Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The great bathroom window debacle - also known as council compliance

So this post is really a warning to all those DIY renovators like myself who may not realise the areas you can get into trouble with from your local council.

When we were renovating the bathroom/laundry, we had already removed the asbestos and so needed to get the walls resheeted.  The ceiling is sloping, and also had exposed beams.  Our plasterer/handyman suggested we put in a new ceiling to remove the beams.  All of which was fine.  The problem was the windows that had previously been in place.  When we went to prepare to resheet - it was discovered that what had previously been in place was two sheets of glass fixed to the outside of the house, and a frame on the inside to make it appear like a proper window - but these were never attached together!

So once we realised this we had a dilemma.  We couldn't reuse these windows, it was just not possible.  But the two windows which were there were unusual sizes, and to find windows to fit this seemed difficult.

So my plasterer came up with a  (seemingly) great idea - he could get a frosted glass window, "only a little bit bigger" and he would put one larger window in the place of the two smaller ones.  I naively said ok, go ahead.

So the window was installed.  As soon as I saw it (completed, as I had had to go to work while this was all going on) I knew it was a fair bit larger than the previous windows.  And was lower down.  But I still didn't think too much of it.

The offending window once bathroom was complete

So this is the new window - window is great but still need to finish the tiling!

Until I came home to the business card from the council compliance office stuck in my door.  And discovered my neighbour had made a complaint about our new window.  She did come to see us afterwards, but unfortunately the damage was done when she had already spoken to the council.  So even though we came to a mutually satisfactory agreement (we would replace the window with a fixed frosted window of the same size, in place of the sliding one we had put in) the council didn't care - we had to replace what had been there (impossible) or lodge a building application for what we had put in (what's the point - she would not allow it?!)  They were quite inflexible which is frustrating.  In the end, we had to get custom made windows of the same size that had previously been there.  Although they had previously been clear glass, as I pointed out to the council guy - frosted is much more practical in a bathroom.  So we were allowed to have frosted glass.  (technically it should have been exactly the same, so clear - which to me just shows how silly some things are, however at least the council officer did give us some leeway on this).

In the end, we had the windows custom made by Select Windows, and although rather pricey (it came in altogether at approximately $3000 but this included replacing our other side window, which had been glass bricks but we had knocked out and had been using a nailed on board!) we are really happy with the end result.  The neighbours are also happy - and given the large bunch of flowers we found on our doorstep not long after the whole debacle I think they appreciated us not kicking up a fuss - and possibly also felt sorry for not speaking to us first, as we could have worked it out between us at less cost!

But the take home lesson is - look up on your council website the restrictions in your area.  And windows are probably always something that you need to be careful with - I really hadn't thought of it but no one wants the neighbour to be suddenly able to see into areas they had never seen before!  Making an error like this can be costly, so even though a fast decision might seem like a good idea - look into it first.  We were lucky that as we had made an honest mistake, and moved quickly to fix it, the council did waive what apparently could have been a sizeable fine on top of the costs to replace the windows.  So maybe Leichhardt Council isn't all bad.  Maybe.

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