Friday, August 31, 2012


I have a spreadsheet of all the costs incurred since the flood as well as all the professionals I've engaged during the insurance, subdivision and rebuilding process.

I was updating it today and had a quiet moment of reflection on how long the process has taken and how much I've learned over the 20 months since the flood.

Here is the list of professionals I've engaged over the process and the role they played in the process.

Lawyer - Yep. The insurers were very good and very helpful and in the end totally came through for me, but I still needed someone on my side. Was a good decision. I'm positive the outcome would not have been the same without her.

Building Consultant - The insurer had theirs so I hired my own. I needed to compare apples with apples.

Structural Engineer - The insurer's engineer said there was no subsidence, even though you could put a marble on the floor on one end of the house and it would roll to the other. So I hired my own. Again, the insurers were great, but the onus was on me to prove the case.

Town Planner - As this was my first development, I wasn't going to try and navigate my way through the code on my own. It was a good decision, he was worth his weight in gold. The application was a PAINFUL process, a whole other blog all together, mainly because it was in a flood zone. He never gave up though and he's now permanently on my Christmas Card list.

Hydrologist - As part of the subdivision application I needed to prove I could build two houses that had flood free living areas. For this reason they to be side by side and not one house in front of the other. This process proved difficult as the Council brought in a temporary local planning instrument after the flood to help people raise higher than normal, but it ended up causing me difficulty as they wanted me to raise much higher than (the hydrologists and town planner) deemed necessary, which increased my building costs.

Building Designer - There's not too many standard plans out there for a narrow lot house in a flood zone so I had to have it custom designed. I'm completely happy with the design though, so a good decision.

Suveyor - There is about a two metre fall sloping to the back over the 50 metre depth of the property. This all had to be marked out for the subdivision application and the new building application.

Civil Engineer - Stormwater run off was a big problem as there's no storm water drain running through my property. I needed these guys to propose a solution for this. We will end up running a drain through the neighbour's yard.

Demolition Certifier - Yes, they exist. Well, they also do building certification, but in my case I hired them to submit my application for demolition. They didn't step foot anywhere near the property and I sent them photos as proof the demolition was done. Astounding.

Demolishers - I could have got the builder to do it, but I saved loads by organising it myself.

Soil Testers - To test the condition and reaction of the soil. Mine wasn't great, which means additional compaction and deeper bearers to ensure the house is solid.

All this in addition to the builder, building certifier, plumbers, electricians etc that are yet to come.

Yep, all that kids before the foundation has even been laid. I'm putting this out there as these are professionals I wouldn't have even dreamed I would need to engage before I started this whole process. In fact I  hadn't even heard of half of them.

I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be too many people within the Brisbane City Council area that have been flooded and are considering subdividing and building a new home, but if you are, these are the people you may need to consider.

Despite this, it's all been a learning experience and, secretly, I've actually enjoyed the challenge of it. Something about lemons and lemonade? ;-)

The Stormwater Drain

The proposed options by the Civil Engineers

There's no stormwater pipe running across the property so as part of the subdivision conditions I needed to address this issue. I always knew this and engaged a civil engineer to propose a solution. 

The civil engineers came up with two options. The first one was to run a stormwater pipe through the rear neighbours yard to connect to the stormwater drain at the street behind. The second one was to dig a couple of soakage pits to catch any overflow.

The second option was definitely the better option. It was cheaper and wouldn't need to involve anyone else. Running a stormwater pipe through the neighbour's yard would require their permission and rectification to their yard. 

I had this proposal done on 13 October 2011. Yep, almost a year ago. To say I've been caught up in red tape is an understatement. Worse still, the application was delayed for so long, the code has since been changed and soakage pits are now not allowed and the stormwater "has to have a legal point of discharge". Basically it means the property MUST connect to a stormwater so my first option has now become my only option.

Luckily the owners of the property at the rear have been kind enough to give me permission to run the drain through their property. Without that consent, I wouldn't have even been granted the subdivision approval. The issue though, is the cost. The first quote is $3750 - yikes. I had budgeted around $2500 for the soakage pits, so I'm going to get a few more quotes to see if I can get that price down. Will also consider doing the rectification work myself to try and get it under budget.

