Renovating an Old Terrace House | Undercover Architect Member Review

Candace and her husband bought a terrace house as an investment property and plan to do a renovation project with the help of Undercover Architect’s course, Home Design Masterclass.

Listen as she shares her journey with us of getting ready to renovate an old terrace house, and working with her builder husband, whilst managing 3 kids under 5!

I’m Candace from Sydney, and I’m married to a carpenter / builder. We have three children under the age of five, so life is really busy. And we’ve just bought an investment property. It’s an old terrace in Redfern.

So, it’s in an older part of Sydney closer to the city. And it’s a five metre wide terrace that we will be building up on. I guess when we first looked at it, you think, well there’s only kind of one way to go up. But since learning everything that I’ve learned, and obviously with my husband’s skills, there’s really tricky and creative ways to bring in light, considering it’s kind of locked on either side, with all the other terraces. And yeah, it’s exciting.

What challenges were you worried about before you started?

So the challenge for me was just my lack of knowledge and understanding. So obviously, my husband and I have heaps of conversations about things, and I have learned a lot. But, you know, being part of Amelia, the UA community and doing the Home Design Masterclass, has really enabled me to 100% understand what’s going on.

So, to the point where we currently rent, it’s just, it’s always felt terrible, like there’s no light, the aspect is really terrible, but I just thought it was that. But then after doing the Course, and realising that, you know, there should be certain distances around the dishwasher, and the fridge shouldn’t open up to the entrance of the kitchen, and all of these things, that’s why it feels so bad in here. Because of all the “To Don’t” is exactly how the kitchen where I currently live is. So just knowing those little things when we go forward.

And, you know, when I look at the plans now, I know what I’m looking at. And I feel more empowered to, I guess, not just be the ‘nod yes wife’ of the builder, sort of thing. Like I really have valid points to make because I understand what I’m looking at now.

And just something simple that we’ve asked the Architect, that he doesn’t get any clients asking, and I learned this through my UA experience, and that’s the aspect and the orientation of the properties. So he was really, really, I guess, what was he? He was shocked that we asked it! And that’s the reason why we’d like him as an Architect because he is aware of those things. 

Because I think, if it was in the wrong way, and you didn’t pay attention to that stuff. And somewhere where you’re going to live forever and have, like, this great design, and then go to live in it and there’s no light or you know, things don’t work. It would be devastating. Absolutely devastating. And I guess you don’t know until you are actually in there, for most people.

How has the Undercover Architect course helped you with your builder-husband?

I feel like we had, we definitely had better conversations. Because he did ask me some questions, so I think there was some checking, like, obviously, there’s things that he knows, but he’s also you know, he’s been in the industry for 20 years.

But every build is different, and every client is different, working with every Architect is different. So he’s always learning,I guess, you know, things that were done 10 years ago that aren’t done now. And yes, that always leaves for really interesting conversations as to what I’m learning versus, you know, what he’s experiencing. And, you know, even to the point where people, some clients that he works with, and Architects that he may work with, he comes in as an industry expert because of all of the knowledge that he’s got. 

And it was definitely all the stuff that Amelia talks about. So it kind of makes me love him and trust him even more too, because I hear all the things that he said, and then I’m learning it for myself through Undercover Architect.

Has the Undercover Architect course helped your budget?

I feel the course has 100% helped with that. It’s also something that my partner’s really strict with as well.

So you know, like, choosing materials, and just, I guess, working with professionals that accurately quote is a big thing. So, I haven’t personally experienced this, but I’ve definitely experienced it through, I guess, the bidding process with my husband or the tendering process, sorry, with my husband, where, you know, he’ll be out priced by a stupid amount of money, and it’s only because everything’s not included on the quote. And then, you know, it’s all of these variations that happen later. 

And you know, so many times you’ll get a call up later to go back and fix the work that wasn’t done because it wasn’t on the scope. So, it was good for me to reiterate that, and learn that through Amelia in Undercover Architect.

But I think it’s really important that, you know, people that don’t actually have that skill, it’s invaluable in regards to that protection that it it gives you. The knowledge, so that you know what you’re looking at on a quote.  I tell everybody that I know that talks about building or that I know is going to renovate to jump on her website. And yeah, she’s very, very generous in everything that she shares. 

So I feel like you get so much knowledge just from watching her, her social media platforms. And then to actually experience even more through the paid course, which is so, so generous.

Why did you decide to join the Undercover Architect Course?

I really was genuinely curious about knowing the nitty gritty and the way that she explains it, and the knowledge that I gained is just in the simple, kind of layman’s term. So, really easy to understand, but really in depth on the same token, and I just really wanted to dive in. 

I guess, leading into this renovation project, and the thought that this is something we’re going to continue to do, you know, a few times. This is what we’ve decided is going to be our financial, sort of retirement, sort of plan, is to use his skills.

And I thought, if that’s something that we’re going to do, then I need to, for my own personal, I guess, confidence and security, just needed to learn, you know, at a deeper level.

What have you learned because of this Undercover Architect course?

So we’ve done a renovation before. My husband was, this was 10 years ago, so he was even more fresh. I had no idea what was going on. My mother-in-law now lives in that house. There’s definitely things through learning from the course, that I now look at that project, and like oh ok, and yeah, this is why this feels like this. The bench space to the island bench is definitely not big enough, we should have cut it down.

In regards to the projects that we’re about to do, I think because we’ve had, we’ve had, an Architect involved, but then also we’ve had really in depth conversations through the whole thing with kind of being on the same page. Or I’ve put in input, or he’s put in input. Sort of to-and-fro, if that makes sense. So it’s definitely enhanced my experience through it for sure.

What are you doing differently because of what you’ve learned?

I love a freestanding bath, and in any pictures that I come across or any, you know, designing bathroom showrooms, the freestanding bath will always be placed up against the wall. 

Now, that’s how we did it in the project that we did about 10 years ago: is the freestanding bath, the beautiful freestanding bath, and it’s placed up against the wall. So Amelia explains in the Home Design Masterclass, that you need to bring it out or build it into, I think the word ‘a hob’ or something I’m not too sure of exact terminology, and just talking about being able to clean behind the bath. Like, well, of course. 

So my mother-in-law must break her back because she’s a clean freak. To get the broom and everything in behind there. And it’s just honestly not something that I’d ever thought about until I’d done the Course. And of course, how would you get behind the bath because there’s always water going there to clean it. So yeah, that’s probably my biggest takeaway, because I love the freestanding baths. 

There’s so many things like that Amelia talks about. The dishwasher not being next to your cooking space, and in a lot of the kit homes, definitely even I think, even the newer day sort of kit homes you know, I guess, they try and compact everything. 

But definitely in the house that we live in now, you’ve got your stove, and then on the right angle there you’ve got the dishwasher, and then you’ve got the big void of a corner space. And it’s like well, that is such a big void of wasted space. The dishwasher’s there, so you can’t be cooking while you’re doing dishwasher. So yeah, all those things have just been amazing to learn because I would never even have thought of, you know, how much of a wasted space those corner, sort of, where thebenches turn into a corner in a kitchen. 

I think the course as well, as you go through it, it picks apart every single room in detail. So it forces you to think about the design of those rooms.

But also then on the flip side, like who’s the right person in there and how they like, what sort of, I guess, what result do I want, to be able to then talk to that tradesperson who’s going to create it, if that makes sense. Where, if you kind of looking at a plan, or a room and you vaguely know what you want, it’s easy to feel bamboozled when this tradesperson is throwing all of their trade speak out.

But because with the Course, you go through every single room in detail, it’s almost like you walk into that room and you live in it before you’ve even built it if that makes sense. So your picture is a lot clearer.

Did you have a favourite part of the Undercover Architect course?

Because I love a good kitchen and I’ve always had an ideal kitchen planned in my head for my forever home. And now that I’ve got like, the nitty gritty information on measurements and having spaces for all your appliances to live. And that I’m uber, uber excited for my forever home, so that you know, I do have all these places. So it was definitely my favourite. My most favourite.

