A renovation of a 1940s Melbourne home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Abbey, together with her husband, is doing a renovation of a 1940s Melbourne home.

Listen as Abbey shares more about her renovation journey, her initial fear of stuffing up their renovation that led her to Undercover Architect, and how she now feels she has more control over her renovation project.

My name is Abbey. I live in Melbourne, Victoria and we bought a house almost about five years ago. It’s a very old house, a 1940’s house. It needs a lot, a lot of work, hence, why I did the Undercover Architect course.

Definitely doing the course has helped accelerate the process and the things that I’ve learnt along the way, but to begin with, it needed a lot of work. We’ve changed a lot of things and we’re putting a lot of the original features back into the house. Because it was kind of in the 80s, 90s, someone stripped a lot of the original features out, and put pink walls in and concrete cladding on and various things that do not suit the year of the house at all.

What inspired you to take on this project?

Well, I fell in love with the house, as soon as I saw it. I think I saw the potential and I just completely fell in love with it. I was very naive going into it by buying this house that needed a lot of work and being someone that’s not in the industry. My husband, if he had his way, I think he would have torn the house down. But I’m a real, yeah, I just love keeping the character of old homes.

And when we bought the house I think when everyone saw it, they thought, “Oh my god, they’ve lost their minds!.” But slowly by slowly, you can see it, I feel like we’re reinvigorating the house, I guess. There’s been a lot of challenges along the way. And there’s still a lot of challenges along the way.

What concerns did you have before you started?

I think just the whole process and I had a big worry about stuffing it up and being someone that doesn’t work in the construction industry whatsoever, and also being a stereotype, but it’s very true being a woman as well, having tradesmen over for various things and just being spoken down to or my husband wasn’t around, they’d expect to speak to him and just various things.

And I would always be curious if I got a quote, given to me, because they think they can charge me whatever they can charge me.

So I think the real challenge is, just came from knowing, getting the process right, really, and knowing what to ask for and what is what’s reasonable to ask for, I guess, and demanding better and having the confidence to ask for it too. Not shying away and kind of apologising for asking questions.

Did you have any concerns about time or money?

Yeah definitely. I didn’t think it would take us five years. I thought within a year or two we would have started renovating.

I definitely didn’t think it would take five years but a term that Amelia uses called procrasti-planning. I think I’ve definitely done a lot of that. A lot of you know, Pinterest and a lot of like looking at all the interiors, I guess. And just all that fluffy stuff. Yeah, I definitely didn’t think it would take as long as it has.

But now, I finally feel like we’re actually moving in the right direction on the path to have this house renovated and finished.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

It was actually an ad that kept popping up on social media and I just kept, to be honest, kept ignoring and it just kept popping up. And then I don’t know what compelled me to, but I just finally clicked on it and, and then I came across her podcast, and the podcast has been absolutely invaluable. Absolutely invaluable.

I discovered the podcast and slowly, slowly I’ve been working through, I’ve gone through every season, episode by episode. I’ve gone back and listened to some of the episodes. And even things. like when I was painting our house, you know, listening to the episodes as I go, and I guess it gives me motivation.

At times, I’ve also felt very overwhelmed listening to some of the episodes, to realise just how much I didn’t know. But, yeah, all the information is really invaluable.

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

Well, I think because we were just going to builders to ask them what they thought it would cost to build, or you know, showing them plans or what, you know, of what we thought we wanted, or what it was.

It wasn’t until I came across this course, I realised that, just how much is actually involved in renovating a house and how, like, what the actual process is to it.

And things such as orientation. It never occurred to me that that’s such a big thing when you’re renovating your house. I just, I had looked at it as, I guess, it’s a bit of a tick box like this is the type of house that we want and this is how many rooms and … but I hadn’t actually given thought to the land and the location and and all those things and what every, every tradesperson and every expert that needs to be involved and what their roles were.

I think I was quite blind, in just going along with what either builders told me or what our building designer told me, and not actually really informing myself.

