Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Selecting a Design Theme

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Selecting a design theme is the NUMBER ONE task that must be agreed before any other design decision are made.
In this instance i wanted to reflect the harbour-side environment, the expensive, quality homes in the area and add a twist of modern Italian sophistication [read expensive looking]. The house had to integrate high energy efficiency, low maintenance and low cost of ownership.

As the house structural design is very contemporary, stepping down the side of a hill, the interior needs to reflect this to provide an harmonious bridge between inside and out. Accepting that I have loved some very modern interiors within the walls of solid traditional structures, this is not one of those structures, and the ‘opposites attract’ does not apply.

My main aim was to differentiate this house from the very nice, but very bland offerings currently in the new home market for this suburb. To take it up a pinch, to give it more edge, without increasing the cost beyond the target price bracket. With some design sense, we can all achieve anything we want with unlimited budget, but the budget limit on this house is 100% unmovable, so I needed to tread carefully.

The final look:

Exterior cladding – white Palliside weatherboards with soft grey joinery – a light and lofty look, with a large honed polished block walls at the entrance anchoring the house with some weight.

Decks – are composite wood; giving a no screws or nails clean sleek look with very even color and texture. Take care in selecting the right product here to ensure you are not skirting your house with highly toxic materials. Some are excellent – some are supposedly recycled cellphones.

Roofing – Long run iron suited to the minimal pitch roof.


Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Scheduling a building program is a daunting enough task for the builder – but most overlook the scheduling required by the homeowner. This is especially so when the house being built or rebuilt is the one the homeowner is living in at present.

  • Concept plans
  • Estimated pricing
  • Surveyor levels
  • Detailed drawings – pre-engineering
  • Engineering design
  • Detailed drawings – post engineering
  • Specification
  • Final Pricing
  • Building Contract
  • Find temporary accomodation
  • Building permit submission
  • Move out
  • Storage
  • Disconnect services
  • Forward phone communications
  • Demolition
  • Site works
  • Building

Alongside these all of these tasks, the home owner has to research all the building materials, finishings, appliances, lighting, heating and ventilation systems, landscape design, hardware, kitchen and bathroom design and materials, flooring, cabinetry….this list goes on and on.

Each one of these items must be confirmed before the detailed drawings are complete if you want to avoid making changes during the build phase. For example, different types of flooring require different substrata thus requiring a change in design, specification, timing and price. Many building companies charge an administration fee for every change.

I have just started this phase and have allowed 2 months to complete my detailed specification. This will then be forwarded to the design team to be used as a guide to the detailed design.

Building a house is a draining experience and can be very demanding on relationships and existing work committments. If you can take time out to work through these decisions on a full time basis, this is recommended.

Choosing a Builder

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The experience you have with a builder during the contact phase is a pretty good indication of what one can expect during the contract phase. I found a lot of variation between the builders and building companies in their initial response to my inquiry and how they dealt with requests for price indications and information on their building process.

For a start – some builders use project managers to oversee the whole project. Whilst this ensures one gets a well oiled building process, it can also add considerably to the cost of building. Just how much of this is also factored into the builders overhead needs to be examined.

Pricing estimates – if you expect a reasonable pricing response, be prepared to provide the builder with all the details they need. And make sure you give the same pack to each builder. Don’t ask for a price estimate until you have vetted the builder for background, quality of work and how they relate to you. It takes time for them to prepare a pricing –
so respect their time and don’t progress to this stage unless they are a real contender.

Ask for a price break down. One very respected building company came back to me with a price well in excess of another respected building company -with no break down or indication as to what was included or excluded from the price. Combined with this fact, and that I had to follow up twice to get the price – that company was firmly marked off my list.

The builder has to communicate well with you – and respect that you are investing a huge amount of cash into your project, and keeping them employed. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable with them at this stage – its time for another line through the prospect list.

In large companies, you will be dealing with the sales person – not the builder. Make sure that this person is well versed in building – and not just a slick presenter. If something goes wrong during the contract phase – make sure you have agreed that they will be available to champion your concerns to their building team. The benefit of working with a big company is that they have the design and build all in one team – but it can be a downside if you get left outside the loop.

So taking notice of how things work at this phase, is a pretty good indicator of how things will work out later. Lay down the ground rules yourself and you can expect a smoother ride when things get more intense.

Leaky House Repair Project Update

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The reality is finally here – I can hide from it no longer. After enduring 14 years over 2 court cases and multiple leaky house related stress and illness I am finally embarking on the rebuild. I will be entering all project data into permanent blog pages – you can access these under the heading on the right Leaky House Project.

In these pages I will be sharing decisions around the selection of different materials and trade providers – builders, suppliers, etc.

The mere thought of going through this process terrifies me – but at least now I am terrified of reality, instead of the potential as it has been to date.

I have gathered my financial resources to cover this disaster – there are no more excuses. I will keep a log of this project from a personal perspective through these blog posts. I hope they help you, as much as your feedback and suggestions help me.

