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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:13 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:23 am
Posts: 3
This is an excerpt of an article I published in Owner Builder magazine, edition 167. You can read the full version of this article on my website at http://www.budgereehouse.com.

Being an owner builder can be an incredibly satisfying journey, particularly as you see your dreams become real. This is this the story of my wife Leanne and I in following our dreams to build a kit home in the district of Budgeree at the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges of southern Gippsland. Starting with practically nothing, we were amazed at what we were able to create using a good plan, some basic skills and a clear idea of what we really wanted.

Opting for a life in the country
Once you have lived in the country, it is difficult to return and live within the boundaries of suburban life. But like many, that is what Leanne and I did at differing times of our lives. Leanne grew up in Budgeree – a glorious place of rolling grassy hills that in the closing decades of the the 19th century was cleared and carried dairy cattle, and now is home to an eclectic mix of dairy and beef herds, market and hobby farmers, and simply those seeking a quieter life. She left for Melbourne to study teaching in her late teens, but home was never far away. A two-hour drive would see her at the kitchen table of her parents, with coffee in hand, catching up on the local news.

I had but fleeting experiences of the country compared with Leanne, but those experiences have stayed with me to this day. Most memorable was living in the Sunshine Coast hinterland (specifically, about 5 km east of the town of Eudlo) whilst in my early teens. Pineapple farms, friendly people that would treat you as one of their extended family, bare feet, and living most of the day outside made me feel as though I was truly home.

This feeling of wanting to return the country grew inside Leanne and I up to the point where we were unable to ignore it anymore. We wanted a country life for our children too. We wanted them to find the same joy that we did. So we made the radical decision to sell our home in the Dandenong Ranges, and move to a part of the Budgeree farm where Leanne grew up. Some of the proceeds of the sale of our old home were invested in a trip around Australia – a trip that helped us understand what we wanted out of a new home.

We arrived in Budgeree in January 2007 with limited cash and no-where to live.

Our plan
We settled on building the smallest Pavilion Courtyard kit home package produced by Harkaway Homes with a living area of just over 19 squares. Styled similar to that of a Federation home of the early 20th century, it incorporated many of the design features we were looking for. Our plan at the start of 2007 was to live on site in our unlined shed until our home was completed.

Implementing the plan
It took all of 2007 to apply and be issued with our Planning Permit, to get our Building Permit issued, to secure finance, to sign a contract with Harkaway Homes for the supply of the home kit, and to secure subcontractors to construct our floor and to have it polished before the frame was erected.

January 2008 saw the concrete slab floor laid and polished, and in February the frame was erected with windows installed followed by installation of the roof. I spent most of the next three months straightening external walls, tacking up sisilation paper, and nailing up weatherboards to about 10 ft high (as this is the height I could safely reach with a A frame ladder). Our carpenter then installed the remaining weatherboards, installed roof vents and period trimmings, and then hung the external doors. Our home was up to lockup stage but looked naked without its verandah.

The electrical wiring was roughed out, as well as hot and cold water pipes. We had three false fireplaces framed up by our carpenter. The plaster was hung and cornicing applied – this was by far the messiest job – and the hydronic heating installer rolled the wood-fired boiler into place, delivered the external heat exchange unit and mounted the evacuated solar heating tubes to our north facing roof around the same time. We had way too many contractors working at the same time but now was not the time to take our time. Winter was on our doorstep.

After some clever coordination, we managed to complete and move into our new home in early September of 2008 – just over nine months from the time when we signed the contract for our kit home.

Life in our new home
Our new home gives us a wonderful space outside under the verandahs to enjoy our natural surroundings. There is no place better than watching the bush on the bush to the north for signs of wildlife whist sipping a cool drink. Inside is comfortable and harmonious with unique features that blend old with new. Like the 1946 Aga cooker that has revived many a fledgling chick, and the wood-fired boiler (for our hydronic heating system) in the lounge that doubles as a fireplace. And the overmantle that hides a secret. A gentle push on the bottom edge of the overmantle reveals a flat screen TV. Our home requires little energy to run, is easy to maintain and complements our busy lives.

But above all, I believe that the most special feature of our new home is that it is a space that our family of five love sharing together. Every piece of our home holds wonderful memories of a time when we built our home together. Like when I taught my eldest son to use an electric drill. Or when I had to pull my wife free after getting stuck in a tight spot in the roof cavity whilst laying insulation batts – both giggling at the silliness of the situation. And when our kids tossed glass beads they had chose onto wet concrete and to see them reappear glistening in their bedroom floor after being ground back and polished.

Our home, Budgeree House, is a beautiful reflection of the people we have become in building our own very special and unique place. A place that the Gunai Kurnai people called ‘good’.

Thank you for reading our story and I hope that it provides you with inspiration and ideas that help you in your next project.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:08 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:29 am
Posts: 179
Location: Blue Mountains
Welcome Luke,

It is good to hear from somebody who has been through the Owner Builder experience and come out the other end so full of enthusiasm. I am also loving the process of building my own house and even with all of it's challenges I am so happy that I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.

I had a look at you website which makes for an interesting read. Took me a while to find your "Owner Builder Magazine" article you referred to. For others who may have missed it here is a direct link:

http://cyosh.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/owner-builder-article-167.pdf

You have gone into good detail on your blog about hydronic heating and solar electric panels etc. Well done.

If you have the time, I would be interested in seeing a few more photos of the construction process.

Bluey


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:49 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:23 am
Posts: 3
Hi Bluey,

Thanks for your feedback. I craved for detailed information when we were owner building our place, and so I'd like to share as much useful information as I can to those undertaking that journey. Hopefully, by doing so, I can help save them time and money.

I've added quite a few photos of our building journey at http://www.flickr.com/photos/budgereehouse. I've just realised that the numbering scheme I have used as got some of the photos in the wrong order, but I am sure you can work that out as you go through them.

I'd appreciate any comments and feedback anyone has.

Cheers

Luke


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 6:42 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:29 am
Posts: 179
Location: Blue Mountains
Thanks for the pictures. I always enjoy looking at progress shots of house builds.

Looks like a nice bit of land and that's a great old building in the background of some of the photo's.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 2:57 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:23 am
Posts: 3
Hi Bluey, that ramshackled building in some of the photos is that of the residence of the first settlers in the area. It was built at the turn of last century when the original Budgeree schoolhouse was pulled down the hill to this site. Then an small extension was added. First lived in by the Pollworths, it was used as a hayshed for many years and is now a place where we store excess building materials. We hope to do it up one day as it means a lot to the locals and it would be a great place as a studio / guest residence. Cheers mate, Luke


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