Category Archives: Upgrades

Which things we upgraded and how much it cost

Future house

Before we’d even finished building people started asking if we thought we would ever build again. For some people, once is more than enough heart ache. For us, we kinda screw our faces up and shrug, maybe.

We’re not sure either way, but every so often we see things that make us think oh, let’s put that in our next house!

Our recent trip to Japan was a great source of that kind of inspiration. We stayed in a couple of typical modern Japanese apartments and were amazed to see how the lack of free space had inspired some pretty cool solutions. For example, the bathroom doubles as a clothes dryer. Yep, hang your clothes and change the settings to clothes dryer and then 4-6 hours later you’ve got dry clothes. AMAZING.

We also noticed the fondness for the control panel. The places we stayed all had control panels (and even remote controls) for all kinds of things: lights, hot water, bath, shower, toilet. Want to fill the bath? Put the plug in, select the temperature and hit the fill bath button and it will do it automatically.

Just when we thought we’d see it all, we stumbled across a Panasonic show room and popped in for a look. We were thinking it would be full of TVs and sound systems but there were very few of those around. Panasonic in Japan seems to have taken home renovation to a whole new level. Here are some of the favorite items.

All of these images are from Try google translate if you can’t read it (like me!).

Draining cupboard with a difference

Draining cupboards have been around for a while and you can get them if you look hard enough but they haven’t really made their way into the standard Australian kitchen. Perhaps the dishwasher is to blame. I don’t know about you, but there are some things that will just never be able to go in the dishwasher and things like wooden chopping boards, sharp knives, baking trays and flimsy things all end up competing for space on the dish rack on the sink, looking ugly 99% of the time.

In it’s most standard form, a draining cupboard is just a cupboard with the bottom cut out and a few racks put in, like the ones here: The idea is to get the drying items up off the bench top and out of the way.

The difference about this amazing one is that firstly, the drops are captured at the bottom and it’s ventilated. Secondly, at the press of a button, the whole thing raises up into the cupboard above. Yep, disappears completely. All by itself.

Access all areas

Can’t reach the top shelf?

Cloak/shoe rooms

I would LOVE one of these. A magic place right by the front door to store shoes, coats, umbrellas etc. Of course, these are quite popular in many countries, but in Japan they come with a control panel for ventilation, odour control, lighting and just about anything else you might desire.


Magic grill drawer?

Yes please. If only for the novelty!

Bubble bath

I laughed at this one, but they had a sample to put your hand in and it feels lovely. Basically,it creates tiny bubbles of air in the water, like bathing in a soft drink!

Bathroom cupboards

With space to store and charge all the appliances! Seems like common sense but we had to pay extra just to have a drawer in our vanity!

Neat consumer electronics storage (Mira come mirror)

Bathroom cupboard

Amazing toilets

Toilets in Japan are known to greet you, raising their lids as you step into the room. They have warm seats, play sounds to disguise your sounds, wash, blow dry and deodorise. No need to squirm about touching the flush, most of them have hand sensors or will simply flush on their own. And this one flushes with foam every time.

La Uno

Indoor clothes line

We’ve all been stuck in wet weather when you have to dry a few things inside, but there’s not enough to warrant the full tumble dry. No more fiddling with the wire clothes horse, check this contraption that lowers from the ceiling!


On top of the base price

I bet you’re all dying to know how much we’ve spent? In particular, how much on top of that infamous “base price”.

Originally, we budgeted to spend around $90 000 on top of the base price. Any more than that and our wallets would have to remain tightly zipped up, especially since we’re renting at the same time. Ideally though, we wanted to spend a fair bit below that.

So, how much went where?

Developer requirements

Up first is the offerings made to the DRP Gods. While some builders have house facades that would probably come close to meeting the developer requirements, our builder’s “classic” facade was never going to get there. We spent a considerable amount of money adding things. Some things were cosmetic; others were in the name of “sustainability”.

We added:

  • 7 extra windows
  • a corner parapet
  • moroka
  • a larger rainwater tank
  • 600 mm eaves
  • window hoods
  • solar panels (we partly needed these for BASIX, too, but the developer insisted we meet a higher level of energy and water efficiency than what would be standard).

