A comprehensive account of the stages of building a new house, from foundations to completion.
The home we are building is about 45km west of Geelong in Victoria. It is approximately 30 squares including an indoor pool. I drew up the plans to scale and then sent them off to be professionally drawn up by an architect.
First the pool hole had to be dug well before much else could be done with construction.
These standard clay bricks were used to build up the foundations to the required height for both the house and verandah.
We used Mt Gambier limestone blocks for cladding.
We decided early on that we would not have timber verandahs for maintenance reasons. We used 90mm poly pipe at 5m intervals for ventilation under the home.
We used LVL bearers that were 6m long and 12.5m long.
Completed pool prior to framing with my site manager Pipi checking the process as usual.
Pool with framing going up.
Framing in full swing.
Then came the trusses, which was the most challenging part of the project so far.
The trusses were 12.5m wide with about 10cm overhang on the top plates. To pick the trusses up, we fastened two 8 inch x 2 inch timbers in the main triangle section of the trusses so as not to compromise the Gang-Nails. We then lifted them up with the trusty front-end loader and sat the truss on the east end of the house. Then we fastened a rope at either end of the trusses and dragged it from the east to west, some 17m, lifting or jumping it over the odd Gang-Nail until it was right up the west end and ready to stand up.
We used a long board to start to lift the truss and took up the slack with two ropes fastened at the centre or top of the truss, one rope pulling east and the other west. Slowly and painstakingly, we loosened one rope and tightened the other rope and mostly we succeeded with each truss. The odd one slipped off the top plate and we had to lower the truss, lift it back up onto the top plate by hand and start the lift again. To get the truss back up on the top plate, we had to completely skew the truss, even though we only had to gain that small amount of 10cm.
Fourteen trusses later and we had them up. Then there were the smaller hip trusses but they seemed rather easy compared to the main trusses.
A cathedral ceiling under the main roof.
The Colorbond roof is finally on.
The brickwork on the south side is almost finished with only 80 blocks away from completion. Five windows on the east side of the home means lots of cutting. It's easy with a 9" grinder but very dusty. Limestone is great to work with as we're able to fashion it easily.
Spent the afternoon tidying up the verandah. There's not a lot to report for the inside. We have almost completed all the plastering so that is another major milestone.
We are getting a local professional plasterer to "stop and sand". Not prepared to do it myself as I had both shoulders reconstructed and don't think I'd be doing myself any favours trying to sand an entire home at the age of 60.
I almost fell through one spot in the ceiling while laying insulation in the roof. Lucky a plaster baton and truss stopped me from falling to the floor, but ouch! We have double insulation in the roof, so no visual timbers. I've now used fluorescent spray paint to put pink lines on the insulation over every truss and baton to depict safe walking areas. I've used other colours to show where the down lights, fans and smoke detectors are and I'll have a mud map in the roof for anyone that needs to go up there. Fortunately our electrician installed fluorescent lighting in the roof cavity.
We also installed an attic ladder instead of a standard manhole. It's so easy to walk up a ladder at the right angle and with plenty of room instead of trying to get up into a small hole at an almost vertical angle that's the size of a dog kennel hole.
Of course there's still heaps to do. Almost 40 eave sheets to put up and the sill tiles as well but hopefully we'll have the tiles done within the week. The eave sheets will be a much longer process. We do have a plaster lifter and it is invaluable in taking the "lift and hold above your head" out of the equation.
South side of the home showing the glass brick windows in the indoor pool room, back door, lounge window and the access ramp. We've been mindful during the build to make provision for such access both into the home with minimal height door sills, and also through interior features such as a step-less shower, accessible toilet and 870mm doorways.
It's taken nine years to get to this stage doing all the construction ourselves so we're very proud.
All sill tiles were completed, so once again another milestone. It is so easy to tick something off a list but the process of that completion can be detailed and frustrating at times.
The big project being attacked at present is the verandah eave sheets. As we've been going along, I jokingly asked my husband, "Who was the bright spark who thought a 360 degree verandah was a great idea?". Some sheets are easy but then there's the cut-out for verandah poles, not to mention the corners of the verandah. I'm pleased to say we are on the last side with 21 sheets to go.
I pre-primed and top coated all the sheets first so we don't have to paint once they're up. But even with a plaster lifter, the boards are still getting a little scuffed so I'm painting the sheets yet again. I'm only having to cut in close to the edges with a brush and then use the roller to scoot across the scuffs and cover the nails. Looks a treat, all nice and white. This process of touching up means the sheets will have been painted a total of four times, so I have painted 280 single sheets.
Inside still nothing much as we still have some plaster and Villaboard to purchase. In the interim, I have been trying to find a suitable wall and trim colour to match my tiles and am onto my eleventh tin of sample paint. One was too apricot, one too pink, one too grey and a few too nothing. I think I have found the one but I will get our daughter to see what she thinks as she has a good eye for colour and can pick up on the subtle differences in the undertone.
