Here are some commonly asked questions of us about our experience restoring a house, building an extension and being filmed for the ABC TV show, Restoration Australia: Season 5 Episode 4 Miner's Cottage.
We also created a more dedicated instagram @gordoniaminerscottage to try and give a few more insights into what we did, what we're about and how long we've been chipping away at this tiny slice of central Victorian highlands that we call home. If you're interested, give it a follow. We'll upload more pictures and details gradually.
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE ON THE SHOW? We had done a sketch of the extension of our place years ago and thought it looked like a grand structure. So we actually initially applied to Grand Designs. Little did we know that Grand Designs was winding down and their books were already full of houses. However the production company, Fremantle Media, is the same company that produces Restoration Australia. So the casting agent got in touch to let us know Grand Designs was full, but they also do this other show, and wondered if we were appropriate for that as we had mentioned an old Miner's Cottage in our application too. The rest is history.
DID THEY PAY YOU TO BE ON THE SHOW? It's the ABC, not The Block. So no.
HOW LONG WERE YOU FILMING FOR? We shot about 30 days of content over the course of 26 months during 2020 to 2022.
HOW LONG DID YOUR PROJECT TAKE? We were building for 26 months. We worked 7 days a week for this entire period, either working on the building site or within our own business completing orders. During Covid it would sometimes be 5 days a week building and only 2 days a week at Wootten, as we were much quieter. As things began opening up we got busier so we may have done 3-4 days building instead, but the goal was always to get the house finished as soon as possible, especially once Quincy came into the picture and it was getting cold in the Studio.
HOW MUCH DID YOU SPEND ON THE WHOLE PROJECT? We had originally only wanted to spend $250K but ended up spending $315K all up. This included the entire restoration cost of the cottage and the entire extension build. This also includes interior fit out, appliances and furniture (some of which we built ourselves). This does not include our personal labour cost because, yes, we worked for free.
HOW MANY HOURS DO YOU ESTIMATE YOU SPENT BUILDING BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU? Roughly 6000 hours of unpaid work.
HOW BIG IS THE HOUSE? The cottage is roughly 60sqm and the extension is 120sqm. So overall it's 180sqm.
HOW TALL ARE YOUR CEILINGS? They are 6m tall at the peak of the pavillions.
WHAT DID YOU SPECIFICALLY DO YOURSELVES? In the cottage, we basically did everything: we put on a new roof, we reframed the structure, restumped the building, lined the internal walls, laid the bricks, sanded the floor, repointed the chimney and painted. What we didn't do was pour the concrete slab under the bricks, the electrical works, the windows (Matty Fazio) and the spray foam insulation.
In the Extension, we also did most of the work: We did the blockwork, the concrete polishing, built the entire frame, insulation, sisalation, cladding, installation of windows, drainage, waterproofing, landscaping, built the deck and boardwalk, lined internal walls and ceilings, all joinery, inbuilt furniture, upholstery of couches, installation of fixtures and fittings, painting, oiling and styling.
WHAT TRADES DID YOU EMPLOY? For the extension and to comply with a building permit we needed a Roofer, Plumber and an Electrician (whom we helped to reduce costs). Otherwise we also employed metalworkers for the brass bathroom detailing, Matty Fazio for the cottage windows, Liam for the blackwood lining boards, a local saw mill for all the timber for the extension, we worked with the concreter for the extension slab, solar and heat pump installers and window makers for the extension.
Matty Fazio: Melbourne Heritage Woodworks - https://melbourne-heritage-woodworks.business.site/ Liam Wratten: @woodlanderswood on Instagram, located at the Old Dwyers Mill in Leonards Hill, VIC Davies Joinery in Maryborough for our extension windows: http://www.daviesjoinery.com/ Skyline Energy in Macedon for our Heat Pump, Hydronic and Solar installation Baileys Technologies in Ballarat for more Solar and Battery installation
BIGGEST SINGLE EXPENSE? The concrete slab for the extension with hydronic heating.
HOW DO YOU HEAT SUCH A TALL SPACE? We use hydronic heating which is powered by an electronic heat pump. Our town isn't connected to gas so any heating using bottled gas would have been too expensive. With solar panels and a battery, it's been hugely efficient for the extension and it stays between 17-20C all the time. This is also aided by the extensive amount of insulation we did within the building as well in both the walls and ceilings.
