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We have set out to briefly cover three points when it comes to building your dream home in the limited space available here:
SOME BASIC BUILDING TIPS
Selecting Your Land - Finding The Erf That Works For You
If you already own a plot or are still searching for the right one there are several matters to consider.
World-wide, purchasers must take into account things like, wild fires, wind, flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, winter ice or summer sun, and so on. But of course most of these don't apply to Gauteng. With our beautiful weather we are able to concentrate more on aspects such as location, length of commute to work, suitability of schools, neighborhood, distance to shopping, building costs, soil conditions and rates and taxes. Some plots are special because of the view they offer. Other locations may be important for personal reasons.
In this short article several aspects of vacant plots are considered, aspects that are easy to overlook in the enthusiasm of getting going on your new home.
If a building is to be constructed in an area with clay soils one should be aware that clay soils have been found to expand 23 cm or more if subjected to long cycles of drying or wetting, thus producing powerful forces that can shear foundations and lift lightweight buildings. Some soils with high organic content may, over time, compress under the building load to a fraction of their original volume, causing the structure to settle. Other soils tend to slide under loads.
Soils that have been modified in some way often perform differently, especially when other soil has been added to or mixed with existing soil, or when the soil has been made wetter or drier than normal, or when cement or chemicals such as lime have been added. Sometimes the soil under a proposed building varies so greatly over the entire site that a building simply cannot be constructed safely or economically.
Soil and geological analyses are necessary, therefore, to determine whether a proposed building can be supported adequately and what would be the most effective and economical method of support.
If there is sound bedrock a short distance below the surface of the construction site, the area over which the building loads are distributed can be quite small because of the strength of the rock. As progressively weaker rock and soils are encountered, however, the area over which the loads are distributed must be increased.
Do not purchase an Erf if you have even the slightest suspicion of soil condition problems - it can cost you a small fortune.
You should check for any title deed conditions and restrictions. These can be crucial to what you can do on a plot, even what kind of house can be built on it. Normally, you’ll have to sign a document acknowledging that you agree to abide by the restrictions before you get title to your land. The sales agent may not tell you or may not even know that there are any restrictions. At other times agents may make a big thing of telling you how great the restrictions are, and how they really add value to the property. But what they may not tell you is that no restrictions are worth the paper they’re written on if they’re not enforced.
You should therefore ask for (and get) a copy of the draft title deeds if a plot interests you. And before you buy read these carefully. There just might be some constraints, or lack of them, that would make the property unacceptable to you. As a final step, check with other homeowners in the same subdivision or area and see just how effectively the conditions and restrictions are enforced.
The House and the Plot
You need to visualize how the house will fit on the plot. You need to also take into account local ordinances and National Building Regulations, which place other restrictions on your design. These dictate the amount of empty space required in the front, back and sides of the home under consideration.
If there are, or will be, houses on adjacent plots, you should check how much privacy you’ll have. A decent fence might be all you’ll need. But when an adjacent house suddenly has two stories or when it’s above yours on a hillside, the neighbors may have a great view of your back or side yard — and also perhaps into your bathrooms and bedrooms.
If you’ve already decided on a floor plan, check the orientation of the house relative to the sun and the street. The street usually dictates how the house will sit on the lot. If you pick a lot for its view, find out what protection you have to prevent someone from building in front of you and blocking your view. The recent Natal court ruling on view blocking is of great interest to anyone with a view. But who wants to get entangled in protracted lawsuits. If you find a plot problematic, or the house you want just isn't compatible with the stand - walk away.
Hillside plots are attractive because they often include a view. One of the main drawbacks of scenic hillside houses is the strong possibility of persistent winds, especially in the afternoons. These are often strong enough to be downright annoying. Strong winds blowing against windows cause noise, and when the winds are continuous, the noise can become depressing. So look out for this.
You can expect to pay a premium for these plots in two ways:
1 The price will be higher than comparably sized lots.
2 You’ll have to move more dirt and pour more concrete than normal.
If you are going to build there, be sure to have an engineering study done to find out how the foundations should be done and what the costs will be. Another concern you should have with hillside plots is the steepness of the driveway and the cost associated with building it.
