Tips & Tricks

Spot the Problem

Just some of the Spot the Problem photos that we’ve helped solve. Have you got a problem you think we can solve? Give us a call.

Spot the Problem 1
Should we move the stairs or move the door??
Wet it up, boys. A wet concrete mix is easy to spread and easy to work (who cares if it cracks like anything tomorrow!)
Tips & Tricks

How to Cyberstalk a Queensland Property Like a Pro

This is our tool box for cyberstalking a property like a pro.

This simply marvellous list of resources will help you find (just about) all you need to know about a (Queensland) property you own or are interested in buying.

Dial Before You Dig

We’re big fans and regular users of the free Dial Before You Dig website and it is an essential bit of kit for checking out underground services that might exist on a property.

Get an account and then lodge an enquiry.

Just remember the website comes with a few disclaimers and the size, diameter and depth of underground services will still need further investigation.

Brisbane Council PDOnline

Special thanks to Alexandra for letting us know about Brisbane City Council’s newest cyber-stalking tool.

It’s called “Developmenti“, and it’s the sprightlier version of Brisbane City Council’s previous attempt to enter the electronic era (pdonline – which can still bring a tear to your eye if you’re a sucker for punishment (and who doesn’t like to do things the hard way now and then??!))

Developmenti lets you search by location (to cyber-stalk just the property) or by Applications (to see who is doing (or has done) what or simply by zooming around in a map.

You can register to use the site but if you are a cyber-stalker like me, then you’re not yet willing to share your details, and you don’t really have to.

The mapping tool is like a Google Maps view on steroids – you can easily tell a property street address and find applications in a local ara by scrolling around on the map – pretty handy!

I couldn’t find the old 1946 map of Brisbane (is it even on Development.i?) so if you need to know your post-war status you can always go back to pdonline (watch this video by Peta to find out about the Traditional Building Character overlay:

Overall the pdonline pages you might stumble into are:

or the (half-hearted) ‘interactive’ mapping system: where you can get a quite useless Property Holding Report.

Yay Brisbane Council for coming of age and saving us from pdonline.

Queensland Globe

The spectacular Queensland Globe has some handy mapping layers that will be very useful if you do anything with property. The aerial imagery is good and current and the property boundaries and naming layers are all pretty handy.

If a property has been bought or sold in the last 20 years then photos of that property will be held here for all to see.

  • Wondering if a carport was built in the last five years, check to see it here.
  • What does your neighbour’s lounge room look like? Have a look.

One of our favourite tricks: if a house hasn’t been bought or sold in, like, forever, is to cyberstalk the neighbouring properties to see if the external photos capture the property you are interested in. Groovy. (We especially use this trick to work out the cause of flooding or collapsed retaining walls!)

Don’t forget these photos are captured by photographers that like to bend light (make rooms and yards bigger than they are) and colour things in (colour grading) so remember to keep it real.

Queensland Geocoder

If you know an address you can find out the lot and plan number. If you know the lot and plan number you can find out the address. Simples.

Google StreetView

Google StreetView is a late addition to this list but I don;t know why. We use StreetView to see how the front of building has changed over time. Sometimes we’ve even managed to identify who built a building just by finding their signs up in the StreetView photo.

The handy bit is, like Google Earth, you can turn back time to previous 360 photos of your cyber-target.


Sometimes you have to go way back in time to see how changes have been made on a property. Way back. Back to when you didn’t even realise they could take photos from plans of the ground. That’s where this website comes in.

It will do your mind in because it is not intuitive but the information is there. You just have to work for it.

Sunshine Coast Council Developmenti

Great little website for finding previous applications and documents related to properties in the Sunshine Coast Council area.

The only bad point is that every time you follow a link a new page opens.

Google Earth Pro

Our old favourite keeps getting better and better with the way aerial photos have been turned into 3d images and (fairly recent) historical aerial photos are easy to find.

Use the Pro version for free (you used to have to pay for it) because it is way better.

Mackay City Council MiMaps

If you think our website looks homegrown, then you should head over to Mackay City Council’s online mapping system Mimaps. It makes our website look good!

But with one big difference: Mimaps lets you search Mackay regional properties and add contours to a map. Very handy for wind classifications.

By far the handiest bit of information is the sewer mapping overlay which lets you locate the sewer mains and manholes on the map. Most sewer lines also have the ability to be clicked for more information. Ahead of its time at one time and now behind its time – just proof that time does stand still.

Gold Coast Council Infrastructure Assets

I like this website because it is quick and easy to use. We use it to find underground services in Gold Coast Council’s area.

It has the usual shortcomings of not having all the information on all of the infrastructure but it’s a pretty good start.

Aerial Photography by Drone

There is nothing more real-time, accurate and current than taking your own aerial photos with a drone from DJI. At Cornell Engineers, we use Cornell Aerial. They fly the DJI Mini 2 and DJI Mavic Pro.
Their drone photos are spectacular and custom – exactly what we want from the angle we want.

Cornell Aerial Drone Photo
Custom-ordered drone photo of industrial building

Of course, you can always grab a DJI drone for yourself and get custom aerial images like this. Check out this guide to Mavic’s amazing photography drones.

Tips & Tricks

Urban Utilities Mapping Site

So Urban Utilities has finally come to the game and provided an online GIS (that stands for graphical information system) so that we humble mortals may identify the depth and diameter of their precious underground infrastructure (ie pipes).

Until now we’ve been using the free Dial Before You Dig website to identify what services are located on a property we are interested in, and a Dial Before You Dig is still an excellent tool for identifying whether buried infrastructure might affect your project. So probably run a DBYD first.

Now, if there are sewer pipes indicated in the DBYD (in the Brisbane area) then the next step is to head to the Urban Utilities GIS Website to get the details on the buried sewer pipes:

Urban Utilities GIS Page

Click on the Open GIS Maps link and away you go.

Click “I agree to the above terms and conditions.”

Type in an address in the search bar.

Click on a line (a sewer line) or a circle (a sewer access hatch) and you’ll be able to identify the depth and diameter of the Urban Utilities sewer infrastructure near you (so long as you are in an area serviced by Urban Utilities).

If your property is mid-way between two access hatches, you’ll need to interpolate the depth of the pipe between the two known invert levels because Urban Utilities does not give invert levels along pipelines – only at specific connection points and bends.

Tips & Tricks

Older Buildings Need Love Too

Time goes marching on. With the change of seasons and bringing in of new years, each passing day, month and year makes those older buildings of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s a year older too.

The trouble is most of those older buildings were designed and fashioned for an expected life of 50 years. What happens to those buildings as they move past their design life?

Tips & Tricks

Beware Underpinning Rip-off

I was staggered this week.

It was just unbelievable.

A client came to me for a second opinion about a quote to underpin his residential property in Queensland. The quote was from a local builder for 25 underpins to an approximate depth of 2.5m in order to ‘stabilise a single level house.

The quote was based on an engineer’s assessment. A geotechnical engineer had also attended and provided the results of a soil investigation. Both good signs.

So on the face of it, everything seemed legitimate. However, once I dug deeper the justification for spending so much money was very thin.

Very thin.

So very thin.

So how do you, as a homeowner, evaluate a quote for underpinning from a builder and determine if you’re likely to get value for money.

Let’s go through my independent assessment process together.