Did you know Australia has around 15 species of termite which can damage the timbers in your new house.

Although some species of timber are resistant to termites none are termite-proof. In practice any structure containing wood can be attacked, unless protective measures are taken.

Even if you have got a steel framed house, or double brick, you will still have timber in things like doors and architraves.

photo from Wickipaedia

photo from Wickipedia

Know Your Enemy

Termites are more like cockroaches than ants.

Subterranean termites do more damage to timber than either damp wood or dry wood termites.

The termites generally remain within a system of tunnels that can extend 50m, from the central nest, to food sources.

Its not unusual for the termites to build their tunnels round any barriers so no matter what termite protection you use you still have to inspect the barriers regularly.

In order to get to their food source of wood, termites can damage materials they cannot digest such as plastics, rubber, metal or mortar.

Protective Measures

In the past certain areas were identified as at risk of termite attack while others were considered termite free. I thick it is much better to consider all properties at risk.

I’m not a fan of regular spraying of chemicals so for me a permanent barrier is a must.

Basically you need a continuous barrier to prevent termites climbing up through the external wall and individual protection around any pipes and conduits that penetrate the slab.

Options for the barrier in the walls, in order of rising cost include:

  • Exposed Concrete This is cheap and effective as it involves leaving the bare concrete of the slab exposed for a minimum of 75mm. Unfortunately not very attractive,  although you could use a concrete paint to match the brick colour.
  • Barrier Containing Insecticide Probably the most common is  Kordon, which is a  combined DPC and termite protection. It is two layers of plastic sandwiching an insecticide impregnated layer. (Expect to pay around $1,500)
  • Termimesh A fine stainless steel mesh. (expect to pay around $2,000)

Last time I built I used Termimesh as I was concerned about appearance, and preferred not to use chemicals.


Decisions on your new home? . .  see  Selection/Pre-Start Guide

Only $4


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Build A Sustainable House & Save Money

When the stricter energy standards came in the big builders all complained that it would make houses more expensive.

Well a recent CSIRO report The Evaluation of the 5-Star Energy Efficiency Standard for Residential Buildings has found it can actually be cheaper to build a sustainable house.

Here are three reasons why a more sustainable house can be cheaper to build:

  • Smaller Windows Plain brick walls are more energy efficient than single glazed, or even double glazed windows. The plain brick will be about a third the cost of double glazing. See: Smaller Windows for more information.
  • Shape A more rectangular shape is simpler and cheaper to build and can have 10-15% less wall area for a given floor area. See how the walls and floor areas change for variations on a basic house shape in the sketch below:

House shapes


  • Right Sizing Builders try to sell you the biggest house they can and you often find there are rooms that you will hardly use. With Project Builder cost/sqm ranging from $1,100 – $1,600 saving one room can drop the cost by $10,000 – $15,000. See How Much House to plan how much space you need

Don’t forget that the sustainable house will also be saving you thousands of dollars every year!

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Seaweed House


What do you think of this house?

Roof look a little unusual?

Well the roof, and the walls, are built using seeweed!

The seeweed provides a long lasting external surface, which as well as being a natural renewable resource, has great insulation values.

To find out more, with lots of pictures of a spectacular interior, see the www.dezeen.com website.


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


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Stormwater – Kerb Discharge

If you are going to build on an existing block you will probably have a planning permit condition that stormwater must discharge to an approved point.

If there is no surface water system one option can be to discharge to the street.

This is normally by constructing a proper kerb outlet like the photo below:

Stormwater Outlet - kerb
Kerb discharge poor
But not like this dodgy installation on the right!
Or even discharging over people walking along the path like the one illustrated in this post: Overflow Fail

A kerb connection can be at a reasonable cost as long as the house is above the road.

If the house is below the road you will need either:


  • A pump and storage for the storm water, which can add significantly to the build cost.


For more information on issues like this see Guide to Buying a Block


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Live Video Help

A new way of helping!

I have decided to offer a  GOOGLE HELPOUT

This new service allows anyone to get in touch with a service provider for a video chat for up to 15 minute about their problem.

