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Advice on renovating Narrabundah worker’s cottage

By cchampion88 1 June 2015 36

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Does anyone have experience renovating the original Narrabundah workers cottages?

If so, any advice? For instance, do you know:

  • How close to the front boundary you can extend
  • How hard/easy it is to extend from the steel frames
  • If asbestos removal ends up costing a fortune, etc?

I know that due to the steel frames and truss roof, none of the internal walls are structural and thus re-organising internally wouldn’t be too hard.

My husband and I are thinking about buying a very rundown original three-bedroom cottage. If we can get it close to the land value (I know a really run down one recently sold for just $50,000 over the land value) which is around $400,000, and invest about $100,000 (slightly extend forward to add extra bedroom, rearrange internal walls, renovate to basic kitchen/bathroom)  in renovations.

That brings a total cost of about $500,000-$550,000, which is slightly under what they seem to be selling for in better condition. Am I dreaming?


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Advice on renovating Narrabundah worker’s cottage
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Maya123 12:22 am 05 Jun 15

For those who don’t know these Narrabundah cottages.
One with very basic renovation. Probably a Bega style:
http://www.allhomes.com.au/ah/act/sale-residential/5-anembo-street-narrabundah-canberra/1316991090511
Renovated Narrabundah cottage:
http://www.allhomes.com.au/ah/act/sale-residential/36-euroka-street-narrabundah-canberra/1316959031411

Masquara 7:53 pm 04 Jun 15

vintage123 said :

Renovation budget looks too skinny for the works you describe.

Yep. There is no way a renovation is going to be that little. Renovations always cost way more than new building work. Plus, you’ll need to work on the “rundown” rest of the cottage – storage, probably insulation, decent heating, presentable carport/garage. I’d nearly double that budget – why bother! You’re better off living in a small house and doing a basic upgrade rather than an extension. Just tacking on a third bedroom in an attempt to increase the value is very obvious to later buyers. A small house beautifully done up and with all its original garden is worth more than a weird hybridised rundown plus cheap extension house …. on one of those tiny worker’s cottage blocks in Narrabundah you’d be better off saving up and building upward if the house structure can take it.

Maya123 6:16 pm 04 Jun 15

vintage123 said :

Before; http://house.ksou.cn/house_img.php?t=0&sta=act&id=102905&seq=0&price=&addr=58+Warramoo+Crescent&region=Narrabundah&img=1

After; http://www.allhomes.com.au/ah/act/sale-residential/58-warramoo-crescent-narrabundah-canberra/1317025188111

Before sold for $532500 March 14
After; tenders from today, anyone’s guess.

vintage123 said :

Before; http://house.ksou.cn/house_img.php?t=0&sta=act&id=102905&seq=0&price=&addr=58+Warramoo+Crescent&region=Narrabundah&img=1

After; http://www.allhomes.com.au/ah/act/sale-residential/58-warramoo-crescent-narrabundah-canberra/1317025188111

Before sold for $532500 March 14
After; tenders from today, anyone’s guess.

Looks a nice renovation, but that is not the type of Narrabundah cottage being discussed here. The Bega and Malee styles are the old massed produced fibro cottages between Matina Street and Kootara Crescent.

vintage123 3:09 pm 03 Jun 15

I think we are all pretty keen to see you have a go and keep us updated on your progress.

rubaiyat 12:23 pm 03 Jun 15

On a similar thought, does anybody know what happened to HEAT?

They used to be in Manuka.

Have they been “terminated with prejudice” by this visionary Federal government.

Maya123 11:34 am 03 Jun 15

rubaiyat said :

Maya123 said :

Good luck with purchasing and renovating the house. I have seen some good renovations of these houses, and after they are finished they can look much better than many of the basic, bland, uninteresting brick houses that replaced some.
Re $1,000 for tiling. I can’t remember the exact figure for tiles, except I bought tiles for my bathroom for much less than that at a clearance sale for old stock. They were nice Italian tiles too; not rubbish tiles.

