WORDS Persophene Nicholas
When Maria and Bob Dight decided to renovate their heritage home in Strathfield in Sydney’s Inner West, they knew it was likely to be a challenging project. Built in 1878, the freestanding home was once part of a country estate owned by the Cornwells, the family behind the Cornwell’s Vinegar brand, and was in need of significant updates, including the removal of asbestos, throughout.
The Dights knew there was asbestos in the laundry and planned to take advantage of the removal process to upgrade the laundry and add a new shower and toilet. The project also included repairs to their existing bathroom (which turned into a full upgrade) and removal of additional asbestos sheeting, which had been used throughout the house to conceal cracked render on internal walls.
Maria and Bob planned to replace the internal lime render with a stronger modern compound, repaint the house inside and outside, remove the old carpet and sand and polish the original timber floors to reveal their natural beauty.
It was a big project that required expert management to balance the safe removal of asbestos with the need to retain and restore the home’s original features including pressed metal walls and brass door hinges. When Maria and Bob met with Refresh Renovations in Western Sydney to discuss their requirements and brief (the first step in Refresh’s renovation process), they knew they were in safe hands. Maria worked closely with Interior Designers, Jenni Nelson and Belinda Smith on the interior design and decor breathing new life into this home.
At Refresh Renovations, we believe working with a company that manages clients’ projects from start to finish is a smart move for renovators who need a specific outcome delivered on time and on budget.
‘People tend to think that employing a project manager adds cost to their renovation budget, but the reverse is usually true. A good project manager will have industry knowledge and relationships that allow them to maximise efficiency in terms of planning and sourcing. They are often better able to negotiate with trades and suppliers too. My builder and I know exactly what the going rate is for all the trades and will only accept quotes at a certain price. Costs don’t increase unless there is a significant change in scope.’
A project manager should also advise when specialist skills are required. Refresh Renovations, for example, would alert clients at the second (concepts and feasibility) stage of their process to the fact that qualified removalists are needed for asbestos removal.
We organised the abatement team to come in to the Dight House and strip out all the asbestos. It had to be done by licensed professionals before any other work could take place. We organised it as part of our project management service.
Once the asbestos had gone, work could begin on rerendering the walls, creating the new laundry and repairing/updating the bathroom. We aimed to respect the home’s history while improving its functionality and that the Dights had a clear idea of the work that would be taking place in their home thanks to the working drawings stage of the Refresh process, which takes place before the build begins.
‘The Dight house was originally the front part of the Cornwell’s country estate and also contained the servants’ quarters. It was important to keep the home’s heritage look so we focused on restoring the windows and internal features, like the original timber floors.’
He says sourcing appropriate fixtures, fittings and finishes takes determination.
‘Maintaining the heritage look of the house was part of our brief. We prepared and agreed working drawings before the build began, so Maria and Bob knew exactly what they would be getting for their budget. It meant finding heritage materials, like tiles, in keeping with the period. It’s not always straightforward, but it’s satisfying when you succeed.’
Maria says she was impressed with Refresh’s commitment to finding craftsmen with the knowledge and know-how to restore the house.
Looking back on the Dight House project, Refresh is proud to have delivered a great result, on budget and within a reasonable time frame. Developing a good working relationship with clients was key to the success.
‘We established good communication channels from the outset. We spoke to Maria, who was the main decision maker, at least two or three times per week. We got on so well, we even fed their cat when they moved out during the renovation!’
With the project completed in less than three months, Maria and Bob are happy to be home.
‘It’s an older home and came with its problems, but everything was done right in the end and it has a completely fresh look now – you wouldn’t recognise it. Everyone had to be very good at their job to get it looking right. We’re very happy and we’ve recommended Refresh to our neighbours.’
The focus of Refresh Renovations is on delivering excellent customer service and value by incorporating design and using world class systems and processes. If you're thinking of renovating or looking for a builder, talk to Refresh at 1800 33 60 33 or enquire online.
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