So now that I feel like I’m informed, I’ve really, I’ve taken much more control over the process and actually getting things done.

Did you consider joining any other course out there?

No, there weren’t any other courses.

And I think what was so unique about the Undercover Architect, I’ll go back to the podcast, was the fact that the information was just so readily available. I think I’d felt there was a bit of secrecy in the industry that they wouldn’t give you the information unless you signed on with them.

Whether it was like a bathroom company, or whoever it might be, everyone felt like everyone was just, you know, fair enough. They held the information quite close to their chest, unless you put money forward, which was the thing about not knowing, like if we put this money forward is it going to be money we’re just going to lose.

Whereas I felt like with a podcast that actually got me on the right track to thinking about the process and thinking about what I really want for a house.

What made you decide to join the Undercover Architect online courses?

I decided to do the paid courses after I listened to the podcast. With all the information on the podcasts, I had decided it was kind of like a no brainer, I guess, to then to do the course. And all the information that’s there for you.

And because like, you can go back in your own time or go over it again, or there’s checklists and various things, but it was after listening to the podcast, that I decided to sign up for the course.

Which courses did you decide to take and how did they benefit you?

Yes, I’ve done the How to Get It Right course (now HOME Method) and the Interior Design 101 course. Yeah, and then on top of that, I also opted to pay to have like a one on one consult with Amelia, which has been, yeah, incredible, which was incredible.

What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?

Everything. Everything! 

The way that I interact with my building designer and the questions that I ask him now, and I guess the standard that I hold him to and the builders that we interview. And when they explain things to me, I don’t just take their word for it.

I feel like I’ve now, I’m not pretending I’m an expert, or, you know, I’m not a builder, but I just feel like the collaboration there between the builders, or whoever the professionals might be, is much more prominent, because I feel informed. I don’t just feel like they’re, they’re kind of shuttling me through the process. I feel like I’ve got more control over our renovation and how it’s going to end up.

How have you benefited from doing Undercover Architect’s courses?

Confidence and it’s just so silly, but I think I’ve said it a few times, but it’s just really giving me the confidence and the knowledge.

And even talking to my husband the other day, about the next steps and, and he actually seemed quite impressed. He’s like, ‘oh, whoa’, just be able to articulate it to people now and to explain what I’ve learned has been really invaluable.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

Yes, yes. It definitely has. It definitely has. Even with quoting I, yeah, learning that, you know, ideally, I’d like a fixed price contract. I’m not just kind of going blindly into being told that this is what this is going to cost, that’s what that’s probably going to cost and then having variations along the way.

Or not understanding the orientation of my house properly and then when it’s at the point of construction, walking around and realising “Oh god, this layout is actually not going to work.”

And also realising the key steps involved getting to construction, and if they’re done correctly, and they’re not rushed, then hopefully, that will be a whole lot less stressful process. And construction is such a small part of it, it’s all the pre planning, that’s the thing that I’ve definitely learned to be patient and not just rush to the construction side of things.

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

I would say just do it. Just do it. We all procrastinate on things, I think for various reasons, and I did for a while and it kept popping up on my social media.

But it has been one of the best things I’ve done. It has, the course has paid for itself. The knowledge I have learnt has paid for itself. And Amelia is very kind and generous in the giving of her knowledge and on her website, there’s various blogs and things but I would say just to do it, it’s not something you’ll regret.

Just her kindness, as I said I did a one on one Zoom or Skype, I think it was an interview with her and yeah, I mean, I was overwhelmed at the end. But I think in a good way.

She’d given me so many things to think about, she’s pretty honest in her advice, but she was, also, you could tell she genuinely cares. It’s not just courses that she’s put online and that’s the end of it.

She genuinely, I got the impression, she genuinely wants people that have done her courses to succeed, and empower as many people as possible with the things with you know, the insider knowledge I guess from the industry.

Comparing building quotes: How to Understand Pricing

Comparing building quotes and trying to understand the differences between prices can be difficult. 

