How Australian Standards Affect Home Builders: Part One

About a year ago, it became a lot more expensive to build a home up to Australian Standards. We’re talking potentially thousands of extra dollars on top of your existing costs.

 

Do you know how this will affect your own build?

 

Headlines Australian Building Standards

Recent media clippings about residential standards calling for better compliance from builders. Source: ABC, The Guardian, ABC

 

 In June of 2016, National and State Libraries of Australasia published a press release about some big changes to the way builders access Australian Standards.

The general public can’t borrow Australian Standard documents from libraries across Australia any longer.

 

“Despite lengthy negotiations, SAI appear not to understand the community interest in the availability of Standards to the public through libraries.”

Dr Alex Byrne, Chair of NSLA and NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive.

 

This decision means owners have to purchase the Australian Standards directly from SAI Global’s Standard Directory if they want to guarantee the regulated safety of their build or renovation.

If you take a risk and build without the standards, you increase your chances of being penalised by the council or your build being faulty. If there’s damage caused by part of your construction that wasn’t built to Australian standard, any insurance you had won’t cover you!
Our guide to Australian Standards will help you understand where they fit into your build, and how you’ll use them when the time comes.

What are Australian Standards and why do you need them?

 

Tiling your own floor?
Tiling your own roof?
Attaching the door of your bedroom dresser by yourself?
Adding steel storage racks to your kitchen?
Installing timber doors?
Installing sliding doors?

 

If it can be built, there’s a standard for it, and it’s for sale on SAI Global’s website. If you don’t build to the standard, you’re at risk of your building being classified as unsafe, uninsurable and ultimately, unsellable.

When you hand over an entire project to a building company, the issue of standards is effectively out of your hands and you’re left to hope you picked someone credible. But as more people are building themselves, or are confident they can take on specific parts of the build alone, it’s extremely important to be aware of how the standards could make or break your build.

Read the following section for information on how to find a builder who guarantees they build to code.

 

When you enter a contract with a builder, one of the first things you look for should be a guarantee that they will rectify any failure to reach the Australian standards, at their own cost.

Building Terms and Conditions

Your builder should guarantee they’ll reach the Australian standard, and will rectify any issues at their own cost if necessary.

Lots of builders honour this agreement and build to code. Others don’t.

Adam, from Blackwood South Australia, spoke to us about his experience with the builder who worked on his renovation and the stress, both financial and emotional it caused him and his family.

“At first I didn’t recognise the faults in the build, and was relatively happy with the work that was done. Soon, it started to become obvious that the work was sub-par and we confronted the company. 5 years on, I had spent $35,000 on court fees, which were only just covered when we ended up settling. It was a total of 8 years later that before we could afford to have the damage fixed, which included replacing the entire decked area. It was 8 years of stress and payment.

I realised that the job was compromised by how quickly it was done, and some of the tradies working on our house could have just been ring ins. I’ve definitely learnt how important it is to look behind the marketing of a company and focus on the process and the tradespeople used. They’re who you need to trust the most.”

 

 

If you read Adam’s story (above) and want to avoid that happening to you, you have other options besides building with a company.

You could choose to go ahead and build on your own, to your own standards, and you might not even get caught. But your home is your biggest investment – of time and money! So stay ahead, ensure your own peace of mind and make sure you’re up to code.

Standard Plans Preview

A preview of the contents for a standard for stormwater pipe installation. Total cost: $279.

 

​It’s not just about money. 

​This is where you and your family call home, where your children will grow up or where you’ll grow old. It’s important to maintain the standard set from years and years of examples, in every aspect of your build.

Girl Ballerina In House

What’s your most precious asset?

 

If you don’t build up to code, you’re at risk.

And when it comes down to it, that’s why the standards are regulated and available to the public – for your safety and peace of mind.

While it’s hard to put a price on something as precious that, there’s no reason you need to pay the exponential amount you could accrue. There are other options.

But first, let’s look further into standards and what they can cost you.

Where can I find the standards and what will they cost me?

If you’re taking on a build yourself, whether it’s a whole home or just some parts of it, it’s time to start thinking standards and the best way to meet them.

The best option was borrowing them from your state library for free, but 2016’s failed negotiations with SAI mean this is no longer available.

Buying directly from SAI Global is now the most straight forward way to get the standards for yourself. There’s a directory where you can locate even the most specific of projects.

 If you need to buy, it can get expensive. The preview we showed you earlier is priced at $279.00 from the SAI Global site. That total can get seriously high when you need 5 or more standards. The quality and credibility of Australian Standards are guaranteed – they’re used all over the world – but the cost is high and often unexpected if you’re building on your own. 

If you haven’t factored the costs of standards into your build budget, there are other ways to build to code.

You could reach out to your friends, family and building forums to try and find someone who’s already bought the standard you need – you never know who might be able to help! Or you could work with Home Together to make sure you’re up to code. But more on that later.
Once you get the standard for your particular type of build, it can be tricky to decipher exactly what you need to do.

  • Online forums like Owner Builders Australia are a great place to reach out to a community who’ve gone from owner to builder, and who might have been through a similar process.
  • Use the standard to map out how you’ll complete the project and to educate yourself on the points of assessment if you were to have a building inspector visit.

 

How will I know when I need to use the standards and when I won’t?

“I’m just widening my door frame a little, I saw it on Backyard Blitz, it’ll be right!”

 

It might be. But it also might cost you an exponential amount in comparison to what you saved by not obtaining the standard. The repercussions could come later on, when you don’t get insurance after a structural fail that damages your home, or when you can’t legally sell after an inspection deemed your work not up to standard.

 

Builder Home Construction Belt

Be prepared, or it could cost you.

If you’re thinking about doing your own:

  • plastering
  • tiling (wall and floor)
  • glazing
  • insulating
  • painting
  • concreting

You’ll need to do it according to the Australian standard.

If you’re subcontracting, make sure to check that they have qualifications, are licensed, have insurance, experience and are a member of the industry association relevant to their field.


The added cost of Australian Standards might be off-putting to owners who were thinking of building their own home.

They shouldn’t be!

It’s just a matter of having the right team on your side and getting organised. It could be tempting to hand it all over to a contracted building company who have access to the Australian standards, but there are so many examples of when this has lead to financial and emotional frustration that owning and building has become the best alternative.

If you’d like to learn more about how Home Together makes sure you meet the Australian Standards when you build or renovate your own home, read Part Two: How To Successfully Own and Build To Australian Standards.

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