You can be your own builder!

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You can be your own builder!

April 25, 2020 | Uncategorized | No Comments

When planning any house renovation project, you need to be courageous. While it is wonderful to breathe new life into an old home, it can be a challenge and while you can Do It Yourself, it is advisable to have a ‘guardian angel’ or development manager or facilitator like Blue Quadrant, with experience assisting you along the way.

Nevertheless, whatever option you choose – it can be extremely rewarding. Where house prices are above one’s reach, renovating could be the best way to get into that market. From an investor perspective renovation if astutely accomplished adds significant value and an obvious return on investment.

However, before eagerness gets the better of you, make sure you have prepared for the renovation in advance, considering everything from the start as this will make the whole process run more smoothly and help you budget for final house renovation costs more accurately.

This document focuses on people who have a home to renovate, but if one is looking for a home these five (5) suggestions should be considered. One does not want to end up overcapitalising.

  1. Location – is this the worst (or close to) house in best street.
  2. Buy astutely – do not pay above market value.
  3. House inspection – ensure the building is structurally sound and there are no destructive pests.
  4. Check whether renovation can be carried out – Is there scope to extend and are planned changes likely to be approved?
  5. Budget – Are high-level cost of this refurbishment feasible?

Starting the Renovation Process

Before taking on the property, one should thoroughly research house designs and renovation costs to check that the project is financially viable, but once you have taken possession, have a good look around and properly assess the extent of the works, so you can get a detailed financial schedule in place.

Some mortgage lenders will help one fund the renovation project and offer the money in staged payments. It is therefore mandatory to decide exactly how much one has to spend.

RULE 1 – Formulate the budget and stick to it.

Get quotes from the various contractors. It is also advisable, however, to have a contingency of 10–15 per cent for each contractor to allow for the unexpected expenses that can arise when renovating. Furthermore, weather conditions also impact causing delays and therefore this contingency ensures one’s budget remains realistic.

RULE 2 – Be clear about what you hoping to achieve, because if one deviates it adds to additional costs and time.

If you are deciding just how to transform your home within your budget, seek the assistance of a designer, architect and engineer in the case of moving walls.

RULE 3 – Check for Council or other restrictions

It is an illegal offence to carry out certain unauthorised works to a dwelling. One cannot for example knock down a heritage listed property.

Once you have your plans, you must identify which aspects of your proposed renovation require statutory consent. Find out how to apply for planning permission.

Too many people rush their designs and are regretful afterwards. It is worth taking one’s time to perfect the design and ensure the finished property will meet ones needs. Think carefully about room placement, too and natural light.

RULE 4 – Do not rush the design phase.

Once one is happy with the design, a schedule of works needs to be drafted. This is a crucial step. Be clear on the steps you will need take to renovate the property before you make a start, and prioritise the more important works, that is those that say stop further decay or stabilise the structure. The schedule of works lists the order of jobs – so for instance, re-wiring must be completed before walls are replastered or in the case of a bathroom renovation waterproofing needs to be completed before tiles are laid.

RULE 5 – consider your team

Use recommendations from family and friends that are familiar with how to renovate a house as they can offer help in finding an architect, builder and, if needed, a project or development manager – unless you are planning to be the renovation’s project manager yourself.

It is imperative that one has to feel comfortable and confident in the skills of everyone working on the property.

Extensive building works are not be covered by standard building insurance. It is worth noting that standard insurance policies only cover an inhabited house, so if you plan to move out while the work is carried out, make sure your insurance company knows. The best thing to do is to take out specialist renovations insurance. The level required will depend on the quantum of works carried out.

If one is outsourcing the project to a builder or development manager, check that one’s contractor has the necessary work cover insurance and public liability insurance. If the unenviable happens, not being insured will have a major impact on your project.

Simply insuring a home while it is being renovated is not enough — you must ensure the property is adequately protected against break-ins, too.

Living next door to a building site can be extremely stressful and if one continues to live in the house post renovation works, it is advisable to discuss the refurbishment with neighbours beforehand.

The Building Process

This part of the renovation usually starts with preparation and with larger projects foundations and drainage.

Damp-proof measures and new insulation will be incorporated at this stage and any existing damp issues can be sorted out. Always get an independent expert to take a look at any damp issues that may arise and advise on the right solution. Waterproofing may be ideal for modern homes, but can do more harm than good in a solid-walled period property.

If one is building a second storey to a house, where part of the roof is dislodged, it is important to speedily get the property suitably weathertight because so many subsequent stages may follow such as plastering, electrics, joinery and painting. Getting the roof coverings on, with all of the associated flashings and weather seals, is vital. Fitting doors and windows is also a huge step forward.

If one is changing the internal layout of the property, this is the stage where stud walls will be built and windows and doors incorporated. Walls and ceilings can then be plastered,

If kitchens and bathrooms are being renovated or added to the home, plumbing and electricity play an important role. Appliances, worktops, taps and other accessories need to be acquired and delivered to the site.

The next stage involves finishes. Where we had heavy and rough work at the earlier stages are transformed. The colour schemes chosen depends on whether this is a home for life or an investment project.

It is good practice to ensure that each tradie do what they can to keep their work area tidy, but it is expected that there will be a certain amount of shared mess that nobody takes responsibility for. The owner or the development manager will sweep up and have a quick tidy at the end of each day to make sure that tradespeople who come in to start new jobs the following day are not being held up.

In summary, there are savings to be had in doing the renovation or build oneself, but as the table indicates the best option is to bring on board a development manager or facilitator who will be one’s ‘guide’, so one does not experience major pitfalls along the way.



Hypothetical Refurbishment Options
 Base CostContingenciesOverheadsProfitTOTAL
Larger Company50% – $90,00010% – $9,00015% – $13,50025% – $22,500100%- $135,000
Small Builder55% – $80,00012% – $9,6003% – $2,40030% – $24,000100% – $116,000
Owner Builder (DIY)72.5% – $85,00025% – $21,2502.5% – $2,1250% – $0100% – $108,375
Development Manager83%$70,0007%$4,90010%$7,0000%$0100%$81,900


  1. Larger Companies are low risk, but job owner is one amongst many customers. Completion time is generally longer. Invariably use same contractors as small builder. Overheads high due to head office costs.
  2. Small Builder is cheaper option than Larger Company, but high risk as standards are not as high (see contingency). Build margin in labour and products used.
  3. Owner Builder (DIY) think they can do it cheaper than most, but invariably there is a cost blowout. They do not have turnover relationships with various contractors and usually pay ‘retail’ prices. Due to inexperience, mistakes are made and tasks have to be repeated adding to time and costs.
  4. Development Manager or Facilitator keeps the builder or various contractors honest and understands the build process. They also know where to source product cheaply and margins for product greatly reduced. Risks are mitigated and the job is usually completed on time and within budget.

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