If you grew up in our sun-bleached country, like me, you will be familiar with one of the great Australian home features – the ubiquitous sunroom, or sleepout.
When I was a kid so many of my friends’ houses had a sleepout – and so many still do. Commonly tacked onto the back of 60s and 70s homes to give a little extra living space, or to create a somewhat makeshift bedroom for one of the family’s (unluckiest?) children, sunrooms were typically inexpensively built, and it was not uncommon for a sunroom to have been attached by one’s dad and his friend Mick.
Aluminium walls and louvred windows were typical features, just like the brown threadbare carpet over a concrete or scratched jarrah floor. Many had the lightweight aluminium door (with cat flap) that continually slammed all summer long as kids raced in and out of the house, the noise driving mums across the country crazy. I had many a good time hanging out in a sunroom when I was growing up, at New Year’s Eve pool parties; watching Goosebumps and Toy Story while curled up with popcorn on beanbags dusted lightly in cat hair. So when I walked through our house The Crap Shack for the very first time, I remember laughing, rather than being appalled, when I turned the corner and saw this 70s sunroom, below.
But after I moved in, I quickly realised how depressing and gloomy this room was – and it made the internal living areas, which wrap around it in an L-shape, even darker. It really brought the feel of the already-dated interior down.
And after our DIY reno, this is our sunroom now:
It feels much brighter and more sun-filled (uh, I suppose the way a sunroom should be) and went from being a part of the house I deeply disliked to a space where me, Mr Nerd and Nala actually enjoying spending time. Mr Nerd and I like to have our breakfast here (it overlooks the garden) and we also like to read here. Nala likes to leave her white hair on the black couch.
Our house is still very much a work-in-progress – and we are still DIY novices, definitely not experts. But I wanted to share how we did this project with you as it was not difficult or expensive to change this space on a budget– it just took time, MANY coats of paint and a lot of patience! (and some tears. I tend to burst into tears when I’m incredibly bored. It has happened on road trips).
Mr Nerd and I were never big fans of our house’s original dark brown-red 70s brick walls and wanted to make the walls lighter teamed with white windows. We used Dulux Texture Full Cover Roll On on the walls. It’s basically a gritty render product with the paint already in it, with the idea being that you don’t have to paint your entire house after you render. It was quite a new-ish product on the Perth market at the time, but now it’s become more mainstream. Rockcote make this stuff also.
It’s fairly easy to use (you can apply it with a spatula, a roller or a brush for a less textured finish) and you basically just smear it onto your walls, like a dribbly putty. We made it go further by first applying a coat of Render It to the exterior walls then using Roll On. We watched YouTube versions on how to render and tried it out first on a wall around the laundry side of the house that wasn’t too important, aesthetics-wise… trial and error was the way.
REPLACING THE ROOF
How disgusting was the fibreglass roof before? Every time I walked outside I felt a vague grumpiness and couldn’t help but notice it and how dirty-looking it was. If you’ve ever tried to wash dirt out of 35-year-old fibreglass… you can’t. I longed for the day when the HOUSE NERD SUPER A-TEAM (and by that I mean Mr Nerd) would replace it.
When he did, it lifted the entire space (and my spirits with it. Yes, I know that was cheesy. I’m ok with it). It took Mr Nerd less than a day to rip off the old roofing and replace it with new – and it only cost $300. He advises making sure you apply plenty of sealant to the overlaps to make the sunroom watertight. The new roof has made the sunroom so much lighter – and less grubby-looking. And the internal living spaces that wrap around the sunroom feel lighter too.
In true journalist style, I interviewed Mr Nerd for this feature (uh, via text message). “As far as the roof is concerned it wasn’t hard as a lot of the structural stuff was already in place,” he said. “So it was just a matter of checking if that was still okay (ie: if the beams of wood needed some treatment and wood filler) and then it was just a case of retracing the steps backward – simple job.”
This basically means get someone handy to do it for you while you take photos and potter about pretending to look busy. But I really did help. I wiped the rust spots off the steel ceiling beams with vinegar and steel wool.
