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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?

What’s Your opinion?


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36 Responses to
Advice on renovating Narrabundah worker’s cottage
Maya123 8:26 pm 01 Jun 15

rubaiyat, most plot sizes of Narrabundah fibro cottages are about 450sq metres. There are the rare larger blocks of land of over 600sq. metres, but not many. The Bega three bedroom house I had was about 99 sq.metres. There is usually room for extension back and front, and possibly on the sides, depending how the house is sited on the block. Some of the houses have been extended. The original kitchens were separate rooms, and mine was squarish in shape, so unless major renovations are done, such as knocking down walls, the cheapest renovation would be to stick to this shape, rather than a gallery kitchen. Even, as was done in my house, if the wall is knocked down between the kitchen and loungeroom, the basic kitchen shape is still square. In my house this wall was plaster, so it was easy to knock down. More complicated if it is asbestos cement.
I agree with Aragornerama, that the most cost-effective route would be sticking with the existing structure.
dungfungus, I gave you actual costings, although the kitchen was done a number of years ago, and even if it cost three times that now, it is no-where near your guess of $100,000. The kitchens are small.
“Based on those costings, a brand new house (with garage) is possible then?”. This was not structural work, so no comparison. My new kitchen involved removing the old cupboards, replacing with new and using the old sink, which was still in good condition. I used Laminate bench tops, as they were the cheapest option at the time. I bought the cheapest tap-ware I could. On top of the new kitchen, I also replaced the stove (a budget one, nothing fancy) and replaced the old lino on the floor with vinyl. For the cabinets I used a recommended carpenter rather than a kitchen company, as he was a LOT cheaper, and very likely did a better job. I did get a quote from a kitchen company and they drew up a plan for the kitchen. But as they were very expensive I didn’t use them. They didn’t give me a copy of the plan, but I memorised the plan and drew it out to show the carpenter, and he had his ideas too. I think many features are standard sizes anyway. After the kitchen was replaced I had a separate person in to lay the vinyl and a tiler to lay tiles on the walls. Nice tiles, but again nothing very fancy. They might have been on special. I painted the kitchen myself. I could have saved money by doing the tiling too. Apparently cabinets can be bought ready made too to save money. This would have been another option. Although cheap materials were used my kitchen did not look shoddy, as the job was well done.
My bathroom involved replacing tiles, and a new vanity. Also some carpentry to replace a rotten bench at the end of the bath. We did this. The painting was also done by us. The large cast iron bath was still okay and didn’t need replacing. In renovation, not everything needs to be replaced. The laundry was never renovated, except when after many years living without plumbed hot water, this was added. This was also why the bathroom was renovated for a second time, as tiles needed to be removed to get pipes in behind the wall.

rubaiyat 3:36 pm 01 Jun 15

You haven’t mentioned the zoning or plot size so really it is all moot.

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

Most of your questions can be answered by reading the relevant downloadable ACT Planning codes which are fairly comprehendable even by non-professionals. Read it through section by section after finding out your zoning, which you can quickly get from All-Homes.com or the ACT maps website.

Best to totally gut the kitchen and bathroom and go for simple kit solutions installed by yourself and perhaps a professional tiler. Work to kit sizes and use large tiles where possible. You can get 600 x 1200 tiles cheaply which are brilliant splashback walls for kitchens, with few jonts and doable by amateurs as there are usually only a couple of joints to grout.

Galley kitchens are quickest and simplest to build in especially if they have a free end. All you do is butt them up to a wall at one or no-ends and line them up horizontally and vertically.

Get at least some professional help, even if it is quick sketch drawings with specs if you are not confident and have not done this before. It is very easy to lose the money you are trying to save, or be overcharged trying to create a personal vanity piece gone wrong.

All those eyesore properties being sold at a loss or below par, started as Do-It-Yourselfs only to end up as object lessons as to why your day job is not in building/design. Unfortunately as a nation we have not learnt that lesson.

