Planning home improvements

If you are in the market to buy a fixer-upper to transform into your dream home, or are ready to make improvement to your existing house, here are some tips that will help you plan your renovation project.


A mood board of ideas

The first step in any renovation project, even before contracting a reputable architect or designer, is to decide on what you want from the project. This will not only help you to better visualise the project but also assist the architect or designer with the process involved and provide a better understanding of your needs. This is easily done these days, especially if you have access to the Internet; a simple Google search for key words, or browsing interior design sites will highlight what you like and don’t like.

Work with an Architect or Designer

With a good idea of what you want to do it's time to start looking for an architect or designer. Once again, the Internet is a great way to start sourcing and researching companies and you can also take a look at some of their past projects.  Look at whether the company focuses only on high-end design or if they also offer services for renovations.

If you’re unsure the best thing is to give the company a call. Most will be happy to give you advice before setting up an appointment, but ask before they come out that they offer a free site visit, as not all architects or designers offer this as a free service.

Creating a brief

Every project requires a brief; this is where the scope of the project is set out and provides the direction for the architect or designer. Even if you have no idea what you want, it is still important to create a brief.

It is critical to highlight your budget in the brief. While you may not know what the building costs are, you should determine how much you can afford to spend. Are you renovating to sell or is the renovation to increase your standard of living? An Architect or Designer will be able to review the value of your property and determine if you the renovations will affect the value.

Conceptualize the project

Trying to quote on a project with no clear idea or design is always going to have a high variability in price. Putting together a concept allows you to establish an idea of what the project will cost early on and determine if it is financially viable. The later refinement into working drawings will provide you with an in-depth breakdown of components enabling a highly resolved cost estimate.

The definition of concepts is broad throughout the industry and determining early on what you are getting is essential. This is usually identified in the pricing of the concepts. The lowest price is not always the best. Weigh up the cost with other factors such as reliability and quality. You are looking for something that is going to help you visualise and plan the space. For some people a line drawing will be sufficient. However, a lot of people prefer to see 3D images.

A good concept explores form, function, colour and style. The more realistic this is the greater the ability to critique and improve the design. Companies offering 3D renders provide the best means for visualising these components. While they may be a little more expensive, the output provides you with superior spatial dynamics that take into account lighting, materials and product specification.

Making it happen

Once you have your approved plans, you will require a contractor to undertake the work. To find the right builder you should start with referrals. Seeing and hearing of a builder’s existing work will help you determine the quality and finish of the workmanship. You also want to ensure the builder is a licenced practitioner, which will show that they are correctly qualified and liable for their work. Your designer may be able to recommend a builder.

When negotiating a fixed price with your builder, be cautious of PC Sums (Provisional Cost Sums). These are factored into the costing of a project and allow the builder to change the sum as a project progresses. While they are unavoidable and usually justified, be cautious the builder is not undercutting these sums to win the project from you.

Top tips for planning a renovation

Create a mood board to collate ideas and imagery that appeals to you and to identify materials, colours and styles. Sketching out your ideas will help you explain them.

Provide your architect or designer with as much detail as you can. Concepts are a tool to test your ideas, so having as
much detail as possible will allow you to gain a closer understanding of the finished project.

Identify the scope of work and what the architect or designer is going to provide. Confirm if they are going to provide 2D drawings or 3D renders.

Test alternative ideas to make sure you are getting the most out of the project. Ask your designer to explore a range of options that test function, aesthetics and budget.

Ensure the designer allows you to make amendments to the concepts. There usually need to be changes as the
project develops.

Do not be afraid to challenge your designer and ask questions over design decisions. Critique is critical to
gaining a well resolved design.

Get estimates from at least two builders to get a range of prices for the project. Be sure to go with either a certified builder or a Master builder.

Get a fixed price from your builder before the project begins. This will help to ensure the project comes in on budget. Organise your priority list into wants and needs. Factor this against your budget and focus on the things you need.

Find out what land title you hold. This will identify if you require your neighbours’ permission or not. If you have a cross lease then you will need the permission of all the owners on the site.