New Zealand bungalows have a distinctive character that can easily be lost or destroyed – so it’s important to understand the home’s unique features and common problems when planning a renovation. 

A classic Kiwi icon, bungalows first appeared after the end of World War 1 and were the dominant style in the 1920s. Typically oriented towards the street – with no consideration to passive solar gain – these houses tend to have a central corridor with rooms opening off either side, the living room at the front and service areas at the rear.

Many bungalows are in need of upgrading to improve their energy efficiency and generally bring them up to the standard expected of 21st century housing. Before considering renovation work to address issues such as unsuitable layout, enlarging or adding space, replacing outdated fixtures or simply cosmetic work such as painting and papering, the state of the existing building should be carefully reviewed.


Structural weakness Back to top

Structural problems in bungalows may include undersized framing, chimneys and other brickwork with failing mortar, and problems with foundations and subfloor. Renovation work should begin with a detailed survey of the structure of the bungalow. Use a structural engineer to assess structural damage, loadings, the condition of foundations and roof, and possible strengthening measures.

Many bungalows have uneven floors and need to be repiled or levelled. Some have inadequate foundation bracing, insufficient ground clearance, or insufficient subfloor ventilation causing dampness under the building. Bungalow floors should be checked for borer and other damage, and will benefit from underfloor insulation.

Second-hand material may be available to replace small sections of the old-style corrugated roofing, but in many cases the roof may need to be replaced – often for the second time. The use of new long run roofing eliminates the need for end laps, which have a greater risk of deterioration. Marseille roof tiles are still available but may be manufactured to a different size.

Cladding Back to top

Where existing timbers are damaged, a decision must be made whether to retain or replace boards and to what extent. Split, bowed and cupped weatherboards compromise the weathertightness of the building and will need to be replaced. The decision as to whether or not to replace boards must take account of the availability of matching materials to make the repair, and of the risk of further damage to boards during removal. Small splits may be able to be filled with flexible exterior filler.

The original timber species used for the weatherboards and finishing timbers (often native timbers) may not be available or only available in limited amounts, although this is not a problem for painted weatherboards as the timber is concealed by the paint coating. Modern standard timber cladding profiles are metric, not imperial, so an exact match, particularly for rusticated weatherboards, may not be possible.

How much does it cost to reclad your home? Find out more here.

Thermal efficiency Back to top

Bungalows were typically constructed without insulation. Even with modifications, most bungalows fall below current insulation requirements. New work can easily be insulated to the required levels, but it may be difficult to insulate existing walls where existing linings or substrates such as match lining are being retained.          

As windows are likely to be single glazed, options for consideration to improve thermal efficiency include removing the existing sash and glass and modifying the sash to accept insulated glazing units, installing insulated glazing units into the sash using a small aluminium section, adding removable secondary glazing in winter, and installing heavy drapes that have a Velcro seal down each side of the window.

Renovation work will generally make the bungalow more airtight, which is likely to make it more prone to internal moisture problems (with moisture generated by cooking, washing etc.). Design solutions must include systems to remove moisture such as insulation, extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and heat recovery ventilation systems, which bring in fresh air from outdoors and warm it by means of a heat exchange process that takes the heat from the stale indoor air before expelling it outside.

If there is a musty smell, it may be able to be traced to a damp subfloor and the migration of the moisture through a draughty floor or a leak from an internal gutter or through the roof or wall cladding.

Learn more about the 2021 Healthy Homes Standards here. 

Interior finishing Back to top

Standard interior timber moulding profiles such as skirtings and architraves that are now available are in metric, not imperial, which makes an exact profile match impossible. Options for matching interior finishes include removing all existing trim in the room and replacing it (use the removed material to make good or repair in other rooms), having new profiles run to match the existing and sourcing second-hand material.

In some cases, damage may able to be repaired in situ by the judicious use of specialist fillers, or by filling and painting, which means the natural timber appearance is lost but the profile is retained.

Spotlight on windows and joinery Back to top

Bungalows typically had timber casement windows, often with leadlighting. A bay or bow window faced the street. Window sizes were not standardised and in most cases window units consisted of side-opening casements with small, top-hinged windows above. Most bungalows also have a miniature feature window at the front or on a sidewall.

Frames and joinery Back to top

Windows in bungalows are likely to be original as they are one of the distinctive features of bungalows. The timber frames and sashes are reasonably energy efficient and are better insulators than similar-sized aluminium frames without a thermal break. However, they may be relatively air leaky and therefore inefficient in terms of maintaining and retaining heat within the building.

Timber frames are durable and strong but they must have regular maintenance. If they are not properly protected from moisture (by painting), they can rot, swell, warp and stick. If the window sashes have rotted, it is likely that the sash will need to be removed and repaired with new sections or a matching sash made. Unless minor, rot in window frames usually means replacement.

How much will it cost to update the joinery in my home? Learn more here.

Glazing Back to top

Windows are likely to be single glazed, and even if they have been replaced they are likely to have been replaced with single glazing unless the replacement is very recent.

Glass becomes brittle with age and matching original colours in broken leadlighting is likely to be difficult. Options for repairing special glass include finding a match at a demolition year or remaking the window with new coloured glass.

How much will it cost to get my windows changed to double glazing? Find out here.

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