People say building a house is an exciting experience, when I tell people I’m building a house, nine times out of ten, their reaction is, “Oh my god that must be so exciting”.
I don’t know what it’s like for everyone else, but it’s not the fun, joyful, exciting process I thought it would be.
Right from the start, I was filled with anxiety and worry. We are first time builders, and the sheer amount of information that we needed to know was overwhelming. It felt like a struggle to uncover it all and be prepared. At every stage and step along the way, I was terrified that I would miss something because I didn’t know something that I should of. This coupled with the fact that the builder was very quick to state about late change fee’s and building variation fee’s, and structural change fee’s and oh if you forgot to choose something and realise later than 48 hours after an appointment – well that’s another fine.
From the day we paid the deposit, I was constantly told about structural and non-structural variation fees, the thing is, if they spent half that amount of time telling us what we needed to prepare for rather than banging on about fees and fines, then I think I would have felt more comfortable. I was worried that I had left something out, stressed that I didn’t know something that I should have and concerned that the new build would not be what I was planning because the builder would not have the correct information. We combatted my worry by researching and trying to be as prepared as posable.
We engaged an independent building inspector to ensure our house was being built to Australian regulation and code. We did this very early on and let our build team know about it well in advance. This was one of the steps we put in place to help me with my anxiety, employing someone to ensure we were getting what we expected as we are not from the building industry and understand there is a lot that we don’t understand.
We deposited in Easter 2017 and signed the contract in November 2017, breaking ground on January 31st 2018. From Easter 17 till Feb 18 I felt nothing but stress and worry.
There is a day (or 2 days for double story houses) were you go to World of Style and pick all your colours. I have heard that other people have had fun doing this and leaving positive and excited about their new home. I prepared everything; we had 98% of everything pre-picked before the appointments, I had notes upon notes of what I wanted. But the experience was not enjoyable. I left worried that the staff had not received all the information. The appointments were rushed, and all they were, was data being transferred over from me to them.
After the contract we had numerous Building variations and post contract variations, not because we had changed our minds, but because of the inaccuracy in the documents from the builder’s staff. We are a very detailed couple, and everything is checked, double checked and then triple checked. We got there in the end, we had a set of plans we were happy with, and all the documentation was in order.
The turning point
The turning point for me came when we broke ground. All the anxiety and worry left me, it was like a huge physical weight lifted off my shoulders, and I started to have fun with the building process. I finally understood what others were saying about the build process being exciting and fun. Whatever was in the build documents was done, and if the plans were wrong, then we would fix it post hand over.
For the last six months, I have enjoyed the building process as a whole, we have a great Building Coordinator, and our Site Supervisor has been excellent.
That was until three days ago. The last three nights have taken me back to last year’s sleepless nights and the feeling of snakes in my stomach, all the anxiety and worry has flooded back, and once again I hate the process. The light at the end of the tunnel has winked out. It has reminded me that we a building with a giant faceless corporation, and not just the two points of contact that have been wonderful to deal with over the last six months.
Our build started slowly with the framer being delayed due to his house in Fiji being affected by a storm and waiting for quality trades to become available. Our site supervisor said not to worry; we would be in by November – our contracted build completion date. My family is planning to join us for Christmas from New Zealand, and the house would be finished he would reassure me. I wasn’t worried by other bloggers posting their progress, people with double story houses, who started building after us and were already a whole stage ahead of us, who have plaster and cornice installed, cabinets, bench tops and waterproofing finished. I had faith in our Site supervisor and his process of building quality.
We had had our independent building inspector come through at frame stage and give us a long list of issues. However, I understood how the game is played. They needed to pull up every single little thing, that’s what we are paying them for. I’m not dumb; I can also read the report and take it with a grain of salt, understanding what is an issue and what is just being picky. So we meet with the site supervisor a few times, and it seemed like the issues were being rectified, not as quickly as I would have liked, but again we trusted our Site Supervisor that he had it all in hand and that that we would be in by November.
We had had our 3rd independent building inspection, the lock-up stage and I read it with a sinking heart. Over 50% of the issues raised on the frame inspection had not been addressed, and now there were a bunch more issues. Having been told by our site supervisor that plaster was expected to be installed the following week, all the fairs I had experience flooded back. I knew that we were not ready for plaster – even my untrained eye can tell that the windows have not been packed and fixed correctly, stud walls have been cut and metal cross bracing removed by the plumbers, not to mention all the missing window and door seals. If plaster went on now, it would course problems pre and post hand over.
So I wrote to my Building Coordinator and Site Supervisor, formally requesting the issues to be rectified before the plaster was installed, and stating that I was I was concerned (and disappointed) that over 50% of the items that were noted on the Frame report had not been fixed. What more could I do, we put our trust into these people’s hands and hope that they will do the job they say they will.
Three days ago, we received a letter from our BC saying that for every independent building inspection we had, seven building days would be added to our build time. There are seven building inspections planned for our house, that’s 49 days extra. Nothing is written in our contract about independent building inspection adding additional time to the build. No one notified me of this in the lead up to the build; not one staff member mentioned the posable delays of having an outside inspector. All I am wanting is that my house is built to the Australian building code, that is the minimum, and that is what the independent building inspector measures against, not over and above, not to a higher standard, but I do expect it to be built to a minim standard.
So, 49 days added to our early November contract date will take us into Christmas, and then the 28days of Christmas downtime dates come into effect. So, having gone from hosting Christmas in my new house with the family flying in from New Zealand, now looks more like a February/March contract end date timeline. And from the looks of the house – I can believe it.
I rang my site supervisor three days ago. He said he thought we had had a good working relationship but not anymore; he was pissed that I had asked for the issues to be rectified and said he was hurt by that fact I had written in my email that I was disappointed that the frame issues had not been rectified.
So, what should I have done?
Not written to my Building Coordinator and Site Supervisor, asking for the issues raised to be fixed? That would have meant that my SS would not be pissed off at me and not be shitty that I raised the faults in the contractor’s works.
Never engaged an independent building inspector? That would mean that the house would have been built on time (maybe), but it would be full of issues that would have hunted us for years.
Three days of being on the verge of tears has lead me to write this blog. The light of moving into my house has extinguished, the tunnel is dark. I have removed the rose-tinted glasses and looking around at other double story builds by the same builder (who also have independent building inspectors) and the progress and stages they are at, I can see how truly behind schedule we are.