Old Schoolhouse Internal Renovation

1. Schoolhouse Floor Plan

Table of Contents

Past renovations

The school ceased operation in 1945 but was retained as a residence for the teacher at the school nearby at Roslyn. "Cottawalla schoolhouse" was listed as a polling place for the 1965 state election. At some point it became a private residence and has had at least three previous private owners.

I don't have datings for some of these but past renovations and modifications included:

  • the lining of walls in one room and possibly the ceiling (1983 - bedroom 1).

  • the laying of wall-to-wall carpet throughout the old schoolhouse.

  • the closure of one external doorway (1983) and one internal doorway (1981) and the opening of two new internal doorways (1981 and ?) to reconfigure the layout and access.

  • three of the four chimneys have been capped rendering four of the five fireplaces closed.

  • pulling the floor up in the classroom/lounge and relaying.

  • Some minor rerendering circa 1980 evidenced by some paper used as packing (NRMA newsletter magazine). Yet other lounge room rendering was packed out with newspaper that included auction sales advertised in the year 1929. So repairs and/or modifications have occurred several times in the past.

  • Windows (at least) in the classroom removed and put back at some point after 1910. The evidence is from wood used to pack the frames in the wall coming from a box used to transport American "Snow Flake" lamp oil that was not imported into Australia until circa 1910.

  • a ducted oil heating system was installed throughout the original schoolhouse but did not extend into the later extensions.

  • the old rear stone wall that is now one side of the hall is in good condition having been re-pointed, but could use a little aesthetic repair.

  • the building of a new kitchen plus laundry as a separate building off the back entrance. Plans suggest this was circa 1905.

  • conversion of the gap/breezeway between the schoolhouse and kitchen into an internal entrance hallway.


The original flooring is 130x24mm T&G hardwood timber, most likely to be Tallowood. This is a very dense and hard wood. All floors are very worn in places but don't appear to have been sanded since originally laid. The classroom floor has certainly been lifted and put down again to compact it. Various access points have been cut into the flooring, at least one per room, to install the oil heating ducting. It was clearly intended that carpet would be laid to hide this work, hence the finishing is rough. It appears that no effort was made to lay ground sheets when repainting, for the same reason. Gaps between floorboards and some depressions were filled and leveled with plaster.

All of the original skirting boards, door jambs and windows were made from Australian Red Cedar (Toona Ciliata). The original finish was a shellac. The species was highly sort after and harvested intensely all along the east coast during the first century of the colony with much of it exported. Today Toona ciliata is very scarce (regarded as "commercially extinct" and difficult to establish millable quality plantations due to Tip Moth attack), and so what is obtainable is very expensive (AU$8,000 to AU$10,000 per cubic metre up to 50mm thickness from salvaged trees).

The 150mm x 20mm cedar skirting boards (estimated value at AU$24 to AU$30 per lineal metre and possibly much higher for long lengths) will be replaced throughout the building for consistency but kept as stock for repairs, to windows initially.

New Renovation Plan

Nothing structural is planned but the interior needs to be repaired and updated.


  • Replace ducted oil heating with ground-sourced HVAC ducted and hydronic heating/cooling system to the schoolhouse and extension.

  • Remove carpet and restore exposed floor boards.

  • Install new skirting boards. The old will need to be removed to redo the floors and are damaged and uneven in places. The timber will be reused for window repairs because it's the same age and species (red cedar) as used in the windows.

  • Update light fittings.

  • Update dĂ©cor.

  • Interior repainting and repair of minor cracks etc.

Originally the classroom, the lounge the most work. I will give it new wall rendering after stripping the old rendering off, replace about a third of the flooring, convert the open fireplace to a modern high efficiency enclosed wood fire, and restore all four windows.

Originally the parlour and entrance to the residential section, I will reopen the fireplace and two doorways that have been closed off since 1983, restore the window and put down a new floor. The gyproc ceiling and lining installed in 1983 will be removed to restore the original room proportions.

Originally the main bedroom, I will reopen one doorway that has been closed off since 1983, remove a built-in wardrobe, restore the window and put down a new floor.

Originally a utility room and the kitchen, I will restore the windows and put down a new floor.

Nothing was planned for the roof space until I saw what was inside. Above the two bedrooms unused ventilation ductwork and the old glass fibre insulation will be removed and the ceilings vacuumed before plaster and lath preventative reinforcement is done. New insulation will be installed. There could be some rewiring to be done here as well.


Refurbishing the windows may include some kind of thermal treatment.

New Flooring

Bedrooms one and two, the den and sitting room will all get new flooring. The existing subflooring will be repaired, levelled and rebuilt where needed before new solid timber overlay boards are laid over 19mm structural particle board sheets.

The overlay timber will be solid 14mm by 130mm wide strips of Blue Gum.

2. New solid timber overlay flooring has arrived. One half-pack is already inside.

3. Rain didn't eventuate and the lot was unpacked and stacked inside to acclimatise for the next year while I finish the subfloors and walls etc. The room has been kept dark to avoid discolouration of the exposed timber before it is laid.

Windows in general

There are six exterior windows plus two that were originally exterior and are now interior (looking into the main entrance hall). With the restoration, I have started with the three under the southern verandah because they are in the best condition and under cover. This will provide a gradual learning experience and hopefully avoid major and/or costly mistakes being made.

As it has turned out this was the right decision. Each window has provided small challenges that have been different for each window, which is an almost ideal way to learn.

The remaining three exterior windows will be significantly more work to restore.

Wiring in general

The building was rewired in whole or in part circa 1983, which is probably the last time electrical work was done in this wing of the house. In 2012 all the old wire fuses were replaced with circuit breakers of equivalent or lower capacity, which in turn will likely be replaced in the future by residual circuit breakers.

A single 16A power circuit and a single 8A lighting circuit service the whole of the old schoolhouse section of the building.

There are currently no appliances that require high current draw, and none should be required in future. The separately wired and breakered ducted heating and cooling zone covering the schoolhouse section, combined with an efficient wood fire, should mean that items like electric radiators are never required. The highest loads are likely to come from entertainment equipment and hair dryers.

I want to increase the number of GPO locations in all rooms for convenience and to reduce the clutter from running power leads across floors etc., also increasing safety, and so, several of the existing double GPOs may be converted to singles, if need be, to maintain compliance with wiring rules.

Painting in general

Of the original residence rooms three have been painted using non lime-based impermiable paint systems. These will stay as, of these walls, only one wall in each of two rooms are fully internal and are thus not susceptible to moisture ingress. The heating/cooling system should deal with condensation build-up. The two walls with an exterior side are under verandahs and do not appear to have suffered any effects of moisture entrapment. The remaining room (the original parlour, now bedroom one) had been mostly wallpapered before being lined with gyproc sheeting. Removing the remaining wallpaper revealed the original milk-painted walls. All surfaces above the picture rail, including the ceiling, had been painted with oil paint and later acrylic paint. The walls have been stripped back but the ceiling will not be stripped.

I've decided to lime wash the walls in all four rooms plus the ceilings in the two bedrooms. A compatible preparation undercoat will be applied to all surfaces to which lime wash will be applied.