BUYING TO RENOVATE? HERE’S 6 COMMON FOUNDATION PROBLEMS TO AVOID

When buying to renovate, it’s the problem that all property purchasers dread discovering: foundation problems. If you are buying a fixer-upper, issues with the foundations of your property can be expensive and time consuming to renovate – worse, it can make your property unstable and dangerous. When looking to invest in an existing property it’s worthwhile doing your homework to ensure you’re not buying a money pit. At Sydney Beach Homes we’ve seen and heard many stories of people buying to renovate and commencing work on their property, only to discover some serious issues. If you’re concerned that a property you’re looking to purchase could be sitting on problematic foundations, the following warning signs should help.

 

  1. Cracked brickwork
    One of the biggest tell-tale signs of foundation problems is cracks in the brickwork of your house. These are usually much deeper than superficial cracks and tend to be wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. You can find out more about this particular issue in the article, from SPI Property Inspections – Cracking: Is My House About To Fall Down?
  2. Cracked floors
    Cracks in your floors is another sign to watch out for. These cracks can appear anywhere and may differ in size and shape, but a cracked floor nearly always indicates that your foundations are affected by settlement. Minor cracks may not be a problem, however it’s always worth investigating further.
  3. Windows and doors not fitting correctly
    This is often missed as a sign of foundation problems as they don’t appear to be directly related, but if your fittings are gaping in their frames or are jammed shut, it is possible that the pressure of your faulty foundations is pushing the brickwork apart or together, causing your fittings to misalign. Every new house build has to ‘dry out’, meaning there will always be some movement – but if you see a significant movement, that should ring alarm-bells.
  4. Chimney leaning away from the house
    If the property has a chimney and it’s leaning away from the building, this is another indication that you have problems with your home’s foundations. Note that this is only true when the chimney is leaning away from the house – a chimney leaning towards the house is more indicative of a structural problem (which could be just as bad).
  5. Sinking concrete
    The concrete around your home can also show signs that your foundations are problematic. In particular, if the concrete is starting to sink or sag. You may be able to notice this by sight, but another sign to look for is water pooling on the concrete. As the water pools it can cause further cracking.
  6. Poor air quality
    Is there a smell inside? You may have noticed that the quality of air in a property isn’t great. This can be caused by a number of factors that go hand-in-hand with faulty foundations. For example, if your foundations have shifted and caused cracks in your walls or gaping around your windows and doors, your home may be letting moisure in. This may cause condensation, damp and mould growth which can cause coughs, sore throats and chest infections.

 

If you’re concerned that a property you own, or are considering buying is sitting on faulty foundations, we highly recommend having a detailed inspection.

It is simply not worth taking the risk!

If you need help organising an inspection, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to assist.

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER SIGN A BUILDING CONTRACT WITHOUT SEEING A PROJECT SCHEDULE

A project schedule might be the last thing from your mind as you fantasise about your dream home, but if you are planning your new build or renovation and you’re in the process of sourcing a builder, a sure-fire way to assess whether a potential candidate is a professional building company is to request a project schedule.

It’s worth knowing before we go any further, that jobs with no schedule of works take 33% longer to complete than those working from an agreed project schedule

If a builder tells you they don’t produce schedules or that it is unnecessary, our advice would be to steer clear.

And don’t be tempted to accept the promise of a project schedule being provided after you have signed the contract. You need to sign your contract on the basis of an agreed schedule and quotation. If not, you leave yourselves exposed to wildly underestimated costs, disappointment in standards of finishes and specifications accounted for, and significant extensions on your build timeline.

Once you have found a builder that does supply a schedule of works, it’s worth checking their ability to stick to agreed schedules and request references from their last three jobs.

A project schedule might seem like a small thing, but this single item really separates the men from the boys.

In fact less than 15% of builders actually prepare job schedules.

The importance of a project schedule, by Sydney Beach Homes, custom home builders

So why is it that so many builders decline to provide this critical element of the planning process?

Well, firstly, it takes a significant amount of time to create a comprehensive schedule, detailing the hundreds of tasks in a typical build, and most builders will simply not dedicate the man-hours required. Combined with providing an accurate quotation, this can take between 50 and 100 hours to complete, depending on the scope of your project.

No builder can honestly provide an accurate quote without spending the necessary time creating a full schedule of works, so you are likely to find your quote is unreliable and more close to a ‘best guess’.