There is an annoying problem though. I didn't know just how important it was to make sure that the rafters were not only straight but exactly at 1200mm spacings. My husband told me to measure and mark when there was terribly rough and uneven ground underfoot. I've obviously not been as accurate as I should have been and now my rafters aren't precisely at 1200mm spacings and that has meant extra little chocks and noggins to be able to secure the sheeting properly. We've been using some 3 x 1.2 inch batons. No one will see my stuff up once the eave sheets are up.
My husband and I are getting lots of those fiddly things done such as the plumbing for the vanities. Only seven sheets of plaster left to put up and the plasterer is due to begin stopping and sanding soon and then I'll begin painting. Tiles will follow after that.
The septic tank and trenches are in and the power has been laid as well. We still have a dozen odd eave sheets to put up and have been busy today finishing vents for the rangehood, inline fan for the bathroom and clothes dryer that are all vented out to the verandah.
I've also been under the house and finished bringing the power cable up through the bottom plate to the internal power board.
The house is coming along in leaps and bounds this year and we could finish it by early 2018. All outside work is complete.
Painting is all but complete indoors, so fans and downlights are in with just a few pendants still to hook up in the bedrooms. Two rooms are already partly furnished and we have a working toilet. Power is on in most areas with just the pool room, a group of outside lights and the HWS to connect up.
The kitchen should be in situ by the end of September. Finally everything is coming together and we are almost at the end. We have a lot of tiling to do with over 100 square metres of flooring and two bathrooms. The tiling will be going right up to the ceiling. We must first complete the skirting boards with almost all the architraves done.
All the plaster and Villaboard is finished, including the pool room. Painting is almost finished in the home – pool room still to go but that's a different type of paint. Final wall choice was Berger Polished Stone half strength and the trim is Dulux White Exchange quarter strength. I went through another four sample pots making it a total of 15 pots before settling on one.
We just completed the main bathroom. Huge job using 600 x 300 wall tiles and making sure we matched the grout lines with 300 x 300 floor tiles. Very tricky but we got it. Still have to finish grouting.
Busy tiling the floors now and managed to lay about 150 tiles myself so very pleased with the progress. A few more weeks and we should have all the floor tiling finished and then we start on the second bathroom.
All in all, we've had a very busy 10 months with a wonderful hay season so we've got plenty of savings that we can spend on the home now
The house is almost finished with two bedrooms decked out. No carpet yet so we've got painted flooring for now but it looks and feels cosy.
Master bed has some furniture but we are still living in the cottage until we get the skirting boards up and painted.
Main bathroom is complete including TV cable.
The ensuite as I call it (it's a small bathroom in our indoor pool room) is complete.
Kitchen is in. We'll wait until next year for the benchtops. We used varnished green tongue flooring for now. Ovens are in situ and just need connecting. Hot plates should be ready to pick up tomorrow. We've got some safety switches to do once the ovens and hot plates are connected as well as finishing the cornice and painting the bulkheads.
We've now moved in. The kitchen is useable with polyurethane flooring as makeshift benches for now. We'll soon cover it with stainless steel. Stone benchtops to come in a few years at a further $7000 cost, so the stainless steel will see us through until then.
Completed office with lovely pure wool carpet.
Master bedroom complete with carpet.
Master bathroom complete with TV to watch a show and relax in the spa.
Accessible toilet complete with hand basin and hand rail.
Laundry with makeshift bench once again using the trusty green tongue flooring. The water-resistant laundry cabinetry alone is over $5000. Dryer yet to be hung on the wall to the right of the towel rail.
Well there you have it, almost done. Finished enough to live in and so proud of our achievements after 11 years.
We've been in the home almost two and a half years now. There are still a few unfinished projects such as hanging some doors and door jams. The pool room is no further advanced but we'll get there sometime.
Refurbished Red Gum table with liquid glass top.
Completed laundry with stainless steel benches and splashback.
Our Red Gum island extension.
If I were to change anything about this project it would be the spacing in the office. As a result of the decision to put a doorway where I put it to make the kitchen layout work, I restricted the size of desk I can have in my office. I can't go beyond 140cm and I had no idea how hard it would be to find a desk with the features that I want that is only that wide.
This is my office and on the other side of the built-in robe is our fridge. This combination worked perfectly but not so much for a desk on the other side of the door.
I had also taken 300mm from the adjacent room to accomodate a doorway into the master that wasn't there before. You might say I could put the desk on the wall where the sofa bed is, but I put six power points on the wall specifically for the desk and all that's needed to run a business such as a printer, computer tower, desk lamp, monitor, shredder and heater.
During the frame stage I decided to widen the doorways and take them from 720mm to 770mm. I wanted to make sure a wheelchair could fit through and it did't seem to be a big project, so I did that myself.
A big plus of this project was that money prevented us from going forward too fast. We built our home with the available funds from our farm year to year. It took many years to do it but that gave us a lot of time to go over our drawings and measurements. While I did make changes along the way, they were minor as I wasn't dealing with an on-site builder or crew with a timeframe. It was just me and my husband.
As for the pool, I am pretty excited about getting it finished sometime in the future.