5 things often overlooked when building

When building, we tend to focus on items that will have the most visual effect and impact on cost: colour scheme, flooring, tap ware, kitchen cabinetry, etc. However, there are often a number of minor considerations that aren’t given enough thought, and result in homes that never feel quite right. Read about five areas that are commonly overlooked when building but that can make a significant difference to your home both in terms of finishes and practicality.



Skirting boards

Whether your floors are tiled, carpeted or made of timber, skirting boards are an essential element for a finished, subtly sophisticated look.


Traditionally installed in worker’s cottages and Victorian homes, skirting boards are equally important in contemporary spaces where they give structure and style.


Skirting boards can also be installed in bathrooms. They don’t have to be made of tiles either – any water-resistant material will be suitable.


Light switches

These are mostly functional and so often come last on the priority list of the Builder. While there is nothing wrong with standard white builder switches, more elaborate designs are welcome, especially in homes of medium to high standard. Antique-looking brass switches, as an example, are a wonderful addition to period homes.


Glass switches are increasingly popular, especially in contemporary homes. They come in different colours and finishes to match your interior.


Grout colour

Thoughtful consideration is often given to the choice of tiles, but grout colour is commonly a decision left to the Builder or Tiler. Here, the grout was selected to match the colour of the tiles, so it doesn’t stand out and visually break the continuity of tiling.


On other occasions, grout can be used to bring contrast and pattern to a tiled area. A dark grout against white subway tiles has been very trendy for the last couple of years or so. Not only does it bring interest, but it is easier to maintain than white grout which can become stained, mouldy or turn yellow over time.


On a multi coloured tiled area, too, grout can either match one of the colours or it can be a contrasting shade to better enhance the pattern created by the tiles.


Storage in entries or hallways

Entries are getting bigger and are more and more designed to make a strong visual statement. While it is important to feel good about your home as soon as you walk in, it is also crucial to think of your entrance as a functional space. When you enter your home, you might want to drop your handbag or coat, take your shoes off, and leave your keys and sunglasses. Good entries are ones that address your needs in terms of both practicality and look.


Not all entries are rooms on their own. Often, they are limited spaces that are open to other areas. Maximise storage with narrow cabinets that can accommodate shoes, keys and other knick-knacks. Chose materials that are in line with the finishes of the adjacent rooms, and dress your space with relevant decorative items such as vases, artwork, a table lamp, mirror, etc.


A long narrow entry doesn’t leave much space for anything. However, when building, you might want to consider fitting in concealed floor-to-ceiling cupboards along it, as opposed to a standard wall. This trick will provide essential storage without any visual overload.


Practicality of bench top material

Over recent years “the bigger and more luxurious the better” seems to be a very common motto among kitchen renovators and homeowners. As part of this trend, many people tend to overlook the practicality of their bench top material in their considerations.


Before selecting your bench top, think about how you use your kitchen and consider the strengths and weaknesses of each material so you can make an informed choice. Some materials, such as marble, react poorly to acidity and can etch easily, while other surfaces need to be sanded and sealed regularly. No material is absolutely perfect but, to avoid any costly disappointment, it is crucial to know your material and its limitations.


Environmentally responsible products

Advances have been made in building products that contribute to the ‘greening’ of Australian homes. Today’s new homes show that environmental responsibility, energy efficiency and healthy indoor living go hand-in-hand with comfort, convenience and great design.

Here is a small sampling of the latest materials, products and technologies that professional home builders are working with today.

The structure

  • Sustainable building products, such as plantation grown timber, are produced from renewable resources that are managed to last for future generations.
  • Engineered composite beams and joists used in framing are made from fast-growing trees using sustainable forestry practices.
  • Waste from building materials can be recycled, for example broken bricks and roof tiles can be turned into rubble as a base for a driveway.
  • Steel framing – a recycled and recyclable material.
  • Insulation (in batts or loose) is made from an array of natural and recycled materials, from newspapers and waste glass to volcanic rock, steel slag, wool and cotton.
  • Insulated concrete forms such as ‘pods’ are used to form structural beams in concrete slab floors which improve a home’s energy efficiency.
  • Windows now offer different technical characteristics such as energy-efficient glass and window frames and glazing that reduce the amount of heat gain and loss through the window. These windows can be used in the entire building or on the orientations that are most exposed to the elements.


