Editor-at-large Peter Maddison answers readers’ questions
Q: I’VE JUST MOVED INTO A1930S HOUSE. ALL THE WINDOWS NEED REPLACING. THE FRAMES ARE RUNDOWN, ROTTING AND CRACKED, AND THE DOUBLE-HUNG SASHES HAVE MOSTLY JAMMED. WHAT SORT OF WINDOWS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND, AND CAN I CHANGE THE OPENINGS EASILY?
A:1930s houses generally have hardwood window frames and sliding sashes that were generally well made, but they need periodic maintenance, particularly if they are in full sun or in a continually moist area. If your windows had been well looked after and maintained, that is, sanded back and painted periodically, with weights and pulleys looked after, they would probably still be in good working order today.
Eighty years is not a bad life in any event. But given that they’re shot, there is an opportunity to make the openings larger either by cutting down the level of the sill so as to make taller windows, or making wider windows by the introduction of some steel lintels in what I assume is a brick building. In either case, some simple advice from an architect and structural engineer would be a good idea. Houses of the 1930s were not generally designed with any knowledge of the importance of orientation or outlook, so maybe this is your chance to remodel your house to work in a better way.
Bear in mind that aluminium windows perform very well, and should be double-glazed. Aluminium is the most onerous material on the environment, with the highest embodied energy. If you were to use timber windows, again I would recommend double-glazing, or at least laminated glazing with a high thermal performance characteristic.
Q: OUR HOUSE IS A TWO-STOREY TOWNHOUSE IN INNER MELBOURNE, NEAR THE BEACH. THERE’S CORROSION ON THE ALUMINIUM WINDOWS AND FLYSCREENS, AND RUST ON THE METAL COMPONENTS INSIDE. WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
A: Salt in the atmosphere near the ocean is corrosive, particularly if the beach has active surf. Stainless steel could be used. The surface can discolour but it won’t rust, so the external components such as door handles and outdoor furniture and/or building components such as screws and nails could be this material. Alternatively, a paint layer can keep the rust from the base metal. This is often Colorbond, which is baked onto the metal, and more durable than brushed-on paint. Interestingly, I’ve experienced galvanised metal not being sufficient in these marine environments. I suggest you replace your flywire screen with stainless-steel mesh, which can have a black powder coat over it, and replace any other corroded or rusted materials with inert materials that don’t react to salt.
Q: I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING YOUR SHOW AND AM WONDERING IF THERE ARE ANY EPISODES PLANNED OVERSEAS, BECAUSE THERE IS SOME FANTASTIC HOUSING, BOTH INDIGENOUS AND DEVELOPED, IN OUR IMMEDIATE REGION.
A: Great idea! I’d love to follow some houses in the Tiwi Islands, Bali, Solomon Islands, New Guinea and New Caledonia. However, Australia has a rich and diverse climate that has enormous potential, most of which we’ve not even scratched the surface. Keep watching, because in the next series we fly in a small plane to a remote island location and follow a house that responds beautifully to its sand-dune environment.
Q: THERE IS ENORMOUS INTEREST IN MULTI-STOREY APARTMENT LIVING. MANY OF OUR FRIENDS ARE SELLING THEIR FAMILY HOMES AND JUMPING ABOARD THIS LIFESTYLE. DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD INVESTMENT LONG-TERM, AND IS THIS A GOOD WAY TO LIVE?
A: This is a very personal question, and the solution will vary according to your circumstances. Selling the family home may free up some cash and remove the burden of maintenance of what may be an over-scaled home, given that the kids may have flown the coop. On the other hand, having a home that needs tinkering with is a wonderful pastime and can be a creative way of staying engaged with being a home handyman. Apartment living is quite a different experience from being on terra firma. What it does do is free up a lot more time, because there is no lawn to mow, no weeds to pull and no pool to clean. My observation of the social dynamic is that it can vary depending on the block you’re in.
Q: WE CAN’T AFFORD A LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT. WHERE DO WE START WITH PLANNING A GARDEN AROUND OUR NEW HOME?
A: What I like about your question is the word «planning» because a good garden does take a considered plan. Without this, you’ll spend a lot of back-breaking work planting and relocating garden beds on the hop. The local council is also a good resource as it generally has a parks and gardens department which would be planning and maintaining vast landscaped areas. They are a fantastic resource for obtaining recommendations as to the good contractors in the area and which plant species are locally indigenous. It is usually these plants that will thrive.