Highset V Lowset

Old Queenslander Home - Mid Set

Lifting or Lowering Your Home

Among the advantages and disadvantages of going high set or low set with your home or house there are a few that stand out and will make a difference in what you want to achieve. Desirability and practicality play a huge role. Personal preferences will be important to some, investment gains or investment preservation will be of more importance to others.

It could be that you would like to have your home high set to reach a better viewpoint or gain more living space. On the other hand you may desire or require your home or building to be closer to the ground for easier access. Your overall budget may be an influence and the lower building cost an advantage.

Lowering your building in comparison with lifting has a huge saving in the costs of building work. Construction costs are lower both at the time and with any future work you may do. Ongoing maintenance is easier and therefore less expensive.  Direct savings such as less steel in the post construction, less reinforcement and bracing is required. Indirectly there is less handling and therefore lower equipment costs. 

With the increased costs of lifting to a high set position so to does the potential for increased property values. Exceptions to this may be where your home is located in an area with an older population.  People looking to buy in that area are looking for homes to buy with easier access.

High Set

Low Set

Better Views Lower Building Costs
Increased Floor Space Less Maintenance
Increased Property Value Easier Access


In the right area the costs of lifting and building in when compared with the final outcome or property resale value can be considerably advantages and in most cases the benefits are well worth the investment.

Many older homes are in a mid set position. This was done to allow airflow under the house to help with cooling. With modern day insulation’s and building methods and materials it has become an obsolete practice. The extra materials used to have it in this location neither high or low topped with an almost unusable space in most cases are not desirable. Investment gains, building and maintenance costs, and accessibility render it impractical to leave or put back without at least some further consideration. There is much to be gained with this transformation.

Levelling and Replacing posts or Restumping

House on a stump

Levelling Repairs V Full Restump

It’s always better to do something if your building is unlevel. The very telltale’s that inform you of this problem are not the only thing that stands to be damaged. Doors not closing properly, windows jamming, cracks in the wall, rolling floors among the many things that can alert you to the problem. The problems don’t stop there eventually all the symptoms will show. Depending on how long it’s been that way, will impact on the costs to repair your home. Small cracks undetected on the exterior lead to the invasion of the elements and deterioration expedites. This process doesn’t miss anything and gets right into every little detail even rusting bolts and nails holding structures together.

An unlevel structure can put a hold on any renovations. Small things like trimming doors to close in a current unlevel state will come back to you when the structure is finally levelled. New roofs can bend and warp and fixings can be loosened if the structure is not right. Adjusted gaps will have a negative effect when the building is straightened. To top it off it might not go back to how it was due to new work holding sections of it in fixed positions.

In most cases if it’s addressed early enough it is not necessary to restump the building all at once. This is usually only restricted by budget.  And it need not compromise the structure of the building any further if approached sensibly. Levelling it up identifying the worst of the posts and replacing them is often enough to keep the integrity of the structure intact. The rest can be replaced at another time or over time and with a little ongoing maintenance made manageable. Maintenance is the key here. As with anything if it’s preserved it will last much much longer. Keeping your posts clean, painted and pest free and insuring there’s no water pooling around the base or sitting on their tops will extend their life. Keeping your overall costs down into the future.

Post and Frame V Blocking In

Two Story Queenslander

Post and Frame Build in or Brick or Concrete Blocking In

Here we will take a look at the pros and cons of the different methods of enclosing the under story of a high set dwelling. Desirability of material types is one determining factor. A certain look and feel or uniformity top to bottom. If your looking for a rendered look or brick look then the decision should or could be fairly simple. Likewise if its a uniform look from top to bottom then post and timber wall framing is probably the best solution.

Full Restump Post and Frame

One way is to fully restump the building to begin with and then frame in between the posts. Usually with this method there will be some beams installed under the house to remove some of the posts and the ones remaining are designed to fall within wall frames. Some simple planning from the start will insure all the posts are hidden within walls. This method can be done piecemeal provided the posts are installed. The post and beams are the only structural element, the framing and wall sheeting can be done at any stage. Worthy of note, a 3″ block wall could be infilled in between the posts in the case where the posts are already existing or the time frame of the building project is of importance.