Contingency budget is diminishing quickly. But at least we are getting some traction :-).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My kingdom for a bed!

I know EXACTLY the kind of bed I want...I just can't find it anywhere!

It would be exactly like this bed by Sounds Like Home, but in walnut or a slightly darker timber. This is recycled teak, which is beautiful, just not the look I'm after. It looks like great quality too, such a shame.

I was at IKEA the other day, being OCD about coathangers and I saw this bed, which is pretty close to what I want....except for the timber. I think it's just pine and maybe $299?

So here's my dilemma. Do I spend $1991 on a bed with the perfect design, fabulous quality, but not quite the timber colour I want? Or do I just spend $299 on the Ikea bed that's the right colour, but knowing that it's pine and may not last as long as the other one and not quite look as high quality as the other one?

First world problems, I know.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Flooring Dilemma

I've been 99% sure that Sydney Blue Gum was the flooring that I wanted in the new home. I had seen sample boards and I thought that the dark, rich reds would bring some warmth to the stark white walls, kitchen and bathroom I was planning.  I could also get a really good price for them so that had tipped the balance.

There was that 1% though that I wasn't sure about. So I found somewhere that had larger sizes laid out so I could get a better picture of how it would look.

Sydney Blue Gum I'm not so sure.  The Boral Silkwood Sydney Blue Gum flooring is a lot redder and darker than I thought. I know that there's a lot of difference in colours when you have timber because it's a natural product, but overall I'm a teeny bit worried it will be too dark and red for my liking. I'm probably about 80% sure I love it and I'm not sure if that's enough.

Brush Box

I did REALLY like this one though! It's brush box and a little less red, while still having the warmth that you might not get in oak or tallowood.

Argh!! Now I don't know what to do. From memory I remember that they were more expensive than blue gum and while normally I would say it's worth the expense in the long run, I literally don't have the budget to stretch it. And it's not a change that would affect the overall resale value of the house, it's just personal preference.

Here's this pics on the Boral website. You can see they don't necessarily look like they did in real life. In fact, my pics don't even represent it that well.

Sydney Blue Gum - this doesn't even look red!
(Pic from Boral Website)

Another Sydney Blue Gum
(Pic from Boral Website)

Brush Box - seems to have less reds and more browns
(Pic from Boral Website)

Brush Box - this seems to have a bit more pink
(Pic from Boral Website)

Sigh...what do you think?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Canary Island Palm SAVED!

Huzzah! The tree was saved! This makes me very, very happy. I actually put off demolition for three days to give more time to finding a solution and I'm very glad I did, because this tree was over 60 years old and absolutely magnificent.

I blitzed social media - Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Email, pretty much everything I could and just asked people to pass it on. It worked because I got a call from a tree recycler who had a client who he was already transplanting five other canary island palms.

The transplanting took place over two days. The first day involved digging around the base of the plant ready for removal. The second day they brought the crane in to move it. The footage isn't great, sorry, the first day the truck was parked in front of the camera and the second day they moved the crane out of frame after it was bogged in the (perfect) position in front of the camera.

 The palm is now happy in its new home in Logan.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Asbestos Surprise

Rule number one of building a home - NOTHING ever goes to plan!
Rule number two of building a home - Make sure you plan for the unexpected!

This innocent looking pile of rubble was asbestos that was buried deep in the backyard. In fact, 24 tonnes of the stuff, and that's not what you would have expected or could plan or budget for.

The demolishers didn't find it until the job was pretty much completed, so I thought I was in the clear. Couldn't have been more wrong.

One of the advantages of working for a building company are the little tidbits of information they give you that's seemingly small and insignificant, but can end up being priceless in the long run. One thing they did tell me is to put something in the contract to cover the costs if there's any buried asbestos found. So we agreed that if there was any asbestos found, it would be removed at the same rate as the rest of the asbestos in the house. There was a small amount in the roof of the patio that we knew about and that was removed first, so bringing the equipment back to remove the second lot could have cost a LOT more without this clause.  The guys at work also told me a lot of companies will add this in as a variation at a much higher rate, so it was something I was very aware of and very grateful for the advice.

