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We are Building a House

I have never done it before.

Build a house, that is.

My husband has built a house before, with his father, so for him, this is not so special.

For me, this is my first and last time to decide how a new house might look from the ground up. I will never do it again. This is it.

new house
An example of the style of house we will build

There are so many things to decide. We have to chose absolutely everything – colours, tiles, mortar, grout, locks, window frames, cornice, shelves. For every part of the house and every single thing in it, there is a choice. A good thing, right? But it makes my head spin, just a little bit.

Sandgate foreshore

A Block of Land

First things first.

We recently purchased a block of land in a new development that was close by the water’s edge. We wanted to be near the water. Two people, done with raising a family, growing old in a house by the sea. Sunset walks along the water’s edge. Cool breezes in the sub-tropical summer. Sounds idyllic? We think and hope so.

You can almost see the Glass house Mountains from here

Selecting a block of land wasn’t as easy as we thought. I was very fussy about micro-climate and orientation. After living for many, many years in a house that was like a furnace in summer and a freezer in winter, I knew I was going to be particular about aspect. And I was lucky. I found one that ticked almost all the boxes.

schnauzer at beach
Rebel is looking forward to a #Seachange

The block in question was already registered with the governing body, as opposed to buying a pile of dirt way behind a barbed wire fence and shown only on a paper plan to prospective buyers. Whilst I was particular on the right environmental aspect, my husband was definitely not going to buy anything he couldn’t step on and feel, with his own hands. So we were lucky. We found it. First step done!

designing A house

Next we had to find a design we liked. Will the design we picked fit on the block of land, we wondered? My idea of this, might be a little different to local councils and also the idea of the land developers which is different to that of the builder. Negotiations await a pen pusher’s whim. We wait for that.

1295_happy_pencil_with_folder_049_tnb

Our land has two frontages, that is: it faces a street on one side and a smaller lane way on another. This is great because it gives us uninterrupted sea breezes and views.

However, there are certain rules about how close the house can be situated to the street and neighbouring houses, called setbacks. They don’t want you to build your house right next to the road, as they did in years gone by.

Knaegemoelle, Denmark – in this beautiful house you could reach out the window and touch the cars going by

What colour and materials will the exterior of our house be? How many windows? What type of fence will the garden have? How many plants will we get? The developer has a say in that too. It is called the covenant.

Banksia
Banksias love the coastal conditions

The developer in its wisdom, wants to keep selling their land for a good price and thus, they want to maintain certain standards for the houses getting built in their community. But when is a house really your own to design?

Soil Testing

The land was previously low lying land that was filled and raised by creating an artificial lake that opened to the sea. This is coastal land – a tidal area now filled in with soil and a lake.

Our block

This means the soil test showed the soil is saline and highly reactive. That translates to more expensive foundations for the house and raised garden beds. But who wants their house walls to crack when it rains, or doesn’t rain? It has to be done that way.

Inspired by Anne- Christine

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Something to Ponder About


76 thoughts on “We are Building a House”

  1. Good luck. How exciting. We’ve built our cottage from the foundation up and we put a second story on our house in the city. I wish I could say that everything went smoothly but at least they’re both liveable. The cottage feels like it will never be completely finished. My husband has lost interest and doesn’t want to sink any more money into it. The house had to pass inspection so it was finished but my husband pulled things out that he didn’t like and then didn’t replace them (like the railing going up the stairs).

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    1. It sounds like a long drawn out process for you, Mamma Cormier. I am fully expecting there will be hiccups with our build. There are too many variables for it to run completely smoothly. I do hope your cottage will one day be complete. Husbands do worry so much about the financial aspect don’t they? Tell him you need that stair railing for safety!!! When did he put it? Drag it out and leave it somewhere obvious to remind him. Perhaps that would work?

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  2. I’ve never built a house in that manner but do understand the lingo. That is a dizzying process and I don’t envy you one bit. I know you get a nice shiny new house in the end but you pull out your hair all the way through as nothing goes according to plan. You have to get in “roll with it” mode. Best of luck and looking forward to the progress posts. 😉

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      1. My last husband was as non conformist as they came so we could never live in an area with CC&R’s. (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions)
        I have them here to some degree and they are often changing and highly confining. Once I find somewhere else to live, my place is up for sale. I’m sure you will feel your way through this process.

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    1. I feel like this will leave my impression in a slightly more permanent way. I want to do it right, (for us) and as environmentally friendly as possible within the budgetary restraints. Have you any specific tips, for me PrincessDelso? It sounds like you have experience in such matters?

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      1. My husband began building a house before I came on the scene, but we finished it together. My best piece of advice is be prepared to compromise . . . a lot. You will both have very different ideas. Give a little, get a little. Stay away from faux finishes in the kitchen. They are a bugger to clean. We both love Saltillo tile (a clay tile very popular in the SW USA and Mexico) so we’ve got it throughout the house. Where we live tile floors versus carpet is important because we drag in a lot of debris on our shoes, even when we try to take them off when we first come in the house. If you have fine art you would like to display, keep the wall color somewhat neutral so the art pops. Most paints today are pretty clean compared to what they were like a few decades ago. If you have Behr paint available I would go with that. Again, just have fun, compromise, and make it a sanctuary for you and your husband.

