5 min read

How to plan a renovation

Looking to renovate your home this year? Here’s what you need to know before you start.

Think about your renovation goals

With so many design choices out there, it’s good to clarify just what you want to achieve with your renovation. Be realistic about how your family likes to live and ask yourself some tough questions – do you entertain regularly? Are there teenagers in the house? Are you planning to work from home?

Consider whether your home just needs a bit of a refresh, or are you tackling bigger (and expensive) areas such as the kitchen and bathrooms? Are you looking to resell in the next five years, or is this your ‘forever’ home? Are you thinking of going up or out? Will you need council approval? These are the types of questions that will scope out the size of the project.

Begin with a mood board

While you are thinking about the big questions, it’s not a bad idea to start compiling images of styles and designs you like. A beautiful kitchen splashback, the dream sofa, paint colours, the perfect cladding… by pulling all your favourite things together in a mood board, your style will emerge, and a design will begin to form. You can also complete PGH Bricks’ Style Quiz, which will give you a good starting point. It’s a good idea to compile your mood board before you start meeting with designers or builders, as it will enable you to give them a clearer brief.

Take a look at some of the style guides and lookbooks available from CSR brands, including Bradford, Monier, PGH and Gyprock for added inspiration.

 

Renovate or detonate?

Sometimes it just isn’t worth renovating a house – particularly if it has a poor floorplan, no architectural integrity and unreliable utilities. You can sometimes spend thousands more trying to bring a 1970s home into the current era (especially if you have to underpin a house, or rewire totally) than simply starting afresh with a Knockdown/Rebuild option from a qualified builder. Speak to builders who specialise in Knockdown/Rebuilds to secure some baseline prices so you can make an informed decision.

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Image courtesy of Rosewood Homes www.rosewoodhomes.com.au

Don’t over-capitalise

Before you start planning your renovation, take the time to inspect some of the houses in your neighbourhood that are for sale. Talk to real estate agents about the price of homes in your area and learn what people are looking for in terms of layout and number of rooms. Don’t make the mistake of spending $70,000 on a new kitchen when your home is probably only worth $250,000 – it would be a waste of money. Sometimes you would be better sprucing up your current home for sale and upgrading to the next level, or in a more prestigious suburb instead of a full renovation.

Keeping control of the numbers

If you’ve had friends or family that have been down the renovation path, you will have heard some terrible tales of what went wrong. The good news is that most problems can be avoided, if you plan properly from the start.

It’s important to make sure everything runs to plan financially. We have created a renovation budget template/spreadsheet (add link) for new homeowners to make the process as seamless as possible. Keeping an eye on all expenses is important. Make sure you check bills against your budget at least weekly – it’s easy to let costs run away if you aren’t up to date.

Stuart Tucker, Chief Customer Officer at hipages, says that it’s vital to set a realistic budget and prepare for contingencies. “Think about your maximum budget and then put 10 to 20% of that to the side,” he says. “That money should be reserved for any unexpected challenges that you might face along the way. The remaining 80 to 90% should be considered your maximum project budget for hiring tradies and organising any materials.”

 

Choosing an architect or designer

Like many aspects of renovation, choosing the right architect or designer for your project is all about relationships. They should understand you and your family’s lifestyle. The Australian Institute of Architects has some fantastic information on working with architects, as well as downloadable tools to help prospective homeowners understand the tendering process and construction costs. It’s also a useful way to find a registered architect for your project. Talk to a few architects or designers about your project, show them your mood board and make sure they understand your wishes for your renovation before making a final decision. Pricing varies – some architects will take a percentage of the project costs (and can supervise the build), others might charge a flat fee for design work only. For simple renovations you can also engage a designer or draftsperson, especially if it is more about reworking existing rooms or updating fixtures and fittings. Exterior changes often need to be approved by council, so detailed plans might be necessary.

 

Hipages tradie choosing your trades

Tucker recommends setting a timeline for all work done by tradespeople. “Think about when you want a job to be complete and work backward from there,” he says. “Remember to give yourself a buffer for any delays. Be really clear on this with your tradie when you brief and ask for the timeline to be included in the contract.”

Demand for tradies is high at the moment so even if you’re just at the planning stage, start your conversations now. “In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a year-on-year boom in the volume of Australians seeking tradies such as project managers (56% increase) and landscape architects (41% increase) at the renovation planning stage,” says Tucker. “It is a busy market.”

Tucker’s tip is to have your area specifications ready before you ask trades to quote.An estimated quote can’t be given until you have the measurements and specifications of the area you want to renovate,” he says. “Think about providing the clearest brief possible. You can also take images of the area where work is required. When tradies are in high demand, you want to eliminate a lot of back and forth.”

 

Dealing with council

Any substantial renovation – or one that enlarges your home’s footprint – will need approval from your local council. Approval processes vary, depending on your authority, but generally councils prefer a renovation (or new build) to be in keeping with the neighbourhood. This might mean that you might not be able to add a second storey, or must preserve the front façade, for example. It’s a good idea to check the zoning on your land as well, to ensure there are no unusual conditions or heritage considerations.

You will need detailed plans to submit to council in order to have your DA (development application) approved and these should be drawn up by a suitably qualified person such as an architect or draftsperson. Once approved, they can be used to ask builders to tender for the job.

 

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