Reno Q&A: Asbestos and planning for your renovation


Every month, leading reno expert Cherie Barber answers your questions on renovations. This month she tackles questions about the best way to deal with asbestos, how to plan a renovation and how to decide on what size decking you should use. To have Cherie answer your reno question, email your questions to

Q: We are just starting out with our home and we are going to build a large deck with a gazebo around the sandstone coping tiled pool. I am stuck between using 86x19mm or 140x25mm spotted gum decking for this deck. The 140mm boards will cost more to lay due to material costs but will take less time (I am a carpenter by trade and have done many of each in spotted gum, kwila, etc, and I will be doing the work myself). Which do you think will add the most value to the house once it’s all done?

A: There’s a phrase that my renovation workshop students will often hear me say, “bulk and scale”. Whether it’s larger architraves, door frames, skirting boards or floorboards, that extra bit of width generates a greater sense of luxury and generous proportions.

Like getting a wine served in a large, beautifully proportioned crystal glass as opposed to a cheap little chunky glass. Doesn’t it automatically taste better? So my answer is: go the wider decking boards, especially as you’re a carpenter so you’ll have zero labour costs. With the bigger boards, you’ll also have less risk of the boards warping over time. It’s a nobrainer in my books! And it’s the choice that will add most value.

: We’ve bought a run-down apartment in an outer suburb we believe will show good capital growth over time. We want to do a quick renovation then rent it out. Our budget is $15,000 maximum. What do you think are the priorities to spend money on?

A: You can stretch $15,000 a long way, as long as you are savvy about where to direct your money. Painting is number one; it’s the quickest and cheapest way to achieve a complete transformation in a matter of days.

Go over everything in an uplifting neutral colour, and use a high gloss offwhite for the woodwork like window frames and doors. Next on the list is a kitchen and/or bathrooom ‘revamp’, which can be done very cost-effectively, depending on what condition they’re already in. If structurally sound, you can simply go over tiles, benchtops and cupboards using specialist paints and resurfacing products available at most hardware stores.

In a bathroom, putting in a new vanity (keeping the plumbing exactly where it is), replacing the shower screen, installing modern tapware and giving everything an industrial scrub can totally change the feel.

Replace anything that’s tired and worn and dates the place: carpets that have long passed their use by date, old lino, daggy curtains, old light fittings… out they go!

A trip to one of the big Bunnings superstores will probably sort out all the replacements in one shop. Clean, bright, with everything gleaming and welcoming – that’s what I’d be aiming for on a $15,000 revamp.

: We have a 1970s house that we know contains asbestos. We’d like to start renovating but are worried about the asbestos. Can you please advise what our first steps should be? Is it possible to DIY when you have asbestos present?

A: I’m actually an ambassador for the Asbestos Awareness campaign, so this is a subject close to my heart. The main thing for homeowners and renovators to understand is that asbestos rarely poses a risk unless it’s disintegrating or disturbed, and the tiny fibres become airborne.

So I absolutely caution you against attempting any kind of DIY work where there is asbestos present. That includes undertaking work as minor as drilling into walls to put up pictures.

The first thing I advise, if you haven’t already done so, is to get an asbestos survey. This will tell you where asbestos is present and what condition it’s in. From there you can make an informed choice about how to proceed with your home renovations.

If there are parts of your house which you’re not planning to renovate that contain asbestos in good condition, it’s probably best left alone. In the areas earmarked for renovation, you’ll need to get in a licensed asbestos removalist to safely remove and dispose of the asbestos for you. It’s not a cheap exercise, so make sure you get at least three quotes. 

A Google search will show plenty of options. For extensive information about asbestos and renovating, including where asbestos is mostly commonly found in homes, visit

R‚Äčeno expert
Cherie Barber

Cherie Barber is Australia’s top renovator and the director of Renovating For Profit, a company that teaches everyday people how to buy and sell/rent old properties for a profit.


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