The state of New South Wales is replete with once-stunning period homes that, with the right TLC, can be transformed into a truly spectacular modern residence.
Mark Menegatti from the Bostik Boys speaks with Pamela Hale about the benefits of restoring old homes rather than rebuilding.
Owning a sturdy period dwelling presents a wonderful opportunity to transform a preexisting home, filled with heritage and character, into a breathtaking modern abode. For homeowners undertaking a restoration, careful consideration must be given to which features of the home are worth keeping, and which should be renewed. Here, Mark Menegatti of the Bostik Boys shares his insights into the central concerns of the renovation process with Sydney Home Design + Living.
Menegatti is one of two Australian tradies to be selected to represent the iconic adhesives brand Bostik as an ambassador. Together with Adrian Franchina, who has more than 14 years of industry experience, Menegatti was selected by the brand in recognition of the integrity, openness, innovation and environmental responsibility he displays in his work.
Bostik’s dedication to finding new approaches to better their products and services, and consistently meet the needs of their customers, prompted the induction of the Bostik Boys. The dynamic duo have become an excellent resource for homeowners around the country via social media platforms such as the Bostik Trade Australia Facebook page, where they can be found providing expert advice on soughtafter products and the latest home improvement techniques.
Both Menegatti and Franchina are established business owners in the residential building and design industry, and are incredibly knowledgeable about all aspects of home renovation, including plumbing, tiling, roofing, decking and painting, to name just a few.
What are the main reasons people choose to renovate a period property, rather than build a new home from scratch?
MM: The main reason people make the decision to renovate a period home is because they’re passionate about historic architecture and bygone eras. It’s a decision motivated by the heart, I guess, because the reality is, it comes with its challenges.
When done right it’s worth it, but you need to know what you’re getting into because there’s a fair bit of work and effort involved. Saying that though, once you’ve done it, you’ll have at least another 20 years before you have to do more work. Period homes don’t date like some newer builds can.
Which original features of a heritage home would you recommend preserving?
Tessellated tiles in bathrooms and verandas are important to keep if you can. Colour schemes are also important to continue if you want to be true to the period in which the home was built. Other key elements people like to keep are the finials, fret work, re-pointing of brickwork, light fittings, power points, door handles, electrical switches and the original kitchen fittings.
Most renovations today keep the front of the house fully period and make the rear renovation really modern.
What advice can you provide for readers who are having trouble deciding what elements to keep, and which to renew?
Decide whether you’re going to maintain the period style throughout, or whether you’re going to modernise the house. Give consideration to how you want your family [home] to function.
If you want an open-plan layout where you can talk to your family and friends while you cook a meal, but your current kitchen is a small, unconnected room, then updating that space should be a priority. You can also modernise a kitchen by replacing the benchtops but keeping the old doors and knobs.
In terms of balancing the old with the new, there’s lots of things you can do. You can replace old lights with modern downlights in bedrooms, but still have old switches that people still see.
If you renovate an old bathroom, it’s best to strip it. Old bathrooms were not built to today’s standards in regards to waterproofing, so the water lines that are used in old houses, over time, will rust and decay.
It pays to do a reno which will save you money and time later on. The piping within the walls will have been there for 40–50 years, which means it might be rotting or decaying, so modernising will be a great thing. Kitchens are similar; washers and taps will probably be getting old and might be rusting, so you may as well replace them in your reno.
You can also modernise the flooring if it’s not in good shape, but still have the old architraves and skirting boards around the floor itself. Old dairy houses often have fancy doors, so you could keep the doors but modernise the handles. Natural light and passive energy should be another consideration – you don’t want the west sun making your living rooms and bedrooms a furnace.
Is there a specific sequence of works that you would recommend?
Organise an architect, draftsman and engineer as a first step, then engage a builder, apply for building permits and then leave it up to builder to start full reno works. It’s up to the builder to decide what order they want to do them in, which will depend on the home and scope of works required.
What are the key stages involved?
The first stage in renovating an old home is sourcing the correct materials before you start building. The next key stage in the early phases of planning a reno is to check the floor levels; in old homes they’re often not nearly as level as they once were, or as they should be to start building on. If you’re planning an extension or floor-plan change that requires removing a wall, you’d bring in an architect or structural engineer.
You’ll also need to consult an electrician to check the cables and wiring. Walls in old homes were usually solid brick and solid plaster, which requires saw cutting and re-plastering over the new wire you’re putting in. This is one reason why it’s harder to reno an old home. You’ll need a plumber too – many period homes have old galvanised piping which will need checking. Fitting new piping in with the old can be complicated, so this needs careful planning and consideration.
Another important safety issue is the smoke detectors. Historically they were never hardwired in, and now they are. These need to be checked and upgraded to make sure the finished home is nice and safe. Another safety issue not to be missed is getting an expert to check asbestos in the bathrooms and the eave sheets, as well as all wet areas, including the laundry. If you’re living in the house, you might also need to consider moving out for a period of time during certain parts of the reno.
What are your tips for restoring a tired roof?
Old roofs often require work when renovating old homes. They can sag over time and may need to be repaired. While you’re at it, you’ll probably need to replace the insulation, which wasn’t great quality back in the day. We use much higher-rated products today.
You might have slate tiles that they used to hammer by hand onto the roof, which you can repair, or you can replace the roof completely with terracotta tiles or COLORBOND sheets. There might also be a bit of carpentry required due to timber moving over time and causing drops, dips or warps, which you might need to consider before putting new roofing on.
Roof batons, which hold the sheets or tiling, may require changing or fixing too. You’d also put Sisalation paper into the roof, which provides insulation and creates a thermal barrier.
What advice do you have for budget-conscious readers who considering staggering their renovation in stages?
I wouldn’t recommend staggering any renovation. I would recommend doing it as quickly as possible because otherwise you’ll be living in a tip site for long period of time. Staggering the job might mean it will take five or six years to finally be done.
You might as well save up and make sure you have the funds required to complete your period reno in one go. By the way, big tip, whatever estimate you are given, add 15 per cent on top as a buffer for a period renovation.
What are some of the most common challenges people face when embarking on a renovation project?
The reno job on period homes can sometimes end up becoming bigger than Ben-Hur. It’s all the unforeseen stuff that can get you; for example, you might find old rot in all sorts of places and realise that areas will need to be destroyed, due to pests like white ants or terminates. This can result in blowing out your time and budget. To ensure the project goes smoothly, remember to be patient, and be willing to expect the unexpected.
What final advice do you have for readers who are looking to renovate or expand their home?
When choosing a builder, ask to see their previous works and call their past clients too. I’d even suggest calling key suppliers they work with.
You want to make sure they have a good reputation, and solid cash flow. It’s going to be the most important relationship you have in a reno, so go into it knowing who they are. Also, take your time sourcing the materials. In period renovations, you really want to make sure you have all the materials before you start a stage of work.
Images courtesy of Balmoral Homes, The Bostik Boys, Classic Building & Design, Classic Building & Design, Bostik