Renovating a Queenslander ( + what is a Queenslander?)

Feb 11 2015 0 Comments Tags: house

We have started painting our Queenslander. And by “started painting” I mean, we started sanding, its a long process. Its an old house and it has been painted many many times before, we are just adding another layer.

eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

What is a Queenslander?

If you’re now wondering “what is a Queenslander?”, its a style of house unique to the tropics and sub-tropics of Queensland, Australia. It has a broad definition, but you know one when you see one, generally a Queenslander is:
  • timber construction with corrugated-iron roof; 
  • highset on timber (or metal) stumps (can be anywhere from 1 m to 2 m off the ground) ; 
  • single-skin cladding for partitions and sometimes external walls (i.e. vertical join (VJ) walls); 
  • surrounded by verandas front and/or back, and sometimes the sides; 
  • adorned with decorative features to screen the sun or ventilate the interior. 
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

Why is your house on stumps?

Someone asked on facebook if our house has a foundation. The short answer, is no, it doesn’t have a slab, it sits on stumps of 75mm box section (RHS) that are concreted into the ground, the house sits around 1m above the ground. All our plumbing and wiring run under the house. I think there were 40-something stumps, that was part of the work our house removalist did when he moved the house to our property. There are some good reasons for putting the houses up on stumps:
  • Before the invention of strong pesticide chemicals, this was the best way to prevent termites entering the house, by placing a termite tray on top of the stump, you can easily check for termite entry points (they don’t like to be exposed to light, so they build mud tunnels to get over the tray, or up metal stumps)
  • Extra ventilation due to airflow under the house
  • Prevents flooding of the house during tropical storms
  • Less concrete is required, so it is cheaper than a slab house
  • If its high enough, the space underneath can be a nice cool place to sit

Queenslander houses are a lot of work

We lived in a Queenslander house before our house at Eight Acres and we swore we would never own one again. They are a huge amount of work to maintain the wooden weatherboards, internal walls and decorative features. Our last house was hot in summer and draughty in winter. The verandas had been built in and the layout was a bit odd. And like most Queenslanders, it had been renovated with asbestos sheeting at some stage of its life, so we had to be careful drilling holes in some walls.

But it must have had some effect on us, because when we saw that removal house for sale, we forgot all our issues with Queenslanders and bought it anyway!
I have to admit that Queenslanders do have some lovely features. While this one also has the weird layout, it does still has most of its original verandas. We are starting from scratch here and will remove all the asbestos from the bathroom before we work on it, we plan on dealing with it once correctly and never having to worry about it again. Because we moved the house, we were able to select a more appropriate orientation, which combined, with insulation in the roof and a light roof colour, means that so far the house is very cool in summer (it is also better sealed that the previous house, so should be nicer in winter).

Painting a Queenslander house

Our current challenge is painting. These are the steps to take when painting your Queenslander:
  • Repeat after me “this is not a new house, it hasn’t been a new house for a long time, its never going to look like a new house again unless you want to spend a huge amount of time and money on it, accept this now and you will get your painting done before the next millennium”
  • Remove all nails, screws, stickytape, bluetak, stickers and hooks from the walls and ceiling of the room, cover and tape up the brand new fans (that you had to install to get council approval, but it would have been nice to do this after you painted!).
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one


  • Start sanding – I recommend that you use at least one electric sander (we have four different sanders!) because this is going to take a lot of work. We don’t sand back to bare wood, as the first room had at least five coats of paint and the top coat was not in bad condition. If you sand off the gloss and then use a good primer, you don’t need to sand back to wood (repeat step one if necessary, or you will never stop sanding).
  • Wash the walls with sugar soap – the paint can said to do this before sanding, but that seems like more work because you then have to wipe off the dust anyway, so we washed after sanding and made sure we got everything clean.
  • Fill the gaps in the VJs – if you’re lucky they have been filled before and still look good, but we could see through the wall into the next room between some boards, and this may be because we had the house moved. We filled between all VJs that had a visible gap (again, step 1 helps here, we didn't fill gaps in the ceiling or we would still be gap filling to this day).
  • Primer – its worth using a good primer, this stops the previous paint coming through, especially if its a strong colour or oil-based.
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

  • PAINT! Finally you get to paint on your colour, what a huge amount of work to get to this step, but its going to look great. Two coats will ensure a good finish. We are using “Tapestry Beige” on the walls and “Light Leather” on the doors and door frames. It would be lovely to paint it all white, but when you live on red dirt and never have clean hands, its just not practical. 
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one


eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one



Have you renovated a Queenslander? Or an old house? Love them or hate them?
More posts about our house, from moving it to the property through to moving into the house (roughly in order):

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