Secondly, most builders are simply not trained to do this kind of thing. If they have been in trades all of their working life, they may not have had any experience of project planning and project management. A professional builder will likely have come from a more corporate environment – perhaps a bigger building firm, or commercial building company, where detailing, planning and managing every job is second nature.

A good building company will use project management software, into which they enter every aspect of the job schedule. This will then generate auto notifications to all parties detailing actions that need to be taken by a specific date. This will also include any selections or decisions that you are required to make, keeping decisions on time and avoiding variation charges.

Your selection choices should also be linked to the schedule, so that you know exactly what finishes, fixtures and fittings are included in your quotation. If this is not buttoned down at the outset, you may find your expectations and what your builder actually provides and devastatingly misaligned – again leading to additional costs to upgrade to something you thought was included in your quotation.

 

What to look for in your project schedule

Ok, it’s one thing to accept your builder needs to supply one, but how do you know if it’s worth the paper it’s written on?

Here are the things your schedule should cover:

Full timeline with hours/days dedicated to each stage of the build and each individual task.

Assessment of contingency time allocated to cover any unexpected difficulties that may arise, or delays due to inclement weather.

Details of how the schedule will be managed and how you will be kept informed of progress and alerted to any actions you are required to take.

 

In summary, never be afraid to ask for these things up front.

You may find your builder will request a fee to provide your schedule and full quotation, and in fact, this is the best way to ensure a successful build so don’t let that put you off.

Read our blog on this topic, which should be considered in conjunction with job scheduling.

We hope this helps you to achieve a trouble-free and enjoyable building project.

To explore how we work at Sydney Beach Homes check out our 7 Step Building Process.

For an informal chat about your project, get in touch.

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What to Look Out For in Your Search for the Perfect Building Block

So, you’ve made the decision to build a brand new home – congratulations, by the way – from our experience it will be an amazing journey and the end result will give you immense pleasure and pride.

Buying a block of land is the first step in building your new custom home, and this can be more challenging than you might expect.

There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a building block, which could have huge implications on the cost of your build, the design options open to you and even the energy efficiency of your new home.

It’s an obvious point to make, but blocks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and with a wide variety of available amenities.

In the end, like buying a house, it comes down to personal choice – sometimes you just get a good feeling about a particular block and need to navigate all the eventualities it may present.

That said, if you have a budget in mind that you need to stick with, you’ll need to be aware of how certain features can impact the cost.

 

Here are a few tips to consider when searching for your dream parcel of paradise.

 

Location, Location, Location

Think about how important it is for you to be close to shops, cafes & restaurants, schools, recreation facilities, children’s amenities etc.

Being in walking distance will save you a drive and you’re more likely to feel part of the community. You may think you’ll never sell your beautiful new home, but you really never know how you might feel in the future, so considering resale value is still important. Proximity to the aforementioned services definitely adds value, so long as your building block is not too close to any busy main roads, which can be off-putting to potential buyers.

Some people love corner blocks, but be aware that others may have concerns about privacy and security.

Any block with views of the ocean, bushland or parks will inevitably be more desirable and will come with a premium price tag.

Practically, you also need to ascertain whether your block is prone to flooding or bushfires, which will involve your builder using specialist materials and building techniques – again, adding to the cost of your build.

Sourcing a block with an existing property can be a good idea too – you can take advice from your builder on demolition costs.

A couple of advantages could be:

You can live in the existing dwelling, or rent it out to tenants while you work on your plans and DA application, saving precious funds for the build.

If the block is large enough it might be possible to live on site while your home is being built, before demolishing the old building.

 

Size Matters

It’s harder than it looks to judge how much house you can fit onto a plot and just how big your home needs to be.

Getting around a few open homes is great for design inspiration and also to get a good feel for space and how it feels.

An experienced builder or architect will be able to help you to realise your vision and explore how you and your family live day to day, to ensure the space fits perfectly with your lifestyle.

 

Which way?

Outlook and orientation is paramount when selecting your building block. Generally, you’ll want to have your living space, outdoor entertaining and pool area facing north to capture the natural sunlight and flood your home with light.

Good orientation is probably one of the most important factors in choosing a block.

You should always aim to have your living and outdoor entertaining areas facing a Northerly aspect. Not only will this create an airy and elegant living space, but will aid the energy efficiency of your home.

Read our blog on green technologies to explore more ways of leveraging the power on the sun, while keeping your home cool in the heat of the day.

 

All rise

The flatter the block the cheaper it will be for you to build on, though Sydney is teeming with sloping blocks that present more of a challenge.

A steep block can make for a spectacular architectural masterpiece, often with stunning views. The result can be pretty impressive, but be warned that it can add many thousands of dollars to your build.

