7 Things You Must Know Before Designing a New Home

Not only is the prospect of custom-designing your own family home a huge attraction to thousands of people, but it could also be cheaper than buying. That is, as long as you avoid some of the unexpected costs of building – some of which may surprise you. There are heaps of potential hidden costs just waiting to jump out at you and destroy your building budget. Here are five common ones:

1. Soil test and contour survey

Before any builder or building company will give you a fixed quote for a build, they will probably need to do soil and contour tests. If you have rocky soil or any issues with your soil that makes it difficult to build, then you will incur extra costs. And if you’re attempting to build on a slope, expect to pay even more. Retaining is expensive!

2. Site costs

This could well be the biggest cost you will incur, and unfortunately it has the largest variability as it will be based on your soil and contour tests. As well as elevated building costs for a sloping block, there is also the costs of connecting and maintaining services, to consider, including:

  • water
  • electricity
  • gas
  • telephone
  • sewerage
  • fire control

3. Flooring

carpet and wood side by side

That’s right – don’t forget you want to walk around on something at least remotely pleasant and not all building quotes will include flooring in your house. Unless you’re happy living on a concrete slab, consider things like carpet, vinyl,  floorboards and tiles.

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4. Driveway

new home bundaberg

Many building quotes will only include the dwelling you’re going to live in, so assuming you want a driveway, you’re going to have to pay for it. Depending on the type of driveway, this could be fairly cheap or it could be extremely expensive. To save money you could look at not getting a driveway done immediately and look for cheap ways to do the driveway yourself until you have enough money to get a concrete driveway built. Or you could sell your car.

5. Modifications

If you’ve decided on a design and signed off on a building contract, be aware that any variations to the plan can cost you big time. A change of heart in the middle of a construction project can run up a variety of additional expenses including:

  • legal costs (to change the contract)
  • penalty clauses
  • extra material costs
  • extra labour costs
  • engineering, drafting or approvals

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As you plan to build a new home, you will be faced with the question of who do I build with? Do you choose a project home builder who is offering really low prices or do you choose to go with a custom home builder, who has experience and knowledge of the local area, provides a unique, one-off home design, but costs a little bit more!

Unfortunately, we have a tendency for choosing the cheaper option, but as with most things, the saying “you get what you pay for” holds true when it comes to building your home.

In this article we are going to outline the differences between a custom home builder and project builder, then you can decide which is better for you

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Project Home Builder

A Project home builder offers you a set of pre-designed house plans to choose from. This means the plans are usually designed for flat, rectangular blocks and don’t take into consideration difficult sites, bush fire regulations, views, natural lighting and your lifestyle. In other words, their house plans are designed for the mass market and are not “site specific”.

But can’t I just change the plan? 

Yes, you can! Project home builders, will let you make minor changes to their plans, but keep in mind that these changes will be charged to you, usually with an overly expensive mark-up. The key to using a project home builder is to know what exactly you are getting for your money. Be very clear as to what is and isn’t quoted for in the contract.

Advantages of Project Home Builder

  • Have bigger buying power – because project builders have a higher volume in house builds, they can usually negotiate better prices for materials. These savings are generally passed on to you.
  • Offer a range of plans to suit the first-time, the middle class and luxury home owners.
  • Offer house and land as a package

Disadvantages of Project Home Builder

  • Purchasing building materials in bulk – means you have limited choice when it comes to materials and fixtures used, making it hard to add your “personal touch”
  • House plans are not site specific, making it hard to get a solar passive design. This means you will pay more in the long term to heat and cool your home.
  • Market house plans to be irresistibly cheap, but have display homes with expensive upgrades, leading to consumer confusion of what is actually allowed for in their quote and the overall quality in finish of their home.
  • Any small changes are charged at exorbitant prices.
  • Don’t always provide a complete turn-key solution – meaning there are items not included that will be needed for council compliance.
  • Tradespeople and sub-contractors are usually not local, are often poorly paid and on a strict time limit, leading to compromise on the quality of the build

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signing building contract

Custom Home Builder

Building with a custom home builder will give you the most flexibility when it comes to your house design and choice of materials and fixtures used.