Look for bargains in the Mitchell tiling retailers, you get some marvelous tiles for very little if you are patient and use your imagination.

Don’t tile your kitchen floor, use seamless, coved vinyl with padded underlay. Quick leakproof, comfortable, doesn’t break dropped objects, and perfect for a galley kitchen. Use simple classic patterns, not kitsch fake materials.

Vinyl is a good suggestion for these houses, as they have wooden floors.
I used vinyl in my Narrabundah Bega house kitchen and through into the laundry. I avoided those vinyls that pretend to be slate and earthen tiles. What I really wanted, was a funky abstract design, but failing to find this (vinyl designers can be so boring and mundane) I went with a simply black and white square design. I rejected the most common available sized squares and found a less common vinyl with smaller squares (but not tiny), as the kitchen is not very big. That one had to come on a truck from Brisbane. I thought it looked good, and it also got many good comments. In the twenty five years I had the vinyl (before I sold the house), the pattern also never ‘aged.’ The new buyer liked it too.
In the bathroom I used small white tiles on the floor, as because the floor is wood, I was worried about cracking with larger tiles and thought the smaller tiles would have more ‘give’. With the small tiles I never had any problem.

Donttelldad 10:48 am 03 Jun 15

In 2008, we did exactly what you’re considering. Our ‘bundah weatherboard was a steel framed, steel trussed house that came in a box, and the box became the floorboards. We wanted to preserve the heritage of the house, and got a carpenter that wasn’t afraid to think out of the box with a steel framed house. $100K won’t get you anything.

We extended in pine frame, and then had the whole house (old and new) clad in synthetic weatherboard look cladding with 10mm of dense foam on the inside. Cost for the cladding and all new gutters was around $20K, and made it look like new. We then installed insulation in the pine frame, as per usual, before plaster. Warm as toast.

Deconstruction of the old walls took an eternity, which converts to cost. The place was built like a battleship with steel framed sections being bolted together, then a reinforced plate bolted over that.

You’ll find you’ll end up rewiring the house. The any old conduit will be brittle, and any building work will shake brittle conduit off the wire, and then the wire touches the steel frame and you get a fuse blown (if you’re don’t get electrocuted). You’ll never be able to work out where the issue is, as the plastic conduit is usually inside steel conduit tubes that were premade onto the steel wall sections.

We extended the front deck to within the 6m allowed of the front footpath, and had to go to the neighbours for approval.

Worth every cent, we loved that house.

rubaiyat 10:21 am 03 Jun 15

dungfungus said :

Southmouth said :

I have done 4 renos in the last 12 years. My advice is:
Buy a place that you won’t have to extend, don’t think about living in it until it is finished ( especially if you have kids), spend your money on kitchen and bathroom (s) and don’t think that you can do a trade quality job of any appearance tasks like tiling or plastering. Renos can be a good stepping stone but you lose a lot of years of your life if you try to work and do the weekend reno thing

Good advice.
I could add that condition of the floors should be examined, especially levels.
The cost of levelling a slab floor to facilitate tiling or wood (solid or engineered) is horrendous.
Also, if water pipes are located under a slab get them re-routed through the roof-space. It’s heart-braking to do a new floor only to jack-hammer it up to locate and repair a leaky water pipe later on.
Ensure quality wet sealing is done in appropriate areas.
In the kitchen, get good quality high performance exhaust hood over the hot plates.

Bathroom floors are stripped out and relaid with cheap waterproof panel flooring to level.

Kitchen floors get a hardboard underlay which smooths out levels.

The hardest are concrete laundries in old houses which, particularly in Canberra are nearly always badly laid and uneven. Jack-hammer them out, they are usually not reinforced, or rough hammer them and lay a new groat float over if there is room.