Many homeowners dive into the nitty gritty detail to nut out the quotes they’re receiving.

However, this can be problematic, and not necessarily get you the results you’re seeking: budget and cost transparency, and a home you can afford to build.

I find that often, members of the UA Community can be ninjas at data analysis and breaking down all the info and research.

And as a data ninja myself – I see you fellow data ninjas

However, where I see this ninja data analysis can come unstuck is in the interrogation of building quotes, and in discussions about what your project will cost – and what’s making it cost what it costs.

Let me say upfront: building and renovating can be big money.

Australia is one of the more expensive places to build and renovate in the world. New Zealand isn’t far behind.

(Like me, you’ve probably balked at the $100K – 200K complete home renovation and extension budgets on some of those USA reno / building TV programs.)

However, in this blog post, I want to share some info on how to approach the costing of your project, so you don’t tie yourself in knots with calculations and data analysis … and get lost in the weeds of unhelpful information. 

Or lose loads of time in exercises that will spin your wheels.

Here we go …

#1 You don’t need to see line item costing

Being data driven, I see many homeowners expect (and demand) that their builder provide them with a quote that lists all the various trades, materials and items in their planned home, with a cost against each one.

The reasoning for this is so they can identify where the money is going in their project, and potentially achieve savings by targeting changes or reductions in specific areas.

However, I believe that this line-item costing approach really doesn’t serve you, your builder or your project.

I’m going to try some analogies here …

Your future home is not a cart of groceries that you can identify the premium items in, and switch your cheese this week for a cheaper brand, or decide you’ll wait till that big container of cold-pressed olive oil goes on special to get it. Or go to Aldi for some items instead.

Instead, it’s more like a fashioned piece of clothing, where the design, the cut, the assembly, where it was manufactured, the thread, the colour, the dye used on the fabric … all lead to what it costs. 

And substitution or elimination can fundamentally impact the style, the durability, the look, the functionality and the experience of owning it.

Your builder may also not be interested in changes or reductions.

Yes, you may be able to find a cheaper electrician or light fitting. 

However, your builder has to work with that person, coordinate their work, know they’ll be on site on time, be able to do their work within certain conditions and timeframes, and deliver a specific quality. And then, the builder has to warrant the work they do, and the items used.

So, your quote may not include the cheapest option – but the one that the builder knows they can stand behind and have confidence in delivering.

Yes, it can be helpful to know what is chewing your budget in your project.

Chances are it won’t be the finishes and fixtures alone. 

It’s more likely to be the size of the home, the structural design, the site conditions and the big ticket items in your selections (think the large square metre coverage items, like roofing, glazing, wall cladding, flooring etc).

Instead of asking for a line item costing, ensure your builder is delivering a detailed line item SCOPE.

You want to know exactly what has been costed (described in a detailed, specific way), and what has been excluded from your quote. Plus, you also want to know what has been assumed or allowed for (because you haven’t selected or specified it).

I find that, when trying to compare apples with apples between builder quotes, the difference in pricing usually comes down to the omissions, assumptions and allowances.

And if you don’t have a detailed scope in your quotes, it’s hard to get to the bottom of these differences.

#2 Project prices move over the timeframe it takes to make your project happen

Your project may take two or more years to complete from start (deciding on a designer, etc) to completion (you moving into your finished home).

I’ve seen people do it inside 12 months, and I’ve also seen people take 3 to 5 years as well. It can vary based on you, your project plans, the area you’re in (and how onerous your council conditions are), team availability, and other factors.

Your construction costs will move over that timeframe – and so the budget you start with may be sufficient at the beginning, and not be sufficient at the end.

THAT IS INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING.

This happens in the best of times – and right now, we’re seeing much larger increases than normal as various products and supplies move in price considerably. It’s not across the board, but it’s definitely on some critical items.

Finding out the cost of your future project is an iterative process that requires constant monitoring, and adapting. 