Clever design can utilise the slope effectively and also give you an increased footprint, so there are certainly advantages, but they come at a cost.

The biggest cost in this scenario is likely to be excavation and the associated necessity of retaining walls.

On the subject of excavation, you will need to get a soil test on the block you are looking to buy. This is not expensive and could save you thousands of dollars if it shows anything in the ground that could be a cause for concern. Large rocks on the site can add significantly to the cost of excavations, and amazingly, you could find yourselves with ‘problem soil’, which can affect the foundations and materials you need to use in the build.

 

Lighting up

We all, generally do our home and block viewings in the daylight, but it’s a really good idea to visit at different times of the day to assess how the sun travels across the property – and more importantly at night.

How good is the street lighting? What about the position of streetlamps? Light pollution may or may not be an issue for you, but it’s best to avoid unwelcome surprises, once the house is complete.

Consider, also the effect of car headlights if your block is facing a T junction, or positioned on a bend, which can be immensely irritating.

Understanding how your building block looks in the dark, will also help you with the planning of your garden lighting scheme.

 

What’s going on?
If you’re purchasing a block on a significant sized subdivision, be sure to check out what future plans the developer might have for facilities other than housing.

If your desired block is in a built-up area and you’ve noticed some large homes or small commercial buildings are starting to be replaced by new apartment blocks, this could be due to the area being re-zoned for development, which could start to feel overpopulated in the not too distant future.

You may find some building blocks come with quite restrictive covenants. While these are in place in the main to ensure good quality building, some guidelines can be pretty onerous and again, add cost to your build.

Check to see if there are any easements on the block you are looking to buy.

An easement is a section of land registered on your property title, which gives someone the right to use your land for access – a shared driveway, for example – or access to the waterfront. Easements are not necessarily a problem, but they can have an impact on the design of your home and could in-turn affect the build cost.

A good property lawyer will be able to perform all the appropriate searches for your block and point out any contractual peculiarities before you commit to a purchase.

 

Get connected

If your passion is for a small acreage site, you may need to check your building block is connected to all the services you’re going to need. If not, first make sure services such as sewerage, gas and water are available at all in the area, and research what alternatives are open to you if you needed.

If services are available in the area, it could still be an expensive exercise to bring them into your property.

 

Follow your heart…

So, assuming we haven’t put you off completely, we hope you’ll feel a little more informed and confident you know what to look out for.

In the end, your heart will likely win when it comes to choosing your perfect block, but at least with some inside knowledge, this is one love affair you’ll be going into with your eyes wide open.

 

SMART TECHNOLOGIES FOR A GREENER HOME

Whether you are building a brand new home, or thinking about a significant renovation, it would be smart to consider some of these product innovations to help cut your ongoing utility costs and enjoy a greener home. They may not all be new, but they are improving in efficiency all the time and if you’ve considered any of these in the past, it might be time to look again.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Thinking ahead, a few years, these may well become a vital ingredient of our homes, making us self-sufficient and in the meantime, is simply the right thing to do to preserve water as much as we are able.

Harvesting systems vary in cost from hundreds of dollars to thousands, but will likely reduce your mains water usage by up to 50%.

In fact, many people are able to manage exclusively on harvested rainwater.

Landscape tanks provide an incredibly discreet and attractive solution to water storage and a greener home, building the tanks into retaining walls, garden fences and even pool surrounds as an integral part of your landscaped garden. This allows you to build in a significant amount of water storage that no-one would ever guess was there. They can be painted or rendered to match any external décor finishes.

And these tanks are designed to last over 100 years, so once installed you’ll never need to worry about them again.

Landscape water tank harvesting

Harness the Power of The Sun

Solar is much cheaper than it once was – and is more affordable to install.

Energy Australia now offers solar systems on a 5 year interest free payment plan with no upfront fees – and most systems come with a 25 year performance warranty.

Battery prices are still expensive at around $10000, so the payback will take an estimated 15 years, but if you are building or renovating, that’s a small amount in the scheme of things that will save significant running costs immediately.

Efficiencies in this technology have improved considerably, so you don’t need to worry if your property is not north facing, as this will likely only mean a reduction of 10 – 15% of your energy production.

