Sunday, 30 September 2012

Windows & Sliding Doors Installed

The windows and sliding doors to our home have now been installed. One of the big attractions to CG house designs is their use of windows - big, bold and visible. You can see the big windows at the front of our home; we've also opened up much of the back of the home with large sliding doors and stacker doors. This house will be flooded with natural light, and we love the thought of this.

This photo shows the view to the street out of the windows from our first storey. This is the view that will greet people when they walk up the stairs. The windows form the rear wall of the upstairs leisure area. We are unsure what window furnishings to use for these windows - perhaps shutter blinds or roller blinds or maybe just a one-way film or tint. We have some time to think about this and get it right. Any suggestions?

Also, through the week we received the engineers detail regarding the slab rectification. It states, "remove rust from exposed reinforcement. The exposed steel and general concrete area must be cleaned, scable surface & reo and use Barrafer A (or equivalent). Completely cover steel and general concrete area. Apply concresive 2525 epoxy binder (or equivalent) and provide 30mm Emaco S88C mortar (or equivalent)." It also states, "edge beam repair to be inspected by a qualified building surveyor prior to concrete poor".

Our site supervisor has confirmed that his concretor has engaged a specialist at rectifying these types of work and that he will be on-site on Monday preparing the works. This sounds encouraging. Once the works have been prepared, the surveyor will come out to inspect, before the actual rectification works. Our supervisor feels that only one inspection is required.

The framers also came back out to attend to the other rectification works contained in the schedule of building defects. We noted most of the items had been attended to. Hopefully we can touch base with our site supervisor through the coming week and certainly when the slab works are complete. One of the defects that is still concerning us is the base rail of the timber frame at the front of the garage. At last check, it had not been changed to treated pine, and potentially this is work that still needs to be done. This is on our list to ask the site supervisor.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Meeting with our Site Supervisor

We had a good meeting with our site supervisor this afternoon to discuss the schedule of building defects in the frame stage inspection report. He explained his understanding of each defect and then how CG will rectify the defect. He seemed very confident that the items listed as defects in the report were easy fixes and that CG will have no problems rectifying every defect listed.

The defects we were most concerned about were the slab defect, the inconsistency between the actual frame works and the documented engineering design and the untreated pine timber frame for the front porch pier wall and front of garage.

1. Slab: our site supervisor has advised that the defect will be referred back to the original design engineer who will formulate a 'detail' (which I understand to be an approved rectification method for the slab defect). This is then sent to the concreters who are responsible for rectification of the slab in accordance with the detail and under the supervision of the relevant building surveyor (this is to be advised by our site supervisor).

2. Engineering design inconsistency: occurs for just about every build mainly due to "old school framers" not being familiar with the new ways of framing (which I'm told are often over compliant) OR the framers simply missing things in the engineering report, such as lintels across spans that require a lintel, missed bolts, studs not being screwed together and plywood brace that has not been installed. These defects are simply a matter of the framers going back over each item identified and doing the work that should have been done per the engineering. The next building inspection will ensure these items have all been rectified.

3. Timber frame for front porch pier wall and front of garage: problem here is that they will develop timber rot over time from moisture migrating in under the Hebel (if left as they are). Our site supervisor has advised these frame areas will either be made to comply with the Australian Standard through addition or re-construction using treated pine or timber adequately treated with a preservative.

So it was a good meeting because we get the general feeling CG are confident they can and will rectify all building defects identified. This gives us confidence in them as our builder.

While on-site today, we also noticed that the plumbing (gas and water) had been roughed in. See the photos below. Drilling holes in the joists and posts to run the pipes appears to have been no problem at all. Also the first floor scaffolding had all been taken down. Apparently, tomorrow the windows and sliding doors will be installed along with rectification works commencing. Most should be complete by end of the week.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Frame Stage Inspection Report

We received our frame stage inspection report from New Home Inspections by email today. Detailed, professional, easy to read and understand and overall very impressive. The report contained a 'Schedule of Building Defects' that lists the items that require further rectification works to our home before proceeding to the next stage. The report clearly lists each building defect identified, why the defect poses a problem and then recommends how the builder should rectify the defect.

Our report detailed 12 items that require further attention and I'll give you an example of one, arguably the most salient - the concrete floor slab defect. See photos below.