It is also helpful to build in buffers and contingencies to give yourself the room for these increases. 

Whether you do this by keeping $$ aside, or through your borrowing capacity (due to increases in equity or property valuations) will be up to you.

Creating a team that can help you do this is critical, so you can keep your finger on the pulse of changes as they happen.

For example, one of the members in HOME Method has been working with her building designer and builder through the PAC Process. 

They’re getting close to contract preparation, but have decided to change the roof design from a truss to rafters due to the supply issues at the moment. This can be adopted fairly quickly and responsively due to her team structure and process.

Structure your team and project processes to build in this adaptability and responsiveness.

#3 Focus on what you can control

Even after doing this for 25+ years, I still struggle with the fact I can’t say to you “yes, you have exactly the right amount of money you need to do this reno or new build”.

Or tell you at the outset of your project exactly what your budget needs to be. There are so many factors that are outside of our control.

You may have seen these images doing the rounds lately.

As a homeowner building or renovating, you’re unfortunately at the end of a long line of people, processes and products that all need to get to your site to create your future home … and everyone has to get their cut along the way.

And whilst your build or reno cost is subjected to a long line of global players, large scale economic drivers, and other factors you can’t control – you’re spending the personal dollars you’ve saved or earned or borrowed to make this home a reality.

It can be hugely stressful and feel VERY personal that prices keep moving, supplies are delayed, and stuff is getting in the way of your desire to create a comfortable, safe place for your family to live and enjoy.

So what can you control? In reality, it’s not a lot.

I learned a very hard and valuable lesson a couple of years ago that my loci of control was about as big as an A4 piece of paper I could stand on.

It was a harsh learning for the control freak in me. 

But it’s actually been really empowering. Because I can and do have full control over my thoughts, my reactions, and what I choose to do. You can do the same.

When it comes to your future home design, you might not be able to control these external factors that impact the cost and deliverability of your project. 

You can though, control the decisions you make about the type and size of home you create, and who you create it with.

As I said earlier, if you want to save money, target the size of the home first. Then consider its structural design and how it integrates with the site.

(You may have heard both Aaron Wailes, building designer, and Duayne Pearce, builder, talk on the podcast about the $10s of thousands they saved their client through rejigging the structural design of a project). 

You’ll go much further with those efforts than scrimping $10 or $20/m on your tiling, or choosing a $100 tap instead of a $300 one.

There are, of course, loads of resources available on Undercover Architect to help you when it comes to cost. It’s a topic we discuss A LOT!!

Here are some free and paid options for you:

Season 3 of the podcastLine item vs lump sum costsThe real life cost and time of renovating and building12 tips to help avoid blowing your budget when working with an architect or designerBudget blowing mistakes when building or renovatingWhat will you do with your suitcase of cash?There are bonus videos for Cost and Time inside the mini-course, the Get Started GuideSet and Stick to Your Budget is a great mini-course to help with cost and budget management in any project

Enjoy those resources – I hope you find them super helpful as you navigate your project, and work towards achieving your future home on budget.

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

Building a new forever family home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Belinda is building a new forever family home, known as the Glenview Farmhouse.

Listen as Belinda shares more about her new home journey, how she found her growing confidence changed her experience, and the help she’s been able to access through her membership in Undercover Architect’s online courses.

Belinda is a member of the HOME Method.

My name is Belinda. I am a mom of four children. I’m an emergency nurse. My husband is an emergency doctor. And we’re building our forever home on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, in a little hinterland town, called Glenview. So it’s just on the other side of the highway from the beaches. 

So, it’s a little bit rural, but I’m still close to everything. And, you know, I guess the project has been called Glenview Farmhouse. And so yeah, we’re building a home for four children, so it’s a, you know, big kind of property. It’s four acres. We’ve got lots of room to move, and we’ve got a beautiful, big dam, you know, that takes up about one acre of property.

