Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About Renovating a Colonial/Workers Cottage/Queenslander

Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About Renovating a Colonial/Workers Cottage/Queenslander


Has there ever been a home more Australian than the classic Queenslander/Workers Cottage/Colonial home?

A mere mention of the name conjures images of beers on the veranda on a humid evening with a blazing sunset in the background.

But what exactly is a “Queenslander”, what are their good and bad points and what are the best options for renovating a Queenslander?

Queenslander homes defined

Queenslander homes are high-set timber homes with hardwood weatherboard walls and corrugated iron roofs.

They typically have a veranda that most often does not wrap all the way around the house. Often parts of the veranda are enclosed to create a separate sleeping space.

Of course, here I’m describing the traditional Queenslander style home. Most Queenslander homes in Brisbane will have had some form of renovation done over the past few decades.

These homes are normally single storey, but many have been built-in underneath to add more living space.

Queenslander homes pros and cons

Let’s start with the good points. Queenslanders are:

  • Typically sturdy
  • Visually appealing
  • Rich in character
  • Lend themselves to being built underneath

But for all those good points, Queenslanders have some surprising downsides such as:

  • Poor energy efficiency
  • Small internally, with a limited number of rooms
  • Lack of internal storage
  • Dark interiors
  • Poor air circulation
  • Poor flow and interspace connection

How do they rate in terms of sustainability?

Well, not great to be honest.

Sure, they are made from timber which is renewable. And under the home tends to be cool with the top floor blocking the sun.

But the negatives are numerous.

Many people believe Queenslanders would be efficient in terms of natural airflow because they are up off the ground and able to capture breezes. But the internal layouts often hinder natural airflow. Passageway walls, for example, can block the flow of air.

Queenslanders can also be very dark internally. The small double-hung windows combined with a veranda outside can limit the amount of natural light coming in.

Under-insulated and poorly sealed, Queenslanders often have plenty of gaps and cracks unless they’ve been very recently renovated. As a result, they tend to let in hot air and allow cooler air to escape. Not great for summer!

What are the best options for renovating a Queenslander?

If your Queenslander has been renovated in the past 20 years, then some of the downsides might have already been addressed. But I’ve seen plenty of poor renovations in my time. So, even if your home has been renovated. It may still not be up to the standard you desire.

The easiest way to fix any problems is to have a quality design created by an architect with a wealth of experience in renovating Queenslanders.

That would be me, in case you were wondering.

When it comes to renovating Queenslanders – particularly to create more space – all 4 options are available to you:

Reconfiguration and refurbishment  

I would say that ALL Queenslanders need to be, or have been, reconfigured to make them more functional. This will often be used in conjunction with one of the other 4 options. Click HERE to find out the keys to getting it right with this type of renovation.


If your Queenslander already has a bottom floor, this could be an option for you to create even more space. Click HERE to discover my top tips for home extensions.

Raise and build underneath

This is considered the number one option when renovating a Queenslander to create more space. And for good reason. You can effectively double the internal size of your home using this technique. However, there are many pitfalls with this style of renovation. Click HERE to find out more and to see some great examples of renovations done right.

Pavilion addition

A pavilion addition can suit any style of home, but I believe it REALLY suits Queenslanders. Your block and the outcome that you want will dictate whether this style of renovation suits your needs. Click HERE to see some stunning examples and to learn the key do’s and don’ts to this style of home renovation. This could possibly be the perfect solution to the space problems in your home.

Dion Seminara Architect


We are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.

Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.