  • Integrated heating systems combine space heating and hot water heating in one system.
  • High-efficiency gas fired systems vent exhaust gases through a flue, eliminating the need for a chimney.
  • Radiant floor heating (using either electric elements or hot water that is pumped through coils embedded in the floor) provides comfort and even heat distribution.
  • Zone control permits separate temperature settings in different areas of the house, for energy savings and increased comfort.
  • CFC-free air conditioning provides inside summer comfort without harming the environment.

Finishing touches

  • Choose from an abundance of environmentally responsible flooring options:
  • new or reused strip timber flooring, with a low-toxicity finish
  • glazed ceramic tiles do not emit toxic fumes or support allergens or bacteria and can incorporate recycled glass in the production
  • natural stone such as granite and marble (also used for benchtops)
  • all-natural products such as linoleum, cork and bamboo.
  • Trims and mouldings for windows and doors are made from sawmill wood wastes such as medium density fibreboard.
  • Solvent-free paints offer a healthier alternative.

Additional information

The Building Code of Australia requires a minimum level of compliance in relation to energy efficiency, indoor air quality or ventilation, natural or artificial light and sound insulation to ensure that the building provides acceptable amenity for future occupants.

HIA’s GreenSmart program encourages builders to achieve a higher level of environmentally friendly home than is required by the code. This also extends to environmentally friendly building practices. HIA GreenSmart builders are specifically trained in the latest methods and materials to enable them to provide a product that is aesthetically pleasing, energy efficient and environmentally responsible.

To find out more about HIA GreenSmart and builders who can deliver environmentally friendly homes and products, go to hia.com.au.


Green Towers

The six most common mistakes when building a new home

Builder versus Owner Builder

No matter what your brother in law tells you, do not act as an Owner Builder. You have probably heard that all houses are basically the same and all you need to do is hire a plumber and a roofer yourself and you will save 10% or more on the cost of your house. Haven’t you heard that? “Why pay a general contractor? He is going to do the same thing you could do but he is going to make a cut too.”
Why it is a mistake building your own home;

The Registered Builders relationships and rapport with Sub Contractors & Suppliers. You might say “Why do I need to have a relationship? They are never going to work for me again.” And that is exactly my point. They are never going to work for you or supply you materials again. But they make their living from repeat business with Builders. So if you are on a tight schedule and so is the Builder that they work with all the time, whose work or delivery is going to be put off and whose work or delivery is going to be attended to? Exactly.

Although this shouldn’t happen, Sub Contractors may cut corners and use inferior materials when they don’t have a Builder looking over their shoulders. And sadly, you won’t know about it until it is too late.

Subcontractors & Suppliers may to decide to charge a higher rate to complete works or supply materials for an Owner Builder in lieu a Registered Builder due to the perceived stories & the unknown factor of the Owner Builder or even the Sub Contractors/Suppliers previous bad experiences with Owner Builders hence why they will charge a higher price to cover themselves. Unfortunately that is just the way it is and if every Sub Contractor and/or Supplier was to do this, your home will cost you more than what the Registered Builder was charging yourself originally.

Quality of completed works or delivered products, the Sub Contractor or Supplier is more likely to bend over backwards to make the Registered Builder happy than he would you because of ongoing works and relationship between the parties. As mentioned earlier, the Sub Contractor or Supplier is not going to have further dealings with yourself again.

Unfortunately and probably the biggest item of them all is that an Owner Builder will not have the knowledge to monitor the quality of work or have the ability to create a seamless flow to the works that are being completed on your home. This could result in a serious error or the endangering of a person. For example, an error may have occurred in the Brickwork of the home and is not discovered for weeks after the completion of brickworks. The correction of these works may cost thousands of dollars down the road or a delay in the construction resulting in a domino effect of delays & postponements to the following Sub Contractors & Suppliers simply due to the lack of expertise and knowledge of the Owner Builder.

