Skip to main content

The Building of the Queensland House - Book Review

Renovating our second-hand "Queenslander" removal house has been like a cross between repairing a lovely old piece of handmade antique furniture and an archaeological dig!  The house was probably built around 100 years ago, from locally sourced timber, but has been modified many times since then.  Verandahs have been built in, the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were added later.  When we removed the wall cladding in the bathroom we revealed old doorways and could only guess at how the room was previously arranged.

eight acres: building the queensland house review

As with any sort of repair or restoration work, it helps to understand how and why the house was built the way it was, so that we can do our best to return it to either its original condition, or something that will work for us without damaging the structure.  I have just finished reading Andy Jenners "The Building of the Queensland House".  I bought it for Pete about a year ago, expecting a manual or a step-by-step guide to renovating a Queenslander.  A book like that would have been pretty boring, so I glad that Andy chose to write it as a narrative.  He follows at group of builders in the early 1900s building a Queenslander in the Brisbane suburb of Red Hill.  Starting from surveying the property, he details every step of building the house, complete with historical context.  You are virtually transported to the early days of Brisbane, back when Red Hill was the edge of the city!

The last few chapters of the book, after the house is finished, discuss renovation and maintenance of a Queenslander.  Having followed how the builders put the house together, and the reasons for each step, it was much easier to understand how to maintain the house appropriately.  It has made me think twice about using water based paint (referred to by Andy as "plastic paint") on the exterior of the house.  And I'm wondering how to treat our soft pine floors, as lovely as they look, they were never meant to be exposed.

renovation is very boring for Taz

Andy is an experienced builder by trade and share is knowledge of historical and modern-day building techniques.  The house was apparently a real house that he renovated in Red Hill, but has since been demolished.  Disappointed as I was thinking of trying to find it.

I also got a little booklet called Brisbane House Styles by Judy Gale Rechner (info here).  This book explains the different house styles from 1880 through to 1940.  It looks like our house is a simple "colonial" style from 1880 to early 1900s, but it may not be quite so old as country areas can be a bit behind the big cities.

If you want to know more about the Queensland house, try this radio podcast.

And what are we up to with our little Queenslander?

We have council approval to move in (having insulated the roof, rewired the house, installed ceiling fans and hooked up the plumbing), but of course we want to get a few things fixed up first.  We have replaced the roof with a lighter colour.  We have painted two bedrooms and the hallway.  We have ripped up all the lino and masonite in the house, leaving only the ugly red carpet to deal with.  We have stripped the kitchen and the bathroom (and lowered the windows in the kitchen) and have a few ideas about how we want the final rooms to look.  We have removed nearly all the asbestos in the house (more in the pantry, then we are done) and replaced this with "Easy VJ " MDB boards (sorry Andy!).

here's the kitchen ready to rebuild
and the batthroom

There is so much more to do, but every time I walk in the house I see all the progress we have made and how much closer we are to living there.  We are lucky that we have the opportunity to finish this work before we move it, especially with the lead paint on the walls!

If you are working on a Queenslander, or just live in one, I recommend this book, as a manual for how to look after your house.  What is your experience with Queenland houses?


  1. Older homes manifest so much more care in their construction (or so I have found) back when every inch of material was not costed to the last cent for the sake of a profit. Also so many renovations strip the soul from these houses too - finding the balance of how to honour the past and still have a practical and modern house is the key probably.

    1. Yes, I am trying so hard to be true to the original design and the simple materials used. Its a very humble farm cottage and doesn't have the flourishes you see in city houses, as much as I love them, they don't belong in this house :)

  2. Glad you recommended those books. I'm not planning on renovating a Qlder now, but I have in the past - and I always wanted to know which books were best. There were many about the technical aspects, but not a lot about the "reasons" for the technical aspects. Because the reasons are the blueprint, for any renovation. There's nothing worse than investing a lot of time and resources into a change, that reduces the functionality of the house.

