5 things you need to decide before renovating


Renovating is not for the faint hearted. Things will go “wrong”, it will take time and it will be messy. If you don’t like the sound of these things – don’t renovate!

However if you are super keen and just can’t wait to get started make sure that you have covered off the following things before you make a start.

Firstly, take a deep breath… then ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Why are you doing this renovation?

It is vital that you know the objective of the renovation before you start as this will help you keep on track and make the appropriate decisions once the work has started. The objective may be any one of the following:

  • increase rental return; improve capital value
  • own enjoyment
  • keep up with the next door neighbours
  • provide an income when property is flipped (ie: purchased, renovated and then sold in a short period of time)
  • or something else which is important to you.

  1. What do you want it to look like at the end?

Some people are blessed with being able to see the end vision of the renovation before it starts. If this is you, great – just write it down so you don’t loose track of your vision throughout the process.

If you don’t have this skill, spend some time thinking about what you want it to look like at the end. Write all of the things that come to your mind in point form. Sort through the points and put them in order of how important they are to you. If visual things aren’t your cup of tea at all – get your plans drawn in full colour and 3D style – you can easily do this through an online service such as elance.com or through your architect/draftsman/builder.

Also, be clear about the details – do you want every gap filled prior to painting, must every corner be exactly 90 degrees? Think about what tolerance level you are happy with. If one paver out of 50 is 3mm out of line, is this OK or do they all have to be within 1mm of each other? Bear in mind, the more exact you want the finished look  the higher the cost – simply because the extra amount of time required to get something 1mm perfect compared to 3mm perfect will be approximately doubled.

If you don’t know what you want it to look like at the end, how can you possibly expect your tradesmen to deliver from their end as you need to communicate to them what you want?

  1. How do you want to feel when it is done?

It’s one thing to know what you want it to look like at the end, quite another to know how you want it to feel. Are you looking for the place to be warm, inviting, cool, invigorating? Again, take some time and write these things down. Work out which things are the most important to you.

Equally important is to write down how YOU want to feel at the end of the process. Proud, happy, excited, brimming with pride? How are you going to reward yourself when the project is completed? A glass of champagne, a party, weekend away, dinner out, open a bottle of special wine, a round of golf? Write this down and make sure you follow through with your reward once you have finished. You have earned it! Remember to thank your tradesmen as well at the end – payment is one thing, a big thank you goes a long way!

  1. What are you going to give up so you can get the renovation done on time?

Renovations take time and effort. It has been estimated, by online services provider WhoCanDo, that:

  • 11 hours: the average time it takes between the decision to engage a tradesperson, agreeing to a contract and getting the tradie to your front door takes
  • 47 minutes: the time it takes just putting together a list of tradespeople to call 
  • 2 hours: the time it takes to make first contact and then develop a shortlist
  • 7.4 hours: the time it takes to make appointments and arrange on-site visits for quotes
  • 97 minutes: the time it takes to review quotes, ask questions and make comparisons
  • 27 minutes: the time it takes to sign on the dotted line

This is for one tradesman...

So if you need 10 tradesmen and suppliers to complete your home or property renovation, you need to allow at least 110 hours of your time, just to get them started, let alone check that the work gets done when you want it to be done and to your satisfaction. It is our experience that the actual project management of a 4 week job takes approximately 150 hours over a six week period.

So unless you have a spare 25 hours per week to spend on the renovation, the question you need to ask yourself, before the renovation starts is “what am I going to give up in order to allow me the time I need each day to deal with the renovations”? You will need to spend time on the following items during the renovation;

  • problem solving
  • purchasing items
  • obtaining items
  • co-ordinating tradesmen and suppliers
  • checking the quality of the work
  • paying accounts
  • scheduling the works

If you haven’t – what are you going to outsource so that you have the time available to deal with these issues which will occur? Perhaps you can get a PA or a housekeeper or a nanny for the renovation duration to assist with housework, financial items, children pick ups and drop offs. Whatever it is for you, put things in place before the renovation starts.

  1. What processes do I need to have in place before work starts?

Be really clear about what you want done and how. Work out what is most important to you – getting it done on time, or getting it done “right”, looking good at the end. Make sure that you communicate this to the people you employ.

You need to have ticked all of the following boxes before you start

  • Do you need a permit(s) for the work you are about to engage in? The best place to start with answering this question is by contacting your local council. If the answer is yes – get the appropriate permit(s).
  • Have you employed the appropriate people to do the work? (are they registered building practitioners, do they have public liability and home owners warranty insurance, can you sit down and have a cup of coffee and a chat with them?)
  • Have you set realistic start and finish dates?
  • Have you got the funds for the renovation? Work out your cash flow requirements over the renovation period so that you can pay your tradesmen on time and still have food on your own table
  • If you are living in the property as well, have you thought about what hours you want tradespeople to be there (weekdays only, not before 8am, not after 5pm) and have you specified what type of cleanliness standards you require? Do you have a communication book where they can write queries down and you can respond and vice versa?
  • Have you worked out how people are to access the site – who will let them in, will you use a key safe lock or give set of keys given to the site manager? What security measures do you have in place?
  • Do you have a contingency plan? What is it?
  • What do you need to shift/move before works start so that the tradesmen have room to carry out their job?
  • Share your objective, vision and feel with your tradesmen before they start work – so that they share your vision and know what is important to you as well.

Rosalie Griffiths is the founder of Urban Sensations (www.urbansensations.com.au).

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