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A hard-working Dunedin couple have given this old home a new lease of life and a new location. Kim Dungey reports.
The owners of this Dunedin house always wanted to live in a villa. But rather than simply move into one, they had a century-old home shifted more than 15km from Maori Hill to East Taieri.
The house might have been cut in two for the move but there has been nothing half-hearted about its renovation.
Richard Milmine and Faye Hammond have spent months stripping back the woodwork, relining walls and painting, creating a seamless blend of old and new.
Always taken with the character and the space of villas, the couple inquired about buying one for relocation in late 2012, only to be told that most people removing old houses to free up building sites simply knocked them down.
However, the next day heavy haulage firm Fulton Hogan called back to say one had just become available and the couple faced the prospect of quickly selling their house and buying a section.
Mrs Hammond peeked through the windows of the empty villa that night and was initially unsure whether they should buy it.
"It just looked like a lot of work. But the room that sold it was the sunroom,'' she says, pointing out the rimu-lined structure with bifold windows and built-in window seats that was added to one side of the lounge in 1930.
Mr Milmine, too, saw potential in the home's sound, original condition: ''It hadn't been touched, which was the main thing. We've been to so many open homes to look at houses and people have ruined them.''
Selling their home in Riccarton Rd and finding a section in nearby Braeside Rd took less than two weeks.
But by the time an engineer had determined that the elevated site was stable and the couple had received building consent, winter had set in.
Half the house was moved in June but it was a month before the rest of the building followed, delayed by the ''worst rain in 100 years'', Mr Milmine says. Until then, it had to be stored in Fulton Hogan's yard under tarpaulins.
The 1400sq m site was not only steep. Rocks on it were too big to be dug out so instead of making individual post-holes for the foundations, workers had to form a trench and fill it with four truckloads of concrete.
In Cannington Rd, Maori Hill, workers removed the villa's chimney and tiled roof, which was heavy and contained asbestos, then cut the house down the middle of the central hallway and braced it for the move.
Mr Milmine was with his family and neighbours as a 30-tonne digger pulled the truck carrying the first half of the house on to its new site: ''A lot of people have asked if it was scary but it was more exciting.
You just had to have faith in the people who were doing the work.''
Once the rest was moved, two men from NJL Builders spent two months on the renovations, which included the removal of doors and fireplaces to create an open-plan kitchen-living area - the home is 157sq m but seems larger thanks to the open-plan layout and 3.5m-high ceilings.
The new kitchen has a pressed aluminium splashback, a black traditional-style range, a butler's sink set into an American oak bench-top and new wooden bifold windows. A sliding door at one end leads to the laundry.
An old pull-chain toilet was moved inside, from the porch, their plumber struggling to fit it because he had never seen one before and could not get the right attachments.
A second toilet was installed in the extended bathroom which also has a shower and a clawfoot bath.
All the windows were double-glazed and wooden window frames were made as replacements for aluminium frames in the kitchen and the back bedroom. French doors now lead from the sunroom to the veranda.
A wood-burner with wetback and heat transfer system was installed in the lounge. And this time the house was positioned for maximum sunshine, a solar panel on the roof heating the water.
New insulation and wall linings were also added, the builders doing the lounge, kitchen and bathroom and the owners tackling the bedrooms and hallway.
When they moved in, there were no curtains or carpet.
Mrs Hammond recalls scraping clay off the floorboards after workers had been through in wet weather and spending two months stripping back the original woodwork which was ''black with shellac''.
Fortunately she did not have to sand because the spray-on product she used removed the old finishes without damaging the original sanded surface.
At times she looked at the holes in the floor where the fireplaces had been and the scrim hanging off the walls and wondered where to start, she says. But for the most part, the work went smoothly.
Today, joins in the floorboards in the hall are the only sign that the house was ever in two pieces and it is difficult to tell which fittings are new and which original. Everywhere are the sort of features the couple always wanted.
