A marvellous makeover turns an awkwardly designed house into a spacious and light-filled home.
WORDS Jason Burgess PHOTOGRAPHY Scott Espie
Following the planning and designing stages, this building project will see a classic brick and weatherboard house enlarged and turned into a modern home for a family of five.
House renovation goals
This renovation story starts with a property owner’s vision for a new deck, improved indoor-outdoor living and an extra bedroom. The design though meant that virtually every wall and ceiling in the house would see a hammer or crowbar so rather than trying to patch and match they chose to modernise throughout.
The house is a classic late 1940s home with a brick base, weatherboard cladding and a concrete tile roof. The couple had been in less than six months when they decided to renovate. “We bought a fantastic property in a fantastic location with great facilities – but it needed a tickle,” they say. The interior was a mish-mash of styles, with a false floor, a lowered ceiling and an 80s kitchen that had seen better days. The outdoor access was terrible and “with three children and only three bedrooms we desperately needed an extra room”.
In May 2012 they resolved to go ahead. “Our goal was to have consented plans through by the end of the year and to start building in early January 2013, to minimise any potential weather delays. We were delayed by just two weeks.”
Working with a Refresh Renovations franchise
They found architect Dan Phillips and a project manager from Refresh Renovations independently through word of mouth. Prior to contacting either, they had talked to a number of other architects and builders. “We had an immediate rapport with these guys. Dan was free with his ideas, he started sketching right from the get go and Refresh immediately understood us and was on the same page as us. I like people who will work with me as a team.”
After concepts and 3D elevations were reviewed the couple went straight to getting plans done. They admit that sometimes they have been a little hasty. “If I was to do this again I would get complete 3D visuals done just to see how everything sits over the entire site.” The plans see a new room added to form a U shape at the rear of the house mirroring the kitchen area. Between them will sit a giant all-weather deck with a louver-tech roof, poised to catch all day sun and stepped down to an existing swimming pool.
The couple wanted the interior to reference the water, a decision based on their nearby landscape. They are opting for a contemporary ‘American coastal’ feel throughout. “We didn’t want ultra modern or to turn back the clock. But we love weatherboards, the wood floors and rounded mouldings.” The old wooden windows will be changed out for aluminium to match the new sliders that will access the deck.
Essentially though, the owners’ main goal was to be able to refurbish in compliance with the building code but without having to go through costly resource consents. As the house is situated in the middle of a large section there were no issues around height to boundary restrictions.
Evaluating the renovation plans
After the plans had been green-lighted by council, the Refresh team quickly identified five areas that were either concealed from or overlooked by inspectors and engineers. “Things like roof supports – a couple of four-by-twos supporting a massive concrete tile roof will not meet the code today,” says builder Peter ‘PK’ Kvasnicka.
In retrospect the client admits that if he renovated again he would never rush from completed plans straight into building. “I’ve learnt that you need to sit with the drawings and really evaluate the details.”, says one of the renovation builders . “Talking to clients about their plans from the outset is crucial. There are a number of points to consider and this is often the time to decide how far you want to go with the renovations. Making changes once the building process has begun can be costly as it can mean redrawing plans, re-engineering and seeking council sign off.”
Calling a site meeting at the start of a project ensures the clients, tradesmen, engineers and architect “are moving in the same direction”. It is a good time to check that the mechanics of the plan will work. Inaccurate plans will inevitably incur costs, if nothing else then through lost time. “This is when you decide on how to manage any costs arising from unforeseen issues.” Also simple decisions like using a machine-digger versus manual spadework can shrink project time. “More and more,” says one of our renovation builders, “we are using specialist contractors on bigger jobs for quicker, cost-effective builds.”
When it came time to demo the family moved into an adjacent pool house. Living in your home during renovations – especially during the demolition phase – is not something PK recommends. “There is a lot of bad dust, old insulation and sometimes even asbestos. No power, no water – I wouldn’t want to do it myself, it gets you down.”
Creating the interior space and external footings for a 60-square metre deck and a new ‘wedding cake’ staircase saw eight refuge bins being shifted from the site during the four-day demolition phase. Once the Gib and ceilings were off the builders inspected the state of the framing to get an idea of what had to be rearranged structurally, to make way for the new open-plan layout. Remedial supports were built to take the extra weight of the roof before existing framing could be removed.
Despite the age of the house there were relatively few unforeseen challenges. Some extra engineering was required to update the roof supports. A new ‘strong back’ beam has been installed to take the load of a rondo batten ceiling. Some rotten bearers were replaced and piles restored to level a small dip in the Rimu floor. And a patch of rotten tongue and groove where the old hot water cistern had been leaking will be re-laid.
Living in a pool house during a house renovation
So after two months in the pool house how are the clients doing? “It’s cramped,” they say. “But it is cost-effective. It is also good being on-site and watching the developments as they occur. And every morning we get an update from the builders before we go to work.”
This case study featured on page 84 in Issue 007 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.
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