Monthly Archives: January 2014

Minor BAL post correction…

In my last post about the BAL quote I mentioned that we had an independent BAL inspection that confirmed  the BAL for our lot was 12.5 instead of 40. I also said that it was a bit premature because the builder didn’t even ask to see the inspection report.

Well, this is where I say I was wrong! What really happened is James sent the inspection report to the builder months ago and it went with the application to the CDC. So, in the end, totally worth it after all!


BAL variation

Before I launch into a spiel about the BAL quote, I just want to say THE PLANTS ARE STILL ALIVE. I will offer photographic evidence for those not convinced. Actually, the plants are looking really healthy. The Christmas Bush has turned this lovely glossy green colour. Its early days yet, of course, but at least they didn’t die straight away. That would have been embarrassing.

I’m sure you can all remember that we need to get certain things in place to satisfy our Bushfire Attack Level (BAL). In our land contract the BAL was rated at 40, which put us in a panic. In the end, we had the land independently assessed and it came back at BAL 12.5. We breathed a sigh of relief.

Well, I’m here to admit that it was actually a bit of a waste of money. The builder has simply given us an invoice for all the things required to meet BAL 12.5 and nobody has asked to see our independent assessment. I guess a better strategy is to wait until there is an actual fight to be had and then go and get the assessment. Oh well. The one thing it did do was put our minds at ease, so for that it was worth the money.

Here is what we need to get to satisfy a BAL of 12.5. A lot of it was already included in the build price.

  • concrete slab on the ground, included
  • external walls must be leaf masonry, concrete or stabilised earth, included
  • no external leaf cladding of sheet material permitted where it is less than 400 mm above adjacent ground level, noted
  • provide 110 mm weepa vents including stainless steel spark arrestors to entire home, $780
  • provide stainless steel spark arrestors to externally ducted kitchen rangehood, $85
  • provide 25 aluminium flyscreens with aluminium flymesh to all openable windows, $1250
  • provide fire-retardant Merbau door frames to entry and laundry external hinged doors in lieu of standard (excluding stained finish), $650
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened glazing to lower portion of windows only to home office and home theatre windows, included
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened glazing to dining room and leisure room stacking doors, included
  • aluminium stacking/sliding doors to remain closed if occupants are not present or in the event of a bushfire threat, by owner
  • provide drought excluders to entry and laundry external hinged doors, included
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened clear glazing to entry and laundry door, included
  • provide a minimum 4 mm toughened clear glazing to front entry sidelite, $80
  • provide seals to top and sides of garage panel lift door to prevent the entry of embers, $520
  • provide fully sarked roof construction, included
  • provide spark guards to whirlybird on roof, $87
  • all roof lights and associated shafts shall be sealed with non-combustible sleeve/lining, by owner (we don’t have any roof lights)
  • eaves shall be enclosed with fascia or gaps between rafters being sealed, included
  • provide expanded gutter guards (leaf stoppers) to all gutters and valleys with a flammability index no greater than 5, subject to council request, by owner
  • all service pipes for water and gas supplies to be buried to a depth no less than 300 mm, included

Total: $3452

The builder had put $8000 in our contract as provisional allowance for all of this, so at this point we were getting change back.

Although this is all we need to satisfy the BAL rating, we went ahead and asked for a few more things:

  • provide 1 hinged aluminium flydoor with aluminium flymesh to laundry door, excludes triple lock and diamond grill, $425
  • provide stacking flydoors with aluminium flymesh to dining room stacking door, excludes triple lock and diamond grill, $700
  • provide sliding flydoor with aluminium flymesh to leisure room sliding door, excludes triple lock and diamond grill, $550
  • provide expanded gutter guards (leaf stoppers) to all gutters and valleys with a flammability index no greater than 5, subject to council request, $3069

Total: $4744

So, all up we’re at $8196. Definitely no change back.

Not too bad. I nearly fell over when I saw the gutter guard quote but I don’t fancy getting up on our two storey roof to put it in later.

I've come down with the shingles

What’s the hold up?

Just after receiving approval from the CDC the builder sent us an email saying there were about 25 days (commencing from the 6th of January) of paperwork left before construction could start. We are at day 9.

Here is what is holding everything up:

Landscaping – we haven’t accepted the quote for landscaping because we’ve been unable to make a decision on what to do. Ultimately, it is far cheaper to get everything done externally. However, we have a $5500 gift certificate to use. We also want to change the deck outside to just plain coloured concrete (cheaper and easier to maintain) which means the whole landscaping plan has to go back to the DRP for re-approval. It’s like pulling teeth. We have decided to get all the concrete work done by the builder so we don’t have to worry about it. Hopefully they will get a revised quote to us today. I’ll let you know how much that all comes to later on.

Kitchen – the kitchen people have still not provided the paperwork about our selections back to the builder. I’m going to whinge at them today about it.

LED lighting – we asked for a quote for LED lighting to be provided in the kitchen and the builder has to wait until they get the kitchen paperwork back.

Bushfire requirements – The builder has just given us a quote with all the bushfire requirements on it (separate post coming on all that soon). There are a couple of things that haven’t been quoted on it because it’s not strictly required for our bushfire level. For example, we’ve been quoted for flyscreens to all the windows but not the doors. So we’ve had to ask for a quote to be provided for the flyscreens to the doors as well as gutter guard. So much back and forward.