The steel reinforcement bars within the floor slab have not been covered with concrete and remain clearly exposed to the elements. These steel bars have started to rust and we're told will continue to do so over time, expanding as they do, which will lead to the possible future cracking of the slab and possible long term slab failure.

The report then clearly recommends what must be done to rectify the defect. The builder should temporarily move the soil/polyethylene vapour barrier off the remaining edge beams and then have the design engineer inspect and make recommendations on how to best treat this steel (including cleaning off rust), its lack of concrete coverage and its height within the slab to ensure the slabs quality and long term performance. The report goes on to recommend that the rectification works are carried out under the full supervision of the relevant building surveyor.

We sent the report to CG this morning and have been advised by our site supervisor that he's been aware of most of the items identified in the report, and is committed to getting to work this week to get the relevant workman and personnel back on-site to rectify defective works. We have a meeting with our site supervisor on-site tomorrow to discuss.

By the way, the floor slab under the steel post on the right side of the garage opening (which has been previously mentioned throughout this blog) remains an item listed in the report, which suggests that the original design engineer should be brought on-site to inspect this defect and design appropriate and effective rectification. We thought the cracking slab in this area appeared to still be defective. Appears our thoughts were correct.

We must note the very detailed nature of this report. It's obvious New Home Inspections know their stuff, and since we don't, this report and the two to follow, are in our minds simply a must.

If you are planning to build a home, no matter how professional or openly communicative your builder, we would certainly recommend investing in a private building inspector to do a frame stage building inspection. If the defects identified are satisfactorily rectified and signed off by the relevant building surveyor and original design engineer, it will certainly be money well spent.

We'll let you know how CG go working through the defects identified in the inspection report. But once again, their communication today was excellent, we have a meeting tomorrow and every reason to believe CG will meet their part of the bargain and fix up all the defects through the week. Then we can pay our frame stage progress payment and move on to the next stage of the build.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Roof Started - looks great

Our house now has about half a roof. It looks really good. We were a little worried about the dark roof  (Woodland Grey) against the lighter fascia and gutters (Surfmist), but it looks fine and should look fantastic against rendered hebel. We like the look of colourbond much more than tiles.

When we chose to upgrade to colourbond (metal) roof, we were concerned that it might attract and retain more heat than a tiled roof. I asked a friend who runs a roof repair business what he thought. His advice was that a metal roof was fine as long as you had adequate insulation below the metal. He recommended a product called AirCell (which I think is foil-foam-foil) as best. CG use Sarking (foil) which is much better than nothing. Some builders don't use insulation at all, they just bolt the metal roof onto the roof trusses.

We asked CG if it was possible to use AirCell and if so, what it would cost to upgrade and use this rather than Sarking. CG were really great at following through this request, but when the quote came back between $5-6K to upgrade, we had second thoughts. We later talked to some colourbond roof experts who suggested that if the house is 6 star energy rated and has a whirlybird in the roof (to draw out the hot air in the roof space), that Sarking is adequate and absolutely enough to do the job. CG supply a whirlybird as standard with all metal roof upgrades, so we're pleased we saved money by not upgrading to AirCell. Here is a picture of the Sarking insulation.

Last note. Through the week we decided to remove some items from our contract (non-structural, just cosmetic, specifically, built-in shelving systems in the WIRs). CG were very flexible, helpful and understanding when it came to making these variations. They also honoured their word with some credits back to us in relation to our sliding door upgrade. Specifically, we were initially charged an extra $140 because they thought the sliding door would need to be delivered separately to the other windows/doors. This was not the case. They were all delivered together. When this was brought to CG attention, they did not hesitate in passing back a credit. This is excellent customer service. It gives us confidence CG will do what they say. This is what you want from a builder. So far, building with CG feels very collaborative. We have enjoyed the process. Fingers crossed for a similar smooth ride to Pre-Plaster Stage, when we will have our second private building inspection conducted.

Private Frame Inspection - worth every cent

We met our private building inspector today. He was fantastic and thorough. Obviously has done loads of these inspections before because he knew exactly what to look for. Every item I wanted to question, he had already noted in his report. He also had time to talk me through what he found and to answer my questions. I'll ask if he minds me referencing his company in this blog, because I'd highly recommend retaining him to do your frame inspections if you're planning on building (no matter who the builder).

