Checking Your Builders Price

I’m excited $$ price is what I want, they told me everything will be great BUT IS IT?

This week I’ve had two examples of Verandah builders essentially cheating or deceiving their clients of their rights and government of tax. Quotes are written to reduce quote price, normal building conditions and contractual rights under the Victorian Building Act 1993. Their offers one over $16,000 one under were both deceptive and unlawful.

Victorian Building Code is for projects above $10K specifically are non-negotiable in terms of minimum contractual terms and conditions for BOTH parties so buyer beware when your builder omits items others offer naturally.

Example One: Project Cost Above $16k – Value of quote was $45K plus extras

This quote severely reduced client’s rights plus had such lack of detail except for a price that whilst cheaper to their competitors but there were some costly omissions plus adding items in as extras but not included in contract price, therefore, evading tax and consumer laws and conditions. Just some of the issues that a consumer may consider unusual plus unfair.

  • No Insurance offered in quote – Home Owners Warranty mandatory if project above $16K – a cost reduction to competitors quotes of $1.2K or more plus gst.
  • No Registration Noted – check your quote as only registered builders and building companies can enter into a contract above $10K, this ensures public liability insurance will be applicable and their registration is applicable for the project type.
  • Deposit 50% required – only max of 5% is allowed for projects above $20K (10% for project below $20K) with split stage payment ‘s normally requested
  • No detail of works – no specification of materials or concept plan or warranties noted.
  • No details of terms and conditions by which quote may rely upon if a dispute arose.
  • Interest @ 5% monthly (or x 12= 60% annually) – seems a tad over the extreme and clearly non compliant

Example Project Two: Cost Below $16K – Value of Quote was $15.9K plus extras

Rough Plan was provided – not real specification and handwritten statements appear to be overstated and unsubstantiated. No business address, relatively few project details, no declared terms or conditions just simply a range of poorly worded commitments plus some. strong buy now pressure.

What I did realize that a significant range of Items was noted as additional but not included in the project’s main price. These items formed part of client brief, so required by the client, were added to base price but not to be included the main permit price. This was curious as they had done a formal quote below $16K (just below the mandatory insurance requirement level saying $1.2K plus to competitors) but had another almost $10 plus of other work specific to completion of the project. This method was I can only assume to avoid permit tax and insurance cost. Very tricky indeed. If they misleading as a quote wonder what they like when building. Client faith will be needed to accept this quote.

  • Plumbing – really an extra but as needed for roof so must be included in the building cost, not an extra? Very weird omission.
  • Electrical – again compliance needed. If done during the permit stage must be included unless client total role to arrange, complete and cost from tradesman direct to client. But as builder doing must be included it’s that simple.
  • Plans and Permits – owners do have the right to arrange and provide this segment again only if the builder not gaining financially from this segment and it’s not forming part of their works. But they are undertaking this process so should be included.
  • No Home Owners Warranty Insurance – this cost of over $1.2K with builders margin and GST is a significant omission in cost but also warranty. Clearly omitted to deceive clients and get a break on competitors. This the reason price just under $16K with all the extras added outside permit price to escape insurance cost.
  • No Business Address – certainly do not enter into a building agreement if no place of business with only a mobile number and a business name. Hard to get something solved if no place of business.
  • No mention of specific products or manufacturers warranties. Yes, they provide their statement of a Builders warranty by that’s for workmanship, not products.

The reason Consumer’ Affairs and Victorian Building Commission provide regulations is to help all parties in ultimately having successful building outcomes that a fair to both parties. Those builders that try to break rules by deceptive practices certainly distort the vast majority of satisfactory outcomes. Reducing price to avoid insurance and tax costs doesn’t should be a warning sign.

What to do?

  1. So check out your builder don’t just believe the salesman.
  2. Are they really what they say they are. Check their history longevity, offices, displays all add to providing assurance and peace of mind.
  3. Review and compare quotes noting differences, Your council or the Victorian Building Commission (VBA) can provide insight into what should be included.
  4. Go to your builder’s offices, check out their product displays, review their manufacturer’s warranty and commitments. There far more to a price that just the number. No offices might indicate a lack of substance.
  5. Businesses with a proven track record strong with supplier support provide greater reasons to believe they can deliver the outcome you need.
  6. Odd requirements, clients tasks, added extras or omissions should raise warning signs. This includes pressure sales commitments, bagging competitors and discounts to buy might not really be the bargain you think.

