Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And speaking of fabulous storage ideas...

When you have high ceilings and you're only 160cm tall, reaching the upper shelves in your overhead cupboards, or anything in the corner where you need to lean over the bench, is a bugger.

All our most frequently used items are under the bench, or on the lowest shelves in the overheads, and I keep a step in the pantry so I can reach higher things when I have to. But getting the wine glasses out of the cupboards altogether was a stroke of genius.

Two racks side by side hold six red, six white and six champagne....perfect!

Getting organised

With the moving done and the unpacking just about complete (I'm trying to ignore those boxes in the lounge....), we made a huge start yesterday on getting our garage sorted out. It took us all afternoon, but there's actually room for a car in there now.

We need to get some shelving and brackets and perhaps some more plastic tubs for storing all those odds and ends that you accumulate somehow, but it's beginning to look more or less organised. Of course, Bike Boy's priority was to get suitable storage arranged for the bikes.

It would be lovely to go all-out and buy one of those fab storage systems you can get at Bunnings or Howard's Storage World, but with our budget still needing to cover numerous expenses, we're doing garage storage on the cheap. So a trip to K Mart today and some minimal expenditure got us the perfect hooks for the job.


The boxes in the foreground are full of stuff to be donated to charity. Where DOES it come from?

I insisted that mine be hung on the lowest hook, seeing as I'm vertically challenged.... The other two belong to Bike Boy. There's one hook left, and we think that will be used for hanging the gazillion spare tyres and tubes we have lying around.

It'll be nice to be able to open the car door without banging into bikes or spare tyres. The garage at our rental was considerably smaller than this one and I was forever tripping over things trying to get in and out of the car. Having everything cluttering up the floor didn't help.

On the furniture and decorating front, we're moving slowly. Blinds are probably three or four weeks away, but the Redi-Shades are doing a sterling job in the meantime. Fitting out my studio is a priority, but we're not rushing it. I need to figure out exactly what I want (and what will fit).

We did manage to pick up a bargain couch/chaise for the retreat on Christmas Eve and it arrived this week. Trouble is, youngest son thinks the couch and the fake-fur throw are just the best things EVER and is always in our room. The phrase "parents' retreat" obviously doesn't mean much to him....

The colour wasn't what I wanted. I was after cream or beige, but the choices were limited and a bargain is a bargain, so chocolate it is.

Anyway, we have the TV and DVD player all set up in their special niche, and it's lovely to lie around watching TV in what we jokingly refer to as "our flat". Now we just need a coffee table. And maybe a bar fridge. :p

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Let there be light!

We made yet another trip to Bunnings today, in search of a few bits and pieces, and were amazed to find the DIY light fittings we've been trying to get hold of for the past three or four months.

So, in the kitchen and dining area at least, no more Chinaman's hats!

They look great when turned on.... I tried to get a shot of them all lit up, but they were bamboozling my camera's light meter and I'm far too lazy to fiddle around with the manual settings. You'll just have to take my word for it. ;o)

It's all coming together. We also picked up some outdoor feature lights, which we'll get installed where we had the builder put junction boxes. Bike Boy assembled our shed yesterday, and he's put up some wine glass racks under our overhead kitchen cupboards. Monday, our new couch for the retreat arrives, and we should have the pendant light for that room in the next couple of weeks too.

That only leaves: feature wall lights for the ensuite, some light shades for the laundry and mud room, trapeze lighting between the bulkheads in the lounge, shelves for the showers, fitting-out of all five wardrobes, decking for the front porch and al fresco room, plus a heap of paving and landscaping. And a lot of new furniture.

Pfft. Not much at all.... We should be all done in about a year or two.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Feeling settled

We're just about unpacked - there are only about half a dozen boxes in the lounge (which is unfurnished apart from one couch and the Christmas tree), and a big pile of crap in the garage now.

It was interesting unpacking some of the boxes that we sealed up in April 2007, before we put our old house on the market. Those have been stacked in the garage at the rental this whole time, and apart from a few "Where on earth is such-and-such? ....Oh yeah, it's in a box..." moments, we managed well without all that stuff. So when they were finally opened, I found a mixture of treasures (I have JUST the spot for that!), junk (Why on EARTH did I keep THAT?) and things that made me go Hmm...I've lived without it for a year and a half, do I really need it?

Consequently, this morning, one of my favourite charities, Diabetes Australia, is coming to collect a nice big donation of clothing, kitchenware, small furniture items, a couple of surplus bikes and various bits and pieces.

I can't believe we still have so much unwanted stuff. After all, when we sold the old place, we had a garage sale, filled a huge skip, made several trips to the tip and gave a truckload of stuff to charity as well.

I'm sure that stuff breeds or clones or something.


We have a slab for a small storage shed now, which will be going up on Boxing Day. We still need to get those light fittings, and a couch for the retreat - which I am LOVING, even unfurnished. :o)

I also have to do something serious about equipment for my studio and a decent desk for my office area. And then there's landscaping - the front will be mostly taken care of, but we have some serious work to do in the back yard. It's raining once again, so the yard is a quagmire.

*sigh* I have this strange sense of deja-vu. I bought pink gumboots 22 years ago when we moved into our first home. Wonder if I still have those?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Drought? What drought?

Of course, we would cop the wettest, muddiest weekend of the entire year for our big move.

Never mind, we're all moved, and at least partly unpacked. As long as we can find food and clean underwear, everyone's happy. Come to think of it, the kids could probably survive quite well without the clean underwear. ;o)

More photos to come when I get a bit more organised and a LOT more spare time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shiny, shiny, shiny!

Bike Boy is extremely excited about the new stove. I'm extremely excited about what he's going to cook me on the new stove. :o)

Must order those damn light fittings....