Some of the items he noted during his inspection:

1. Exposed steel (reinforcement) in the side of the slab. Very obvious in both the base of the slab but also in the upper section of the slab. Concrete should surround the steel completely. In fact, there should be 40mm of concrete buffering the ends of any steel in the slab. This is how the concrete slab gets its strength. To have steel exposed, is like not having any steel there at all, because the concrete loses its torsional strength. As it stands, this is the biggest concern.

2. Some small discrepancies between the engineering report and what had actually been built. The inspector could identify where timber/steel/supports/bracing/etc were meant to be; he could even identify what type of timber should be used in certain areas of the frame from the engineering report (where I couldn't make sense of this report at all - it was was too technical for me).

3. An issue with one of the larger steel beams that supports part of the first floor of the house. Namely in the way it had been secured to the ground floor frame.

4. An issue with the engineering report and what could actually be achieved regarding the colourbond roof and how it attached to the house frame and roof trusses. Obviously, it's very important the roof is secured adequately to the house (he'd seen instances where strong wind has lifted an entire colourbond roof off a house) - he had questions regarding this.

5. The concern I noted in an earlier post regarding the steel upright beam supporting the steel beam spanning the garage entry. Since posting the photo (see post 8/9/12),  it is apparent some work has been done to attempt to rectify the problem (see photo below). However, I got the feeling our inspector still had an issue with this item. We do too. Although they have obviously fixed up the overhang, the concrete still appears to be crumbling and not that strong. What are your thoughts?

In summary, we are very glad we used a private building inspector at frame stage. He identified items we would simply have missed or not known to question. My understanding is that his report will strongly recommend CG get their inspector, surveyor and/or engineer back out to give their opinion on the items identified in the report. We'll see what happens and how CG respond.

Posi-Struts (a response to BruP)

Firstly, thanks BruP for your comments on our blog (see post 8/9/12) regarding posi-struts. I did some research. The diagrams below explain what posi-struts are. I also read the engtruss website you supplied (thanks again - a good reference). BruP you're right. An advantage of posi-strut is that it's easier to run services (eg pipes) through the open space.

You're aware we had our private frame inspection today. I asked our inspector about the pros and cons of posi-strut and whether it would have been better for this build. His opinion is that while it is easier to run services through posi-strut joists, for good tradies, it's not very difficult to drill holes through the standard joists (such as the joists used in our build) to run services. Further, he suggested the standard joists could actually be better because sometimes posi-strut can creak and squeak and actually make more floor noise under foot. He also offered that a large percentage (I think he said 80%) of the better builders will still be using the standard joists as opposed to posi-strut.

It's good to hear you are not paying $5K upgrade for posi-struts. If you were, based on advice I received today, I'd be telling you to save your money. You could possibly just clarify with CG what the $5K is for, then again, ours is not a custom build so I would imagine things would be different between our builds. I wonder why CG custom builds use posi-strut?

Thanks for drawing our attention to posi-strut. I would not have known to research if you had not made your comment. Good to be communicating. Cheers.

Posi-Strut & Posi-Plus
Posi-STRUT® is an open web truss system that combines the strength of steel with the flexibility of timber for custom made systems that will meet the exact requirements of your job.

The joists used in our build (see below)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Fascia and Gutters installed / Windows delivered

At the end of the day today the fascia and gutters were in place. The colour we've chosen is Surfmist. We actually thought the colourbond roof would also be at least started today, but obviously this has not happened. I wonder how quickly the roof can be done.
Without the roof in place, we were worried any rain would damage the first floor flooring boards. Our site supervisor has advised us not to worry and that rain will not affect the flooring boards.

Also noticed that the windows and sliding doors had also been delivered sans glass. They were all stacked up in the garage space except for one sliding door, apparently the one we upgraded post contract. We are unsure when these windows and doors will be put into place. It will be interesting to see how this is done. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Progress - Frame stage complete

The framers worked hard all of last week to finish off the ground floor frame and then almost finish the first floor frame too. First photo below shows the modification we made to the rear wall. You can now see that it includes a large opening for a sliding door in the rear wall. An important variation since we now have vision into the back yard. It will also make our living space more bright with natural light.

The next couple of photos were taken on the weekend. You can see the entire structure now. The roof trusses are in place. You can clearly make out the location, heights and sizes of all windows and doors. You can do a real walk through the home. It feels larger walking through the house frame than walking on the open slab. We're certainly not building experts so we will be hiring a private building inspector to check over the house frame.

