Ask the Inspector, blog, Building Inspection Tips

Are Weatherboard Houses a Good Investment?

There are two key kinds of weatherboard houses available on the Australian market.  Reconstituted hardwood (the more expensive kind!) and vinyl weatherboard.  Weatherboard made from vinyl is usually called “Vinyl Cladding”.  Weatherboard is generally considered “pretty tough” but not as tough as bricks and is prone to some issues that must be considered when buying a weatherboard house.  Your overall maintenance costs may be higher than a brick home (although not as much as a hardwood Queenslander – the maintenance on traditional Queensland homes can be very, very expensive).   When you’re buying a weatherboard home in Queensland, it’s vital to make sure that the boards are in good shape or you could be up for some big expenses in the near future.

Brisbane’s love of the timber and timber look home

Weatherboard houses are a typical characteristic among many Australian suburbs with weatherboard coming into use in the 1850s when steam-driven mills meant mechanised production enabled inexpensive production.  Many worker’s cottages, Federation homes, Queenslanders, Californian bungalows and modern weatherboard houses clad in this simple and functional material can be found in Brisbane. They exude loads of charm and renovation appeal, yet some investors are still hesitant to invest in such properties with concerns around upkeep and longevity.  Nobody likes painting a house.  Not one person.  Worst job ever.

Homes built prior to 1983 may look like weatherboard but actually be made from fibrolite cladding (aka Hardiplank).  This is a big problem for buyers as your new home is literally “wrapped in asbestos” and all renovations that involve disrupting the outer shell will cost a fortune in asbestos removal.  (Read more about the Queensland Government Asbestos Management Regulations)

In this article, our goal is to help you do your homework by outlining the pros and cons of weatherboard homes.

The pros of buying a weatherboard house

Renovations

If your goal is to buy the worst house on the best street and renovate it, you may be surprised to hear that weatherboard houses are cheaper to update and repair than brick—and could save you thousands of dollars in the long-term! Weatherboard houses are also a great option for DIY renovators who are looking to stick to a tight budget. Installing one length of weatherboard takes only a few nails compared to dozens of bricks as well as inner and outer layers.

Ground movement

One visible positive of a weatherboard home compared to a brick home is that weatherboard houses tend to withstand ground movement and soil shrinkage better. During extended dry spells, weatherboard houses are better able to move as the soil dries and moves, while with brick homes cracks appear.

Cooling

It may come as a surprise to learn that brick is actually not the most suitable material for the Brisbane climate.  Bricks absorb the heat from the sun during the day.  This heat then radiates into the house once the sun goes down. Weatherboards, on the other hand, cool much more quickly.

You can take your house with you

When you live in a brick home and you need a tree change, you simply sell it and find another house. Weatherboard houses, however, (particularly older ones) can be moved. Or you may find an old weatherboard home that you can put on a piece of land you have purchased. Costs to transport a weatherboard house to a different location are often surprisingly reasonable, although you will need to take into consideration the reassembly, new foundations, plumbing, permits, mains connections and any new wiring. The flexibility is there, though!

Are you looking at weatherboard houses? Let us complete a professional inspection before you make your decision!

 

The cons of buying a weatherboard house

Maintenance

It’s no secret that timber needs more maintenance than brick. You will need to paint your weatherboard home ever 10-15 years to keep it looking its best. Timber expands and contracts with normal changes in humidity and temperature, these constant fluctuations can cause the paint to chip and crack. Mildew can also build up on the weatherboard exterior and needs to be regularly washed off with a high-pressure hose. Re-stumping is also another common maintenance requirement.

Heating and cooling

Weatherboard cools faster than brick.  It also heats up quicker!  Insulation isn’t a standard feature of weatherboard homes.  The boards are just behind your walls.  Heating up in the Brisbane summer sun!  Another downside is that when trying to cool down a weatherboard house with air-conditioning.   Older houses tend to have many nooks, crannies and cracks where cold air can escape and hot air can enter. This makes it difficult to keep the house cool during the day and can be a sustainability issue. Yes, this problem can be rectified by filling up the gaps, but this adds to your maintenance costs and your list of jobs.

Wood rot

Unfortunately, wood rot can be a problem with timber weatherboard. Wood rot occurs when water remains in contact with an unprotected surface for a long period, so it’s common in much older weatherboard houses.

Rotting wood is common in window frames, exterior doors and doorframes, decks/verandahs, the roof and indoor locations, particularly around areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Wood rot can also be seen when there is not enough clearance between the house and the ground. Wood rot may be invisible to the naked eye.  Your building and pest inspector, armed with a torch and screwdriver can help you find soft, brittle or crumbly timber.

Termites

Both brick houses and weatherboard houses can be at risk of termite attack.  Partner that with the presence of wood rot and termites have the perfect conditions to thrive—wood and moisture.  While hardwood isn’t the first choice for termites, a poorly maintained reconstituted hardwood clad home can be susceptible to termite damage.  They’re determined little buggers! Be prepared to spend the money on keeping the timber and moisture issues at bay.  Talk to Action Property Inspections.  We’ll help you avoid the sting of insect infestation!

Although weatherboard houses have many attractive features and old-world charm that buyers tend to fall in love with, it’s obvious that ‘old’ can very well mean ongoing health issues. Consider your options early and make an informed decision.

If you have your heart set on a weatherboard house, but considering the pros and cons has still left you unsure, contact us. We can provide you with a professional inspection that will give you the right information before you invest.

Andrew

About Andrew

Andrew Mackintosh has been answering home inspection questions in the greater Brisbane area since 1995. He has personally carried out over 20,000 building inspections and is a licensed builder and licensed building inspector, Member of Queensland Master Builders Association & Institute of Building Consultants.Being the business owner and the inspector, Andrew is passionate about providing clients with excellent customer service, value for money, honest, unbiased, thorough inspection and reporting in a professional and timely manner to allow clients to make informed decisions when purchasing property.