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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 1:29 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 1:04 pm
Posts: 140
Location: Heidelberg, Melbourne Australia
Here are a few notes to start the ball rolling on this topic. I hope everyone will contribute replies under this subject on the issue of planning.

Planning is obviously a vital part that sets the scene for everything that comes later. One thing we weren't very tuned into as owner builders, but which is very important, is "finishing off"... from the very first sketches you make, your life will go a lot smoother if you think everything right through to the final lick of paint, architrave or skirting board. For instance a lot of one-off custom-designed ownerbuilt houses like ours end up with ceiling heights that are (say) 100mm higher than two sheets of plaster... which means you have to trim 100mm off a third sheet to fill that gap when you come to plastering. Try to think ahead and investigate standard plaster sizes (for instance) so that your walls are multiples of standard sizes. Consider ceiling heights and the practicalities of your design. Ours involved getting in cranes to lift heavy timber beams, and expensive scaffolding hire to plaster and paint our 6m high ceilings in places!

I'd recommend designing a carport as part of the house, otherwise you'll never get around to building one. Likewise pergolas, verandahs, sheds and anything else that might be done more efficiently as part of the plan and in the first instance, rather than as an "after thought" when you've run out of money at the end of the project.

Likewise landscaping... while you've got heavy machinery in at great expense to set out your house site... think ahead and get driveways, even garden beds shaped. It's a lot easier and cheaper to do it in one hit. Most bobcat operators have a minimum charge of four hours ($500 or so) even if you only want them for five minutes.

Think through all your finishes... and work out what's going to be plaster, cladding, mud brick or whatever - inside and out - as that's not always marked on a basic plan... and is a matter of personal taste... but it helps if you know ahead, so you can plan other parts of the house to fit in.

Also think through all the "fittings" that you don't often think of when thinking big on your house plans. Go through each room and look at completed homes you like... and make notes on every detail that might need to be planned for. For instance wiring for a light in the pantry, or a stereo system, or these days a computer network. Add to your plans details such as toilet roll holders, towel racks, toothbrush holders, mirrors... everything...

For instance we should have built a block of wood into the wall of our toilet when we were laying mud bricks, so we could fix the cistern to it. Instead the plumber used plastic plugs, which might work in traditional brick, but pulled out of our mud brick walls and left the cistern hanging off the wall. Likewise you need to put timber battens in between the studs at whatever heights you want to fix toilet roll holders, towel racks etc. otherwise you'll end up having to fix them to plaster, which doesn't work too well.

As with all jobs... make sure you define the terms of the job and the fixed cost before giving the go ahead to any "subbie" (sub-contracter). We did a lot of our deals verbally... and were caught out a few times. It might seem too formal for an owner builder to put things in writing... but it's in everyone's interests. For instance how much detail do you want the plans to have? How many copies do you want? and anything else you can think of documenting. If in doubt ask the sub-contractor to write a few notes on what you'll be getting for your money. That way you'll know where you stand... what you're getting... what it will cost... etc.

We had a fairly verbal/casual arrangement with a plumber we employed... and everything was going okay... He quoted me $500 to hook up the stormwater pipes then one day I asked him to put up a few sheets of corrugated iron at each end of our house while he was there doing the stormwater, because he had the "nibbler" tools to cut the roof angles into the tops of the sheets. It took him a day or two. He billed me $2500!

We had a big falling out. We ended up sacking him, then having to find someone prepared to finish off someone else's work. It was a big headache. Best to avoid that sort of situation if you can,

Murray Johnson

 Post subject: planning trenches
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 6:27 pm 

Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2005 6:16 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
I certainly go along with all Murray says about planning before you start - and continuing to double check that you've not overlooked anything once your job is underway.

We had a trench (100 metres) dug for our gas pipe and I laboriously backfilled it and drove my rideon mower up and down the trench, plus more soil, more compacting etc. etc.

Then we came to put the phone line in and had been under the impression that it had to have a separate trench. When the phone line contractor came to see where he'd run his cable he told us the best idea was to put it in the same trench as the gas!!!!

So (on a VERY hot day) my husband and I dug out my beautifully compacted and grassed over trench for the phone line and once again I'm trying to fill it in and make it disappear.

Another thing we nearly tripped up over was our window opening system. I wanted casement windows wherever we could have them - but we realised just in time, that if we put those opening things where you push out a rod with holes and clip one over a little knob (don't know what they're called) on our kitchen windows where we have to reach across the kitchen bench - we'd never be able to reach them! So we had to go with winders.


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