Five years after we struck the first blow back in 1999, Nat and I finally achieved our occupancy certificate this month! The past year or two we've stalled for long periods of time, and got busy with other things in our lives, and not achieved much, so I'd say we've done about three years of work in the five years! It was hard work all the same... and not something to be entered into lightly... but extremely satisfying at the same time.
We've ended up with a fantastic mudbrick home, with modern fittings and features, on 1.3 acres in the country. We love it.
We've learnt heaps, my kids have grown up "on the job" and learnt heaps too. We all appreciate the house so much more for having built it ourselves.
We're rapt with the thermal properties of our design and the mud bricks. It keeps cosy in winter and cool in summer. We had money put aside for a split system air conditioner, but after a few summers we know we won't need it. The house doesn't even have greenery around it or pergolas yet. As we develop those it should get cooler still.
I wish I'd won the debate over aluminium windows, because the timber ones need resanding and revarnishing already. Apart from that there's not much we'd do differently... except probably build a better shed in the first instance, where we could stay and store stuff while we built... instead of commuting back and forth to Melbourne.
We're rapt with the coloured concrete floor, which means we haven't had to spend a cent on floor coverings. It's easy to keep clean, is cool in summer... and looks great.
We love the solar hot water system which gives us free hot water for 9 or 10 months of the year. We turn the electric booster on for those other couple of months to help the sun.
Our Taylex Clearwater sewerage treatment plant is great too... putting all our waste water back onto the garden. Rain has been in short supply and the whole public attitude to water has changed... so we're glad we bit the bullet and went with that system.
Rainwater tanks I'm not so sure of. Ours got full of gunk off the roof, and so the water out of it is a bit dodgy. By the time you consider dirt off the roof, dead possums and goodness knows what else finds its way into the tank... we've invested in a Britta water filtration system... a rectangular water tub with replaceable filters, which works a treat.
For the record we ended up borrowing $140,000 and reckon we probably spent another $20,000 out of our pockets at Bunnings and various other hardware and timber stores over the five years. The land cost us $23,000. We're delighted with the result, and with the confidence, skills and satisfaction we picked up along the way.
Our house is about 16 squares... four bedrooms plus a big study and balcony. We've got stainless steel ceiling fans, stainless steel oven, gas stove, range hood, dishwasher, wood heater, claw-foot replica bath, big 10mm glass shower, walk-in robes, big balcony looking down the valley, cathedral ceilings and polished floor boards upstairs.
Nat made fantastic stairs, using recycled Vic Ash hardwood that I found tonnes of in a salvage yard years ago. It also gave us our chunky window frames, and a wonderful long table that Nat made. We ran it through some machinery in Bendigo for about $200, just butted it together with glue, then whacked it on a frame my Dad made for us. It came up a treat.
I'll drop in a couple of recent photos for anyone who's interested in how it turned out. Now we're busy tackling some landscaping... which should keep us out of trouble for the next five years!
Nat and I were married on a paddlesteamer at the Echuca Wharf in my home town last weekend. We reckon if we can survive owner building together we'll get through anything.
Murray Johnson April 2004