Occupation certificate – we were sent a variation to have an interim occupation certificate provided. Apparently this is not something that all banks require but ours does. That’s an easy fix; we signed and sent the variation back. I’ll put another post together about what the hell an occupation certificate even is.

Hopefully this all gets fixed up quickly. I’m getting so impatient now.

Online gardening

I’ve been trawling the net to find some places to buy reasonably priced hedge plants in bulk.

Here’s what I’ve found:

1. If you have no issue with pot sizes and are happy to wait for them to grow then ebay is a great place to look. You can get trays of plants in 9 mm tubes, often for less than $1 per plant. Search using either the common or botanical name for the plant and double check that you’re getting the right one.

2. There are loads of wholesale nurseries around Sydney but not all of them sell directly to the public. If they do sell to the public there’s a good chance you’ll need to pre-order. Here are a few websites for nurseries that stock a good range of plants at good prices.

Happy plant shopping!

Room for growth

For the last few months I’ve been searching everywhere for good deals on plants for all this landscaping we have to do.

It hasn’t been easy because:

1. the DRP insists on us planting huge pot sizes

2. we need large quantities of the same kind of plant for our hedge

3. we don’t want to have to sell a kidney to pay for it.

When we hear that Flower Power is having a big sale we decide to go in there and have a look at what’s on offer.

We make three separate trips to Flower Power in two days. Each time we walk back out within an hour, exasperated at having to try and find specific plants. And it was so hot to stand out in the sun! See, nurseries are fantastic places to browse. If you’re looking for specific plants it’s a nightmare!

In the end we go home and print off all the plants we’re allowed to plant and take them to a man at Flower Power. He is very helpful and tells us which ones they stock, where they are and a little bit of information about the plants. In the end, I could kiss this man with gratitude.

He tells us a few handy things:

1. 45L pot sizes are very hard to come across because they are expensive and hard to sell. Most places will only stock smaller sizes, 250-300 mm diameter pots. 45L pots are about 450 mm.

2. If we plant the 250 mm pot size trees in a larger pot right now they will probably grow fast and reach the larger size fairly quickly. We will get a whole growing season in before we need to have the DRP come and measure them up.

3. Some of the plants on our list are only available certain times of the year. An example is the NSW Christmas Bush. Its only available just before Christmas and they won’t be getting anymore in until next Christmas (which will be too late for us).

4. The natives are on sale right now and if we ask for a quote for the hedge plants they might even be able to get them for the current sale price.

We end up deciding to buy all the trees we need, as well as some shrubs and grasses. Probably should have taken James’ car instead of mine.


Here is what we got:


The Lilly Pilly is in a 250 mm pot and cost us $10 (on sale from $39.99). It’s currently 1.5 m tall. The NSW Christmas Bush are in 250 mm pot sizes and cost us $55.99 each (on sale from 69.99). They range in height from 1.1-1.2 m. All five of these trees need to be 45L pot sizes to satisfy the DRP so we’re going to have a go at growing them a bit bigger while we wait for the house to be built. We went to the Reject Shop, brought some cheap large pots ($6 each), got some native soil mix from Bunnings, and we’re replanting them into those. Fingers crossed they grow fast and the DRP doesn’t take any money off us as punishment for being too small.

Here is a picture of a re-potted plant (the big one) next to the original. The bricks are to help with drainage until we can get an empty pallet to put them on.


The Warratahs are 140 mm pot sizes and are also too small for the DRP (need to be 200 mm). So, we planted them into the empty 250 mm pots from the trees. They cost us $22.99 each and were not on sale.


The Correa ‘Dusky Bells’ are 200 mm pot sizes and are actually too big for the DRP! They only need to be 150 mm. We will keep an eye on these ones and if they look a bit sick we will pick up some slightly larger pots and plant them out. They cost $15.99, on sale from $19.99. They only had 3 but we need 11 so we have to track down a few more.

The Purple Fountain Grass is 140 mm pot size and that’s the right size for DRP. Again, we will keep an eye out and hopefully don’t need to plant them out. They cost $6.39. I thought we were buying them at 2 for $14.50 but obviously not. Now I’m not sure what the full price is! We brought 1 too many but that’s ok.

We still need to get hold of 116 hedge plants, another 8 Correa ‘Dusky Bells’ and 41 ground covers. At least we’ve made a good start and so far it’s been fairly cheap.

Fingers crossed the trees grow big and strong and we don’t kill anything. Neither one of us have much of a green thumb…

A small win

Today we had a small win. It seriously made my day.

Remember back when we got the kitchen quote and I said I thought the price of some of the cabinetry seemed a little pricey, especially the pot drawers? Well, I was right!

We were quoted $995 for an extra set of pot drawers. When I winged about it to some friends who are also building with the same builder they told me that they only had to pay $480. There are two kitchen suppliers for our builder and they have been charging two different prices!

We emailed the builder and told them that we thought we had been over charged. We didn’t have any luck with that. So then we sent them copies of my two friend’s quotes showing the lower price. We just got word back from the builder today that our kitchen supplier has indeed charged us wrong and they will provide the drawers at the lower price. Total saving of $515. Small change for them but big bucks for us.

I do love it when I’m right.

im right