jenn jay tales

Jennifer Johnston shares her travel tales; life adventures; observations, photos and random thoughts

So the reno begins


Renovation update

This blog post has been written / not published / added to but now its time to publish and update as the reno project finally takes BIG shape!

To recap

The renovation madness upped its pace significantly last month. All was under control. I was working towards a start date in 8 weeks. But a phone call from the builder about 6 weeks ago asking how I was going with finding rental accommodation changed all that. He wanted to start a month earlier!  I know – unheard of in the building game – right?!

My to do list became very pressing:

  1. find rental accommodation
  2. pack up my house

The shipping container arrives

Part way through planning the project I thought about organising a shipping container which could sit on the (to be) spare block and allow me to store some of my furniture.  Sound like a good idea? Well it was until 2 tonnes of steel in the form of a 20 foot shipping container turned up at my place early one Friday morning.  Issue one was going to be the council tree on the footpath – right in the centre of where the truck needed to reverse.  The tree had been reported to council about four weeks earlier BUT despite it being declared “R” for removal – this can take up to 6 weeks. Of course it was still on the footpath the day the driver arrived.  So he planned a different path onto my sloping site. There was a stage where I thought two tonnes of steel and a large truck were going to flip sideways – such was the angle the poor guy had to get his tilt tray in to the space.

Yikes not an easy delivery

Yikes not an easy delivery

Anyways thanks to the persistence of the driver – and 45 minutes of manoeuvring his truck inch by inch,  he managed to place the container on site – maybe a little closer to the boundary than I wanted but it was there. Lesson to me – maybe I shouldn’t be on site watching things like this – my heart skipped many beats that morning!

installed one container

installed one container

I also thought I could try and sell my existing kitchen so that was out of the house before the builder started the partial demolition. That was another hopeful – later turning into a bit of a saga. It’s thankfully behind me now and I don’t wish to re-visit that part of my reno process – just enjoy the empty space that was my kitchen!

Kitchen before

Kitchen before

kitchen goneski

kitchen goneski

And I may never advertise items like that on gumtree ever again – but ……. let’s get on.



Certification Red Tape

My next step: check with my certifier what was required to tick all those red tape boxes so the reno work could commence.  When you make a decision to save on Project Management fees and do it yourself you know you are in for a steep learning curve.  Just how steep is the question. Terms that come into your world previously you’ve never heard of. My certifier enlightened me on a few. I needed a soil and sediment report? What? An Earthworks Management plan? What’s that and why?

Many phone calls and emails later – I discovered because my block of land is high set, it could be classed as a hazard when the excavation works begins. In heavy rain “silt” could run off and down the road upsetting the neighbours and those who use the road.  We don’t want that!  I express some of my frustrations to my certifier – so much red tape, “welcome to my world,” he responds.  I was starting to wonder whether taking on the Project Management role was such a good idea! Trying to save $10k was my motivation but the stress levels were rising.

I needed an engineer a RPEQ (a Registered Practising Engineer.) Also I learn good old hay bales and silt barriers prevent soil erosion. The learning curve is ongoing. Thankfully my laid back structural engineer is also a RPEQ and was able to do the required report at the 11th hour to complete the soil and sediment report as part of the compliance to allow the builders to commence the demolition on site.

The builder and engineer discuss my steel issues

The builder and engineer discuss my steel issues

I’ve realised I like working with lists. Via email I asked my certifier to list what specifically I need to obtain and then try and get my ignorant head around what everything means. “I have checked the conditions of the development permit that was issued by Brisbane City Council, you will need to have the following items/documents prepared to satisfy the condition of the approval, these items are not conditioned to be undertaken prior to me issuing the building approval but will need to be undertaken prior to the start of on-site works,” emails my patient certifier. This is how I work best. A background in human resources and currently as a writer means I naturally ask questions, when I don’t know what I’m talking about (which in this project has been often!) The reports were done in time and the building project has begun.

