Happy 2016! How was your Christmas? I took a blink-and-you-will-miss-it break from the business of renovating my resident wooden geriatric, my 90 y.o. Brisbane-City-Plan-protected Queenslander and joined HRH in country NSW where he locumed over Christmas.
Between drives around the countryside, we binged on Pringles and veg-ed out in front of the telly as all shops were closed, save for service stations. Which is just as well because breathing new life into a 90 y.o., stumps-all-gone, termites-chewed-on-your-walls Queenslander is certainly not a cheap affair!
With the guidance of my trusty French builder, John Hardy, recommended by a friend he’s done work for, it took me close to 9 months to get all the necessary surveys, plans and permits for building work to go ahead. I won’t bore you with the number of hurdles I’ve had to jump, or the tricks I’ve had to perform standing on my head but in getting to this stage I’ve had to engage a town planner, building designer, hydraulic engineer, structural engineer, building estimator, building certifier (who not only granted permits on behalf of the city council but also organised for my new home’s energy efficiency to be assessed), John the builder…There were consultations with HRH’s accountant, then our personal banker, the highly efficient Chris White of Commonwealth Bank, as I first put our apartment up for sale, the our Melbourne home. In the end we decided to sell neither. Instead I worked with our managing agents to upgrade our investment properties so as to make them solidly tenantable. They are all well located so it was only a question of doing the necessary works, fixing and refurbishing, to make them as competitive as similar properties in the area. I didn’t have to do much to our Melbourne home as 7 groups came to view the first Saturday it was listed for rent. By the following Monday morning I had a tenant who offered me 2 months rent (excluding the standard 1 month bond) upfront.
As for my old gal, her Cinderella-moment started on November 30 when after 4 more weeks of to-ing and fro-ing with the builder and the banker, we were given the green light to go ahead. Yes, finally! I slept like a baby that night. Well, a good baby, not my now 2-year-old son who still treats me like a 24/7 booby bar – not that I mind. I adore my children.
Even as John started demolishing my old bathroom and front stairs and cleared away what I had underneath the house, I had to liaise with Energex and Origin and APA to disconnect utilities. It took 2 months and 4 requests to Origin to get them to disconnect my electricity. I had to beg APA to disconnect gas in time for the old gal to go up. After 1 neighbour backed out of lending power for the house raise (despite being offered compensation), John approached my other neighbour who thankfully agreed. To see me would have been to belie my mental state which was alternating between excitement (yay! It’s finally happening!) and anxiety (oh no! Please don’t throw a spanner in the works).
Since she is a cottage we have elected to build back instead of under. If she had been a grand Queenslander with wraparound verandahs, building down would have been the preferred course of action as the bigger footprint would have justified the cost of working with an old building and factoring additional cost to get the project through council. At the end of this, we essentially have a house that is 3/4 new (excluding car parking as that will bring the proportion up further) that is built to exceed an energy rating of 6 stars (most built of similar material have a rating of 8 stars) fire and sound-proof (due to the natural qualities of the material and windows chosen), designed and engineered to withstand flood waters and local wind speeds, every footing, beam and pole engineered to ensure safety of her occupants.
We are only halfway through phase 1 of a 3 phase project. Here is a visual timeline of the renovation so far.