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.


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