A custom home builder creates a unique, one-off home that is very site specific. The home designed for you will take into consideration your particular block, slope, any bushfire/ zoning regulations, the aspect and views of your block and will factor in all of your individual needs. The house plan will be designed around solar passive principles, maximising natural light and airways.

If you already have a plan drawn up by a drafts-man or architect, no problem. A Custom home builder will still be able to build your home for you.

Custom home builders generally focus on high standards in the design principles and construction of your home, meaning you will have a quality built home with a high quality finish. Like a unique artwork, custom designed homes usually cost more than a massively, reproduced project home. The key to working with a custom home builder is to establish a realistic budget and to stick to it, even when you’re enticed by the higher-cost options.

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Disadvantages of a Custom Home Builder

  • May cost more than a project home builder due to complexity in design, choice of materials used and the time and skills required for quality assurance.

Advantages of a Custom Home Builder

  • A unique, one–of-a-kind home, designed specifically for your needs.
  • A house plan, designed to suit your block of land and your budget.
  • A solar passive designed home, meaning it will cost less to heat and cool in the long term.
  • Flexibility to choose building materials used.
  • Flexibility in choosing appliances, fixtures, tiles and paint colours.
  • You can supply your floor plan.
  • Custom home builders are local people, they know the area, the land and all of the local building regulations.
  • Most will offer a free concept plan.
  • Most have qualified drafts-people.
  • Provide an excellent level of one-on-one customer service.
  • Most maintain strong relationships with past clients, so you may be able to visit a home they have previously built.
  • Deal with the builder directly.
  • Use highly skilled, local tradespeople.
  • Have a very high build quality and finish.
  • No hidden costs.
  • Provide a complete turn-key solution, meaning upon completion your house will comply with all government regulations. All you will need to do is move in.

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If you have a flat block with no harsh bushfire or zoning regulations, don’t want a unique, one of a kind home and you want the cheapest price, while maybe compromising on quality of build, then a project home builder is best suited for you.

However, if you want a unique, one-of-a-kind home, designed to take advantage of the views, aspect, slope or shape of your specific block and you want as much input as possible into the design, look and feel of your home and you don’t want to be limited when it comes to choices of material used and you are looking for a high quality finish, then a custom home builder is definitely the best choice for you.

7 Things You Must Know Before Designing a New Home

The day is arriving when you’ll meet with your builder for the first time. It is important to feel prepared and have a specific goal in mind. Here is what you’ll need to know…

7 Things You Must Know Before Designing a New Home

What to Expect:

It’s easy to plan your home from the comfort of your computer, pouring over an endless stream of Pinterest boards, blog posts, and spreadsheets. But eventually the day will come when it’s time to prepare for your first face-to-face meeting with your builder.

Obviously, everyone wants to feel prepared for their first meeting. It’s natural to want to start off on the right foot, and by now you probably have a pretty good idea of who you want to work with. You’ve done your homework and settled on a builder that ticks all your boxes and they’re easy to work with.

Goals of Your First Meeting

Well, that depends entirely on how far along you are, but the main goal should simply be to discuss your needs and what you want. Below, are two different examples that play out in our office, based on whether or not a customer arrives with house plans in hand.

Example 1: “I have my plans!”

Great, this means we can jump right into discussions of finishes, materials, and costs. In order to put together an initial quote, we’ll begin nailing down details such as …

  • Exterior Finishes: Do you prefer brick, Render, cladding?
  • Foundation-Type: Will we be building your home on top of stumps, or slab?
  • Interior Finishes: We’ll want to determine a laundry-list of interior selections including cabinet-types, floor-coverings, lighting and plumbing fixtures, window and door designs, fireplaces, and trim packages.
  • Homebuilding Extras: Will you be expanding on your home’s footprint with the addition of decks, porches, and/or patios?

