What you won’t learn about building and renovating by watching 'THE BLOCK'.


With the proliferation of reality TV shows on building and renovating houses and the prevalence of “Dr Google” in all our lives, it is natural for people to overestimate what they think they know about building and renovating a house. After more than thirty years of professional building, I can confidently say that the number one problem my clients consistently face is that “they don’t know what they don’t know” about building. For me, successfully running a building project is all about good team work, building strong long term relationships and having efficient management systems, but that wouldn’t make for very good TV! So, here is a list of what I believe are the most important things about building that you won’t learn by watching reality TV.

1. All of the requirements for getting a building project started. (Assuming that you already have finished plans and specifications, a planning permit if required and a building permit.) Resources – checklist.

  • A detailed building quotation from a suitably qualified specialist builder. As well as an agreed timeline. (Note: most builders work on a lead time of 6 to 8 months for starting a new project.) FAQ.

  • A demolition quote and agreed timeline. The demolition is often excluded from the building quote and usually has a 2 to 3 month lead time. FAQ.

  • A signed Building Contract. It is very important to use the correct building contract for your project. FAQ.

  • Multiple permits from your local council. (See No 2 belowFAQ.

  • Signed protection works agreements from your adjoining neighbours. FAQ.

  • A current land survey showing boundary set out pegs.

  • The pool builder organized well in advance. Most pool companies have a 2 to 3 month lead time. FAQ.

  • Proper site set up, including letter dropping the neighbours, abolishing the existing power and gas services, obtaining the sewer PIC number and installing a proper temporary fence or hoarding around the building site.

2. The importance of proper site management. It is vital that the building site is properly set up and managed by an experienced site foreman right from the start. All councils have strict regulations regarding building sites that must be adhered to throughout the duration of the project. There are significant penalties and fines for both the builder and property owner for breaches of these regulations. Time and cost blowouts are often the result of poor site management.

3. All of the required council permits. Such as, a Demolition Permit (which is separate from the Building Permit), a Tree Removal/Pruning Permit, a Vehicle Crossing Permit, a Road Occupation Permit, an Asset Protection permit, an Asset Consent Permit (for road opening or storm water connection) and a Hoarding Permit. Gaining all of the required permits can take up significant time and will often test your patience. They have the potential to hold up works, but if you are aware, can be arranged well in advance. FAQ.

4. The number one thing that all tradesmen and contractors value the most is efficiency. Subcontractors desire to get their job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. They have other jobs and clients also awaiting their skills and they won’t appreciate if they can’t get in to do their work and get out. This is only possible by using proper Project Management Systems together with the correct job scheduling. This takes a skilled company, project manager and construction manager, (not just a TV producer!)

5. The importance of proper job scheduling. A key skill of a Project Manager is the scheduling of all of the tradesmen, sub-contractors and materials deliveries so that the building job runs smoothly and on time. If this is not done properly, costs and completion dates can blow out significantly. And unlike in reality programs, it takes time to complete work carefully and to a high level of detail. Often, one trade is dependent on another being completely finished.

6. The importance of having long term relationships with all sub-contractors. “A builder is only as good as their sub-contractors”. The best tradesmen and sub-contractors are always in very high demand and only work for builders that they have long standing relationships with. At DDB Design we employ seven full time carpenters and the same sub-contractors work on every DDB Design project. Selecting contractors based on price is fraught with danger because you always get what you paid for and there are good reasons why some subbies are much cheaper than others.

7. The real challenge is getting the project finished on time. The last two or three months of a building job are by far the most stressful and challenging. All of the finishing trades are working on site at the same time and there are dozens of detailed decisions to be made in quick succession.

8. In order to be able to inhabit your home, there are regulations that must be signed off, long before you can move on in. The Council (and your bank) will require each stage of a building to be signed off by a building surveyor as completed before you can move on to the next stage. And once the project is completed, a final Certificate of Occupancy must be granted before you can move in. Also, there is a Defects Policy which means that you can identify items the builder needs to fix or re-do to ensure that you get what you paid for. This isn’t quite the glamorous, ‘ready to inhabit’ picture they paint on TV!

9. What it actually costs to finish building a high end custom home. There are so many costs in building that seem to come from nowhere. Unless you have a detailed project budget that is well managed throughout the build you will struggle to complete the project to the required standard and unfortunately a producer won’t jump in to save you just as everything starts to go wrong!

Building your own home can be a very rewarding, yet challenging experience. Having a qualified and well-respected builder like DDB Design arrange the process for you means they able to take care of the necessary documentations, decisions and project manage the whole process. So whilst ‘The Block’ is entertaining, unless you have your very own construction managers and a few producers on hand, we suggest leaving it to the experts. The best part of this; you will be able to enjoy your building experience.

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