Nuts and Bolts

So, on to the nuts and bolts of what I’m doing here on my block. I’m building a smallish cottage of very simple design, with an attached greenhouse (the ‘luxury’ feature of the build). Even though the design of the house is really simple, as you discover when you start building a house, there are a LOT of things to think about. Building is all about finding the first thing. You may know all the steps required, but you need to find out which is the one that needs doing first. For example, on my build, it’s the road. I need the road so I can bring in the concrete trucks for pouring the slab – but in between the road and the slab pour I have to line up the builder to mark out the slab, finalise my waste water plans with the council, book the plumber in for the plumb-in-slab, and hire someone to dig the footings and the trenching for the plumbing. And I have to organise all this despite never having built before, and having pretty much zero building knowledge!

There are big traps for unwary players. The first contractor I hired I got burnt badly by, to the tune of about $10,000. He was in charge of two major jobs, putting in the road and excavating the house site, and both ended up being unusable. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a house site that’s had too much excavated, but it kind of looks like someone dug a dam where your house is meant to be. And the section of road he did started to fall apart after one month. Not good!

My advice is, especially in Tasmania, ALWAYS go off recommendations. I’m doing that now and finding a much better standard of contractors. I finally got my road done properly (at great cost) so at least I don’t have to trudge up ¾ km of muddy clay road every day (only a 4wd can get down the drive in the wet, and my tiny city car hasn’t a hope of making it).

I have to say that, had I known what I was getting myself into with owner-building, I may have decided to just buy a house on acreage instead. But when I was looking at the start they were all just a little bit out of reach financially. Of course, that’s before I discovered just how much building my house to completion is really going to cost – there are so many extra expenses I wasn’t planning on, and the cost at this stage has blown out to at least 50% of what I originally thought. And getting the extra finance could be tricky because, as I am finding out, the banks HATE lending to owner builders! So here I am, facing the prospect of camping on my block through a frosty mountain winter, and cobbling together the money to finish my house through a combination of credit cards, personal loans, and the kindness of friends. Stay tuned, things should get interesting!

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