 Example 2: “I don’t have my plans.”

Don’t worry, most of our customers come to us with a general idea of what they want, but most look to us to help them choose and refine a design that fits their needs. If this is the case, expect your homebuilder to start asking questions — lots and lots of questions.

  • What size home do you need? How much livable area?
  • How many baths, bedrooms?
  • Can we find an existing plan that fits your needs?
  • What home layouts fit your style and plans?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Within your budget, which trim-packages do you like?
  • Do you need purpose-specific rooms?
  • Will you build on a slab, or stumps?
  • (The list goes on)

In this example, there might be two or three meetings prior to building out a quote, depending on whether or not your builder has a plan that perfectly fits your needs.

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green floor plan

How to Prepare:

An experienced builder should have no problem walking you through the question-and-answer process, gathering the necessary bits of information needed to plan and quote your build. However, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared. Here are a few tasks you can do to gather information:

  1. Do some research: More than likely, you’ve got this covered, but the more research you can do prior to your first meeting, the faster your builder can finalise your plans.
  2. Bring pictures: Visual aids go a long way. Bring photos, Pinterest boards — whatever you’ve got — to your first meeting, and you’ll be more likely to get what you’re looking for (or really close to it).
  3. Study (or bring) floor plans: If you haven’t settled on a floor plan, go ahead and familiarise yourself with what’s out there. Weigh the pros and cons of things like open layouts, multi-story homes, bonus rooms, etc.
  4. Consider your lifestyle: Do you work from home? Are you an entertainer, a chef, or a homebody? Think about the life you lead and want, and identify the rooms that are most important to you and your family! Be sure to prioritise them in your plans.
  5. Think about your home today: More specifically, identify the parts of your current and past homes that you absolutely loved — and, more importantly, hated. Note these items and make a wish list of the home features you’ve always wanted!
  6. Lock in your budget & timeframe: Two of the biggest variables in any build are time and money. Knowing the budget and timeframe you’re comfortable working in sets constructive parameters on all future conversations.
  7. Prepare to ask your own questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about everything and anything. The key to a successful homebuilding experience is regular, open and honest communication.
  8. Consider where to build: Do you have a block of land to build on? Do you need help with a property search? Or does your builder own a particular neighbourhood you’re interested in?

That might seem like a lot of information, but the good news is you will have a lot more than one opportunity to communicate with your builder. But, if your builder of choice does their job, you should leave your first meeting with all questions answered, and a clearer vision for your next step.

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First, before construction even begins, let’s make sure we have included a few procedures, that are going to be contributing factors to your overall build time.

1. Initial Meeting with The Builder

This is when you start putting your ideas together and  coming up with an overall design and  a basic floor plan. After a couple of more meetings with the builder you will work out more specific criteria for finishes and move towards a final design. This can take anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks.

2. Contracts and Permits

Once the final design is worked out this than turns into a project that can be quoted and a client proposal can be put together. Quoting the project and signing the contract can take anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks. Once the contract is signed the building permit process follows and this can take another 2 – 4 weeks.

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3. Scheduling

All the permits have been finalised and approved. It is now time for the builder to start the Construction Scheduling process with the various tradesmen needed to complete the construction  within the designated timeframe. While this is going on the home owner is selecting the various finishes which are to be incorporated into the overall design.

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4. Construction Starts

The actual construction process could take anywhere from 12 – 16 and longer. Depending upon the complexity of the design, undesirable weather, the number of storeys, the slope of the land, easements involved and even trees to be removed, these all impact on the timeframe. Another element to remember is that sometimes the titling of land can be a lengthy process. So if a buyer wants to build straight away, they need to ensure the land is ready to build on.

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Take note of this…

The last key factor that causes major time delays in constructing a new home is ‘unplanned changes’.

When buyers insist on features or a certain design concept for their new home during the building process (changes that were not scoped during the planning phase), delays in the process are almost always the result.

