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Sunday 19 April 2015

KD is for Knock Down - Part 1

We have the survey 'siting plan', which we received during the preparation of the building plans. This is critical for locating the trees, buildings and levels to submit with our demolition application.

I have been cleaning up around the house after the regular mowing and general drop-ins. We have lots of sandstone garden edging and lots of bricks and concrete/mortar spread throughout the yard. Over the last 2 months I have been increasing the areas I mow and clearing out the rubbish and weedy growth. I never fail to fill the Green waste bin, which our friendly neighbour always rolls out every fortnight. I can nearly see the back fence now!

I have sifted out sandstone from the bricks and mortar lumps and have also started to lift the garden edging. I plan to use the sandstone for a retaining wall later on. I counted 46 lineal metres of garden edging and a small square of sandstone paving. The rest of the garden edging and some plants will be 'recycled' to use later. 

We also submitted a tree application for the removal of a large Mango tree with Parramatta Council.  A couple of days later, I received a call from a council officer stating that "you don't need council approval to remove fruit trees".  Whilst we were of course pleased that we could go ahead and remove the tree without permission, I was a little baffled as to why they physically perused and accepted the application in their Parramatta offices in the first place, as it meant that they then had to issue me with a cheque refund for the application fee.  We are very pleased to be able to remove the tree, as it would have been an eyesore from our kitchen and eastern side access corridor. Not only is it an unattractive tree, but it smells of rotting fruit, and attracts flying bugs.  Even if you were willing to put up with the smell and appearance, it is too large and tall to even get to the fruit.

We have also been advised to disconnect the Natural Gas Meter. This is a rather puzzling process. Our gas retailer, Origin doesn't actually own the gas meter, or the network that delivers the gas. Rather, Jemena is the group that maintains this infrastructure. It seems a disconnection is not a simple matter of turning the tap off and locking/tagging the outlet. In effect, Origin submit a request on your behalf, called an abolishment. The strange thing is, there is not a standard price for this service. Origin were unable to even give us an approximate price guide.  I don't know what to expect when the bill arrives and I'm a little anxious about it.

So, earlier this week I received an email saying that the Meter Removal and Service Cutback had been sent to the local distribution network. When I visited today I was pleased to find a missing pipe on the meter. There was also a a neat little cutting where they obviously pulled back the service connection from the meter.

So we are ramping up to get things happening now.

Missing pipes can be good ;)

Very neat operators.

The next step will involve getting the demolition application into Parramatta Council via a Complying Development process.  Stay tuned!

Friday 17 April 2015

Pre-Construction Phase (Plan Variations)

Its been a long time between posts. Firstly, we enjoyed an overseas trip to the US in March, and during the trip we were issued with the siting plan, floor plans, and elevations. On our return in late March, we arranged a meeting with our colour consultant and our plan presenter at Rawson's office in Rhodes.  Rawson were very prompt in following these things up, and seemed very keen to get things moving, much to our delight.

We set an agenda to work through some areas of the plan;
  • Front door style and finish to be determined during selection and plan presentation
  • Render moroka colour to match colorbond Surfmist for the entry pilar
  • Cladding styles available / Upgrade options for Brickwork and cladding
  • General items relating to location of services, afresco area, windows, niches etc.
  • Issues with interior & exterior contract items not reflected in plan
During the meeting we discussed external colours and materials.
  • Brick: AUSTRAL / WILDERNESS - Rosewood (from the updated inclusion range)

            Finish. Ironed joint
            Mortar. Off white

  • Roof Tile: Monier HORIZON - Barramundi

            Ridge; A-Line (ENVY package upgrade)

  • Gutter, Downpipe, Rainwater tank: Colorbond - Monument

  • Windows, Facia, Barge, Fly Screens: Colorbond - Surfmist

  • Cladding: Scyon Stria (see variations) 325mm; Colorbond Surfmist
  • Garage Door: B&D Panelmasta; Profile - Contemporary ; Colorbond - Surfmist

  • Driveway; Coloured concrete; Colourmix - Charcoal. 