    The problem with exposed floorboards, when we lived in an older house formerly, is the gaps between boards can let in a lot of air. It's wonderful in summer, especially if your house is on stilts, but in winter its terribly cold and isn't very heat efficient. Having lived in houses with carpet though, I think bare floors of any variety, are preferable. I like having rugs on bare floors, because its less carpet to have to vacuum and clean. So whatever the shortcomings of floorboards were revealed in the book, it has to be weighed against how you're actually going to live in the house. If there's going to be lots of dirt, then maybe bare floors and rugs, are the way to go.

    Anyway, as like you, I'm sure - I can't wait to see the finished house. Eventually. :)

    1. I agree Chris, I always need to know "why" :) The floors are a good example, they are made of soft pine and were always intended to be covered by carpet or lino. They are actually too soft for regular traffic. We were originally thinking to polish and seal them, but you end up with the gaps, like you said. Also I wanted to use a natural beeswax finish rather than high VOC varnishes. Now I understand that they are not meant to be polished, I'm thinking about it differently. We are looking at other options to cover the floor, although carpet is not one of them with the dog inside...

    2. They do make some great lino's nowadays, to even look like wooden floorboards. Although if you had the budget for it, cork would be fantastic too.

  3. It's really starting to come together, but lovely to see you are doing it with such compassion.
    I don't think I would be able to have the patience or skills to do that.. well done Liz. Cheers Jane.

  4. Just found your blog... We're on a similar journey up in Agnes Water having moved a 100 year old Queenslander from Murgon. Got the book too!


Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

Popular posts from this blog

Getting started with chickens - Tanya from Lovely Greens

Sign up for my weekly email updates here, you will find out more about soap and our farmlife, straight to your inbox, never miss a post!  New soap website and shop opening soon....

Farmer Liz: You will remember Tanya from Lovely Greens from the first series, she lives on the Isle of Mann and added chickens to her garden about a year ago.  You can leave comments for this post on Tanya's blog.

How many chickens (and other fowl) do you keep, what breed and what do you use them for (meat, eggs, slug control etc)?
Tanya: Around the same time that we were initially thinking about having hens another friend beat us to the punch. She went to the local pet store and bought a flat-pack hen house and chicken run combo and found a local farmer who had dozens of semi-feral chickens running around his property. One night he pulled three down from the trees and my friend took them home in a pet carrier. She named them Miracel, Carmen, and Geraldine and though they’re probably related they were all…

What to do with eight acres

Behind the scenes of my blog I can see the search terms that led people to find my blog.  It can be quite interesting to look through them occasionally and see what people are looking for.  Most of them involve chicken tractors, but another question that comes up regularly is “what can you do with eight acres?” or “how much land is eight acres?”.  Today I will try to answer this question.

Of course it is a very broad question, there are lots and lots of things you can do with eight acres, but I’m going to assume that you want to live there, feed your family and maybe make a little extra money.  I make that assumption because that’s what I know about, if you want to do something else with your eight acres, you will need to look somewhere else.

If you haven’t chosen your land yet, here a few things to look for.  Focus on the things you can’t change and try to choose the best property you can find in your price range.  Look for clean water in dams, bores or wells, either on the property …

Growing mushrooms in my kitchen!

I’ve been wanting to try growing mushrooms for some time. I LOVE mushrooms and we buy them from the supermarket every week, so I was keen to find a way to produce them at home to reduce waste and potentially cost as well.

A few years ago I found out that you could grow mushrooms from the spent mushroom compost from mushroom farms. So we dropped in to a farm on the Sunshine Coast and picked up a couple of boxes for $2 each. I diligently kept them dark and sprayed them with water, but in our climate, I just couldn’t keep them damp enough (and I had to keep them outside because our shed was too hot). I never managed to produce any mushrooms from those boxes, but when I gave up and tipped the compost out onto the garden, mushrooms sprang up everywhere. I wasn’t confident that they were the right mushrooms though, so I didn’t harvest any of those. As the proverb says, All mushrooms are edible, but some only once! I am generally a bit nervous about unidentified fungi.

Since then, I had…