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Building In Queensland, difference’s between Australia and New Zealand, Part 2

In my last column I briefly talked about the differences in building at the pre-construction stage, I will now talk more about specific construction and the differences between the two countries.

Both countries are predominately light timber frame construction for residential housing, the methodologies are almost identical with a few differences that can catch out an experienced Builder. First of all materials are generally cheaper in Australia, concrete, timber, plasterboard and aluminium joinery are the big ticket items that can have a big cost saving. Unskilled labour is more expensive in Australia however skilled trades such as Carpenters, Plumbers, Electricians etc are generally the same. If you were to build a standard single storey residential house in Australia it would be around $100 a m2 cheaper to build than in New Zealand.

Below is a step by step guide to the building stages and the differences between the countries:

Fees and Council Costs : Queensland is cheap compared to New Zealand, especially Auckland. Councils still issue building consents in NZ and expect to pay up to $5000.00 for a building consent, also in Auckland you are expected to pay an additional levy of $6500 for all new residential houses, if you dont pay the levy, you will not receive a final code of compliance and you cant sell the house. In Queensland, private certifiers issue building permits and the average price is around $2000.00, don’t forget, that Queensland has compulsary home warranty insurance through the QBCC, that all home builders have to pay, this is usually around $2000.00. There is also an extra levy payable to Qleave which is a compulsary transportable holiday scheme for contractors, this is worked out on .525% for the build cost, about $1000.00 for a small house. NZ does not have compulsary home warranty insurance or contractor holiday schemes.

Set up of Site :The first thing most Builders would do before building a house on a vacant block of land is to set up the temporary power, water, temporary fencing and site toilets, nothing exciting here however most new subdivisions in Queensland, particularly Brisbane have water meters already installed by the land sub-divider. This is not the case in New Zealand, most vacant blocks of subdivided land don’t have water meters and will have to be installed by the land owner or the Builder, budget for around $5000.00 for this.

Temporary fencing and site signage is important in both countries however it is even more important in Australia, living in Australia, people still have the right to sue for personal injury, In NZ this right has been removed by the Government insurance scheme the ACC, the Accident Compensation Corporation. If anyone gets injured on your site in Australia its extremely important that you have Public Liability Insurance. People will sue you for their injuries and you can personally be liable for hundreds and thousands of dollars of damages. You can organise this insurance at the same time you buy contractors all risk insurance to cover the building works.

Concrete Slab Construction:Both countries are similar however Australia tends to use common bricks as formwork while NZ tends to use more masonry block construction, waffle pods or rib raft slabs are both popular and are almost identical.

Termite Protection:Usually done at slab time, it is mandatory in Australia and extremely important, New Zealand dosnt have any termite problems and is not used. Typically allow $800-$1000 per house for this.

Timber Frames:This is the preferred method of construction in both countries, Australia tends to use more 70 x 40 timber framing with 1 row of nogs while NZ uses more 90 x 40 with 2 rows of nogs. The framing in both countries is predominately Radiata Pine and comes in untreated and treated, NZ timber treatment is more concerned about fungus and borer control while Australia treatments are more about termite control, hardwood timber is also more widely used in Australia as being a good termite proof wood, hardwoods are extremely expensive in NZ and not used a lot.

Plumbing and Drainage: New Zealand uses it owns system called G13 and a little bit of AS3500 which is the Australian system . The NZ method uses external gully traps while the Australian method uses a lot more waste traps inside the house.  As New Zealand gets a lot of rain and Australia not so much, the requirement of water-tanks and pumps are mandatory in Queensland, a single residential house will require a 5000 litre tank and pump, plumbed into the toilet cisterns and laundry taps. Expect to spend extra $2500.00 to install one of these. There is no requirement for water tanks in NZ.

Electrical: No discernible difference between the two countries.

Insulation: In Queensland you will need to have an independent consultant to do an energy efficiency report for all new houses, the minimum requirement is now 6 stars, they will look at the design of your house and take into consideration all of the house design, ie window sizes, glazing, orientation, roofing and insulation. There is no mandatory requirements for insulation however most builders now would put in a minimum of R1.5 batts to walls and R2.5 to ceilings . NZ requirements are more prescriptive under the building code and are dependent on where in NZ you live, ie the south island is a lot more colder than the north and will have an higher rating requirement.

Bracing: There are big differences in the design of bracing for residential houses in both countries, Australia is more concerned about wind loads and cyclonic areas while NZ has to consider not only wind loads but also earthquake loads. There are many different types of bracing board and tie down requirements in both countries, Queensland tend to use hardwood plywood with cyclone rods to hold down timber frames while NZ use more Winstone Braceline Plasterboard with dynabolts to hold down timber frames. For bracing requirements the NZ building code is AS3604 and the Australian one is AS1684.2 .

Aluminum windows and doors: There are many different profiles in both countries and the prices can vary, the windows in Australia will normally come to site with  DPC stapled to the windows in the factory, NZ builders tend to do this themselves on site. Another interesting aspect is that the window jambs in Australia are only suitable for architraves, NZ windows and door jambs are mostly grooved so that plasterboard can slot into the window reveal removing the need to use architrave.

Prehung doors: NZ prehung doors are a popular method of installing interior doors, I think you would find most kiwi builders would not even remember how to hang a door from scratch, they come from the factory fully assembled. In Australia they are still called prehung doors but are actually a jamb pack and door, they still have to be assembled on site, also the use of architraves are common and no one uses grooved jambs in Queensland.

Air-conditioning : Most new houses in Queensland would have at least one air-con unit, air-conditioning is extremely popular in Queensland, it gets extremely hot and humid here, in NZ, air-con units are not used that much are more of a luxury item than an essential requirement. Units vary from 2.6 KW to around 7 KW for a single split unit, expect to pay up to $2000.00 for a decent one and factor in another $600 to install it, remember on new houses to get a separate isolator switch set up by the electrician for this.

Roofing: Long run colour-steel roofing is popular in Queensland but they do also use concrete tiles. In NZ, concrete tiles are the most popular form of roofing, the roof tiles are attached to the trusses without sarking or building paper, In Queensland most concrete tilers use sarking under the tiles. Another thing to consider is that the roofing companies in Australia do expect a lot of the flashing’s to be done by the Builder or Plumbers and will not do this themselves, in my experience in NZ the roofing companies guarantee their product more and will do the lead and flashing’s themselves.

Scaffolding and edge protection: This is expensive in Australia more so than NZ, if building a 2 storey house, dont expect to spend less than $8000.00 for all the scaffolding and protection required. New requirements are changing in Australia very soon and even single storey houses will need edge protection for the roofers.

Cladding: Most of the cladding is the same, typical fibre cement boards or brick veneers are popular in both countries and even have the same suppliers and manufacturers, one thing to look out for is the brick sizes, Austalian uses the wider 110 mm wide brick while NZ uses the slimmer 70mm wide brick, its important to know, especially when you are setting out your brick rebate in your concrete slab.