Ground Water, Grading and Drainage
How can you tell if ground water is present? If the plot hasn’t been graded clear of vegetation, be suspicious when you see a heavy thicket of greenery. Ask to see any engineering reports made on the plot or the subdivision. Talk to neighboring property owners to see if they’ve had water problems during the rainy season. Also, check what happens to water from an adjacent plot located above yours. If it runs on to your plot, ask what’s being done about it. If you’re not satisfied, find another plot—or you may be faced with a lake in your yard when the rains come. The presence of ground water will often also mean extra expenses for foundation and drainage. And, if not taken care of properly, it can be a source of problems later on.
You’ll need adequate drainage from the plot. And getting involved in pumps to get the water back up to the storm drain in the street can be expensive. These sump pumps are also often noisy and cause maintenance headaches.
Above-Ground Utilities And Utility Boxes
When a plot of land is being subdivided there will sometimes be a set of power poles and lines running along one or more sides of it. Lots along those sides will then have the power and telephone lines in front of their houses. Utility boxes are also often forgotten when people look at a piece of property. In new developments with utility wiring run underground, the power company must put their transformers someplace. In some areas these may also be underground but, if they’re not, they’re an eyesore, especially if the box housing the transformer is in front of your house.
You don’t have much to say about where utility boxes will be located, but at least you can see where they are when it comes time to select an Erf. And remember, when it comes time to sell, prospective buyers will see things like this.
Traffic and traffic noise will affect the resale value of the property. Take the time to find out what future traffic patterns are planned around any Erf you consider. Stay as far away from freeways as you can and at least a block away from what could become a major arterial.
Outside noise can come from sources other than traffic. Railroads, even those several blocks away, can generate noise you’d rather not have. Also check how close the Erf is to an airport - commercial or military - any excessive noise can affect the resale value of the property in the future years.
Always remember that there is a continuous cycle of buying and selling in the property market. The main contributing factor is due to the fact that normal folks generally buy a minimum of three homes during their lifetimes. Broadly speaking the first one is the starter, one then upgrades to something bigger to accommodate your children, after which the children leave home and the house simply becomes to big for two people.
There are pros and cons about corner erven. You have one less abutting neighbor but you also have two sides of the house facing a street, making for more maintenance of lawns and shrubs; at the same time, your backyard becomes visible from the street.
These erven are favorites for people who cut corners, either on foot or on bicycles. It may take a fence to stop them and a fence may not be aesthetically pleasing to you, or inline with your vision of your dream home.
If you buy a corner Erf and the front of the house faces the same street as the garage, be sure the garage side of the house is away from the corner. You may have to reverse the floor plan to do this. There are several reasons for this:
Your Erf and Vehicle Headlights
While driving at night in a residential neighborhood watch where your headlights hit, particularly on high beam. When they hit the front of a house with sidelights around the door, there will be a flash of light in the entry. When they hit a bedroom window, special attention to window coverings will be needed if sleepers are not to be bothered.
Curving streets and intersections have the potential for this problem. When checking out a Erf, see if cars coming from either direction will be directly facing the side or front of the house. If so, you’ll need to be careful of window placement in bedrooms and entries.
While upstairs bedrooms won’t generally get the full brunt of headlights, they will get some of it. And, if the street is on a grade, even they may not be spared.
There are three types of corner erven to watch for:
A cul-de-sac is attractive for young families because the closed end can be a relatively safe place for the kids to play. But, for erven at the end, headlights will swing across the fronts of the houses as cars loop around the cul-de-sac. You'll have to watch where you place bedrooms in your design.
When the Erf you’re considering is outside a metropolitan area, you need to remember water, sewer, gas, electricity, telephone, and roads. If you have to drill a well, you need a back-up plan in case the water you get is not potable. If you require a septic tank you need to know if the soil is suitable. The seller may be able to guarantee these things; otherwise make any offer on the Erf subject to your approval of test results.
But before you do that, find out what the utility companies will charge to get power, gas, and telephone to the Erf. Also, find out what the costs will be to have a road extended to it.
Find out if there are any servitudes on the Erf and, if so, what they mean to you. Sometimes it means you have to give up any use of part of your property; other times it means you can’t use it for some purposes.
Find out before you buy. Be a pain in everybody's neck, but find out - after all it's your hard-earned money at stake.