Town Planning – Review overlooking for your project

Town Planning – Review overlooking for your project.

When embarking on a new home, extension or even a deck you need to consider if you might trigger an “overlooking: issue. Hilly sites, incorrect fence coverage or heights, proximity to adjoining homes (windows) and private open space are all factors when a floor level rises above 800mm from ground level.

What rule: Under the planning standard A15 and B22 Overlooking is designed to protect existing windows and private open space from overlooking.

What does it cover: A habitable room window, balcony, terrace, deck or patio should be located and designed to avoid direct views into the secluded private open space and habitable room windows of an existing dwelling within a horizontal distance of 9 metres (measured at ground level) of the window, balcony, terrace, deck or patio. Views should be measured within a 45 degree angle from the plane of the window or perimeter of the balcony, terrace, deck or patio, and from a height of 1.7 metres above floor level. For additional extensions gallery and other renovation, one could contact contractors and draft a plan.

Reasons for Review: This to provide some protections (up to 9 meters from proposed development to adjoining owners private space and habitual windows. So essentially this and many other regulations are designed to review for adjoining owners any implication from an adjoining development. This is fundamental to your design development and is carried out by The Project for each project brief.

To help you visualise what “overlooking” means the following diagrams from planning authority.

  1. This diagram sets up the basis for review. If an area is affected (is within hatched area ie: a window, major entertainment area etc.) this this triggers the need to provide a solution. Please follow this link for PDF here

The following diagrams provide some idea of how to calculate any impact

Why Us: The Project Centre with over 20 years experience provides our client’s with helpful feedback on impacts & solutions when we are undertaking their new building design. By commissioning a professional design company ensure your design is compliant or applications undertaken to seek council approval when applicable.

Building Amendment (Construction of Swimming Pools and Spas) Regulations 2016

Building Amendment (Construction of Swimming Pools & Spas) Regulations 2016

The continued raft of building regulation changes continues with latest directed to pool-regsdomestic pools and spas. One concern we have also seen is the lack of attention to just when a pool project is finished and therefore we have seen pools and spas in full operation but without proper fencing completed. Generally  we have not be had anything to do with pool project but find ourselves now dealing with the non-completion. Essentially the pool companies and home owners have been employing the extended period of completion related to normal building to give a window of not completing the pool enclosure.

“The new rules appears fair and reasonable to us.”

The Building Amendment (Construction of Swimming Pools and Spas) Regulations 2016 (S.R. No. 104/2016) will come into effect on 3rd October 2016. These reduce red-tape by aligning the completion periods for building work relating to a swimming pool or spa and any associated barrier or safety equipment with the completion period for other building work that is being carried out concurrently on an allotment.

From 3 October 2016, building permits issued for the construction of a swimming pool or spa may reflect the completion date of other building work being carried out concurrently on the same allotment. When calculating the completion date, the RBS should only consider building permits that are in force at the time that the building permit for the construction of the swimming pool or spa is issued.

For a copy of proposed change: Link to government regulation here

So keep your property safe this summer and ensure you know what your obligations are as pools and spas. Small kids simply don’t mix well unattended and unfenced pool areas so get your fences done sooner to enjoy your pool and spas.

Casey Cardinia – Peoples Choice Award

Casey Cardinia – Peoples Choice Awardcasey cardinia business awards

This year The Project Centre – Narre Warren has been nominated for the Peoples Choice award for the Casey Cardinia Business Awards. We’re not sure who nominated us but thanks for who did consider us a worthy participant.

peoples choice awardOne nomination is all it takes to shine a light on an outstanding business!

Well so they say. The Project Centre has been providing both Retail services via our timber and hardware yard in Vesper Drive Narre Warren for 20 years up to 6 years ago, and since the closing of that retail yard, we have maintained and concentrated on Architectural Drafting and Building Service which specialises in Dwellings, Renovations and particularly Verandah, Decks, Carports and Garages for both builders and Do it yourself owners.

Our recent opening in Beaconsfield seeing a second office now establishing itself.

“The People’s Choice award provides you the opportunity to vote from nominated businesses. This Award is a separate voting system and it does not require an application form. Unlike all other category awards, The People’s Choice Award is not judged but decided by popular vote by you the public!”