Reality TV shows have given people the wrong misconception, that you can do major works in 4, 5, or even 6 weeks.  But in saying this most people have common sense and understand the process actually takes longer. It takes time to build a quality home.

The Answers To All Your Questions

When should I consider a reno?

When your home no longer suits your needs or style, it can be tempting to consider a renovation rather than a new build.

There are circumstances where renovating is the right choice. If your home is structurally sound and you like the layout and only want small changes then renovating is the way to go. However, if your home is older and doesn’t suits your needs then it’s time to rebuild.

A Few Points To Consider When Renovating

  • Are you compromising the way you really want your home to look and feel?
  • Are you sacrificing the opportunity to gain better views, energy efficiency’s and structure?
  • Are you going to make many changes and are you going to be able to live in the house while it is getting renovated?

Draw up some plans, and consider what often starts out as a great idea can take ages to complete.

  • What about the idea of living in amongst building materials and ongoing mess while renovating?
  • What about the time getting quotes and managing trade whilst renovating?
  • Your budget, extensive renovations are not cheap.
  • How much extra life will a renovation add to your home?
  • Is the financial value of your home important to you?

The choice between renovating and rebuilding, comes down to two factors, mainly sentiment and finances. If these two factors don’t depict your situation than a new build will offer the perfect solution.

renovation builder bundaberg

A Few Home Truths About Renovating…

If you really want the truth about renovating you may want to keep reading;  if you’re planning an extensive renovation with lots of structural changes it can be definitely  cheaper to start from scratch. It relates largely to renovations being unique to the individual home, and renovations that are time consuming and labour intensive.

Brand new homes can be built quickly using systems and modern materials that maximise efficiency and save time on new builds. One of the upsides of building a new home is you can ask your builder for a Fixed Price Contract.

7 Things You Must Know Before Designing a New Home

The building process can be a difficult one for the average homeowner to understand. From the technical aspects and terminology of the actual construction to the hassle of financing, even the most focused client can find themselves overwhelmed with information.

This is where a good builder can make all the difference and help make the process a smooth one for both you and themselves. By establishing open lines of communications early on in the process and continuing to make themselves available to you, a builder can help avoid the problems that can stall the production of a new home.

Norm Wales Constructions takes great strides to help you understand the building process from start to finish. We believe that the more informed you are is an asset to the entire process; you can best explain your desires to the builder and avoid the errors and delays that come from miscommunication. To the very end, we encourage you to ask questions.

Our company strives to include you in every part of the process so that they not only understand the work being done but acquire knowledge about the home building industry for the future. By doing this, Norm Wales Constructions not only hopes to improve the relationship between yourself and homebuilders but also demonstrate why working with us is the best decision you can make. When you are ready to build your custom home in Bundaberg, Norm Wales Constructions should be your first phone call.

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Well, the short answer is no.

Home designers, architects and interior designers are more than capable of improving your final product, but their services are not always necessary — especially if your homebuilder already has a diversified, in-house team.

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If You Choose to Work With An Architect

You might have an existing relationship with an architect or a home designer that already knows your style or can better translate your ideas into a final design. That’s absolutely fine! We want you to get the home that best fits you. Your builder shouldn’t have any issues working with your architect.

lovely couple looking at their new home

Keeping An Eye on the Bottom Line

There is, of course, one big drawback to working with an architect: cost. Working with a homebuilder, exclusively, during your planning stages will likely save you money on drafting, plans, and any necessary revisions.

Architects and home designers can bring a lot of value to your custom home build, but they might be entirely focused on the “concept” or “design” and completely unaware of how their design and material choices are going to impact your bottom line.

That’s not the case when you choose to work with a builder on your custom home design.

A homebuilder acting as both designer and contractor is perfectly situated to keep an eye on cost. They have an extensive knowledge of which types of designs and materials will push you past your budget, and should be more than able to guide you towards a custom design that fits your plans, personality, and your budget.

