In all renovations, there are two essential elements: budgeting and planning. Most renovation pitfalls result from a lack of one or both, but there’s a third pitfall that is becoming all too common …

Always prepare a budget. When considering your budget, it’s advisable to allow a contingency factor for the unknown. When renovations are undertaken, there are often hidden unknowns behind walls and under floors, especially in older properties.

We always advise our clients to have a minimum of 10–15 per cent contingency allowance. Don’t sell yourself short by setting a low contingency figure. Too often, we see projects taking a long time to finish due to a lack of funding. Had there been a realistic contingency allowance, these projects would be completed on most occasions. It is better to set a higher contingency and have money to spend on appliances or the upgrade of finishes rather than trying to borrow more money to finish.

As a designer and builder, I can assure you that planning is of the upmost importance and is the single most critical part of any project to ensure the project finishes on time and on budget. With so many regulations and restrictions today, it can be a daunting task for homeowners to understand what is actually required when wanting to carry out renovation works.

All too often, we hear, “My brother or cousin is an electrician and they are going to do it for free or cheaper.” This is fine, as long as the family member is aware of the project timeline and they don’t just turn up randomly, fitting you in around their own contract and paid projects.

Remember, the family member also needs money to survive. Sure, they will have the best of intentions to accommodate your project but if they are unable to meet the deadlines in the project timeline, their delays will create a domino effect for all other trades on-site.

We often find that using a family member to save costs actually costs more in the long run due to delays and miscommunication. Those delays invariably mean more expense, which means cutting corners to save time. Cutting corners is a dangerous option and is usually detrimental to the structural integrity and therefore safety of the building.

The increasing number of reality television shows — where inexperienced and unlicensed people carry out the works — has been detrimental to the building industry in recent years. Many people feel they too can emulate the results of the reality shows and they then attempt the works themselves without adequate budgeting, planning, skills or experience.

Let me ask you a quick question: would you hire an unlicensed, unskilled person to carry out renovation works in your house? I am sure I’ve got you thinking now!
If the works require council approval, it will be noted in the documentation that the work was carried out by an owner-builder. As appealing as this may seem to your ego, if you have no experience in renovating, how can you possibly feel confident enough that the project will be built to budget, built on-time and, most importantly, built safely for you and your family?

Renovation reality shows have brought great attention to the market. It might appear easier and cheaper to do it yourself but if you are an inexperienced and unskilled renovator, it is far more cost-effective to employ a builder and tradespeople to carry out the works. They will be faster, more professional and more accurate. They are also fully insured and all works are under warranty.

Under-budgeting, poor planning and/or attempting a renovation yourself can all cause unwanted stress on you and your family. The old adage rings true: ‘you always get what you pay for’.

Please don’t expect to build or renovate perfectly with little to no experience. Get out there, do your research, engage a professional and start renovating!