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After you build or renovate 

A guide to maintenance for home owners

This information is for people who have recently built a new home or completed renovations. To ensure your new building work remains trouble-free for many years, it is important you take the time to understand how to maintain your home and keep the relevant records.

Keeping records is important 

Make sure you are prepared for potential problems that may arise - it is important to keep all relevant records as you build or renovate.

The following lists some of the types of records you should keep:

  • a copy of the building contract and any variations for the work
  • any plans or specifications that go with the contract
  • proof of all payments made on the project
  • a certificate of insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund (if the work cost is more than $20,000)
  • other relevant insurance policies
  • any additional written warranties or guarantees by the builder or by manufacturers of materials or items supplied by the builder
  • a copy of the warranty and/or instruction sheet regarding any anti-termite protection work
  • contracts and relevant warranties for any other associated work carried out by contractors other than the principal builder (eg. landscaper, pool builder)
  • relevant samples or documents identifying types or brands of main building materials used (eg. kitchen door facings/kitchen bench tops)
  • any building, soil, geotechnical reports by the builder, engineer, architect, etc
  • any care-and-maintenance manuals provided by the builder and any principal contract for associated work
  • all correspondence relating to the building work
  • a list of all important phone numbers
  • a list of all important dates (eg. contract and completion date).

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Defects and warranties 

Closely inspect the finished project and list any items of concern. Contracts for new homes come with a warranty known as the ‘defects and liability period’ (usually 13 weeks for new homes). Ask your builder for more detail, as the period covered can vary from builder to builder. If you find items of concern, let the builder know in writing and keep a copy.

Legally, it’s the contractor’s responsibility to make sure the work is free of major defects for 6 years after the work is completed and 2 years for all other defects (however, fair wear and tear must be taken into account). Go to Fair Trading's Contracts web page to read about the Definition of completed work.

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Termite risk management systems 

All new homes must have either a physical or chemical termite risk management (TRM) system built in. Find out what TRM system your home has and list the dates for future checks, inspections and chemical top-up treatments.

Read the warranty provided with the TRM system. Consider having an annual pest inspection done and make sure you use a licensed pest controller.

To minimise the risks of termites:

  • ensure that drainage of water is directed away from the house
  • avoid garden beds next to the walls of the house
  • depending on the type of termite management system, any paving should be at least 75mm below the first course of bricks and always below damp courses and weepholes
  • store wood and timber products away from the house and off the ground
  • consider treating timber fences and other structures for termites and decay
  • check with your local council regarding termite prone areas.

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Smoke alarms 

Every new house built must be fitted with working and appropriately located smoke alarms that meets Australian Standard 3786. An alarm should be placed on the ceiling in a corridor or area between sleeping and living areas. A smoke alarm is also required in any other storey of the same building, even if it does not contain bedrooms. Further information about the type, location and number of smoke alarms that are to be fitted to your new home is available from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure or Fire and Rescue NSW.

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Drying out the house 

New building materials contain moisture, but will eventually dry out. Small cracks may show in brick, timber and plaster-lined areas in the first 12 months. This should not affect the structural reliability but check with an independent building expert if you are unsure about larger cracks or any structural movement.

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Brickwork 

Minor cracking in a typical brick veneer home will not affect the structural reliability of the building. It is the timber frame in the typical brick-veneer house that supports the roof structure (except for the garage wall where there is often only singleskin brickwork). Minor cracking of brickwork on reactive clay sites is almost inevitable.

To maintain the brickwork on your property:

  • stabilise moisture content in and around clay sites by adequate drainage
  • make sure trees are planted away from the house
  • repair plumbing leaks
  • keep a record of the width of any large cracks. If you are unsure about whether or not to be concerned about particular cracks, contact your licensed builder or a structural engineer.

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Doors and windows 

To maintain your doors and windows:

  • tighten any loose screws
  • oil or dry lubricate rollers, hinges, locks
  • check that doors close properly and their locks work
  • clean sliding-door and window tracks.

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Walls 

Provide more ventilation and heating or sunlight to walls with mildew problems and ensure roof and sub-floor wall vents are not blocked.

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Kitchen, bathroom, laundry 

To maintain your kitchen, bathroom and/or laundry:

  • check care instructions for all surfaces – ie. no excessive heat or weight
  • regularly clean exhaust fans and clean taps, shower rose and spouts
  • replace and maintain tap washers as necessary.

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Roof, gutters, drains 

Regularly clean gutters, downpipes and drains to remove leaves, silt or other blockages. If you have any concerns, always use a contractor licensed to carry out roof repairs.

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Security 

The security of your home is important, so you should consider:

  • installing deadlocks on windows and doors
  • fitting lamps with timers to switch on periodically in your absence
  • installing an alarm system or movement sensors to activate lights.

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Landscaping 

To maintain the grounds of your property:

  • guide water drainage away from the house
  • ensure adequate drainage of excess water from property to stormwater channels
  • place garden beds away from the house walls
  • if planting trees with large root systems, keep them well away from house foundations and sewer/stormwater pipes
  • slope paths away from the house
  • check council requirements for any pools or fencing.

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Guide to Standards and Tolerances 

The Guide to Standards and Tolerances will help you understand what standard of building work is acceptable. For example, it explains how much shrinkage around timber windows and doors is tolerable.

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