7 Things You Must Know Before Designing a New Home

Several problems may arise in the construction of new homes and extensions. The home builder should be aware of some issues that may affect their investment. Issues for many existing homes could have been avoided if a thorough site investigation and soil testing was conducted prior to construction. Since the mid 1990’s all new house developments have been required to have a site and soil test and site classification report conducted prior to building. The classification report is used by builders and engineers to plan building site preparation and provide site information to assist in appropriate foundation design.

Potential Issues

There are a variety of issues to consider when planning to build on a specific site.  To improve the bearing capacity of a foundation  it may require a specialised design which could come at a considerable expense. Vegetation, tree roots, slope and local features in the area, may effect on site drainage with roots required to be removed and any drainage issues addressed. Changing moisture conditions in the soil cause a change in soil volume. These factors will combine to effect local soils and the building structure above. The properties of the local site soil must be tested and measured.

Why Test Soils?

Inclusion of these requirements for building of residential homes has resulted in a great reduction in homes with defects such as dropped floors, cracked slabs, cracked brick work and binding doors. Water is commonly the greatest issue when it comes to building damage. Reactive soils absorb water and change in volume. Where foundation design is not appropriate to compensate for the amount of movement expected, damage to buildings will occur. Water can also cause erosion of some soils which may result in subsidence of foundations and building damage. Where building or extensions are planned a soil test must be conducted to satisfy council requirements and ensure correct design.

What is a Site Classification Report?

A site classification report involves soil testing to define the soil reactivity.

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CLASS A Mostly sand and rock with little or no ground movement from moisture changes.
CLASS S Slightly reactive clay sites with only slight ground movement from moisture changes.
CLASS M Moderately reactive clay or silt sites, which can experience moderate ground movement from moisture changes.
CLASS H1 Highly reactive clay sites, which can experience high ground movement from moisture changes.
CLASS H2 Highly reactive clay sites, which can experience high ground movement from moisture changes.
CLASS E Extremely reactive sites, which can experience extreme ground movement from moisture changes.
CLASS P Sites which include soft soils, such as soft clay or silt or loose sands; landslip; mine subsidence; collapsing soils; soils subject to erosion; reactive sites subject to abnormal moisture conditions or sites which cannot be classified otherwise.

For a site classification report the following features should be investigated

  • Soil classification.
  • Soil condition.
  • Watertable.
  • Ground slope.
  • Trees, shrubs and organic material.
  • Service trenches.
  • Water run-off


Site Classification including soil testing and investigation is compulsory across all areas of South East Queensland. At Norm Wales Constructions Bundaberg we endeavour to undertake a full and complete site investigation addressing the issues mentioned here and also take note of other issues that may be effect the quality of your new building, house, extension or any other building project that requires a soil test and site classification.

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Building a new house in Bundaberg is a daunting experience. Combining all the features and fittings you want into the perfect home, and doing it all on a budget, can be far from easy.

Regardless of whether you’re building your own home or an investment property, the key factor determining all your decisions is cost. You want your new home to be as affordable as possible, and you don’t want to get ripped off by any dishonest builders or tradies who think they can get away with overcharging.

A “cost per square metre rate” is a method of expressing building costs that should be used with extreme caution by both clients and contractors involved in the cost comparison and cost planning process.

There are a number of design aspects which can unfavourably influence square meter rates, therefore giving a false impression of the cost of a building project and this can lead to serious problem for both clients and contractors. “You would not compare a Porsche to a Volkswagen on their cost per square metre, so why try and do it with buildings?.”

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How much does it cost to build a house per square metre?

This is difficult to answer because there are lots of factors that affect how much it costs to build a house. Site costs, such as sloping land, as well as the specifics of your home, such as materials used, quality of inclusions, design and layout, make it impossible to quote a one-size-fits-all figure.

Very few Bundaberg builders are willing to quote based on per square metre. I would strictly forbid consumers making decisions based on price per square metre. It’s the quality of inclusions that matters. The scope for variation in square-metre building costs is huge.