There are a wide range of service providers that can offer advice on all sorts of problems. Some are free (usually sponsored by manufacturers or retailers).  Others charge a fee, in my case $12.

Want to find out more click the button below…… or watch the video

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Worlds Most Unusual Door

This picture shows a Klemens Torggler Door

Klemens Torggler Door

If you think it looks odd just click on the youtube video link below to see it open and close . . . . But be careful, I could watch it for hours!

Youtube Door Video


For more Unusual Ideas have a look at: What the………………….?


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What Are Brick Articulation Joints?

When you are looking round your new home build you may think  “What’s that gap between the window and the brickwork?” . . . . . . .or even “Why is there a vertical gap between the bricks in the middle of the wall?”

Before you panic it might be worth checking if it is an Articulation Joint.

Why Are There Articulation Joints?

Brick Veneer houses can move for several different reasons including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Movement of the frame
  • ‘Flexing’ of the foundation

As the structure moves articulation joints are used to accommodate these movements in the structure without cracking.

Unless the soil has been classed as either A or S (see: Soil Classification) vertical articulation joints must be installed in any un-reinforced masonry walls.


In straight walls without openings, the articulation joints must be at a maximum spacing of 6m. They must not be closer than the wall height from the corners.

Where there is a door or window its normal practice to put the joint alongside so they are less obvious.


For articulation joints next to windows and doors a gap of 10 mm must be left between the edge of the frame and the brickwork.

articulation joint

In a plain wall the gap between bricks again should be 10mm.

The space between the bricks is taken up with a foam filler with a flexible seal on the outside face keeping water out.

The bottom of this photo shows what the finished seal should look like . . . . . . . the top part shows a problem that will needs to be sorted. (normally this tearing of the sealant from the brick is caused when the sealant is too thin)

What you can’t see is  that during the construction the bricklayers should be inserting expansion ties across the joint.

During construction it is well worth checking that there is NO MORTAR in the joint. . . . Any mortar will stop the joint acting as it should and can cause cracking over the next few years.

If you want to find out more here is a link : Articulated Walling  on the www.concrete.net.au website  

See Bricks for More Posts



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Pre-Plasterboard Inspection


Plasterboard can cover a lot of defects . . . . . . . so if worth checking on things before it goes up.

Typically the timing of this inspection will be after the ‘Lock Up Stage‘ but before the completion of the ‘Fixing Stage‘.

Due to cost lots of people don’t use a Building Inspector, or only use one for the Practical Completion Inspection (PCI).  I think making sure things are OK at the ‘Pre-Plaster Stage’ is probably more important, so if your budget is strained that is where I think your money is best spent.

Getting things fixed at this stage is much easier than trying to sort out issues between PCI and handover.

A further advantage of a detailed inspection at this stage is that it really emphasises to the Site Supervisor that quality is important to you before they get to the ‘Fit Out Stage’.

Don’t forget the outside, Checks, if they haven’t been done at an earlier stage, should include:

  1. Site Drainage -  Are the drains and sewers in and the construction looks OK. Is the site graded so water doesn’t pond against the house
  2. Brickwork /External Cladding - Does this look neat and well finished, and not have bricks overhanging the edge of the slab?
  3. Building Weathertight - Look up is the roof complete? Is there any evidence of rain coming in? If you asked for sarking has it been installed?
  4. Layout - Are the rooms the right size and the doors and windows where you expected them to be
  5. Framing Defects – Does the frame look and feel solid, square and straight? Have the electricians and plumbers damaged any of the structural members during their installation of pipes and cables?
  6. Electrical and Plumbing – Are power cables and mounting plates in position where you want all your power sockets? Do the plumbing connections look to be in the right places
  7. Wet Areas – Has the waterproofing been applied and look complete?
  8. Insulation – Have the correct insulation batts been fitted into the external wall frame, with no missing areas, or gaps between individual batts. Has any noise insulation been installed between rooms and between floors, with no missing areas, or gaps?

Doing your own PCI ? . . . the PCI Guide provides extensive checklists and advice for only $4


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