Everything you need to know about the stages of renovating

Everything you need to know about the stages of renovating

Want to renovate your house, but don’t know where to start? Before you get under way, there are some things you should absolutely know about the different stages of renovating your home.

Firstly, a renovation means you aren’t starting with a blank slate. Unlike a new build, unforeseen expenses and issues may mean you have to compromise to work around what already exists. All buildings hold secrets – be it in the walls, ceiling, under the floors or elsewhere. Renovating can uncover your home’s secrets, so you should plan for extra time and budget. There are more unknowns with a renovation – such as matching materials, finishes and tolerances (how much the work varies from stated measurement) which may be difficult (or impossible) to resolve. Compromise is key!

Gather ideas from design books, magazines, websites, and brochures and organise them into a resource file. Ask friends for their ideas and experiences. Assuming you intend to continue living in your home for some years, think about your future use. Consider improving insulation, energy efficiency and other aspects of building performance. Plan now, so you can live comfortably later.

If you feel you need more space, make sure you’re fully using the space you already have before extending. If you do extend, make sure your existing house flows into the extension and your space and storage needs will be fully met. Boost natural light where possible but, if this is not an option, light tubes or skylights can help. Many renovations re-orient the house towards the sun’s light and warmth and/or breezes to cool. For shaded areas, consider wide eaves, which will also offer some weather protection. Window size and placement can invite sunlight and heat where it’s needed in your home or keep it out where it’s too much.

Be prepared to deconstruct before you construct – this may be so your builder can learn more about the building, or as part of the renovation process. This part of the process may reveal the need for different requirements, or to amend your building consent. A note on consents – this must be granted before you start any work and amended with your local council if anything changes. The type of property title can also influence your renovation – if your home is on a cross-lease title, you must get approval from the other leaseholders before carrying out exterior structural changes.

You’ll need to work out whether you keep living in your home during the project or, if it’s a major job, it might be sensible and safer to move out. Planning is crucial. Calculate your budget and timeframe, then work out if you need an architect, designer, or engineer and which consent you’ll need. Keep good control over your budget – ensure you have a contingency and be prepared to look for savings if necessary. This may mean reducing the scale of your project or swapping expensive materials for something more budget friendly.

Consider which tradespeople you’ll need – even simple jobs can require numerous people, e.g., builder, plumber, roofer, plasterer, painter, tiler, electrician, or floor-layer. You may also need a project manager. Take your time to choose the right people, as the success of your project largely depends on their skill. Once you’ve agreed on your project and expectations with your tradespeople, the next step is ensuring that the construction phase of the project has a defined programme so that the job goes smoothly and meets requirements for quality, timing, and budget. This includes contract documentation, managing tenders and quotes, what to put in contracts, and how to draw up a construction plan. Ensure you have everything you’ve agreed on in writing, no matter the size of the job. Include clauses about what happens if any disputes arise – you might not want to think about it, but disputes do happen.

Generally, once the planning and processing groundwork has been completed, it’s important the project is methodical. If major work isn’t required but the whole house needs a face-lift, you’ll need to work systematically through each room with your tradespeople to establish the extent of the work and outlay necessary. Start in the hall, which may need more thought than expected, and work logically from there. Think about each room in terms of floor, walls, ceiling, lighting, and furnishings. Prepare a list of items to be purchased and building or decorative work to be done.

Start with issues, not solutions. If significant alterations, or even an extension are envisaged, take time to think about why you’re doing the work in the first place. Tackle any watertightness, plumbing, electricity, and thermal insulation issues in the first instance.

After stripping the renovation areas, it is time for the structural work on floors, ceilings, and walls to start. Then behind the wall plumbing, heating and electrical can be fitted. Practically speaking, if you’re doing the kitchen, do it first. Not only because it adds significant value to your home, but because it also creates the most dust and debris and typically takes several months. If you stay in your home during the project, you may choose to set up a temporary kitchen in the dining room or an adjacent area.

When it comes to decorating, as obvious as it might seem, it can be advisable to hold off on decisions like paint colours, carpet, and light fixtures until you spend time in the space you’re renovating.  If you spend a little more time before painting and recarpeting, to consider how everything works together, you can save several back-to-the-drawing-board moments and dollars. 

Whatever the scale of work, renovations can be a long and tiring process, so it’s important to stay focused to achieve the result you want.  And don’t forget about follow up and maintenance afterwards – it’s just as important as good planning, as it will ensure you’re happier with your renovation, for longer.

For help with your next building project, use our Find A Builder search function on www.nzcb.nz.

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