Poor Planning

Unless you have plans to build a very large home, space planning and design is crucial.

Ample storage is necessary, but pay attention to where you place your storage space. Does the Master Suite really need an oversized walk-in closet when the space could potentially be added to your Master Suite or Ensuite? Pay attention to where you place your Linen/Coats closet. There should be one in each Bedroom and in a Main Hallway. But too many and the storage space takes away from the Living space. Do you want a closet in the foyer? If you live in a cooler climate where coats are worn at least half of the year, this would be wise, especially if you entertain in your home and the front entrance is the main point of entry. If you have no use for a Coats closet, don’t build one. Do you plan on adding a Laundry? If so there should be a closet there or space enough to add detailed cupboards or some other similar storage area. If you clearly need more space, consider building a larger home.

When designing your own home you should take your lifestyle and habits into consideration. How long do you plan on staying in this home? Will you need to accommodate safety features for new or young children? Or might you need to think of your needs later in life as you reach retirement age and beyond? Think ahead, long term, to see where you will be and what you will need from your home.

Failing to Plan Ahead Financially

Building your dream home means creating a foundation—a place to raise families and grow old. Knowing how much you can afford, as well as how you plan to finance your future, is essential.

Not using an Interior Designer

No matter how big or small or grand or simple your home is, the use of an Interior Designer is essential in getting that last finishing touch otherwise you could be creating drama for many years.

On a Concept Board, you will coordinate all of the layers of your Interior Design Project. This can be overwhelming at times. They will include your wall colours, wall and ceiling texture, style of carpet, or Wall Paper. Your selection of flooring, tile, marble or wood floor, choice of wood, style of doors, wood trim, lighting decisions, style of fixtures, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, counter top styles, granite or marble. All of these decisions are difficult. But more importantly, all of these design elements must flow harmoniously, to create a dramatic effect throughout your home.

Share your project with an Interior Designer in conjunction with your Builder to ensure all aspects are seen to, ask them about some of their previous work and discuss their fees. Most people do not think they can afford an Interior Designer this is not true. Fees can vary from nothing, to an hourly fee or a percentage.

Make sure that the final effect is a collaborative decision, and one that you truly love. If you are not comfortable with an idea, then keep looking for other options. This is not the time to hold your opinion. Share your thoughts about the direction of the Interior Design Project. The best results are when all members of your design team, Client, Builder, Interior Designer, Architect and other Professionals are involved in this fun, yet challenging part of your home.


Misunderstandings between you and your Builder and his team of professionals can cost you money or leave you unhappy with parts of the project. This is another area where you might start feeling like you’re over-doing it with the questions and clarifications, but Building Professionals are not mind readers unfortunately. If there’s something you don’t understand on the plans or in your contract, it’s always better to have someone explain it up front. As with nagging doubts during the construction process, you’re better off clarifying any questions you may have before work gets started, so there won’t be confusion once you break ground.

If you check your email frequently, it’s probably the best way to communicate with your contractors. Not only can they send you questions without disrupting your day, but you’ll have your correspondence in writing in case something goes wrong. Make sure your contractor also has your mobile or work number, so he can reach you quickly with timely questions. Not only will that help avoid confusion and mistakes, but quick communication helps keep your project on schedule, because no one will be waiting around for your responses.

Steps you can take to help your builder (and how to avoid hindering your builder)


Misunderstandings between you and your Builder and his team of professionals can cost you money or leave you unhappy with parts of the project. This is another area where you might start feeling like you’re over-doing it with the questions and clarifications, but Building Professionals are not mind readers unfortunately. If there’s something you don’t understand on the plans or in your contract, it’s always better to have someone explain it up front. As with nagging doubts during the construction process, you’re better off clarifying any questions you may have before work gets started, so there won’t be confusion once you break ground.