Pipes should be re-routed around the perimeter of the building, cutting off any old pipes. At a pinch drainage/sewerage can be hard encased in concrete if they run under the building, especially with the extremely durable and watertight plastic pipes today. Access will be via service points at either end.

rubaiyat 10:10 am 03 Jun 15

Maya123 said :

Good luck with purchasing and renovating the house. I have seen some good renovations of these houses, and after they are finished they can look much better than many of the basic, bland, uninteresting brick houses that replaced some.
Re $1,000 for tiling. I can’t remember the exact figure for tiles, except I bought tiles for my bathroom for much less than that at a clearance sale for old stock. They were nice Italian tiles too; not rubbish tiles.

Look for bargains in the Mitchell tiling retailers, you get some marvelous tiles for very little if you are patient and use your imagination.

Don’t tile your kitchen floor, use seamless, coved vinyl with padded underlay. Quick leakproof, comfortable, doesn’t break dropped objects, and perfect for a galley kitchen. Use simple classic patterns, not kitsch fake materials.

rubaiyat 10:03 am 03 Jun 15

cchampion88 said :

“The distance to the front boundary can be as close as 4 metres if you have a wide verge in the street.”

I did read this on the ACT planning website, but was a bit confused- is this 4m calculated from the street? Or is it calculated from further back (I couldnt quite work out how to determine this).

Front of house facing street to property boundary for an RZ1 zoning. Don’t forget there are also requirements for off-street parking.

ACT Planning’s rules and regulations are all over the place, with conditions set for age of the property and all sorts of bizarre caveats. Don’t work simply from what I have told you, go through the applicable regulations as they apply to your property.

cchampion88 9:25 am 03 Jun 15

“The distance to the front boundary can be as close as 4 metres if you have a wide verge in the street.”

I did read this on the ACT planning website, but was a bit confused- is this 4m calculated from the street? Or is it calculated from further back (I couldnt quite work out how to determine this).

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 6:55 pm 02 Jun 15

cchampion88 said :

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for your comments. I’m sorry I didnt offer much information on my plans!

The particular house I was looking at is next door to the house we are currently renting. We will be renting for the next year or two, so renovating from next door would be pretty convenient. The model we are looking at buying is a 3 bedroom Bega. I would obviously get a building report done before I considered buying it but from my understanding this particular house is a steel frame so rearranging internally wouldnt be too much of a problem because in the steel frame houses/truss roofs, none of the walls are structural. So my plan would be to knock down all the internal walls seperating the kitchen/dining/laundry had have a big open plan living/kitchen area (exactly what they have done in our current house). If the walls aren’t structural I could do this work myself (from the comfort of our house next door!!!).

As far as the asbestos goes, the external asbestos board can be removed pretty easily. I have done an asbestos course which allows me to safely remove asbestos (through my work), and i know in the ACT you can remove 10sqm per week yourself and dispose of it at the tip for free. As long as you wear the appropriate PPE it’s not really a huge risk to your health. So my plan would be to slowly remove sections of the asbestos cladding and have the walls insulated and then reclad in weatherboard. This is what they have done in the house we are currently living in and it looks great. The house has corrogated iron roofing so this would not need to be replaced (although I would want to replace it eventually).

As far as renovating the kitchen/bathrooms, I was planning on utlizing the newly opened IKEA to buy a kit kitchen and install ourselves. A really nice IKEA kitchen only costs around $10,000. A bathroom can be renovated for $10,000 pretty easily if you are savy. I have found an amazing wholesale tile place in Sydney that sells nice tiles for pretty cheap- my girlfriend just bought all the tiles for her bathroom reno for about $1,000 and her and her mum are doing the tiling themselves- they are amazing and have offered to help me!

I would prefer to extend forward because as some people have mentioned, the blocks in Narrabundah are on average only 465sqm. I would rather keep as much of the backyard as possible.

Architecturally, the extension would just be an exact replica of the current facade, just brought out a few extra metres- enough to fit an extra bedroom. This would give more room in the middle of the house (where one of the bedrooms is currently) to add to the open plan dining area. Perhaps I am being nieve, but I can’t imagine this would be too difficult???

I really appriciate all your comments!!

Sounds like you have a good plan, but just be aware of the cost of holding a property empty. If your reno takes 6 months, for example, that’s half a year of mortgage interest lost.