Packing up and moving

And then the joys of packing a house you’ve lived in for 15.5 years. How do we accumulate so much stuff!?  Because the build was brought forward, I had less time to de-clutter so in the end I moved more stuff than I thought as I ran out of time to deal with the extra. A few facebook friends were amused that despite my youngest is 12 years of age – I listed a porta cot and baby toys on a buy / swap / sell site.  It’s a case of you have the storage space – you store (in my situation!) The shipping container is actually the equivalent of a three bedroomed house.  And I was moving to a three bedroomed house. I calculated that must mean the container will not be filled – wrong!

The move was completed and I spent much of Easter filling my little Golf vehicle with all the excess stuff that didn’t make it into the removalist’s van!  I really don’t wish to ever move again – but my reality is when the house is ready – I’ll be moving baaack!  With less “stuff” I hope – as I’m trying to offload excess at this end!  Marie Kondo – de-clutter guru – applying her principle of what does not give me “joy” must go!  Easier said than done.

The partial demolition

It’s been four weeks now and the demo works that went on over the first two weeks was startling. Probably was always going to be the case when walls are smashed and removed. And of course my three boys wanted to be involved in the smashing of walls. (Just NOT the removal of it!) Fraser had much fun getting stuck into his walls!

Fraser the destructor

Destructor Fraser

The demo lads take a "V" breather

The real demo lads take a “V” breather

I would check on the demo lads progress at the end of each day. With sledgehammers, saws, drills and determination – they quickly removed much of my house. Skip bins were filled and emptied and re-filled, then emptied.

House profile before

House profile before

House profile after the back has been removed

House profile after the back has been removed

The skips came and went

The skips came and went

Recyclers – its best not to think about what went out of my house into fill somewhere – I saved what I could – but some things just disappeared.  I have a couple of neighbours keen on recycling and site visits would often include them updating me on what they have removed to “use” again down the track.  I’ve never conversed with my neighbours as much as I am now!

Its been a nervous few weeks. I decided to make an 11th hour bid to re-gain some of my city glimpses back by going up another half metre in height.  Watching the reno work on the house in front – I realised (a little late maybe) I should consider raising my house to the full height allowed under Council regulation (9.5metres.)  Great idea until my certifier pointed out my Development Application had only been approved to 9.0 metres.

City glimpses before

City glimpses before

Neighbours house raise meant bye to those city glimpses

Neighbours house raise meant bye to those city glimpses

One last minute approval

My certifier had to submit a siting variation application to Council to go up an extra half a metre.  We put the house raisers off and hoped to have approval by the time the date came round for them to start. Each day I was told “hopefully” tomorrow. Additional steel was ordered for the added height – punting on getting approval.

Last Friday the approval came through – 13 days after submission. Guess 13 was my lucky number!

This week the big event is due to begin: the house move and raise. Watch this space. I’ve left the builder with a few headaches which involves a few variations.  But nothing is really ever meant to be smooth sailing with renovations – is it?

More exciting times ahead.


Author: Jenn Jay

JennJayTales was created as a place to share my writing. I share random blogs about activities of interest to me and maybe to you. Writing is a passion and there is nothing I enjoy more than meeting people and capturing their stories through my observations and words. As TRAVEL is a huge passion of mine, I've created a travel blog Please enjoy Jenn Jay Tales and if you consider my writing style as something your magazine, book, blog, on-line publication, website or business may be interested in, please let me know - I'm keen to write for you. Email me at

2 thoughts on “So the reno begins

  1. Great read Jenn, I recently moved into a much smaller space and sold alot of stuff on buy swap and sell pages and found that it wasn’t about getting a price and first in first serve. I ended up making it who ever could pickup the items sooner got them because people would say they wanted stuff then not come and collect. Hope the rest of your renovation is less stressful 🙂

    • Thanks Nat – yes there is not just reno stuff to learn about when going through this. I think writing about it was a little cathartic – sure there will be a few more bumps in the journey! Jenn

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