RENO Q& A : Valuation & Flooring Part 2



You can read Part 1 of the series here: Valuation & Flooring

Every month, leading reno expert Cherie Barber answers your questions on how to make the most of your renovations. This month, Cherie tackles questions about dealing with tradies and how to choose between laminate vs. marble / stone

Dealing with tradies

Q: I have had some problems with my recent kitchen renos, with some of the cabinetry needing repairs soon after the reno. When I confronted the project manager, I was told he had gone into bankruptcy and wasno longer in business. I checked all the credentials before I contracted the work, to make sure they were legit. However, now I have to pay another tradie to repair my new reno.

Was there something I could have done to prevent this from happening?

A: Unfortunately, even with the greatest due diligence, it is almost impossible to identify a business that is about to go broke. Companies in strife invariably play their cards close to the chest. That’s why I always go with personal recommendations, wherever possible, when it comes to choosing tradies. A proven track record in reliability, sound workmanship, good communication, and compliance with all the regulatory requirements is an excellent head start when it comes to selecting a good contractor. 

Home warranty insurance (sometimes called building indemnity or domestic building insurance) offers some protection for consumers, in cases where a builder (or trade contractor) is unable to honour their commitments due to “insolvency, death or disappearance”. One of the things it covers is defective work. However, the rules differ from state to state, in terms of the value and type of work covered by builder insurance, so you need to check what applies in your state.


The more due diligence you do before engaging a tradie, the more you protect yourself from potential problems. Verifying your contractor has the correct licence for the work they are doing is number one. The federal government’s Licence Recognition website ( can direct you to the relevant regulator in your state so that you can look up licence details on their website. 


You can check insolvency notices on the Australian Securities & Investments Commission register ( Among other things, this will alert you to companies that are subject to a winding-up application filed with an Australian court, or companies to be deregistered. The internet is a terrific resource for clever sleuths, so my advice is to use it as extensively as possible when checking on a company or individual.


And always get three written quotes for any job, so that you have a good idea of what it should cost. Don’t be tempted to just go with the cheapest, either. It may simply be that they are the ones most desperate for the work, and perhaps that is not a healthy sign.


Laminate vs marble/stone


Q: I am planning a kitchen reno and trying to decide whether I should go for laminate tops or the real deal – marble/stone. This is a rental property and I really want to make my unit attractive to tenants. Would I be better off going for laminate, or real marble tops?


A: These decisions depend on the value of the property and on the rent you are asking.  


Always make sure your fixtures and fittings are relative to your property value. A multimillion dollar penthouse with harbour views would justify the expense of a stone or marble benchtop, because that is the quality of the surrounding finishes and also what the tenant is going to expect for the hefty rent asked. 


However, for the average rental property, a hard-wearing laminate will probably do just fine. It’s a fraction of the price of composite stone or marble benchtops, comes in a range of textures and colours – many that mimic stone, if that’s the look you are after – and can withstand the wear and tear of a rental property. 


If your existing benchtops are in good condition structurally, you may even want to consider a product called Rust-Oleum®Countertop Transformations, which you can pick up from major hardware stores for $239. This is a DIY coating that you can run straight over the top of your existing benchtops to give them the look of granite. It comes in five colours, offering a light or dark stone look. I have used it in several cosmetic renovations to spruce up a dated benchtop, and it comes up a treat!


Cherie Barber

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