All up, a whopping $26 914.

Seems like an awful lot. Having said that, most house plans come with upgrade options for the facade and you can easily spend $30 000 on some of those without even adding extra windows, solar etc.

Site and council fees

You’re told the base price covers “standard site and council fees”. No one tells you what standard is. Here’s what wasn’t standard for us:

  • upgrading the slab to include waterproof membrane because we have saline soil
  • upgrading to a H1 class slab instead of a M class slab
  • borehole testing
  • 149 certificate
  • CDC fees
  • sewer peg out
  • engineers diagrams showing zone of influence
  • additional piering
  • NBN costs
  • Kerb layback
  • interim occupancy certificate

We still might have to pay for additional piering when they get on site.

So far, we’re at $12 477.


There was a whole list of things we had to do to meet BAL 12.5. The initial quote was $3 452, but that only included flyscreens to the windows. We asked them to quote us for flyscreens to all the doors, except the front door, and gutter guard. That pushed the cost up to $8 196.


Our original quote for landscaping came in around $44 000. No thank you! In the end we settled on:

  • landscaping plan
  • a driveway, including drainage
  • front path
  • increase the concrete strength for the saline soil
  • additional concrete area at the side of the house.

$12 825. We were given a $5 500 “gift certificate” when we signed up with Wisdom so we only have to pay $7 325.


You can really go nuts on the inside if you’re cashed up enough! We tried to be pretty conservative, but even the smallest change in finishing can cost a fair bit. We spent money on:

  • electrical fit out (extra power points, lights etc)
  • upgrading the paint
  • upgrading internal doors
  • adding sliding mirrored robe doors in all bedrooms
  • kitchen (bench tops, drawers, cupboards, laminex finishes)
  • bathroom bench tops
  • obscure glazing for bathroom window
  • changing a large window to a sliding door
  • installing a sliding cavity door
  • adding insulation in the wall between the house and garage
  • ducted air conditioning
  • carpet upgrade
  • tile upgrade

All up, $22 764. I suppose it could have been worse!

Grand total

When we do the maths we’ve spent an extra $83 176 on top of the base price, so far!

Final landscape quote

I just thought I’d share with you which parts of that massive landscaping quote (the $44 000 one) we are accepting.

After a lot of thinking we decided to have Wisdom Landscapes do all the concreting. Here is the run down:

  • plain coloured concrete driveway, $7400
  • supply and install driveway drainage in front of the garage, $880
  • increase the concrete strength to 32 mpa due to the saline soil, $415
  • supply and install 100 mm reinforced coloured concrete to the right hand side of the house (this is instead of the deck), $2530
  • additional labour or concrete pump required due to restricted access, if required, $750

Total: $8695
Minus the gift certificate, -$5500
Total: $3195

We ummed and ahhed a few times over this choice. We definitely think we could have had all the concrete installed after hand over with another company far cheaper. However, we had the $5500 gift certificate and it didn’t seem right to not use it for something (is the gift certificate not the best marketing poly ever?). So, although we think $8695 seems over priced, we’re happy enough to pay the $3195. The bonus will be that it will all be installed before we move in.

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

More variations

Each year, as the Silly Season commences, I get this foreboding feeling that time is rapidly escaping. Then the panic sets in. How on earth am I going to get all of that done in this little time?

This year we’ve got all the usual fan fare plus the house. We are in some kind of stage where just about every other day we get some variation or another requesting yet more money (on top of that “fixed price contract”). It’s frustrating because it doesn’t feel like anything is actually happening, except more requests for more money.

You may recall that we needed to pay to have a sewer peg out? Well, turns out that the house is close enough to the sewer to require extra piering. Bam, we’re charged $365 for the engineer to amend the drawing to show the impact. On top of that we’re charged $1380 for the additional piering.

Today we have been sent a variation for “council fees”. The variation is a little light on the detail:

“Council fees required in order to obtain CDC approval:

1. Road inspection fee, $95
2. Road administration fee, $43
3. Engineering fee, $96.”

That’s it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it’s fair to invoice someone for any kind of “fee” without explaining what that fee is actually for. So, we’ve asked them to explain them because we’re smart people who would like to know what “engineering fee” actually means.