That’s because I love the kitchen. We spend, as a family, all of our time in the kitchen. So even the simple thing of… Amelia spoke about somewhere for your keys to go consistently, and we’ve got that where we live now. But it’s not really designed for that. So it looks horrible. It’s not neat.

And paperwork! Some of the paperwork to go on a kitchen bench, because you know, you’ve always got that pile of bills or the pile of something somewhere. And they always do just like a random pile that happens. You’re just thinking, okay well, when we do design, we do have to think of that stuff. And that would make me so happy to have somewhere for all that stuff to go and not be in view. 

Yeah, so that’s why I love the kitchen. One, because we spend a lot of time there. And there was heaps of cool tips like that in there. 

Yeah, so that’s definitely where we celebrate life, is in our kitchen. So we really learned a lot from that. And I will keep going back and listening to it as we get closer to kind of thinking of it as a forever home versus a renovation.

What would you say to others thinking of joining this Undercover Architect course?

Yeah, so they definitely save money, I know that for sure! And they probably, they definitely would be a lot happier living in their space because of it as well. I don’t think you’d find a place after doing the courses, where you’d be in your home where it just doesn’t feel right or I don’t know or, you know, this didn’t work or where are we going to put the couch? You know, we didn’t think about the couch coming out to here and how we’re going to walk through.

Because it’s broken down, because the course is broken down into really specific areas of the home, it’s really easy to digest. So it just makes sense from the beginning. Each module just makes sense from beginning to the end. 

And I think I mentioned that before, where you actually start creating, so even the times when I wasn’t writing notes or trying to draw something up, I was still building this room in my head while listening. And even then, it just makes it feel, it makes it feel real. 

So then, you know, another idea might pop up or Amelia might then add a story about a client … where it makes you think about things that you never would have even have thought about. And to consider things that you couldn’t have possibly considered unless you were living in that room.

Which is why I guess, I would definitely guarantee that by doing the courses, you’re going to be a lot happier in your home than not doing them. Because you do feel like you live in those spaces before they’re even built, if that makes sense.
The post Renovating an Old Terrace House | Undercover Architect Member Review appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Top Tips for Bathroom Design

Getting it right in your bathroom design is important so you create a space that’s functional and feels great.

Mistakes can be expensive to rectify, and so avoiding them is worthwhile! Learn more with these top tips.

Bathrooms can be a really cost-intensive area of any renovation or new build project, so you want to make sure the investment is worthwhile.

Bathrooms are also rooms that need to be functional, easy to clean, plus work for us as the places we visit at the beginning and end of our days.

Over the years, bathrooms have become more and more luxurious. 

And there’s so many ways you can have fun, or express your aesthetic preferences, or create a relaxing haven in your bathroom design.

However, homeowners still get some of the basics wrong, which can be incredibly frustrating when it’s such a permanent room, and such a costly room to fix or refurbish.

So, let me share 5 top tips with you, when it comes to functional bathroom design.

#1 Plan the bathroom for privacy overall

Design the location of the bathroom and the access to it, so it maintains privacy, even with the door open.

This is one of the reasons I always suggest locating the toilet behind the door. That way, even if someone is sitting on it when the door opens, they’re not exposed straight away.

Consider what you’ll see in the bathroom when the door is open. It’s generally possible (based on how you plan the bathroom itself) to pull the door off the hallway, and further into the space.

For the ensuite, avoid being able to see into it from the pillow of your bed. This will help protect privacy, create a more restful master bedroom, and also avoid the light of the ensuite waking whoever is in bed when one of you goes to the loo in the middle of the night.

#2 Position the fixtures you plan to have in your bathroom design

Any bathroom will include large sanitaryware items, such as the toilet, vanity, bath and shower.

However, there’ll also be smaller (but just as necessary) items, such as the towel rails, hand towel rails, toilet roll holder, robe hooks, and mirror.

Think about the location of these items as you’re designing the layout of the bathroom, and then ensure they’re located on drawings so your builder knows where they go.

That way, you’ll avoid assumptions being made on site, and having them ending up in less-than-ideal locations.

A special tip for the toilet roll holder: design the bathroom so it can be positioned beside you (as opposed to behind you) when sitting on the loo.

It’s awkward to have to rotate 180 degrees to grab the toilet paper. Fixing it to a shower screen or on the side of the vanity is not a great solution – so look to have a wall beside the toilet if you can.

#3 Pay attention to door swings and openings in your bathroom design

In any room, the way the door swings open ‘reveals’ what’s in the room. It also takes up space within the room as it swings open.

Review the way your doors access the bathrooms in your home, and consider what will be ‘revealed’ as those doors are opened.

Plus, plan for ease of access, and avoid the door swing clashing with where someone may be standing at the vanity, or the space where a shower door may be opening into as well.

Don’t forget the door stops. They can be located on the floor if you don’t want the door bashing into the toilet (or someone’s knees when sitting on it).

Cavity sliders can be a space-saving solution, however they generally require ‘double-studding’ (adding another thickness of wall framing) so you have a solid wall on which to tile and add fixtures, so consider that with your dimensions.

#4 Details matter in smaller spaces when functionality is required

Bathrooms are an area where detail design helps the space thrive. When it comes to bathrooms, so many of the detailed decisions need to be considered during the design phase, so they’re on your drawings right at the start of construction.

Once the bathroom is lined and waterproofed, it can be costly to make changes and involve re-doing a lot of completed work.

Details you need to think about include floor set-downs so you can have flush floor levels into your bathroom; where powerpoints will be located, your tile setout, and where floor wastes and water supply is positioned.

If you want a wall-hung vanity, decide that before your drawings are complete.

The best way to show these details (plus the positions of everything in the room, including the extent and set out of your tiling) is with interior elevations of your bathroom itself.

#5 Design the lighting in your bathroom: natural and night-time

Bathrooms are one of the spaces that can tolerate being on the western side of your home, because their use means they can tolerate that hotter setting sun, and it enables you to prioritise the location of other spaces in the home that you spend more time in (and getting those spaces to work better for orientation).

However, for bathrooms to work, they need good quality light.

Natural light and ventilation is very useful for a bathroom – not only for functionality, but also for dealing with humidity in those spaces.

For electric lighting, design a solution that gives functionality (for task-based needs such as skin care, putting on makeup etc), and also creates a relaxing mood when needed (a good bath with a book!)

Create flexibility in your lighting situation to achieve this. This can also be lovely for adding a particular design element to your bathroom too (a feature light, for example, that’s not for task lighting, but works for creating that mood).

There’s some tips for you, and I hope you find this helpful.

There can be a lot to consider when it comes to bathroom design, however, so here’s some extra resources for you to help with your bathroom design >>>

Episode 06 [#23] | Bathrooms, ensuites and powder roomsEpisode 11 [#144] | Shopping online for tiles with TileCloudEpisode 13 [#152] | Interior design for your bathroomEpisode 15 [#154] | Choosing your bathroom fixtures with Reece

Inside Interior Design 101, I have a special lesson on bathroom layout, and also walk you through some detailed drawings to highlight what they look like.

And, in Home Design Masterclass, there’s a 45 min video on bathroom design, with example layouts and specific dimensions to consider.

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN
The post Top Tips for Bathroom Design appeared first on Undercover Architect.

3 Tips to Create a Sustainable Home

Want 3 tips to create a sustainable home? 

Sustainable design and construction can feel like a minefield at times, but doesn’t have to be. So here’s my tips.

Are you wanting to create a sustainable home that improves your health, and the health of the planet?

Having the goal to create a sustainable home can start out well. Lots of excitement about how your design and decisions are going to enable you to live in a home that supports your health and well-being, is lower cost to heat and cool, and takes care of the planet.

However, as many homeowners tell me, it can be a bit of a battle.

Sometimes that involves hunting and hunting for the right builder (because many will tell you it’s simply more expensive to create a sustainable home).

Sometimes it can feel like getting a university degree in sustainability, so you can dig through all the greenwash as you do your research.

And sometimes it can simply mean that you have to stick to your goals and your dreams, and keep pushing to get the right team, the right approach, and the right outcome.

Here’s my 3 tips to create a sustainable home.