So I guess those of you who have used The Project Centre over the last 25 years might consider voting for us in these up and coming awards.

To vote for us follow this is the link Peoples Choice Award

Owner Builder – New Building Act Changes from 4th July 2016

Owner Builder – New Building Act Changes from 4th July 2016

New Building Act Changes from 4th July 2016

New changes will come into effect for all building in Victoria from July 4th 2016. Whilst here has been a range of information leaking into the industry like all government act’s these come into effect regardless of consequence once released.vba logo

If planning to prepare yourself for a project particularly if an “owner builder” then ensure you read these new changes.

There’s good and bad and quite a few items to digest but two standouts are:


Consent level raised from $12,000 to $16,000 when you need to get VBA consent to be an owner builder of your project. This will allow a reasonable small project to be considered prior to VBA approval being required.

“Remember you must be able to confirm and qualify your expected  project costs when applying for a permit”.


Owner Builders are on notice their projects will have the same scrutiny and inspections as any builder. So preparation, site conditions and have the correct compliant trades never been more important.

Higher level of Permit review with significant requirements on Surveyors to ensure they have all the correct documentation to enable them issue and administer a building permit.

I advise email advice we received…

Building Act changes that may affect you

The Victorian Government has made changes to the VBA’s powers and functions under the Building Act 1993. Some of these changes may affect your obligations under the law.

You can find all the information about how these changes relate to your work as a building practitioner generally, owner builder or a building surveyor specifically, by visiting the dedicated pages of the VBA website.

The first set of changes comes into effect on 4 July 2016. They include:

  • the extension of the VBA’s inspection powers to owner-built sites
  • new offences for undertaking work without a building permit
  • changes to powers to issue directions, notices and orders
  • a requirement on private building surveyors not to act where there is a conflict of interest
  • provision of a checklist for use by relevant building surveyors lodging building permits to councils

Further changes will be introduced in stages until July 2017.

Do Louver Roofs require a Building Permit?

Do Louver Roofs require a Building Permit is an often asked question by clients when considering building a project with a louver as the roof or the shade slat. The answer is not straight forward as what might appear and will depend upon exactly what the product is and usage the louver and function is performing.

Louver Options available:shade louver profile

Fixed Shade Louvers – often used to purely provide shade, privacy and ambience to the surrounds of a building. These typically are not directing water to a gutter and can be installed vertically and horizontally relative to the effect and outcome proposed.

Opening and Closing Louvers – often this more refers to roofing type outcomes bit certainly not always. Shutters could be viewed as a louver and often these used in window application for shade and privacy. As a roof it will depend if when closed the roof then directs water to a open and closed louver roof

gutter. Often roofing type louver might close to only 35 degrees and therefore not performing the task of a roof but more a shade slat outcome. If performing a closed roof application, a building permit will be required.

Do Louver Roofs require a Building Permit often more relates, not only to the applications referred to above, but also to fact that your “building a structure” with footings, connections to dwelling etc.

So the facts are:

Typically, most building will require a building permit. Long term benefits to obtaining a permit are significant and many but not least ensuring your money is protected via having an independent building surveyor involved ensuring your project is lawful and compliant.


Pergolas (ie: Open, Slats (not closed), mesh) if under 20m2

No but Check – may not a building permit but check first your local council requirements for your home as some councils do require a permit due to location of site and other local considerations. If over 20m2 Yes – will require a building permit.

Fixed (any type) or Closed Louver roofs

Yes – will require building permit every time. Some local councils may also require planning permits as well for any building on your property (these requirements normally site specific).

Awnings – mesh or slatted

Not always but Check – awnings “fixed”, “retractable” or “louvers opening and closing” – if water proof directing water to the seamless gutters or to ground and have structures will require a building permit. So best to check with your council if any restrictions or requirements need to be considered or approved before you build.

Building PermitOur experience particularly over the last few years is not getting a permit can be extremely costly and distressing.

We at The Project Centre – Narre Warren will be able to advise you once we know what you want, what else is on site, where precisely you wish project located and where you live. With this information we can assist you.

Given the many project variations, council and building code requirements and refinements we’re finding it increasing difficult to not be suggesting getting a building is required. Better safe than sorry. If it’s not required great. Often you might find that builder you believed in may become strangely very unavailable and generally unregistered and unwilling to assist.