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        1. Great advice – thanks ever so much for that. I have chosen tiles throughout the ground floor and carpet level 2. I do hope my hubby will remove his shoes before coming inside. I will have to get him into a new routine. Otherwise there will be a lot of vacuuming/sweeping. I have gone with an off white coloyr scheme so my art will hopefully pop!! Wirh darker floors, lighter walls were a must.I don’t think I have heard of Behr Paint. Is it a brand or type?

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  3. That’s amazing Amanda. My family are always building houses in NZ, my Dad got to build his exactly the way he wanted as well. I am sure it will work out well for you. A lot of hard work and then growing old by the sea!!! Excellent.

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    1. I am hoping it will be a happy and calm place to live out the rest of my years. It has to be better than inner city suburbia, doesn’t it? Are your family working as builders, Gavin?

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. It is the biggest project of this type that I have worked on as “planner.” Perhaps I will need some of that luck you have wished me?

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    1. I will post more updates, Anne-Christine. I always have you in mind when I write this as you gave me the original idea. I hope you will also let me know how things differ, either by comment of ping back to a post. Even though you aren’t building a house, at the moment, I am very interested to hear about the differences and similarities between our countries.

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  4. We recently contemplated building, but decided we prefer our location to the new land development near by. Like you, the first consideration would have the north/south aspect for seasonal sensibility. I believe building can be a really stressful/never again experience, so good luck with it. But then again, with careful thought and planning the end result will mean you’ll never need to build again. Could I suggest one thing – make sure you have a decent bedroom and bathroom downstairs too (dare I say it – Stairs aren’t easy with crutches, and you never know). Also a kitchen/scullery/laundry combo – but that part’s my dream home wish list. Looking forward to progress shots and news.

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    1. Well Chris, It is a once only experience. I don’t ever see me doing it again. So I plan to enjoy it as much as I can. Thanks so much for the suggestion, and I am already on to it. You see I don’t want to have to move again, so I have already added a wheelchair accessible shower downstairs and the hubby has a man cave downstairs that can be turned into a bedroom later. Even adding noggings in the wall of the shower – for grab rails later on….. This was one of the reasons we abandoned trying to find a townhouse to buy. In downsizing, we have actually upsized so that we could accomodate those two things you mentioned. But no matter we have extra rooms free if you come to Queensland to visit. 🙂 You are in a low set place now, right?

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      1. Thank you for the invite. I’m not sure what a low set place is? We’re about 300 metres from the beach, in a single story house. It’s a very small house, but with careful furnishing, it’s adequate – just. I’m really looking forward to seeing your new place progress.

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        1. Sorry, Chris. Low set = single storey. High set = double storey. It sounds like you have a beautiful position 300 metres from the beach. No wonder you decided to stay. Lovely sea breezes?

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          1. I’ve never heard those terms before for single and double story. We live near a gorgeous walking beach, nice a flat with firm white sand under foot. It’s not bad for swimming either.

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          2. There are further up towards the jetty, but not on our beach. It’s stays shallow for quite away out though, and the water’s very clear. Saying that though last night a friend caught a 4ft hammerhead off the beach.

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    1. It is a first time so I thought it would be fun to chronicle the journey and there is a lot of support and information from the builders. I hope you get to build one day if you should want to do it. By the way, I have been meaning to tell you I am a fan of stepping on crunchy leaves too. You probably have a lot of deciduous trees down your way that feed your habit?

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      1. Yes it’s coming into crunchy leaf time down here so I’ll be a happy little Vegemite! I don’t think I will get to build a house and luckily I have no great yearning to do so. I love seeing what others do and shows like Grand Designs are always fun! Good luck!

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  5. Wow! Super exciting to build a home to your liking! We did a fair amount of remodeling/updating to our present house last year. It was fun and time consuming to pick out all the materials, but the biggest challenge was finding competent reliable and honest people to do the work. We’re still putting stuff back into place and are ready to rehang some wall art. In the next few years we hope to move to a smaller town where we can ride bicycles more safely. The remodel and looking at open houses helped us see in person what types of materials, colors, etc we like.
    I look forward to watching your adventure from afar!
    P.S. One commenter mentioned a downstairs master bedroom and bath. I second that! We have it and if we ever sell this place, it would be a great feature to have. 😊

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    1. I totally agree, Sabine. It is very wise of you to have that included. I insisted on the bed and bath downstairs, in this new house design, otherwise no point getting a two storey house, if you have to sell due to health concerns. I hope to stay in this new house until the nursing home/end comes, but one never knows what life with throw at you. A smaller town where you can ride bicycles sounds perfect. The area we are going to move to, is bicycle friendly, being level and near the ocean and lake. Funnily enough, I once thought of retiring to Christchurch, before they had the two big quakes. It is flat, a good size, friendly and cool climate, but the two earthquakes squashed that idea. And now they are battling this latest tragedy in such a quiet place. Very sad. So the beach life is the retirement we are headed for. Thanks for a lovely comment.