#1 A sustainable home doesn’t have to be more expensive

Inside my ‘Happy Home Design’ mini-course, I share a series of videos with my six ‘S’ of sustainable design.

The first of these is Site – and getting your design to suit the unique conditions of your site, its orientation and it’s other natural assets – goes a LONG way to creating a sustainable outcome.

Doing this shouldn’t cost anymore than stuffing it up. Because you’re building the walls anyway. It’s simply about understanding how you’ll put those walls in the right place to suit the specifics of your site. (Season 1 of the podcast is perfect for this).

Beyond passive solar design itself, there are schemes and processes to help you navigate this even further, such as GreenSmart and others (Josh Byrne’s 10 star home in Perth is an example of a home that used this). This includes Passive House too (check out the podcast episodes on Passive House if you’re interested).

#2 You’ll need to work out your priorities

I’m yet to find a material or product that ticks ALL the sustainability boxes. (Because – and this may be cheeky – but if we’re really frank about sustainability and using less – we probably wouldn’t be building or renovating at all).

There are, however, a lot of ways you can make more sustainable choices when it comes to building and renovating. And so, if you can work out what’s important to you, what is aligned with your values, or your family’s needs, then you’ll have better clarity for the criteria to use, to assess your selections.

It may be that all materials need to improve the indoor air quality of your home, and be low tox. Perhaps you want to source local products only, and lower your carbon footprint. Maybe it’s that you want to ensure all materials can be recycled at their end of life (like Joost Bakker’s Fed Square project).

There are LOADS of metrics when it comes to sustainability. 

I discuss some of the terminology you’ll hear in this podcast episode, to help you understand it better. However, think about what you hold as your priorities, and it will help you navigate the journey more simply.

#3 You’ll most likely need to dig deeper than the rating systems

You only have to dive into the food industry and learn a bit about the “Heart tick” or the star rating on foods, to know that rating systems have their flaws.

The construction industry rating systems can have similar challenges. And so, it’s essential you interrogate the way that products have been rated and ranked, and understand the metrics being measured.

Having someone on your team who dives deep into this information all the time can be super helpful. 

It may be a sustainably focussed architect or interior designer, a specialist consultant, or a building biologist. This will vary based on your needs, your budget, and the help you need.

If you want to go it alone, be prepared to do a lot of digging and research, and ask lots of questions. It really is the only way to find out the truth of materials and products, and whether they’re what they seem.

Why isn’t it easier?

It can be.

However, accessing expert help can be critical in simplifying things for you. This may be through hiring a specific consultant for your project, or through researching via an up-to-date resource written by someone who is SUPER passionate about this work, and has done the legwork for you.

Kate Hamblet’s ‘Healthy Home Guide’ is great for US-based homeowners. Melissa Wittig’s ‘The Smart Living Handbook’ is a resource for Aussie-based homeowners. 

And there’s publications such as Sanctuary Magazine and the Renew website. 

Plus, you can visit homes during Sustainable House Open Day or International Passive House Open Day. There’s lots of resources and opportunities like this that can be incredibly helpful.

What’s really important, is to choose a team that’s aligned with your sustainability goals, because then you won’t have to fight for your choices and beliefs in your own project.

Many homeowners make the mistake of choosing a builder or designer who doesn’t prioritise sustainability, and then they’re having to convince them of why these considerations are important.

Architects Declare and Builders Declare can be a good place to find architects and builders making a public declaration of their commitment to sustainability.

And hubs like The Conscious Space and Planitree are gaining membership and momentum with likeminded businesses signing up.

Lastly, remember the power you have – it’s in your pocket $$

The more we demand to know where our products come from, how they’re made, what they’re like to live with, and what happens at their end of life – and make our spending decisions based on that information – the more the industry will change.

It will have to. Our dollar, and what we spend it on, can drive HUGE change.

Your home can create big change for you – and for all of us. I’m super excited about that – and I hope you are too.

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN
The post 3 Tips to Create a Sustainable Home appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Renovating and repairing a coastal home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Linda was renovating a coastal home. With leaks and other issues, she wanted to ensure she could get it right.

Listen as Linda shares more about her renovating and repairing journey, how she was able to work better with her builder, and the help she’s been able to access through her membership in Undercover Architect’s online courses.

My name is Linda. I live in Kiama, New South Wales in Australia, which is a small coastal town, about two hours south of Sydney. I undertook some home renovations last year. 

Tell us a bit about your project

So I live in a relatively new house, so it was only five years old. But it had a significant issue with leaking from the upstairs, down into the main bit of the house. And because I live so close to the coast, it’s quite windy, the weather is quite wild. And when it rains, it rains quite heavily. So this was a really big problem.

So the renovation was about covering in the balcony to extend it to be part of the house. And because of the problems that I’d had with the leaking, I wanted to make sure it was absolutely watertight, and gale proof and all those sorts of things, because the weather is pretty wild, right here. But at the worst of it, I’d say look, I got 100mm outside and 40 litres inside. You know, just to help explain the context. 

What concerns did you have before you started?

So I had – you can appreciate because of my experience, I had thought I’d bought a new house, and therefore it would be solid. And you know, I wouldn’t have to worry about major repairs or even a renovation to be fair. And that whole experience made me incredibly nervous, because the builder that originally built the house denied any responsibility for the leak. And I had to go through Fair Trading, and I just felt I snookered every time.

And I just didn’t have confidence in many of the tradespeople or in myself, to ensure that that same thing didn’t happen again. That I’d get snowballed or, you know, somebody would … I just felt it’s stuff I don’t know enough about to feel confident.

And given the significant asset that a home is, you want to make sure you you know what you’re entering into, because if it comes unstuck, you’re unstuck in a very big way. Not just in terms of having insecure housing, but then you know, your finances, everything is tied up.

So I just needed that – I needed to feel more confident and knowledgeable about what I was entering into, because I’d had a series of unfortunate experiences leading up to that. So I wanted to start afresh.

Getting over that psychological barrier of being able to trust, again, because of what had happened, it’s it started with, well #1, I had to find a builder that I felt comfortable with. And I went through quite a process.

I must have interviewed about 20 or so different builders. And that was partly to do with once they heard that I’d had problems with the house originally, they were anxious about also being held liable. So people weren’t interested in that.

But also because the area where I live, there’s a lot, like it’s, there’s a lot of building going on. So builders were in high demand, so, it was really hard to find a good builder that was able to do the job because most of them had waiting lists for years.

Then came the contract negotiations. And I had some legal advice. And there are a couple of clauses where my solicitor was saying you really need to negotiate on this or that. And the builder was actually coming back saying “no, that’s unreasonable”, etc. But they were really basic causes like Liquidated Damages.

So there were a few things like that. And I thought, ‘Ah, here we go’. Anyway, so I was in a tizz about it. Because the builder and the architect were both sort of saying ‘you’re being unreasonable, you know, this is pretty common practice’ and all that sort of stuff.

And I, in my gut, I just, it didn’t feel right. And the solicitor was saying, “please don’t sign unless those particular clauses are in there”. And I just thought, I don’t know who to trust because my trust has been breached before. 

How did you first find Undercover Architect?

Anyway, I just was googling and I thought, how do you learn or how do you find out what’s a reasonable thing without paying hundreds of dollars an hour from another solicitor to find out.

Anyway, I just googled and found this Undercover Architect and I thought, “Oh, this sounds perfect”. And I listened to one of the free webinars. So I participated in one of those.

And I just liked Amelia’s no nonsense style. And she actually spoke to things that actually were real for me. Like she clearly knew what she was talking about. Or she understood the whole process and understood how you as a client can feel. So I think sometimes, when you hear other professionals talk about the building process, they’re talking about it from their perspective. But the way Amelia spoke, I thought she really understands. And I don’t feel so silly in being anxious about this contract issue, for example.

What made you decide to join Undercover Architect’s course?

And she gave that confidence and then I ultimately signed up for the Manage Your Build course (which is inside the HOME Method). And then I must have watched everything within about three or four days, like I just because I was in such a tizz, I just thought ‘Linda, you’ve got to get on top of this, you’ve got to get, you’ve got to feel confident’.