The dishwasher is in there somewhere. No close-ups though - I need to clean all the fingerprints off it. Ick.

Appliance cupboard. We had one of these in our old kitchen and I miss it a lot. It'll be nice to shut the doors on the toaster. And all the toast crumbs that my kids are incapable of cleaning up. Now you see it:

Now you don't:

See? I said I had just the thing for that feature niche. Turquoise wine glasses. Don't tell anyone they cost me $2 at the Reject Shop....

It's all coming together. Our fixing items have all been taken care of, the appliances are in, the Bath Magic guy is coming back to clean the pantry shelves, the lights that weren't working have been fixed, the painter is now coming on Saturday (Gah! We're moving IN on Saturday....), the bifold door service is booked, and the cracked tile in the bathroom has been noted by our SS, who will get someone to fix it. Lucky I kept the leftover tiles. Heating and cooling work a treat - let's hope we don't need the heating for several months. It is Melbourne though, so you never know...

Even the fences are mostly up, and the fence guy is going to hang our side gate for us for a token cash amount.

The only new problem is that one of the burners on our stove doesn't work. Whatever - someone will contact us about that.

Carpets are being laid tomorrow, I'll be confirming the order for our blinds and we need to do something about a shed. I also have my eye on a hall table and a couple of perfect glass shelves for the showers that might be a wee bit exxy. OK, so Bike Boy almost had a coronary when I showed him the brochure and the $200+ price tag on those. He's stingy, what can I say? ;o)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Feature tiles: Before & After

The difference a sealer makes to natural stone:

It really brings out the colours. And it's shiny. I LIKE shiny!


This morning I was feeling very frustrated. Most of the outstanding defects have not been rectified, and we'd had no response from Porter Davis since I emailed last Thursday to point out that numerous things still needed fixing.

Then the nice man from Bath Magic turned up as arranged at 8:30, to fix a small chip in our bathroom vanity - but he knew nothing about the stained pantry shelves which also required his attention. And without a work order, he couldn't do the job. *sigh*

On top of that, the bank is still stuffing us around, since they haven't fully funded our loan - there's a small balance to be credited to our account, thanks to a few post-contract variations. And apart from the fact that the extra bit of cash would be welcome right now, we stay on interest-only payments until the loan is fully drawn. We'd really like to be making fortnightly, rather than monthly payments, and paying a little off the principle, thanks very much.... I'm also peeved at them because they've put clearance days on the cheque we deposited the other day. I've NEVER had to wait clearance days! Tuh!

The fencing guy still hasn't finished the job. No panels, no posts at the back and the hole that's slightly on our side of the boundary hasn't been moved.

Then I headed off to a client appointment and got caught up in road works. By this point, bad words were spewing from my mouth like a Tourette's sufferer. I got to the gym and told my client I was in a Bad Mood, at which news she looked a little worried. ;o)

Anyway.... the site supervisor called me this afternoon and he intends to be at the house tomorrow to sort out most of the minor issues, as well as supervise the appliance fit-off and some electrical work that has to be done. He's also faxed a work order through for the pantry shelves and tells me that a couple of other things have been organised. Plus he was about to call the painter too. If it happens as planned, all well and good...

And I just rang and made a formal complaint to the bank. Let's see if that gets some action.

Hmm. I feel better now.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nearly there!

I'm counting sleeps till we move in (seven to go). Visiting is fun, but we always have to leave again... :o(

Today we got two out of three light fittings up in the boys' rooms - we discovered that compact globes don't fit them, and a rummage in the kitchen cupboard only unearthed two of the old standard globes. Neither of us wanted to make another trip to the shops, so the third will have to wait.

Bike Boy managed to put up our heated towel rails with no problems at all. I actually commented that it was all going far too smoothly and that was scaring me. Something always goes wrong when we attempt DIY stuff. But there are no extra holes in walls, the rails are straight and exactly where I wanted them and they work. Well, one does.... we need an extra power point for the ensuite one. Yeah, that was an oops in our electrical plan....

This is the kids' towel rail. Ours is a monster 11-rail one:

The toilet roll holders that I was so gleeful about getting online for a steal though - those turned out to be made for skinny toilet rolls. Or something. Whatever the reason, there isn't space between the wall and the spindle for a standard dunny roll. I'm peeved because I really liked them, they were very stylish. Yes, I know.... it holds toilet paper, but who says a utilitarian object can't also be stylish? Now I'll have to go in search of something else, dammit!

This photo lies!

Our letterbox is painted and has numbers on it. Now we need to wait for Number One Son to get home from work so the three of us can lift it into place. It's a heavy bastard. Gee, who'd have thought something made of concrete would weigh a lot?

I've painted ours in Colorbond Ironstone, to match the garage door, front door and spouting:

Other than that, I did a lot of vacuuming and scraping, so the floors are all ready for the carpet later in the week. We also picked up all the offcuts of flooring, a ton of cardboard and plastic packaging and general rubbish that's accumulated since handover. And we carted several boxes and bits and pieces over, just to get them out of the way here and to give us a few less things to move later.

Now I need a massage and an early night.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shopping is meant to be FUN

This morning we went in search of light fittings. We know what we want, and thought it would be easy. Ha!

First stop was Bunnings. They stock the pendants we want to go over the kitchen bench and the dining table. At least, they allegedly stock them. I've been haunting every Bunnings store within a 15km radius for the past 2 months and nobody has the lights we want, in the colour we want. There's a space on the shelf and one hanging in their display, but no stock.

