Lift and Build in Under

One of the classic strategies you hear about all the time is the lift and build in under. It’s not a universal solution because sometimes it is not possible. Hi, I’m Jan Hogarth from PlaceMate Architects and I’m an architect in Brisbane and today, we’re going to do a deep dive into the lift and build in under and why this could be a really good solution for your inner-Brisbane character home.

As you can see, this is a medium-sized Queenslander with a veranda at the front. It was built around 1928. As such, from a PlaceMate perspective I’d regard this as a vintage home that is getting close to being considered an antique. Often, we travel overseas to see older buildings with unique character that we really like – such as in San Francisco or New Orleans. From the before photo, you can see that our character home’s facade will be worth keeping after we have raised the house about a meter and a half. This approach considers how the land slopes at the front of the block and where the land falls away at the back of the property. It’s also a bonus to have plenty of room on either side of the house.

Cost of lift and build in under

Sometimes it’s really expensive to lift and build in under a Queenslander character home. That’s especially true when it’s very close to the boundaries. What you end up having to do is fire rate the side walls and change the windows. The fire rating process starts to become expensive on older homes. Fortunately, that didn’t apply to this property. So, we’ve kept the existing house intact and restored it. From there, we are going down into a Queenslander. Now, the clients here have moved from Europe. There’s mum and dad and three kids and family from overseas come to stay for a month at a time. Also, they’ve got a dog and a cat as well as bicycles and lots of cycling gear.

This is a full-on family house and a forever home for them plus, they really want to live in Queensland. The other classic thing about a Queenslander, you can open the front door and see right through the house. That’s a classic quality of Queenslander homes that I think is really worth keeping. And people are drawn to look and move toward the light. Doesn’t it make you want to go through the door and look inside? It leads you onward. That’s when you see the start of a stairwell, just inside. What we did was take out the middle of the house so that the whole house pivots around the staircase in the middle.

Do you want a second storey? 

You may decide you want a second storey on your home. For owners of Queenslander or inner city character homes, the most cost-effective way to do that is to lift and build in under. Here are some reasons why:

  • Brisbane City Council regulates altering character houses and buildings;
  • Lifting and building in under will prove to be much cheaper;
  • There’s not enough head height under the original house;
  • Often, the concrete floor is uneven and needs to be restumped.

The big advantage to lift and build in under

Lifting and building in underneath your character home has another distinct advantage. The original floor plans of Queenslanders were comprised of a series of little box rooms. You’d find a kitchen box out the back where the ladies worked. It was adjacent to a dining room box for family meals. After dinner, everyone would congregate in the living room box, usually located in the middle or at the front of the house. And then there are the verandas wrapped around the boxes to keep the house cool. Which made a lot of sense at the time.

However, we don’t live like that anymore. We like that the living room, kitchen, and dining room are all together. We also like that there’s a connection to the sleeping and relaxation areas at the back of the house. So the lift and build-in under process is your opportunity to modify the Queenslander and create these big open spaces at the fraction of the cost of adding a second storey. At PlaceMate Architects, we do plans for these types of projects all the time. But the real advantage of a lift and build-in underneath is that you can reclaim the under-utilised spaces underneath the existing house.

Designing spaces with structural integrity

When lifting the home you must re-stump, which means you can put big beams in to support the structure. That way you design spaces with structural depth to create open-flowing areas. As the video shows, there are huge doors that fold out into the backyard along with the barbecue and outdoor living area beyond. Outside they’ve got a pool and a terrace for outdoor living. Behind the kitchen, there’s a butler’s pantry that connects to the garage. What’s not to like?

It’s fantastic and it’s got the perfect aspect as well. Also, from the owner’s point of view, he wanted to take a photo and send it to his friends in Europe in February when it’s dark and grim and cold,

“Hey, look where I’m living now!”

Looking out from the kitchen into the pool and the backyard, the land on their property falls away. Their young kids can run outside and still be supervised from inside the home. The lift and build-in underneath proved the best way to renovate this inner Brisbane character home. 

Design solutions for privacy and views

If your property is facing the other way and you’re just looking into a fence with the views above, then you would locate the living room upstairs. In this case, this is the best solution within their renovation budget and personal needs. After renovating, the family enjoys tremendous openness and flow from the living to the outdoor areas. The before shot of the back of the house has the classic Queenslander look of being built-in underneath with barely enough door head height. You can guess the quality of the slabs – it’s just termites waiting to happen! 

Like many classic Queenslanders, the home has been added to as the years go by. In the before photos, the back of the house still has the same potential view, but you can’t see it. The only place you can see the view is from part of the veranda. The owners are missing out on the fantastic potential that nobody can use. Once renovated, the space has become the master suite. It looks out at the incredible view. They’ve got their own little private balcony upstairs. From the en suite, they can be in the bathtub and look out at the view.

Indoor-outdoor design flow

Once renovated, the home has six rooms looking out into the backyard and beyond; where there was only one room before. We’ve taken off the back of the house and created a double-height space that flows down to the backyard. On one side is a service space – that’s the laundry with a little drying area behind the kitchen. It has also become the back entrance from the garden that connects the service side of the house to the garage. Family members and guests enter from the back of the house through the butler’s pantry to a downstairs bathroom.

The lift and build in under gives homeowners an opportunity to increase the height of downstairs rooms and create huge living spaces with architectural design. As renovations architects, we have the opportunity to rebuild the back of the house. This offers lasting value as the family grows over time. The architectural design looks easy, but a lot of behind-the-scenes decisions can make a complex project seem simple. We haven’t even addressed the town planning and building requirements for this home!

The key takeaway is that the lift and build-in under renovation is a great way to double the floor space of your Queenslander or inner city character home. But a lift and build-in under is complicated, and not necessarily for everyone. So, if you are heading down that path you should request a site visit with our principal architect and let Jan and the team at PlaceMate Architects help you through it.