Any renovation – no matter how big or small, is worth planning in advance.
Take a look at our top tips to get maximum value – and minimum disruption – from your home improvements.
1. Draw up a renovation budget
A budget is an essential tool that will give you a clear idea of what you can afford to undertake in the way of home improvements. Without a budget you face the risk of a delayed (or worse, unfinished) project if you run out of funds, or face unexpected borrowing expenses.
2. Look for ways to trim the cost
Keep costs under control by keeping things simple. Choosing standard-sized fittings and using building materials that tradesmen are familiar with and can easily access will help to prevent cost blow-outs.
Staying simple can also help with future repair bills. Those custom-designed Italian bathroom tiles for instance could be very hard to track down if you need to replace any chipped tiles further down the track.
3. Break down big jobs into small chunks
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your renovation doesn’t have to be completed in one hit either. If your overall project seems overwhelming either for your lifestyle or your budget just tackle things one step at a time.
4. Pick your timing with care
Renovating in summer can involve less stress. If you’re installing a new kitchen for instance, it’s no problem to cook meals on an outdoor barbecue.
That said, some building materials can be priced according to seasonal demand, an outdoor spa for example, may be marked down in winter. Swimming pool providers are often flat out in spring and summer and able to charge peak prices. Or, if you’re installing a wood-fired heater, you could snare a discount by buying in summer.
5. Skip January
It pays to plan carefully for the availability of skilled tradespeople. Many parts of the building industry virtually shut down in January, and if you need professional help urgently you could find it hard to track down a tradie.
6. Grab an app
For just a few dollars, good apps can be a great resource for renovators, providing ideas and inspiration as well as pocket-sized tools for measuring, converting or checking. Check out the likes of Paint My Place, DIY Handyman Toolbox or Houzz Interior Design Ideas.
7. Focus on reality – not fantasy
There is a smorgasbord of television programs that make replacing a kitchen or adding an extra bedroom look like child’s play. Don’t be fooled. Big jobs are exactly that, and major renovations take time and often plenty of money.
Before you commit to a project be sure that it is really what you want; that you can afford it; and you have plans in place to cope with the inevitable disruption that a sizeable renovation brings.
8. Arrange a building inspection before you start renovating
A professional building inspection will confirm if your home is structurally sound and able to support your planned improvements. This is particularly important if your project involves adding a second storey.
A building inspection can also identify hidden nasties like illegal wiring that should be addressed long before you start with more cosmetic work. Allow around $500-plus for the inspection – yes, it’s an added expense but it could be money well spent.
9. Choose your builder wisely
Labour costs are likely to eat up a solid chunk of your renovation budget – usually around one-third (33%) of the total expense. Doing some of the work yourself will reduce the labour cost though at some point you’re likely to need the services of a professional builder – it pays to choose carefully.
Families, friends and work colleagues can be a good source of referrals for reliable tradespeople. But always ask several builders to quote on your renovation and don’t be afraid to play them off against each other. Some builders may be prepared to negotiate especially during slow periods. Get each quote in writing and be sure about what it includes – and excludes.
A decent builder should have no issues about providing references from previous customers, so be prepared to ask, and at a minimum, check that the builder or any tradesperson you choose holds a current licence suitable for the type of work you want done. Each State and Territory has its own licensing requirements and the Department of Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs in your State or Territory can let you know if a tradesman has a trouble-free track record or if there are claims outstanding.
10. Review your home and contents cover
Once the renovation is completed it’s important to update your home and contents cover to reflect the value of work undertaken. In many cases it only costs a little extra in premiums to increase your home’s insured value. Use this as an opportunity to shop around and see if you can get a better deal on your insurance.
From you experience, what is your best tip for renovating a property? If you’ve some wisdom to share – be sure to post it in the comments below!
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