Character

When we first walked into this house over a decade ago we were both struck by the warmth and positive feeling that imbued the place. This sounds rather new age, but in all honesty that's how it felt. So, we made an offer that very evening. Ever since, the old girl has looked after us and we .... well we have sorely neglected her, until now.

Throughout the long discovery and renovation design process our first priority was always to retain and enhance the historic character of the place and, even more importantly, preserve that warm, welcoming feeling that we get every time we walk in the door. This meant always being true to the original 1930s asymmetrical bungalow Queenslander design and, where possible, using sustainable products that wouldn't clash with the timber and tin, simple lines and embellishments of the original home.

Looking after the Queensland house

One of the best resources we came across to help in this regard was a booklet entitled "Looking After the Queensland House", published by the Brisbane City Council Heritage Unit in 1997 (and now out of print). I haven't been able to find an online PDF version yet, but there are printed copies available in the Brisbane City Council Library. Someone at the BCC was kind enough to photocopy their last remaining booklet and mail it to us.

It's well worth getting a hold of this booklet, but here are some of the commonsense suggestions which we've tried to apply in our renovation project:

  • Do as much as is necessary, as little as possible
  • Repair where possible, and replace only if necessary
  • The golden rule of conservation is reversibility
  • Research the history and changes to the structure and colour scheme over time
  • When raising and building under:
    • Set back the new building work at least one row of posts from the front of the house
    • Use timber posts around the perimeter (we didn't do this)
    • Retain external front stairs and extend in a traditional manner
  • Maintain original appearance (especially the streetscape) of the building
  • Build with materials and elements relating to the era of the building
  • Don't allow garage doors and/or carports to dominate the front elevation
  • Unenclose previously enclosed verandahs (common practice in the 1950s)
  • Provide evidence of original walls that have been removed
  • Don't move the house sideways on the site or partially demolish a Queenslander to fit it on a smaller lot
  • And much more ...

In addition to these guidelines, if your home is heritage listed and/or in a "timber and tin" character suburb (BCC demolition control precinct) then more stringent regulations will apply. These extra, conditional requirements will be detailed when your development application (DA) is approved.

Another great resource is The Queensland House - A Roof Over Our Heads published by the Queensland Museum (see left sidebar). Each chapter is an essay by a different author on one aspect of the Queensland house. It contains many useful tidbits of information that can be applied to the sympathetic renovation of these homes. One little snippet that we took onboard was ensuring that there's a clear, unobstructed sightline through the centre of the house, from front door, down the hall, out the back door - it's a quintessential feature of the Queenslander house that many renovators are oblivious to.

Other resources we found helpful were the product catalogues from local renovation suppliers like Finlaysons and Woodworkers - they're packed full of hints, ideas and tips about renovating Queenslanders in a sympathetic manner in order to retain their character and charm.

The house whisperers

Last but not least, many of the design decisions we made were informed by the house itself. A good case in point was the verandah balustrades. We had been looking through catalogues trying to decide on feature panels for the verandah balustrades, but when the asbestos sheeting finally came off the enclosed verandahs, the original balustrades were revealed, showing a unique feature panel that wasn't available in any catalogue. Unfortunately we weren't able to reuse the old balustrades because of new council minimum height safety regulations, but we were able to get new feature panels cut to the original design.

Out of character

We did a few things that could be considered "out of character" but we had valid reasons:

  • Chose a white coloured roof instead of the more traditional zinc-galvanised or heritage colour (e.g. burgundy) because white is far more efficient and longer lasting (See cool roof - Colorbond "Surfmist" has a very low solar absorbance of 0.318). Given that there are solar panels and solar hot water collector on the roof as well, we figured the roof was always going to look rather non-traditional anyway Smile
  • The above booklet suggested using overlapping shorter sheets of roofing iron, as was done in the past, but when we enquired about it, roofers said we'd be mad to do this because more exposed edges equals more potential for expansion, contraction, water penetration and an early demise of the roof.
  • For the rear deck balustrading we opted for modern stainless steel cabling instead of the traditional wooden slats used on the front and side verandahs. These provide more airflow into the rear living areas of the house and an unobstructed view into the back yard and beyond. Also, they're barely noticeable from the street.
  • Likewise, the skillion roof over the rear deck is rather modern looking but it turned out to be the most economical option that met our passive solar design requirements.

Comments

thanks for the info !

I wish we had read some of the things you mentioned before we started: would have made the whole experience even more interesting.

sourcing of material

Hi there, great site. We are in the process of renovating our place, and we are trying to find out where we can purchase original material - at this stage we need cornices. Do you have any tips on where to go? Demolition sites for example?

sourcing timber

Did you retain the single-skinned walls ? and did you source a suitable replica for any extensions you had done? Please Alison