And I’ve believe I’ve got a brain in my head. And I felt like I needed to use it. And I just didn’t want to be snowed, I suppose, by somebody telling me you don’t know what you’re talking about little girl, forget about it. 

What did you enjoy most about the Undercover Architect course?

So anyway, it was really good to hear both Amelia and Duayne, the builder fellow that features and she also had a solicitor. And they just went through all the very things that I had not been sure about, or were struggling with, and spoke about them in a plain English way that I understood.

And I thought, ‘Okay, this is normal, it’s normal for there to be a little bit of tension about these things, you’re quite within your rights to ask for more clarity’.

And she had just really practical tips on, you know, even like templates for how to keep notes of the meetings that you have with the builder and with the architect, and what have you, to make sure there’s no room for misunderstanding.

Because I’d been made to feel, you know, I was being a bit neurotic, or, you know, overly anxious, but the way she spoke, it made me realise what I was talking about was quite reasonable. 

What were the benefits of the Undercover Architect course?

So that was the benefit of the course. And I did, it gave me the confidence to hold my ground.

And originally, when I gave the feedback back to the builder, and the the builder, and a little, to a lesser degree, the architect, I just said, ‘Actually, I’m going to walk away, like if you’re not going to agree to liquidated damages, and to a reasonable interest rate and all those sorts of things. Let’s hope we never have to utilise those clauses. But it’s important to me that they’re there’.

And so I walked away, and I said, ‘Look, I’m happy to find someone else. You know, I don’t have to do this. There’s there’s no urgency in it. I said, I can sit here with my buckets for as long as I don’t want to go ahead with something that I’m not confident of’.

So we both went our ways for a couple of weeks.

And then the builder actually got back to me. And he said, ‘Look, I’ve been thinking that I’ve been a bit pig-headed in a way, on principle, and what you’re saying is quite reasonable, and let’s do business’.

And, and in the end we did and it was a terrific build, I’ve got no hesitation recommending him. He did a wonderful job. I can’t tell you how much doing that Manage Your Build course just took my stress levels right down.

And I just thought, okay, I can do this. I felt confident to negotiate. So it was great. 

What have you done differently because of the Undercover Architect course?

And I think then the other thing was once the build was underway, well actually, just before the build commenced, I’d done that course. And then I realised there were things like the specifications around the windows and the insulation and stuff like that, that I hadn’t paid so much attention to I hadn’t realised the significance of those things.

But having done the course, I thought, oh, gee, I better triple check this.

And anyway, I did end up upgrading the windows and the insulation. And again, the initial thing was, Why do you need that? And I said, Well, you know, we get 120 kilometre an hour winds up here on a regular basis. And when it does rain, it’s hundreds of millilitres at a time. It’s not vertical, right? Like it’s, it’s wind and rain.

And I said, so if I’m going to spend all this money, I just want to make sure I’ve got the right insulation and the right, the type of thing.

And my house is also in a bushfire zone. So there’s certain glass that you need to have in that situation. So again, I, you know, listened very closely to the course around those sorts of things.

And in fact, I participated in a live Facebook session with Amelia and asked questions in that around the windows and the outdoor covering the Colorbond (we have regular Q & A sessions for members inside HOME Method). Because again, because I’m so close to the sea, there’s only there’s certain sort of Colorbond that you have to use that doesn’t wear as quickly as the normal.

So it was just those sorts of things that I would never have probably thought about, I wouldn’t have even known that you had to think about them. And no one drew them to my attention, until I did the course, are, yes, that’s, I need to focus on that. And, and I’ve got a good result. As I said, really thrilled.

Was it worthwhile doing the Undercover Architect course?

It was worth every penny, and every hour I spent on those webinars. Saving my sanity was a major benefit. Yeah, I think I just once I got over that hump, it just made it the whole thing doable.

And, you know, I had a constructive relationship with the builder and with the architect, as a consequence.

And I just felt confident, so it just saved – the fact that my anxiety levels dropped so much meant you could just get on with it and make it happen. And it did, it went like a dream.

And it’s still going strong. And you know, we had pretty wild winds last night, and the house is still here. So that’s all good. 

What would you say to others thinking of joining an Undercover Architect course?

I just think you’ve got a responsibility to yourself.

If you’re going to invest so much, you know, like your house is usually your biggest asset, in financial terms, you owe it to yourself to be confident and knowledgeable about what it is exactly you’re entering into. Because it’s going, more often than not, it has a lifelong impact.

You know, even if you choose to sell, you know, some other poor sucker may inherit a problem.

And having been the recipient of some poor quality building, you don’t want to wish that on anybody else. So, you know, I suppose it’s just do yourself a favour, feel confident, and then you can actually enjoy the process.

It doesn’t have to be as stressful as what it might be otherwise, and there is no barrier to you understanding what’s going on. You don’t have to be blinded by building talk or architect talk or tradie talk. You know, it is possible to talk about it in plain English, and have a sensible conversation and get the outcome that you want.

So yeah, I just, I just think the money is minor, compared to how much you could easily waste just choosing the wrong thing.

I have been recommending the course to friends, anybody that is about to embark on this whole thing because I’ve come to learn that my experience is not unusual and that lots of people worry about it, but they seem to just focus on reading, you know, Home Beautiful magazines or whatever and get their their wisdom from there.

And it’s the detail that you really need to understand. It’s not the look so much, it’s the fine print and the legalities and just the technical specifications. It’s really hard to get that information from a neutral party. Having it broken down in the way that Amelia does, in a plain English way that an everyday person can understand … it was just, Oh, I can’t tell you how that helped me to just take a deep breath and have the confidence to progress.
The post Renovating and repairing a coastal home | Undercover Architect Member Review appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Do you need a designer’s drawings to build a home?

Do you need a designer’s drawings to build a home? 

Well, this builder told their homeowner they didn’t. And if the homeowner had believed them, they would have made a big mistake. 

Fortunately, they asked this question instead. Read more here.

When we first launched the mini-course, Happy Home Design, we had a fantastic live Q & A session.

I’m always blown away by the quality of questions I receive from the UA Community, and how you’re thinking about your project, the future home you’re creating, and the way you’re going to make that happen. It’s awesome.

I want to take a minute in this blog post, to talk about one of the questions I received during the Q & A.

Because, for me, it speaks VOLUMES about what can go wrong when building or renovating – but maybe not for the reasons you think.

This was the question:

“One of the builders I’ve spoken to has said that I shouldn’t need to spend a lot on designers’ plans and drawings as they are not used once the external walls are built. Is this true if the builder has experience in interior design?

Now, in the moment, when I first read that question out loud on the Q & A, my reaction was this: “Oh.My.Gosh” and I laughed.

I wasn’t laughing at the person asking the question. Not at all!

In fact – I was actually really shocked. 

Shocked that the builder even expressed that point of view so brazenly (and are running their business and projects that way).

I want to talk more about that in a minute, but first, let me share the answer to that question. It’s this:

Drawings matter. 

Good quality drawings are an asset in any project. 

When things are not drawn or described in your contract documentation, they are assumed in your contract.

And when something is assumed, it means it is subject to change and variation – which translates to money and time in your project.

Drawings are the most significant way to control outcomes on your project. Creating drawings for your home’s interiors (especially for your kitchen and bathroom areas) means:

You’ll bring forward your decision-making about those areas (rather than leaving it until during construction)You can achieve accurate pricing (pre-contract) based on what you actually wantLimiting the number of PC items and Provisional sumsWhich reduces the number of variations during the build

If instead, you do what this builder suggests, what will most likely happen is this:

You’ll get a contract sum that includes a large range of allowances (Provisional Sums and PC Items)During construction, the builder will send you to meet with suppliers and subcontractors to make selections and finalise the design on areas (tiling, kitchen joinery, lighting, etc)And then you can discover that what has been allowed does not match what you envisaged, and you’ll be charged a variation (with a higher margin) to have it included

The challenge with this scenario is:

The builder gets paid for the cost of the build regardless (including the variations)You may not get what you want because it’s not in your budget (because you started the contract with incorrect assumptions) or because you find out too late what you’re actually gettingConstruction is a more stressful experience due to having to make decisions under time and cost pressureEven if the builder is great at interior design, if it’s not drawn before you sign the contract, you have no way of knowing what you’re actually getting – or holding them accountable to itAnd your floor plans only say so much. For example, a wall hung vanity looks the same as a floor mounted one in a floor plan – but will require different construction, different plumbing and have a different cost.