Whilst permits can add a significant cost they may be just worthwhile to ensure your project is not required to be removed or amended (ie: costly further works or approvals) plus the general cost’s to gain compliance that are “not less than double” the normal costs of a permit.

  • Note: A planning permit only provides the information to a building surveyor that if all the building plans reflect the planning permit stamped plans and approval requirements and the associated building information documentation is correct that building surveyor can proceed with issuing a building permit.

10 best ways to get the most from your Verandah

10 best ways to get the most from your VerandahOutdoor Room - Brighton

In no particular order we consider the 10 best or most important component’s we consider when embarking on designing your Verandah.

  1. Size – by providing suitable size to cater for your furniture and usage when people are present is a must consider component. The size needed is not just under the covered project covered area but the whole or extended uncovered area’s. If you have a large family or family (or friend) occasions where you use area for large functions often, and the Verandah is the location your will use, then your needs will be different to others who might have a less entertainer need for this area. Size is not everything as too large can feel just as odd as too small. Your proposed usage will determine your size needs for this area.
  2. Light & Shade – ensuring that good light comes into the area is important. Often your inside light can be too restricted by “fully roofed external Verandahs”. Considering a good backyard outdoor pergolas or ensuring some skylights to provide filtered light will ensure a balance between “roofed & dark “ rather than “roofed but light” (not hot – using insulated roofing) and not feeling too dark under the Verandah just because it’s sunny outside. Where the Verandah location is situated will be important to ensuring a great outcome to your area.
  3. Open Space – a strange plus maybe but ensuring there is adjacent open space to allow uncovered areas adjacent to your roofed Verandah will actually assist with making the whole area feel balanced and useful for all activities. After all we don’t go outside just to sit under another roof. Providing shade to open areas for afternoon light (particularly in summer) will provide great benefits to your outdoor area.
  4. Quality – using quality products ensure long durability and therefore lower cost but also generally provides better visual outcomes. Look for proven manufacturers within the product mix plus long product warranties. Quality will provide you’re the payback in performance, visually and cost over the life of your Verandah.Verandah & Deck - East Brighton
  5. Permits – Why, because there’s nothing worse than the council entering your property providing a “cause to view” action that can cost many $1000’s to fix or having to remove your Verandah completely. Getting permits are a fact, doing it ensures your builder must comply with the rules and your outcome and peace of mind assured. With the digital world not having a permit could be a problem when selling your home. So getting it done just has too many benefits than not.
  6. Design – getting the right design will not only provide usage benefits such as correct style, size, light, quality as mentioned but also to adding benefit’s from blending with your home from an architectural perspective to adding value to the overall asset of your home. Having an experience designer and builder will ensure your project outcome what you wanted.
  7. Maintenance – ensure you review your gutters both of Verandah and dwelling to ensure good passage of water (rain) and other areas of your roof from wind, plant or animal damage that might need attention at least annually. Cleaning roofing, gutters, downpipes and any metal or painted structure will prolong the life of your project materials and ensure effective roofing plus makes things look nice.
  8. Floor – without a stable and well drained floor using your Verandah can be restricted. Many options include paving, concrete (plain or coloured) and timber such as decking (cooler but more maintenance required) at the normal options. Providing a reasonable level non- slip area will ensure your Verandah can deliver in terms of multi usage – furniture tables and chair’s, animal area’s, BBQ and other cooking area’s plus general traffic areas that can be easily navigated. Different areas require different floor outcomes so try to provide the one that looks right for your area.
  9. Colour – whether your using pre-finished metal or painting your project consideration for match your dwelling colours and tone where possible but also ensuring colours match the relaxed nature that “being” in your Verandah warrants. Newer “double sided” coloured roofs do provide a nice clean light outcome to the grey of standard colorbond and metallic outcome of zinc.Verandah & Deck - Vermont
  10. Landscape – providing welcomed privacy via plants (firstly) and items such as screens, planter boxes is a must to ensure an inviting feel from being in your Verandah area. Plants often provide the first and best outcome due to the many benefits of plant life and their colour and pleasant scent around your home. Ensuring those plants selected remain maintainable and functional. Getting the right advice will ensure you select the best plants for your area.

