Getting Your Head In the Game

September 3rd, 2010

A big part of being able to manage getting through the rebuild of a leaky house is getting your head in the game – in the right way. One has to put all the emotions around the huge amount of money one is being forced to spend with no or little ROI, the anguish and anger at the two biggest parties at fault – BRANZ and Hardies at getting away totally scot free in this mess, the embarrassment of having to potentially downgrade your home to pay off the cost, the injustice of the whole thing – it all has to be put aside. Easier said than done – but essential.

One has to get ones head in the game in a positive way and focus on what can be done each day in four key areas:

  1. To move the project forward
  2. To make one smile
  3. To care for ones health
  4. To plan for life beyond the leaky house

Avoid talking about the project in negative terms to anyone – even all those good intending friends who are attempting to show sympathy and support – your world will become overly focused on the negative emotions surrounding the project. Instead, simply thank them for inquiring and say you would rather not ruin your day by talking about it and segue into a more positive subject.

Don’t think of the financial cost – there is nothing that can be done about that. Instead, focus on not paying in emotional costs, health costs and relationship costs. These are valuable assets in your life well worth protecting at least as much, if not more than your bank account.

Use mind tricks to keep yourself going – who cares if everyone else thinks you are away with the fairies. If it gets you through – do it. You can quickly regain your intellectual reputation after the project is finished.

Find every opportunity to smile – even when you wake up in the morning at 4am with your gut churning. Smiling seems to release hormones that have a calming nature and it is amazing how much more relaxed you feel.

Relax every chance you get – this is not a time to take on other projects in an attempt to divert your attention. Your body and mind need total relaxation. Even when you think you have it mentally covered – your body knows about your lie, and reacts accordingly.

Live one day at a time – none of us can be sure if we are going to still be alive at the end of the day, so there is no point worrying about tomorrow. And who knows – something good may just happen, even if you think your life at this moment is doomed forever.

Stay Strong

Leaky House Repair Project Update

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

Are There Dangers Lurking Inside The Walls of Your Home?

February 11th, 2010

Are you aware of how much impact electromagnetic fields have on your health? I’m not talking about just the scaremongering about microwave ovens and cellphones, but about anything electrical. Just about every wall in your house has electrical wire running through it – we all live in a warren of EMFs – loading our bodies with toxins, making us tired, more prone to illness and robbing our bodies of vital energy.

I just came across a terrific set of free online learning programs about EMFs and other toxic elements in the home and wanted to share them with you.

Check out these Building Biology courses at

They could save your life!

Selecting Bathroom Hardware Fittings

November 1st, 2009

I was standing in the bathroom fittings department of a large building supplier, and was pondering why one shower mixer cost $99 and another $347. Surely this could not all be down to the design elements – incidentially, the design of the $99 fitting was better than many at around $200.

So I asked the sales person and struck gold – he was so knowledgeable and willing to put in the time, even after I told him I was just in the scouting phase.

I was in a dilemna. One of my shower mixers had stopped working – the hot water would not come through. I didn’t want to invest a lot of money in a fitting that may only be in use for 6-9 months, yet I wasn’t ready to commit to buying a complete matching suite of fittings for 2 bathrooms + 2 cloakrooms. Until the full building price for the rebuild was more ‘reliable’ – which is probably after we are halfway through the rebuild’ I didn’t know whether I would be able to complete the bathroom refits during the rebuild or at a later date.

This is what he shared with me:

Shower Mixer – The cheaper fittings generally have the same functionality as that more expensive fittings, however the copper used is a cheaper grade, and not as durable. In addition, the warranty on lower cost options were on a 12 month ‘return to store’ basis. This means if something goes awry, you have to dismantle the shower, take it back to the supplier, who in turn send it to the manufacturer. In the meanwhile, you are without a shower for a few weeks. More expensive items are sold on a 5 year ‘on site repair’ basis – no fuss. The supplier arranges for the manufacturers remediation crew to fix or replace the unit at your house.

Shower Heads – these are designed for either pressurized or mains pressure systems. The way you can tell which system you are on is by turning on a shower. Now turn on another tap in the house. If the pressure in the shower reduces significantly, then you are on a pressurized system. In a mains pressure system there will only be a slight drop.

