A House of History

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—The humble simplicity of a quaint little wooden cottage in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Kelvin Grove belies its illustrious roots with the source of its building material from one of the world’s densest woods, Darwin stringy bark milled in Napranum, Cape York and salvaged from vast mining tracts in the area.

The home’s owner, environmental scientist, Mark Annandale helped run the saw mill in Napranum, Cape York. Western Cape York traditional owners had previously set up a venture, Nanam Tawap Ltd with Queensland Government which included operating the sawmill, a masonry block plant and sand quarry.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove_Shoot_2-3

Under conditions of their lease, mining companies can mine the area with the proviso that existent timber can be cut before mining begins. Approximately 1000 hectares of forest is cleared by Rio Tinto Alcan prior to mining operations each year. Without milling, invaluable wood is burnt and lost for good as this is the cheaper, quicker option.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove_Shoot_2-16

Mark’s idea to build a home from wood salvaged from Cape York has been four years in the making. “I wanted to build a recycled house and carted around 45 tons of wood looking for an opportunity to build for four years. It took two semi-trailer loads and a loader to transport it.”

By then, the wood was well and truly dried out and ready for use. “Most posts were too heavy to lift so had to be rolled on the ground – each comes from a tree some 200 years old,” he said.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove-16

There’s been a fair amount of curiosity from passers-by in the tree-lined suburban block where the two-bedroomed wooden house has been taking shape over the past eight months. It’s been a long haul, with builder, Craig Riddle of Aaron Building and his son, Zachary overseeing the age-old method of post and beam construction with an expressed hard wood frame.

Carpenter, Darren Smith had his work cut out for him as handling this rare hardwood was not an everyday occurrence and construction was often challenging. Some joints took up to five and a half hours to cut and chisel in order to fit two large pieces together. The pieces of timber were too big and heavy to ‘trial fit’, and had to be cut correctly within one to two millimetres, allowing for the natural features like twists and bows.

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Taking this type of care cutting the joints allowed two pieces to be joined together, and not impose unnecessary tension that might distort the structure. “This also favoured the building, that it would remain straight, square and level. The special joints meant steel plates and bolts were not required to connect these large timber pieces together,” said Craig. Instead, 25 millimetre dowels were used to secure load bearing Mortise and Tenon joints.

Job Photos (Aaron Building) - 35 Victoria St, Kelvin Grove-1

All material used in the construction was hardwood which included posts and beams, floor joists, wall and roof framing. Even the timber for the window manufacture and door joinery, carport decking, chamferboard cladding and tongue and groove flooring all came from the same logs. The only digression was plywood used for the wall and ceiling linings.

The end result is a beautiful, lovingly created home that sits comfortably alongside neighbouring Queenslanders. The natural insulation means it’s warm in winter and cool in summer and isn’t reliant on costly heating and cooling. Best of all, there is history and longevity in the solid beams and trusses – each with its own rich patina and story.

“It will be here for way over 100 years and definitely won’t rot or blow away – and if it floods, it can simply be hosed down,” says Mark.