Blocking In with Concrete Block or Bricks

With blocking in the process is not quite as simple as the post and frame method previously discussed. However the end result is unquestionably good. There are some posts left or installed under the building with this method. Skyhooks are out of the question and the building needs to be supported. Unfortunately due to the weight of most buildings  the engineering dynamics dictate the need for it to be supported directly under the building. For this reason we install some purpose made posts. These are strategically placed to provide support for the building during construction. And allow us to have the building slightly higher than the level plane for the block work to be installed.

On completion the bracing is removed and the the building is lowered to rest on the block work. Usually 7 or 8 well placed posts combined with support bracing will hold it steady and safe while the blocking work is performed. With only installing 8 out of the usual average of 30+ posts there are many savings. There is far less steel concrete and overall less workmanship. In effect it could be compared to lifting the top half out of the way while you build a bottom story and then place the house on it.  Blocking is certainly more cost effective but not the easiest. Almost everything must be completed before you can safely occupy the building.

Good Foundations are a Solid Footing

Be sure to check your foundations before you lose your footing

For what may or may not seem obvious reasons it’s very important to maintain your foundations. Restumping and post maintenance in the Whitsundays is always a concern. Proserpine and surrounds have very deep topsoil and a lot of moisture and flooding for extended periods of the year. Bowen like Cannovale and Airlie Beach are constantly open to the weather and also subjected to heavy rainfall. The foundations, the ground, soil or compacted material around your post is of extreme importance. In fact anything within the drip line of your building is of concern. That is any and every part of the ground that is covered by your building is important. Important for many reasons but above all else and for the purposes of this discussion to maintaining the structural integrity of your home.

Foundation Integrity Loss

Two main concerns are in discussion. One is that the buildings posts or stumps lose much of their footings if the soil or material is loosened around the post. The other is water permeating through the subsoil. Extending to the underneath section of the building can and will lead to many problems. Problems such as sinking and or rusting in addition to adding to the aforementioned loss of your footings integrity. In the image shown below it can be seen how any sideways movement that is present be it from everyday wear and tear or storm driven in the case of a cyclone. The buildings movement pushes the solid compacted material away from the stump and it,s replaced with lighter silt aided by driving wind and rain.


post movement in a buildings foundations
post movement in a buildings foundations


The solution

No water is good water under your house. Keeping the area directly below the elevated section of your building will maintain its structural integrity and keep it strong through the local weather upsets. No water or rain should have access to this section of your building. If there is rain blowing in or some other seemingly uncontrollable case, then you should insure the drainage is such that its immediately taken away. It is by far worth the effort to make sure it can’t penetrate the subsoil.  Although in many cases it’s not a livable component of the building or in many cases not even useful however it needs to be maintained.

Drainage around the house needs to be checked and fixed. Building barriers such as part walls or lattice to keep the rain out. Ground levels under the building to insure good drainage. It can all be readily addressed and will go a long way to the longevity of your home. Some simple materials and building and landscaping up to and under your house. Ideally where the garden stops so do does the weather and also any vermin that can attack the structure of your home.

Stump Choices for Restumping

Restumping with steel

There are several different stump types you can use to restump your house. Steel, timber, or concrete are the more obvious ones. Piers and concrete part walls can also be used to provide footings for your elevated floor construction. A combination of materials can be used to restumping a building, although in most cases this is the norm sometimes a combination of materials may suite the construction better.

Timber Stumps

Timber is not so common any more it can be high maintenance and not very versatile for building in under your house. Timber stumps can have a lot of appeal under a semi low or low set house. Farmed and treated hardwood provides straight and long lasting stumps. It can be a good alternative under low block houses especially in areas of high rust or corrosion the stumps can be replaced a lot easier than steel or concrete. Steel has a concrete footing poured around the stump which can be extremely hard to remove without lifting the house. Concrete remains and full stumps are heavy and require mechanical means to remove them in many cases. Timber doesn’t rust so in these situation where they can be kept dry can last extended periods of time up to 30 years.