Signing off with “happy building” would be such a lie – so, instead:

Stay Strong

Keeping Your Building Project in Order

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Often it is the simple things that get left out of planning a new home renovation. Like, what is the normal order of activity when building a house. We all get the standard – foundations, floor, walls, roof, exterior, but what about those interim tasks.

The general order of things:

  1. Excavations
  2. Foundations
  3. Concrete floors poured
  4. Framing constructed
  5. Roof on
  6. Windows fitted
  7. Exterior cladding
  8. Plumbing
  9. Wiring
  10. Insulation installed
  11. Doors fitted
  12. Interior lining installed
  13. Cabinets installed in kitchen, bathroom, laundry
  14. Tiling
  15. Final electrical and plumbing work
  16. Painting and finishing
  17. Floor coverings

If you work to this order you should be fine. When discussing items with your builder, ask them to indicate where in the process the action will occur. Keeping track of progress is much easier once you have a general high level expectation of the order of work.

Stacybotrys Mold Home Truths

Friday, April 13th, 2007

There are many misconceptions about one of the most toxic household molds, Stacybotrys. As our project leaky house is contaminated with Stachybotrys, and I personally have suffered from Stachybotrys poisoning, I think it is worth discussing before we end our section on planning.


Stacybotrys mold requires four key elements for growth:

  1. Moisture – from leaky building envelopes, environmental disasters, chronic leaky pipes
  2. Nourishment – high cellulose, low nitrogen building materials
  3. Temperature – generally high temperature fluctuations
  4. Time – takes 1-2 weeks to start growing, compared to most household molds that appear in 1-2 days

The mold can have several appearances based on moisture content – from a thick black-green slimy appearance to a black powder. As other household molds can also share these characteristics confirmation of Stacybotrys is only possible by laboratory test.

The mold can spread by tendrils containing spores. Spores are only released [BUT NOT ALWAYS] when the mold has dried out and is disturbed. Spores will generally only live 24-48 hours, but can release powerful mycotoxic chemicals which cause allergic reactions in SOME people.

Symptoms of Exposure To Stacybotrys
Symptoms vary depending upon the type of duration of exposure.
Long term occupation in a mycotoxic environment can lead to symptoms such as:

MILD – anging from cold and flu symptoms to memory loss, muscle aches, sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis.
MODERATE – intermittent local hair loss, upper respiratory infections, fungal or yeast infections, and urinary tract infections and generalized malaise.
SEVERE – suppression and destruction of the immune system, hemorrhage in the lungs, DNA damage and cancer.

Building Remediation
Fixing a leaky building containing Stacybotrys is not a difficult task but is one that should be treated with extreme caution.

  • Personal protective clothing such as masks, googles, gloves and disposal overalls should be worn
  • Areas being treated must be suitably contained
  • Proper procedures must be floowed, both for protection of those working on the remediation and anyone occupying the building.

For more information on:
Stacybotrys House Mold
Stachybotrys Poisoning
Leaky House Syndrome
Stacybotrys Affected Building Remediation

Project Leaky House Update – March

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

This month I have concentrated on preparing myself for the decisions involving the engagement of a building contractor. I wanted to do this prior to detailed design work, as the type of contractor I use will most likely dictate who does the final design.

I admit that progress this month has been slow, as I have arranged finance for the rebuilding project and done a lot of background work to ensure I make the best possible decisions going forward.

During this process I have researched and documented for you:

  1. Typical remodeling project tasks
  2. Types of building contractors
  3. How to choose a building contractor
  4. A contractor screening process
  5. Types of building contract agreements
  6. Benefits of using your designer as project manager
  7. Project management tips
  8. Managing remododeling project relationships

By going through this process I am now ready to commit to using a large building company to contract for the work. I am using a relatively new construction method technology to give the best possible weathertightness to my home.

Although I have yet to complete the due diligence process, my decision to go with this type of company is based upon:

  1. This company are the experts in this type of construction, most used today on commercial buildings.
  2. They have their own in-house team of designers which are familiar with the construction technology and materials I plan to use
  3. They have a large team of builders so I will be less likely to be left standing if my building contractor is not able to complete the task.
  4. They cannot hide behind a shell corporation if they don’t complete the job satisfactorily, so have more of an invested interest in doing a good job – their brand depends upon it.
  5. I was impressed with the professionalism of their initial sales person, and their style of communication suits my personality and needs

So next month – the aim is to complete the engagement process. At the end of the month I intend to have a contract signed and the building work scheduled.

The Key To Avoiding Building Failure

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

How many of us expect high quality construction at a cheap price? I mean, really,
is it too much to ask for a job to be done professionally at the best possible
quality, and for a reasonable price. Well, it seems the answer is YES!

The saying ‘You can have it good. You can have it cheap. You can have it quick.
But you can only have two of the three any time’. In other words, a good and
cheap building will not be quick. A cheap and quick building will not be good.
Or a good and quick building will not be cheap.

