Monday, March 11, 2013

Where the DIY life extension

 The back of Home Sweet Home circa 1998
We've been enjoying other bloggy renovators before/progress pics and pulled out our old film photos for a reminisce about our first renovating efforts.  We had a good laugh and groan about our efforts to improve our old house on our frugal budget. Maybe someone might be interested in a few retrospect photos of our first DIY project, the start of our crazy DIY life together you could say? Just don't expect any fancy schmancy after shots, is a house ever really finished? 
We bought this house on a part time job/part time uni student income with three kids.
After scrimping and saving to raise the 20% deposit, the house choices were - humble. Though not the double-gable Queenslander I was hankering for, this one did tick a lot of boxes. Despite only having eight rooms (3 closed in veranda bits), it was highset, nice high tongue and groove ceilings, views, walk to everything we needed, great breezes, good garden soil and a huge back yard for kids and a future shed. It had potential!

During the first nine months here, we decided extending would be the cheapest, easiest (?) option to add more living space. One of the advantages of wooden houses, they are easy to add to.
 So Mr CH thought, "I think I could do this myself". Yes, two people who have never renovated, let alone built anything themselves (grade 10 woodwork included), would undertake the owner-building of half a house!

A few things had to be removed from the backyard first, a brick barbecue and also the wheel rim attached to the five foot deep steel post. Mr CH in his shorty-shorts.

One of the two mango trees had to go, as well as the brick pond between them.

The foundation holes (12) for the steel posts were dug by hand.

So we could pay for steel beams, that had the cleats welded on (by MrCH) in the parent's shed and driven home attached to the side of Volda (the Mazda/Volvo hybrid ute). Picture Fred Flintstone's car with the Dino rib platter on the side.

The kitchen before, a delightful 70's chipboard specimen that malted doors and drawer fronts as the months went by.

The dining room, a very cosy sunny nook but not good with carpet and food.

 Renovating with kids is complicated especially if one is a little monkey. No2 son climbing our "child barrier" 8 months. This is the one that was born with a "six pack" and will probably be the one to carry on the (4th generation) owner builder tradition.

We removed the kitchen cabinets to find 7 layers of old lino and one dead rat. The sink cabinet was moved to the veranda bed 3 which became our temporary?? kitchen for the next 12 months, bucket under the sink and the oven was wired in by our sparky friend  (see floor plan ) Daughter was moved to the study. The kitchen wall cupboard was saved and is now in the laundry. You can just see the top part of the wall facing the dining/veranda end, this was once a full vj wall with just a door which was opened up by a previous owner. In the kitchen, the wall behind the orange counter was once an opening into the lounge. This old house has seen lots of changes.

Materials salvaged included -eight of the nine windows, all joists, all rafters, all beams, all wood floorboards, some of the outside posts, weather/chamferboards, the stove!(which we are still using), the backdoor and the kitchen wall cupboard (and there is still some roofing tin floating around somewhere....)

There are a whole lot of pics missing during these parts, back in days of film cameras, probably no film in the house or the film didn't develop properly, we can't remember. After the enclosed veranda/dining room and kitchen were removed, it rained, really rained, like it has been lately. I remember after the foundation holes were dug and while we were waiting for the council inspector to come and check that the holes were to spec, the holes kept filling with water. Which needed bailing out because the worms would fall in and the smell was putrid and we didn't want the kids to fall in and drown. Some of the holes were deeper than the 900mm required as we planned to excavate a few cubic metres of soil from under the house to get a good head height. 
 Before this stage above, the steel beams with posts attached were suspended  (on trestles) above the holes waiting to be concreted in. The inspector just stuck his tape measure down one hole and briefly glanced at most of the other holes to pass our efforts. So much effort for so little scrutiny.
 The torn walling to one side above, is a bit of plywood that covered what was once a bedroom window closed in (now bathroom). At the top right of the back wall, the blackness is from a small kitchen fire that was uncovered during removal. Some of the beams were burnt and covered over.

The tarps lying everywhere were for when it rained, we would walk out over the beams and hook each corner of the tarps to a nail on the house wall. This would act as a tent wall and stop the rain from flowing inside the block wall and wetting our wood pile under the house, (which became exposed to the elements after the back part of the house was removed).
Yes, our little grubs had a ball (and that is a cloth nappy) We kept the drawbridge for as long as possible so we wouldn't fall in the moat. It was eventually replaced with a trestle plank. They've had more than their "peck of dirt".

If you want to try this yourself, you'll need an owner builders qualification so that your local council will let you build (if your structure is valued at more than $11 000, see BSA website). You will also need a white card which is your workplace, health and safety card for construction. If you want to design your own house instead of using a civil engineer, these manuals give you all the basic structural requirements. Any special requirements outside the basic framing codes will need to be designed by a civil engineer. Google AS 1684 timber framing manual. Google BSA and you will find all the relevant information.

Before, old kitchen/dining (veranda), stairs removed
Upstairs after
New kitchen,dining, sitting room and bed 3,hall cupboard (our only built in), balcony and stairs added
Hope this post is encouragement for those out there, who are thinking of DIY home improvements, rather than DIWT (do it with tradies) Long after the aches wear off, the feeling of achievement driven by sheer determination is totally worth it!
More on the build next time.
Enjoy your week!


  1. LOVE seeing people's reno journeys, great post. You guys deserve an award, doing your own build is pretty hard core! My husband won't even assemble a billy bookcase let alone a rear extension.

  2. OMG that was a fascinating journey and very very funny !!!

    As a Building Design student I just love to see how people "used" to build and what the "regulations" were then !!!

    Great post - loved it :)


  3. This post was really interesting..I can't wait to see more pics and read more of your story!

  4. I smiled a lot reading this, especially when I saw your little fellow climbing over the barrier, and him in the mud lol (mum with 3 adult boys now). I grew up with the same Kitchen at home - Jen :-)

  5. Hats off to you for not only doing an owner-builder (with no prior building knowledge) but doing it WITH kids in tow. How did your marriage last? (and how did the kids not injure themselves?) AMAZING!!! xx

    1. Not a single injury to anyone and we were just honing what has become a well oiled machine, that and I just followed hubby around telling him he was awesome,ha.

  6. Wow, you guys have done so much and I love that you've increased your living space so much with all your renovations. The photo of your son climbing the child barrier made me laugh :)

  7. Wow, you certainly give Reno a new meaning! Cute kid pic! :)

  8. Bringing back a lot of memories. It's been 13 years since we bought our shabby bungalow, and 6 since we put on our own addition. I could not agree more with the aches and pains and stress that fade but the pride and sense of accomplishment that last. The fact that you guys do everything together is what makes it the best.

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  10. Wow, you guys are die hard renovators! Very very impressive effort and you certainly seem like an awesome team. mel x

  11. What a great re cap on your journey into renovating! So good to have the pics too. Well dont to you both for doing it your way - on your own terms. ps Is it bad that I like the original 70's kitchen? : )

  12. Interesting post i found here.Thanks for share.

  13. Interesting post with lot of useful information about home extension.You did simply a great work with good planning and exact execution.. Well done!!


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