Thursday, September 08, 2005

The story of a car deck

Stealth Car deckWell... I haven't been through the actual dates, but we must be close to getting near the prospective completion date of our new spanking car deck.

Unfortunately, that's in theory only, as work has not even commenced (barring the total destruction of the site prior to construction beginning).

The hero of this particular story is turning out to be the builder. A great guy called Lee, of Cute Lee Builders Ltd. The villain is being revealed, as the plot unfolds, to be the architect, Darth Sidious & Associates.

When we started this whole thing, something like 18 months ago, we expected it to be a done deal by that coming Christmas. But plans were slow in coming. And when they did, we had some changes to make - the deck was way too big it seemed, much longer than neighbouring decks, and was it really necessary to remove that magnificent ponga?. The balustrade needed to be taller, to stop people peering into our bedroom window, and a few other things.

Some months later, new plans arrived, substantially unchanged, although the architect said we'd worry about those changes during construction. No problems.

Also, we were assured that the way it was designed, there was no need for Land Use Resource Consent. Everything about the design complied with everything. All we needed was building consents, which were duly & swiftly acquired. Oh, and a very expensive (and hitherto unmentioned) engineering report which determined the required foundations.

I'll leave out the drama with the first chosen builder last Christmas, during which we were given two days to prepare the site (large trench for utilities, removal of all vegetation & landscaping, survey of the boundaries - first we'd heard of that one, the surveyor was expensive), or lose our opportunity for several months, and the subsequent demands for money even though no work had commenced & no contract had been signed...

And then silence from Mr Sidious for some months. Then just as we were about to embark afresh, without the guidance of Mr Sidious & his crew, they suddenly asked if we'd like them to issue a request for tender to 3 builders. As this is what we'd asked for all along we said "OK".

And we were informed that because of the changes we'd asked for at the beginning, which hadn't been incorporated into the plans yet, we'd need new building consents. And we paid & got those consents.

And a builder was chosen. Mr Lee. Trenches were dug & utilities moved. A contract was signed. Builders moved onsite & demolished the garden.

A big machine dug foundations to the required depth. And suddenly... a problem. The architects had their measurements wrong & we were going to be left with quite a large bank of unretained earth between the deck foundations & the house. We agreed a raised garden might look nice, and only cost a lot of money to put in place. But also, the engineer had the foundation specs wrong, and he would need to be engaged again to design foundations that would work. And to be fair, he did that. And he charged us a lot of money.

Then... the architects asked Lee to requote taking the new specs into account. And suddenly silence. I was told that they were waiting for Lee to get back to them & he was busy on another job now.

And a month passed. And Lee rang one night & asked me if I knew WTF was going on. I told him my understanding. There was silence, and he informed me that the real problem was that Darth Sidious had been informed by the council building inspector that because the slope of the garden had been underestimated, and because the deck was 2 metres longer than any other deck pretty much in the country... we did not comply with the Sunlight Access Plane Rule in the Resource Management Act & we would need to apply for a Resource Consent. Darth Sidious instructed Lee to go ahead with construction & "we'll worry about that later".

Lee was unwilling to do this & so called me. He & I went down to the council, ascertained that yes, we'd need to apply for Resource Consent, and that we'd need the approval of the affected neighbours. The guy at the council actually winced & said "You're not using that Darth guy are you? he doesn't seem to know any of the rules."

The affected neighbours took one look at the plans & the site layout, and asked "Why is it so big?". To which I had no answer. And they told me very politely, I have to say, "No way".

That night, Mrs Llew & I discussed our options. We decided, because we're optimists, that we never really wanted such a big deck... and we'd be silly, even if we had approval from the neighbours, to build it. And that our best plan was to have a draughtsman redraw the plans to make it smaller, comply with all rules, keep the neighbours happy, and we'd have more light at our front door, and a bigger raised garden at the foot of the deck instead. And gosh... that ponga could have stayed there after all...

So that's where we're at now. it's only money after all...