If you check your email frequently, it’s probably the best way to communicate with your contractors. Not only can they send you questions without disrupting your day, but you’ll have your correspondence in writing in case something goes wrong. Make sure your contractor also has your mobile or work number, so he can reach you quickly with timely questions. Not only will that help avoid confusion and mistakes, but quick communication helps keep your project on schedule, because no one will be waiting around for your responses.

Little things mean so much

Your home site is your builder’s workplace. So don’t forget to praise good work if warranted, we all feel fantastic when our hard work appreciated.

Make sure invoices are paid on time so you can get your keys to your new home.

A cup of coffee goes a long way!

Don’t overstay your welcome

Try to stay out of the way of contractors as it can be at times inconvenient, unsafe and nobody likes being watched on the job. By all means go and look at your house, but try and do it when there are no contractors on site as it can be a safety issue and don’t tell them how to do their jobs as this causes confusion and frustration all communications should be through your Builder.

The Builder cannot change the weather

Yes, it is super frustrating when torrential rain starts on the day your slab is scheduled to be poured but the simple fact is house building must stop in extreme wind, heat or rain.

If bad weather delays your build, understand a builder with multiple jobs will attend to the oldest ones first and may not be on your job on the first dry day, Thompson says.

The four most important things to get right when building a new home

The right land – in the right place

You’ll need to make sure you’re building in the right place and that you have acquired enough land and always remember location, location, location as this will be a factor to your lifestyle and future financial position. Allow plenty of time to find a good block of land as well. Please see Ten important factors to consider when choosing a block of land for more advice.

The right design

What kind of house do you want? Explore all the options around your design. Is it spacious enough? Will it cater your needs now and in the future? You want the right house, in the right place – otherwise it’s not worth bothering. You’re the boss – get the design right for you, and you alone.

The right builder

You’ll be placing your trust in your chosen builder. Research them first. Make sure you’re getting someone who’s tried and tested. Seek out former customers of any potential builders. See how their houses are doing, even after several years. That’s the true acid test of any good builder, after all.

The right timescale

This one is vital. Don’t let building your own home consume your life. Ensure that your builders do everything at a pace that suits you. You won’t want them to rush, of course. It’s still vital that they don’t leave you hanging around. You’ll have a lot of money tied up in your new property. Don’t allow it to sit there doing nothing for months and years on end. Our final word on this is that life’s too short. Make sure you’re in a position to enjoy your new home as soon as possible.

Ten important factors to consider when choosing a block of land

Is that block of land right for you? There are many factors to consider when selecting and purchasing a block of land for building a home or a property development project. Here are some important things to help with the decision.

Size, shape, orientation and slope of the block of land

Got a particular house style or design in mind? It’s not normally a problem on bigger plots, but in suburban and urban areas, the width and depth of the plot will determine what sort of house you can build. Likewise, if the plot is on a significant slope, either the land will need to be cut and filled, or you’ll need to build a house that takes that slope into account. It’s worth remembering that while these things might make your house more spectacular, they’re also likely to cost a fair bit more.

Uncover easements and impediments

Check the Land Title Certificate carefully, visit the Council and approach the relevant bodies to discover whether there are encumbrances on your land as an easement in the backyard may be a small thing unless it happens to be where you want to put the pool. This may not affect how you use the block today but could be vitally important to whether you can profitably sell your home in the future.

Utilities availability

Contact utility companies to check the cost of connecting your block of land to water, gas and electricity if the service connections are not included.

Restrictions on how you can build

Different councils can have very different rules, which can limit how you build. Depending on the council, there may be rules about what style of house you can build, what colours and materials are appropriate, where on the plot you can situate your house and even what kind of fence you can have (among other things).

Please see below link for an example of Guidelines to a land development in the Perth southern suburbs.

R Codes

Your R Codes (residential design codes) on your block will dictate certain requirements that must be met. This is probably more relevant if you’re purchasing a block with the intention of subdividing later. If you are purchasing and hoping to subdivide as a means of investment, we highly recommend not taking the word of the real estate agent as to what can be done. Instead, pay for a feasibility assessment first to ensure you can do what you’re hoping to do.