So we thought we'd ask them to order them in for us. Noooo. They only take orders for "special" items, not stuff they keep in stock. So if they don't ever actually HAVE any stock, how are we supposed to buy the things? Bike Boy got a bit snippy with the girl at the special orders desk and she just looked bemused. Or maybe she was bored, not sure. Obviously, they don't want our money...

For the kitchen bench - there'll be three of these:

Dining table, centred between two downlights. NOT in hideous red though.....a nice white shade:

Next stop was a major lighting store. The assistant there was helpful and knew her stuff, but the one item we decided we wanted today - a largish pendant for the retreat - was out of stock. And no other store had any either. And there were none in the warehouse. They'll have some more some time in January.... *sigh*

All we wanted was one of these:

And on it went.... Shopping with jaw clenched and forehead fixed in a frown is not my idea of a good time. So now we have a change of plans. I'm going to buy the kitchen and dining room pendants online, and just pay the shipping charge. And the retreat light will have to wait till January.

We DID get some cheap oyster lights for the kids' rooms. At least that's something.

Friday, December 5, 2008


The floorboards look pretty damn good under electric lighting. And thank goodness Bike Boy has a bug up his arse about skirtings and insisted on upgrading to 90mm.

Ignore all the crap on the bench. And the lack of appliances. Ooh, I have just the thing to go in that feature niche there.

Hope the new dishwasher, when it arrives, works a LOT better than our current one. And I really need a stainless steel fridge - the old white one is going to look sadly out of place....

No sheets here!

It's well known that I absolutely detest sheets hanging at the windows. I refused to have them 20+ years ago when we moved into our first home, and I'm not having them now. Sheets belong on beds. And maybe on small children if you're one of those irritating people who sends their little darlings out to annoy total strangers by trick or treating.

Back then, I solved the problem by buying a big roll of heavy scrim fabric (it was the 80s....) and making privacy curtains for lounge and main bedroom. I also made blockout drapes for our bedroom. And we had some terylene curtains that had once belonged to Bike Boy's Nan, so those went in the spare bedrooms. Kitchen and family room, we just lived with bare glass for a while.

This time around, we've organised blinds for all windows. But thanks to all the builder delays and the uncertaintly about when we'd be moving, we weren't able to get our order in until it was too late to have them installed before Christmas. Which is why I've bought a stack of Redi Shade temporary blinds, to get us through the next month or two.

Here they are on one set of bifolds. I think these are staying up until I figure out what I want to do here permanently... I need to trim the length on the one on the right, in case you're wondering why it hangs lower than the others.

If you want to open the blinds, you just fold them up and clip on the little white pegs that come with them.

See? Much better than sheets! Makes the place look occupied. :o)

And our completed but very dusty floating floor, looking from the front door. Hmm, no hint of the colour feast for your eyes that waits inside....

By the way, the Redi Shade product that Bunning sells is identical in design, material and so on to the ones I ordered over the phone. BUT....they're only 900mm wide, and mine are 1220mm.

Come to think of it, Bunnings may have had a wider one....

Are we there yet?

Got my Redi Shade temporary blinds in the mail yesterday, so guess what I'm doing this afternoon?

The floating floor will be completely finished this morning, and I plan to go take some photos later today. Promise to post them here.

We have a few trades booked in to finish stuff off - replacement of some fascia today, a small repair to the bathroom vanity cabinet next week, a service for the bifolds the week after, and the painter is coming Monday or Tuesday to do a few touch-ups. And I've just emailed our construction manager a short list of minor stuff that the fixing carpenter didn't do prior to handover, to make sure it doesn't get overlooked.

Apart from that, appliances and carpet go in next week, and then WE go in. :o) Must do something about that landscaping request form. Where did I put that.....?

Now I'm just getting impatient. We're soooo close!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting closer

We've got through a lot in the past few days. The site supervisor sent a cleaner on Sunday, to deal with the mess the tradies left on Thursday/Friday. He also organised for a locksmith to come yesterday, and we now have all entry sets and deadlocks keyed alike. One key - much better!

Yesterday was a busy day, with our driveway poured and the flooring guys getting the boards down in the family/dining rooms. The house is starting to look a lot more like we imagined it.

Today the floor progressed down to the front door, our gas meter turned up and we had a guy come over and replace the mesh in a flyscreen that had paint stuck in it. By the end of the week, the floating floor should be finished, the fences ought to be up - at least along the side boundary, with the post holes dug in the correct positions along the rear boundary, and we'll have a few small jobs done ourselves (stuff like sealing the pebble feature tiles in the showers, painting the letterbox...).

We're right on schedule so far....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The BIG to-do list

We've made quite a bit of progress over the weekend. Well, when I say "we", I mean Bike Boy.... So we've now ticked off the following items from our very long list:

- Floorboards picked up and delivered to the house. Bike Boy did get bogged in the process, when he executed my brilliant idea of cutting across the vacant block behind out house with the car and fully loaded trailer, and carting the packs straight into the rumpus room. When I suggested that, it had NOT been bucketing rain for approximately 20 hours. He was most happy. Yeah, right.
-TV antenna installed. No, my husband did not climb around on the roof in the rain, we employed an expert. He's not entirely crazy.
- Letterbox purchased and waiting in the garage.
- Grout sealed in floor and shower tiles. I am NOT having my lovely off-white grout turn grey within a few months. Not this time.
- Floor scraped, sanded and vacuumed so it's ready for the boards to be laid tomorrow.
- Gate collected and left for the fencing dudes to hang when they do the fence panels tomorrow. Let's hope they manage not to stuff that up.
- Formwork is all done for the driveway and concrete pour is scheduled for tomorrow.

Now we just have to follow up the blind manufacturers to get them to come and measure up, contact the landscapers to start on our front yard, build some decking on the front porch and in the al fresco room, move all our crap....oh yeah, and chase the builders to finish what they started.