Aragornerama 3:30 pm 01 Jun 15

I’m far from an expert, but it seems like the most cost-effective route would be sticking with the existing structure. Replacing lighting, flooring and curtains, along with upgrading the kitchen, bathrooms and garden would be a significant improvement and probably not too expensive. Maybe repaint the walls and add or enlarge a window or two and you’ve got yourself a nice house!

vintage123 3:17 pm 01 Jun 15

Judging by your questions it appears this will be the first renovation you guys will do.

And as such it is a huge risk. To buy a small old place that needs a Reno, without any contacts or experience, or any idea whatsoever on how much things will cost is a recipe for disaster.

The other issue is, once you have bought it you are kinda committed to renovating and the tradies will smell that out a mile away and charge to the hill.

Also because it’s a small place, you won’t be able to live in it whilst it’s done. So that complicates things.

In all honesty I would give it a miss and just look for something already done albeit for a higher price.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 2:51 pm 01 Jun 15

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

You are dreaming.
$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry and the rest of the place will look shabby then.
Knock it down and rebuild.

I used to live in one of those houses. Admittedly quite a few years ago, but I had a complete new paid for kitchen put in for about $3,500. Not through a kitchen company – they wanted a LOT more – but through a carpenter who was recommended to me. About two years ago the bathroom was renovated by us. New tiles (old stock, sold cheap) and new vanity. I can’t remember the cost, but likely under $2,000. However, I paid extra to get some asbestos removed. Costs for the kitchen would be more now, but $100,000 is a made up fantasy figure.

It’s certainly possible to renovate on the cheap if money is the biggest issue. For me, though, I was more concerned about getting a quality result in a sensible period of time, and didn’t have the time or inclination to do the work myself.

Most people won’t have the time, skills, patience of skill to achieve a renovation for bottom dollar.

Ezy 2:25 pm 01 Jun 15

I would think Kitchens would be quite an expensive upgrade – if you are factoring in demolition, custom cabinetry, plumbing + gas fitting, tap ware, appliances, flooring etc. It’s a case of how long is a piece of string and what your perception of a ‘new’ kitchen is. Are you happy with a kit kitchen? cheap tap ware? Second hand items? I would have to agree that 100k isn’t going to get you much unless you are going to do this yourself, or have some very good friends capable to carry out the work for you.

I would suggest getting a few measurements and calling around to a few places and getting a ballpark figure before you dive into the deep end.

dungfungus 2:19 pm 01 Jun 15

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

You are dreaming.
$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry and the rest of the place will look shabby then.
Knock it down and rebuild.

I used to live in one of those houses. Admittedly quite a few years ago, but I had a complete new paid for kitchen put in for about $3,500. Not through a kitchen company – they wanted a LOT more – but through a carpenter who was recommended to me. About two years ago the bathroom was renovated by us. New tiles (old stock, sold cheap) and new vanity. I can’t remember the cost, but likely under $2,000. However, I paid extra to get some asbestos removed. Costs for the kitchen would be more now, but $100,000 is a made up fantasy figure.

Based on those costings, a brand new house (with garage) is possible then?

Maya123 2:11 pm 01 Jun 15

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

You are dreaming.
$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry and the rest of the place will look shabby then.
Knock it down and rebuild.

I used to live in one of those houses. Admittedly quite a few years ago, but I had a complete new paid for kitchen put in for about $3,500. Not through a kitchen company – they wanted a LOT more – but through a carpenter who was recommended to me. About two years ago the bathroom was renovated by us. New tiles (old stock, sold cheap) and new vanity. I can’t remember the cost, but likely under $2,000. However, I paid extra to get some asbestos removed. Costs for the kitchen would be more now, but $100,000 is a made up fantasy figure.

