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A House On Sand

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Australia is home to more than 7000 beaches, which means our options for coastal living are rich and varied. Building a practical and beautiful beach house requires a unique approach, and there are many important factors to consider. Here, Cloé Timperley chats to Lee Makin, the director and owner of Makin Homes, about designing the perfect coastal abode.

Australia is famous for its stunning coastline and pristine beaches, so it’s no surprise that many of us aspire to live by the sea. However, the complexities of building and maintaining an ocean-side property could turn your dream home into a nightmare if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Constructing a home in a coastal spot is often more complicated than building in other areas, particularly in regards to location, maintenance and material selection. Here, Western Australia Home Design + Living explores the key things you’ll need to keep in mind when planning your new seaside sanctuary.

RULES AND REGULATIONS

Before starting your new project, check with your local council to find out your obligations. Local governments and building-regulation bodies often have different rules and restrictions for building in coastal areas, which could include how far from the shore you can build or the architectural styles that are permitted, as well as the materials you can use. “It’s important [to do your research] with the local council regarding cone of vision, height restrictions, and setback requirements,” says Lee Makin. “[This will ensure your home] takes full advantage of the [ocean] views.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Location can make or break a new house, and this is especially true of beach houses. While a seaside block might seem like prime real estate, factors such as proximity to the water, soil quality, erosion, and other local variances can have an enormous impact on your comfort and safety levels, and determine your construction and maintenance requirements. The combination of loose earth – which tends to lurk beneath beach sand – and water-driven erosion means beachfront properties commonly suffer from shifting or sinking foundations. Consequently, your house will need a sturdy base that’s specifically designed to withstand the nature of the land. Consult a land engineer or surveyor when choosing your building site, as they can arrange soil and contour tests, and help you select a location with a solid foundation for your house.

WEATHER THE STORM

When building close to the sea, the selection of materials – particularly those that will clad the home’s exterior – is critically important. It’s essential to opt for tough, corrosion-resistant products that will endure the harsh coastal conditions, including high salt exposure, humidity and moisture, as well as strong winds and storms. “[If you’re] building on the coast, your home will be subject to extreme weather conditions,” says Makin. “If you intend to clad your home, I would recommend James Hardie™ products for the main wall cladding and ceiling lining, with special attention paid to the corners and window mouldings. Within the structure, it’s important that any steel is rated adequately and complies with your coastal location.” With impressive anti-corrosion properties, firedclay bricks, concrete, timber, and COLORBOND® steel are popular choices for coastal structures. However, when in doubt, look for marine-grade products, which are often specifically formulated for use by the sea.

SHIPSHAPE CONDITION

Beach houses are exposed to sand, salt and sun every single day, so they require regular maintenance to stay spick and span. “Maintenance is a big concern [when it comes to] ocean-facing homes,” says Makin. “Practical  cladding, well-designed windows, and materials that are [engineered] for a coastal location are vital for minimising maintenance [requirements]. I would recommend Scyon™ Axent™ trim for mouldings, which will allow you to enjoy your home without [constantly worrying] about annual maintenance.” The high level of moisture and salt in the air means that both indoor and outdoor metal elements are vulnerable to rust. You’ll need to regularly check any metal fastenings, fixtures and furniture for corrosion, and ensure external metal surfaces that aren’t normally washed by rain, such as eaves, are frequently hosed down. As any beach-house owner will attest, keeping sand out is a constant battle, but there’s hope! Low-maintenance, easy-to-clean flooring such as concrete, laminate or tile will minimise clean-up time, while doormats or an outdoor shower will reduce the amount of sand that’s tracked indoors.

If you prefer the look of timber flooring, remember to opt for engineered hardwood, as natural timber will expand and contract in a damp environment.

LIVE IT UP

You’ve staked out an enviable beachside location – why not make the most of it? Consider a spacious open-plan layout, which will allow ocean breezes and ambient light to permeate the entire house. Coastal living is all about spending time in the salty open air, so an impressive outdoor area should be front and centre in your beach house’s design. Incorporating a barbecue and refrigerator into your outdoor space will allow you to effortlessly entertain guests on balmy summer nights, while a well-placed hammock or daybed is ideal for soaking up the sunny weather in peace. Your windows should capitalise on the gorgeous ocean views without compromising the comfort of your living spaces. Energy-efficient window glazing will enable you to enjoy the stunning scenery while maintaining a pleasant internal temperature throughout the year. Indoor and outdoor window coverings like shutters and blinds are also a wise investment, as they can further protect your home from the elements. “Screening may be required due to council requirements, and it can serve as a
great shield against the strong ocean winds,” says Makin. Finally, living by the beach provides plenty of opportunities for swimming, surfing, fishing and sailing, so you’ll want somewhere safe and secure to store your aquatic paraphernalia. Whether you opt for a mudroom, shed or expansive garage, make sure to include a dedicated area in which to store surfboards, kayaks and wetsuits. Australia’s coastline is spectacularly beautiful, but also unforgiving, windswept and corrosive. It’s important to think carefully about the practical considerations of building your own beach house, as even the smallest design choices can impact your satisfaction with the finished product. However, a bit of forethought, thorough planning and professional advice will ensure your next venture into seaside living is a breeze!

Images courtesy of Makin Homes