Probably the first thing you should realize about building is that construction costs are higher in some areas of Gauteng than in others. The cost of building a home must take into account the variables like labour, material, equipment, climate, building codes, likely job conditions and standard markups in that area.
The second thing is that whilst larger buildings obviously cost more than smaller buildings they generally cost less per square metre than smaller buildings. The prime reason for this is that costs do not rise proportionally with increases in the plan size of a building. As an example, let's take the Preliminary and General items expressed as a percentage of total cost. These tend to decline with an increase in size and cost. A practical illustration would be the construction of two buildings. One for R500 000.00 and another for R1 500 000.00:
on-costs = R10 000 x 3 ÷ (R500,000 – (R10,000 x 3))
Cost : R1 500
Percentage of on
costs = R10 000 x 5 ÷ (R1,500,000 - (R10,000 x5))
And there are also many other areas in larger buildings where cost reductions may arise due to various savings.
The shape classification of multiple story or split-level homes is based on the outline formed by the outer most exterior walls, including the garage area, regardless of the varying level. Most structures have 4, 6, 8 or 10 corners, Small insets not requiring a change in the roof shape can be ignored when determining the shape.
Note: Generally, square metre calculations are made from outside the exterior wall and do not include decks, porches, garages, basements, attics, and bonus rooms. These should be calculated separately as they cost less per square metre than the house itself. Sometimes advertisers include these to give the impression of additional value.
Other factors like whether the foundation will be for normal soil conditions, floor, wall, interior and exterior finishes, roof cover, interior partitions, doors, windows, electric wiring and fixtures, rough and finish plumbing, built-in cupboards, supervision, design fees, permits, and the contractors' contingency, overheads and profit also come into the equation.
Single-family homes vary widely in quality, and quality of construction is a major cost variable. These quality factors relate to design features and construction details that can make a building both more desirable and more costly. When more than basic design elements are present, one must classify the quality higher than would be warranted by materials alone. For example, a circular room costs more than a square room, even when made using the same materials.
And of course, swimming pools, braai areas and beautiful reception rooms will make any home a homeowners dream abode - but they cost. The places to pay most attention to are the kitchen, the bathroom/s, and your general internal and external decor. Any estate agent will tell you that these are the rooms and features that sell a house. And remember you can put beautiful, but inexpensive features by just using your imagination. Take a look at the photo hereunder.
So let's take a quick look at some feature areas.
Your kitchen may be large or small, frugal or expansive. But, it is where any home user spends more working time than any other room. And it is where it is easy to make design mistakes that can make a home, or parts of it, inefficient and unduly expensive.
Whereas kitchens were once private places solely for food preparation and dishwashing, they are now often multi-purpose, well lit, open spaces used for everything from entertaining to surfing the net. A modern kitchen serves as an ideal hub for the home, where the person preparing the meal is no longer placed in isolation.
A poorly designed kitchen can be a nightmare that you'll have to live with for a long, long time.
As kitchens have taken on larger roles, they have grown in size as well. There is nothing more reliable to date a home than the size of its kitchen. Even traditional food preparation tasks involve a range of equipment we once never imagined. From microwaves to food processors to bread makers, many countertops have become so crowded that there's no place to put the cutting board! To create an open, versatile, modern kitchen, you almost always have to enlarge the initial envisaged space.
Use the following kitchen design tips only as a guide.
To get a good idea on all the possibilities, visit builder's show homes. Not only will you see the latest in layouts and finishes, you'll also get a pretty good idea of what's popular. That popularity usually translates to higher resale value later on. You can also get ideas from remodeling and home fashion magazines. Home shows offer another opportunity to get ideas.
As you find ideas you like, place sketches, notes, brochures, photocopies, etc. in an idea file. Later, a designer can help you try to work all your favorite features into a good kitchen plan. Bear in mind that basically, contractors tend to be strong on construction but weak on design. Architects are of little use unless they specialize in kitchens and in remodeling rather than new construction. While their designs are often glorious, they are famous for designing things that cost much more than the budget allows. There are, of course, exceptions to all these generalities.
Counter Space: Even large kitchens are difficult to work in if there isn't enough counter space. Plan to cover as much of the area not occupied with appliances with counter tops.