Green Titled or Survey Strata

Be sure to understand what rights your title gives you.

  • A green title means that you own everything within the boundaries of your lot.
  • A survey strata title means that you are sharing part of your property with a neighbour, such as a driveway or bin area. A survey strata titled block might also require monthly fees for common areas.

Choosing a Development Site

This is extremely crucial if it is to be successful. It requires research, research and more research. Most first-time developers can’t afford to develop property in areas such as capital cities where everything – including land, building costs and professional services is more expensive. Instead, I suggest you cut your teeth on an affordable area within a two-hour radius of a capital city.

Look for areas that:

  • offer promise; perhaps going through a gentrification phase
  • going through a growth phase; median prices are historically performing well
  • where the population is expanding;
  • where diverse industries support employment;
  • where private enterprises, such as large retailers or mines for example have announced expansion plans.

Extreme climatic/weather event(s)

Check if the block is in bushfire prone land and also check if the block is subject to flood related development controls imposed by the local council.

Other things to consider

There are a few other important things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a good plot to build on. Some of these include:

  • What’s being built nearby – Nobody wants to buy a plot of land only to find out a truck stop’s going in next door.
  • Privacy – nobody wants an entire apartment block staring into their bedroom window. Carefully consider what’s next door, what you’re building, and how secluded you can make it.
  • State of existing structures – planning on retaining parts of an existing building or structure? You’ll need to get it inspected to ensure it’s in good shape.

Not sure if demolishing your home and building a new life is for you?

What does demolition involve? While knocking down a house is a fairly uncomplicated job, there are quite a few things that need to be taken into consideration and we at Grand Cru Developments can help you with all these aspects. These include:

  • Applying for the necessary demolition permits
  • Disconnecting existing services (e.g. electricity, drainage, gas and water supply)
  • Protecting nearby properties and structures
  • Ensuring that the area’s safe for the rest of the public
  • Arranging for salvage or disposal of the demolition waste

Do want the hassle of renovating?

If you work full-time or are raising a family, you need to ask yourself whether you really want to spend every weekend working on the house. Renovating can be very disruptive, often requiring the homeowners to move out for a period of time. On the other hand, we at Grand Cru Developments can deliver new homes to the extent of ‘turn key’ completion, where all you need to do is turn the key, walk in and enjoy.

What about familiar amenities

By bowling over your house and rebuilding, families remain in a familiar area, with all the amenities and schools they’re used to. At the higher end of the market, households are increasingly looking to buy a block with an existing house ripe for demolition. This means they select the block and house to suit their lifestyle and family needs.

Demolition may cost but it can also offset other costs (such as stamp duty)

Knock down & rebuild has costs associated with demolition but it evens out not having to pay stamp duty on a property and did you know that knocking down and building a new home generally costs less than half the cost per square metre compared to renovating an old house as there is always a risk that they may find major problems behind walls & under slabs that are expensive to fix and in some cases cannot be fixed. Building a new home out ways renovating with a fresh quality home in your same neighbourhood at a more cost effective price.

Materials can be re-used

Deconstruction is the practice of carefully disassembling a building so that its materials — everything from siding to floor joists — can be reused in a new building, while everything else that can be recycled is recycled. Today, “easily 75% to 90% of a house” can be reused or recycled.

Open Walls to Widen Home Possibilities

Open walls are the ultimate embodiment of indoor-outdoor living, blurring the lines (well, getting rid of them actually) between the two. They are a fresh-air fanatic’s dream come true, and there is something about them that is just positive and friendly. They are the ultimate invitation.

Here are a few ideas.

Indoor kitchen, outdoor dining room. This glass garage door is so modern and clean; it makes sliding glass doors seem positively old fashioned.


This sliding accordion door that opens up floor to ceiling, turning a small kitchen into a bright, expansive space with an outdoor dining room.


This bathroom takes some real guts. I mean, someone in one of those houses down there could own a pair of binoculars. Still, why should living rooms and kitchens have all the fun?


Not having an open wall here would be weird.


