Australia: Renovating during COVID-19, Part 1

Renovating a house is challenging at best. But, how difficult is it to renovate a house in Australia during COVID-19? Stay with me to find out the background in Part 1…

Setting the scene

Back in September 2019, we booked flights from Italy to Australia, accommodation, and buses – everything. Also at the same time, giving my tenants of 14 years, 5 months’ notice that I would not be renewing their lease, in February 2020.

Arriving in Sydney at the beginning of February, spend a week with relatives catching up. It’s been 4 years since visiting Australia, and head to Brisbane to start renovating in the 6-week timeframe.

Renovating in Australia during COVID-19, Brisbane, Oceania


As it’s mid-February, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions haven’t kicked in just yet, in Australia. Although, March brings with it, much stricter regulations across the country – and world.

Brisbane, Australia, Oceania

After a couple of days in an Airbnb just around the corner from the house we’re renovating, it’s time for the Exit Inspection with my tenants.

Knowingly, I prepare myself for the worse during the inspection of the house.

It’s been 4 years since I saw the house on only a brief visit, to organise roof repairs. Back then, the ceiling was in a tragic state as the roof leak became worse. The fix in 2015, didn’t work. Employing a handyman to repair the ceiling a couple of years’ later, I’m yet to see the ceiling work.

The exit inspection

The hurried exit inspection is carried out late in the afternoon during winter. It’s getting dark and difficult to see too much, especially, while tip-toeing around the house. The tiles and carpets are still soaked from the pest control, completed only a couple of hours ago.

Picking up several issues that need rectifying during the inspection, the tenant agrees to fix the problems.

The following day, we move from the Airbnb apartment, into the house.

Condition of the house

Staying at the house is when it really becomes apparent, just how bad the state of the house is in – each day uncovers more problems.

Numerous emails to the tenant see some of the issues rectified by way of payment for materials, although we actually fix everything. This all takes time – our time away from renovating. There are too many issues that I should have picked up during the Exit Inspection. Live and learn.

  • house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • window frame, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • Flattened carpet, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • badly patched hole in wall, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • smoking remnants, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • Alfresco, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • powerpoint, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • dirty walls in kitchen, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • Bathroom, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania
  • roller blinds, house, Brisbane, Australia, Oceania

I even call the professional Bond Cleaners back to the house to re-clean several things. Advised that the oven needs a ‘deep clean’, which isn’t in the company’s job description. Also advised that the condition the cleaners found the house in when first arriving, is one of the worse they’ve seen in their 10 years as a (husband and wife) bond cleaning team.

Wonder if they’re covering their reputation or whether this is true. Although, after seeing the current condition of the house, I tend to believe the cleaners.

Of course, before we can begin renovating, everything needs cleaning and walls washing down with a Sugar Soap solution. Didn’t expect to be cleaning this much, so this extra time isn’t on the project schedule.

Cleaning filth

Each day, more and more filth reveals itself – 14 years of hidden grime to be exact.

Chunks of solidified dust, dirt with hair, cobwebs, mice poo, cockroaches and eggs (dead and alive), mouldy tiles, and many other grubby surprises. There’s no end to what needs cleaning – everything.

Cockroaches still roam the house as if we’re an intrusion in their long-term residence.

These are only a few of the photos of the gross filth and should have taken more…

After the oven’s ‘professional clean’ organised by the tenants, I take another 8 hours and 4 cans of oven cleaner, to finally get the oven clean. I’m not exaggerating.

It’s as though the oven I bought for the tenants 7 years’ ago – the previous one died – was never cleaned. The oven’s fan barely turned. Removing the greasy screws and backing plate, everything is dripping with grease and caked in black-hardened grease, baked-on like cement. It’s surprising the oven worked at all.

The plague?

Surrounded by all this filth, it’s no surprise that the inevitable happens.

