Taking your house with you
Moving a house is not a small task, but it happens at high speed.
It’s approaching dawn and police lights flash through the quiet streets of Tin Can Bay. A semi-trailer carrying half a Queenslander house breaks the silence of the tiny community, north of Brisbane.
To anyone outside Queensland, “moving house” means packing cardboard boxes but for Peter Thorneycroft, who is excitedly awaiting the semi-trailer, it means moving the entire house itself.
Only the day before, Mr Thorneycroft’s house had stood on a block of land in Brighton; a serene weatherboard oozing charm and boasting high ceilings, Australian coat of arms fretwork panels and wide verandas.
Today, Kev Wright’s Queensland House Removers team have chainsawed it in half, dropped the roof and smashed the brick supports before sending it 200 kilometres up the motorway.
For Mr Thorneycroft, seeing his new home arrive marks the end of a traumatic journey.
In 2009 he was the hero of the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires. During the height of the bushfire, he climbed on top of a Kinglake pub to hose the roof, saving the lives of the 20 women and children who were sheltering below.
Over the years the town rebuilt, the bush returned but Mr Thornycroft was never the same. The trauma left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
So, in 2016 Mr Thorneycroft and his partner, Tracey, began searching for a new beginning away from the memories of Kinglake.
Twelve months later and still not having found a new home, they’d almost given up until a day trip to Tin Can Bay, a seaside town just south of Maryborough, changed their lives.
That same day they bought the old Masonic Hall for $250,000.At the same time, 200 kilometres south, Brisbane woman Kylie Derksen was looking to have her 103-year-old farmhouse removed from a block of land at Brighton, just north of Brisbane.
Ms Derksen and Mr Thornycroft were put in touch by Queensland House Removers and when Mr Thorneycroft eventually walked through it, he “instantly knew it was the one,” he says. “The house is a happy house.”
The deal was done and within weeks, Ms Derksen’s house was on its way to a new home.
As overwhelming as it is to imagine an entire house being trucked up a highway, it is in fact what they were originally intended for, says UQ architect Dr Andrew Wilson.
“Queenslanders are the original flat-pack,” he says.
Mr Wilson says from the late 1800s settlers designed these unique buildings to be constructed near Brisbane and moved to rural areas.
Influenced by colonial India, the architecture included expansive verandas, high ceilings, long halls and a light enough construction which could be raised off the ground, allowing air to flow underneath.
As Brisbane suburbs expanded from the CBD, most homes were built in the Queenslander style. Today many of these survive and any pre-1946 homes are protected by Brisbane Council as character buildings.
“At a rough guess 80 per cent of Queenslanders are protected,” says Stephen Havas, director of Garth Chapman Queenslanders.
To sustain the character of the city, council has drawn an overlay map covering many inner suburbs. Generally, any development deemed within the overlay must reflect the streetscape.
“This creates a virtual five to 10-kilometre ring of Queenslanders, not units, around the city,” Mr Havas says.
For now, that is: “There is no doubt a conflict between growth and the protection of buildings.”
The regulations often leave builders with limited options and most Queenslanders can only be renovated.
Alternatively, with the guarantee of a similar style Queenslander being built, in some circumstances, permission may be given to move the existing building to another plot of land.
According to Queensland Transport and Main Roads, 50 Queenslanders were licensed to move through the inner city with a police escort in 2017 and 450 were moved across the state.
This is Kev Wright’s business and it’s a win for everyone. Mr Wright bought the Brighton farmhouse, on-sold it to Mr Thorneycroft, who gets an entire house for $115,000 – and the former owner, Ms Derksen, a building removed at no cost.
Ms Derksen says she initially planned to demolish, which would have cost her up to $20,000, but after speaking with friends and the local council, she contacted Mr Wright.
Mr Wright says his company relocates two Queenslanders per week and admits sourcing the product is often the hardest part: “A good Queenslander is hard to find,” he says.
Interestingly, Mr Wright’s noticed a development he hadn’t predicted, with some of the old houses that were originally moved out of the city now being brought back in.“I quoted on a job moving a Queenslander from Oxley into the city,” he says. “When I went out to check the house, it was one I’d moved from out of the city 20 years ago.
“No wonder, they’re awesome.”
Queensland House Removers are owned and operated by John Wright, With two brothers and three sons who work alongside him, We have a lifetime experience in the House Removal and the building industry. We have moved and stumped over 5500 used homes, built and moved 520 new homes.