Friday, November 28, 2008

And to top it all off:

Most of the keys we were given don't fit! WTF??

*sigh* I'm betting that the deadlock keys are in the site supervisor's pocket, since those were just being fitted as we left this afternoon. But the deadlocks were supposed to be keyed alike to the entry sets. They're not.

Then we have the key to one set of bifolds, but not the other - again, why aren't those keyed alike? And no key at all to the sliding door.

Whatever, at least we can get in. Well, Bike Boy can. I'll be working all day tomorrow and well into the evening, so no time to do anything useful over there anyway. Oh well, Sunday....

Made it!

The stormwater is fixed (good thing, because it's bucketing down!), the locks are on, most of the outstanding stuff has been done, although the painter was still going half an hour ago and the cleaner needs to come back over the weekend....but most importantly - WE HAVE THE KEYS!

We're also promised a big fat cheque in the mail next week for rent compo. I'll be waiting impatiently for that!

I'd like to report that we're excited, elated and thrilled, but mostly, we both just feel exhausted, pissed off and let down. :o(

Maybe that will change in the next couple of days.

Which bank?

I got to my local bank branch, explained to the customer service person that I was there to pick up a bank cheque for the final progress payment on my home loan, which should have been pre-arranged .....and was greeted by blank looks.

OK, last straw! I completely lost it. Through gritted teeth and with raised voice, I told them exactly what I thought of their crappy treatment of their customers and that they'd better sort it out, pronto! I must have looked pretty scary, because everyone took a BIG step backwards.

I suddenly had three people serving me, all running around making phone calls, looking up stuff on the computers and trying to prevent the crazy lady from screaming and scaring the other customers....

What should have taken 5 minutes actually took half an hour to sort out, but eventually, I walked out of there with my cheque in hand. I pity the poor bloke who drew the short sttaw and got to serve me this morning, but that's one of the hazards of working for the Dark Side. I hope they pay him well.

We'll be seriously reviewing our banking arrangements in the New Year. I owe them nothing....

Edit: Actually I owe them rather a lot of $$. But you know what I mean.

Handover pending....

A visit to the house last night showed:

Plaster still not repaired where a light fitting has been moved. Since we can't get in, we don't know, but can guess, that other plaster repairs haven't been done either.
Floor has been cleaned, but very poorly. No evidence of site clean being done, so concrete, rubble etc is still there.
Plumber has not been to sort out the storm water (we were assured he'd be there yesterday). Attempts to repair bent powder coated infill above sliding door have made it worse.
Painter has not been seen yet.
No deadlocks fitted, and we assume that the other fixing items haven't been done either.

Our inspection is at 1:30pm tomorrow. At least our concreter is on the ball - the driveway is all dug out and formed up, ready to pour. And the idiot fencing contractors have concreted in the posts on our side boundary and attached the top rails, so at least that's some progress. We DID have to request that they not pour concrete into the hole where they've trashed the stormwater...a stormwater drain full of cement? Yeah, that'd work well....

Continuing the dramas, I got on my high horse with the bank yesterday afternoon and caused a stir. All I've asked for is confirmation that a bank cheque will be available at our local branch for collection this morning. I asked for this on Tuesday last week. And again on Monday this week. And again on Wednesday. And then again at lunchtime yesterday.

At 3:00pm I lost patience and faxed a complaint, pointing out exactly how bad their service is, and letting them know that if I did not hear for them within the hour, I would be escalating my complaint to the Banking Ombudsman. 59 minutes later, I got a call, masses of apologies, and the whole thing was sorted out pretty quickly. I now have confirmation in writing that our cheque will be waiting for us tomorrow morning at the branch I specified.

Honestly, that wasn't so hard, was it? So why did it take 10 days, 3 faxes, 4 phone calls and a threat to make it happen? I worked for this particular bank for 20 years, so I'm particularly disgusted when their service isn't up to scratch. I told them that a 12-year-old with a piggy bank full of 5 cent coins gets better service in the branches than their "valued" home loan customers. True...

After a few dramas with this current loan, a previous loan and an insurance claim, I'll be taking my business and walking in the new year. Loyalty? Bah! It'd be nice if they demonstrated some!

I wish I could say that had made me feel better, but nope.... rocking up to the house this afternoon and finding everything completed? THAT will make me feel better!

*deep breaths...*

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More mellow by the minute!

I just had a call from the site supervisor and we're set to go early Friday arvo.

I feel quite a bit more relaxed. Who knows, I may even crack a smile soon....

Feeling hopeful

This morning I've been at the house, had a quick chat to the site supervisor, and have actually seen some tradies working around the place. SS was also on the phone, organising lots of little details (like a replacement plug for one ensuite sink, since the original has gone missing).

On top of that, I've just had a call from the construction manager, who informs me that the brickie is working right now on patching up mortar and fixing a dodgy column in the garage, the plasterers are due shortly to fix a couple of things, and tomorrow the following are all organised:

- Roof service
- Painting
- Laminate cleaning/polishing
- Installation of some powder coated window infills that we weren't happy with

The fascia guys were there earlier too, but the material they had didn't match our colour, so they have to order new pieces and come back.

He's very confident that handover will go ahead on Friday. Me? I'm feeling quite a bit better.

Now I'm going to chase the admin girl re our Certificate of Occupancy, which I still haven't received.... and then I may have to do battle with the bank, who still have not replied to my fax from last Tuesday requesting that a bank cheque be available for us to collect on Friday morning. I've made one follow-up phone call, and will be really peeved if I have to ring again.

