Friday, August 13, 2010

Worst nightmare - House gets a "Defect" put on it

I almost don't want to write this blog. It's sickens me to have to put down on paper what this week has brought. 

But everyone who has written to me about to build a home, or are in the midst of building, I want you to know what's happened so you hear the sales spiels, read the testamonials posted on Builders websites,  as well as know the opposite end of the coin. 

"Hassle free building process". "Peace of mind". "Superior quality workmanship". I hope you all reading my blog get to experience these promises on Eden Brae's website

We are feeling like we have tossed a coin, and the tail end has suddenly battered us across the head. Just speechless and in shock.

To stay less emotional, it's easier for me to write an account in chronological order. I've also given myself a few days (five!) to calm down. 

To begin, you must know that so far, there's been no happy ending. We have had our Independent Inspector go through the house and classify it Failed Final Inspection. The paint throughout is Defective. Nothing can save it. It will have to be sanded back, undercoated, and 3 coats of paint started once again.

If you thought that hearing the words "your home" and "defective" together in one sentence is nightmarish.. You would be right because this whole house building process is such an emotional journey. Mainly because of the time, effort and love that goes into building something you'd want to come home to everyday.

After setting a couple dates early this month for Final Inspection and the Settlement (Key Handover) Meeting, these were rescheduled because of delays mentioned in my previous post.

We were assured from our Site Supervisor (SS), who emailed us saying that he would book Inspections only when he was " happy the house is finished on my part". 

Last week, he told us that he was booking Final Inspections (Tyrells and the Council) for Monday, 9th August. I had a phone call from our Customer Service Administrator (CSA) booking Settlement.

I called Howard, our Independent Inspector, from H&K Ryan to book him in for 11am Monday. If Eden Brae were happy for their inspectors to check the "completed" house, then we wanted someone truly on our side making sure all was as it should be.

So the weekend rolled around. We decided to drop in and have a quick look at the house to see what it looked like "completed". We were astounded that nothing much had been done in the past week. Everywhere we looked there were things that needed finishing and fixing.

Since we had our boys with us, Mr Coco and I decided to come back individually, and make a list of everything that we could find that was still unfinished.

By Sunday afternoon, we'd collated our list and it was almost 2 and a half pages long. Typed. In small font. I'm obviously not going to dump the list here for you to scroll past, but main points of concern were:

1] The paint work. Everywhere we looked, it looked terrible. Unfinished, marked, barely there, gluggy, wood surfaces were not sanded back so awful lumpy looking window frames everywhere, gigantic drip marks, and this, so scary that it made me laugh when I found it.. the painters had simply painted over masking tape in several places. I found putty that hadn't been painted. Holes in surfaces not filled in just painted over. 

The irony? We paid $2269 for "Taubmans Living Proof Silk 3 coat paint with Teflon throughout in lieu of standard 2 coat low sheen paint". This upgrade was pointed out several times to our SS in the last month.

Paint job examples from our house (courtesy H&K Ryan Final Inspection Report):

Above: Paint work in the Garage
Above: Paint missing from under and tops of doors

Above: Paint over duct tape

Above: Paint work so bad no description necessary

2] Front door handle was installed at a crazy angle with gashes in the paint exposing the bright green uncoat door colour. Paint all over the glass panels. The Bathroom vanity door handles were angled wrong too. But come on! Get the lovely, shiny new front door handle on right!

3] Holes and gashes in plaster in Garage (not one, 3!), in one of the Bedrooms, in the Bathroom, and Dining room.  

Above: One of the holes in the Garage and also notice scary wood offcuts used below support beam

4] Our Alfresco stacker doors were sitting on small timber offcuts just shoved in underneath

5] Cornice was still missing in the Alfresco and the Timber Cladding we paid extra for, STILL looked dismal and nothing remotely like the Display Home at The Ponds.

6] Tile that looked like it was superglued on as an afterthought in the Laundry. No grout at all.

All these issues we expected to have been picked up and fixed. We should not have to do the SS's job and make sure that the house was ready for Inspection.

Despite our extensive list, we decided to not cancel Howard's Inspection because we wanted a complete picture of what had to be done straight away. Then the SS would have a list he would be able to action and tick off. We emailed a copy of our list to Howard and to the SS on Sunday night.

