We asked reno expert Cherie Barber to answer these reader questions on timing your reno, and when you need DA approval


Q: How do you create a timeline for your renovation so that you stay within budget and get it done on time? What tools do you use? What information do I need to have to be able to create the work flow?

A: Creating a timeline and an order of works (or “work flow”, as you refer to it) is part of the overall project plan I recommend people do for any renovation, whether it’s a quick kitchen makeover or an extensive structural renovation. I have software I’ve created for my workshop students that enables them to easily and quickly compile their plans. I’d recommend for anyone else they use Microsoft Project to create a project plan, where all the tasks, costs and estimated time lines can be inputted, and it will automatically update as you go. It’s pricey, so if you can’t afford that, then an Excel spreadsheet is another option. But to be honest, inputting the information is the easy bit.

Knowing the correct order of works for the renovation, how to accurately estimate the cost of labour and materials, at what stage in the timeline your various trades will be required… these are the critical things you need to know if you want to bring your renovation home on time and within budget. If you’re not in a position to do a professional course to learn all these things, then I recommend some extensive research before you start. Local council and fair trading websites contain a lot of useful planning information about the renovation process, as does the internet in general. Knowledge is king when it comes to renovating, so you need to try and work out the process by educating yourself as much as possible.


Q: I live on a farm and am planning to build an extension on our house and even a granny flat. Do I still need to get DA for these? Under what situation can I get away with not having to get DA? What happens if I go ahead and do these anyway?

A: The rules about what you can and can’t build without council approval vary according to the specific planning laws in the state you live in and what local government authority your property falls under. So my first suggestion would be to call your local council and run your plans by a planning officer to find out what approvals are required. Don’t even think about going ahead with your renovations without checking this first! Even if you build something as straightforward as a deck and it doesn’t comply with the necessary planning controls, the council can have you dismantle it.

Most states now have a version of “complying development” – something in between exempt development and a full DA. It basically means that if your plans comply with the required planning controls, you don’t need to put in a DA, but you will still need council or certifier approval. It’s a fast-tracked approval process and relatively straightforward. There are certainly states where granny flats and certain house extensions fall under complying development – as long as they meet the required standards – so check with your local council what applies in your area. Never renovate without the appropriate permits in place first.


Q: Is there a perfect time to do a renovation on your rental property? If so, when’s the optimum time and why? How do you plan it?

A: The perfect time to renovate your rental property is in between tenancies, when the property is vacant. Then you want to get in and do your renovations as quickly as possible and get it back on the market, hopefully at a higher rent. So the trick is to do all your renovation planning in advance, so you can get cracking the minute the tenants have moved out. Question one, above, deals with putting together a project plan for a renovation, which includes a time line, scope of works and the order in which the various tasks need to be done, so I recommend you start by doing a project plan. Make sure your tradies are lined up, ready to go, and all the necessary materials, fixtures and fittings have been ordered in, ready to install. You don’t want any unnecessary delays, and your project plan, if done thoroughly, will tell you exactly what tradies are required at the various stages of the renovation, so there’s a continuous hive of activity onsite. Time is money, when a rental property is vacant, so depending on the scale of the renovation, you ideally want to be in and out within a week, two maximum.

Cherie Barber is the director of Renovating For Profit,

a company that teaches everyday people how to

buy and sell/rent old properties for a profit.