Other little hints they gave me was to ensure that the builder can inspect the site to ensure it is clear to their standards to start building BEFORE the demolition equipment is removed from site. They have had instances where the demolishers are long gone and they have come to site to start building and the big (heavy) concrete pillars have been left in the ground. They had to charge the client $10K to get rid of it. So that clause was definitely in my contract and luckily the builder was very happy the site was clean and ready to start building.

Sadly the additional cost, minimised as it was, comes directly out of my decorating budget. Sigh, here goes that replica sideboard I wanted for the dining room.

Anyway, that's just another little hiccup on my building journey. I got over it and am moving on.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Demolition complete

Demolition on the main house was completed today. I wouldn't recommend anyone with any sentimentality or emotional investment to a home to ever watch this happen. It's heart wrenching.

For something that has stood for 60+ years and gone through two floods, it was sad to see it only took two days to reduce it to rubble and then clear the site as if it had never been there at all.

Am I feeling guilty? You bet.

I guess it's one of those things though where you just have to keep moving on.  It's a step I had to do and had put off twice previously. The first time was when the subdivision approval had been delayed and the second time to try and save the tree. It was like a bandaid really, just had to rip it off in one swift movement.

The block look absolutely huge now that it's cleared. It's 1012m2 or a quarter of an acre. It has a 20 metre frontage and 50 metre depth so each block will be 506m2, about the size of today's average block.

Today has been a very hard day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I posted the windows for sale online and have pretty much sold most of them, as well as the doors that I hadn't even listed yet. This makes me happy and sad at the same time. The people who have bought them are renovating Queenslanders or post war homes so they will keep in character and be saved and that makes me pretty happy. But they have all been split up and, weirdly and probably stupidly that makes me a little sad.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Interior Designer First Date

I had my first interior design appointment with the seriously fabulous Daryl Wark from Shelter Interiors.

I have such a new found respect for interior designers after this. In all honestly, I kinda thought interior designers just picked furniture and paint colours and curtains.

I was sooo wrong.

All the stuff I've been posting to my Pinterest page has been so he could get an understanding of my style and help pick out some key furniture pieces and cushions, you know, the pretty stuff.  Because I kind of thought that's what he did.

He had a look at my floor plan though and immediately had all these AMAZING ideas on cabinetry layout, tiles, lighting...more DESIGN type stuff. Which would make sense, because he's an interior DESIGNER!

He was truly incredible. He didn't baulk at my meagre budget, but simply suggested ways to save on some sections so there was more in the budget for other sections. He even said he would do a tile plan.

A tile plan? What on earth is that you ask? (Like I did.)

It's a plan...for the tiles. As in a plan for EXACTLY where they will be laid so that they line up perfectly with the fixtures and are symmetrical in the space and not cut in half at one end. Now that is detail and a true appreciation for interior design perfection!

I know I talk a lot about saving money here and there and doing as much as I can myself, but I'm also realistic when it comes to things that should be left to the professionals, and this is one things I'm truly glad I left to the professionals.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Save the Palm Campaign

There is a gorgeous canary island palm in the backyard, probably 8 metres high and by all accounts maybe 60 plus years old. I did some research and it would be upwards of $8,000 retail.

Unfortunately it's right where the new house is going to be built.

I sooo don't want to see it destroyed. I've actually had it advertised for over a year, but the costs of transporting the tree properly is about $4500 (well, that's the cheapest I could get), so even giving away the tree would still cost someone a cool 5 grand, depending on where it's going.

I've basically got 3 days to sort it out, otherwise I have to get the demolition guys to knock it over while they have the equipment there. This would absolutely break my heart. So I've been blitzing social media, email, everything I possibly can to save it.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Demolition Stage 1

Today was one of the saddest days in the history of my little house project. And that includes the day it flooded and the clean up after.

Demolition is due to start shortly so we started pulling out any of the fittings and fixtures we could salvage like the casement windows and some of the floorboards.

I felt terrible.

I felt like I was raping and pillaging a home that had stood proudly for over 50 years and instead of trying to save its heritage and character I was destroying it because it was simply easier.

I thought that by taking out the windows and other fixtures they could be reused and somehow I was saving it. But really it just made me feel worse and while it looked empty when we started it looked positively destroyed and defeated by the time we finished.

It feels like a very sad ending. I have no idea how I'm going to feel when the actual demolition starts.