So we’ve got some amazing views to look out on. And, yeah, it’s a really exciting time for us. And, yeah, we have a massive big tree, established gum trees that are beautiful, and loads of birdlife, and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, we can’t wait to be in.

What were you concerned about before starting your new build journey?

I think we were very aware that we didn’t know anything, really. My brother’s in construction, and my sister-in-law, or, my ex-sister-in-law is an Architect. But we felt very much like we were sitting ducks, and that we, you know, there will be a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of us. 

My husband’s a doctor, but he works mostly in the public system. So it’s not like he’s got, you know, huge, private practice or anything like that. So, you know, we still, we felt concerned I guess, that people would look at us, see us coming and just see dollar signs on our foreheads, and be like, you know, what can we get out of this for ourselves. 

And that we were quite vulnerable because we didn’t know very much about building. And we wouldn’t know what we didn’t know. 

So I think at the start, I just felt really anxious about the whole process. And even though we had gone to my ex-sister in law, so my brother separated quite amicably from his wife of 10 years, and five years have passed, and she was an architect. So we went to her because we trusted her. 

But even still, it was just like that, how to pick a builder. And all of that stuff was really daunting, I guess. And I was finding that really stressful. I just really wanted to find a way to not feel so stressed about the whole process. Yeah. And that’s what led us to Amelia. 

When we were trying to work out how much of a budget we needed, and you know, we would talk to people and you say, well, how much could we expect to spend? And people would talk about where you should set your expectations atthis a certain amount per square metre? And I’ll be like, but what does that buy me? Like, what am I getting for spending, you know, this much per square metre? What? Like, that doesn’t make sense. I can’t really see what it is I’m getting. 

You guys are talking about expecting this and then, you know, I’d speak to other people and they would go, that’s so much money, you’re being led right up the wrong garden path, and that’s insane and people don’t spend that kind of money. 

And so it was, you know, it was difficult, you know. and I really do trust my Architect, but you know, we were worried that she was wanting to build us something amazing. But perhaps we couldn’t afford it, and that didn’t maybe give us enough space. 

You know that she wanted to go so high end with the products that she thought we would love because she loved us. And she was like, oh, you love this stuff! But we were like, we’ve got to actually still have enough space for four kids and, and how do we know? What does all of this mean? And how do we sort of marry up the desire to have because this is our forever home? 

And she was like, this is your forever home. You want it to be beautiful and gorgeous. And we’re like, yeah, but we need to still have enough space to be able to send the children away and not have to have them right up in our faces all the time. That’s like the joy of a rumpus room. 

So yeah, because we’re getting so many conflicting opinions, I think as well, from a lot, about a lot of people. You know, it meant that we were just like, what? Who? Everybody that we talked to loved us and cared about us and meant well, but it was all different opinions. So we were just very much like, oh, you know, now what?

Yeah. And if everybody’s telling us what they think is right, then which one is actually right? And what do we need? So, what are our needs? And what are our expectations? And what is appropriate to expect? And you know, what’s fanciful, you know? 

So I think that’s where having a bit of a guide to be able to go, right! These are people who are in the industry who have not associated, they’re not gaining from us. They’re not even emotionally invested in us, I guess. So they’re just giving us expectations that we can have that will help us to make good decisions, I guess, for want of a better word.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

I think it was on a building Facebook group. So, you know, I guess a part of my research, I started to like, join online forums and sort of want to talk to other people who are in the same position and learn as much as I could, and educate myself as much as I could. And I think it’s possible that actually, my Architect herself mentioned Amelia. 

So at some point in the process, I think, I started listening to a few of her podcasts. And then decided at some point that, you know, I’d invest the money. 

We were spending so much money on so many things. It felt like, as if it was worth the investment to educate myself, apart from anything else, just so that, you know, I could. Because one of the things that I found came out of investing in it and learning, was it just drastically reduced my anxiety. It stopped. I felt like, as if I had a bit of control back and enough knowledge to make some good decisions. 