Maya123 6:27 pm 02 Jun 15

Good luck with purchasing and renovating the house. I have seen some good renovations of these houses, and after they are finished they can look much better than many of the basic, bland, uninteresting brick houses that replaced some.
Re $1,000 for tiling. I can’t remember the exact figure for tiles, except I bought tiles for my bathroom for much less than that at a clearance sale for old stock. They were nice Italian tiles too; not rubbish tiles.

cchampion88 5:07 pm 02 Jun 15

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for your comments. I’m sorry I didnt offer much information on my plans!

The particular house I was looking at is next door to the house we are currently renting. We will be renting for the next year or two, so renovating from next door would be pretty convenient. The model we are looking at buying is a 3 bedroom Bega. I would obviously get a building report done before I considered buying it but from my understanding this particular house is a steel frame so rearranging internally wouldnt be too much of a problem because in the steel frame houses/truss roofs, none of the walls are structural. So my plan would be to knock down all the internal walls seperating the kitchen/dining/laundry had have a big open plan living/kitchen area (exactly what they have done in our current house). If the walls aren’t structural I could do this work myself (from the comfort of our house next door!!!).

As far as the asbestos goes, the external asbestos board can be removed pretty easily. I have done an asbestos course which allows me to safely remove asbestos (through my work), and i know in the ACT you can remove 10sqm per week yourself and dispose of it at the tip for free. As long as you wear the appropriate PPE it’s not really a huge risk to your health. So my plan would be to slowly remove sections of the asbestos cladding and have the walls insulated and then reclad in weatherboard. This is what they have done in the house we are currently living in and it looks great. The house has corrogated iron roofing so this would not need to be replaced (although I would want to replace it eventually).

As far as renovating the kitchen/bathrooms, I was planning on utlizing the newly opened IKEA to buy a kit kitchen and install ourselves. A really nice IKEA kitchen only costs around $10,000. A bathroom can be renovated for $10,000 pretty easily if you are savy. I have found an amazing wholesale tile place in Sydney that sells nice tiles for pretty cheap- my girlfriend just bought all the tiles for her bathroom reno for about $1,000 and her and her mum are doing the tiling themselves- they are amazing and have offered to help me!

I would prefer to extend forward because as some people have mentioned, the blocks in Narrabundah are on average only 465sqm. I would rather keep as much of the backyard as possible.

Architecturally, the extension would just be an exact replica of the current facade, just brought out a few extra metres- enough to fit an extra bedroom. This would give more room in the middle of the house (where one of the bedrooms is currently) to add to the open plan dining area. Perhaps I am being nieve, but I can’t imagine this would be too difficult???

I really appriciate all your comments!!

dungfungus 11:46 am 02 Jun 15

Southmouth said :

I have done 4 renos in the last 12 years. My advice is:
Buy a place that you won’t have to extend, don’t think about living in it until it is finished ( especially if you have kids), spend your money on kitchen and bathroom (s) and don’t think that you can do a trade quality job of any appearance tasks like tiling or plastering. Renos can be a good stepping stone but you lose a lot of years of your life if you try to work and do the weekend reno thing

Good advice.
I could add that condition of the floors should be examined, especially levels.
The cost of levelling a slab floor to facilitate tiling or wood (solid or engineered) is horrendous.
Also, if water pipes are located under a slab get them re-routed through the roof-space. It’s heart-braking to do a new floor only to jack-hammer it up to locate and repair a leaky water pipe later on.
Ensure quality wet sealing is done in appropriate areas.
In the kitchen, get good quality high performance exhaust hood over the hot plates.