Its your ideas and your needs plus considering the options for your property location plus what your budget can offer mean choices made for one property changes to another. It doesn’t mean that one outcome can’t be just a inviting or appropriate if budget is workable cutting corners will reduce outcome. Location (where’s the prevailing sun rises and falls), terrain, privacy needs, dwelling exit’s and location and size open areas ensure that almost every backyard area is different from another. These are the issues that create difference and determine approach.

Getting your project suitability designed to suit your needs, complying with building and council requirements and ensuring this valuable area of your house get’s the right consideration to make it work can at times be a challenge. Knowing what you can and can’t do (from a permit perspective) is not always apparent.

At The Project Centre we have been specialising in designing outdoor area’s for over 20 years so ensuring our ability to assist you.

To Contact us Monday to Friday ring 9796 6899 during office hours.

Outdoor Rooms – what are they

Outdoor Rooms – What are they?

One of the great things about designing is in the watching and witnessing the changing of peoples needs, trends and visions of whats good or otherwise. Being part of this is invigorating in that watching and learning provides constant ideas and inspiration. Its why we do it. Certainly it’s not about the permit process which need I say more. All this brings me to my thought of the month about Outdoor Rooms – what are they?

In the over 20 years of our direct involvement in backyard developments the Outdoor Room has also undergone a birth and then a continual evolution.

Years -1960’s to mid – late 1990’sMelbourne house before2000

This period saw the minimal change from very simple lean to verandahs to side and rear of dwellings often only 3 or 4 meters long and only 2 or 3 meters wide. Generally just flat roofs and mainly built without plans or permits (or even the thought of one) with simple needs and outcomes. Sometimes these may have be partially enclosed with a cement sheet wall possibly a fixed window but with emphasis on simple and practical. This might loosely therefore be called the outdoor room.

Years !995 to 2010gable verandah timber

In the mid 1990’s we started to see growth and change to what people expected from their outdoor area. TV was starting to feature programs about “doing up your backyard” like Bert’s Backyard plus a range of other like programs. The advent of Bunnings and the active home renovator saw the backyard pergola (although really a Verandah or Patio) becoming a major investment. The new norm now became Gable structures, sunrooms and the development of a range of building product specifically directed to outdoor areas. Improved timber products and colorbond product now had the outdoor backyard in their sight’s. The outdoor room was still not really an item. The big Verandah’s were making their mark but most structures were open and minimal furniture and cooking only the basic BBQ affair.

2010 till nowLouver Projects P1

Now we find the advent of real outdoor living and with that more requirements from what is now being termed The Outdoor Room. What is it?

Well it’s no longer the pretend room that a sunroom 1990’s style was. It really is an outdoor area specifically designed to lounge, dine, cook and play within. The out door kitchen has arrived, smart lighting, heating, sound and TV entertainment, expansive deck’s, feature walls and blinds plus affordable insulated, louver or fixed roofing all providing extended living options for a faction of the cost of extending the existing dwelling or moving home.

Insulated Verandah - brightonWith these changes plans and permits now are a must. Why – not only to ensure your project is legal but also to ensure it works. The budget has moved up but so has the requirements.

These extensive living areas do require the proper consideration to ensure they blend with existing, take account of proposed usage plus add to your total property investment. They require respect and experience to ensure you get the best out of the design.

Outdoor Rooms – What are they?Solarspan Outdoor-room-p2

Well they are still taking shape and the juries out on saying there is any one fixed outcome. This is because they should be what add’s to the dwelling and surrounds plus be a reflection of the owners and their needs and interests.

Your Outdoor Room design should be a reflection of those components and more. There what is it….. well it’s about you and your lifestyle, your needs, your interests

At the Project Centre we can provide you the experience and insight needed to deliver on your outdoor room. Contact us to discuss your needs.

Telephone: +61397966899



Building a Pergola without a Permit

Building a Pergola without a Permit

building permit

No one should be thinking if building a Pergola without a permit. Many clients ring us seeking answers to this is a commonly asked question. Does my Pergola need a Building Permit!.

Facts are clients are generally considering a Verandah or Carport (roofed structures) and sometimes also a deck generally for the external outdoor entertainment area and to provide shelter to rear or side exit from dwelling. Pergolas are strictly non- roofed structures.