Concrete Stumps

Concrete stumps are solid and have no movement, with a solid soul footing poured at their base on installation can be very strong and lasting. However depending on the installation can handle little to no sideways movement making them a poor choice in high wind and cyclone areas if they are not treated with care or provided with extensive bracing and certain engineering requirements are met. 

The stumps as with timber usually start at 200mm x 200mm so they are bulky and don’t fit into wall framing readily unless non load bearing blocking, double brick or brick veneer insets are built between the stumps. Weight is an issue and handling expenses from freight to installation have an effect. Concrete stumps have steel reinforcing and this can rust if the concrete cracks for any reason. Concrete stumps have their place and look good as a standalone stump without structure attached or lining a driveway. As with timber they make a great solution when mixed with steel. The centre of the house can be supported on steel while a more bolder concrete stump can line the outside of a house.

Steel Stumps

Steel is by far the most versatile and has become more commonplace being the best choice in most situations. Provided galvanised steel is used, welds are painted and the installation is correct. Some attention to detail is applied where the concrete is mounded up around the stump. This is to allow moisture runoff on the top of the concrete where it meets the steel in the centre. Strength of the concrete and therefore it’s permeability to moisture is addressed. And other engineering considerations derived in the engineering and planning stages are met such as bracing on high-set buildings.

Steel stumps will last in most situations even in the damp and coastal conditions. Provided their installed correctly and made according to local engineering requirements. And they are very versatile in nature, the 75mm x 75mm construction allows them to easily be built into single leaf walls as with timber stud framing and also blocking or bricking. Steel posts allow for easy installation of beams. Removing certain stumps in the centre parts of the building opening up larger areas and making the space more usable.

Other Methods

Piers and part walls are suited to more specialised applications. Once again problem stricken areas may benefit from sections of strip footing and construction from the footing to the underneath of the house in whatever material is more suited. Whereas this becomes a relatively high cost it may not be excessive. If rust or corrosion under your house is an issue then reinforced concrete or brick walls may be the only solution for longevity.

Restumping using Steel Stumps

Steel stumps are by far the most popular stump choice. They are favored by engineers and builders alike  for a number of reasons. Easy to work, readily available, strong durable and provided they are treated properly steel stumps are long lasting. In many cases the stumps are later enclosed within walls, with the help of support beams to remove some of the internal posts the area under the house is built in. In this case the stumps themselves disappear from site completely being enclosed within wall framing.

Steel stumps can be engineered and fitted to your house in different ways. The two more common place methods in discussion here differ mainly in the way they brace the building. If you were to compare them to something else structural like a car for instance. You could say one method is similar to a chassis with a body mounted to it. The other more like the modern car is a framework braced onto itself. As with everything efficiency in construction, cost of material etc has made way for new and better ways to support your building.

Stumping with bracing

The first method and more commonly used today for many reasons is a  steel stump footed by a dense concrete footing.  For a high set building the building is fitted with significant wind bracing between the stumps. This holds the understorey of the building from movement by bracing the posts onto each other in critical locations. This bracing is usually replaced when the building is built in. The walls are built and provide the necessary bracing in different ways.

Restumping steel stumps with bracing
Restumping steel stumps with bracing


Stumping with less bracing

The second method of choice is a deep reinforced footing or pier with the stump bolted between it and the building. This method uses significant materials as there is little or no bracing used. The piers or deep footing are generally 2- 3 times deeper and the stumps up to double in size. In both cases there is approx double the materials used. This method draws it strength from the deep piers and stump engineering to take the sideways force thus reducing the building overall bracing requirements.