Also watch the layout of the holes. Some have a ring of holes on the outer rim, then another close to the center – this ends up giving a very uneven flow of water. More modern heads have a ‘rain water’ system where a double hole is used so that the two streams of water collide to reduce their speed from needly piercing velocity. If you like to use your shower to massage your shoulders – get a pulse system, but make sure the layout of the holes is not compromised.

Selecting the Best Rebuild Strategy

October 26th, 2009

In considering the rebuild I had to look at the overall strategy:

  1. Tear it all down and start from scratch
  2. Repair current house as is – add nothing new
  3. Repair current house, plus add a little

Start From Scratch

In considering tearing down the whole house and rebuilding from scratch, I looked at whether i could build something substantially different from the current design, it confirmed that the current layout is the best for the site. Hence there would not be a great value add by starting from scratch.

Repair Current House As Is

This would be extremely depressing. Spending over $200k for something that looks exactly the same – no value add is not something I can mentally handle.

Repair Plus

The third strategy – tear down all the rotting parts of the house, redesign those areas that were leaking to prevent further problems, and add a few extras to make me feel like I was getting something new for all my pain.

The third option was definitely the most appealing. After years of court battles and trying to work out how to finance the rebuild after paying out the legal fees, I decided that I would allow myself a limited budget to add a few improvements.

For instance – the kitchen will need to be pulled out and will most likely be further damaged – so a new kitchen is a good start

The upstairs main living floor does not have a visitor cloakroom. Instead it has lobby access to my personal en-suite bathroom. Fortunately this bathroom is a good size and with a little additional floorspace added – I can close off the existing toilet, add a handbasin and voila – a new cloakroom. The additional floor space can be used to add a new toilet into the ensuite, plus convert the existing shower into a bath/shower combo.

The downstairs bathroom [bath+Shower] has a separate toilet that is not accessible to the main bathroom – since it is immediately below the upstairs bathroom, the identical additional floor space can be used to add a toilet into this bathroom.

Obviously, this will all cost more than my limited overspend budget, but if i focus on getting the additional floorspace built, the internal fittings can remain where they are and the internal structure can be added bathroom by bathroom at a later date.

As for the kitchen – since i don’t want a kitchent that is conservative – I don’t need to buy expensive stone, granite or marble countertops – hence i have a sleek design that should be a real bonus to the house for less than $10,000, including appliances. This also gives me the opportunity to totally redesign the layout, which could certainly be improved from an entertainers perspective.

Back Into Full Rebuild Design Mode

October 14th, 2009

I cannot believe it has been a year since I posted on my project. The delay is due to an injury preventing me from working, thus earning the money to complete the project. However, now that I am recovered enough to start a new line of work that will not aggravate the injury, i have been busy sorting through the options, getting prices etc.

In the following posts I will outline the considerations in the overall strategy
The lessons learned from hardware and building manufacturers in selecting the right products
The economic options for selecting a building firm that you can trust will not go broke [with your money] before they finish the job

Thanks for you patience

Choosing Joinery For Home Renovations & New Homes

October 17th, 2008

Joinery is a major issue in the leaky house syndrome, so I thought I would start with this material investigation first. There are several areas to consider:

  1. The building standard for my local region
  2. The type of finish used
  3. The design components that ensure weather tightness
  4. The expertise required for installation without damaging the product
  5. The thermal and noise protection properties of the glass.

Failure in Joinery in Leaky Homes

The main areas of failure include:

  1. Inadequate head flashing
  2. Inadequate side flashing
  3. Too much reliance on sealants for weathertightness to the building envelope – these sealants fail within 4-5 years
  4. No recessing of windows – the flush window design in many modern homes offers little, if no protection from driving wind and capillary action
  5. Poor joinery ventilation and water egress – the design of joinery should ensure that any moisture build up or water access is able to escape outside of the building envelope

I am investigating the various anodised and powder coated aluminium joinery products available, and how to tell good quality joinery from cheaper, inferior options without relying on price alone. Check out the new updates in the joinery section of the Remodeling Renovations Website:

Global Decisions In Fixing A Leaky House

October 13th, 2008

When fixing a house suffering from leaky house syndrome, there are some high level considerations that must be made. On my rebuild project this includes:

  • Rebuild or Repair
  • Joinery Options
  • Cladding Options
  • Roof Design and Materials

Rebuild or Repair

Is it worth repairing the house or should I rebuild a completely new home? With such stigma attached to repaired leaky houses, it is worth investigating with local real estate agents the financial impact of the stigma attached to leaky homes.

