Australian houses 29
Welcome to our page 29, Australia wooden houses in Brisbane
This house is a typical smaller version of the wooden houses that were built in Brisbane, sometimes they are called workers cottages, because they were made for people that could not afford the more typical Queensland-er, which is the larger version shown here-under.
A large house called the Queensland-er, note the pretty design, all the open space on the verandas and also all the open space under the house, which could be used in very hot summer days to catch the breeze and stay in the shade. Anyhow not everybody was able to afford them, so, they started to built the smaller version for the worker and their families. -
The convenient and pretty wooden houses in Brisbane and Australia; when we came to Australia in the early sixties, we found that the houses here were made of timber, which were very different from the houses we had left in Europe.
For us Italian migrants that had lived all our lives in solid masonry buildings, when we arrived in Australia at the beginning it seemed a strange thing that in Brisbane lots of houses were made of wood and most of them were set on wooden stumps, but then we started thinking that after all they were still good to live in anyhow, so, we got used to live in them rather quickly.
So, we had to forget about how we used to live in our motherland and also my native town of Genzano di Lucania since we were living now in Australia the Australian way, after all as the saying goes, when you are in Rome do what the Romans do, and we did that; but then, what were the reasons and why these houses were made of wood, or to use another word for wood how the locals called it here, they were made of timber.
So as you can see, this question arises, why these houses were made of timber and not masonry? And then try to see if they were better or worse that the houses made of bricks or masonry. If we use logic reasoning there is no difference whether houses are made of timber or masonry, as long as they are able to give the people that live in them that filling of safety and privacy that we aspect from them, when we live in our own home.
Having said that now let us see or guess the reasons why these houses were made of timber, and why they were set on wooden stumps.
The wooden houses on stumps of Brisbane and/or Australia
As we have already said above in Brisbane a lot of houses are/were made of timber, but not only are they made of timber, they are set on wooden stumps. So let us see the reasons why they were made this way.
From what explanations we have heard, and also by using our own imagination and intelligence one can come to the conclusion that there were several reasons why houses here were made of timber. The first reason is that when the first settlers started to build Brisbane, there were plenty of trees that could be cut down and make very good timber to build those houses; and then the people that came to live in Brisbane and Australia had a very good knowledge of how to use timber, since they came by boats and in the boats of those days, there were always carpenters and carpenter tools on board, so to build timber houses was the easiest way for them, since they had the knowledge the tools and plenty of timber in the woods surrounding Brisbane ,an also other parts of Australia that needed houses.
At the beginning the houses were just simple shelters, but as the time went by they became better and better, because the builders also became aware that here around Brisbane and northward when the wet season comes the ground becomes too wet for the houses to stand on the ground, in hot summer days everything becomes too hot and there were lots of vermin on the ground, so they found a way how to build houses that would avoid most of these problems; that is why in those times the houses on stumps became a necessity, of course slowly they became even better and even pretty, that is how the Queenslander house was born, which is a large house with verandas around them that keeps the weather and the hot sun off the main walls of the house. One can see these pretty Queensland houses if you look around even today.
The Queenslander House
The Queenslander house is a large timber house; some of them are pretty too and they serve the inhabitant very well, as they have been built to take the advantage of the hot climate in Brisbane and north Queensland regions. Now since I have been working in these houses to maintain them, let me describe them to you a bit more in details. As anyone can guess there are a few different types of these houses, but here to make it easier we are talking about the large real Queenslander and the workers cottage, which is a small and cheaper version of the real Queenslander.
As we have already said above in this hub, when the first settlers arrived here, there were plenty of trees around to make timber, a lot of this timber is called hardwood, which as the name suggests is hard and very strong, some of this timber are even stronger and longer lasting than the European oak or other strong European woods. So the houses were strong and secure, the only natural real enemy of these houses were the white ants (termites), which are able to eat through the wood and destroy the houses. The termites are native to Australia and if one goes up north in Australia one could see strange ground made mounts of earth springing up from the ground, these is how the white ants live, they eat wood from the inside and they make these mounts of earth.
So as you can see this was another reason why the houses were built on stumps. The stumps were made of whole sections of trees that are very resistant to rot; of course the white ants could still be able to eat those stumps, but they were treated with some paints and at the top they all had a capping of metal that would make a barrier to the white ants if they came from the inside the stump and also a barrier to the other ants or crawling insect from the outside.
We have to say that some of these timber houses have been made also pretty, because timber can be cut to different shapes easily, so they were somehow pretty compared to the house made of masonry, which would be very expensive to decorate them with masonry, so the houses are usually square boxes with a roof at the top.
