I’ll have a standard house, thanks

Sorry, but the standard house kind of doesn’t exist. The standard house is not what you could live in.

From the base price you need to add site fees (ours were $45,000) and around $50,000 minimum to put things in it.  You see, the base price doesn’t include floors, as a starter. Nor does it include very much cabinetry.  It would be a hollow shell of a kitchen.  Then the base laminates it comes with are perhaps not the ones that you’ve seen in homemaker magazines – think cardboard laminates, not a dream kitchen.

The base facades can also be a bit too much brick for our taste. The really nice facades are generally going to cost you another $7k – 30k.

We upgraded the following:

  • Added sarking to the roof
  • Upgraded ceiling heights
  • Upgraded category 2 carpets
  • Upgraded internal door quality
  • Upgraded entrance door and lock
  • Upgraded all windows and sliding doors to category 3 for durability and wear
  • Upgraded heating and cooling
  • Upgraded underlay for carpet
  • Upgraded garage roller door with remote
  • Upgraded skirting boards
  • Upgraded tiling floor to ceiling
  • Upgraded electrical (pretty much everything)

Then there are the added extras to actually live in the house and surrounds

  • Curtains and blinds $15,000 – $30,000
  • Driveway $5,000 – $10,000
  • Crossover rectification/ footpath repair $2500 – $7500
  • Front fence $8,000 – $15,000
  • Landscaping $7,000 – $25,000
  • Clothes line $300 – $1000
  • Letter box $45 – $250
  • Front path $1000 – $5000

 What did you upgrade? What did you not? Any regrets? 

Day 21 – Slab Pour

A week over due – or so – because of the rain, but here it is –  the base of our home.

A major milestone on the long road.  Suddenly the sand has a cause, a place in the world. We can now see our footprint and what our home will look like.

It was eight or so cement trucks scheduled in 20 minute blocks throughout the morning. The first truck was 5 tonne, the second 8 tonne.

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It was great to see every single load checked and tested before being piped onto our block. I’m not sure how much is rejected, but it was very heartening to see this check being done.

The slab crew was a team of six blokes working methodically through the house, starting with the portico, hallway, driveway and rear. One was aiming the pipe, one was guiding it, one was holding the reinforcement in place, one was spreading, and one was smoothing like an artist. With a few quick glides, he’d done the front porch. He was testing the curing speed as he worked. It was quite mesmerising.

The slab is a wonderful piece of engineering marvel called a waffle slab. It has a tonne of gravel underneath, then lots of polystyrene pieces, steel reinforcement, then a concrete pour on top.   It is much faster to lay, uses less concrete, and is stronger, I’m told.  I’m also told it has better insulation, and is less prone to cracking.

I have since learnt we’ve had a heap of concrete piers sunk down to 3 metres to lock into the clay below. This, I am told will help keep the slab stable and keep it off the water. Think a slab on stilts, of sorts.

Slab inspection will take place on Thursday. Going well, there will be handover to the official build team.

Framing should start early next week.

Oh, and the first Metricon bill just arrived. Until now it has been a ‘free’ new home fantasy.

Back to my new found love of concrete.  To you it looks like concrete, to us, so much more. I love the following sentiment from my blogging friends (http://ourcasuarina.blogspot.com.au/)

“This is where memories will be made. We’ll experience joy, and sadness. We’ll expand our brood with kids and pets. Friends and family will visit, and for them, I want this to feel like home as well. We will dream, we will cry, we will live, and we will grow. Right now it just looks like concrete, but for us it symbolises so much more.”

With a small tear in my eye, I couldn’t agree more…

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Day 20 – Pre slab party

Work started early this morning. The team shipped in around 80 foam boards and a tonne of wire mesh. They also placed the concrete framing boards around the house.


For the first time we can get a feel for what our house will look like on our dirt. Before this, we’d only looked at floor plans of the house sitting.The reality is quite different. Now we can see the garage, the front office, the lounge, kitchen and laundry. Oh, and in the distance I can see the dirt floor of the outdoor room. The entire thing looks quite large!


