If you’ve seen any of my previous blog posts, you’ve probably read about how I convinced my better half that pouring our life savings into an old, shabby weatherboard house was a good idea. We purchased a 1930s cottage that has taken all of our money, energy and patience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the most beautiful house in the world. But there’s so much more to buying an older home than I ever could have imagined…
It’s now been six months since settlement and we still aren’t moved into our new house. We’ve had the roof replaced, walls torn down and the garden half landscaped. My budget for the furnishings is now non-existent and we have almost completely worn out our welcome in the flat we are currently calling our temporary home.
However - we finally have a date now that seems more than promising! I still can’t find the words to explain my level of excitement. Alas, this entire process has been an emotional rollercoaster. It’s been financially, mentally and physically draining – especially with the added stress of having a baby. It’s made me realise how uneducated and naïve I was about the prospects of buying and restoring an older home for my family.
So, for all you other mum’s out there looking to make your way into the housing market, here’s a bunch of things to take into consideration if you have your eye on an older house. I sure wish someone had made me aware of all the stress I was about to put myself through!
Renovations Are More Stressful than Fun-filled
The idea of polishing floorboards, restoring old mantle pieces and maintaining original trimmings sounds divine. However, when it comes to the actual process of executing these tasks, it is a NIGHTMARE. I have endured countless different quotes, inspections and contradictory builder’s advice. I honestly thought this whole process would be fixed with a few minor repairs and a lick of fresh paint.
Older houses are usually reliant on older structures. That means plumbing, electrical, structural and insulation systems are usually outdated. I really didn’t understand how much needed to be done to our home until we had a third inspector laugh when I asked how long until we could move in… Turns out, we needed to replace almost the whole lot! Here’s what I learned in the process.
Older Houses Have Flaws
I couldn’t believe the lack of insulation the timber frame held when we first bought our house. Weatherboard homes typically don’t have any insulation and therefore, stay cold throughout winter and hot air gets stuck in the house during summer. Given we live in Australia, with our extreme weather, heating and air-conditioning was on the top of our to-do list. And boy, was it a process. The first chunk of our renovations was dedicated to insulating the property.
Beware of the Building Materials
Considering the house was almost 90 years old, I had a sneaky suspicion there would be some sort of trace of asbestos in the house. I grew up in a similar structured house and I vividly remember my parents having to have the material removed from our roof in the early 1990s. After a hefty amount of research, I decided we weren’t going to risk it (especially with a newborn baby!) and we found a local asbestos removal in Brisbane to undertake a proper inspection and remove any dangerous materials. This unfortunately resulted in having to have our entire original fireplace removed and replaced!
Not Everything Is Made to Last
Last but not least, the plumbing was a huge concern for us. Our sewerage system and plumbing hadn’t been updated in almost 50 years. This part was probably the most traumatic for me as it involved a lot of digging up, dismantling of old pipes and structure, and then replacement. Luckily, we were able to rely on a local plumber who wanted nothing more than to help us improve the foundations of such an old house. I even let my partner choose the new water saving toilets because I wanted nothing to do with the plumbing…
In order to make these repairs and replacements, we had to have building approval from the local government. Once we were good to go, we really focused on utilising local businesses with the knowledge and expertise in older homes. We didn’t want to have any old handyman fixing up our home, I was adamant on having the best for our family.
I’m definitely not trying to say I wish we hadn’t bought our home. I still absolutely adore it – plumbing and all! I just think it’s important for young families to do their research before falling in love with an older home. Because honestly, the house will become your new baby, and babies are expensive!