All of these costs will need to be paid from our own cash stash because they’re not included in the fixed price contract, despite being predictable fees and charges.

We’ve also asked the builder to double check our kitchen quote is comparable with what the other kitchen supplier would charge (we had to do with Knebel, Timpelle is the other supper). Apparently the file has gone to estimating. They will no doubt come back after two weeks and say “oh yeah, it’s all good.” or “oh, we should have actually charged you even more so think of it as getting a discount.”

Other than that, nothing is happening as far as we can tell. The builder will have a 5 week shut down period commencing soon. I think a start date of Feb 28 is looking like a bit of a joke. I’ll have to check if they specified which year.

Landscaping quote

So here is the long promised break down of the landscaping quote.

Preparing the site:

  • excavating lawn levels to 100 mm and garden beds to 200 mm, $1500
  • removing 1 truck load of clean fill, $750


  • excavate, supply and install reinforced plain coloured concrete, $7400
  • supply and install strip drain in front of garage, $880
  • increase concrete strength (saline soil), $300

Garden edging

  • supply and install havenbrick garden edging on mortar base, $2200


  • prepare garden beds with premium garden soil and mulch, $2250
  • supply and lay Sir Walter Buffalo Turf, not including nature strip, $5750
  • supply and install plants (300 mm pot size has been substituted to reduce costs), $4600


  • supply and install masonry letterbox. Finish to be in white Moroka paint, $900

Timber decking

  • supply and install timber decking using merbau hardwood on concrete subfloor, $9900


  • supply and install 1.8m ezyclip fencing, $5050
  • supply and install 1.8m ezyclip gates, $2310


  • supply and install Hills Everyday Single Folding clothesline (2.2 m x 1.2 m), $550

Total: $44 340

We have a $5500 landscaping gift card for signing up with Wisdom so we have to pick and choose which of these things we want done. The rest of it we will have to do on our own.

I have absolutely no idea where I’m going to get 120 plants of the same variety in 300 mm pot sizes for our compulsory hedge. I guess I have to order them from somewhere. Any ideas?

Kitchen quote

We got out kitchen quote back and I’m not happy with it.

Firstly, it was missing an item so I had to go back and get them to add that in. Secondly, the prices for some things are RIDICULOUS.

For instance, pot drawers. A set of three drawers instead of cupboard space. $995. ARE THEY SERIOUS?

Here’s the whole list:

  • two tone colours to cabinetry (having one colour on the bottom and the other on the overhead cupboards) $365
  • overhead cupboards in a silk finish laminex $345
  • extra set of pot drawers $995
  • shelf under bench to put microwave on and single drawer under that, instead of standard cupboard $705
  • move cupboard door from one side of island bench to the other $460
  • increase bench overhang from 200 mm to 300 mm (based on a 40 mm bench thickness) $150
  • increase bench thickness from 20 mm to 40 mm $905
  • increase overhead cabinet height from 700 mm to 850 mm including additional shelf $435
  • soft close doors (10 doors) $220
  • pull out bin $130
  • 2 drawers to the ensuite vanity (non soft close) $105

Some of it I think is reasonable. The changes to the cabinetry are overpriced in my opinion. Everyone else seems to think pot drawers should be around the $500 mark.

Not real happy.

Also got landscaping quote back, total of $44 340. Hahahahahahahahhahahahahahahaha. Yeah, right.

Tile quote

Yesterday we got the tile quote back from Di Lorenzo. I held my breath as I opened the email, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought.

All up, it’s just under $1300.

Their itemised quote is extremely hard to decipher but here is the breakdown:


To have the main tiles laid in the laundry we’ve had to pay extra because they are bigger than normal laundry tiles and there are extra labour costs. That, plus the upgraded floor waste came to about $172.


We chose a floor tile that was $10 more expensive per square meter, cost was $85 for the main bathroom. We asked for the feature tile to be used as a splashback between the vanity and the mirror, $144, plus labour to lay decorative tiles, $105. Add in two upgraded floor wastes and you’re at $410 before you know it.


