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The Biggest Things To Avoid When Renovating

By Laura Anderson

So you’ve just bought a fixer-upper and can’t wait to get in there, gut the place and create your dream space? You’re not alone.

More than half of Australians buying their first home intend to renovate it within a year, a new survey shows, with one in five planning to renovate immediately after buying.

But that DIY dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re not armed with the skills and know-how to undertake a reno project on your own.

Here are some common mistakes people make, and how you can avoid them:

Not setting a budget, or sticking to it

Before you start scrolling Pinterest and making a “must-have” list, the absolute first thing you need to do is determine your budget. There’s no point splurging on gold tapware if it then means you can’t afford the important stuff – like flooring and painting.

Former Block contestants and Hipages ambassadors, Mitch Edwards and Mark McKie, say it’s important to have an agreed budget before the work begins and advise setting aside a 10 per cent contingency amount.

“Things happen during renovations that no one expects, and you need to be ready,” they say.

Trying to DIY it all

While home makeover shows make reno projects look like a breeze, unless you’re a qualified and skilled tradesperson, chances are you won’t be able to DIY every aspect of your home revamp.

“While it’s good to find ways to save money, like helping with demolition and labouring, be aware of your skill limitations. Plenty of money is wasted fixing dodgy DIY projects – on average, $1500 per household according to Hipages research [conducted in 2018],” Mitch and Mark say.

Licenced plumber and founder of Service Today, Zak Saboune, says there are some jobs that are best left to the experts, and for good reason.

Some big no-nos for Saboune include attempting to tackle any plumbing, gas or electrical work yourself, and advises homeowners not to undertake work that requires a licence.

“Plumbing, electrical, air conditioning are all licensed trades and these are licensed for a reason – and you want to make sure these things are compliant. These people know what they’re doing.”

Not having a clear idea of what you want

Having a plan will make for a smoother process for everyone involved. Sure, you can make changes along the way, but giving everyone ample warning will ensure there are no budget blow-outs and you’ll get exactly what you want.

Mitch and Mark suggest drawing up your floor plan to make sure what you’re planning makes sense and fits into the space you’re renovating.

“Draw up your plans considering if the layout you want will work and be practical and functional,” they say. “Ask yourself questions like, ‘Do we need to move power, water, walls, etc?’”

Go over your plans with your builder or tradies for their feedback to ensure they are realistic, while also flagging any considerations like the knock-on effects of moving powerpoints, plumbing or cabinetry.

“To help with your vision, try marking up your plans in the actual space. You can use masking tape on the floor to see what it’s like.”

Not factoring in how long the job may take

Underestimating how long a project will take can often result in frayed tempers and higher expenses; being prepared will save you a lot of time and worry.

“It’s important to make sure you have all the materials you need onsite before your trades arrive,” say Mitch and Mark. “If you plan to save money by ordering directly yourself, make sure everything is ready for the job to commence so people aren’t standing around or, worse, they go to another job and push your job till later.

“We all want things done quickly, and good tradies are the same, however, things take time so don’t rush the quality of your project and be prepared to factor in some ‘contingency time’ into your project.”

Not trusting your tradies

You know what you want but your tradies know how to make it happen, so it’s important to trust their expertise to get the results you’re after.

Take them through your plans and ask plenty of questions to ensure nothing gets overlooked.

“Communication is key,” say Mitch and Mark. “We speak with our tradesmen frequently during a renovation to ensure we know what’s been achieved and that we’re on schedule.

“From the outset, you should go over your ‘scope of work’ with your builder and tradies. Ask them about the works, and if there is anything you have not thought about. They’ve done this many times and will be an asset.”


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