Indoor-outdoor flow renovation

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ARTICLE 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.

This renovation story starts with a Belmont 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.” 

They found architect Dan Phillips and project manager Guy Cobcroft from Refresh 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 Guy 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.

Being within a seagull’s squawk of the Waitemata the couple wanted the interior to reference the water. 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.

Before and after home renovation plans

Before                                                                                After

After the plans had been green-lighted by council, Guy’s 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.”  Guy believes:  “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 Guy,  “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.

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.”

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Part one of this case study featured on page 84 of Issue 007 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.


Ready for a modern family of five

ARTICLE Patricia Moore PHOTOGRAPHY Scott Espie

Having lived in their house for some time, this Auckland family knew the ins and outs of their home and had a clear plan on what they wanted to change. “We were short of rooms, but if that was all we’d wanted to fix there were probably easier ways to fix that,” they say.

The crux of the problem, and the main reason the family embarked on the renovation project, was the layout of the house. It is set on a beautiful north-facing site but due to its original design it provided very little access to the outdoors. “Fundamentally, the flow didn’t work.” The space was essentially “a bit of a warren” that didn’t cater for the needs of a 21st century family of five.

But they didn’t want to make significant structural changes. “We wanted to upgrade the amenities and services, rewire, insulate and so on. The house had good bones, good footings, good floors, and those are features we were trying to retain as much as we could.”

Knowing the aspects they liked and those they wanted to improve on was important to the success of the project, says associate architect Kristan Deed at Dan Phillips and Associates who handled the planning side of the project. “They knew the space wasn’t big enough for them and they had a big sunny back yard that wasn’t being utilized.”

Potential renovators always need to consider the family requirements, says Kristan. “How does it work for you? Think ahead; if you’re going to be in the house for years to come you need a forward plan as well.”

Technically speaking it wasn’t a complex renovation says the owners, but it was the one that saw them having a number of those ‘what on earth are we doing’ moments.

”This isn’t the kind of decision you make lightly. You take a perfectly good home and you tear it to pieces! After a week there wasn’t a piece of Gib left in the house. There wasn’t a piece of wire left. It was a shell with no windows. You’re going we’ve got rocks in our heads. What were we thinking?”

Over the renovation period, the family live in the pool house. So how was that? “Compact,” is the somewhat terse response. “It certainly added to the stress levels but it kept the costs down.”

Being on site enabled constant communication with the site managers and tradesmen involved. “We could answer questions, see what developed during the day and make changes very quickly if necessary,” say the owners.

Refresh’s Guy Cobcroft, who managed the project, agrees having the clients on site was a real benefit. “They could see the issues that happened day-to-day and how my guys dealt with them.”

Rather than being involved from the initial concept stage, Guy and the Refresh team came on board after the plans had been finalized. He says while this is not their ideal way to work on a project, there were few surprises as it evolved. “With really good site managers and stand-out sub-contractors, we’re able deal with the things that pop-up as they come through.” This could have been avoided if they had engaged with Refresh Renovations from the initial design stage.

For their part, the owners say the most compelling thing about working with Guy and his team was that they always had the client’s best interest in mind. “We never felt they were trying to slow the job down or pull a fast one. Theirs wasn’t the cheapest price per se, but it offered us the right terms.”

It was also very much a people decision, they say. “You know you’re going to be spending a significant amount of money on these projects and you’re going to effectively live with these guys for five months, so you want to make sure they’ve got your back.”

The owners experienced their share of budget issues. Amending the kitchen design halfway through doubled the cost and changing the position of the pool fence also added dollars. “It’s those small design decisions that soon add up. ‘Actually I really think I’d like it over there’, and you’ve just made a $10,000 decision!”

Kristan says one of their functions as architects is educating clients around how far budgets will stretch, “So that they don’t get high hopes at the start and find they can’t afford it. Sometimes you can’t do everything so you have to decide on the most important aspect – the thing you can’t live without.”

From a cost perspective it was important to minimize changes to the roof – although eventually some were unavoidable. “It was a case of keeping them subtle and small so it didn’t become a major re-roofing project that was a real challenge for the roofer. Before and after photos show very little change but he had his work cut out to make it look right without stripping the whole roof back. He’s done a fantastic job.” And what sounded like the comparatively simple ‘opening up the back’ also created problems. The stacking sliding doors, which create the indoor-outdoor flow the family wanted, added a considerable amount of weight and extra reinforcing was required to carry the load.

“Technically that was probably the most challenging thing the builders had to cope with.”

The huge new deck area, on to which the doors open, replaces one where the use of glass had effectively created a glasshouse effect – hotter than sitting in the direct sunlight – but a newly installed Louvretec system enables the family to control the temperature.

It’s project completion time – well almost. Landscaping the grounds is a work in progress. But right now the family is relishing the extra space the renovation has created – and looking forward to putting their feet up and enjoying a long hot summer.

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Part two of this case study featured on page 72 of Issue 009 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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