The same floor tile for the bathroom was selected, adds up to $57. Decorative splashback comes to $216 and the labour to lay the decorative tiles is $120. Add in two upgraded floor wastes. All up, $469.

Powder room

Again, the floor tile was upgraded, $42. The splashback is $108 and the labour is $31. All up, $219. I have to query this item though because we’ve been charged a different price for the same decorative tile to be used.

Threshold, porch and main tile

No upgraded for these items. The main tile will cover the entry, hall, kitchen, pantry, dining and leisure rooms.

We got some other amusing quotes for landscaping and kitchen back today. Can’t wait to tell you all about those later!



Carpet quotes

We weren’t all that happy with the standard carpet selection on offer at Di Lorenzo so we asked the builder how much we would get back if we decided not to go with the carpet and just get it done after hand over.

While we were waiting for that number to come back we did a bit of shopping around. To get something of similar quailty to the carpet we had picked at Di Lorenzo (which was an upgrade carpet) we would need to spend about $40 per metre, plus installation costs, plus underlay.

The quote from Di Lorenzo regrding the upgrades we had picked also came back- around $2300.

Then, finally, the builder got back to us with information about how much money we would be credited if we chose to take the carpet out- $3200. We were a bit shocked to see how little money that is. That amount doesen’t even cover the cost of buying the standard builder’s range of carpet.

So it works out that even if we pay the $2300 to upgrade it will still be cheaper to stay with the builder rather than go out and buy it all after hand over. And that’s what we’ve decided- we will just stick with Di Lorenzo, pay the upgrade money and hopefully the carpet turns out to be better than we thought.


We’ve now been to all our appointments. Work has been crazy, so James had to fly solo for the electrical appointment yesterday. I’m glad he did though; I think he did a fantastic job whilst staying conscious of the ‘budget’.

First things first- the electrical fittings are supplied by Clipsal. From what James could gather, Clipsal don’t do any of the installation. They supply all the fittings but an electrician will do the actual installation.

Seeing as Clipsal are fairly expensive we decided to go with provisioning wherever possible. This means that for things like downlights they will provide everything we need except the downlight itself. We will need to buy our own and have it installed after hand over. Same with the outdoor lighting.

This helps keep the initial prices down a fair bit. For example, an 8W LED downlight supplied by Clipsal will cost about $200. Just the provisioning will cost about $60. Then we can watch out for sales and shop around to pick up some downlights later on.

Lots of things are included as standard:

  • 1 gas point
  • 2 smoke detectors
  • 2 fan-light-heaters in the bathrooms
  • 1 data socket
  • 2 phone sockets
  • 2 TV points
  • 2 power circuits
  • 2 single outdoor sockets
  • 20 double sockets indoors
  • 7 single sockets indoors
  • 1 cooker switch
  • 1 two way switch
  • 2 light circuits
  • 1 weather proof light
  • 18 batten holders

Of course, that’s the bare minimum.

We added:

  • 2 data sockets
  • 1 TV point
  • 2 double sockets outdoors
  • 5 double sockets indoors
  • 2 two way switches
  • provisioning for LED strip lights in the kitchen
  • provisioning for 8 downlights (for lighting dark spots in the kitchen and lighting bathroom mirrors)
  • provisioning for 7 weather proof outdoor lights

We could have easily added more- you really can get carried away here.

Until you see the total price.

The standard inclusions (all the things we don’t pay extra for) came up to $6242. The variations (things we’ve added in as extras) added up to $1729.

We put a $2000 provisional allowance into the tender before signing the contract so we came in under our ‘budget’, but it’s certainly crazy expensive. I’ve heard horror stories of people paying $11000 to have the whole house decked out in downlights and what not.

Here are some of the individual costs for items (subject to change):

Single power point, $50
Double power point, $55
Double weather proof power point, $101
Ceiling light point (bayonet including switch), $52
Weatherproof light point, $62
2 way switches, $40
Clipsal LED 8W downlight, $198
Exhaust fan, $150
3-in-1 bathroom light fan heater, $550
TV point, $80
Data point, $115
Phone point, $80

less thought