Renovating the Queenslander – is it worth the mess?
Beautiful, elegant, timeless – these are the words that come to mind when I think of the humble, old, timber-framed Queenslander. Sure, they’re not so well insulated, they creak and groan in the wind and they can be a little oddly laid out, but they have a certain ‘something’ that makes you love them.
It’s not surprising then that many owners don’t want to let them go but prefer to invest hard work and finances to bring them back to their former glory. A common brief criteria from clients is that their higgledy piggledy layout doesn’t work in current family lifestyles where natural light, space and open-plan living are important. As such, a popular trend for the high-end projects is raising and building under, and then adding a new architecturally designed addition to the rear of the home.
Timber frame homes really are great for renovation being relatively simple to modify. Now don’t get me wrong, they can present challenges particularly if the structure is aged and a little run-down. But they offer so much in the way of flexibility especially when moving internal walls, adding windows and doors or increasing or decreasing the height of the whole structure.
With any renovation though comes mess…and the bigger the reno, the more chaos there is! But I don’t want you to be put off by this especially if renovating your much-loved timber house will give you the lifestyle you dream of. The mess can be managed so that the impact on you and your family can be reduced.
Regardless of whether you’re just moving a few walls or doubling the footprint of your house, it is vital to have an open and honest line of communication with your architect and builder. They need to know what you want to get out of the project and what you’re prepared to put up with especially when it comes to bringing in the heavy machinery. Communication and collaboration is essential from your side as well so you understand how the project is going to be undertaken and how much ‘mess/disruption’ there is likely to be.
Agree with your contractors how they will protect existing surfaces or reduce external disruption particularly if you’ve spent hours and money on landscaping. It is also worth forewarning the neighbours of the project so that disputes can be avoided before they even start. Do not be afraid to ask questions and be upfront if you have an issue with any part of the process. Being able to trust each other is absolutely vital to ensure you get exactly what you want.
Working closely with your architect and builder to develop an agreed detailed works plan will help manage your expectations and how you live while the renovation is taking place. Smaller projects may just mean you can’t access a few rooms, while bigger ones may require you to move off-site for an extended period. Understanding this will help keep stress levels to a minimum, avoid unnecessary conflict with contractors and help you avoid the inevitable mess. Contingency planning is also necessary to help manage expectations…after all none of us has a crystal ball when it comes to the weather!
So is renovating a timber-framed home worth the mess and disruption? The right renovation can certainly give you the functionality you want from your home whilst maintaining its warmth and character. And of course, it will add value both now and in the future. If your home is situated in the ideal location, it meets most of your needs and you’re emotionally attached to it, then I would say yes, the physical and emotional stress is absolutely worth it.
Do your research, take the time to find the right architect for your renovation project and enjoy getting dirty. After all, you’ve already found your dream home…you just need to make it perfect!
Hints and Tips from my experience...
Renovating (particularly where an existing house requires raising) is often thought of as the most complex of projects, necessitating explicit design detailing - this is not always the case.
Services (power, plumbing) will be disconnected during the raise.
I often ask clients not to be around during the actual process of raising / sliding their home. Many clients are emotionally attached and the sight of seeing the house raised and all the heavy equipment plus things do sometimes get broken/services accidently cut...It's all part of the journey!