In the sunroom, the home's original wooden radio is built into one wall; in the hallway, there's a medicine cupboard that still smells of liniment, and an old lantern that Mrs Hammond's father took on family camping trips.
''We're really happy with the way it's turned out,'' says Mr Milmine, adding that they still have to paint the exterior and complete the landscaping.
''It would have cost about the same to build [a new house]. But then you don't get the high ceilings and the character.''
He and Mrs Hammond are pleased the renovation got the seal of approval from brothers Donald and Owen Watson, who were brought up in the house and are now in their 80s.
''The best part is when people come in and say how nice it looks. You feel like you've done something right.''
Tricks of the trade
- Before moving an old house to a new site, do your homework.''It can be quite cost-effective,'' says Fulton Hogan heavy haulage manager Mark McNeilly, ''but there are so many variables and some need a lot more work done than others.'' Second-hand houses make up only 30% of the 50 or so homes the firm shifts each year in the lower South Island and, even before the Christchurch earthquake, most of them came from Canterbury where there has been more development.
- Key considerations are the size of the house, whether it is sound enough to be shifted, access at both sites and the proposed route between. Dunedin's many narrow streets can be a challenge.
- Old villas with a central hallway can often be cut down the middle with little disruption to the rest of the house. There is a strong wall either side of the cut and they join up well.
- Sometimes houses are advertised free, provided they are taken away and the site left ready for construction. For people wanting to get rid of a house to free up a building site, this can be cheaper than demolishing the home and paying landfill fees.
- If the house is connected to council sewers at the original site, the sewer must be capped off by a certified drainlayer.
- Chimneys, bricks and in some cases roughcast cladding will have to be removed but this can be a good opportunity to upgrade the insulation in the walls.
- Additional costs will be incurred if power lines need to be taken down and in the small percentage of cases where a crane has to be used (if the site is difficult to reach or the house needs to be turned). Other expenses include the building consent, connection of services and a builder to set out the foundations and do any renovations.
- Make sure your house is designed for where you want to put it. You may need to add bracing if the home is being moved to a higher wind zone - for example, from a low, sheltered site to a higher, more exposed one. If you are not sure what wind zone the house was designed for, check with the local authority.
- You don't need consent to remove a house but you do need building consent to move it to a new location and undertake ''restricted building work'' such as foundations, new decks and structural renovations. Unless you have an owner-builder exemption, these must be completed by a licensed building practitioner.
- Relocated houses are subject to the same planning requirements as new ones in the Dunedin City Council district plan and allowed as a right in most places, provided they comply with performance standards such as yard and height restrictions. The exceptions are townscape areas (such as parts of north Dunedin and around Royal Tce), where any new development requires resource consent.
- Developers can control what happens in new subdivisions and some do not allow relocated houses. Check the title for any covenants and talk to the developer.
- Dunedin City Council building services manager Neil McLeod and resource consents manager Alan Worthington say their staff are happy to help and people should consult them early.
The Inside Story
Who: Richard Milmine (a baker at New World in Mosgiel) and Faye Hammond (a care worker), share the home with Cory (12), Gemma (14) and Danielle (16).
What: The three-bedroom home was built in Cannington Rd, Maori Hill, in 1914 and relocated in June and July last year.
Where: A steep site in Braeside Rd, East Taieri, looking over the Taieri Plain.
Renovation tips from the owners
- If you have an old house, try to retain its original character rather than modernising it.
- Cut pictures from magazines and keep them in a folder for inspiration.
- Shop around. The couple bought a truckload of furniture, including their powder-coated iron beds, oak dining table, vanity and bathroom mirror from Early Settler in Christchurch, which sells new furniture in traditional designs. The clawfoot bath and an industrial-style light were found on Trade Me.
- Have faith in your tradies. The couple say they learned a lot from their builders, enabling them to complete the bedrooms and hallway themselves.
- Set a realistic budget and keep money aside for contingencies.