Monday, 11am
I arrive on site and see Howard and the SS having a chat. Both seemed a little taken aback (maybe it was just me being a bit edgy) but I had a feeling they thought me and my list a bit odd.

I carry my list in, and see what looked like the issues in my list, highlighted by coloured tape stuck in places I'd detailed in my email. I also see that the SS must have turned up very early because the Alfresco cornices were done. Plastering to fix up some of the holes had been done. 

With no smile in sight from my SS, I approached him and made small talk before broaching the list. As soon as I mentioned it, he said he'd organised the right people to get it all fixed by Wednesday. Umm what? Wednesday? Did you get the right list?

Again, in my novice eyes, it was at least a week away, from being completed.

We go through some of the list at my insistence, but then he starts typing on his laptop avoiding my eyes and looking unimpressed. I ask to borrow the coloured tape to start marking more things I've spotted since I've been there.

Me and that green tape flew around the house at speed getting more and more scared at all the atrocious paint work on every surface. The more I looked, the more I could feel my heart racing.

Monday, 12:30pm
The house now began to look it had been attacked by the green tape. Add Howard's red stickers to the mix and it looked like a skin infection had surfaced on all the plaster, ceiling, doors and painted wood work.
Howard approached and said calmly he had to put a defect on the house. With a fraction of his red dots left from a new roll, he said there was no point. The whole dwelling had defective paint work.

He explained this doesn't happen often. Only a handful (I think he said three) of Eden Brae Homes had been failed at Final Inspection in all his years.

He has direct links to the owner and he would alert them. 

I won't say anymore about Monday because I was obviously distressed at this news. We were expecting keys in two days. The entire dwelling's paint had to be sanded back and repainted. That doesn't happen quickly.

Tuesday, 8am

I read through Howard's report. The level of distress gets worse. We see a picture of our roof insulation. Looks like they had run out of batts part way through the process, and decided that no more needed to be ordered.

I call our CSA and get the Construction Manager's email address. Then send a comprehensive email at 9:30am including 9 specific requests.

We expect a phone call from someone in Eden Brae that they're onto it.

Wednesday, 12pm
Nothing. Not one word in response from Eden Brae. We start to wonder whether they received the report from Howard and our email. 

I ring Howard and he says they've got it. Apparently there are wheels turning in the background. We wonder what happened to their customer service policy. Their policy includes "outstanding customer service" but again, it's just another empty promise we had to accept.

Wednesday, 3pm
I receive an email from the SS. He says he will contact us Friday if the house is finished to have inspection on Monday. WHAT? This is completely different to the time scale Howard advised. He said it should take a couple weeks for them to sort it all out. 

The SS thinks the entire property could be fixed in 2 and a half days. Hopefully, this proves to Eden Brae management that he is out of his depth.

He should have called to discuss with us how the situation was being handled. Instead, his email did not address most of the concerns and requests we had brought up.

At this point I was shaking with anger. I haven't felt this upset for many years. This was our home that FAILED FINAL INSPECTION. Eden Brae Homes seemed oblivious still to its own customer service policy.

Mr Coco tried to get in touch with the Construction Manager. Our CSA wouldn't put his through to his phone. She said she thought she had seen him but wasn't sure where he was right then.

He had to tell them he was going to start calling every 10 minutes until someone in charge would speak to him. 

They were stone walling us. Frustration reaches new peak.

Wednesday, around 5pm
Mr Coco finally receives phone call while driving home. It was the Construction Manager (CM). He tells him he doesn't believe Monday's Final Inspection was "the PCI Inspection". 

PCI means "Practical Completion Inspection" i.e. Final Inspection.

He wants written evidence that our SS said it was the PCI Inspection. WHAT!?! No wonder they were stone walling. But seriously, is that the best they could do? 

If the Monday, 11am appointment was not PCI. What exactly was it? Where in their construction process document does it show a stage for "Pointless random inspections right before Settlement".

The worst part of this phone call? The CM was rude enough to have the loud speaker on and have people (legal advisors? the SS?) all listening in. He did NOT tell Mr Coco that he had done this until he suddenly asked our CSA to clarify whether a Settlement Meeting had been booked. She piped up "it was only a tentative booking".

Wednesday, around 10pm
Mr Coco and I are so angry at the situation we hardly speak to each other. It was too much to deal with. That level of terrible service leaves you even more devastated.