For a much clearer idea of how much it will cost to build your house, you’ll need to have detailed design and construction plans drawn up to get a detailed quote. These will take into account all the specifics of your project, from any site requirements through to the size, layout and features of the build.

Just make sure you know exactly what is included in the quote from your Bundaberg builder and what may cost extra. For example, site costs, carpets, driveways, landscaping and fencing are often not included in quotes but can add thousands of dollars to the overall cost.

home planning

Volume builder vs custom builder

Although it’s not always the case, volume builders are usually nationally owned companies that have completely systemised their home-building process. The main feature that attracts people to use a volume builder is their extensive range of floor plans that are already priced out, catering to budgets ranging from standard to luxury.

Volume builders work on a standard inclusions and upgrade scale where you can add and subtract according to your budget. It’s a very simple option for people who want someone to take care of the whole process from start to finish.

When you choose a volume builder, every aspect of the build is typically finalised before construction starts. Every single detail is set out right down to the colour of the paint on your walls. “If you are someone who likes to improvise and change things as you go, you might be better suited to a custom build.

Custom builders in Bundaberg are usually hands-on local tradesmen who pride themselves on the personal quality and uniqueness that they can bring to your home building experience. Custom builders suit people who like the idea of having some level of involvement in the home-building process, though that is completely optional.

If you choose a custom builder, you have the freedom and flexibility to improvise and make adjustments along the way. Although many custom builders have a range of plans available to inspire you. A custom builder will often work alongside clients during the design phase of their home. Custom home builders generally focus on high standards in design principles and construction of your new home, meaning you will have a quality built home with a high quality finish.


If you don’t want a unique, one of a kind home and you want the cheapest price, while maybe compromising on quality, then a project home builder who works to a square metre rate is best suited for you.

However, if you want a unique design taking in all aspects of your block and you want as much input as possible into the design and don’t want to be limited to choices when it comes to material used and want that high quality finish, a custom builder is exactly what you need.

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Property is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make. That’s why it is smart to spend some time and energy on searching for an investment that ticks all the boxes, before you make any financial commitments.

The main things to consider are usually the location, affordability, securing finance, and deciding if you should buy an existing home or build a new home – which is often the hardest. We believe that building new is the right way to go. Have a look why:

Ultimate customisation

Are you searching for a certain layout, style or finish? When you build a new property, you have the opportunity to start with a blank slate and can create what you want from the outset. When you build, you have the freedom to pick everything from the location, the block, the home’s design, and the important details like certain wall colours, landscaping, and customised fittings. Unfortunately, most existing homes will require many costly changes, renovations and remodelling to turn them into your perfect investment.

Low maintenance

The older a property, the more maintenance it requires to keep it in a top condition. Small issues need to be fixed on a regular basis before they become difficult and costly to repair. Every single thing in a newly built property is brand new, which means it will likely require very little, or no, repairs and maintenance. Another benefit is that a new property will be under warranty, and if anything is faulty early on, the repairs or replacement should be fully covered.

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house garden area

The healthier choice

When you build new, you are less likely to face issues such as toxic materials, mould, damp, lead paint, asbestos, or even allergies, which can affect an occupant’s health and wellbeing. With new, energy saving standards being improved throughout modern appliances, your new property should also have better heating, cooling and ventilation products, which is good for occupants, as well as the health of the environment.

Get the latest technology

The latest building trends are all moving towards smart technology, and ultimately changing homes into smart homes. Not only is new technology convenient and exciting, it can make a huge difference to the efficiency of a property and drastically reduce utility bills. Your builder should be able to give you options to choose modern advanced, building materials (which are usually more durable, safer and easier to maintain), as well as a choice of technology for your new appliances, and heating, cooling and safety products.

Future value

A brand-new home should already have a higher value than an older, but similar home from the start, but when you build you also have the power to choose every detail of the home with future value in mind. This means that you can choose design features like a stylish elevation, open floor plans, ensuite bathrooms, high ceilings and alfrescos, which will be highly desirable to future tenants or buyers.

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