Although the tenants arranged a carpet clean, the carpet isn’t clean. I book another clean. The cleaner can’t make the scheduled day because his machine breaks down and needs another part. Almost a week later the mattress is still on a sheet of plastic on the grungy carpet. Compliments of the tenants, this proved painful.

It started with a couple of what looked like bites on my wrist. This then became a plague, which spread down my hand and not stopping.

An adamant pharmacist advises that it’s Shingles. I’m adamant it’s not. I experienced shingles in my early 20s and the pain is excruciating. This ugly mess is not painful or itchy.

The verdict

Finally, after 10 days of my hand not healing and getting worse, I see the doctor. Excited, he dons his magnifying specs, eagerly takes a closer look, then confirms that this mess is some sort of spider’s bite.

Welcome back to Australia!

The doctor sticks a needle in the blisters to drain the fluid, mops up everything and wraps up my hand – giving me a script of Cortisone cream to apply twice per day.

When I was a child, I collected highly venomous Red Back Spiders and eggs in a jar to observe but never bitten. Ironic that it only takes sleeping with my hand outside of the sheets, laid on the dirty carpet to be bitten – ending up with the plague.

Wrap-up of Part 1 renovating

The annoying hand doesn’t stop me from renovating as there isn’t time to waste – so much to do and organise on this 6-week deadline.

Next week’s post is when we really start getting our teeth into serious renovating during COVID-19, after a lot of the cleaning is finished.

The plan is to start renovating 1 room at a time as it’s a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom large house, in a sorry state.

I’m determined to return this house to its former comfortable and clean state once more. This is going to take a lot of hard work and money.

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32 responses to “Australia: Renovating during COVID-19, Part 1”

  1. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Appalling. Unfortunately some (many?) tenants are like that. They don’t mind the filth. A friend of mine here rented a brand new studio to a tenant for a year. The shower bottom was green with hair dogs, mold and filth…
    And so sorry about the spider bites. You do have some nasty little things over there don’t you?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Brian, yes it was appalling, but doubt they even realised it was a mess!
      We do indeed have loads of nasty critters living in this continent!

  2. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    I’m in shock with the condition the tenants left the house! What a nightmare! I still can’t get over the spider bite on your hand…I would have been freaking out!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yeah, I’m also still in shock. I trusted the tenants to do the right thing, especially as I looked after them, but at least they paid on time so I have to be thankful for that really…
      Ha, ha, I remember you freaking out when you cut your foot and the hours we waited at Cosenza hospital. You should write a post on that little adventure. πŸ˜‰

  3. sarahstyf Avatar

    Wow! We started renovations in our house with COVID too, but not quite the same adventures.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It’s hard at the best of times let alone trying to get tradesmen to quote during COVID.
      Let me know if you publish a post on the renovating.

      1. sarahstyf Avatar

        I did. Earlier in the summer πŸ˜ƒ

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’ll check it out Sarah. πŸ™‚

  4. gillmorris Avatar

    Oh GAWD!! The dirt, the insects. I was cringing reading this. AND your poor hand! I am looking forward to seeing the renovation πŸ™‚ x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I was cringing cleaning all the filth up Gill.
      It seemed as soon as I cleaned one area up, another layer of filth revealed itself!
      I have another 4 chapters (I think) coming out over the next few weeks and so glad that house is finished. πŸ™‚ x

  5. the eternal traveller Avatar

    How disappointing to find your house left in this disgusting condition. I hope the bites clear up fast.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Carol,
      Yes it is and to think I trusted the tenants to do the right thing, especially after looking after them for 14 years. It’s always the same though when tenants move out, they just want out of there without giving any thought to the condition of the house on first moving in.
      The bites took around a month to heal properly and I have 2 brown scars from the larger blisters, but these are fading slowly.
      Thanks for your comment. πŸ™‚

  6. inese Avatar

    Omg Nilla, if you were in Europe I would say you had touched the hogweed plant… I imagine the pain…

    This year is so totally horrible. Your tenants simply made their contribution.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Inese, that’s the weird thing, no pain at all with this plague, just a little itch occasionally but nothing of a bother. Having the hand wrapped up all the time and changing the dressing twice a day was a pain when trying to renovate.