Colours, Colours Everywhere

Where do you start with colours? Good lord.  By far the hardest part of the building process is picking your colour selections. It is part art, part budget, and part just picking something before they get ‘grumpy’ at your procrastination. So here we go.  Unveiling our colour selections.

Laminates are great, but so many of them look so horrible. It is a massive selection battle to find something that doesn’t look like recycled cardboard. Our budget didn’t extend to fancy kitchen cabinets or stone benchtops in the bathrooms.

We wanted a really warm kitchen, and one that had contrast. White kitchens are the rage, but we wanted something a bit us. The deep, rich bamboo floor we chose made the kitchen selections very tough as the bamboo is such a statement.

The interior experts decided that a softer wood would be nicely contrasted with a rich oyster grey bench, which is a very large masculine slab cut rather chunky (60mm).

The top cupboards are a very light laminate colour (moleskin – looks like rich vanilla ice cream) to stop the room from shrinking. It’s a gloss laminate that mimics a more expensive vinyl wrap or two-pack. Sure, it won’t wear as well – but it is very reasonably priced.

With a south side kitchen, the room could start to close in, so we kept it lifted. Oh, and the splashback window will ooze green from a future fern garden.

The bathrooms are all pretty neutral and earthy. They will be counterbalanced by some very cool indoor plant pots and indoor plants to add a dazzle of green through the earth tones. And the towels will be provide a colour accent. The bathroom colour schemes were somewhat limited by the category one tiles on offer. We needed to keep the tile budget on track, and not go crazy. But the saltbush floor tile is very close to another more expensive tile I fell in love with in another life – so all good. Walls are simple white.

House internal wall colour is safe to start with, and mostly to feature the bamboo floor colour. Too much richness in the walls started to give me a headache. We will feature up some walls down the track once we get the feel for the new girl.

The external colour selections were a festival of pain. We started in the warm Tuscan sun, but quickly realised it was a clash of modern and old. Instead, we’ve gone for a neutral green house. We really wanted a light roof (for temperature control) and chose colourbond surfmist. The greens (all in the same family) rise out of the earth and will be completed with rich green foliage and a garden built close to the house to set the house inside the forest of foliage.  We also wanted some contract with the H of the portico, so we’ve lifted the facia with a grey that will hopefully tie in with the darker green contrast of the H.  Aluminium windows are in surfmist to suit the roof and garage door.

A big thank you to the interior designer who helped with the externals  – for a fee – (we were stuck and helpless!) and for Metricon’s style gurus to really push the kitchen edge towards something a little bit different.

You can see the colours over here:  https://metriconadventure.wordpress.com/fixtures-and-fittings/


Renovate or rebuild?

To bulldoze or renovate was the toughest decision we faced.  And to be honest, we’ve spent way too long worrying. Check out the timelines if you don’t believe me!

Our 1950s brick home was structurally really sound and was ready – so I thought – for a second storey and a makeover downstairs (complete with gutting). If we played our cards right we’d end up with an almost new house for not too much. Bargain!  So we hired an architect to guide us through the renovation and keep costs within our budget.    

Well, to cut a long story short, the building quotes (not to mention money spent on the architect, engineer, soil tests, environment rating) came in at almost double the price of a Metricon home!

I’m not sure what they think we were building! This was double our original budget – and we hadn’t even started yet. It seems that at some stage the architect’s view of costs and the reality of the market were way out of kilter. I’m sure we could have down-scaled the house, but we’d already compromised on some of the design. I couldn’t stomach more changes for even less gain.

I love the idea of recycling and renewing an old house. I love the idea of giving the old girl a new life. But this love cost me dearly as I tried to renovate a home that really was destined to the annals of history.

Experts say the cost per square metre for renovating is around double the new build price. Wow!

The more I listen, the more I hear this is a common story. New is the new game in town. New is cheaper. In this case new will definitely be better.

So how do you know whether your house is worth renovating or demolishing? Lots of experts to ask on this topic but this is my take:

  • How much of the structure can you keep?
  • Do you have a period façade or key period features?
  • Are you happy with the house’s position on the block?
  • Would any renovation designs be a compromise around current spaces?
  • What condition is the wiring, stumps, and plumbing in?
  • Is the roof in good condition? Are the windows sound or in need of replacing?
  • Can you do any of the work yourself?
  • Are you on a short timeframe (renovation is generally quicker)

What do you think? Any other tips? 