A rough calculation to rebuild the house from scratch is around $320,000. This does not include demolition of the existing house, or factor in any parts that are reusable. Reusable items include the floor, any unaffected structural elements, joinery, bathroom fittings etc. Even should I replace all joinery, it may be more cost effective to reuse the glass in the existing joinery, if it meets thermal requirements.

If the design of the house is not really to your liking, rebuilding is a great option. Unfortunately, my house is a great design for the site, so there will be virtually no design changes in rebuilding to take advantage of. However, even a few minor changes in kitchens and bathrooms, and changing the size and location of windows can make a big impact to the living enjoyment of the home.

Estimates to rebuild are in the range of $180,000 – $250,000 so one has to consider if the additional investment is worth while. With such a wide range, this is a tough decision. At $180,000 I would repair, at $250,000 I will rebuild. So this is a decision that really can only be made once the final costs are confirmed – and that may not be until they start demolition. Hence, my current view is that since the building of a new home will be almost identical in design to a repaired home, and any differences can be incorporated into a repaired home with minimal extra cost, I will design for a total rebuild and then start cutting the cost back once we ascertain what parts are reusable.

Building Acts and Trade Licensing

The Building Act in NZ was updated in 2004. This new Act includes provisions specifically to improve weather tightness and also incorporates energy efficiency items such as insulation specifications for wall, roofs and windows.

With the climatic changes in NZ over the past 5 years, we are experiencing more extreme conditions. The summers are hotter in the northern regions and the winters colder in the southern regions.

Another consideration is with trade licensing. This will provide some form of checking option for consumers that their tradesmen are qualified. From November 2007, design and building practitioners will be able to start applying to be licensed under the government’s licensed building practitioner scheme. A public register will be able online.

In addition, consumers will be able to make complaints to the Building Practitioners Board about licensed building practitioners if they carry out substandard work. Not every builder will have to have a license but at least you have the option of knowing who has and who has not.

In my case, building will hopefully start around the time this comes into effect, so I will not be able to take advantage of pre-checking, but it does give me more options if I have a problem with the builder and subs.

Next: Checking Joinery Options

The Leaky House Repair Project is Back On!

October 9th, 2008

I am about to start winding up my leaky house repair project again. I have been out of action with this remedy for several years now due to:

  • The funds I received to repair my leaky house were grossly under estimated by Prendos, hence after paying off the lawyer there was only around a 15-20% of the estimated true cost to fix the house
  • The new standards around weather tightness were not robust enough for me to be sure that they would be permanent and my house would comply for at least 25 years
  • There was so much competition in the builder market that it was near impossible to get a builder, and if you did, you would pay high prices
  • There is a current investigation into why builders are charging so much to fix leaky homes. This might expose those who have been taking too much advantage of the situation.
  • The collapse of around 20 finance companies in NZ, including one which had $55,000 of the funds I had saved towards fixing my leaking house
  • After taking off some time to heal mentally from the 8.5 years of hell going through court cases, I injured my arm, preventing me from going back to work for nearly 2 years – hence my savings are somewhat depleted

BUT!!! I am a determined person who will succeed in spite of this – and so it is time to start revamping my plans to rebuild this house and get this monster monkey off my back.

In the interim I have not been idle. I have been investigating options:

  1. Do I repair or completely rebuild? – there are cost and design issues to consider
  2. How can I integrate Green building techniques into my house without significantly increasing the cost ? – this may be a case of building in the option to change or add elements later
  3. Waiting for building costs to get off the high – the building industry is certainly slowing now so I will hopefully have better options

Learn from past rebuilds – many of the initial leaky house repairs are failing again. In fact – I have a deck and entrance area that was built AFTER the leaky house syndrome was publicised and it now has failed – so back to Court for a second time

New Methods – there are some great new technologies and building materials that have come onto the market in the past few years which are ideal for rebuilding. We will cover these in more detail later.

Coming Next: Investigating New Materials

Keeping Your Building Project in Order

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.