We send an email asking why did the CSA call me to book a Settlement Meeting on Friday 6th August, at 3:01pm (on my mobile phone call log) for Tuesday 10th August, if PCI was not scheduled for Monday 9th August. From this fact alone, it was obvious exactly what our Monday 11am meeting was.

We re-stated our our famous nine requests and asked for an EMAIL response. No phone calls thank you. We need everything in writing from now on.

Saturday, 7am  
I finally sit in bed and write this blog while Mr Coco handles the boys' brekkie. 

We have received no response at all to our email. They seem to enjoy forgetting their own customer service policy.

Our nerves and emotions finally settled, we can look at this situation in a new light. Paint can be fixed. It's not a structural problem. But major lessons have been learned. If you are still reading (OMG you're still reading! Well thank goodness because you're going to be wiser when dealing with your Builder than us..) here is the main things to take note off:

1] Get everything in writing. If someone from the Builder's office calls you, ask them to confirm your discussion in writing.

2] Request that your house be cleaned before inspections. With all the dust and dirt around, many defects can be concealed.

3] Request that your house be cleaned before paint work begins. At the very least vacuumed. 

4] Use a torch and a mirror to inspect your property. There are too many corners and spots that do not receive direct sunlight so make sure you have the right tools to find out if they've cut corners.

After hearing from Howard that he's just inspected another EB property with a perfect paint job another lesson is learned.. your house finishes depend entirely on the skills of the tradesmen working in there. If you start noticing dodgy work, email a request to your Site Supervisor for an onsite meeting to discuss immediately.

Although, from our experience, you may not get an honest answer from them. They may try to bluff their way out of fixing the mess. Get your own Independent Inspector to play Bad Cop.

We are thoroughly in need of some time out of this fiasco. We're heading to Coogee for a 40th birthday celebration tonight and staying there for some long walks on the beach tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Terrible tale of two cisterns and a missing key..

My little one K on the way to his cousin's 1st birthday fiesta (and yes, I did forget to hem the sleeves on the traditional Indian "Kurta" he's wearing but I'm clueless when it comes to sewing)

Not so bad at kids' fiesta food I must say! That's a mars bar slice topped with strawberries and marshmallows on the left. On the right are vanilla cupcakes with simple butter icing. I actually PIPED icing on =P Disposable piping bags are amazing!

After frantically packing almost everything left last weekend, the rental house suddenly is much easier to keep clean. We have so much STUFF. Hardly any of which we need. Watch out ebayers, because a moving sale is going to pop up in a couple days.

Waking up to a pristine house everyday this week was a little disconcerting after years of cleaning a room, then minutes later, seeing toys miraculously invade our living area (which hubby and I like to keep clean and neat).

This morning, not much after 6am, my boys managed to climb up the bunk bed, grab the container with their train set (packed up but not yet boxed), dump the contents in big son's bedroom.. and slowly see it toot toot throughout the house. Train tracks underfoot. That's much more familiar than our minimalist home.

So what's the deal with the terrible tale? Well, being a bit dramatic here. I believe I'm more than entitled to since we were expecting to get the keys tomorrow morning.

Nope, not going to happen. Family helping with the move, flooring installation, real estate agents, independent inspector.. they all had to be called and rescheduled.

The plumbing company delivered and installed the wrong wall cisterns. Wrong toilet = No final payment cheque delivered to Eden Brae. Of all things.. its the toilets that are holding us back.

It's been a frustrating week as I expected the house full of tradies for the final push to site completion. Instead, it was dismal, raining and empty for most of the week. I wondered around the house on Tuesday after dropping the boys of at preschool. I was there alone for almost an hour. Usually I love being in the house. But it was completely irritating seeing so much had to be done and there was no one there doing any of it.

We're aiming now for Final Inspections to happen on Monday and have re-booked the Key Handover meeting with Eden Brae at 11am Wednesday. Expecting more delays.

Not sure what I'll be feeling when I'm finally holding those keys. It's such a surreal experience this whole "dream home construction" business. 18 months of our lives and wild emotional spikes have gone into this..

I'm not sure I'll remember I have keys for the first few weeks.. I may continue to sneak around hoping for unlocked doors or open windows to get inside. My poor neighbours.