Solar Energy in your new build

Dynamic Glass

We’ve always been fond of glass in Australia, and its use has extended to flooring, walkways, and internal walls, as a strong, and green building material. Dynamic Glass is coated with electrochromic ceramic, made up of multiple thin layers of metal oxide, which tints on command via a mobile app or adjusts intuitively in response to outdoor conditions. A combination of predictive weather feeds and real time sensors anticipate and respond to changes. By admitting natural daylight and rejecting unwanted glare, dynamic glass creates a comfortable and regulated indoor climate – and is estimated to provide around a 20% energy saving.

Dynamic glass in your new build

Movable Walls

Movable walls have become a recognised element for creating a greener home, maximising space and view, and helping optimise floor plans, square meterage and energy use. Initially employed in small apartments to offer home owners a more flexible space, they have developed to impact the design and building process itself, facilitating a reduction in the footprint of a new homes or commercial buildings alike.

Designers have become very taken with the concept and it’s easy to see why when you see some of the stunningly creative applications in evidence these days. It’s a pretty cool way to live, being able to transform your home to suit your mood, social occasion or accommodation of guests.

Building storage into the walls themselves gives a great illusion of space too and eliminates the need for excessive furniture.

And having the ability to cosy up into small rooms that take little heating in winter means great energy savings too.

Moveable walls in your new build home

Living Roofs

The ultimate manifestation of a greener home, green, or living roofs look amazing, insulate buildings, soak up storm water, reducing urban runoff, and come with the bonus of environmental benefits and create a habitat for wildlife.

The vegetation also filters pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air, helping to lower allergies and respiratory problems such as asthma.

Another benefit for city dwellers is the inherent sound-proofing.

Costs vary, but a living roof is more affordable than you might think, and green roofing can actually extend the life of a roof by over 200%.

Experiments in the US and Canada report a 26% reduction in heat loss in winter and the same reduction in cooling requirements in summer.

Green walls seem to have caught on in Australia a little faster than living roofs, but we’d love to see more of them around.

A green roof for your new build home

If you’d like to build a greener home, talk to Sydney Beach Homes to explore how we can help transform your home into an energy-efficient haven, or design and build a brand new green home, incorporating these elements and more.

Call us any time, or drop by the office for a cuppa. Green tea, of course 🙂

BE WARY OF BUILDERS OFFERING FREE QUOTES

So, you’re ready to build the house of your dreams and its time to find the right builder – you might expect to get free quotes before you appoint a builder, but read on to discover why this is not a good idea…

It’s tempting to put the job out to tender, but although it feels counterintuitive, you will most likely save money in the long run by going with a builder that charges for their quotes.

Here’s why.

Firstly, let’s take a step back. It is, of course, a good idea to speak to a few builders and discuss your project in detail to find out whether your aspirations meet your budget. From your builder’s perspective, this would be an estimate. They will simply be confirming that your top-line requirements (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, construction style and kinds of finishes) are achievable within your desired budget. This should not cost you anything as it doesn’t require any detailed work or calculations form your builder. This is a ball-park estimate and confirmation of your outline budget.

From here, it’s best to work closely with the builder you have established the greatest affinity with and request a formal quotation.

Be wary of any builders who are offering free quotes – projects that start this way almost always end up costing much more.

It takes builders a significant amount of time to create an accurate and detailed quote – probably between 40 and 100 hours, depending on the scope of the job, involving a number of professional third party services, which also come with fees attached, and the compilation of detailed schedules. It can cost your builder thousands of dollars.

Chances are, therefore, with a free quotation, that it will not have had the required amount of time spent to ensure it is completely comprehensive and accurate. That’s when the additional costs come rolling in throughout the project and could put your budget under considerable pressure.

If you find you are handed a one or two-page ‘quotation’, that should set alarm bells ringing. A professional quotation should be a very meaty document – around 30 or 40 pages, fully specifying every aspect of your project, including materials, inclusions, reference drawings, labour, and full project schedule. Free quotes cannot possibly provide you with the accuracy and assurance you really need before commencing a build.

When interviewing builders, ask for their quotation fees up-front to help you make the right decision.

You can trust a professional builder to charge accurately and appropriately for their services and rest assured they won’t be looking for ways down the line to recoup initial losses. You can also rest assured that they will not be looking to make money on the quotation process – simply to cover basic costs.

Follow this process and you will enjoy a strong working relationship with first-rate professionals and you will find the whole project goes smoothly from the outset without any unwelcome surprises.

If you’re thinking of building your own home any time soon, download our FREE Essential Guide to building your dream home and our Pre-Contract Checklist.

Just follow this link and submit your name and email address to access… https://sydneybeachhomes.com.au/resources/

Sydney Beach Homes Essential Guide and Pre-contract Checklist