However, what has really been mulling over in my mind since last night, however, is this:

What if this homeowner believed this builder? 

What if they didn’t ask me that question? 

What if they just trusted the builder was right, dived into their project, and then dealt with the consequences. 

What would have happened then??

So, thank you Daniel, for asking this question. And I thank you for forgiving me for laughing too – I was so worried I had offended you, but I was just so shocked a builder would actually say this!!

When you’re silent and not asking the questions, or being worried about looking silly about something you think you should know … 

That’s what enables the industry to get away with sub-standard project experiences, and sub-standard homes.

Many homeowners on the other side of a terrible situation have said to me “we were just too naive and trusting”.

So don’t be silent.

Keep asking questions until the people you’re working with have demonstrated the authority, expertise, and respect to earn your trust.

And to learn more about the drawings you do need for your new build or renovation project, I’ve got these resources:

What drawings do I need to build or renovate? >>> READ THIS BLOGHow to check your design drawings >>> PODCAST EPISODE 212How to check your construction drawings >>> PODCAST EPISODE 213

The Q & A session inside Happy Home Design is epic. If you’d like to jump into Happy Home Design, and access all the awesome info in there (including the recording of the Q & A session) you can do so here.

And if you’d like to learn how to choose the right builder, and learn how the specific checks to do, and questions to ask, when interviewing builders for your project >>> CHOOSE YOUR BUILDER
The post Do you need a designer’s drawings to build a home? appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Getting started on a renovation or new build project

What’s really stopping you from getting started on your renovation or new build project?

Learn how to get started, with some simple steps you can do now.

I want to share something with you that was really brought home to me recently … because it came from a few different angles!

A homeowner messaged me with concerns about a consultant they’d been working with who unexpectedly needed to pull out of their project. 

They were right towards the end of that person’s work, and yet it wasn’t finished. 

It’s necessary work for their project, so they’ve hit this hurdle, and she was really frustrated because “we’re trying to do everything right and just keep having setbacks”.

At the same time, I’d been having an ‘interesting’ week with my kids, all pushing back on specific activities and goals being set at school: “It’s too cold, it’s too hard, I don’t want to, etc etc etc”.

And recently, I’ve also received a few emails presenting fantastic opportunities for Undercover Architect, that will require me to wrap my brain around and get up to speed on some really specific industry information, in order to be involved. 

I noticed myself pushing back and wanting to say ‘not right now’.

What do these things have to do with each other? 

And why am I sharing this with you?

Well, whilst all of this was going on, I was editing one of the sessions we’ve created for our Live Life Build members (my other business, where we work with residential builders). 

It’s a session called “Recalibrate in times of uncertainty and challenge” that we created with an amazing executive coach, Belinda Brosnan.

In it, she said: “There’s only 2 reasons for resistance: Fear, and lack of information.”

This is the thing:

I have a front-row seat to homeowners experiencing resistance.

My response is often to suggest ideas and next steps that make it simpler to move forward. 

And that’s super helpful, because as someone who is experienced at this, ‘next steps’ is definitely something I can give.

That deals with the ‘lack of information’ part.

However, whilst my suggestion of ideas and next steps is super helpful, sometimes there’s a much bigger MINDSET at play which needs to be dealt with.

Because the fear is also there. And very real and understandable.

You make a mistake in renovating or building, it can have BIG ramifications for your money and lifestyle, long-term.

So, if you’re feeling resistance in your project, is it due to fear or lack of information?

Because the ‘lack of information’ part is easily sorted (just keep reading the information here on Undercover Architect for starters LOL!)

But the fear will require something else.

What I know is that homeowners can have ALL THE INFO in the world, and still be fearful (or ‘overwhelmed’ is how they’ll often say it).

For the homeowner who contacted me with her fears and frustrations, I gave her a suggested next step, and I also suggested she be solutions-focussed.

Because renovating, building, (life), is like this …

Things happen, hiccups and hurdles present themselves, and resistance will crop up. 

So when you can flip your mindset to be solutions-focussed, it definitely helps tackle the fear.

I could keep talking about this so much … because there’s also a whole conversation about the fear being due to stories, and anticipated situations that haven’t even occurred, etc etc (listen to my chat with Lisa for more on that).

However, this is meant to be a short blog post, to help you get started on investigating this for yourself.

So, whilst you’re looking for steps and tactics and strategies … all of which you can find here in bucketloads, get curious with yourself and the resistance you might be feeling.

Because I just know a lightbulb went off in my brain when I heard that statement: “There’s only 2 reasons for resistance: Fear, and lack of information.” 

And it generated a bunch of curious thoughts about where it’s been showing up for me, for my family … and where I see it showing up for you in your projects.

Can you get curious about any resistance you’re feeling?

Is it due to fear?

Or a lack of information? 

Or a bit of both?

And so, what will you do next?

I hope that’s helpful for you

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN
The post Getting started on a renovation or new build project appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Maree builds a Passive Home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Maree is building a new passive house in a regional town just outside of Wagga, NSW.

Listen as Maree shares more about her new home journey, what inspired her to choose Passive House as her pathway, and the help she’s been able to access through her membership in Undercover Architect’s online courses.

Maree is a member of the HOME Method and Interior Design 101

My name is Maree Stimson, I live in country New South Wales, about an hour from Wagga just in a small town called Temora, with only about 4,000 people. And my journey to start with was to build a family home. 

I discovered the Undercover Architect, which has, over the last two years, moved me forward into the prospect of building a home. So with the Undercover Architect’s help, that’s enabled me to pursue the dream of homeownership and building.

I’ve done three (courses). And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them. And each one brought something new to my knowledge and understanding within the idea of building a home. So they’ve been very beneficial. 

What were your specific challenges and concerns with your home build?

We come from a rural area. Whilst we had some wonderful tradesmen within our town, not being a builder, or coming from a family of builders myself, I just was concerned with what I didn’t know. 

And also, when you’re building a home and outlaying that type of money, you want to get the best knowledge you can, so you’re able to converse, and move forward with building a home. 

So I suppose the biggest challenges was a lack of knowledge in that area. And not knowing what you don’t know. I think that’s the biggest thing. 

What stage is your project at?

Well, it’s quite amazing. Really, I started out … if you were to ask me five years ago, what type of home I would build, it would have been five bedroom, butler pantry, big verandas, everything that opened and shut. 

But as my family evolved and moved out of home, the idea of building a home sort of morphed a little bit. And it moved into what our needs were now and how we can design the house to incorporate needs when our children come home, and maybe grandchildren. 

So I suppose, with working through Amelia’s podcast, we looked at our design, we looked at our footprint, we looked at our orientation, we looked at you know insulation, and we looked at making the environment work for us. So when we do build at our home, we’re not spending a lot of money on things that we can get for free, as Amelia says, like the sunshine. 

So we went into it, or I went into it, with the idea of just building with passive design. And then Amelia had a wonderful podcast on Passive House. So then from there with that information, I moved towards exploring Passive House certification. And I think at the moment, there might be only 19 homes within Australia that are Passive House. 

So from her podcasts and education on what to look for, what to ask for, I was then able to move towards Passive House certification and design for this house.

So at the moment with this house, it’s been quite a journey. Like even just for the year, we’ve been working on making it right and certified towards Passive House. 

So we haven’t even turned over a sod of dirt yet, because we’re still planning very diligently what we want to do and how we want this house to perform for us down the track. So no, I haven’t built anything yet. But we’re certainly getting closer to it. And that’s very exciting.

I think you always worry about the budget, and the cost, and whether you can get what you want within the budget and your timeframe of paying off your home loan. 

So my big problem was the money side of it, in the sense of this is our budget, this is what we need to stick to. So, and that was a living thing. 