Now, my last word is going to be about driveways. If you're building, please, PLEASE don't forget to add one to your contract with the builder. A lot of our neighbours didn't, and not only is it nasty moving in and living without a driveway in terms of mud and dirt. But also it's a huge expense to think about when there's so many other (all large!) expenses at this stage. Ha, every new home owner knows the two words that bring on nausea and sweaty palms.. RETAINING WALLS *shudder* More to come on that pleasant topic in the coming weeks.

Thank goodness Hubby (AKA Mr. Coco) insisted a driveway which connected to the Porch was included in with the house build. He's the practical one!

Driveway ready to be poured but it rained, and drizzled, threatened to rain, then poured, weeks of waiting then gloop! this morning driveway magick'd at 7am

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It looks like a rectangle, Mum

Exploring our local parks and testing out a new scooter

Ask a 4 year old his opinion, and he's going to tell you exactly what he sees. I asked my Chomper what the house looks like and he responded with the title to this post.

The house can be seen now without any obstructions to the view. Fence? Gone. Portaloo? Removed from site. Our tradies have no restroom to use so I'm expecting those trees still standing on our neighbour's Lot may also be gone shortly.

This last week has been disappointing. I expected a huge rush of activity and major headway towards the finish line. It seems to be creeping along painstakingly slow. The major holdup are the cornice people who have not shown up for over two weeks. Our bathrooms and alfresco are nude without them and have yet to be painted and accessorized (no towel rails and worse! no bath tub installed yet). We are scheduled to have our Handover Thursday week (keys baby! you know what Handover is of course.. but I just l-o-v-e saying, thinking, typing "k-e-y-s" whenever I get the chance).

And with a large list of items still left to complete, our Site Supervisor is about to have a much larger list as of midday tomorrow.

Our SS has decided to skip their usual process with us. We have so many variations that he wants us on site at 10am tomorrow to have the PCI inspection to highlight anything amiss. Usually Eden Brae waits until everything is completed before scheduling this in. So far, our SS has listed the following items booked but not complete.

Toilets, Bath, Taps, Towel rails installation
Drive way & Porch pegged and meshed but not yet concreted ( due to rain )
Shower screens and mirrors booked for Friday
Hot Water System install
Spot cleaning brick work

 Also the timber cladding in our Alfresco looks atrocious.
 Photo taken of Display Home shows what it should look like

Photo taken of our Alfresco early last month. The roof is now there but the cladding hasn't been touched since.

I have asked Howard, our property inspector, to be with us for this inspection. His services costs $595 but at least we have his critical eye and construction knowledge. Perhaps I should take Chomper too. He'll definitely see everything from a whole new perspective. Possible suggestion from him: more mud, less house please.

He may be happy to see that tomorrow morning, there may be a curve to complement The Rectangle. The driveway is ready to be poured! Why that's suddenly so exciting is still a little cloudy. Maybe something to do with my sleep deprivation (my 1 yr old boy Bear-Ba has a ear and throat infection and sleep is a distant memory of what happened last week).

When my laptop gets itself together (overloaded with movie files of my adventurous two which need to be archived to DVD) and let's me preview my fresh-from-construction-site photos, I will upload them here. No guarantee I will be awake when that happens, so maybe have to wait till a future post.

HA that's odd! Welcome back laptop. I was just talking about you. Here's a pic of the outside.. Good night (here's hoping sleep happens in this house tonight).

not so sure about that white garage door.. we'll have to park outside to disguise it =P

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lights.. Camera.. KEYS!

We are overwhelmed. Yesterday my son blew out four candles that were sitting atop his grandma's latest cake sensation (sunsational!) at our soon-to-be-local park on Pebble Cres. Lovely location and fabulous family & friends hip-hip-hooraying with us. This morning, he continued opening presents while we received our own big news package.

Our final inspections are locked in for 29 July with our settlement meeting (KEYS!!) the following week. More than being excited, I just feel relieved. Everything will be better being inside our own place. Can't wait to be out somewhere, and then remember when I leave, I'll be heading to OUR home and be able to zoom up our driveway and have big sighs and a grin stepping in the door.

Like most of the world's population, we were hit (several times with big financial bruises to show) by the global financial crisis last year. Just having the weight of not paying rent and the mortgage will be a huge load off.