Steel stump bolted to footing
Steel stump bolted to footing


Restumping using Timber Stumps

Timber stumps are not as popular as they have been in past times but they are making a come back in many ways. Transitioning from logging hardwoods to make the stumps to using farmed timber their popularity has decreased. Prone to rot and having a limited life timber has become more expensive. Whereas once a budget choice their quality’s shine in other areas. Timber stumps are now more expensive for the material purchase but easier and therefore less expensive to install. More so their value is in the ease to do them one or more at a time. The quality of the timber and its preservation are becoming a lot better. Whereas they can have a limited life they can be replaced singularly or one by one, without excessive expense. The combination of usability, the timber quality and treatments has revived its place.


Timber stump’s can be used anywhere however are well suited to particular application. This could be a feature row of stumps. Where the rest or the internal stumps are concrete or steel and a feature row on the outside of the house are used to match fencing or other aesthetic’s. Timber provides a nice rounded finish when the stumps are left exposed to view in particular where there are other timber finishes.


Timber also provides a very good way forward for ongoing maintenance on your building. Whereas steel or concrete stumps are usually done in large sections if not the whole house due to heavy expensive deliveries of materials concrete in particular.  Timber stumps can be replaced piecemeal. Although it is slightly more expensive to do one or two at a time the building is constantly maintained at an affordable and manageable level. It can be quite a shock when the stump replacement costs bear to reality and therefore for ongoing maintenance they can be a great choice. And a clear choice for low to mid set buildings with lower ongoing maintenance budgets.

Restumping using Concrete Stumps

Concrete stumps are a great choice for a house. There are certain considerations that need to be met in the areas of central QLD and North. High wind and high water tables are probably among the more important. Concrete stumps in today’s day are made from very strong steel reinforced concrete. It hasn’t always been that way. Most of the early concrete stumps were made from local materials. The builder would more often than not build his own. Some form boxes, local sand and rock out of the creek, scrap steel for reinforcement and dry cement powder and water. Manufacturing the stumps locally and in many cases on site made them an easily achievable long lasting option for stumps.

Either way they have stood the test of time. Although their weight makes them an expensive choice, as with timber the can be used were a certain look or style is sought.

Concrete stumps can have a very long life provided some considerations are met. The stumps are very strong and robust however excessive force is exerted on them if they are not installed properly or later works is done.

Concreting around concrete stumps

Concrete stumps like timber are direct in the ground with another bell of concrete at the bottom. The bell at the bottom is usually around double the diameter of the stump. It serves as a base that stops the stump from sinking or lifting. This allow’s for some minute sideways movement of the building without excessive force being absorbed by the stump.

A common mistake made when concreting under a high set house with concrete stumps is to concrete the floor right up to the stump. This restricts the sideways movement of the stump. Strong gale force winds battering at the side of the house put pressure on the stump at the point where it is fixed by the concrete slab. This is easily overcome by expansion material in a control joint. Flexible products installed between the slab and the stump to allow for this movement. This expansion material, foam jointing and flexible polyurethane products within the control joint act as a shock absorber for your stumps.

Bracing is a critical component in this type of construction to limit and reduce the buildings lateral movement and the associated issues discussed.

Typical Concrete Stump Installation
Typical Concrete Stump Installation

Stump care

As with all foundations the stumps need to be kept clean and dry. The entire underside of your building should be as dry as possible and kept well drain. Concrete stumps will benefit from regular maintenance and a coat of paint or sealer at times.

The Real Costs of Renovation: Plans and Engineering

Old home deteriorating

Is it worth it and how much is it going to cost are probably the first questions that come to mind when anyone’s starts to consider renovating, repairing or upgrading their home.

The first is easy the answer will be yes in almost every case. Renovating old timber homes can be a lot of hard work however due to the amount of work and the costs of replacement in an old timber frame home the value and the reward is present in almost every case. The average replacement cost for a simple timber frame home is around $200k-$300k and well over $400k to reproduce an old Queenslander. The longer its left or the worse it becomes ultimately the more will need to be done to fix it. However rarely is a timber frame home demolished as there is always someone that can see their worth, and either relocates and rebuilds them, or buys or renovates where is.