We also raised a second set of variations relating to (the most important listed below);

  • Classic facade - Newport Cladding to be replaced with Styria 325mm Cladding
  • Relocate Air conditioning unit to side elevation of Stairs
  • Relocate Rain water tank to side elevation of Family 
  • 2340mm (H) x 1020mm (W) Eden 4 Pivot door with translucent glazing in lieu of 2400mm (H) x 1200mm (W) Lumina LUM1S clear to Entry
  • Provide 2229mm (H) Garage opening in lieu of standard
  • Provide one x aluminium fixed feature splashback window (AFW 772mm (H) x 3500mm (W) SP) with standard range tiled returns in lieu of 'Envy promotion' glass splashback
  • Provide 870mm (H) Benchtops from finished floor level in lieu of standard

During the meeting, we were alerted to the fact that our chosen brick was a slurry brick (ie has a glazed exterior), and as such would likely have some imperfections, caused by the exterior colour being chipped off through handling, cleaning etc.  We were advised that we would have to sign a disclaimer acknowledging this fact, as in the past Rawson have had clients complain, and request that the bricking be redone.  We hadn't considered this fact, and went away with a plan to think about it. Changing to a non-slurry brick was going to be much more costly.
In the meantime, we have since visited the display homes again and found some that were built with slurry bricks (with no thanks to the Rawson staff at Kellyville, who couldn't even advise us what bricks were used on the display homes!)  Despite our initial concerns, we decided that the potential issues with slurry bricks weren't a big deal for us.  Yes, when you look up close you can see some minor chipping, but overall, it's barely noticeable.  And we were looking at a house with a brick that is even darker than our selection.  We have looked at these homes many times, and never once noticed an issue with the bricks, so happily signed the disclaimer for the slurry bricks.

The next variation was signed, and ended up being approximately a break even with the removal of the LUMIA pivot door. We also got our sketched markup of the modified plan we received in late March that will go to drafting;

The Plan Presentation at Rawson's office was a lengthy process, taking at least half a day.
Now with all that, we are up to date, but leads me to start a new discussion; the display home vs reality.

Display Home vs. Building Reality

The last variation required significant clarification after we requested a fixed window splashback in the kitchen. To demystify the code, AFW = Aluminium Fixed Window, and this was set at 772mm high.  Why so high? A high splashback means that the wall cupboards above the bench need to be installed quite high.  This is a significant concern for us as my wife is height-challenged!  With a bench height of 870mm, and the splashback allowance, the resulting cupboard height is roughly 1650mm.  Very high for a short person!  In any case, we would have learnt about this issue during our interior selection phase, but it came to a head when we opted for a feature window splashback.

The discussion surrounding this issue lasted nearly a week, until we found out the hidden truth of the display home. If you are installing an integrated rangehood (as we are), the kitchen manufacturer requires a minimum of 772mm distance from gas cooktop to over-bench wall cupboard.  Without this minimum, they will not warrant the kitchen.  The distance drops slightly to a minimum of 668mm if you opt for a stainless rangehood.

Fair enough you say, but there are gas cooktops installed in the display homes that are not within the minimum clearance specified!  When you push Rawson and challenge them on this limitation they yield the fact that their display homes are not to the manufacturer's specification!  Quite clearly they disregard the practical side of these homes, preferring to focus on the fact that they are just a very large marketing brochure.  I'm just glad our plan presenter finally decided to talk straight on this topic.

After learning this information, a few other things started to make sense.  When we first went through The Edge 39 in Kellyville with a sales consultant, we questioned the horizontal bannisters on the open staircase.  They seemed quite unsafe, as a child could easily climb up and over the railing!  The sales consultant muttered under his breath that it probably wasn't to standard building safety codes, and that he didn't think you'd be able to build it this way!!!  

So, one question is; are display homes issued an occupation certificate? 

More importantly, after the Homeworld display centre has completed its 6+ year term, they sell these homes off - is it without any home owner builder warranty?  This would mean it's all for show, and the final unlucky owner of these homes is none the wiser. 

I just cant shake this highly questionable practice, but i'm sure every other project builder in the sales market does this.