I finally gave the landlord 4 weeks notice today.Anyone want to help move? Haha. We're almost packed up.. just have the essentials out. Also there's no stairs involved this time. Moving will be a breeze compared to the last one.

Pics of paint colour choices (thank you!! to the colour experts at CCD Studio who designed our colour palette)
Taubmans "Whitehouse" used in above in the Family room and throughout most of the house including all trims

Taubmans "Foxtail" on render, Colorbond "Dune" on gutters, Colorbond "Surfmist" on windows and garage door, PGH "Smoke" bricks

We received a quote from the electrician used by Eden Brae for an additional powerpoint $42, and a separate circuit for the induction cooktop was $460! WHAT THE?!?!

He mentioned no extra cost when I met him at the house. I assumed it was part of the electrical plan. You can imagine the sparks flying from my ears when hubby told me we owed them over $500.

Hubby called an electrician friend to find out what price would be considered reasonable. Then went back to the company who sent the quote.

When hubby mentioned "excessive quote", they quickly changed tack and said it was a mistake. They had included the cost of installing the cooktop in the quote. The quote stated in bold writing installation was not included. Just an excuse to backtrack out of admitting they tried to rip us off.

Quote to be resubmitted shortly. Will see how much it drops.. a lesson for all. Always ask tradies if they're almost too helpful to get things done whether they'll be any additional costs. Also call up and demand more competitive prices if you get a ridiculous quote.

Nothing will dampen our spirits now. We have a date with a beautiful new house.. hey home, be with you soon xx

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why would I know what grout colour to use?

Anyone dealing with Di L0renz0 take note. Take note of the grout colour choices you make for every tile selection you make. Do you think you will remember this detail in 6-12 months after your tile selection appointment? If you do, you should work for Di L0renz0. Because nobody there seems to know. Or record this detail.

If you do record your grout colours, make sure you carry that piece of info with you everywhere. You never know when your tiler might see you driving past, flag you down and ask what grout colour to use around the bath, on the floor, on the walls and the splashback. Of course, if you're like me and have different tiles in different bathrooms, prepare for a grout grilling.

Not only have I had the tiler ask me about the grout, but also which tiles go where, in which room and what layout. Why Di L0renz0 bother to book in tile selection appointments I dunno. I should have just selected everything directly with the tiler. I felt bad for the tiler coz he seems to get rushed from one job to another only to discover holes in their paperwork which means he's got tiles but no grout. Or tiles with wrong grout. Or lots of grout but not enough tiles.

If I didn't work from home, I would never have met the tiler.. whom, at the moment because of the confusion, I make a point of seeing almost every day. We may have ended up with a ridiculous combination of muddle ups. Or still be waiting on tiles selected 8 months ago but which are residing in their birth place in Italy. We compromised and decided to have no feature tile (instead of wait for them to me shipped) in the Ensuite to minimise the delays.

My advice.. if anything goes awry email details to Di L0renz0. One, you have a record. Two, they respond faster. Three, you can forward their responses to your Site Supervisor so everyone's on the same page.

To end on one more grouty detail, here are more pics I took today. Spot the tiles with missing grout... which is on order.
WC - white skirting tiles to be replaced with floor tile (on order)


Bathroom shower recess

Ensuite shower recess (floor tiles will look black when cleaned)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A question for you

There is a slight timing issue I need advice on. We are renting at the moment and will have to break our lease early. What I find worrying is that we need to give our landlord enough notice to get new tenants otherwise we'll be paying rent potentially until October. OUCH.

So when do I tell the Property Manager about breaking the lease early? We will be immensely screwed if we give them a date, they get tenants and BAM the whole key handover process blows its projected mid-August timeline.

We're thinking to give them a conservative date of 30 August to be out of here. But it that conservative enough? Is there potential for us to be begging for shelter last minute? Any offers of accommodation for our lovely, loud, food throwing, tantrum ridden family of four who have 2 boys under four for a few weeks? Anyone?

Rendering continues today

Dark clouds are circling this morning. But when I drove past just now, the render company was on site again.

Those godawful red bricks should have disappeared for good by this afternoon. Not that I mind red bricks.. but having them next to grey brown and white trims is wrong. Add to the mix the sky blue wood yet to be painted. eerggh! Yesterday, we had one of the Fugliest Houses on the Street. Hopefully our place earns more cred by this afternoon =)