Day 73 – Christmas shut down

We are racing the clock as we try and get as much done as we possibly can before the house goes dormant for the festive season. We are aiming to have all windows in, fully wrapped, and perhaps, if all goes well, a bit of brickwork done.2013-12-13 16.30.16

The bricks have arrived. Looks like 6 pallets of lovely golden haze. Warning: they are yellow and pretty ugly.  Need not matter – they are being bagged in our fantasy green colour! I’ve got a mate who renders and he’s said he’ll quote a bit lower. Bagging is a lost art – just make up a sludge mix and toss it on the bricks. How hard can it be?

I’m told our job is a few weeks behind where Metricon wants it to be, but that we are still in within the acceptable limits. That is, we are not in the ‘delayed’ or ‘behind schedule’ part of the graph just yet. Hopefully the new year will bring us back to the middle of the curve.

I’m told the tradies will be off until mid-late January. The roof on has been a blessing in the horrid weather. The plumbers have roughed in, and have now gone. Gas work is all done as well. The heating and cooling guys have also come and gone and have put down all the internal ducting pipework. Not stuff that you can see, but important progress all the same.  There is even a new tv antenna on the roof. The 20 year warranty is a blessing with the salty beach rain we get some days.

I was sad to see the bricks still sitting there this week – but we did get some good news. Hopefully our brickie will work a few days next week to start the job.

And a big merry Christmas to our family, friends, loyal blog readers and fellow building friends. I feel your pain as your build goes dormant. Not easy is it. Hopefully Santa will bring us all a fantastic build next year! Have a safe one.

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Fire, fire burning bright

I grew up with fires. I have had a fireplace in every house I have lived in (okay, except one).  You cannot beat the licking flames and real warmth that comes from a firebox. I adore them to bits. From the cavemen of old to the designer apartments today, fires have a large place in our lives. Who hasn’t enjoyed the flames of a fire in winter. I will travel many miles to find a country pub with an old-fashioned roaring open fire.

Our new home has a firebox in the corner of the lounge room.  We have sunken the hearth and we will tile the wall around the chimney to feature it up.

Example tiling:

The volume builders do struggle a bit with the fireboxes. They are not a standard item and we found the fire was actually quite a lot of work to get across the line. Most of the offerings were for fake gas ones. A wonderful option for some, but not for me. After a lot of paperwork and negotiating about what models would and would not work in our home, there was a lot of compromise. Also, building regulations with new home fireplaces are very steep.  We will require a bricked chimney well past the top of our roof so there is no risk of ember attack on our own house or the neighbourhood.

I’m still not sure where the wood will go.  I have an antique wooden chest that has been passed down the family. Maybe that would make a grand log-box

I have spent the past two years collecting firewood from the suburbs. I am the urban angel that helps the elderly with their felled trees to keep the streets clean! Okay, overboard, but you get the gist. There is honour in salvaging you own wood. So really, the firebox will cost zero to keep us warm in winter. (New car installation cost aside!)

We plan to use the firebox as our primary source of heating for most weekends and 2-3 weekdays.  I estimate we will burn around 1.3 kg of firewood per hour between May – September.


This is 150 days.   Rough maths, but I think we’ll go through around 1.3kg of wood * 7hours * 150days). That is around a 1-2 tonne of wood each winter.  That also considers the kwh of our fire box which is pretty modest. Here is a handy calculator for how much wood you may use:

There are a lot of myths out there about fires and how bad they are for the environment. The new fireboxes have burn efficiencies of in excess of 65% or so. The very best, are pushing 90%.  A standard open fire is about 5-10% efficient! The new units are pretty good. If you use the right wood – hard and dry – I feel there are no real environmental issues. There is lots of great information at this website (

We plan to create little kindling/paper packages that we can toss into the fire to make starting it really easy.

My garden will also love the potash that comes from the wood – so double bonus there.

Do you have a fire? Are you planning a firebox?


The green post: how much should we spend to save?

How much will this 34 square home cost to run, heat and cool? It is a question that has been bugging me for a while.  We have built with green in mind as much as we could.  We have been given a 6-star energy rating, which I believe is the required standard in Victoria for new homes. A friend has quipped that it will cost me another salary to keep the bills paid on this new house. Thanks Ian!

So lets have a look at this in more detail. Six-star homes use 50 per cent less energy for heating and cooling compared with a typical 2 star dwelling. With our energy efficient appliances, we hope to save even more. Our old house was probably a 1 star home with all of the cracks and gaps to the outside world.energyratings

We really wanted double glazing but once I did the payback period, it was looking like around 26 years!

We tried to build in hebel – aerated concrete blocks – but as we are close to the beach we were required to keep the hebel in tip-top shape with a regular coating system to keep the salt off. It was looking – from a bit of research – like a little bit too much work longer term.

We do plan to get a solar system, but have decided to delay for 24 months. The price of 5kw systems are falling so fast that I’m expecting the pay-back period (even with declining feed in tarrifs) to be more attractive down the track.  A 5kw system was over $20,000 a few years ago. Today, around $5,000. A useful calculator I sometimes use:

The things we have done – and what the house comes with – to lower energy usage.

  • Large 600mm eaves
  • No down lights – not one!
  • Full LED lighting
  • Evaporative cooling upstairs only
  • Five star ducted heating instead of 3 stars, and added more zones for efficiency
  • Added an air lock to stop front entry draughts racing through the house
  • Added a wood firebox with a high burn efficiency
  • Added sarking to the roof
  • Light coloured roof
  • Recycled front fence and merbau deck
  • Solar hot water system
  • Water tanks for garden watering
  • Pergola to protect west window
  • Outdoor room shading to north
  • 100% edible garden (fruit and vegetable)
  • On-site composting of all scraps and paper products

I will hunt down some old bills of the old house and I look forward to comparing it to the new.  Some nice excel charts to follow.

What have you done to your house to make it a bit more eco?


Got a question you want to ask without posting? Feel free to email us at metriconblog(at) 

Day 58 – Meet Roofus : we have a roof

We have a roof. Very excited to drive past and see the lady had a hat on!  She’s starting to take shape now. And just in time. We’ve had a lot of rain and the block is soaked.

I’m glad the sarking is in place as well. Lots of houses don’t have sarking, but for me, it is a must have item.

The sarking has so many benefits and was only a small additional cost.  I’m learning too: apparently sarking is a foil barrier underneath the roof. It has many benefits but the main ones are that it helps with condensation in the roof; it stops water from dripping into your roof.

It also is another air and foil barrier to stop the sun from heating up the roof cavity.

It also keeps the roof area a little more dust free. That means the roof can be more fun to clamber about in – if that is your thing! (I quite like clambering around up and under houses!)

We’ve gone with a very light coloured colorbond roof –  surfmist. It actually looks a bit dirtier and darker than we remember. We did fear at one stage that it would be a blinding white light on the hill. It is much more subtle!

We love the look of a dark coloured roof but we couldn’t go past the benefits of a light coloured roof when it comes to heat reduction.  A light coloured roof absorbs around 30% of the sun’s heat, versus a dark colour which takes in around 95%. That is one hot roof. Some say a roof can reach up to 90 degrees. A light coloured roof can be up to 39°C cooler.



And here is the hero shot that I’m sure the Metricon marketing team will enjoy seeing. Any guesses who we are building with? Do you think the neighbourhood knows as well? Think so! I reckon they get a lot of business from these marketing banners. Very clever.

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A few shots of our roof.  

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Got a question you want to ask without posting? Feel free to email us at metriconblog(at)