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Brick By Brick

Articles From Issue 13

Designing and building your new home is a truly unique experience. The number of steps and processes involved will vary depending on the complexity and size of the project. To help, Yvonne Pengilly provides a general overview of the entire process from beginning to end, starting with the design stage.


According to Pengilly, the design process begins with careful consideration of the proposed home’s location, views, size and orientation. The geotechnical report survey addresses soil consistency, structure and groundwater level, while also providing recommendations for the project. During this initial process, “it’s [extremely] important to engage professionals that understand regulations and have a trusted reputation”, Pengilly says. Once you have met with your designer, the next step is to fill out the design brief. You should be completely involved in the briefing stage, as it’s an integral part of the design process and “gives [you] a chance to explain to the designer what [you] are looking for in a home”, Pengilly says. “It’s much easier to change a design [in the early stages] than once you have begun construction,” Pengilly says. “It may cost you [now], but the same change at a later stage will cost significantly more.”


Allocating a considerable amount of time to developing the brief will reduce the need for time-consuming redrafting and reworking later. Be as diligent as you can when answering any follow-up questions that the designer may have.

The design brief will cover the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that are required, and determine whether open-plan or separate
living spaces are more important. The view will be considered, as will the spaces in which you’ll spend your mornings and evenings. Pengilly says it’s essential that the homeowner and designer refer to the brief at all stages of the design and building process to ensure that the most important principles and aspects of the design are adhered to.


The styling of your home’s exterior should be designed around the internal layout, rather than decided on at the start. Focus on your lifestyle needs and structural requirements first.

There are two main aspects that need to be considered during the design process. The first

second – which is just as important – involves the structural elements that will ensure the home is built to the highest standard. When considering the layout, Pengilly says the design needs to communicate not only aesthetics, but functionality as well. It’s important to address things like sunlight, views, privacy (which is impacted by windows and openings), airflow, line of sight through spaces, and movement flow within the home, as well as noise levels.


Be sure to check the availability of trades with your builder. Remember, it’s wise to wait for a tradesperson who is the most qualified for the job. Even if it delays your start date, this will ensure the best outcome is achieved

“A good designer will generally [draw up] a concept design that’s followed by a draft design, and then [they’ll complete] a final design, [which is] based on the many hours of diligence [that were spent during] the design-brief stage,” Pengilly says. After you have approved the final design, the contract will be prepared. This document will detail the cost estimates for the project. Once everything has been signed, your builder will obtain all the relevant building permits. Pengilly advises that you make sure that the contract you’re signing has a clearly defined scope.


The time it takes to design and build a new home will vary depending on the complexity

of the project. Pengilly suggests that creating a timeline document can be quite useful to determine whether the project is on track as the processes move along.


If you feel you need some assistance communicating your thoughts, you can always seek out the services of a building surveyor or superintendent to represent you during construction.

The construction process can be broken down into 13 different stages:

1. Site Preparation: This involves the clearing and pegging of the site, which is usually undertaken by the surveyor. Retaining walls will also be constructed if required.

2. Preparing The Slab: The under-floor plumbing and drainage is carried out first, as this system is located beneath the slab development. The concrete footings are then set up in the correct position. Once the slab piering is completed to

the engineer’s specifications and plans, the slab can be poured.

3. The Frames And Roof Trusses: The structural frames are delivered to the site and erected within a day or so. The external drainage can be completed at this stage as well. It’s a good idea to visit the site once the frames are up so that you can visualise each room.

4. The Roofing: Generally, builders will want to get the roof on early (including the tiles, soffits and spouting) so it can protect the frames. The windows can also be installed at this stage, which will start to give your home a sense of permanence.

5. Brickwork: The addition of bricks is an exciting visual milestone. At this point, your home is really starting to take shape. Electrical pre-wiring and internal pre-plumbing can also be completed at this stage.

6. Insulation And Internal Linings: Insulation is installed into the walls and ceilings, which the plasterer will start working on. The bricklayer completes the exterior and the ground is prepared for landscaping.

7. Waterproofing: All the wet areas are waterproofed in preparation for the tilers. Sometimes this takes place after or during the timber and door fit-out.

8. Timber And Doors: At this stage, carpenters install the skirting boards, architraves, door jambs, doors and kitchen joinery. Interior finishes can also be completed, along with outdoor elements like the driveway and paths.

9. Lock It Up: Your external doors – including the garage doors – are installed and the property is now lockable.

10. Further Fit-Outs: The bulk of the electrical work is completed at this point. The bathroom/s should also be installed, including the tapware, bath, mirrors, vanities and other accessories

11. Plumbing And Tiling: Next, the bathroom, kitchen and entryway tiles are laid, while the plumbing is completed. Essentially, the construction part of your build has finished.

12. Inspection: Now that everything is almost done, an inspection can be conducted. You will walk through the property with the site manager and point out anything that still needs attention, which should only be touch-ups at this stage.

13. Handover: Finally, once you’re happy with completed product, you will need to pay the builder’s final invoice, and then the keys to your dream home will be handed over to you. Now’s the time to finally pop that bottle of bubbly!

Now that you are familiar with the design and construction procedures of building a new home

Pengilly offers a few more words of advice on ensuring the entire process runs as smoothly as possible. She strongly recommends hiring a Registered Professional Engineer (RPE) for engineering services, as well as geotechnical and structural services. In addition to this,
Pengilly says to “listen to the professionals you have hired, but don’t follow [along] blindly, because they need to know you are fully on board and understand what they are saying”. Lastly, “don’t over-extend financially. Smaller [homes] can be beautiful and practical when designed right, [and can be] much less stressful”. If you take the above advice on board, not only will you find the entire process of building your new home rewarding, but it will also be an experience to be remembered for all the right reasons.

Profile Image Credit: Yvonne Pengilly
Top Left Image Credit: Dall Designer Homes
Top Right Image Credit: D Pearce Constructions
Second Row Left Image Credit: IRP Architects
Second Row Right Image Credit: D Pearce Constructions
Third Row Centre Image Credit: Stuart Osman Building Designs