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Renovating a Queenslander ( + what is a Queenslander?)

We have started painting our Queenslander. And by “started painting” I mean, we started sanding, its a long process. Its an old house and it has been painted many many times before, we are just adding another layer.

eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

If you’re now wondering “what is a Queenslander?”, its a style of house unique to the tropics and sub-tropics of Queensland, Australia. It has a broad definition, but you know one when you see one, generally a Queenslander is:

  • timber construction with corrugated-iron roof; 
  • highset on timber (or metal) stumps (can be anywhere from 1 m to 2 m off the ground) ; 
  • single-skin cladding for partitions and sometimes external walls (i.e. vertical join (VJ) walls); 
  • surrounded by verandas front and/or back, and sometimes the sides; 
  • adorned with decorative features to screen the sun or ventilate the interior. 

eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

Someone asked on facebook if our house has a foundation. The short answer, is no, it doesn’t have a slab, it sits on stumps of 75mm box section (RHS) that are concreted into the ground, the house sits around 1m above the ground. All our plumbing and wiring run under the house. I think there were 40-something stumps, that was part of the work our house removalist did when he moved the house to our property. There are some good reasons for putting the houses up on stumps:
  • Before the invention of strong pesticide chemicals, this was the best way to prevent termites entering the house, by placing a termite tray on top of the stump, you can easily check for termite entry points (they don’t like to be exposed to light, so they build mud tunnels to get over the tray, or up metal stumps)
  • Extra ventilation due to airflow under the house
  • Prevents flooding of the house during tropical storms
  • Less concrete is required, so it is cheaper than a slab house
  • If its high enough, the space underneath can be a nice cool place to sit
We lived in a Queensland before our house at Eight Acres and we swore we would never own one again. They are a huge amount of work to maintain the wooden weatherboards, internal walls and decorative features. Our last house was hot in summer and draughty in winter. The verandas had been built in and the layout was a bit odd. And like most Queenslanders, it had been renovated with asbestos sheeting at some stage of its life, so we had to be careful drilling holes in some walls.

But it must have had some effect on us, because when we saw that removal house for sale, we forgot all our issues with Queenslanders and bought it anyway! I have to admit that Queenslanders do have some lovely features. While this one also has the weird layout, it does still has most of its original verandas. We are starting from scratch here and will remove all the asbestos from the bathroom before we work on it, we plan on dealing with it once correctly and never having to worry about it again. Because we moved the house, we were able to select a more appropriate orientation, which combined, with insulation in the roof and a light roof colour, means that so far the house is very cool in summer (it is also better sealed that the previous house, so may be nicer in winter, we will soon find out!).

Our current challenge is painting. These are the steps to take when painting your Queenslander:
  • Repeat after me “this is not a new house, it hasn’t been a new house for a long time, its never going to look like a new house again unless you want to spend a huge amount of time and money on it, accept this now and you will get your painting done before the next millennium”
  • Remove all nails, screw, stickytape, bluetak, stickers and hooks from the walls and ceiling of the room, cover and tape up the brand new fans (that you had to install to get council approval, but it would have been nice to do this after you painted!).
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

  • Start sanding – I recommend that you use at least one electric sander (we have four different sanders!) because this is going to take a lot of work. We don’t sand back to bare wood, as the first room had at least five coats of paint and the top coat was not in bad condition. If you sand off the gloss and then use a good primer, you don’t need to sand back to wood (repeat step one if necessary, or you will never stop sanding)
  • Wash the walls with sugar soap – the paint can said to do this before sanding, but that seems like more work because you then have to wipe off the dust anyway, so we washed after sanding and made sure we got everything clean.
  • Fill the gaps in the VJs – if you’re lucky they have been filled before and still look good, but we could see through the wall into the next room between some boards, and this may be because we had the house moved. We filled between all VJs that had a visible gap (again, step 1 helps here).
  • Primer – its worth using a good primer, this stops the previous paint coming through, especially if its a strong colour or oil-based.
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

  • PAINT! Finally you get to paint on your colour, what a huge amount of work to get to this step, but its going to look great. Two coats will ensure a good finish. We are using “Tapestry Beige” on the walls and “Light Leather” on the doors and door frames. It would be lovely to paint it all white, but when you live on red dirt and never have clean hands, its just not practical. 
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

Have you renovated a Queenslander? Or an old house? Love them or hate them?


  1. I love the weird layout of old houses, Liz. It’s part of what makes them special. Your new wall colour looks really lovely. I am looking forward to the final result. Our house is not a Queenslander, however we are in the process of renovating – very, very, slowly. We had a painter in last year to paint the gables, gutters, fascia and soffit. My husband has been slowly completing the rest of the outside painting, it is taking a long time, but last year was far from ordinary for us and we were busy with other matters. I am enjoying the prospect of having it finished in the next few months.

  2. My parents is a renovated 129ish yr old Queenslander. A beautiful old house but a lot of work went into painting that is for sure. The original part of the house with the super tall ceilings ended up being spray painted by a professional painter. Well worth it. We painted the rest of it though, inside and out. I love old Queenslanders, beautiful and well built houses with the weather in mind.

  3. Yes those Queenslander homes do take a lot of painting work. The painting at the end (ie the fun bit or the icing on the cake) does take a lot of work to get there but worth it in the end. The colour does look lovely and I understand about the white nit being suitable. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

  4. g'day
    can't wait to see the finished results! have been following your renovations with awe! love old houses, queenslanders are great if they haven't been renovated badly! hate it when they take out walls or fill in the verandas.
    am living in an old workers cottage myself it's been badly renovated (chainsawed a hole in the wall then put in a double glass door with no framework to hold it there!) it's going to be expensive to fix up as i know nothing about renovating
    great post
    have a great day!

  5. It is going to look so lovely once you are done. We have an all white interior and it does require a lot if extra work. I really like the colour you have chosen and am looking forward to seeing your finished result(probably not as much as you).

  6. Yep we have used huge amounts of paint in our place and although it takes a lot of prep it is really worth it in the end. But remembering it is an old house is key I agree otherwise you might actually go mad.

  7. Tapestry Beige - instantly satisfying!

  8. We have a Queenslander which was fine when we were younger but have been here over 36 years and it badly needs painting and restumping. Hubby still thinks he can paint it and won't pay someone else to do it so it is on his 'To Do' list :-( That means in the next 20 years by which time we will probably be in wheelchairs. LOL! They are a lot of work but they do look magnificent if well maintained and not hot in summer nor cold in winter which ours is unfortunately. All the best with yours.

  9. Wow Liz it's really starting to look great.Love your colours, similar to what I had in Newcastle and probably will have again at the farm. Know exactly what yoy are going through, been there, done that and will start all over again soon.
    Your place is a great old place, and you are doing a wonderful job of letting her light shine. Cheers.:-) :-)

  10. Liz, with your renovation project, did you had to some restumping of the house? At the moment, my father is looking for some concrete stumps to restump my house. The main reason is because one part of my house is sliding downhill and creating several cracks on the ceiling.

    1. Hi Andre, we moved the house 14 km, so it was restumped when it arrived at our property, we used metal "box section" stumps. Our removalist organised all of this. They are the best people to talk to about restumping as they have all the great to jack up the house safely and replace the stumps :)


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