A wall doesn’t have to open onto a large, expansive space. Just a little tropical extension for this bathroom is reason enough.


Creating a small breezeway between the house and the open air can keep a room from getting too hot in the summer. It also provides a nice visual transition between inside and out.


I don’t think it opens, but I don’t care. Magnificent.




Stylish Storage: Design a Wardrobe That Will Serve You for a Lifetime

How disappointing would it be to spend thousands of dollars on a built-in wardrobe only to have to replace it sooner than you expected because it just doesn’t fulfil your needs? This could be due to poor design or manufacture, so let’s cover some basics in wardrobe design that is sure to serve you well now and into the future.

Timeless Design

A built-in wardrobe is a fixture of the home and is usually quite an expense. Keeping the style to either classic design or in keeping with the architecture will ensure the wardrobe is never out of place or outdated.

Adding unique free standing feature pieces, such as this mirrored drawer unit, can bring your wardrobe up to the minute, and you’re not committing the whole design spend to a fashion piece.


Be Room Aware

While storage is highly important, if the wardrobe is part of a bedroom, the bedroom is the priority. An oversized monolithic wardrobe can ruin a bedroom resulting in early demolition because the bedroom feels too cramped.

A way of avoiding this problem is illustrated in this photo. By creating a dressing table in the middle of the wardrobe space, the walls of wardrobe don’t close in the room. In fact, by adding the mirror, more depth and interest is created on this wall.

Careful assessment of your storage needs can often achieve this. By detailing the actual area needed for storage, then designing to those requirements will offer a more interesting and less invasive design than the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling default option.


Less Is More

Avoid over designing your wardrobe. Compartmentalising helps to order the space but over compartmentalising will, in fact, limit what can be stored.

I wouldn’t blow my money on redundant shoe compartments. Whether you store shoes in boxes or have them loose, adjustable shelves maximise shoe storage without over-designing.

Avoid novelty storage systems for shoes, trousers and accessories. Nearly all of these have moving parts that are likely to break over time. Nothing serves as long as the tried and true shelves and hanging space.



Your storage needs will change over time. Whether you’re growing up, out, in or old, our style needs change, and so do fashions. If your wardrobe interior is not adjustable, including the hanging sections, the maxi dresses of one era, for example, will leave great voids in the space during the mini era. The only way to cater for this is with adjustable height in hanging as well as shelving. By using adjustable fittings for the shelves that are used for rigidity within the wardrobe, the heights will always be flexible.

The same applies to shelves when catering for varying heel heights in shoes or switching from shoe storage to jumper storage. Adjustability equals space maximisation, because if you adjust your shelves to hold exactly what you need, you know you can change the height later when you need to, and you can utilise every centimetre of space there is.


Ergonomics and Functionality

Well-designed wardrobes make your life easy.

Drop the hanging areas and put the shelving above where you can see and reach it. It’s the same amount of storage space put right in front of your eyes and hands where it works most efficiently.

Shelf depths of 360mm ensure order, by preventing items migrating to the back of the space. Closely stacked, shallow shelves also guarantee order no matter how blasé you are about folding.

Shelf widths of 300, 600 and 900mm modules take full items neatly so that the shelves stay tidy.



No matter how great the design, and materials, if the wardrobe is not manufactured and installed with quality workmanship it will be inferior and will fail prematurely.

Seek out manufacturers who are recommended by architects, designers or have a solid reputation.


Quality Lasts

If durability is important the basic componentry of the wardrobe has to be high quality.

The average wardrobe interior is melamine – a durable, practical and economical material. However, unsupported spans in excess of 750mm for 16mm board and 850mm for 18mm board need to be avoided because they will likely sag over time. Consider moisture-resistant board if dampness is a potential factor.

Quality door hinges and drawer runners are essential. It’s not worth economising on hardware. When it comes to pricing, the cost of hardware can be nearly $100 greater per drawer for top-quality runners. It isn’t essential to have soft close or top-range runners in the wardrobe, but quality basic runners as a minimum are money well spent.