Top 10 Renovating Tips

Having just completed a renovation in Albury, on behalf of a client who lived remotely, so needed someone to manage the process for them. I thought it was a great time to reflect and pass on some tips for all you would-be renovators that want to tackle it yourself.

1. Start with the end in mind

What I mean is in you’re renovating to sell vs renovating to put a tenant into the property at a higher rent than before vs renovating for yourself to live in, the budget, choice of fixtures and fittings and the amount of work you’ll do will vary.

In the case where you’re renovating for yourself to live in you’ll likely do a lot more than either of the two other options, simply because you intend to live there and derive the benefit from the money spent for a period of time.

Also, when renovating for sale or even for rental purposes, you need to keep in mind constantly, am I adding more in perceived value than actual cost? Am I getting a return on my money? Knowing where to draw the line is the key.

2. Have a budget

Don’t just start renovating with no budget in mind. You need to have an idea of how much everything is going to cost and track your expenditure through the renovation to make sure you don’t run out of money.

It may be OK to leave a renovation unfinished if you’re living there (albeit not desirable) however if you’re renovating for sale or to put a tenant in, you need to finish to be able to sell/rent the property out. Running out of money half way through doing the kitchen or bathroom is a sure-fire way to land yourself in trouble.

3. How are you funding the renovation?

If you have the cash on hand that’s great, not a lot of us do but if you do it’s the easiest and simplest way to fund any renovation, you know how much you have and can pay for materials and labour as required.

If you’re using borrowed funds, make sure you understand the requirements for those funds to be released, if it’s a loan against equity it might be as simple as the funds going into an offset account until you need them. If it’s a dedicated renovation loan you may need to provide or pay invoices and to be reviewed by the bank prior to getting paid. There are a lot of different ways this can be work and you need to make sure you understand what is required to access the funds.

4. Quotes

It’s not practical to get quotes for every single item, and in fact, in some cases getting quotes will actually make it more expensive. If the job is a small job requiring not a lot of time from a tradie, if they have to come to the site, quote it then come back and do the job you could end up paying more. Often for these smaller jobs the best course of action is to find a reputable tradesman in your local area and just book the work in to be done. As long as you understand their hourly rates and any callout fee’s.

5. Tiling in old houses

Almost without exception in older homes the walls and/or floors (especially if timber) are rarely square or straight. In the kitchen for example using larger format tiles for the splash back can help hide these sins.

If a new kitchen is installed it will be installed level and if the window is out by 10mm one end to the other, if you use 100mm subway tiles for a splashback, you’ll notice. However if you upsize to a modern 300mm x 400mm splashback tile you won’t notice the 10mm the old window is out of square (well most of us won’t).

Similarly old floors are often out. The renovation I just completed for a client, the floor in the kitchen was out by 67mm across the length of a 4m kitchen. We were able to deal with this by tailoring the kicker height along the kitchen but it pays to be aware of these items and plan for them.

6. Replace vs Repair

When planning a renovation particularly one that includes the kitchen and bathroom one of the first things you should do is assess the cabinetry and tiles. Are they just dated or are they actually in a bad state of repair? You may be able to reface the cabinetry or use a tile paint over the tiles if they are in good order. This could save you thousands in the cost of your renovation.

7. Electrical Work

It can be a good idea, particularly on older homes to have an electrician come and look at the existing board. Electrical legislation is changing all the time and depending when the last electrical work was done and what you need done a full board upgrade to bring it up to code could be required. This can be expensive. Also legislation requiring safety switches is in place already in some states and coming into force in others, best to check with a qualified electrician to find out what you need to do with compliance.

8. Plumbing Work

While all new homes are almost exclusively PVC plumbing these days if you’re renovating an old home be prepared to find some earthenware waste pipes that in some cases the plumber will have to make up a fitting to adjust to modern PVC waste pipes.

It also pays to be careful with demolition work around old plumbing fixtures as it’s very easy to damage earthenware pipes and if they crack and being leaking you could find yourself in for a much larger repair than anticipated.

9. Planning the Work

Once you have the scope of your renovation worked out, know the budget and what trades are involved the next step is to schedule it. You need to think about the logical order of doing things so that you’re not re-doing work or having trades damage the work of other trades.

Generally you want to do demolition work first, then any new construction, i.e. walls, cabinetry etc although some trades like plumbers and electricians will likely have multiple visits to the job for rough in work when it’s appropriate, prior to sheeting new work and to prepare plumbing points for cabinetry etc.

It’s best if you can leave finishing trades like tilers, painting and flooring till the very end. In some cases you may be able to have the painter start elsewhere in the home if there are area’s not having a fully renovation.

Always leave flooring to the very end, it should be the last thing to go in so that new flooring doesn’t have a chance to be damaged by trades or to get paint on it.

10. Review the Renovation

Probably the most overlooked stage of a renovation but it’s equally as important as the rest. Collate all your actual expenses, yes, including the receipts from Bunnings and add them up to compare them to your budget. Did you stick to your budget? You need to know how much everything actually cost you in order to be able to determine your return.