The budget was moving all the time in the sense that to get to that budget to stay under that budget, or within that budget, you had to really evaluate how you wanted your house to perform. Did you need the butler’s pantry? Do you need the fourth bedroom? So you really had to be quite honest with yourself to say, what do I need from this house? How do I need it to perform? And what can I give up to stay in the budget? 

So when I went to my architect, I basically said the budget is king. It has to stay within the budget, and basically the orientation is queen. So I suppose to me, it was always staying under budget and achieving what we wanted within that budget. 

That’s the answer I would give, is the budget was always going to be the driving force behind it to start with.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

Well, quite, I just, I came across her online, and just sort of like, you know, when you Google stuff, and other things come up attached to it. And then Undercover Architect came up, and then I thought, ‘Oh, this sounds interesting’. And then I got onto the podcast, love it, absolutely love it. 

She’s so real for one, which is really, really lovely, I think to be able to give a product out to people and know that the person behind the product is real. And it has substance and has, you know, it has an input into the outcomes that she wants us to have. I think that’s really fantastic. 

And now I just, I say to my architect, have you watched the Undercover Architect? I say to my builders, you should watch them, you should listen to Undercover Architect. I say this is what we all should be on – Undercover Architect – because our knowledge is just getting better and better and better. 

And then with knowledge, you make better decisions, you know, without the knowledge of decision making is very poor. So yeah, I just found her online and haven’t got off the boat since.

Does all this knowledge help you communicate better with your team?

I wouldn’t say I have all the knowledge. But even a little bit of that knowledge, if you sort of can’t get the answers you want or the response you want, it allows you to then look further into finding more and more knowledge. But certainly with Undercover Architect, and Amelia’s courses and correspondence and Facebook group, there’s just so much information. 

If you’re struggling in one area, the contacts that you have in all those other areas, you know, you’ll find an answer that way. 

And the builder that I have engaged for our house is blown away by the knowledge that I have. I’m not saying I have heaps of knowledge. But he’s like, “I don’t normally get clients like you asking those questions. I don’t think a client would know this. I didn’t know a client would know that.” 

So whilst I said I don’t have all the answers, I certainly have some answers, and some questions and I think that’s a really good thing, that your knowledge base is improving all the time with regard to this, you know, this outlay of a home.

And you know, without Amelia and Undercover Architect and the courses, I probably wouldn’t have the team around me that I have at the moment. And the team is very important. Picking the right people talking to the right people, to help you make the right decisions. And I think I probably would never have gone that far, to have a team, you know, around you. 

But it’s so important, like having the right people around you when you’re doing a building is so important because it just gives you so much more scope and option and understanding of why we do it this way, or, you know why that wall should be there, or whatever the case may be. 

So I think, you know, if I had to advise anyone on anything, it would be to make sure that you have a good team around you, and don’t be frightened of building a team.

Did you consider any other options before choosing Undercover Architect’s courses?

No, I didn’t. I thought she was fantastic from the beginning. Like I just thought she was, she came across really real, which was really lovely and normal. I thought her responses to people, whether via email, or on her question and answer days, I just thought her response was really real. 

And no question was too stupid, basically. Because in your head, you think that’s a great question. But then when it gets read out, you think, ‘oh, gee, that was a bad question’, or that was stupid. But she was so genuine. And I think that’s, I think that’s the wonderful quality that she does have. And I think we see that, is that she’s very genuine. So I wouldn’t go with anyone else. I think she’s great. 

What made you decide to use a paid course vs doing it alone?

I probably took the first one up as a, you know, to test the waters with it, basically, to see what she had to offer with regard to it. 

And I think with doing the courses, it just really hones down each aspect of, whether you’re doing, you’re at a bathroom stage, or whether you’re doing a budget stage, or where you are, those courses really honed down and made you focus on that particular area, at that particular time, to get the best out of it. 

So, I really would recommend it, if it’s possible for people, to take a course on and just see how you feel. 

And like I said, I think I’ve done about three of the courses, and have thoroughly enjoyed all and I thought each one was quite beneficial. 

Is there anything you’re doing differently because of what you learned from Undercover Architect’s course?

Yes, I did a renovation a long time ago, when my husband I first got married and had children, and really knew nothing, absolutely nothing. Nothing about budgeting, nothing about how a build works. Nothing about what the builder is responsible for, or what all the other trades are responsible for. 

So really, I knew nothing about it. With the Undercover Architect, I feel that with my knowledge base, it was better. 

I didn’t know much with that first renovation. But I do know a lot more now. 

So I really feel like I can hold people responsible. So within the tradie group itself, and within my group itself, I know that they’re accountable for certain things that they have to deliver. 

And I suppose that’s what I know now, is that I just don’t have to go out and believe what they have to say. I make them accountable for what they’re saying and what they’re going to deliver are both the same thing. 

And plus, I would never have dreamt of … I have probably would never have dreamt of doing what I’m doing now. Because it’s quite a unique process, the Passive House certification. It’s quite a difficult process. 

And being rural and sort of a remote area, I’ve engaged a builder who’s been building for 30 years and has never built a Passive House. He’s gone off and done a Passive House course, which he’s never done before. 

And we’re really looking to educate our tradesmen in our town if they want to get on board with Passive House, to see what it’s like. So within their industry, within their workplace themselves, that they move that they may say something different and work towards that. 

So yeah, we’re sort of, we’re really stepping out there with the Passive House because we are remote, and we rural, and our tradesmen haven’t done Passive House before. It’s quite scary, actually.

But we’ve got a good team around us and I think we should be able to, hopefully, bring it across the line. 

So I would never have done that. I would never even in my wildest dreams have gone this way. I would have probably gone down a standard boxed, you know … wouldn’t have thought about orientation, wouldn’t have thought about any of those things. 

And so this is so different, it’s so much better. The outcomes will be so much better.

Can you explain more about what a Passive House (or Passivhaus) is?

Well, the Passive House is quite stringent, to get certification, it’s quite a stringent model. And a lot of things go into that model. 

So it looks at thermal wrapping of the house for air tightness. It looks at the windows that, uh, that are thermally broken, so they don’t let in the cool, or let the hot or cool air in and out. So the inside temperature stays somewhere around 21 degrees all year round. So you may not need to have that passive heating or cooling. The air circulates within the house through a ventilation recovery system. 

So yeah, it’s just a, it’s just a wonderful, environmentally friendly and healthy house to be in. 

And I suppose what draws me to it is the fact that there’s a scientific basis for all of it. It’s well insulated, we don’t have to … we’re off a farm, so we don’t have to go and find our firewood to heat our house in the winter. So it’s always going to be quite a nice warm temperature. We don’t have to have extra cooling above, perhaps a room fan, or maybe a small split system in the days where we get, you know, very, very, very hot days over 45 to 50 (degrees). 

So I think I’m looking forward to those comforts within the house that we don’t have to explore and get, go and find like, you know, extra wood or, you know, things like that. The house should be quite comfortable and lovely to live in. And I’m looking forward to that. 

I’m looking forward to having a point of difference in the house where we’ve done something quite incredible in this rural, remote setting. 

And we sort of started off journey with the house being able to be duplicated easily for people. Easily for our builders – or easier, not easy, because it’s difficult, but builders can do it. And they can do another house within the town. So our model would be to be replicated easily for people. Not make it hard for people to become Passive House owners within the town. 

And we’re going to be up against it. Because we’re, you know, we are rural remote, you know. People within our group and moving on to other areas. So we’re going to have to do a lot of what we’re doing now, which is zoom or a lot of distance, checking and ticking off the boxes to get what we want over the line. 

But, you know, I think with Amelia’s help and the knowledge that she’s given us, we’re able to you know navigate that road better, I think.

Because it’s going to be quite … I think building a house is difficult anyway. But building a house where we’re at will be difficult, but I think Amelia has given us that ability to navigate that a lot better.

Tell me more about Passive Houses …

So I’m very excited. I hope we pull it off. But like I said, I would never have even thought to do it without Amelia’s guidance, and her podcasts, and energy and information and all the lovely different people that she brings into it as well. They’re very genuine as well, happy to share their knowledge. 