Sorry, that was unclear. I have now read the original question. I replied too quickly. The fantasy comment was directed at dungfungus’ comment, “$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry”, not the cost of the whole project. I am sure a bathroom, laundry and kitchen makeover could cost $100,000 for the Rolls Royce version, but from experience it doesn’t need to cost anything like that. These rooms in the Narrabundah cottages are small remember.
I don’t know how close to the front boundary extensions can go, but my neighbour’s house went further forward on the block than mine.
My Narrabundah house had hardwood frames. There are basically two styles of the old Narrabundah houses, Bega and Marlee style houses, and they each come in two and three bedroom versions. The Bega was the slightly better version, in my opinion, and the house I had, with an inside toilet. The Marlee had the toilet on an outside verandah, but most of these have now been covered in and made part of the house. The Bega houses have plaster walls with straw in the bedrooms and living room, while the Marlee have fibro in these walls (asbestos cement). You can see the vertical strips in the Marlee. Both houses have fibro in the wet areas and outside walls, although originally the Marlees had three ply outside. The Begas have metal roofs, while I think the Malees have asbestos cement roofs.
Asbestos removal is not cheap. I had the asbestos walls removed from a garage for about $2,000 (I think, from memory).

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 2:07 pm 01 Jun 15

You won’t get an extension for $100k.

I’ve renovated a few places now, and would suggest you replace wet areas (ie bathroom, kitchen, laundry) with simple but modern tiles, furniture and fittings, making sure you get it wet sealed properly, replace carpet and living areas floorboards/tiles (as applicable), repaint and replace window dressings.

Done sensibly, with reasonable fittings and proper attention to quality, this should cost somewhere between $40-50k. Combined with a tidy up of the garden and perhaps a lick of paint on the outside and you can add a decent amount to the value of the property, as well as making it much nicer to live in.

Once you start moving internal walls you will need to deal with structure, not to mention removal of bonded asbestos. This can get really expensive very quickly. For a decent extension and internal renovation you are looking at upwards of $200k for a proper job. You will also have to deal with the issue of rebalancing the living space, so things like your kitchen and living areas are appropriately sized for the number of people potentially living there.

arescarti42 1:58 pm 01 Jun 15

I can’t imagine you’d get what you describe for $100,000, especially when you’re dealing with asbestos, and i wouldn’t be surprised if you encounter unforeseen structural/electrical/other problems given the age of the house.

Even if you were to undertake the renovations you described, everything would be a compromise, and you’d still probably end up with a pretty awful old house.

If it was really run down, you’d probably be better off knocking it down and rebuilding. At least then you’d end up with a modern home.

Funky1 1:57 pm 01 Jun 15

dungfungus said :

You are dreaming.
$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry and the rest of the place will look shabby then.
Knock it down and rebuild.

Really!!
On a budget you should be able to do kitchen & bathroom for under 30k. They’re not talking marble finishes and hi-end appliances!

Maya123 1:53 pm 01 Jun 15

dungfungus said :

You are dreaming.
$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry and the rest of the place will look shabby then.
Knock it down and rebuild.

I used to live in one of those houses. Admittedly quite a few years ago, but I had a complete new paid for kitchen put in for about $3,500. Not through a kitchen company – they wanted a LOT more – but through a carpenter who was recommended to me. About two years ago the bathroom was renovated by us. New tiles (old stock, sold cheap) and new vanity. I can’t remember the cost, but likely under $2,000. However, I paid extra to get some asbestos removed. Costs for the kitchen would be more now, but $100,000 is a made up fantasy figure.

dungfungus 1:37 pm 01 Jun 15

You are dreaming.
$100K will get you a new kitchen, bathroom and laundry and the rest of the place will look shabby then.
Knock it down and rebuild.

vintage123 1:10 pm 01 Jun 15

Renovation budget looks too skinny for the works you describe.

devils_advocate 12:11 pm 01 Jun 15

You should clarify whether you are doing the work yourself, contracting out individual tasks or contracting out the whole job, as these will change the final cost by an order of magnitude.
Also ACTPLA tend to be a bit more sensitive about changes to the front or street-facing façade of the house compared with extensions to the rear.

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