Restumping and raising homes: Architect Dion Seminara’s advice for giving your home a lift [Updated Nov 2023]Renovations, Tips and Advice
That iconic image of a classic Queenslander sitting upon stumps can be seen in countless suburban streets across Brisbane, as well as many Australian films and TV series. It’s a beautiful vision, but as an licenced builder and architect with over 30 years renovating Queenslander homes all across the Brisbane region, I know it’s one that comes with a bit of work to maintain!
While many of us may take those stumps for granted, they are absolutely essential to the foundation of your home and therefore something that should be checked regularly.
A boring, but very important, job for the homeowner!
Whether you are planning to restump or even raise the stumps of your home, there are several things you should be aware of to ensure the job is done properly.
This article will share what I have learnt about restumping and raising homes during my 30+ years in the architecture field.
Top Tips for Giving Your Home a Lift!
Evaluate the condition of your stumps
Prevention is nearly always better than cure which is why regular home maintenance is so important – including the maintenance of stumps that support the building. In my experience, some of the biggest threats to stumps across the Brisbane region is are water, and pests like termites and borer. Both of these factors have the potential to cause havoc on your home, and if left unchecked – they will inevitably destroy timber over time.
Don’t wait for the rot to set in before you take action!
My opinion is that you should ALWAYS be sure to check the stumps of a house you intend to buy, and never start any type of renovation work without checking the condition of stumps first. If you live in an old house with timber floors, there’s a good chance that the floors are supported on timber stumps, even if the house itself is made of bricks and mortar.
Unless you have a lot of experience in evaluating the condition and safety of timber supports, you should absolutely get a professional to come and give you a second opinion before starting any works on the house. Support structures are one element of the house that don’t just impact aesthetics, but also the safety and longevity of your home – don’t cut corners here!
The timber used for structural stumps varies, depending on where you live in Australia.
Generally speaking though, no matter what type of timber was used your stumps should last for at least 20 years – or even up to four times longer – provided they are not adversely affected by insects or water.
Sometimes stumps rot away quite evenly, but because the floor itself is firm people don’t realise the gradual deterioration until it is too late. As someone who is experienced in renovating character homes, typical tell-tale signs include a sloping floor as well as door and window frames that are no longer plumb. A spirit level will show you just how much the floor or frames slope.
Where stumps are accessible you can dig the soil out from around them to see what their condition is below the ground. If you can clean off the soil, paint on a bitumen-based sealant to prevent future water damage. If there appears to be any type of insect attack, call in pest specialists to treat the timber.
Keep in mind that it isn’t only timber stumps that deteriorate. Other materials may have been used, including concrete that can crack, and steel that can rust – especially in damp conditions. The steel reinforcement in concrete may also rust, which will have the effect of weakening the structural strength of the stump. This is another reason you should always make sure to get multiple opinions, and speak to professionals, before getting started on the build phase of your project.
When should I replace my stumps?
Depending on the material used, if only one or two stumps have rotted away or cracked, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to replace all of them. However, you may decide to change the type of stump used or you might like to take the opportunity to raise the house.
As architects, we suggest if you are replacing stumps, you do not have to use the same material that was used when the house was built. For example, steel columns are now popular in Brisbane, especially for raising houses. These may be coated or, better still, hot-dip galvanised to prevent rusting. Although galvanised steel is generally the most expensive option initially, it is low in maintenance and will last a very long time.
Some timber is rot resistant and can still be quite a lot cheaper than concrete stumps, although you need to realise that they won’t normally last quite as long – probably only a couple of decades.
In some places, pine treated with copper chrome arsenate (CCA) is now the most popular timber for stumps. Coach screws or bolts are used to attach a bracket to the stump and to the timber bearers under the house. If the ground is soft and unstable, it may be necessary to first pour a concrete footing that can be used as a foundation for the stump. In areas with high winds, anchor bolts must be fixed at four-metre gaps around the perimeter of the house and underbracing walls.
If concrete stumps are used, there may be a threaded rod at the top that allows the stump to be bolted to the floor bearers and so prevent movement. This method can also be useful if high spots in the floor need to be lowered.
If you get an expert to come and assess the condition of your current stumps, they should often be able to also give you advice on potential types of stumps you could use to replace your current ones with.
When choosing a professional to get input from, it is important to understand that all professionals have different focuses.
Building designers may focus solely on aesthetics, while builders may focus mostly on function. Even architects, despite the amount of training we need to go through, are not all created equally – do your research and make sure any advice you receive is well balanced!
When to raise your home
If most of your stumps are damaged and you will need to replace them – this might be a good opportunity to consider raising or lifting your home.
Raising a home is an excellent way to reclaim space, not to mention that if you are paying for the stumps to be replaced anyway – why not just make them longer? It will cost you a bit more to do all of them, but it will likely be worth it in the long run.
If you are in Brisbane, our expert team can help you decide whether raising your home is a good idea! If you live elsewhere, it is still important to find experienced professionals who can guide you on the best way forward, and take the guesswork out of your project. Raising your home can be a great time to enhance your residence in other ways too! For example – you may wish to maximise your storage capabilities, garage space, or build in underneath the existing house to allow for additional rooms.
Whether you want more bedrooms, a guest room, a rumpus room, or even a bar for the adults – raising your home provides the perfect opportunity to improve your house!
How to avoid getting ripped off
If you decide to repair or replace stumps under your home, it’s important to use a reliable, experienced contractor with contactable references. When comparing quotations make sure you compare apples with apples, or you could end up with a lemon!
This means you should never just look at the bottom line – make sure you know what you’re getting for your money. To ensure that you’re getting the right service, it pays to have a trusted architect, a friend who has experience in the building world, or another third party who doesn’t have financial incentives to lie involved to assist you with this process. If you are located in Brisbane, you can contact our team at dion seminara architecture! We’ll be happy to provide references, case studies, and anything else that will help you understand that your project is in safe hands.
The number of stumps used for any house will depend on the size of the house and its design. This could be anything from two to three stumps per square metre. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure the contractor has sufficient jacks to lift your house. Remember that they are going to need one jack for every stump, and that the contractor is going to replace all the stumps required. If you are having the house raised, every single stump should be replaced. (Unless you are creating living or storage space below your home, in which case fewer stumps may be needed as you can install steel beams to create larger spans between the posts.)
For all our clients, we ensure that the chosen company has full insurance, including publicity liability, workers’ compensation and personal accident cover. We also make sure they will be working according to relevant building regulations and guarantee they will obtain the necessary building permits on your behalf. Make sure that whoever your chosen industry professional is, they also put these checks in place to keep your project safe!
Before you sign any contract, it’s important to ensure it states the type of stumps and footings (or pads) to be installed, as well as the spacing of the stumps, the agreed cost, and the start and completion dates. The contract should also state who will be responsible for removing floorboards (if relevant), and getting rid of any material that is removed – including rotten timber and rubble. Again, this is something that your trusted architect or building professional should take care of for you.
Once our client’s work is complete our team of architects always check that the job has been done correctly. We advise our clients not to pay the final fee until we are absolutely sure that the job has been done to satisfaction – this is an important step for professional advisors to follow, as it ensures you skip a potentially lengthy dispute process down the road!
Staying safe with the help of architects
As you can see, there are many considerations and potential pitfalls when restumping or raising a home, which is why it’s so important to hire professional assistance unless you are 100% confident about your knowledge in this area.
If you’re located in Brisbane and aren’t sure where to start, our team of architects are here to help! Contact dion seminara architecture today and let us help you create your dream home!
If you are considering restumping or raising your home, get in touch with my team so we can help you achieve your desired outcome.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTUREWe 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.