And let's hope my skills with the spray paint, plus the note/diagram I've taped to the rear door of the house, gets the message through the thick skulls of the fencing contractors....

Can anybody get ANYTHING right?

We arrived at our block a couple of weeks ago to find that the fencing contractors had marked the ground for post-holes. Way too close to the house on the side boundary. We discovered that they'd lined our side boundary up to the wrong rear peg, using one belonging to a neighbouring block, which was about 2.5m inside our property.

So I ring the contact at the developer's office, who provides me with a number for the fencing contractor. He promises to get his guys to check their measurements. Sure enough, a couple of days later, a nice tall stake, sprayed bright pink, appears next to the right corner peg.

Last night I noticed that the post holes had been dug. Great! Only.....hmm. The ones for the rear boundary seem a little too close to the house. We have a 2m easement along that boundary and only about 145mm clearance from the house to the easement at one corner, but still.... that doesn't look like 2m to me.

This morning I go back, armed with my trusty tape measure and the site plan. Sure enough, the post holes at one end, where the next door neighbour has an existing fence, are correct. But at the other end? Instead of a distance of 2145mm between the rear of the house and the proposed fence, we have only 1800. Looks like over 300mm has gone missing.

I rang the fencing guy again. He argued with me! I insisted. After all, I was standing right there, with my tape measure and the holes were clearly wrong. He sighed and said he'd get the guys to check it. Again.

After I hung up, I found the peg that marks the angle in the fence. It's some distance from where they put the hole. I'm going back in a tick, with a nice bright can of spray paint and a string line, to mark the correct spot.

No way is our rear neighbour getting a free gift of 300mm of our land!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The back story: where was I?

I think we were at lock-up stage or thereabouts. Dodgy frame, dodgy brickwork, dodgy roof. We were still busy complaining about all of that when our supervisor tells us he wants the plasterers to start. Say what? The frame is seriously not right and you want to cover it up with plaster?

We organise a meeting with the construction manager and our supervisor and make it clear that we are Not. Happy. Jan. We point out how the roof line dips away in one corner of the ensuite. How this wall or that aren't plumb. How bulkheads have been framed wrongly. How the wrong timbers have been used in load-bearing walls. How some of the timbers that should have been used have now been cut up to build the frame for our missing entertainment niche. How the roof line is uneven. And so on.

We learn that the frame has failed inspection (gee, really?), but is due for another shortly, and assuming all is OK, the plasterers need to get started so as not to hold things up. *ahem* They assure us that various things will be rectified and we are promised a copy of the frame inspection report thingy, which we request because we no longer have any faith in these promises. We never did get that...

Plaster goes on and walls look woeful. Things start and stop and go nowhere. We get a whole lot more empty promises, and then one day when walking up the street and viewing the place from a different angle, we notice just how bad the roof is. The entire front face looks like (as my husband puts it) "the waves at Bell's Beach".

By this time we've sent numerous emails and made multiple phone calls and got not very far. We start to investigate what the Building Commission can do for us, and how to go about starting a formal complaints process. Then I get a phone call one morning out of the blue from our new site supervisor. NEW site supervisor? First we've heard of it. He wants to have a meeting on site to go over the house with us. I'm at work and suggest he rings Bike Boy, who organises a meeting with the new guy.

New Guy is brought up to speed very quickly and is probably wondering who's bad side he's managed to end up on to inherit this job... he seems appalled at the state of the roof and various other things, and utters several bad words at the workmanship (or lack of...).

One of the first things he does is to have all the plaster in the garage, the entire ceiling throughout the front of the house, along with some sections of cornice elsewhere, ripped down. Then a number of roof trusses are moved. With the tiles on. Err... Still, that results in a marked improvement in the roofline. Other trusses are jacked up and various bits of frame evened out. New Guy also tells us that the frame actually failed inspection FIVE times. And that he has no idea how it passed on the sixth attempt.

We still have issues with tradies. Like this:

In what parallel universe is it acceptable to prop up a roof truss with an old chisel?

There was more of the same, things were happening, but it was all two steps forward, one step back. The plaster was pulled down and re-done more times than we could count. There was so much done wrong, re-done (wrong again), re-done again.....but it would take me a week to list it all.

We had a lot of promises and some action, and this went on for weeks and weeks*. Our biggest beef was that we saw our contract completion date come and go in August and we just could not pin anyone down to a timeframe for actual real-world completion. Work had also seemed to come to a halt; nobody was in a hurry to do anything.

Finally, we looked up the big boss at PD and sent him a terse email, listing some of our issues, the main one being the lack of any kind of timeline. Bike Boy got a call from him first thing the next morning, and Lo! Things began to happen.

By this time it was September and we were fast running out of patience - and cash.

* I have to note here that New Guy was actually getting a lot of things happening and seemed to be making a genuine effort to sort out all the dramas. But he was up against it with tradies who just didn't care (that's if they bothered to show up in the first place) and also in trying to work around the poor-quality frame.

Counting down. Or.....not?

Since our practical completion inspection last Thursday, we've been expecting our house to be a hive of activity, with all hands on deck to meet our confirmed-in-writing handover date THIS COMING FRIDAY.

We left on Thursday arvo feeling reasonably hopeful that our nightmare was soon to end; almost cheerful in fact. On Friday morning, I looked up the street as I drove past on my way to do the school run....but there was no sign of anything happening. Oh well, it was only 8:00am. I was back just before lunch - still nobody there. Walked over later in the afternoon. Nope, all was quiet.

Saturday, nobody turned up. Sunday - bah! As if....! Today, I stopped on my way home from work, walked all around (in the mud) and peered in every window. The roof has not been fixed, the little red dots are still all over the place, exactly where they were on Thursday, and nothing, NOTHING has been done. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Three days completely wasted. Grrr.

