colourbond colour allowed)! One decision down, 5million to go…

Also, the neighbours building next door have made so much more progress, which is exciting and depressing at the same time. Really though it is great that they’re building first as it gives us a chance to see their brick colour etc. We’ve noticed though that they’ve cracked the footpath in front of their house. I hope they fix it. Most of the damage is done in front of their garage however (which is next to us) and will probably be covered by driveway in the end.

Well, now the race is on to visit the various suppliers for the colour selection process as we only get a three-hour consultation with Rawson (anymore and we pay more) and we will need to be ready to tell them what we want. We also have to submit plans and colour selection to the developers before we get council approval. Let the fun and games begin!

Our block from the street:

 Trees on left-hand side of block:
 Block from right-hand-side:
 Back of block (note one Yucca has fallen down):
 Back of our block (the 'pool-like fence' is our back fence and below that is a retaining wall shared with the back neighbour):
 Right-hand-side of block:
 Our beautiful pathway (may it stay that way!):
 Our neighbour's broken pathway:
To end on a good note, view from formal lounge room:


Mick spoke to the conveyancor and builder:

- We have tentative approval for our design, though we will need to submit final plans and colour choices by end March for approval. As it stands the roof should be allowed *fingers crossed*. The roof looks really good as is, so I hope they allow it.

-  Rawson have made no provision for removing plants so Mick and I will need to meet with a landscaper before they lay the slab (and possibly seek council permission...)

- Rawson will put up their own temporary fencing, so Mick will need to continue hire of the fencing that is currently there until building starts.