Generally by the time client have contacted us we find they have been provided, for some reason, many different responses. Often incorrectly. This information might from a friend, a tradesman or even from council. Reason being often the term “I want to build a pergola” can be met with a “no a permit is not required” response. Often this response is not qualified because Items such as height, location, size, roof etc. etc., needed to be known for the correct response haven’t been requested or provided.

Essentially there is not many times a pergola doesn’t require a building permit. Pergola’s if above 20m2 it will always require a Building permit. Whether your project requires council or developer’s approval will relates specifically to your project and your site.

Do I need a Building Permit

The following links will provide you valuable info on if a permit required or not.

VBA logo

Link to Victorian Building Commission to see if your project needs a permit CLICK HERE. Download PDF info HERE

Local Council – these valuable local council pages providing details concerning building permit’s.

City of Casey logo

City of Casey web site page dealing with Building advice CLICK HERE



Shire of Cardinia web site page dealing When are building permits required? CLICK HERE


one stop shop


What we can offer you! -‘The Project Centre with over 20 years experience can provide proven professional design and building advice covering a wide range of home building projects from ‘start to finish'”.

We can provide

  • Architectural Drafting
  • Town Planning applications including Easement & Report & Consent application
  • Soil Test, Engineering and related reports including Bush Fire reports
  • Building Permit

Louver Projects P1

What you need to provide

  • Copy of Existing House plans.
  • Copy of tiles, sub-divional plans and any covenants or agreement including Design Panel agreements with land developer (if applicable)
  • Measurements and details on your project idea.

Contact us on (03) 9796 6899 during business hours to arrange your FREE consultation at our offices.

Offices & Display Centre – Factory 1, 26 -28 Abbott Road Hallam Victoria Australia.

“Making Projects Come Alive”

Obtaining a Building Permit

Obtaining a building permit might seem like a straight forward process.

Generally when consumers involved with a new home or extension the plan and permit details are often undertaken or organised by others. However when undertaking small extensions such as a verandah or decking or remove a wall or install a Carport then all of a sudden managing and applying for a building permit becomes a reality and is required.

The requirements of issuing a building dictate the need for plans and other documentation be complete. This includes items such as any other approval such as a design panel approval, easement, Bush Fire assessment  or council approval have already been obtained. Items such as engineering, soil test’s etc to support plans must also be in place. Not only can these items be costly, but they take time and experience to ensure they fully reflect and provide permission (where applicable) for works that are proposed.

Why is it so?

The government has a general mandate and responsibility to ensure that building codes, planning, neighbourhood impacts and general items such as health and safety have been considered and fully reflected in plans. Essentially it about keeping things orderly, safe ad predicatable amongst many other issues. Without these checks and balances almost anything can happen. Given the high level of activity by councils related to illegal building activity without permits then clearly it does happen. Not having a permit at this stage can be a very expensive item to review, manage and achieve compliance to a completed building. Not always to owners advantage as not always can building or structure remain as built. For example it is our experience that it is not a given that permission will be provided for an existing building.

Good Things about obtains a building permits -when someone else building then there’s a process to review and ensure any impact to your property is considered.

Bad Things – when your undertaking your development all things are to be considered and factored into your plans and approvals prior to seeking a building permit. Not always can you build what you want where and how you may want to do it.

Who can apply for a Building Permit – certainly the owner builder (or their agent) or builder.

The Project Centre – Narre Warren (as agent for builder or owner) does offer a service for arranging in applying for a building permit when incorporated as part of our drafting brief.

The review of all matters known and applicable is taken out and considered. Often this does as part of design phase and conveyed to clients, if known, as part of plan process. We however even with our 20 year experience we still can have from time to time difficulties establishing all and every local requirements, such as council by-laws etc., or site restrictions that may be applicable. Hence we do understand when clients approach us because they simply can’t manage the process from scratch.

So applying for obtaining a building permit can be quite an event.

Costs of Obtaining a Building Permit

The cost of obtaining a Building Permit can vary as to extent and cost of project. Building Surveyors are generally independent and therefore their fees for permit and site inspections can vary. HINT: do what we do general an estimate prior to lodging and applying for a permit.


When proposing to undertake building works consulting your local council, a building surveyor, registered builder or designer for example are step one in the process. Omitting this stage may provide delay, costs and frustration that might have be avoided.

Links – Building commission – certainly review this web site to understand what requirements may be required. Click here