Knowing the types of expenses involved in a home renovation is essential for drafting a realistic budget. For most projects however the three key costs to consider are design, materials and labour. The final cost will depend on a variety of factors including:

  • The scale of your renovations (larger projects can offer a more economical cost per square metre)
  • The accessibility of your site
  • The quality of the work – budget or top of the range

As a guide you could expect the cost breakdown for new houses and major renovations to be approximately:

  • Materials - 45% - 50%
  • Labour - 30% - 35%
  • Fees, Levies, permits, taxes, GST 20% - 25%

For country areas, add at least 5% to 15% to capital city figures.


If you're considering an innovative or complex design, an architect can add the 'wow' factor to your renovation but this may also add significantly to the project cost.

A cheaper alternative can be to use a draftsman, or simply ask your builder to draw up plans. Accurate plans will help you calculate quantities of materials to prevent wastage, and your council will almost certainly want to see plans of your project before giving approval.

Software is available to help you draft plans for smaller, do-it-yourself projects (available through online suppliers as well as major retailers). Be sure any package you use features Australian content and metric measuring scales.


Depending on the work involved, the cost of materials is often a significant component of any building project. This makes it important to shop around and compare prices though there are ways to reduce the cost without scrimping on quality.

Archicentre provides regular Cost Guides that set out the price you can expect to pay for various aspects of home renovations including materials. This offers a useful benchmark to compare prices. Contact Archicentre on 1300 134 513 for a copy of the most recent Cost Guide.


Along with materials, labour costs are likely to eat up a solid chunk of your renovation budget – usually around one third of the total expense.

Doing some of the work yourself, you will reduce the labour cost but at some point you're likely to need the services of a professional builder, and it pays to choose carefully. Families, friends and work colleagues can be a good source of referrals for reliable tradespeople.

Here are some things to consider:

Compare quotes

Ask several builders to quote on your renovation and don't be afraid to play them off against each other. If a particular quote sounds high, ask the builder if he or she can do any better. 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

Check references

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

Ask for a contract

When you have chosen a builder, get a proper contract drawn up - one that covers any changes that may arise during construction. Renovations have a habit of dishing up surprises and you need to know where you stand if your builder strikes rock during excavations or finds plumbing that's not up to scratch.

Checklist for choosing a builder

  • Several quotes received
  • Quotes received in writing
  • You are clear on what each quote includes and excludes
  • Builder has current licence
  • The builder has no outstanding claims
  • The contract contains provisions for unexpected costs
  • Formal building contract drafted and signed

Cut costs not quality

The prime consideration for any renovation work is that it adds value to your property and improvements in your lifestyle.

The extent to which a renovation will add value to your property varies according to the nature of the project. However the common thread is that a project needs to be well-executed, with a professional finish that is sympathetic to the rest of your property. Poor workmanship or incomplete work – no matter how minor, can detract from your property’s value.

It’s not necessary to buy top of the range fixtures and fittings to get a top notch finish, but buying the best quality materials your budget can afford will ensure the renovation looks good for years to come.

Keep the cost manageable

There are ways to keep the cost of your renovation manageable without scrimping on the end result.

Shop around online

Use the internet to compare prices offered by different trade outlets and hardware stores

Think ‘outside the square’

Don’t be afraid to cast your net wide when it comes to sourcing building supplies. The internet can be a useful source for building materials, often providing bargains as well as quirky ‘one off’ pieces that give your renovation character

Take a look at professional auctioneers like You may find a wide range of heavily discounted items including appliances and floor coverings. Online auction sites and classifieds can also be useful sources of budget-priced building materials. Check the local papers - if you’re happy to hunt around, garage sales, op shops and salvage yards offer opportunities to make savings.

Continue to information about additional costs to consider.

It’s never too early to chat to a broker.

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