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      1. I could see growing old by the sea! We will just keep looking around for the right place. Until then, we like it where we are for many practical reasons.
        The tragedy in Christchurch is just heartbreaking. We’ve seen big increases in hate crimes and shootings too. I can’t wrap my head around any of it.

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        1. I am most surprised at the intensity of the fear which turns to prejidicial anger. It is contagious and instead of sympathy there is more unrest, fear and yes even hatred on both sides. Tragical round. The fallout ripples continue.

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  6. I worked with a man several years ago who, along with his wife, had a house custom built. He said he’d never do that again, if he’d known all the trouble involved. Indeed, as your investment, the homeowner pretty much has the final say – which means endless phone calls and visits to the site. Since your house is so close to the sea, I hope you folks don’t begin experiencing problems with flooding! Best wishes, Amanda!

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    1. We checked the flooding levels, Alejandro and in our lifetime, I can’t see it being a problem. Lots of rain however might be, as the soil does not absorb water well. They are putting in addtional yard gullies to assist with water drainage. The land is 2 metres higher than previous flood levels and that is worst case scenario. I appreciate your sentiment, Alejandro and don’t think that it hasn’t crossed my mind. For many low-lying communities and those folks right on the water’s edge, it is a concern, and rightly so. Yesterday, I had a climate change sceptic send a diatribe of rubbish to my blog, proclaiming that CO2 was of no concern to the world and was expelled to space. It went straight to the spam folder.

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    1. Thank you. It is ambitious for me. I have not done it before. However, hubby has, albeit a long time ago, so it is great to have his knowledge and support. My main purpose in starting this is so that we can live there without moving for the rest of our lives. Shifting apartments is a pain, but can be fun when one is young. I did it enough times. The amount of gear increases with age, and a more permanent solution helps. Do you shift apartment for personal or work reasons?

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      1. I’m so glad you have support from your hubby. It makes the journey easier. 🙂 We had to shift apartments in Seoul when the lease got over. We shifted twice in the first year and once last year. Fortunately, all our apartments were within walking distance. 🙂

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  7. This is exciting and scary and cool. We had this house built, tweaking one of the builder’s favorite floor plans. It was overwhelming at first, but I’ve never regretted doing it. You ask: But when is a house really your own to design? I’d say the minute you change [and pay for] anything that deviates from the standard design.

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    1. Yes, thank you Ally. It is then that you put your stamp on that design. But authorities restrict what you want to do. Sometimes for the right reasons such as safety. Others for nit picky silly reasons. Or for cosmetic reasons
      That is frustrating. Did you run into certain council rules for your property, Ally?

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      1. Yes. And we have a screened-in porch that is not what we wanted because of it. It’s a good space, mind you– just not our original plan. Also, when it came to plumbing you do what they tell you or you don’t get a house!

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        1. Oh, I guess plumbing is a technical matter that has to be done right. The screened in porch, though, is a bit of a mystery. Is that to protect children, somehow? We have to have restrictors on second floor windows to stop kids falling out. I wondered if we would have to start adding nets on balconies, to keep children safe one day??????

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  8. How exciting! You are setting off on a wonderful adventure. My hubby designed the house we live in now. We have lived in the house for 30+ years. Our kids grew up here and have all moved out. We are now thinking about downsizing. I would like Hubby to design another one for us to build, but I think he would like us to buy a condo!

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    1. Hi Laurie and welcome to Something to Ponder About. We contemplated downsizing. No, actually we did downsize from a large house that we had lived in for 35 years. We are currently in a small townhouse. Being at the same life stage as you with adult kids, almost all gone, we wanted something smaller and manageable so that our weekends were free to adventure and explore, rather than spend them mowing, weeding gardens and cleaning. The trouble is there was too little for my husband to do, in the new small home, now he is retired. And I ended up with bruises on my thighs from bumping into furniture cramped into smaller rooms! Our dog became depressed due to the lack of yard. Even though we have loved the smaller inner city location saving heaps of time travelling, we needed something more. In between what we had before and what we have now. A small yard for us and the dog- no pool; a house with facilities to live on one level without going upstairs, if need be. And a seaside, read flat, location for walking. We have ended up sizing, just a little but not too much. At the very least, we can customize it to our requirements. So maybe that story might help him re think about his condo?

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        1. Ohio! Our environments are going to be very different. I am in Queensland – sub tropical Australia. It will be inteesting to see all thr comparisons and contrasts for each of us. Ours is a small block close to the beach in a new development! Already a contrast to your rural acreage.

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