WHO DID THE DESIGN? We spent five years to-ing and fro-ing between different designs and layouts. We sketched the three Pavilion concept and floor layout on Google SketchUp then employed an architect (Hannes McNamara) to help us finesse the plans and add in ideas like the glass link and the library/cubby, as well as massaging the floor layout and making sure it worked. Hannes provided the last 5-10% input to the design, which was hugely important to the outcome. We may have built the house physically, but we had craftspeople do important work that we couldn't do ourselves and these are the parts that make it sing. Our architect Hannes functioned in a similar way. We put the nuts and bolts of the design together and he really helped to elevate it.
WHAT WAS THE TIMBER CLADDING ON THE INTERNAL WALLS OF THE COTTAGE? Blackwood from a fallen tree in the Otways.
WHAT WAS THE TIMBER CLADDING ON THE EXTERNAL WALLS OF THE EXTENSION? Roughsawn local messmate
WHAT WAS THE FINISH YOU PUT ON THE EXTENSION OUTER CLADDING? It was a dark brown oil, an agricultural product similar to what farmers use to stop horses from biting their fences. It's like the modern day version of creosote. It's called Fence Black, but actually comes out dark brown. It is a mixture of bitumen, boiled linseed and turpentine.
WHAT'S THE GREEN COLOUR OF YOUR COTTAGE AND WINDOWS DONE IN? The weatherboards of the cottage are painted in Dulux Foille and the trims of the windows and doors in Dulux Hogsbristle.
WHO MADE THAT ROCK IN THE LINK WITH THE ETCHED OUT SPIRAL? That was a gift commissioned by our family and done by Josh Bowes, the Stonemason who helped us with the old cottage fireplace.
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR SKILL SET FROM? We have been working for years building and expanding our skill set. We have built kitchens in apartments, built the two shops for our business, our workshop in Ballarat, a greenhouse at home, the deck of the cottage, as well as the Studio we lived in whilst building and where Krys makes wine. All these projects have helped us to build skill and confidence with materials and techniques through trial and error to be ready to take on the biggest project of our lives, building our house.
WHY DID YOU BUILD THE SIZE OF THE HOUSE YOU DID? We originally had sketched a double story, much bigger house to sit next to the cottage in 2015. After realising this was going to be out of our budget, we also realised we didn't actually need all that space, so worked within our means and reduced the size to something we thought we could build ourselves and afford.
WHAT WERE SOME SACRIFICES YOU HAD TO MAKE? We literally worked 7 days a week for 26 months. So if we wanted to see family, they came to visit us and would help us with moving materials or helping look after Quincy. This gave us the opportunity to go back to helping one another between newborn 3-hour feeding stints. We had a very poor social life (we also built during Covid) but we also had to limit ourselves and realize that if we spent time doing other things, this just extended the time before we'd actually finish. After building non-stop, you do eventually want to get to the end so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BUILDING? Once we had Quincy, if we didn't have the help of our folks, one of us (clearly Krys) was stuck staying warm in the Studio breastfeeding a newborn or tending to general housework whilst the other (Jess) was upstairs working on internal cladding on their own. When you're 4metres high up a scaffold, doing this work on your own was difficult and near impossible without help. So we would only be able to help each other when someone looked after Quincy inbetween feeds and then we would rush up and help cut the boards then pass them up for fixing. This period of our life was tiring, frustrating and a whole new adjustment to a way of life building with a baby in tow. We had to adjust our expectations of what we were going to get done as one of us was no longer able to be the wingman like they had been.
WHAT WAS THE MOST FUN ABOUT THE PROJECT? It was fun when other people got involved, as it was so often just the two of us working alone, so even if a neighbour came by to help lift some frame, this was a joy to have them helping and to briefly catch up. The Restoration Australia film crew, host Anthony Burke and Producer Mark Hanlin (who was also our main cameraman) made the filming experience thoroughly enjoyable, even though we were giving them time that was so valuable to building. Krys has always been one to keep a log (from a handwritten diary as a child, to making videos and a blog in her twenties), so having a document of our life at that time: what we looked like, sounded like and what we got up to, was the incentive for going on the show. What better memento than an hour episode of our lives to remember what we went through and what we achieved.