So my understanding is that frame stage is now complete and that the frame stage inspection will happen some time this week. Fingers crossed that CG obtain an outstanding report. Our site supervisor seems confident.

The scaffolding that can be seen surrounding the house has been erected in preparation for the next stage - where they install all the colourbond - the fascia, gutters and roof (which we upgraded). Our understanding is that this is happening this week (and potentially start of next week), then the scaffolding comes down middle/end of next week. This is also time used to rectify any defects identified in the building inspection, before the hebel guys start on the external cladding on October 1.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Progress - Ground Floor frame almost complete

The ground floor frame of our house is almost complete. Took 5 days. I met our site supervisor on-site on Friday and he seemed pleased with progress. We did a walk through the house and he outlined what would happen next. He's confirmed that our house frame may even be complete by next week and certainly by the week after next. This is exciting.

This is the view standing in the corner of the garage and looking out towards the street at the front of the house. You can see the large floor joists overhead. These will create the floor of the first story. The first picture is the view standing at the back of the house and looking along the entry passage back towards the entry to the house.

This is the view standing on the front boundary of the property looking at the front of the house. The large steel structural beam spans the entry of the garage. This steel beam is supported either side by steel uprights that appear to be secured into the slab. Walking through the frame of the house gives you a great sense of the size of the rooms and the height of the ceiling. It's starting to feel real now.

We are concerned about something a friend picked up on. Left is a photo of one of the upright beams supporting the large steel structural beam spanning the garage entry. You can clearly see that it overhangs the slab. It also seems to be bolted into a section of the slab that does not appear to be finished as well as most of the other parts of the edge of the slab. We have no idea if this is a reason for concern or not. It may be perfectly normal. In any case, I will almost certainly ask our site supervisor about it on Monday. We really hope this is no problem.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Progress - Frame going up

We checked progress on-site at end of day on Monday (a fine weather day) and we were pleased to see some of the frame structure already up. We also noticed the rear wall had already been put up (see photo below).

You can clearly see why the wall needs modification. Having no window(s) means it limits the view of the back yard. It would also reduce the amount of natural light coming into the living room.

Through the day yesterday we concluded our discussions with CG regarding the variation to add a sliding door to this rear wall. It must be noted, CG were very helpful and prepared to work to our needs with this variation. We reached an agreement on the price, and while the cost is still very high (after all, we are just adding a sliding door), we now have a much better understanding of the costs involved, and have decided to proceed with the variation. Most of these costs would not have been charged had we made this variation prior to signing contract.

A PCV was raised immediately and plans re-drawn to reflect the variation.

We were concerned the variation hadn’t been communicated to the framers on-site when we saw the rear wall already up. But we were assured today they were aware a change was being made and that it was all good. The rear wall needed to be up so the framers could keep going with the rest of the frame today.

At the end of the day today, it's obvious the frame guys got through a great deal of work because they've almost finished building the entire ground floor frame. This work completed, despite the ferocious winds lashing Melbourne today (and still howling outside as I type - I hope the frame structure is strong and sturdy!!!).

So frame is progressing well. We're told the large steel beams laying on the ground on-site will be positioned tomorrow before the framers start on the first floor frame. We'll meet our site supervisor out on-site on Friday to check progress. At this stage, everything seems to be progressing really well.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Frame Start: 3 September 2012

Last Friday we noticed that our slab had been marked up with pencil outlines for the frame. It was really good to do the virtual tour of the home. You could get a great feel for the spaces of each room. Today we're really pleased to see that the framers have started on our frame. The timber and steel that will form the frame of our home is now on-site ready to be cut to size and put together. Today some of the timber had been roughly laid out and we're hoping that with fine weather forecast for tomorrow, some good work can be done.

We also hope to finalise discussions with CG regarding the rear window/sliding door variation I mentioned in the last post. They've been great at listening and working to try to accommodate our needs. Interestingly, CG have now introduced a new house design, the Stamford42, which includes this exact variation (ie a sliding door to the rear living room wall). We're hopeful we can copy this design for our Hyatt38. The reason we never picked up on this design issue with the Hyatt is that we never actually went outside to the back of the Hyatt on display in Cranbourne. If you take the time to do this, you will see what we're talking about. The back wall of the house really does need a second window or even better, a sliding, stacker or bi-fold doors, especially if your block has a back yard that faces north or east.