So yeah, that was a massive part of feeling good about what happened. Yeah. And the choices that we made, just I felt confident.

Did you consider joining any other course out there?

I hadn’t come across any other build courses. And I didn’t, you know, I guess, our Architect was educating us along the way and certain things. And I was certainly doing my own research, but no, I didn’t. I hadn’t seen anything else like what Amelia has been doing. And to have it all wrapped up in one place was really handy.

What were the benefits of joining a course vs free resources or your own contacts?

One of the things I was really aware of being a professional is that, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And unless you know to ask a certain question, you won’t get the answers to that question. But if you don’t even know that, you don’t know it. 

And that’s the beauty of something like an online course. Like, Amelia is somebody says, here are a bunch of things you need to know about, and I’m going to teach you about them. 

And so things that have never occurred to you to ask questions about, you start to think about, and you start to get educated around, and then you can ask more questions. And it leads to its own next set of questions. 

But if you don’t even know where to start with the first question to ask, then you’re quite vulnerable, I felt really vulnerable. I felt really like, as if I just was a sitting duck waiting for somebody unscrupulous. 

And I think we’ve had a lot of scandals in Queensland in recent years with insolvent builders, and you know, people doing the wrong thing. So yeah, I just, I felt really concerned. I just didn’t want to pick a bad builder. And we wanted to know enough about picking a builder to make the right choice.

What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?

I guess it was just that general knowledge. So we would ask educated questions to our builder, and then that would lead to follow on things that maybe got changed or didn’t get changed, rather than it being you know, big. Well, actually, yeah, we did. I think one of the big things that we did, because of the build, was probably just making lots of our choices beforehand. And so we had minimal variations and our Architect encouraged us to do that too. 

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

I told our builder right at the start, you know, I’m doing this course so that I can be educated. So, you know, we want to know, we want to understand, and you know, I think that helped him to just talk to us at a deeper level about things that were happening. And we, you know, we told our Architect, and they were like, yeah, that’s great, go ahead, do it. It’ll be great. It’ll make you feel more confident about your decisions. And that’s something that everybody was really encouraging us to do. 

So, yeah, it’s been good. In fact, my builder this evening, I don’t know, he texted me and he was like, ‘hey Bel, what was that course that you said you were doing?’ And I was like, ‘why? It’s the Undercover Architect’s course, Manage your Build (which is inside HOME Method).’ He’s like, ‘Oh, it just came up and I thought of you.’ 

So, yeah. Yeah, we’ve ended up with a really good relationship with our builder. And I think partially, maybe in many ways that’s because we trusted him. And I think the trust in many ways actually came because we felt confident in our choices. Because I wasn’t second guessing him on a lot of things, because I knew that what he was doing was right, and we had enough knowledge to be able to go, oh, yep, he’s on. He’s checking that stuff. We were told to check that stuff. But I can see he’s already done this and done that. 

And, you know, it made me more relaxed, which makes you then easier to work with and less, you know, they don’t want to be micromanaged, I don’t think, too much. And while there’s a certain element of, you want to make sure everything is done right. That I think if you’re standing over their shoulder can really drive them nuts. I think it helped us strike a good balance. Yeah.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama and stress?

Even just having the resource of Manage your Build (inside HOME Method), when there’s been questions that I’ve had, or things that were like, oh, is this an issue or not? You know, having the resource of other people and Amelia to go back to and talk to you.That’s made it a lot easier to cope with, you know. 

It is stressful, even when you’ve got a good relationship with the builder, and you’ve got rapport and goodwill, which I think goes a long way, having the goodwill between you. So, and being able to keep that goodwill, because you’ve got somebody there coaching you through, just have the conversation like this, just discuss it with them, you know, like this, that’s really handy. 

It’s like just having a coach there to coach you through what is, you know, can be a, you know, a difficult time. That has been really reassuring. And I think that, for me, was great. 

