• James Stephenson

How to transform a plain 1950's cottage

Every home renovation project has challenges, however some have more than others.

A few years ago I was engaged to design the renovation of a 1950's cottage which ended up completely changing the size and appearance of this solidly built house.






The house was set on a brick base at the front and stumps elsewhere.

The clear height under was barely 2.1m.










Two main challenges that had to be solved included: -

  • having to straddle a 1.3m diameter pipe in the ground under the existing house

  • having to raise the house to maximum allowable height so that it became a truly two storey house, but the lowest level had to be 1.0m above the ground surface, to allow for up to 500mm of overland water flow during high rainfall flash flood events


The whole house raised by a professional house raising contractor with good insurance cover.












A "build over storm-water" approval was required. A hydrological consultants report was required. I extensively liaised with the hydrological consultant, structural engineer, and surveyor to achieve the best fit for the design whilst meeting the maximum height constraint of 9.5m set by the Local Authority.





Architect's 3D image of the proposed design












Other approvals required were a "Siting Variation Approval" and "Building Approval".

The owner's own challenge was to take on this project as an 'owner builder'. House owners may register with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to be 'owner builder' for their project, once every 6 years only. There are a number of requirements to be met before an 'owner builder' license can be obtained, however if owners have tenacity and are prepared to do their research and work collaboratively with tradespeople they can be successful.


One issue is that an owner-built project often takes much longer than one built by a professional builder. This can mean that the Building Approval has to be extended one or more times. It is important to keep the Building Approval current, as having to retrospectively re-instate and complete a building approval is expensive and time-consuming.





Project nearing completion












At JSArchitect we take on projects that others are not interested in, and help the owners to realise their dream.


Call James on 0411 627 477 if you have a project with challenges.



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