Decorative fretwork was easy to make with timber and a lot of these houses had some decorations, in them in one way or the other. Now I can go on and on telling you how these houses were made, but that would be hard to do, so I am going to search the Internet for photos that could show you what I mean, about fretwork and other timber names, anyhow there are a lot of names given to these pieces of timber that would be hard for me to name and for the readers to understand what is meant by that particular name. So I am going to leave it to your imagination, once you see some photos of the houses and the fretwork in them.
Just as most of us thought, these wooden houses need some maintenance and care
For those people that have not own or lived in timber houses before, they should ask questions about them before they get involved in owning one of these houses; perhaps the first question that would come to their mind is: are these houses safe to live in and how long these houses can last? And then, what sort of maintenance they require? You see, they have a right to know that, so let me try to explain this timber housing situation.
Timber houses need perhaps more maintenance that masonry houses; because first of all you need to paint them for the timber to last longer, otherwise the timber on the outside walls will slowly rot away, but then, there are also some advantages because, you see if you want to change something it can be done easily a lot easier and cheaper than if you have a masonry house, therefore, it is a lot cheaper also to do some alterations, so it can work well after all.
Having said that we need also to say that these wooden houses have some problems of their own, apart that they need to be painted for the external timber to last longer, they also have some vermin enemies everywhere in the houses, because the timber is more vermin friendly than masonry and bricks and cement, but the normal vermin are not a big problem for the house structure itself.
The greatest enemy of these wooden houses are the termites, or white ants as some of us calls them; The white ants can really destroy entire buildings by eating the wood from the inside, a lot of times people don’t even know that the white ants are there eating their houses away while they are living in them; you see, unless you know what you are looking for, it is hard to see any sign of them from the outside. So one day suddenly one can find out by toughing or putting some pressure on a spot where the white ants have eaten the wood from inside, and here one can have a great shock to see this happen, as everything starts collapsing inward and where there was a wall now there is a big hole.
Therefore, it would be worthwhile to learn how to recognize the signs if there are white ants; and definitely call an expert to check the building if you are going to buy it.
The white ant problem
How to defend our homes from these pests
There are a few things that we can do to prevent this pest destroy our homes; the first thing that one has to do is to check that there is a barrier that stops the white ants to enter your building, for instance if your house is a high-set house on stumps, check that at the top of the stumps there is a metallic ant capping; this metallic ant capping is usually a large galvanized round dish or square of metal and it is bent down at the edges so that any crawling insect will find it difficult to enter your house that way; we hope you can see the picture? The ant capping prevents also the white ants to enter through the stump itself, if the stump has been infested with white ants, because when they reach the top of the stump they cannot eat through the metal capping and so they are stopped entering that way, of course there are a lot of different buildings and a lot of different ways to set a barrier; but sometimes the white ants find their way around.
Now there are ways that one should be looking for if there are white ants; here the first thing that we have to keep in mind is that white ants eat everything from inside and they don’t like to be exposed outside for long, so, the first thing one can do is to tap on anything that is made of wood; if the wood sounds hollow then the white ants might have eaten the inside, so a complete check is needed to see what is the cause; another way to look for white ants signs is that if they are forced to go outside to move from one place to another, they will construct a tunnel, so that they can go up and down without being seen, so one has to look for these signs anywhere under the building: Now some expert has told me that what happens here is that the white ants need moisture, so they have to travel to the ground to get the moisture and then they go up again their tunnel to eat the timber; now if the building is solid and there is no other way for the ants to go up they will construct their tunnel from the ground up, so we should be looking for signs to see if there are ants tunnel constructed, and if there are tunnels, it means that there are white ants also, therefore you need a pest control expert to poison these pests, and you need him fast.
Some natural enemies of the white ants
White ants have very few enemies because they live and hide inside the timber, but there are some natural enemies of course in their natural habitat, a couple of which are pictured here. As I said before, one needs to learn the signs how to spot the white ants presence, and do something if you find that they are there, otherwise they could eat your house away pretty quickly.
Here under we have pasted two links about termites that other Huber’s have written for you to check them out.
Good luck to all houses owner!
Dear readers, our intention here is that we are going to write several hubs and talk about houses, how to own them, how to maintain them and how to build them, because that is what I have done during my life; so, even though in our next hub will be talking about: is Australia the land of opportunities, we will be talking about the opportunities that I had in the house building industry. So, see you soon in our next hub.