Countertops are generally made from materials that are durable and, in most cases, easy to maintain. If you're looking at countertops, the material you choose will depend on your budget and the appearance and serviceable qualities you want.
Natural stone, such as granite, is considered to be the height of elegance and will last longer than most kitchens. Stone, however, is very expensive and requires some care.
Storage: Squeeze as many cabinets into your design as possible. You should also think about the placement of cabinets in relation to appliances. Deep cabinets that can hold plates should be located near the dishwasher, and large cabinets with slide-out drawers should be placed near the oven. The fewer unnecessary steps needed to complete a task, the smoother the function of your kitchen will be.
Built-Ins: Built-in ovens, microwaves and storage for small appliances will make your kitchen appear less cluttered. Waist high sliding shelves that hold mixers and toasters can quickly get small appliances out of sight, but keep them easily at hand. Built-in storage for foods like potatoes and onions, and bread storage cabinets will also give the kitchen a cleaner look.
Roll-Out Pantry: If there isn't enough room for a closet pantry, many cabinet manufacturers now make roll-out pantries. These can be pulled out to view the items you have, but rolled back again. If there isn't room for any type of pantry, consider converting a closet outside of the kitchen to a storage area for fine china, large pots and infrequently used items.
Lighting: An easily overlooked design element is good lighting. Under counter lighting and clean halogen lights can make the space appear larger and more comfortable.
Sinks: A small kitchen does not have to have a small sink! A large sink will make it easier for you to clean large pots and pans, and is a great place to stash the dirty pots before you have a chance to rinse them. If you are in an apartment or a small house, a large sink in the kitchen can serve double duty as a utility sink.
Here are some kitchen 'Do's and 'Don'ts
The following list covers a number of the considerations that should go into the final decisions about kitchen design layout and implementation. It is not meant to be a list of absolutes. Sometimes you'll want to compromise because an item simply won't fit with the plan you really want and sometimes because you've got your own pet idea that's counter to the item in the list. The decisions are a very personal thing with you and your house will reflect that.
The most commonly used materials for flooring are carpet, wood, vinyl and ceramic tile. There are also some less commonly used alternatives. The look, quality and performance of each material differs greatly. As you select your flooring it is helpful to understand which materials will accommodate each room’s function. Understanding your options will help you make good functional and decorative choices for every room in the house.
Most homes today use a variety of flooring options. Each room serves a different function, so the flooring material you choose should match each room’s function and style. Keep in mind these factors when selecting the flooring for each room: cleaning ability, durability, longevity and moisture resistance.
Vinyl comes in a vast variety of colors and styles. Vinyl is easy to maintain, and is relatively inexpensive. But there are several disadvantages to vinyl as well. Vinyl may show wear after only a few years. Vinyl can easily tear, dent, or come unglued. Many people also dislike the fake-looking patterns and commercial look often associated with vinyl.
Wood floors, once covered by carpet in the early 1900’s have made a strong comeback. Wood flooring can now sometimes be found throughout the home and can provide added benefits and appreciation. Wood floors have a long life, and can be refinished or stained several times. Wood floors are also both elegant and durable and stains can be applied to match any decorating style. The one disadvantage is that a wooden floor may require periodic refinishing.
Carpet still remains the most popular choice for bedrooms. Carpet flooring is composed of two layers: the top layer called the face pile, and the bottom layer generally called the backing or underfelt. Keep in mind, the heavier the weight of the face pile the more durable and expensive the carpet will be. There are several advantages to carpet. Carpet is comfortable, warm and often the least expensive of all flooring options. There are also disadvantages. Carpeting can absorb moisture, stains easily, and collects dirt, hair etc.
Ceramic tile is the final common flooring choice. Ceramic tile is a natural product made of clay, minerals and water designed and formed into shapes. The tile's strength is determined by the body’s thickness and structure. Today’s manufacturers are able to produce a wide selection of colors, shapes, sizes and textures. Larger tiles, strips and borders are being used more frequently. Ceramic tile floors can take a tremendous physical beating while maintaining an elegant and stylish look. Durability, ease of cleaning, and a great assortment of colors and styles are a few of the advantages of selecting tile. Tiles are unfortunately relatively expensive, noisy, cold and hard underfoot.
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