As you can see in the before photos, there was an old pond right by the sunroom entry. It had to go – it attracted mozzies and you couldn’t walk into the sunroom at night without being eaten alive. Also, this kind of thing happened:
Wanting to keep the sunroom as an enclosed space, we couldn’t afford to replace the old mission brown aluminium windows – so we looked into painting them to lighten the place up, something it desperately needed. And yep, you can paint aluminium. You just need the right primer. Bob at Bunnings recommended White Knight Rust Guard S.L.S Etch Prime, which we used as a base. He warned us that it doesn’t smell amazing. “S.L.S stands for Stinks Like Shit,” Bob informed us. We then used British Paints InColour Full Gloss Enamel in White to give a nice glossy, hardwearing finish. It’s held up very well.
I usually jump into painting with enthusiasm – but 15 minutes later, I am bored out of my brain. And when it’s a stinking hot summer’s day, you have to give every window five coats of paint, and someone saunters out of the air-conditioned house, munching an apple and pointing out spots you’ve missed, you start to get tense.
When that same person says, “Hmm… maybe we’ll just knock out the windows and replace them one day anyway,” AFTER you’ve spent what feels like months painting them, I think it’s fair to say that some people will scream in frustration and burst into anger tears. I just HATE painting and painting these windows seemed an endless task.
*AMENDMENT* I wish now I had thought to spray-paint the windows for speed’s sake – rather than laboriously painting them by hand with a brush, as the Bunnings guy recommended at the time. Because the windows needed four and even five coats in some places – I wanted to curl up and die when I realised that. But you live and learn… and I am nobly passing this knowledge onto you guys. SPRAY PAINT, GUYS! Since this post (which I wrote in 2013) I’ve spray-painted all the other windows and doors in our house – it’s WAY faster. Just don’t do it on a windy day, if you’re doing it outdoors (and make sure all your cars are parked well away!) Here’s how to do it.
HOW TO SPRAY PAINT ALUMINIUM WINDOWS
1. Clean the windows thoroughly and let dry.
2. Tape off all seals and cover glass and floors with newspaper and drop cloths, extensively (the backspray can go a surprising way further than you might think).
3. Apply a metal etch primer spray paint – choose an anti-corrosive one specially designed for metals, such as White Knight Rust Guard SLS Primer. You may need to apply two coats of this.
4. When that’s dry, apply your spray paint – we’ve used White Knight Rust Guard Epoxy Enamel Spray Paint with good results. You can choose between glossy and matt – I do love the reflectiveness of a glossy paint, but find a matt finish seems to be more forgiving of errors. Read your aerosol can directions, but working around 30cm away tends to be best, and shake the bottle often for best results.
5. Do numerous coats of your spray paint – one thing I learned was that numerous thin coats rather than one thick coat will give you a MUCH better result! Spraying too closely, or too thickly, can cause your paint to ‘sag’ or run and it spoils the finish.
6. Let dry and remove your tape and covers.
The previous couches were kindly given to us when we first moved out by a family friend. But they slowly became the nesting place of a small colony of spiders and after a while we were too scared to sit on them anymore. After a dubious cleaning we gave away the spider couches to friends… I know, we’re kind like that.
We replaced them with batu modular outdoor seating from Segals Outdoor Furniture – and this was by far the most expensive piece of furniture we have yet bought for our home! We wanted something that was solid timber and also modular, but it was not easy to find modular outdoor furniture that was not plastic or wicker or cheap timber. We love it though. It’s easy to clean, super comfy (good for spider-free napping) and hardwearing and we take it out into the garden for parties.
New Colorbond ceiling panels from Midalia Steel: $300
Wood filler: $10
Walls – Render-It: $10 for one bag
Walls – Dulux Texture Full Cover Cover Roll On: $141.50 for 10L
Windows: White Knight Rust Guard S.L.S Etch Prime: $77 for 4L
– British Paints InColour Full Gloss Enamel in White: $48 for 2L
Timber paint – British Paints Exterior 4 Seasons: $44 for 2L
Modular couch seating from Segals Outdoor Furniture $1,949
Throw cushions, Spotlight at a 30% off sale. The girl also
accidentally knocked some more off the price: $60
Green drink tub from Bunnings $15
Little jarrah table from op-shop $5
Artwork, gift from a friend. I think you can find similar from Thingz Home.
Green glass lanterns: Gift from Mr Nerd’s sister and mother. From a Sydney market.
Fairy lights from The Reject Shop $15
Loss of sanity: UnrecoverableTOTAL: $2,553Maya x