I’m not, you know, I’m an emergency nurse. So I’m good at dealing with car crash situations. And I’m really good at dealing with conflict. But I don’t, still don’t like having conflict in those working relationships, I’m more dealing with conflict with drunken people. And small children. 

And it left me kind of, I didn’t want to have conflict with our builder. And I really wanted to keep that relationship really good. And so having Amelia there, in the, in the background, holding my hand at times, has been really helpful. Yeah, she’s full of great advice.

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

It just gave me so much more confidence in doing what we were doing. Yeah, I stopped you know, any, it’s funny because I was talking to a new next-door neighbour, they haven’t built yet. And she said to me, she spoke about how she felt. And I was like, that’s exactly how I felt. 

She said, I just feel like I’m walking around with this sign on my forehead just to say, come and take advantage of me. And as soon as I started doing the course, I just felt that sensation go. I was like, I’m not a sucker anymore. I’ve got, I’m educated now. I may not know everything but I know I have resources at my fingertips, and I know how to make sure that we’re not being taken advantage of. 

And I said to her, you should do the course. That’s really been helpful in letting me know what to look for in a good builder. 

That sense of confidence meant that sometimes I didn’t actually do every single part of the course, don’t tell Amelia. But, the confidence to pick a really good builder helped us to be able to just go step by step back, and know that we have somebody that we can trust. 

And you know, we’ve gone back and certainly double-checked lots of other things and learnt lots of things. You know, we sort of between the fixing and completion stage at the moment. So I’ve just gone back and reread and listened to the extracts, and the videos that she’s done on that. And then it’s kind of like, like reminding me of a few things. And I’m like, okay, I’ll go back and check. Make sure I have those conversations and managing my own expectations. Which has been really handy. 

Just, you know, I think you can get disappointed if you set yourself up thinking that it’s gonna look like this and it actually doesn’t. And you have to make allowances for the time. Yeah. So that’s been really handy. That’s what, yeah, it’s confidence, honestly. And when you’re feeling confident, I think you’re just so much more relaxed. And I think everything then flows on from that. Yeah. 

And you don’t have to necessarily use everything because it’s not going to apply to every single build. But she’s got heaps of information, then, depending on what you’re doing. And there’s, yeah, I’ll certainly be going back with the checklists for the practical completion stage where we’re getting there and doing. Looking at those defects and thinking about what’s acceptable, what’s not. And yeah, getting ready for the next phase, which will be moving in.

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

I would say not managing your build well can cost you a lot of money. It really can. All those variations are really expensive. So if you can minimise that, I think just consider it an investment in you know, like a necessary investment in your, your overall build. Just knowing what you’re doing. 

I think a lot of people say that it’s handy to have built two or three homes before you build your final one. But if you’re on your final one for your first one, then you know, learning all of that stuff through a course like this, is really going to save you making costly mistakes, and things that you can’t change later on. 

So it’s worth it. Absolutely worth it to have that education.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the course?

I just think that Amelia is gorgeous. She’s just so lovely. She’s just approachable, and a really beautiful mix of, of easy to talk to, but no-nonsense, and you know, really practical. And you know, a woman who is soft, but wears her big girl pants. She’s strong and she, you know, encourages you, you know, to be firm. And I think that’s really fantastic. 

She’s, you know, she’s nobody’s fool. But she’s a gentle woman  as well. And that’s really lovely. Really approachable. Really easy to talk to and really encouraging too. And she gets excited for you. Whenever she sees my update, she’s like, oh, I’m so excited. She’s really nice. It’s really lovely. She’s so easy to work with.

Depending on how you like to learn, there’s multiple forms of doing it. So, you know, for me, a busy mum, just being able to put my EarPods in and listen to a little bit here and there on the way to work, or, or reading it late at night. Either is completely available. 

And so it’s very easy to navigate through, it’s not difficult at all. It’s all really set up quite nicely. Yeah, it’s great.

To check out Belinda’s Glenview Farmhouse, see what she’s shared on Instagram here.

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.

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.

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.

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