Finally under way on our house extensions

Yesterday the first sod was turned in the work we’re getting done on our cottage in Martinborough.

We’ve lived in this small cottage during weekends for the last 13 years, but now we’re extending and rearranging it with the intention of moving there permanently, from later this year. At that point we’ll sell our Wellington house. Liz is retiring to what she hopes is a pleasant life of gardening and wool crafts, while I will try to keep Ngaio Press going from a new base.

It’s been an interesting year. After a good deal of discussion, much of it surrounding whether we could usefully extend the house without destroying our amazing but awkwardly situated tangelo tree, I started designing on an iPad app called Home 3D. It was a great help in that it allowed us to rough out rooms, changes and additions, and add properly scaled furniture to see what would work in the real world. Then Paulo, our architect son-in-law was out from London in January and kept the ball rolling by doing some sketch plans and making helpful suggestions about kitchen layout and things I should have thought about.

Left: Paulo and Bruce discussing the house sketches in the soon-to-be-bowled porch. Right: Paulo and Bruce discussing how to position a new roof that will cover the present lean-to section that is being retained, and continue past them on the right. Where they’re standing now will become a covered verandah, and a new back door will go where the window is on the left.

We wanted to work with Bruce Henderson, a venerable local builder (well he’s a year younger than me!) who did some major internal work when we first bought the run-down cottage in 1999. Bruce re-jibbed the place, put in new ceilings and added several recycled windows. He knocked out a wall and re-roofed the place. And he’s been an invaluable source of help and advice ever since.

Bruce was going to work from Paulo’s sketches and draw up plans for submission to the South Wairarapa District Council. That didn’t work out because he fell foul of new regulations that came into force in April. Bruce was no longer on the approved list and we had to engage a separate designer, Ken Raynes from Focus Projects. Ken had some good new ideas, and although he was a significant additional expense, we were happy with what he produced. He also had a good track record with the South Wairarapa District Council and the plans went smoothly through the approval process.

East elevation. The new part of the house is to the right past the two small windows. The existing lean-to ‘flat’ roof is being retained and extended, though lifted up so there will be a 2.4m stud at the furthest extension on the right. A new verandah is being added along the side. There is also a covered deck on the northern side. At last we’ll have a northern outlook (sun!) and good access to the garden through French doors.

We are only building one new room, but it will replace, and expand by four square metres, the area covered by three existing tumble-down rooms at the back of the house – a porch, toilet and laundry. We had always intended to bowl these one day. They will now become a 7m x 4m kitchen/lounge/dining room. We’re having a new back door that will open into the present kitchen, which will become an entertainment room with large TV and home theatre. Elsewhere, Liz will take over the old living room as her crafts room, while I’ll turn the present dining room into an office.

Turning the first sod

Dave, the digger driver.

Bruce was supposed to have started demolition three weeks ago, but was been held up by bad weather and existing jobs that took longer than expected. So the first real work done on the place was  digging a soakpit in the back lawn and making a start on drain digging. All very easy with modern machinery. It will be a lot harder for Liz and I to restore the lawn!

Wayne Roper, our plumber, protecting his ears as stones from the Tauherenikau River are tipped into a soakpit dug in the middle of the back lawn. Rainwater from the roof will end up in the soakpit.

Digger working on soakpit:


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