Metricon Mods and Pimping

A lot of people say volume builder designs are very structured and you can’t do too much to them.

This isn’t quite true. We did a quite a few mods to our house. Granted, these mods aren’t a complete remake of the layout, but some were pretty major.

Mods we made:

  • Moved windows
  • Changed window heights
  • Added windows
  • Added to ceiling heights, door heights
  • Removed walls
  • Added walls
  • Added sliding doors
  • Changed our façade windows (sneaky, we know)
  • Added a bath to the ensuite
  • Added extra width to the lounge room
  • Added a firebox
  • Added larger island bench
  • Added extra ovens to the kitchen
  • Added doors

What mods did you make? Did you feel you could make the house your own?

Day 16 – No action

Nothing to report. Horrible weather has seen a very lonely block. It is just not what you expect in October in Melbourne. Rain, rain and more rain. Very frustrating after such a promising start. The weather looks just as bad next week!  I must say I have started to do far more day dreaming about the new home. Gone are the paperwork stresses and hello new house fantasy moments. They are really nice…


Choosing a house floor plan – Metricon Salamanca 34

Choosing a house floorplan

How do you choose the floor plan for your home? There seem to be hundreds of options across the major builders, and even more if you count all the little guys.  Good luck! It is a tough slog of lots of display homes and internet browsing.

A few questions that may help.

  • What restrictions does your block have for width and length?
  • How much front, side and rear yard do you want?
  • What is the optimal orientation for the house to capitalise on the northern orientation?
  • How do you use your home?
    • Entertaining?
    • Watching lots of TV
    • Outdoor living etc
  • Do you want bedrooms upstairs or down?
  • Do you want a parents retreat?
  • Do you like an open plan kitchen, dining, lounge?
  • Do you want an office?
  • Do you like dividing walls or prefer the house to flow?

We chose the Metricon Salamanca as it really met the brief of our family and ticked most of the above list for us.  What we love about the Salamanca 34:

  • Feeling of space throughout
  • Large spacious adult retreat that will also be a study room as well
  • Generous ensuite for relaxing in a lazy bath
  • A lovely front balcony
  • A generous front office
  • Generous butler’s pantry
  • A hidden staircase (we didn’t want a feature one)
  • A laundry on the north side (of our block)
  • An outdoor room on the north side
  • A really relaxed design upstairs where nothing is cluttered or jammed in.
  • A really modest width and length (leaving us with 66% of our land for a backyard and garden)

What was important to you? Did you compromise on anything? Did you find a great floorplan?


Day 8 – Site Manager and digging

We have a site manager! He’s a local guy who actually lives in our suburb. His kids go to the same primary school as ours. I’m thrilled with this development. I must ask him whether he looked after the two stunning Metricon houses just finished in our street and adjoining street. They look amazing! He’s told us ‘communication’ is key. That is music to our ears. He is also very enthused to be building the Salamanca Ascent façade – something that has never been built in Victoria! How cool is that!

We’ve also chatted to our great neighbours to let them know what is happening. We appreciate building is a disruption to their lives, so if we can make it easier through keeping them informed, then we will.

Today has seen more digging on site and the plumbers are in laying the pipes. We have been told a slab could be as close as next week – weather dependent. How exciting.

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Pros and cons of a knockdown rebuild with a volume builder

I get asked a lot about why we went with a volume builder. Why not go with a boutique builder? Or even better, why not build a dream house from scratch.


  • You get to walk in and live and breathe the house you are going to build via a display home. Don’t underestimate how amazing this is
  • Price is very sharp price compared to other options.
  • Guarantee – 25 year structural guarantee
  • Our bank was very happy that we were going with a well-known company
  • A broad range of floor plans that will suit a lot of people
  • Fixed price –what you see on your contract is what you pay


  • Somewhat limited facades
  • Lack of customisation of the house; it is not overly easy to add a room here or there
  • Some limitations of fixtures (flooring, heating and cooling etc)
  • You have to play within the volume builders timelines and milestones

What do you think? Do you have any other Pros or Cons to add to this list?