And I think that’s really good because it just, you know, it helps you become more, you know, stronger and active in what you want to participate in, when you’re building your home rather than passive and sit back and do nothing.

How have the courses specifically saved you time or money?

The one I did love was the bit you know, giving you the roadmap and keeping your budgeting and knowing where to go. 

But the one I loved the most was the Interior Design 101 course. 

Because you’ve watched so many TV shows, and you think you’ve got a handle on it, and it looks so lovely, and they gave some wonderful ideas and information with regard to that. And I probably would have thought it’s something I could do myself. 

But really, I’ve engaged an Interior Designer to help me. And just her knowledge in her chosen area, her field of interior design has just helped me, and has taken a lot off my shoulders as well, with regard to what tile would go here, or what would do that, or how big that needs to be, or how far does that tap need to be away. Her knowledge of that has allowed me to do other things, so that the time for that, the time saving in that was quite incredible.

So yeah, that was a really good course.

But they’re all good courses in their own time. Because what happens is with the courses, you do the course and you think that’s terrific, and then you move, you keep moving forward with your ideas and your build, and the next course comes up. And that’s specific to where you are now and you move on and move on.

And then you get to thinking about, I’m not going too bad here, I think I can go start thinking about paint colours. And so then the interior design course comes up, and then you get lots and lots more ideas. 

So each course sort of comes in at a really good time, when you’re thinking and dreaming about where your house is and how far you’ve moved along with the build of your home.

How did the course help you avoid mistakes and dramas?

Well, I think the budget, that’s the big one, I think it’s knowing, knowing and sticking to your budget, I think. So that was quite good. Because I think we can sometimes go beyond our budget, and with our hopes and our dreams and our wishes for our house. And I think once you sort of put that in, it really nuts down what you want. 

And I think she also talks about, you know, not over building … rooms and spaces that we don’t need, or making rooms and spaces work better for us. So that was really good, because then you can really nut down on your plan, what you really need and avoid the mistake of building too big. You know, maybe I need a room, maybe I need this, I could, oh, that would be lovely.

So it really makes you think when you do put a budget in and she was very big on the budget and getting the budget down. I think it really nuts down what you want in your house and how you want it to perform. I think that was quite big. 

And then the other thing was, just because you might have a lovely view to the west, you don’t want to – you don’t want to put your home facing west, if you can get away with it. You want to use the orientation and the beautiful sunlight that we have here in Australia to compliment your house. 

So, you know, rather than making rookie mistakes like that … little mistakes that you know, you may not even think about. These courses stop you from making those mistakes and getting a plan to do it right, so then you can move on to the next best step as well. 

So it’s about getting the information, so you can do it right. And then you can move on to the next thing and do it right. And that’s really important, because it’s such a process to build a home. It’s a lot of money, a big process.

Each step you want to do it right. Because once you know, it might be hard to reverse those mistakes, if you don’t have that plan in place already.

What has been the best thing about the Undercover Architect’s course?

I would say that the best thing after doing the courses and listening to the podcast was probably just what I said before – was really knowing what you want from your house. I think that’s been one of the best things. 

And the more information that Amelia has given us, through the courses and her podcasts and interviews, really nuts down what you want, I think. And then, from there, was making that big step to go towards Passive House. Yeah, I think I think that was fantastic.

She did a podcast with a lady from Passive House: architect, builder, and homeowner, and it was so interesting, and sort of just opened your eyes to another level of building. And I think that’s been, that was the biggest thing. One of the biggest things, I think, was to get that end product of the house just right, just spot on.

What would you say to anybody considering doing the course?

I think sometimes when you do testimonials, you don’t tend to believe what the person has to say, because you don’t think it’s real. 

But what I can say is, is that the Undercover Architect, Amelia, are very genuine and real. 

She has a great desire for people to move through building a home, renovating a home, getting the best out of their house for themselves and their family. 

And I would say, if you are thinking about it, or you’re on the fence, do it. Just go in, do the courses, you will get so much out of it. 

And then as you move through the process of planning your home, you’ll do another course. And then you’ll get so much more out of it. And then every stage of the build that you’re doing will become more clear for you. 

And you’ll feel more confident. And you’ll just hold your ground when a problem comes up. You won’t panic about it. And this is what the courses do. And the podcast does. 

It just gives you the confidence to stand your ground, have a think about where you’re going, have the knowledge to move forward, and then move forward confidently towards the end build. 

So if you’re sitting on the fence, get off it. That’s what I say.

Anything else you would like to share?

I just know that without the Undercover Architect, I wouldn’t be where I am now with the house and the house design. 

I wouldn’t have engaged with the people and the team that I’ve engaged. I wouldn’t even I wouldn’t have even have had the idea to think about it. 

So without her help, I just wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t have the confidence to take this, this completely strange Passive House build, back in the country with all newbie Passive House people. I just would never have had the confidence to do that. 

And I’m very grateful for Amelia and her courses. Because I hope one day, we’ll be having another chat, you and I, and I’ll be saying “why don’t you leave France and come over to Australia and come and stay at my house. A lovely Passive House in the rural setting”. 

And I think once that’s done, I’ll be, I’ll be very very pleased with myself. But you know, she gives great confidence in moving forward. 

Better design. Better homes, all the rest of it. 

Yeah, she’s wonderful.
The post Maree builds a Passive Home | Undercover Architect Member Review appeared first on Undercover Architect.

Knockdown and rebuild your Dream House

Love the area where your life but not so happy about the house. A knockdown might be your answer.

Whether you’re more into the address than the abode or yearning to upgrade the house you’ve outgrown, a knockdown rebuild could be the solution to feeling more at home in your desired suburb.

A knockdown rebuild involves knocking down an existing house and rebuilding on the same block. From the freedom of a clean slate to saving time and money, here are the advantages of a knockdown rebuild, plus where to start on your dream of owning the best house on the best street.

Love where you live

Grown into your community but grown out of your house? Rebuilding keeps you in the neighbourhood you love but upgrades your home to align with your needs. You’ll stay perfectly positioned by remaining close to your friends and favourite coffee shops, restaurants and parks. A knockdown rebuild suits growing families wishing to stay near their children’s schools, empty-nesters wanting to downsize with more premium features, and professionals desiring a closer commute to work and the city centre.

Clean slate

While a renovation has its boundaries, a knockdown rebuild allows you to start – and dream – from scratch. You have the freedom to hit reset and choose new themes, room sizes, layout, and coveted extras like larger cupboards and additional bathrooms. You’ve got a clean, transparent slate, which isn’t always the case with renovating, when hidden – and stressful – surprises can often surface once work gets underway, like leaky pipes, unsafe wiring and patch-up jobs that quickly clock up more time and money.

Save time and money

A knockdown rebuild potentially adds value to your patch. Building a brand new property on existing land can not only increase your happiness, but can also potentially increase its resale value. You can save cash because the design is packaged into the build, and avoid lengthy delays with a considerably shorter build time without waiting for registration for land. The option gives you more bang for your buck, says iBuildNew General Manager Tim Nichols. “With the average cost of building in Melbourne around $1,395 per square metre and around $1,200 outside of Melbourne, you may be able to achieve a new single storey home design for under $250,000,” he

says. “This is dependent on the size of the house and any demolition costs, but regardless, the additional savings by avoiding stamp duty are significant.”

Go for green

A blank canvas can be the beginning of a more sustainable base. You have the power to build an energy-efficient hub, which in turn can save you money. Think technological advances, sustainable building materials and renewable energy sources such as solar and rainwater. Plan ahead and optimise the orientation to maximise seasonal sun exposure, shade and cross ventilation. Add clever gadgets, set up smart technology and install automated lighting or security features as futuristic finishing touches.

Safe and sound

A new home means a fresh – and safe – start. At the end of the knockdown rebuild process, you’ll own a home that’s built to standards and adheres to building codes and regulations. Many aspects will also be secured with warranties. Gone are the potential safety issues like structural faults, lead paint, asbestos, mould and faulty wiring. Complete the picture by designing and installing a home security system.