The costs vary greatly between project to project in the extent of the works you are to perform. For a clear understanding of this is it is important to know what your going to do and preferably understand it. Renovations repairs and building maintenance are widely confused even among the professionals so take some time to consider your options. If its a repair you are doing sometimes its better left at that.

It may be better to fix something to the best it can be than to uncover or expose worsening and deteriorating other potential issues. An example of this could be a stump that is intricate position. It could be by digging it out you will undermine other footings, concrete floors or deteriorate the surrounding foundations in the removal process. In this case it may be better to do some repairs and address it at a later date especially if the construction is sound surrounding it.

Planning is key to your success as in any venture. Scope the extent of your project and plan it out carefully. Time is not the enemy here the longer you take to plan it, think about it, map it out to the point of action the better your end result will be.

Plans and Planning

Costs vary, depending widely on the scope of what you are about to undertake. That is in a renovation sense you need to set some limits or more so have a plan of what you want to achieve. It can be a bottomless pit if you don’t consider what you want to achieve and its practicality. The costs of the plans will vary accordingly to the complexity of your building and what you want to do to it. The smaller the task and the simpler the building then the cheaper the plans will be. In any case the value of these plans from the start is priceless in this activity. It gives everything and everyone a clear path forward. It provides no discrepancies within contracted workers builders and the other facets, and they are ultimately compulsory for council approvals.

Price Guide – $800 – $3000 A low set house undertaking a re-stump would only require a stump and bearer plan and therefore at the low end of this. A high set house with a build in on the ground floor would be at the higher end.

Engineering and Compliance

When a home or house is built, renovated or repaired the first and foremost consideration is the foundations. For those that are not building term savvy the term foundations is the soil or ground on or in which you will put footings. The footings are the part of the structure or house in contact with the ground the timber posts or poured concrete. Soil tests are performed to determine what the footing construction will require and how it is to be braced. Essentially setting the scene into the variants in the mayor costs in restumping. Once the engineering has been performed and the engineer has produced specifications the project is submitted to the council for approval and monitored for compliance to completion.

Price Guide – $2000 – $5000 Council approval, plans and basic engineering is all that is required for a simple low set re-stump or footing variation on the low end of the scale. And full building engineering and certification for a build in, structural upgrade or re-stump as required for high set would represent the higher end.



Th Real Cost of Renovation: Builders Supervision

Builder supervision on renovation projects

Following on from our last post “The Real Cost of Renovations: Plans and Engineering” where we discussed planning and engineering costs, a builder is now required. The builders role in any construction is wide and varying. Primarily they are a legal requirement in any construction valued at more than a few thousand dollars and their roles vary from liaisons with relevant authorities to the on ground onsite activity. The builders ultimate responsibility is to insure everything is done to standard. For the purpose of this discussion and in alliance with modern trends the builder will be distinguished here from their relevant counterpart carpentry. To a greater extent the later is minimal in this type of work with trends to subcontractors and subcontract teams becoming more common place for all trades including the builders own.

Builders Supervision

Prior to submitting your council application, or around this time, a builder is required to be engaged. Depending on your confidence in talking with an architect and  engineering companies your builder may come first or after these two. That is you could employ your builder first and they will guide you through the planning and engineering or take it to this or any point along the way as you feel comfortable.

The builder will in their capacity fill their role as the principle contractor. Regardless of the builders physical involvement with the vary components of the work to be performed, they will supervise and play a key role in the building compliance. Providing the portal for all the subcontractors engaged on the project to liaison with the relevant engineers, the owner and council as required. Its there position to supervise all work performed as they deem necessary to provide warranty and assurance that all onsite work has been performed to specification, and to relevant building codes and standards. Making decisions where necessary for the work to be performed.

Price Guide $2000 – $10 000