Saturday, 22 March 2008

7 - The Process Begun

Where do I begin in unpacking this mixed bag of fun and adventure? Well the first thing we had to do before paying the rest of the deposit on the house was to get a building inspection done. This involves an ex builder, now inspector, walking around the house and kicking its tyres - so to speak. For this we paid 260 clams. He said the place looks fine now but who knows what it may be like after being cut in half and moved? Cheers for that. Along with this we also had a pest inspection done by the same company, it cost $240 and revealed no unwanted guests or things that eat houses.

The house has to be moved from its current site by early April 2008. If it isn’t we will be slogged with a further $10 000 to have it first moved to a yard and then on to our place. This cost is probably represented in the ticket price of the houses you see for sale in removal house lots around South East Queensland. It may be cheaper to have it moved just once from its original site. This was never confirmed but does make sense. Drake have a policy guaranteeing the cost of the house be returned in the event that one’s council application does not get approved. Such a policy offers some comfort because they demand the money for the house pretty much upfront. This process doesn’t wash with many lenders who demand a house on land before committing any of their money. As I have said early, we had to change financial institutions for this project and nab’s late settlement date forced us to temporarily borrow the money for the house from generous parents. All up it took nearly two months to acquire the loan. If readers considering buying a house for relocation take one thing from my words, take sorting out the finance way before you get excited about available houses oh and maybe to use the greeting “What-Ho” more in social situations.

After paying for the house we started gathering all the necessary reports required to accompany our Council Development Application. Because we had a deadline of April we felt a slight sense of urgency around this back in November. We assumed, perhaps wrongly, that we would need the help of a planning consultant to put the application together and sort out any issues with it throughout the approval process. We were a little nervous about the whole deal, and felt like we had to get it right from the start to minimise delays. So we hooked up with a consultant and started gathering the reports he advised were required to accompany our application. In hindsight we probably could have put the application together ourselves and saved about $1000 in consultancy fees, but as I say, back then we were a little anxious.

The reports we required were a soil test, a structural engineer’s report of the house, a contour survey of the house site, an on site waste treatment design report and a floor plan and elevation drawing of the house. We set about setting these up. They all got done but they took a bit longer than I would have liked, falling over into the new year. The cost of each is listed in the “Money Spent” section. We saved on the floor plan because my partner drew it up herself and the elevation drawings could be substituted for photos of the house.

The application was lodged in early January. Part of the cost was a $1400 bond for moving the house via the council’s roads. This will be returned if no road signs and things are damaged by the trucks on the way.

Apparently, the house will be sawn in half by the house movers, taken down in the middle of the night and placed on temporary stumps exactly on its proposed site. The stumps will be quite a lot higher than the permanent ones will be. The house movers then depart as the stumpers come in and match up the new steel stumps to the house and put them all in place. Then the house movers return and lower the house down to rest on the new stumps. At some point in all this they also join the house back together again.

The House Movers
Following the purchase of the house, Drake referred us to a separate house moving company. The first step in making things happen was to find out if the house could be moved to our block. This simply involved a quick reconnaissance mission to ensure the route was acceptable for moving half a house - twice. It was. We were relieved, remembering we only got the house in the first place because walk in deposit man owned a hard to get to block of land.

We booked the house move in for the end of March or early April 2008. This was really the only time they could fit us in, and it happened to suit our deadline, but only just. All we had to do before then was to sign the contract they sent us. Easier said then done. It contained the odd strange clause, some of which we were not prepared to swallow. We just took to it with a pen and made a few changes, such as completely deleting the clause stating that we were responsible for removing and reinstating overhead wires along the truck’s journey. We nervously sent the contract, laden with scribbles and ruled lines, back to them and were pleasantly surprised that they accepted all of the changes. It was as if the contract was the same standard document that they have been pulling out and dusting off for years. They seemed to recognise this fact and were quite prepared to update things. This was a wonderful relief because since receiving the first contract we grew a bit dubious about the house movers. After the contract changes were made, and many silly questions patiently answered, our faith was completely returned, with interest.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A Picture Break

The site for the house, looking to the east.

Looking at the house site hill from the north

Looking to the north from the house site back over to the shed we live in now

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

6 - The Blog

Reading back over the story so far it becomes slightly apparent to my occasionally self deprecating slant that it is a tad opinionated. There are a few almost pompous assertions regarding, say, the wonders of wood, the gloriousness of separate kitchens, the difficultness of kit home company employees, and just how shit hot we must be for scoring a house that matches everything we wanted. With this in mind I feel a qualifier or two needs to be thrown in here.

Before I started writing this blog I knew that we had decided upon the house, it is to be moved in another month from today. This fact may have unconsciously played a heavy hand in editing the telling of the tale. When given the opportunity I think we all have a tendency to become happier with our current lot. Certain aspects of it tend to be held in higher and higher regard as time goes by. We get used to things. For us in the beginning, we really did not know exactly what we wanted in a house. I remember us wanting all sorts of things such as half the house buried in a hill with grass and meadow flowers growing on the roof, walls of glass taking in every view, a completely outdoor kitchen, a tree or two growing up through the middle of the house, and a series of separate buildings for each room with a courtyard linking them. There were so many things that we wanted to incorporate into one house that in many ways we were paralysed. It was kind of like the hundreds of salivating shoppers pushing through the door of a Boxing Day Myer stocktake sale and all getting stuck.

