• 1 art deco

The art deco style appeared in the 1930s and these houses were built up to World War 2, and in smaller numbers through to the 1950s. Typical features include:

  • a piled subfloor
  • parapet walls
  • casement windows
  • a low pitched roof – typically 10o or less – not visible from the street
  • often an internal gutter (roof leaks are not uncommon)
  • a shallow recessed porch with a flat projecting canopy
  • foundation wall
  • cladding was typically stucco (although some were bevel-back weatherboard)
  • minimal external decoration
  • no insulation when built
  • stud height was typically 2.7–3.0 metres
  • high heat losses
  • no mechanical ventilation provided in bathrooms or kitchens
  • plasterboard internal linings
  • timber floor boards.


The flat or low-pitched roofs and parapet walls of art deco houses meant that leaks could/can be a major problem. Other contributing factors are the lack of eaves and protection for window heads, tiny cracks in the stucco cladding that allow water in and the lack of wall and roof underlay. Careful maintenance is critical.Regular maintenance required on art deco houses includes:

  • cleaning and checking the external cladding and repainting when necessary. See the guide for external wall maintenance 
  • cleaning and checking the roof cladding, and recoating if necessary. The low-slope roofs of some art deco homes require care. See the guide for roof maintenance
  • ensuring gutters, downpipes and the roof as a whole is kept clear of leaves and other debris. If necessary, prune back any tree branches that grow over the house
  • checking that the subfloor space is dry and well-ventilated. See the guide for subfloor maintenance.

More extensive maintenance/repairs on art deco houses may include:

  • Replacing missing or damaged subfloor insulation. Use insulation designed specifically for subfloors. This includes polystyrene friction-fitted between the joists and segments such as polyester, glass wool or sheep’s wool fixed with tabs or held in place by strapping. Press insulation firmly against the floor so there is no air movement between insulation and floor. With exposed subfloors, fix sheet material under the insulation to hold it securely in place.

  • Replacing missing or corroded fixings and connections between piles and bearers, and adding bracing between piles and bearers/joists for better earthquake resilience. See the subfloor maintenance guide for details.

  • Checking for borer. Treat infested timber with a residual insecticide by brushing on or spraying surfaces. Using a small spray nozzle to inject the liquid into the holes is effective, but wear eye protection. Where the infestation is extensive or you are considering fumigation, consult a firm that is a member of the Pest Management Association of New Zealand.

  • Checking for rot. If you find it, first identify and deal with the source of the moisture that has caused it. If it isn’t done, the problem could return. Remove all visible rot and at least one metre of timber beyond it. It may be easier to replace the entire piece of affected timber rather than trying to replace and strengthen a portion. Treat cut timber with a proprietary paint-on preservative.