Paying Contractors

Sponsored by CheckVault

The advice you always get about paying contractors is “Don’t pay until the works are complete.”

Easy to say. . . . . but most small contractors want payments up front!

Why Contractors Want Up-Front Payment

I have known a lot of small contractors and one recurring problem is getting payments for work they have done.

Although you hear plenty of stories about bad contractors I can assure you contractors have just as many stories about chasing debts from bad clients.

Many small contractors work on tight margins and the cash flow issue of one or more bad debts can easily send them broke.

You might think you are a reasonable person who always pays your debts, but how is that contractor you want to engage know that?

An Alternative To Up-Front PaymentcheckVault

An idea I have recently come across is CheckVault which works as follows:

  1. You make a payment to Check Vault prior to the work commencing. (Payment can be by Bank Transfer, or even Credit card)
  2. The money is then held in Escrow, by Perpetual Corporate Trust so your money is always safe.
  3. The contractor carries out the work
  4. Only when the work is satisfactorily finished the payment is released to the contractor from CheckVault.

This seems to a good way of ensuring the work is done to your satisfaction while the contractor can have certainty of payment.

Other advantages are:

  • It stops the situation where contractors take money in advance and then use it to finance other projects.
  • Knowing the money is waiting encourages quicker completion.
  • Contractors who know their payments are secured may be more prepared to offer a discount.



See why ‘Cash Jobs‘ are a Bad Idea


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Builders ‘Security’ Fence

These days all the builders provide, at our cost, a 1.8m high ‘Security Fence’ around the site.

site  fence

When you ask them “Why is it there? “. . .  They say “Its for Occupational Health and Safety and/or to prevent theft. ”

If those are the reasons why do less than 1% have a padlock?

For most of them the highest security level is a piece of wire twisted around a couple of times!

The only positive thing I can say about all this is the lack of security makes it easier for me to access the site in the evening to check whats happened during the day!


For more posts about your new home build see Construction


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Do You Like Beetles?

How would you like this in your new home?

It’s a armoire (a standing cupboard used for storing clothes)

Here are a couple more photographs showing it partially open

Beetle-armoire 2

You can find even more photos at

For more Unusual House Photos, and Fails, have a look at: What the………………….?

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What Is A Project Home Builder?

If you are new to thinking about having a new house built you may have  heard the term ‘Project Home Builder’ and wondered what it means.

Project Home Builders base their business on building large numbers of houses using a limited range of designs.

By cutting down on the proportion of individual design input on each house, and the ability to negotiate bulk discounts, they can build houses at a significantly lower cost than would be otherwise possible.

Because of the cost they are a very popular way of having a house in Australia. I have even heard self builders say they couldn’t build a house as cheaply as a ‘Project Builder’.


Although Project builders work on a limited number of designs there is still a fair amount of Customisation possible.

Externally customisation options include:

  • Different facades (Most builders offer at least 2 facades styles for each design)
  • Choice of bricks or render
  • Choice of different Roof Tiles or Metal Roof
  • Handing (Building a mirror image)
  • Changing window sizes

Internally it is normally possible to make some modifications to floor plans such as enclosing rooms, adding doors and making some rooms bigger by making others smaller. Some Project Builders are more accommodating than others when it comes to making internal changes.


As each builders offer you a limited set of home plans you may get good reports about a builder.. . .  but if you don’t like their range of plans…you’ll need to go elsewhere.

Project Home Builder’s designs are mainly suitable for flat, rectangular blocks. If your block slopes, or is an awkward shape the costs can quickly escalate. For really awkward sites many Project Home Builders may even refuse to build.

Finding a Project Builder

project builders

Just visit one or more local ‘Display Villages’ and you will find several project builders. Just understand when you go around the houses that each ‘Display House’ has lots of expensive extras not included the standard priced house.

For more advice see the ‘anewhouse Guide to Choosing a House’

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Control of costs is really important if you don’t want to run over budget on your new home.

One of the key areas in controlling costs is understanding the specification of the house.

One of the traps that many people fall into is paying a deposit based  on an initial specification, They are then hit with major costs down the track to upgrade to the standard they want.

There are really 3 stages to the Specification of a New House.

Basic Stage

This covers the building of the main structure of the house and includes:

  • Floor Plans
  • External Elevations (what the house will look like)
  • Foundations
  • Construction (eg Brick Veneer , Double Brick. timber clad, etc)
  • Windows
  • Basic Insulation


Detailed Design Stage

This is when the things like fittings are detailed such as:

  • Kitchen cupboards and counters
  • Cooktops and Ovens
  • Bathroom Fittings
  • Tiles
  • Electrical Fit out

Watch out for the builder including Prime Cost Allowances

There are extensive checklists in the Guide to Selection that will help you through this stage.


These are the finihing touches which may be included by the builder, but are usually done by the homeowner after the move. These typically include:

  • Driveways
  • Paths
  • Gardens
  • Pergolas
  • Pools
  • Outdoor Kitchens

If these are the things that you want included in your new house you need to be aware of the likely cost and make sure that you have enough left in your budget.


See Budget for similar posts


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Stealth House ?

The Black Desert House
It’s actually known as the  ‘Black Desert House’, built in the desert near the Joshua Tree National Park in California.
The house is built around a central courtyard, which is set to a backdrop of black walls, midnight quartz, high-gloss anthracite and darkened steel.
For more photos see

For more Unusual House Photos, and Fails, have a look at: What the………………….?


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Roof Slope

steep roofThis house has one of the steepest roofs that I have seen around Melbourne.

I certainly think doing any work would be a bit scary, and very expensive.

So what are the considerations when thinking about Roof Slope (or Roof Pitch)

Roofing Material

In general a tile roof needs more of a slope than a metal  roof.

Depending on the type of tile, and the length of the roof. the minimum slopes for tiles ranges from 15 degrees to 30 degrees.

In the case of a metal roof the slopes can be much less. Again it depends on the type of metal profile with corrugated steel having a minimum slope of 5 degrees. Other profiles can be even flatter.


Roof Pitch appearanceI think that the roof has to be in proportion to the rest of the house.

If you look at the sketches on the right you will get an idea of how a different slope can look.

In my opinion:

  • The most appropriate roof for a single storey house will be no more than 20 degrees.
  • A 30 degree slope looks too much on a single storey house, but looks OK on a 2 storey house.

Solar Efficiency

Basically the angle should be within the range of:

Angle of Latitude  to Angle of Latitude – 15 degrees

see Solar Panel Alignment

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Will a Big House Make You Happy?

Inspired by a post on

Why do you, or your spouse, want a big house?
overdevelopment 2
What are you trying to buy? . . . . . . Well most people think they are buying happiness.

  • Does you family really need that much room?
  • How may huge parties and family gathering are you going to have?
  • How long are you going to be able to bask in the ‘admiration’ of your friends?

When buying a bigger house than you really need you are just trying to buy feelings.

So how will you feel if you are:

  • Paying so much in mortgage you can’t afford a holiday?
  • Not having enough money to buy furniture for all those rooms?
  • Have to delay retirement because you are still paying for your house?
  • Hardly seeing the children because they have shut themselves away in those huge bedrooms?
  • Looking at rooms that are hardly used from one year to the next?
  • Worrying about how you will manage if the interest rate goes up?

Perhaps the house may become a constant drain on your happiness . . . . That’s always the risk when you buy what you would like, rather than what you need.


For more posts about planning a new home see Design


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