Now they have three days left to complete everything before handover. What do you think the chances are of that happening?

I've busted my butt the past few days, organising insurance, gas and electricity accounts, blinds, steam cleaning (for the rental), all on the assumption that we would have possession at the end of this week. The flooring guy is booked for Monday to start on our floating floors, the carpet all organised for the week after, fences are going up and the concreter is ready to start the driveway any day. Just that one tiny detail to take care of....the keys?

We will not be handing over any money if the major things aren't completed, no matter how much pressure we may be under in terms of our housing situation. Call me cynical, but I think perhaps some large builders count on clients being in financial doo-doo, thanks to delays, and therefore being willing to settle for below-par work, just to get the keys.

Not us, nuh-uh. VCAT may be in our future yet....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On a happier note...

The facade is looking really good, now that all the render is complete and they've listened to me and repainted that goddam portico beam in the right colour! Took this today:

Exterior colours are:

Bricks - Austral Harvest Malt
Render - Rockcote Pinjara
Spouting, fascia, garage door, front door, portico beam - Colourbond Ironstone
Weatherboards - Colourbond Paperbark (yes, they are made of fibre cement, but that's the paint colour we liked)
Roof tiles - CSR Monier. Profile Horizon, colour Barramundi

And I'm rather keen on the Gleditzia that's been planted on our nature strip. Now for driveway, front path, some decking on the porch and landscaping. Oh...maybe we'd better actually get through handover first.

The back story - Construction: frame stage

This is where it starts to get ugly. We were a bit annoyed that we had to be the ones to pick up the missing drain - isn't that what the site supervisor is supposed to be getting paid for? But we shrugged our shoulders and figured no harm done...

Next, framing timber was delivered, and the slab marked up for the frame. NOW things were getting exciting!

Then we notice another drain sited oddly in the edge of the slab behind the garage, right where the doorway will be. Hmm. This is the lower concrete sill that runs all the way around the slab, on which the brickwork is built. Surely that can't be right?

We call the site supervisor again - no, that shouldn't be there, it has to be moved. The plumber will be back to do it soon. Oh-KAY. Seems like no biggie and the frame moves ahead.

But ....UH-OH! This is a MAJOR biggie:

A piece of our slab edge at the rear corner has cracked right through. Gah! We demand a site meeting with the supervisor, and show him exactly what we're concerned about. He pokes the cracked concrete with the edge of his boot and the whole piece breaks away, along with a bit more - about a metre in length. Husband goes slightly ballistic. We are assured that the slab will be repaired - engineers will be called out to look at it and decide what needs to be done.

The verdict is: the slab needs to be drilled into and steel reinforcement bars inserted, then new concrete framed up and poured. Sounds reasonable to us, what do we know about concreting? Or building engineering? A few days later, we arrive to find this:

The slab repair has obviously been done, and we can only assume that the drilling and addition of reinforcement bars actually happened. Fingers crossed.... BUT - we are not impressed by the leftover concrete that has simply been poured out onto the ground. If they think we're digging that out when we start landscaping, they're mistaken. We request that the excess concrete be removed and are assured it will be.

Meanwhile, we're underwhelmed by our framer's work. I understand that it's a big and complicated house, and that small details can be missed (LOTS of small details), but what sort of idiot thinks that a door frame should go in upside down?

The laundry door has an aluminium tread along the bottom.... Yes, that's it there - at the TOP. Even if that wasn't a clue, the hinges are on the wrong side.

Then there's this:

Bedroom windows. Two are awnings and one is fixed. Even if you didn't READ THE PLAN, DUMMIE, surely it's obvious that the odd one out - the fixed window - should go in the middle, not on the right?

There were niches missing or sited wrongly. One, supposed to be in the kitchen, was placed more or less in the right spot, but only to half the correct depth and facing the wrong way - so that it would have been a nice feature inside the linen cupboard. We had nib walls left out, and our entertainment niche in the bedroom was framed as a strange kind of angled wall instead. And there was so much more...

All of this began to piss us right off, and we started to look really closely at everything this guy did. The roof trusses went on and Bike Boy was convinced that something just wasn't right. All we had was a partial truss plan, so it was kind of hard to check, but there was another Bridgeport under construction on a neighbouring estate, so we went and took a look. Hmm. Ours didn't look anything like that. This one was neat, square and waaay better quality than our frame.

We voiced our concerns several times to the site supervisor, and he agreed that the roof trusses hadn't been placed according to the plan, but that it would be OK, if the framer just made a few amendments. We weren't entirely convinced, but at this point we were still asssuming that we were dealing with professionals who knew what they were doing, so we decided to wait and see what happened.

The portico and parapet wall, which were features of the facade we'd chosen, were unfinished. We were given some waffle about wrong materials being delivered and new ones expected, but to us, it looked a LOT like the guy just had no clue about how to put together the front part of our house.

The wall wrap was put on - very badly. I know it gets covered by bricks and other cladding materials, but I'm pretty sure it's not meant to have gaps or big wrinkles in it. Then the Big Storm hit. Melbourne was buffetted by ridiculous winds, and OF COURSE, our wall wrap was blown off and torn to shreds in places.

Bike Boy was by this time of the Trust No-one school of thought, and insisted on emailing to get written confirmation that all damaged material would be replaced with new, and not simply nailed back up. We got a reply, agreeing that this was so. Ha!

We got one or two small sections replaced, but the rest was simply reattached, ragged edges, tears and deteriorated metal backing and all.

Gee, do you think the fact that it's see-through might mean it isn't going to do the job it was intended to do?