As the owner of your home remodeling and renovation project, you need to decide
right up front which combination of these three elements you want to base your
project on. It is very easy to be very economics focused at the start out phase
of design of any remodeling project, but as construction proceeds and quality
starts to become an issue, suddenly, as building owner you are not happy with
the quality of the workmanship – but often it is too late.

So think very carefully about the cheap and crappy approach – it is what you
are asking for, and it is what you are likely to end up with. Our recent article
on ‘What Causes Building Failure‘ may give you cause for reconsideration before you start your next home remodeling or renovation project.

10 Critical Considerations Managing Your Home Remodeling Project

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

When planning your home remodeling or renovation project one of the main decisions you need to make is who will manage the project. Your Designer, the main builder or you may decide to take on the project management role yourself.

But be warned, it’s not as easy as it may sound. In a recent article we reveal the detail of the 10 most common mistakes made by homeowners acting as remodeling and renovation project managers are:

  1. Insufficient Planning – the success of your project is probably 80% based upon good planning.
  2. Poor Materials Management – Time and Materials planning is a big task but it can be very costly not having the right materials in the correct quantity at the right time.
  3. Not Planning Sufficiently For Contingencies – materials can become unavailable due to warehouses burning down, transport strikes, import problems and even short supply being given to a more valued customer. Labour can become unavailable due to illness, injury or overrun on previous jobs.
  4. Poor Record Keeping – keep and file everything, and keep records well organised. You need to know exactly where you are in terms of time and dollars against the plan specification.
  5. Not Managing The Worksite – there are a number of regulations and workplace safety items that need to be covered during any building project.
  6. Slack Quality Assurance –QA is one task that should NEVER be rushed through or passed over when under time pressure. The downline impacts are too great.
  7. Poor Subcontractor Management – a full home renovation, there can be 30 -40 subcontractors. You need to use a well planned system for engaging, qualifying, contracting and managing your subcontractors.
  8. Poor Communication – Act professionally, and get to know building lingo.
  9. Poor Change Management Control – ensure that any remedy or changes resulting from those errors is agreed, documented and charged to the appropriate party.
  10. Not Keeping Check Of The Budget – projects generally overrun their initial estimate.

Sound scary, read these building project management tips and make an informed decision on this important role. For me – I am a qualified project manager, have architectural design training and experience, but for the sheer convenience of being able to continue a full time consulting job, I am leaving to the builder to manage the contract; but will ensure that key QA points are independently assessed.

Are You Suffering From Renovationitis?

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Hi, my name is Gail and I suffer from renovationitis.

This challenging illness means that I have been inflicted with a renovation against my will, and am now fighting the mental and physical symptoms of renovationitis. I caught this illness from an unscrupulous vendor who sold me a ‘leaky house’.

Leaky houses are now known to infect the owner with years of mental distress as they fight their way through court battles and rebuilding, crawling step by step to regain their health and the health of their houses.

Other sufferers from renovationitis have caught the illness following plans to remodel their homes. Remodeling is accompanied by hopes of larger more enjoyable living spaces. Renovations are more likely to be merely repairing what was once a building structure of good health. In many cases, during remodeling projects, building illness is found, and renovations must be added to the project.

There is no known cure for renovationitis, but those who have suffered from this illness, whether transmitted from someone else or self infected, are aware of the debilitating symptoms.

  • Extreme mental stress
  • Reduction of strength of bank balance from escalating costs
  • Marital and relationship problems
  • Chaotic living environment
  • Chronic court cases
  • Poor sleep or lack of sleep
  • Loss of weekends
  • Poor work performance
  • Obsession with lack of progress made in home rebuild
  • Tendencies to mental images of imparting extreme harm to ones builder or subcontractors
  • Loss of faith in the power of a contract
  • Reduction in communication skills – increasing problems making yourself heard to the builder

If you suffer from more than three of the above, then you are most likely suffering from renovationitis.

Many of these symptoms are shared by remodellers. The distinguishing factor is the severity of lack of control over the initial infection.

How to Cure Renovationitis

The only known cure for renovationitis is completion of the project and sign off of the compliance certificate.

Sufferers have found the following to be helpful in times when the symptoms are at their worst.

  • Learn everything you can about renovations from this renovations & remodeling site.
  • Keep your wine cellar well stocked. Chocolate is also known to help in milder breakouts.
  • Explain to family members that you will show times of extreme insanity and are not to be approached or reproached at these times.
  • Have an emergency contact number to your best friend on hand at all times.
  • Check up on everything – Trust nobody that the job will be done correctly first time.
  • Have a support group of other renovators [past or present] that fully understand how debilitating this illness is.

Remodeling Renovations Support Group

Members of the Renovations Support Group are all here to help you, so when things get really bad, or if you are unsure as to whether you are recovering or getting worse, then post a comment on this blog and we will all rally around to protect you. We welcome membership from other sufferers, builders, contractors, designers or anyone else connected with the renovation industry that may be able to assist our members. Membership is free. Just sign up at

Renovating Ranter