House Facelift

House Facelift

The subject of our makeover was a red brick house with a very unattractive front garden, steps and balcony. Don thought the red bricks were very relentless, but decided he could work around them. However the colour of the trim on the woodwork, railings and balcony furniture had to be changed from white to a creamy gold. The pots on the balcony were small and tacky, and had to be removed. The concrete steps looked wrong next to the red brick of the house, and beside them dwarf nandina (Nandina domestica ‘Nana’) and onion weed were struggling for survival in two brick planter boxes. The garden bed was a major problem area, dominated by a large, ugly cordyline (Cordyline australis) and rock edging, which again did not work with the house.

Tools required

  • Electric drill and cordless drill
  • Brick saw, 9 inch angle grinder
  • Electrical extension lead
  • Wheelbarrow, ladder
  • Rubber mallet, long handle sledge hammer, lump hammer
  • Kango hammer
  • Coal chisel and bolster
  • Trowels for cementing
  • Mattock
  • Spade, shovel, rake and garden fork
  • Broom
  • Spirit level
  • String line

The makeover

Step 1 – After obtaining the necessary council permission, the cordyline was cut down by professional arborists who then used a stump grinder to remove the stump.

Step 2 – Tilers began work on the balcony and steps. The tile chosen to complement the red brick house was Eureka ‘Landau’ in a creamy gold colour.

Step 3 – Existing garden edging was demolished. Don used a Kango hammer for this job.

Step 4 – Black plastic was removed from the garden bed. (Black plastic sours the soil and does not prevent weed growth.) Existing plants were removed and new soil was added to the bed. A Telecom line was discovered and its position marked so that it would not be accidentally cut during planting.

Step 5 – New garden edging was installed. A stormwater pipe was found running along the length of the trench which was dug for the edging. This didn’t really create any problems but brought home the fact that there could well be services such as phone, electricity, water or sewer lines in garden beds and macho digging is out, even for the girls! Tuscan Stone bullnose tiles in a sandstone colour were chosen for the edging. They were mortared into a base of sand/cement mix and dry concrete was put behind them. The dry concrete was then given a light misting of water so it would set overnight. Dry concrete was also swept into the gap between the front of the edging and the path. Half pavers, mitred so that they fitted together perfectly, were used for the corner.

Step 6 – Soil from the planter boxes was dug out and sent to the tip. This soil was infested with onion weed and the only option was to remove it.

Step 7 – Wrought iron balustrades, outdoor furniture and windows and doors of the house were painted a creamy gold colour to match the paving and garden edging.

Step 8 – The inside of the new sandstone planters was sealed with Bondcrete and allowed to dry. They were then carried up the steps and placed in position. We used fibre cement strips under the planters so that the drain holes would not block. Drain holes were covered with filter fabric to protect the tiles. Coarse river sand was used over blue metal to filter the drainage water and avoid stains.

Step 9 – Lattice (pre-painted) was installed on the brick wall at the back of the garden bed. (Tip: when putting up lattice make sure nailed side faces the wall.)

Step 10 – Plants were put into the garden bed. We used Chinese star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) at the back to climb on the lattice. The body of the garden was planted with gardenias (Gardenia augusta ‘Magnifica’) and a box hedge (Buxus microphylla var microphylla) was installed along the front of the bed. A layer of horticultural pine bark about 7-10cm (3-4″) thick was used to mulch the garden. The plants were then watered in well.

Step 11 – Sandstone troughs on the balcony were filled with potting mix and planted with Acmena smithii ‘Hedgemaster’ or dwarf lilly pilly (‘Hedgemaster’ is a small-leaved shrub due for national release next year, although from October small quantities should be available from Swane’s Nursery, Dural.) The plants were then trimmed to shape.

Step 12 – Brick planter boxes were planted with dwarf lilly pilly and trimmed to shape.


Garden edging: Tuscan Stone (Sandstone colour) bullnose 375 x 375 x 40mm thick.
Price: $17 each.
Exclusive to Amber. Available at their stores in Sydney, Newcastle, Gosford, Wollongong, ACT. Phone: 13 22 41

Tiles to balcony:
‘Landau’ made by Eureka Tiles.
Square body tile, $33.95 per square metre supply only
Bullnose stair tile, $11.50 each
Exclusive to Amber (as above).

Supplied by The Lattice Factory, 121 Church Street, Ryde, NSW, 2112.
Phone: (02) 9809 7665

Paint for lattice, metal work, doors and windows:
Dulux acrylic gloss – Cream

Paint for outdoor furniture:
White Knight – Rust Guard Cream, High Gloss Enamel aerosol paint.

Reconstituted Sandstone Planters, 1000 x 400 x 400mm:
$99 each.
Made and supplied by El Rancho Garden Products, 9 Porter Street, Ryde, NSW, 2112.
Phone: (02) 9809 2265

Planter Box Mix:
used in planters and garden bed.
Supplied by Australian Native Landscapes. Phone: (02) 9450 1444.
Horticultural Pine Bark: used to mulch garden bed.
Supplied by Australian Native Landscapes.

Blue Metal 10mm grade: used in base of planters for drainage.
Supplied by Australian Native Landscapes.

Coarse washed river sand: used over blue metal.
Supplied by Australian Native Landscapes.


  • 15 Buxus microphylla var microphylla, 200mm (8″) pots.
  • 30 Gardenia augusta ‘Magnifica’, 200mm (8″) pots.
  • 5 Trachelospermum jasminoides, 200mm (8″) pots.
  • 64 Acmena smithii ‘Hedgemaster’, 125mm (5″) pots, supplied by Swane’s Nursery, Dural. Phone: (02) 9651 1322.

Further Information

Designer: John Happ, 3rd Dimensional Designs, 31 Wentworth Road, Strathfield, NSW, 2135, phone: (02) 9744 2658.