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Renovating for success!

Contemplating a major renovation? Many will consider you a little crazy, and by the time you’re done you’ll probably think they’re right, but, it makes a lot of sense for a lot of people.

There are many reasons people jump into a renovation project – it could be that you’ve outgrown your current home but just can’t bear the thought of finding a new school for the kids or new local dentist / doctor etc, or it could be you’ve found a challenging property and you’re certain you can turn it into your dream home… whatever the motivation renovating can be rewarding both financially and emotionally. I can attest to this having bought the proverbial “dump” and turned it into a great place that my family and all of our friends love to come and spend time in.

The one fault I think all renovators are guilty of is the proverbial “rose-coloured glasses”, once the excitement kicks in we’re not necessarily thinking straight and the project tends to grow and grow until it has almost consumed us (and all of our waking hours, and probably taken residence in our dreams too!).

Here are some tips for renovation success, and may it all go your way!

1.Set a Budget and Work to it

One of the hardest things to do in renovating is to set a realistic budget – and stick to it – especially if it’s your first time. You budget must be generous enough to cover off the things you wont realise you need until you start, the things you’ll forget to allow for (like screws and nails and paint which add up surprisingly fast) and unforseen issues like discovering rotten wall studs or termite damage in unforseen locations.

Your budget should also consider the potential value of the home at the end – there’s not a lot of point in spending more than it could have cost you to replace the home entirely, and equally, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend more than you can possibly expect to get back if you have to or chose to sell the home afterwards.

Don’t forget to include an allowance for contingencies – there’s almost always something that pops up and being unable to finish the reno is going to make for a very unhappy house hold!

It’s surprisingly easy to spend more than you should but with a sufficient research and careful planning you have a greater chance of success.

2. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more.

Lots of the reno will be decisions made on the fly as things crop up, but, planning as much as possible even to the extent of pinning up pictures and ideas means you and your tradies will all be on the same page. Keep a file of pictures of what you do and don’t like – it’s no good to say you really don’t care what style of cornice is used if you’re going to be unhappy with the generic one chosen. There’s plenty of gorgeous options in almost everything you pic so having some idea of what you (and the partner) like will make your decisions that much easier.

Nothing will annoy a good tradie more than standing around while you’re undecided about which tile you really have to have!

3D planning and modelling software is also loads of fun and a very good way to measure out and visualise what will or wont work in your room. We used the IKEA planning software for our kitchen design as it was very simple and intuitive and gave us a 3D render at the end – brilliant.

3.Balance your time and your skills

Of course, the less you spend on quality tradespersons to complete the work the less it costs you in the end – right? Not always! Consider a cost for your own time and especially if you’re less than “proficient” at the task your’re undertaking.

For example flat pack kitchens, did you know the average flat pack kitchen cupboard from a major flatpack kitchen retailer in NSW (just one cupboard) comes in 9 boxes! Can you imagine the confusion when you receive something like 200 boxes and you’re trying to itemise and assemble your beautiful new kitchen? This is one area that we found hiring a professional not only gave us a better quality finish but was also very similar in cost – and I have no idea how many man hours we’d have had to spend on the job if we had tackled it ourselves.

There’s lots you can do yourself and simply adding one or two cupboards, painting or replacing floor tiles are all fairly easy things to learn to DIY, however, if the qyality of the finish or the time it’s going to take you is going to adversely affect the renovation consider calling in a tradie and offering to be their labourer!

4. Is there a shortcut for that?

Visit your local hire store to see if there’s a simple tool you can hire to make the job easier; in our case, ripping up slate tiles was still extremely tedious but even more so without the right tool. While almost everyone undertaking this work recommended a jackhammer, we discovered that you can hire a “jackhammer on a trolley” which takes a lot of the strain of holding the hammer at the right angle. You simply set the height and the angle of the hammer on the trolley and apply pressure while pushing the hammer forward. And the cost of this, well and truly offset by the time saved – and we had to hire a jackhammer either way.

A little trick we learnt that may work in your area… our area is dominated by the big chains who are open 7 days a week and charge by the hour. We found a smaller local chain who close at lunch on a Saturday, so every 24 hour hour hire picked up late Friday cannot be returned until Monday morning! Tricky! And we’re keeping the local guy in business.

5. Get recommendations to qualified tradespeople

Some things you just cant take on yourself – plumbing and electrical being obvious examples, and finding the right tradie for the job is essential. Canvas your friends and family for recommendations, did they turn up on time? Was the job done well? On time? On budget? Would they use them again?

In my own experience we had a tradie delay for over two weeks and this put us way behind schedule – not only because the particular part was unfinished, but, because we couldn’t continue the flooring (the bit we were up to) until it was complete, and, we had taken time off to do the flooring. The result? Over 140m2 of timber floating floor being installed after work everyday for the following month. Tedious, frustrating, leaves a sour taste!

The best tradie we used has won my permanent devotion for one simple act; he cleaned up after himself! In fact, I think this plumber left our bathroom floor cleaner than it was when he went in, and this one little action will be remembered always!

Ensure all tradespersons you engage are licensed, insured and come with good references. And being very clear about exactly what you want done, when, and how will go a long way to making this relationship work.

6.Safely and sanely living around your reno

A clear majority of renovations are tackled in the family home – with the family in residence. If it’s financially viable at all I recommend you move out of the home for as long as possible and particularly if part of the work is dusty or dangerous. This isn’t always possible though, so planning out the uglier parts of the reno when children and animals can be kept safe is vital.

Call in help from the family if you’re ripping up tiles (as I was) as it’s dirty dusty business and not something you want the children present for. Even more importantly, if you’re using power tools and especially cutting tools, you want yourself and your family safe from harm, and you don’t really want to trip over an errant toy with a power saw in your hand.

Pinning up old sheets can help keep dust from infiltrating all of the home- concrete dust is particularly insidious and will spread and keep on spreading. Slightly damp boxes laid over concrete floors will keep dust down also – simple to do and simple to replace when they are worn, if you’re expecting the floor to be exposed for an extended period of time.

Some things you can’t do without either – like a working bathroom / toilet, but you can hire small “porta-bathrooms” reasonably economically if yours is out of action. If you’re doing up the kitchen you will be surprised how much you can cook with a BBQ and a microwave, in fact, it’s probably the kitchen sink itself you’ll miss the most. A simple way to keep kitchen items clean and handy is to buy some 50L plastic tubs for the essentials and seal them up tight with your dishes inside.

7. Keep the goal in mind.

I doubt there is very much that will challenge you (and your relationship) as much as living through a major renovation. It often helps to keep the goal in mind, and the end in sight. As you achieve each step you’ll see your dream unfolding and it will be worth it in the end… (just keep telling yourself this!)

Keep your receipts along the way, these could come in handy if you ever decide to rent the house out – add them up if you’re game.

Update your insurance to reflect the improved value in your home, and – my advice – throw a huge party when it’s done to make up for all of the sacrifice along the way!

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