November was generally a quiet month, as I had to travel for business and therefore not much happened on site.
Week of 1 November – Electrical
David Watson and his apprentice Kyan spent three days doing the first rough-in. David and I had already discussed the electric plan, but went through the plan in more detail when he arrived. I had originally wanted to use ‘pretty’ glass switches and plates, but when looking at the prices and seeing that they were at least three times more expensive, I decided that the bog standard white would do!
David organised for a lighting consultant from the local Lear & Smith to come on site and give me some advice regarding the light fittings. It was an ‘enlightening’ experience… some of the suggestions were fantastic but well beyond my budget, like the 20m of weatherproof LED rope lights for the external walkways at $150 per metre!
After a lot of investigation, I have finally settled on a selection of energy efficient light fittings from Beacon Lighting. Not a great design statement, but all pretty low key and should fit in with the overall house design. The only light fitting still not decided on is the one for the 4m high entrance, for which I am looking for something large, striking and handmade.
Week of 22 November
Solar hot water
Galaxy Hot Water installed a Hills 22 evacuated tube plus 250l electric boosted solar hot water system. We had the electician install a separate switch in the power box for it, so that the booster can be left switched off unless required.
So why electric boosted? We have access to natural gas in our street, so investigated the installation costs. Not bad – only $125 plus plumbing costs. Then came the sting – a $0.35c per day service charge, for something we would hardly ever use. The gas boosted system was also $750 more than the electric boosted one. As we are installing a 4kWh solar power system, we should be producing more than required for our needs.
I obtained two quotes for the new sewer connection – one from a large and impersonal firm, and another from a small nearly-local independent operator (a third just never bothered to quote). I decided to give the job to the small independent, who quoted me via email ‘Depending on water table I can’t see the cost going over $4800’, with an hourly rate including excavator of $70, and two days to complete the job.
They started on a Thursday (two guys) with digging the 2.5m hole required – without coming prepared with any shoring equipment. They asked me to go down to the local hardware and buy structural ply while they raided my waste pile fro timber to se for framing. Not a good start… Somehow they managed to get the main connection made, riser installed and inspected.
The next day was supposed to be enough to dig the 35m trench required from the connection to the house – hmmmm. He arrived on his own, once again without shoring equipment, and managed to complete about 10m of the trench during a very long day. he worked damn hard, but alone and building timber framework by hand it was just never going to happen. This was followed by another THREE days of work before the job was complete. I did get him to do a few extra tasks with his excavator, like tear down an old fence and dig the trench for the power supply, which added an additional three hours.
So in total it took five days, two of them with a helper. Expecting an invoice around $5500, I was astounded to receive one for $8400, with an hourly rate of $85 PLUS GST! Needless to say, I did not pay that amount. Court was threatened, as well as the dumping of rubbish taken from the site, but I stuck to my guns and paid an amount that I thought was fair, $6400, within three days of the work being completed. I have heard nothing further.
Shane Price, a local plasterer, and his apprentice Daniel were taken on to do the internal plasterboard linings. Shane came highly recommended, and over the 11 days of work this proved true. They were prompt and neat, especially considering that all corners were to be square set (no cornices) and there are lots of strange angles in the house.
SeeThe Owner Builder 163 February/March 2011 for more information on these stages.