Again, we got promises that it would be rectified, and again, it didn't happen. We were still waiting for the drain to be moved and the concrete clean-up to happen. The portico was still untouched, and tiles had gone on without anything being done about the roof trusses. I think by this stage we were in May.....

Brickies began work, although there'd been no sign of the plumber or electrician yet. We had issues with the brick work. Just for one example, I don't think expansion joints are supposed to be 5mm wide at the bottom and 25mm wide at the top. And I could be wrong, but I thought they should be more or less a straight line:

I can't quite recall the order of events now, but at some point the idiot framer returned to fix all the bulkheads that he'd framed to the wrong heights. This included a raised ceiling in the entry (the ceiling is 10' high here). As he was attempting to frame up the 300mm bulkhead around the edges, he obviously realsied that the way he'd put the roof trusses on meant that the ends of a couple were sticking through into the entry - and because of the raised ceiling height, these ends were BELOW ceiling level. His solution? Cut the ends off the trusses!

This time, we went completely mental. No more Mr Nice Guy. OK, they'd get the roof truss company to send out their engineers and figure out how to fix things so the structural integrity of the roof was unaffected. WE wanted the tiles ripped off, and the trusses replaced with new ones - the right way! In hindsight, we should have insisted. The trusses got bodgied up - they don't look pretty, but we got copies of the engineers reports and drawings, which seem to agree with what's been done - so hopefully they'll hold up.

Then the plumber finally turned up to do the rough-in. He ran all the internal pipes, and that all looked OK. Then he did the water lead-in from the meter. Uh....

We hit the roof! A very long, very detailed and full-of-photos email was sent off. We listed all our complaints, cited what had been promised yet not delivered, and made it clear that we were not paying a cent more until these things were rectified.

We had long ago got to the point where we put everything in writing, and insisted on written responses. We could see this thing turning into a big old nightmare.....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The back story - Construction: base stage

So, our site start was set for 25th February....not that we expected anything to happen on that day. A couple of weeks before, we're informed that our customer service girl is leaving, and that someone else will be taking over. I recall thinking that it was not great timing, as this was a pretty crucial point.

We're also informed that our bricks have been discontinued and I almost have a heart attack. Does the brick manufacturer not REALISE how difficult it is to choose a colour scheme? And now I have to go through all the drama AGAIN. Back to Craigieburn for more brick samples....

We also had all bathroom fittings and taps discontinued and replaced with items so similar I could barely tell the difference. Same with exterior door handles and deadlocks. I start to pray that my tiles don't get the chop before we get to the fixing stage....

The new girl rings to introduce herself, and asks whether we recieved the construction drawings. Er.... yes, some time ago. Oh, well could we please sign and return them, or our start might be delayed. Um... those were returned quite a while ago. Oh. We had several conversations along these lines over the next few days - obviously, our file wasn't exactly well organised. *sigh*

A few days before the 25th, we note that a water meter has appeared on our block. Excitement! After waiting for some action since the previous April, anything is exciting. Then we were pleasantly surprised to find when we got home from work on the 25th, that our site scrape had been done.

The under-slab drains go in, and we notice that the additional one in the garage (that we've paid extra for) seems to be missing. A quick phone call and that's sorted the following day. Within a few days we had a slab. Yippee!

No word from the site supervisor though, who according to standard procedure, was supposed to contact us prior to site start. We looked up his contact details online and called him, only to find that he'd left the company. Once again, I call our customer service contact, who is completely unaware of any change of supervisor.

Eventually, I get a call from the construction manager, who informs me that he is supervising until a new guy is appointed. Meanwhile, we pay the progress payment for the base stage and materials are delivered for the frame construction.

Things seem to be going along OK - a few minor bumps, but at least we're moving ahead as per the timeframes we were given. So far.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The back story: pre-construction

Ugh. I barely want to remember this AT ALL. *takes a deep breath*

We fronted up for our tender appointment, only to find that our soil test hadn't been done, thanks to developer delays, which meant that the contractors couldn't get access to the land. So we went through everything that they DID have, and agreed to come back to complete the tender process once soil test results were available. Meanwhile, we got through the colour selection, tile and electrical appointments with only a few annoying hiccups (like the colour consultants not being able to tell us price differences between the various options, the electrical consultant making it clear that PD was not interested in providing any serious upgrades, even if the items were in their displays, and appointments being cancelled and then not rescheduled).

Finally, in September, the soil test was done and we got called back to complete the tender process. We'd originally been told to expect "around $7000-$10,000" for site costs. Well. Those came in at $14,000. Hmm, quite a difference. Thanks to more fill than was expected on our block, the slab had to be upgraded and it was likely that the entire slab would have to be piered as well.

We were unimpressed at such a big price discrepancy, but sucked it up. If that's what it takes to get our dream home.... Finally, we got our contract appointment locked in, and it turned out that the piering wasn't necessary after all, except for along the rear edge of the slab, where it was very close to the sewer easement. As a bonus, the slab upgrade meant that we would get concrete floors in our al fresco room and our portico. The really good news was a $2000 post-contract variation in our favour. Woohoo!

Along the journey to this point, we'd also endured being given incorrect information by several PD staff, and having phone messages and emails (querying various pricing issues) ignored by the person who presented our tender. Our impression of the customer service standard was slipping...

We just sighed, shrugged our shoulders, and waited for the land to be settled and the building permit to be granted. Ther were delays associated with both of those (not PD's fault), but finally, we had a start date of 25th February 2008.

And that's where the REAL problems began.

Next: The dramas begin in earnest.