      Yes, 2020 should be wipe off the calendar but then again, it’s made many around the globe look internally to see what’s really important, hopefully.

      Hope you and your family are okay?

      Take care,

      1. inese Avatar

        Oh glad you are all right. Very strange blisters, must be some allergy if there is no pain.
        We are all right Covid-wise. Following the safety rules.
        Stay safe and well X

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, the doctor said I had an allergic reaction to whatever spider bit me…I suffer from sensitive skin, so it’s a real pain as loads sets it off! πŸ™
        You too x

  7. Christie Avatar

    I’m so sorry about your hand, I had similar blisters 5 years ago, when I got poisoned by Poison Ivy.. really venomous your spiders. Glad you’re healing well!
    I hear so many people doing renovations this summer.. why not, this is the perfect timingπŸ˜‰

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Christie and the hand has all cleared up now. I just have a couple of dark patch where the worse blisters were and is exactly what the doctor said would remain.

      Maybe you were allergic to the poison ivy and had a bad reaction or is blistering what usually occurs?

      I guess with loads of people at home due to COVID, what else is there to do? πŸ˜‰

      1. Christie Avatar

        Blistering is usual when severe poisoning from the ivy, but luckily no dark patches..

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, lucky you didn’t have any scars.
        The blistering reminded me of a burn/chemical burn.
        You may want to read Part 2 of this renovating series. πŸ˜‰

  8. Monkey's Tale Avatar

    I don’t think they say renos in the US because my niece there didn’t know what I was talking about. In Canada we use it. We did quite a lot of work and did most of it ourselves-new cabinets, countertops, appliances and paint before we went away for the winter and then new hardwood floors, stained baseboards etc this spring. But sounds like you have even more!!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Sounds as though Canadians shorten words just like Australians. πŸ˜‰
      Wow, that would have been a major project! Bet it looks fabulous now though and you can enjoy the renovs.
      Yes, this one is a much larger project.

  9. Monkey's Tale Avatar

    Sounds awful. We did covid renos too, but didn’t have problems like this.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It wasn’t the best but you live and learn right (we hope)?
      What did you renovate and did it take long?
      I was going to put “Renos” in the title of this post, but didn’t realise it’s a ‘global’ word, thought it was only Australians that shorten everything. πŸ˜‰

  10. Colorado Martini Avatar

    It sure is hard to renovotate right now

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes and harder to get tradesmen to quote, especially for a major patio renovation.
      You’ll have to stick with this little renovating series to see how it pans out… πŸ˜‰
      Thank you for reading and leaving me a comment.

  11. Keith JEWITT Avatar
    Keith JEWITT

    Wow Nilla you sure know how to pick a tenant ! At least I wont feel bad when we ask help with mucking out Bruno’s stable 🐎

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, it’s also my fault as I was managing the house myself and doing inspections. They thought it was their house and could live like cingali… πŸ˜‰
      It won’t be the first time I clean out muck from Bruno’s stable, think that was cleaner than my house!

  12. Puzzles of the Soul Avatar

    Good grief how did your tenant live like this, I cannot begin to imagine. Your bites look like my leg and foot last year spider bites. Though I found it really painful. Good luck with the cleaning challenge. Take care of your hands.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yeah, I can’t believe it either, people are feral. One positive? The rent was paid on time.
      Would like to see a photo of your spider’s bite, do you have a post with it?
      It was challenging and especially as we had a deadline to fly out on 3rd April, so quite stressful.

      1. Puzzles of the Soul Avatar

        I did write about my bite

        The link below has the earlier photos of the bites pretty grizzly.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, I remember the first post now that I saw the photos last year.
        Just commented on your 2nd link – very nasty bite!

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