Maya123 11:45 am 02 Jun 15

I should have said, after living in one of these houses, is that they are very much lacking in insulation, unless a previous owner has rectified this. The government put some thin bats in the ceiling, but that’s all. If you buy one of these houses, do open it up on the northern side as rubaiyat suggested, but then insulate the walls, under the floor and add more in the ceiling. I never bothered to do more than the basic renovation (kitchen, bathroom, carpet and painting), as I was saving for a solar house, but ideally have the outside asbestos cement removed, stuff the walls with insulation and then re-clad the house. Don’t be stupidly ‘fashionable’ and pull up the carpet and polish the floors (the old floors in these old houses do polish up well) and then leave it at that. Carpet with good underlay is insulation. When I put down carpet with good underlay it made the house warmer. I didn’t, but should have, also insulated under the floor. If money is tight you could do this yourself, but do wear a good mask, as it’s dusty under there. I always wondered, to save money, if I should have collected the polystyrene boxes from the market and layered them under the floor boards as free insulation. This would have taken time, collecting enough, but eventually it would have been done.
I didn’t double glaze the windows, but went the cheaper route of using ‘winter windows’; a plastic layer over the windows. The old wooden window frames (these old windows give character to the house) gave a good gap between the plastic layer and the glass. Unfortunately, a previous owner had replaced some of these with aluminium windows which let the heat out faster than the original wooden framed windows, and there was no gap to add the plastic film layer, without building another frame first. If you open up the northern side of the house you could consider double glazing, and here wooden frames offer the best insulation, and go with the era of the house. Don’t use aluminium frames, unless there is something to stop the thermal bridge between the inside and outside. I have been told and was given the figures to back this up, insulation wise, that a single glazed wooden framed window is better than a double glazed aluminium window without something to stop the flow of heat through the frame. I bet most builders that supply double glazed aluminium windows (likely the cheapest as standard) won’t tell you that, or that the gap between the glass in their units might not be enough. If you can’t afford double glazing, get very good windows covers, such as honey-combed blinds or thick curtains with a good backing plus pelmets. Even with double glazing, another layer is necessary. It’s difficult to have too much insulation.
If I were buying another of these houses, I would prefer to buy a Bega rather than a Mallee, as they have less asbestos cement. The Begas have plaster walls in the bedrooms and loungeroom, while the Mallees are all asbestos cement. Also, the Begas have a metal roof, while I think the Mallees are asbestos cement. They both have asbestos cement in the wet areas and outside walls. Some of the houses have hardwood frames and some have metal frames. My Bega had hardwood frames, so I’m guessing you were looking at a Mallee style house.
However, without insulation, at least the rooms are small and it’s not much area to heat. Because of this, and that I only heated the room I was in, my heating bill was still less than most people’s. But it would be more comfortable to insulate. As per example of this, my new house, with it’s good insulation, takes less to heat the much larger living room than the tiny loungeroom of the Narrabundah cottage I had. However, compared to most housing out there, the Narrabundah cottage living space, being small, stacked up well, but considering most housing out there, this wasn’t difficult.

Southmouth 11:08 am 02 Jun 15

I have done 4 renos in the last 12 years. My advice is:
Buy a place that you won’t have to extend, don’t think about living in it until it is finished ( especially if you have kids), spend your money on kitchen and bathroom (s) and don’t think that you can do a trade quality job of any appearance tasks like tiling or plastering. Renos can be a good stepping stone but you lose a lot of years of your life if you try to work and do the weekend reno thing

Maya123 10:49 am 02 Jun 15

rubaiyat said, “One thing I tell everyone is find the sunny wall and open it up to Canberra’s excellent climate”
That’s why I eventually sold that house and had a solar house built. I now let the sun warm my house for free.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 9:28 am 02 Jun 15

rubaiyat said :

Finding a competent carpenter is not easy but key to these projects. I had one for my Dulwich Hill house and he was a gem to work with, but doubt I could get him down to Canberra even if I paid for his accomodation. Locally I have had more disappointment with tradespeople than satisfaction and it is an endless source of concern.

Finding decent trades in Canberra is difficult. We’ve used lots of different tradies, and found a few good ones, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

I cannot believe the way so many tradies seem to have multiple jobs going, and seem to need to travel from one end of town to the other to keep checking and working on their jobs.

When I find a tradie who does what they say they will do, when they say they will do it, for the quoted price and to a decent standard I hang on to them.

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