The back story: The BIG decision

Let's hop in my pretend time machine and go back to January 2007. *cue spooky sci-fi music*

I'd been fed up with our tiny little house for a long time - there were lots of things we loved about it, but it was just too small. We bought it brand-new, back in 1986 when we were newly married and childless and it seemed like a palace... After all, it had two bathrooms! And two living rooms (even if the second one was the size of a matchbox).

Our kids had grown up there, it was walking distance to the schools and three separate shopping centres, the street was nice and quiet, and I loved my big garden, with room for a trampoline, backyard footy and cricket, a veggie garden, a big covered deck for lazy outdoor entertaining, and two sheds.

But 5 people into 12 squares just don't go, and years of extended drought had turned garden maintenance into a nightmare. We'd looked seriously at extending back in 2000, even drew up a plan and started getting quotes. But the imminent introduction of GST had all builders flat out, and nobody was available to start for 12 months or more. Eventually, we went a bit cold on the idea and decided to renovate instead in 2001, just rearranging some of our available space, updating kitchen and main bathroom, and adding the second shed for storage and husband's hobbies.

That held us over for a while, but by the new year in 07, we were desperate for more space. I spent weeks trawling through display homes, going to open-for-inspections, poring over the local paper real estate section, and investigating extensions again... Finally, I knew I wanted a NEW home, and the hunt for the perfect house and the perfect block of land began.

I quite liked some of the S1monds range, but the finish was a bit cheap. M3tricon's displays seemed better quality, but I heard SO many horror stories about them. H3nley had some lovely places, but again - cheap finish unless you paid a whole heap of extra cash. Smaller builders just didn't have the buying power to compete on price, and the range of designs simply wasn't there. Then, when I just about over the whole idea, I walked into a P0rter D@vis Prestige display.....

My first contact with the sales staff was a pleasant surprise. The people at every other display I'd visited were either pushy-pushy types, or completely ignored me. PD's people were friendly and pleasant and handed me a glossy brochure, complete with floor plans and details of what was included as standard, plus the current promotional upgrades. The biggest surprise was being given a list of all the upgraded extras included in each display, complete with prices for each item. I was impressed already.

The quality of the build looked good, the multiple awards were impressive, and the 20-week guarantee was a HUGE factor, after hearing so many tales of woe about delays and problems with other big builders. I'd also had recommendations from a few people who had built with them, or who had a connection to the industry. So far, this lot were leading....

The first home I entered was the Bridgeport 35. I walked in the front door and just stood in the entry thinking "Wow". The entry was impressive, no other word for it. There was an immediate feeling of space and light, no mean little pokey entry like so many other houses I'd seen. THEN I walked into the master bedroom.... Holy moley! That room seemed almost as big as our entire house! I'm sure my eyes got wider and wider as I went through each room, and I actually said out loud "This is the one".

I checked out the other PD homes - the double storey Windsor was gorgeous, but I really wanted a single storey home (and besides, the price difference was positively frightening). The other two homes, the Hamilton and the Inspiration, just didn't do it for me. I had one more look through the Bridgeport and I was totally hooked. Those feature windows at the front, the big alfresco room, the timber bifolds, the rumpus room at the rear that was PERFECT for my personal training studio....I loved it all.

There were two things lacking that I would have liked: a powder room and a butler's pantry. But those minor details didn't outweigh all the good features. The big walk-in corner pantry would be more than adequate, and two toilets really should be enough for a family. Hmm. Maybe I should have worked that in somewhere....

I went back several times, asking lots of questions, and finally got a quote, including all the extra things we wanted. It actually wasn't TOO scary....the promotion gave us a heap of really nice extras for a fraction of the usual cost, which helped a lot.

Finding land was more of an issue. There was nothing much left in our area, and definitely not at a reasonable price. Just a little further out, there was land a-plenty, but no shops, poor public transport and it definitely wasn't walking distance from the schools. We weighed up pros and cons and eventually settled on an estate, but just needed to find the perfect block. Right size, in a quiet street, and facing the right way so we could have our outdoor entertaining area facing north. No corner blocks, no busy through roads, no power lines in sight, close to parks but not right opposite one....yes, we're fussy.

Finally we found The Block and things began to move. We arranged to put our house on the market, which meant working night and day to get lots of little things fixed, packing up excess crap, tidying up the garden and generally making the place as attractive as possible. We did a good job, accepting an offer within about 10 days of it hitting the market.

The minute the three-day cooling-off period for the sale was up, I high-tailed it to the display centre and paid our initial deposit to PD, locking into the promo only a couple of weeks before it ended. Phew.

Then it was onto packing, finding a rental property and moving - once that was done, I thought all the really hard stuff was over. Fool.

Next: Delays, delays, and more delays.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

PCI done!

PCI (practical completion inspection) took place this afternoon. went surprisingly well! There are still lots of outstanding things to fix, but the bulk of those are paint and plaster touch-ups. We still had three or four important things on the list that aren't done yet, but we've been assured that they'll be fixed.

The fix carpenter is due back any day to install deadlocks, fix a wonky shelf, adjust doors and do a few other odds and ends, and of course our appliances won't be installed till after handover. But now that all the crap has been removed and a (fairly cursory) clean done, the place is looking good. Apart from all the red dots anyway....

I'm feeling fairly confident that we WILL achieve handover next week. Hallelujah!

Nice to see our shower head finally installed. Although they did manage to damage the plaster in the process:

I love this colour soooooo much!! Can't wait to see it with the floorboards in:

Below are some pics of the place we've been renting for the past year and several months. Does anybody wonder why I DIDN'T choose neutrals for our own house? The lounge:

Kitchen. Beige, white and more beige.*yawn* STUPID layout too. And only one power point. Who builds a kitchen with one power point??

Kids' bathroom (boooooring!):

I'm looking forward to living with some COLOUR. :o)