Start with questions

Before you begin dreaming up your new design, it’s best to do some groundwork. Check if your land is suitable by firstly requesting a Section 149 from your local council. This will outline any planning information, zoning and restrictions, but be sure to ask for any additional requirements or information. When choosing a builder, Tim recommends asking if they have experience in knockdown rebuilds and what they’ll have to complete to be successful for the knockdown rebuild. “Ask them about required demolition, what permits are needed, and what services are included in the builder quote,” he says.

Interesting article on another option to renovating or extending your existing home.

While checking out builders pricing, Owner building should also be considered, refer to other articles on our website to gain a better understanding of the advantages or Owner building.

* Source: Design your dream home with a knockdown rebuild – Living Well- Jenna Meade- 20 July 2021

The post Knockdown and rebuild your Dream House appeared first on Australian Owner Builders.

Failure to allow a contractor to fix defects could reduce the damages allowed

Bedrock Construction and Development Pty Ltd v Crea [2021] SASCA 66 illustrates the risk to owners of not allowing a contractor the opportunity to fix defects before seeking to recover the cost of doing so from a third party.

The Court of Appeal considered whether an owner (Crea) unreasonably refused the contractor (Bedrock) access to the site to fix defects. At first instance, the judge found it was reasonable for the owner to refuse to allow Bedrock to fix the defects. You can find our previous discussion of the first instance decision here. However, the Court of Appeal’s judgment focuses on ensuring that the parties are kept to the terms of their bargain, allowing the contractor to fix defects as required under the contract. In this instance, the contract provided Bedrock with a contractual opportunity of at least 10 working days to rectify any defects. But, Crea failed to afford Bedrock with access to the site to fix the defects.

Justice Doyle (with whom Justices Livesey and Bleby agreed) observed that, on a strict view, Crea might not recover any amount from Bedrock since Crea did not afford Bedrock the 10 working days opportunity to fix defects. However, on the evidence, the Court of Appeal found it appropriate to reduce the damages award. Nonetheless, the decision is a stark warning for the need for principals to ensure that they follow the contract provisions dealing with the rectification of defects unless there is a good reason to depart from them, lest they find themselves unable to recover the full, or any, amount from the contractor.

Original Source: The Major Projects & Construction Team

For more information visit AOB

The post Failure to allow a contractor to fix defects could reduce the damages allowed appeared first on Australian Owner Builders.

House renovations: Is becoming an owner-builder the solution to your problems

Article written by Kerrie-Anne Jones original article found here

Interior stylish Kerrie-Anne Jones turned owner-builder after a bad home renovation experience. Follow her grand design as the discovers the intriguing ups and surprising lows of her new career.


After our last renovation (adding another level and cosmetic changes to a terrace home) I said I’d never renovate again. We had a builder who decided to up and leave for the UK, with two months left on our build.

I was heavily pregnant and my husband Andrew stepped in to get it finished. Now here I am, undertaking a much bigger project, this time as an owner-builder. With travel restrictions in place, at least I know my tradespeople can’t leave the country.

We lived in the inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst, Sydney, for several years and while we loved our home, we longed for a decent backyard for the kids and to be closer to family who live in the Sutherland Shire.

Stylist Kerrie-Ann Jones, husband Andrew Jones, daughter, Poppy and son Ari Jones at their Dolans Bay property renovation site. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

Our daughter Poppy was turning five (in 2019) and starting school the following year, so we decided it was the right time to leave the inner-city life, for a sea change.

Our dream was to find a mid-century home that received north-facing sun, had a decent yard, near or overlooking the water. We looked all over Sydney for months and found this gem in Dolans Bay. It ticked all the boxes. However, it was in desperate need of renovating and we knew it wouldn’t be cheap. So I asked my dad if he could help renovate with me and he agreed. (He may have regrets now).

The home is on a subdivided block and the developer we bought from (and now our neighbour having built on the bottom block) needed to get various approvals before we could settle.

A renovator’s delight. Picture: Supplied

With a fantastic view. Picture: Supplied

And insides that needed to be gutted. Picture: Supplied

So we put down our deposit in October 2019, and waited. During this period, I jumped through hoops to get my owner-builder licence and we engaged local architect Peter Couvaras to rework plans made by the previous owner. We liked what Peter had done and so continued with him, making just a few adjustments.


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Peter has been wonderful with helping us navigate the owner-builder challenges. Once the subdivision approval came through in March 2020, we settled the same month and submitted our plans to council a week later.

The plans were approved in May 2020, but it turned out to be such a challenging year and we didn’t commence renovating until October 2020. It’s been game on ever since.

Owner-builder Kerrie-Ann Jones. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts


As an interior stylist (and former style editor for an interiors magazine) I’m exposed to lots of great design. My creative process has been to edit down what inspires me and adapt it for this home while staying true to my signature style.

Our goal was to retain the integrity of a mid-century home, yet with a modern freshen up. While we’ve had to demolish many of the home’s internal features, we’ve made sure to incorporate mid-century elements wherever possible.

After living in a terrace with many stairs, we valued the luxury of having everything on one level. So we adjusted the floorplan to have all the bedrooms and living areas on the same floor. We even moved the laundry from downstairs to be upstairs next to the bedrooms.

Cosmetically, the home will have a warm neutral colour palette with sandy beige tones and hints of seaside sage. All joinery will be built with a walnut finish, as commonly used in mid-century furniture and will have soft curved edges for a modern take.

Inspo moodboard for Dolan’s Bay.


Internally, we have demolished some walls and reconfigured the floorplan by switching the kitchen and dining, and also combining two small bedrooms to create one large master ensuite. We’ve added an extension for the kids’ bedrooms at the front of the home, and the downstairs level is now a bonus living space with a guest bed and ensuite, rumpus room, home office and gym.

We are replacing a majority of the beams on the upper level. The existing roof has been removed and the roof pitch has been elevated from flat to a two- degree angle. A new roof will be installed with solar panels. Airconditioning will be installed throughout the home and electrical rewiring. We are also replacing all windows but we are sticking with the mid-century timber profile.

Halfway there. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

All bathrooms will be renovated and a kitchenette downstairs will be installed. We are also building a new kitchen upstairs, fireplace and joinery in the living room and replacing the floor downstairs. It feels like the list goes on.

My dad often jokes that it would have been easier and cheaper to knockdown and rebuild, but then we’d lose the charm and quirks of the home.

The process of renovating as an owner-builder isn’t for the faint-hearted. I’m grateful to my dad Keith, who has been on-site with me every day, helping me navigate this process. He is a brickie and stonemason by trade, so he has a wealth of experience and a black book of tradie contacts to call on. There is no way I could have taken this on without him.

Thanks Dad.


March 2020 – Settled on our new/old home.

May 2020 – Plans approved, structural engineer and private certifier engaged.

October 2020 – All site fencing erected, structural demolition begins. Set up water tank in the old pool and spread dirt over the top. Digger in for the new pool.

Kerrie-Ann Jones, her father/builder Keith Sharpe and son Ari. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

November 2020 – Concrete pour to widen the garage and laundry extension. Removed existing upstairs and downstairs balconies due to concrete cancer. Concrete poured for new balconies, pool formwork completed. Carpentry work begins.

December 2020 – New garage walls bricked in and laundry bricked up.

January 2021 – Plumbing, airconditioning and electrical rough-in done.


Owners: Kerrie-Ann and Andrew Jones.

Build project: Renovate and decorate a mid-century red brick home for our young family.

Design goals: Balance mid-century features with modern design and practicality.

Progress report: DA approved, demolition done and construction now under way.

Lessons thus far: I wish I were better organised. Due to the obstacles we faced in 2020, I was unable to dedicate more time to planning the intricate details. On some occasions, we’ve just winged it and I’ve had to make decisions on the spot, therefore feeling out of my depth.

More Coverage

Deadly hidden danger taking root in our homesThe tiny, weird rooms uprooting our homes

A family project. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

Although I work in interiors, construction is a whole other ball game. I’m used to being creative and when I’m on-site, it requires logical thinking and being decisive. Our tradespeople have been very patient and accommodating of my shortfalls.

The post House renovations: Is becoming an owner-builder the solution to your problems appeared first on Australian Owner Builders.

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