I warmed my whole home for under $20k: It’s gone from ‘wooden tent’ to toasty


Nelson Lebo spends his times giving information on earning New Zealand’s previous, cold homes warm and dry – a work designed simpler by the point that he’s walked the chat, correcting up his family’s individual 1935 bungalow.

Lebo, an eco layout adviser for Palmerston North Town Council, DIYed his individual retrofit, and suggests the approximate expense for components on your own over the eight several years he’s “chipped away” at his Whanganui household is fewer than $10,000, plus a new $7000 stove which heats the dwelling, drinking water and is utilized as a cooker throughout colder months.

He grew up in the US, where snow coated the ground for a few months of the calendar year, but the place his family members dwelling was so dry in wintertime (centrally heated with “giant forged iron radiators”) that his mom utilized a humidifier to include dampness to the air.

He agrees with a colleague’s time period for Kiwi houses – “wooden tents” – a shell that much more or considerably less keeps out wind and rain, but provides tiny other security from the aspects.

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Retrofitting is the option for more mature housing inventory, he claims, and his possess method is what he phone calls eco-thrifty – which means it was completed on a spending plan and with as little product sent to landfill as possible.

At operate, he provides Manawatū citizens tips on dampness management, heat retention, heat distribution, and space and h2o heating – “usually in that order”.

“I’ve taken the similar solution in my household.”

Lebo had to cut drains in the carport of his Whanganui home to manage water runoff.


Lebo had to minimize drains in the carport of his Whanganui home to regulate water runoff.

Dampness administration

To deal with increasing moist in his very own residence, Lebo to start with place in a polythene floor dampness barrier beneath the house that experienced been relocated, and set on new piles with a vented Hardie Board ring foundation. He removed back garden crops that had grown up to half-address the vents.

Lebo suggests, as a common rule, vegetation and trees should really never ever mature up in opposition to a property as they keep moisture. “You should never have any vegetation touching your cladding. You want totally free air circulation close to the quick perimeter of your residence,” he states.

He also reduce channels in concrete and set in French drains to immediate stormwater away from the house. With all these modifications, it took 18 months for the dwelling to absolutely dry out.

Moist was a lesser issue inside of. The lavatory previously experienced a impressive 150mm diameter admirer and a delay timer on the swap. “Nonetheless, I installed a shower hood, and currently we get no condensation in the rest room unless the little ones have a specifically prolonged engage in in the bath.”

He suggests that is an effortless Diy task for any home-owner, with YouTube videos accessible to display how to instal.

Warmth retention

To tackle warmth decline, Lebo ordered R3.6 blanket insulation “within a week of our purchase” of the home, placing two levels to a height of 30cm in the ceiling, and also covering the ducting of the current heat transfer system – which he believes designed a big variation.

“Putting a total heap of insulation in your ceiling is just one of the simplest matters to do. Just go up and put it in,” he suggests. “Underfloor is a minor bit harder, but nonetheless inside the realm of an aspiring DIYer.”

The feature wall in the main bedroom was packed out from the existing wall, insulated and lined with reclaimed macrocarpa from a horse stable.


The element wall in the key bedroom was packed out from the existing wall, insulated and lined with reclaimed macrocarpa from a horse secure.

Lebo obtained resourceful with the interior walls, adding more inner linings on 4 walls:

  • a timber feature wall in the learn bed room
  • a plywood climbing wall in his daughter’s room
  • plasterboard in a smaller place of work
  • slim ply in two large closets alongside the south wall.

”Blowing in insulation needs a expert and is pretty highly-priced, and proprietary,” Lebo claims. ”All I did was I packed off the inside of of the wall with framing timber, insulated in amongst, and then I just experienced fun with it.”

What about the windows?

Lebo added Perspex secondary glazing or double glazing with minimal-E glass to nearly just about every window. He programs to end the whole property by double glazing a last children’s bed room this wintertime.

A person window – amongst the eating area and the carport – is now triple glazed with layers of Perspex additional both equally inside of and outdoors.

“It’s almost certainly the most inexpensive, finest window in all of New Zealand: triple glazed for about $170.”

This window between the dining room and the carport is effectively triple-glazed, with Perspex added to either side of the glass window. It cost $170.


This window between the eating area and the carport is efficiently triple-glazed, with Perspex included to possibly facet of the glass window. It value $170.

Perspex is degraded by daylight, but performs in this section of the dwelling that does not get immediate sunlight.

To make double glazing additional affordable, Lebo recommends a Diy tactic and likely straight to a window producer to purchase insulated glass models. “You give them the specific measurements and form of glass, and they’ll create them for you and sell them to you. A very little bit of sleuthing on the world-wide-web and I acquired how to retrofit double glazing.”

He also acquired detachable curtain linings for the existing unlined curtains, and lined Roman blinds for the kitchen area and dining parts.

As well as the $10,000 spend on insulation and moisture management, the family bought a $7000 stove, right, which heats the home, water and is used as a cooker during colder months.


As perfectly as the $10,000 expend on insulation and humidity management, the family purchased a $7000 stove, suitable, which heats the residence, water and is employed as a cooker throughout colder months.

The renovations have designed huge enhancements in warmth and consolation for Lebo, his wife, Dani and kids Verti, 9, Manu, 7 and foster son, Topher, 3.

“When we bought here, there was a 30-12 months-previous Kent woodburner in the lounge,” Lebo suggests. “Now it’s a 40-year-outdated Kent. When we arrived, it only heated the lounge. Now it conveniently heats the full property.

“And we’re burning fifty percent of the wooden and heating two times the area.”

Lebo suggests getting labored on his possess dwelling helps in his day occupation.

”Doing it the superior-price tag way is quick, for the reason that you just open up up your chequebook, but carrying out it the minimal-charge way is challenging. I do not convey to individuals what to do, but I can say, here’s a wide assortment of alternatives.”


It really is low-cost, simple and speedy to insulate your windows.

Lebo has seen a society change, albeit “glacial”, absent from a tolerance for cold, moist properties in the eight many years he’s been operating in his purpose.

He suggests other house owners on a budget to build their Do-it-yourself expertise gradually, as he has, employing “YouTube University”.

“And then also use a scientific mind to have an understanding of how to make your residence hotter and drier. There is a great deal of people feeling like, ‘Oh my home is horrible, and I really don’t why’.”

He endorses individuals seek advice from eco design and style advisers in which councils deliver them, or speak to organisations these kinds of as Wellington’s Sustainability Trust for assistance.


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Angela M. Arriola

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