I love a challenge, hence two boys in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Sydney, nonetheless we tapped out and bought a rundown 4 bedroom home that needed A LOT OF LOVE. And by a LOT OF LOVE I mean:

The roof leaked like an absolute sieve

There was absolutely NO pool fence

The paint was…. How do I put this nicely? …. offending

The carpets had some very suspect stains and marks

The lighting was right out of an eighties ‘adult’ film, apparently.

The bathrooms were bathed in mold.

So, how to tackle this beast of a home?

With a modest budget (I’m gonna be honest here and say not a cent above $150,000) we aimed to completely renovate every aspect of the home and after living in the space for 6 months, we decided not to change the floor plan one little bit. We were surprisingly pleased with the room proportions and the layout. Yes, we changed the bathrooms a bit, but as a whole, it’s the same skeleton of a home, with new muscles, skin, and clothes. But it takes a special set of circumstances to completely renovate a home for $150K, there had to be plenty of work taken on and we had to balance what we needed with what we loved. Here’s how we did it.

THE ROOF – Unless you are a whiz with a pair of tin snips or a roof-tiler with a back of steel, this job is left to the professionals. We used Colorbond ‘Night Sky’ and replaced the deteriorated insulation with a rating of 3.5 and a sarking blanket with a rating of 2.0. This gave us great insulation and thermal properties for the home. Though we used a black roof, the house doesn’t feel hotter by one bit, due to the upgraded insulation and the minimal heart transfer Colorbond claims to have between the top and the bottom of their material.

THE POOL – This was the masterpiece for us and something we wanted to create a huge impact with. I took this job on myself, as I felt confident in the painting terms, and it would have cost us a motza to get trades in. The pool had to be drained and acid washed before work could begin. Then we had to knock out and remove all the drummy render. This was what really broke me. Preparing the pool surface for painting was a nightmare of a job. There was a LOT of drummy render, and the last thing I wanted to do was to have the pool re-surfaced. So I got a renderer in to knock out and patch all the suspect areas then I gave the entire pool 4 coats of a waterproof membrane. Next was 3 coats of white two-pack epoxy paint then we hit the pool with the coloured elements (three coats per colour) then two coats of clear epoxy to prolong the life of the paint. This was a mountain of work and took me about 6 weeks. Epoxy is hard to work with and if you’re not totally comfortable with working with this sort of paint on such a large-scale call someone who is (just not me).

THE DECK – This was and is such a big space for us. It’s used every day and is such a seen element from every aspect of the home. So we wanted something to look great, to perform great, but also be maintenance-free. So timber was OUT of the option. Timber in Australia needs a coat of oil every six months or so, and at a whopping 120 square meters, this is something I did not want to do. TREX came on board and supplied the composite decking (45% recycled plastic bags and 45% recycled timber) and I called a friend up for the installation. I could have tackled this one myself, but because we needed to upgrade the structural framework of the deck, I needed a gun professional on my side. We smashed this out in less than a week and couldn’t be happier with how it has turned out and how it is performing. The composite decking is basically indestructible, so easy to clean, and virtually maintenance-free. WIN WIN WIN.

THE WALLS AND CEILINGS – As a painter in a former life, this HAD to be a DIY job. BUT what a job. Walls are easy, a clean, a patch, a sand, and its two coats all over. Yes, there is a lot of wall space, but it’s a simple albeit expansive job. The ceilings on the other hand we’re a different kettle of fish. The un-sealed unpainted cypress ceiling was full of holes and knots and subsequently full of tannin. It’s this tannin oil that caused me so much grief. I had to seal the timber, but no water-based sealer on earth could hold back those oils, so I relegated myself to undercoating the entire ceiling in an oil undercoat, with a brush, the entire house. Anyone who has used an oil-based paint will know what an absolute nightmare of a job this is and can I just reiterate WITH A BRUSH!!!! Then patch, sand seal, then two coats of ceiling paint. The most work I have ever put into and will put into a ceiling. Colormaker joined forces with us and supplied all the paint for inside and outside the home, and although they don’t have the brand power of Taubmans or Dulux, their paints are incredibly high class and everything is hand-made right here in Sydney.

THE BATHROOMS – I love a bathroom reno, I love planning small spaces, and problem solving one of the most used rooms in a home. But this space is where you will definitely want to use the professionals. Good tilers, water-proofers, and plumbers are worth their weight in gold and I would never take on their jobs to save a couple or a few thousand dollars. You can build and sheet the space yourself, but the vital trades are a necessity for a well-functioning and long-lasting space.

THE LIGHTING – This home had an absolutely terrible lighting plan, and while I would never recommend DIYing your own electrical components, you can make an electrician’s job easier and rough-in the electrical components yourself. Then always use a licensed electrician to check, and complete the job. Never deal with electricity without being completely competent, so yeah, use the professionals. We ditched the offending oyster lights, and once the ceilings were painted, installed gallery-style spotlights to wash the walls and the artworks to create interest and moments of appreciation. Too often I see homes flooded with far too many downlights. This overuse of lighting kills any mood within the home and adds rising energy costs. Lighting should be subtle and interesting to create warmth and character in a space. Beacon Lighting helped us out with everything from fans to feature lights, and they couldn’t have been easier to work with.

THE BLINDS AND CURTAINS – I am a little out of my depth when it comes to soft furnishings and dressing and the new Wideline windows really needed the star treatment. The professionals were called immediately and the guys at WYNSTAN were great. They came over with an absolute plethora of options for us and made the decision-making process that much easier. We used a mix of block-out and sheer cellular blinds which bought loads of softness to the bedrooms and sheer curtains to add privacy, delicateness, and character to the master bedroom and the living spaces.

 Cellular blinds are a breakthrough in the block-out blind world. Normally, roller blinds are used to darken and block out light in a bedroom, and it’s these blinds that are usually visually harsh and carry a cold aesthetic. The cellular blinds though are full of character, warmth, and softness which is perfect for a bedroom. Not only this, but the structure of the blinds also carries thermal and acoustic insulative properties that you would not find in another type of block-out blind. These were the perfect solution for the bedrooms.

The sheers add softness and delicacy to our living spaces which are hard surface spaces. The use of tiles throughout the home ensured the longevity of the flooring but bought a hardness and coldness to the rooms, the sheers however fall delicately on these tiles and balance the aesthetic perfectly.

Going outside, we needed a solution to the harsh North West sun that beat down on the home in the summer months. The home has a great layout, but the orientation is less than ideal and generally, that’s not an easy fix. Wynstan’s new Zip Style Awnings offer the perfect solution. Three six-meter-wide exterior awnings block out the harsh summer heat in the afternoons when it becomes all too much. The fabric used is great for the outdoors. Poly-based and tough enough to take whatever the kids dish out, this will last a lifetime. The blinds still let enough light through to prevent the home from looking like a total blackout and the breeze easily passes through, cooling the home even more. Such a retrofittable and flexible solution would be a huge asset to anyone dealing with a poorly positioned home and inefficient glazing specifications.


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