Three Tree-Change Tips From Walt Collins

Reading time: 5 mins

Thinking of heading for greener spaces? When it comes to making a tree change, no one knows more about rethinking that work-life balance and making a move to the country than tv presenter & home expert Walt Collins.

His newest project and forever home, Annie’s Farmhouse, is a three bedroom home on two acres, set in the farming community of Corop, just outside Rochester in regional Victoria.

We chatted with Walt on all things dream country reno, from where to start, and handy tips and tricks, to the satisfaction that comes with rescuing an old home and giving it a new life. 

"Originally it was going to just be a new kitchen, bathroom and a lick of paint, but once I was in, I realised this had the potential to be a stunning home."

Watch our full conversation between Walt and Chris & Masterchef Alum Monica Mignone as they chat all things tree-change.

Getting started

We all know taking the first step is often the hardest part in getting started on a renovation, and according to Walt, understanding as much of the final vision as possible prior to starting is key.

“Learn. Educate. Empower. Those are three words I tell people all the time. Learn about the area you’re renovating, educate yourself on the process, the building codes, the trades, the sign-offs, the permits needed… then you’re empowered to make educated decisions” Walt said

When it comes to design, considering not only the look and feel you’re looking for, but the functionality and use for the room is oh so important. Renovation shows, Pinterest and social media are great places to draw inspiration from, and shortlisting the styles, materials and colours you love will help to build that vision. Working with the design team at Manna Made, Walt was able to pull his dream design together.

“I wanted my bathrooms to feel clean, but homely. I wanted a bit of glam, but also be really down to earth. Given the spaces I was working with, I had to be creative with the layout. So the priorities were, aesthetic, followed by functionality, and efficiency.”

Being on a water tank, considerations like heating, cooling and water usage also come into play when choosing fixtures and fittings.

Talking to your trades, and asking for input and inspiration will help bring the practical and design elements together.

Adding an additional bathroom in the form of a spacious ensuite adds to the luxury of this country oasis.

Keeping your project on track

Renovations are notorious for timing and budget issues. Chatting all things project management, we asked Walt for his top tips on keeping a building project on track.

“Manage your trades. Give them your deadlines and ask them to be honest about their delivery. A lot of trades will be YES people and then once they turn up, realise it’s a bigger job than they thought. So, tell the plumber when the tiler starts and say it’s not negotiable.”

If you’re lucky enough to have a project manager or you’re working with a builder, they can often manage communication between your teams. But for those of you self-managing your tree change, getting your trades talking to each other will help your project running on time, and minimise unforeseen costs. 

“I learned that my chippy should have spoken to my plumber to discuss depths of walls, tiles or flooring before it was laid. My plumber had to fix up some unforeseen errors which cost me time and money.”

“Have the master plan available to each trade and ask them to spot any errors or conflicts which might occur during their time on the job thanks to the trade before them.”

Utilising a statement tile throughout the bathroom and kitchen creates a beautifully cohesive feel throughout the home.

Talking sustainability

Moving away from the creature comforts of the city may require some additional considerations. Sustainability is a big one when it comes to relocating regionally, especially when you’re renovating an older home.

From insulation in the floor, to the use of greywater, there are plenty of options you may not have thought about. Consulting your trades on these baseline improvements will have a major impact on your energy consumption.

Allow the budget to insulate the walls and ceilings. Think about roof space ventilation, allowing the hot air in summer to escape your roof space will mean your AC works more efficiently. This is especially important for older homes.

“Ask your plumber about lagging your hot water pipes - this will keep them from freezing and save energy heating your water. Connect a rainwater catchment tank to your roof, use that water and grey water to keep your gardens going in summer”. When bringing an older home back to life, it’s important to remember that unforeseen issues might pop up throughout the process. The satisfaction of the project coming together however, will be more than worth it.

"There’s something nourishing to the soul to be able to rescue an old house, build on the greatness and set it off on a new life. You can leave your mark on history. There is a real wow-factor and sense of satisfaction when you come home to a place you renovated."