Renovating our second-hand "Queenslander" removal house has been like a cross between repairing a lovely old piece of handmade antique furniture and an archaeological dig! The house was probably built around 100 years ago, from locally sourced timber, but has been modified many times since then.
Verandahs have been built in, the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were added later. When we removed the wall cladding in the bathroom we revealed old doorways and could only guess at how the room was previously arranged.
As with any sort of repair or restoration work, it helps to understand how and why the house was built the way it was, so that we can do our best to return it to either its original condition, or something that will work for us without damaging the structure. I have just finished reading Andy Jenners "The Building of the Queensland House".
I bought it for Pete originally, expecting a manual or a step-by-step guide to renovating a Queenslander. A book like that would have been pretty boring, so I'm glad that Andy chose to write it as a narrative. He follows at group of builders in the early 1900s building a Queenslander in the inner-city Brisbane suburb of Red Hill. Starting from surveying the property, he details every step of building the house, complete with historical context. You are virtually transported to the early days of Brisbane, back when Red Hill was the edge of the city!
The last few chapters of the book, after the house is finished, discuss renovation and maintenance of a Queenslander. Having followed how the builders put the house together, and the reasons for each step, it was much easier to understand how to maintain the house appropriately. It has made me think twice about using water based paint (referred to by Andy as "plastic paint") on the exterior of the house. And I'm wondering how to treat our soft pine floors, as lovely as they look, they were never meant to be exposed.
|renovation is very boring for Taz|
Andy is an experienced builder by trade and shares his knowledge of historical and modern-day building techniques. The house was apparently a real house that he renovated in Red Hill, but has since been demolished. Disappointing as I was thinking of trying to find it!
I also got a little booklet called Brisbane House Styles by Judy Gale Rechner (info here). This book explains the different house styles from 1880 through to 1940. It looks like our house is a simple "colonial" style popular from 1880 to early 1900s, but it may not be quite so old as country areas can be a bit behind the big cities.
If you want to know more about the Queensland house, try this radio podcast.
And what are we up to with our little Queenslander house?
We have council approval to move in (having insulated the roof, rewired the house, installed ceiling fans and hooked up the plumbing), but of course we want to get a few things fixed up first.
We have replaced the roof with a lighter colour. We have painted two bedrooms and the hallway. We have ripped up all the lino and masonite in the house, leaving only the ugly red carpet to deal with. We have stripped the kitchen and the bathroom (and lifted the windows in the kitchen so that a bench will fit underneath) and have a few ideas about how we want the final rooms to look. We have removed nearly all the asbestos in the house (more in the pantry, then we are done) and replaced this with "Easy VJ " MDF boards (sorry Andy!).
|here's the kitchen ready to rebuild|
|and the batthroom|
There is so much more to do, but every time I walk in the house I see all the progress we have made and how much closer we are to living there. We are lucky that we have the opportunity to finish this work before we move it, especially with the lead paint on the walls!
If you are working on a Queenslander, or just live in one, I recommend this book, as a manual for how to look after your house. What is your experience with Queenland houses?