Deciding to relocate a house provided much needed relief. We could focus our interest on one style of house and make it work, intellectually, for our purposes. All the other ‘dream’ houses would remain as such. Our limited budget and circumstances have dictated a housing direction that we have fortunately become very accustomed to and that accustomedness provides the optimistic thread holding this blog together.

So all the elements that I have passed critical judgment over such as plasterboard, aluminium framed windows, carpet and the rest are not really to my taste but if pushed, I could make them work for me. The most important thing is achieving the correct house orientation and including other power saving devices and features. Air conditioning is a big hate of mine and I make no apologies for that. It is unnecessary, when accompanied by good house design, especially for the climate we enjoy here. If I was in the tropical north things would be different, but we chose to be in this climate so our heating and cooling requirements would be minimal.

Monday, 3 March 2008

5 - The House

As I have already mentioned, the house is in great condition. It has housed only two owners since it was built in 1926 by a man for his wife. Fifteen years ago it had enjoyed some restoration and renovation work. One of the results of this was the bathroom being relocated from its original position on the back deck to one of the three bedrooms. This gave the house only two bedrooms and a large but lovely bathroom. The old deck bathroom became a large laundry and storage area.

The Kitchen
When seeing the above layout, some friends of ours suggested knocking out the wall between the kitchen and lounge or at least cutting a large opening in it. This got me thinking. I like the idea of the separate kitchen. There has been quite a push lately in house design circles to open everything up. The dining area is merged with lounge, media, entertainment and what not and over to one side, as if on stage, is the kitchen ensconced in island bench. Perhaps the thinking is that the cook or dish washer can stay part of the party as they quietly toil away piping up occasionally with witty observations in tune with the topics at hand. For all other times those in the kitchen can talk with family as they watch TV in the other corner or watch it themselves or simply discuss various matters of everyone’s busy day as the evening meal is prepared. I guess all this is a nice idea. Here comes the ‘however’ subtly signposted by the ‘I guess’. However, I kind of think you lose the purpose and function of rooms this way. A separate kitchen complete with an area for dining is a very nice thing. It is the kitchen – the place for creating meals, storing food, sprouting sprouts, rising bread, learning about flavours, imparting a sense of interest and passion within children and lots of messy experimentation. To be able to sit right there and eat in the place that the food was prepared, with the leftovers bubbling away on the stove at arms reach, the smells of dozens of herbs and spices wafting around and the sights of jars and jars of dried beans and the like, gives a nice understanding of the origin of the meal and contributes to the richness of its eating.

So the fact that the small kitchen in this house has a little dining nook, with a view to the prospective veggie gardens, is perfect for us.The walls will act as vertical storage, like a library of culinary delights. The kitchen benches will need some work as they are fairly minimal. The previous owners had a large rustic looking stand alone bench in the middle and a cupboard on the back wall. We are hoping to simply have a bench and cook top on that wall and no bench in the middle, the room is too small.

The Living Room
Having a separate small living room works for us too. It will become the centre of the house and a place for relaxing, talking, reading, playing and creating. The name ‘living’ sums these activities up nicely as there is an active element to them. We will have to place the computer somewhere in this room though there will be no television. I have recently welcomed a new TV free chapter in my life. Not that it made up a large part before but it was there and it didn’t feel right. Its absence is producing things during a time usually devoted to passive consumption. This blog is an example, so to the collection of hand made clothes worn daily by my daughter at the hands of my partner’s busy hands.

The Bedrooms
There are two and this is fine for now. Should the need arise to fill a third we will move the bathroom back to its original location and convert the space it was in back in to a bedroom. The one issue with bedrooms in an old house is the lack of inbuilt cupboards. We will have to come up with solutions to this. For us it will probably be a combination of old stand-alone wardrobes and maybe some clothes racks hanging from the roof at eye level.

The Bathroom
This will be half in the laundry, marked 'toilet', and half in the house as in the design. The claw foot bath that comes with the house will stay where it is for the time being. However, we are going to install a composting toilet in the laundry which will probably become a bathroom in the future. Having the composting toilet out there will make it easier to get in under it to replace the full chambers. Also it seems nicer to get down to that sort of business away from the more delicate living areas of the house. Flushing toilets have brought the whole affair closer and even into people’s bedrooms. When you think about it, this is a bit weird. It has not been decided at this stage but we will probably get the toilet from Nature-Loo. There will be more on that later when I write of our on-site waste treatment systems.


The house is nearly perfectly orientated to suit the need for passive solar design for our site. The house has a longer east west axis and is narrow enough to benefit from cross flow breezes. The verandas at each end of the house will act as a buffer keeping the sun from hitting the house. Of course, bedroom 1 will cop it from the west in the afternoon, however we plan to plant some trees over that side of the house and perhaps insulate the wall. The large windows in the living room will benefit from northern sun and the area just outside these will work as a sun trap in the cooler months where we can grow things that aren't keen on getting cold.