Oliver Lindemann

You’ve been planning on renovating your home, either you’re just starting the process or you’ve been thinking about it for a while. You’ve got ideas of what you want and Pinterest photos to go with those ideas. You tell yourself that you’ll start planning and organising the renovation and then the whole process seems overwhelming or confusing and you shelve the idea for another day. Fear no more! You’ve come to the right place. Hopefully what’s written below helps clear your mind and gets your renovation project gaining traction, and what seemed like an impossible task just got that little bit easier.

​Know What You Want

​Renovating your home is a creative task. I’m not saying that you must be a creative artiste, but it really is. You pick wall colours, the layout, tiles etc. and then fingers crossed it all comes together and you instantly fall in love with it.

The key before you start going head-first into renovating is to have a fair idea of what you want to do with your home and how you’d like it look. Search for ideas online and in magazines and decide if you’re going to add a deck or extend and build a master suite, for example. Know what you want to do with your home and then start getting some ideas together. Be careful that once the creative ideas start coming that what started as a simple bathroom renovation project doesn’t escalate to a house lift, extension and carport and then that overwhelming feeling returns.

Seek Advice

Once you get to the stage where you know what you’re going to do – and it wasn’t the lift, extension and carport, you need to seek some advice. You want to know if what you’d like to do to your home is possible, and if there are local council rules that need to be considered. Can you extend your house? or can you build that carport on the boundary? because there’s no point investing too much time in the project if it just can’t be done. Usually though most things can be completed, it all just depends on a good design and of course, the budget.

A good first stop would be a building designer/draftsman or architect. A good local building designer will be able to provide you with some local town planning and council regulation information on things such as relaxations and requirements and the associated costs, to achieve your renovation. When I talk about relaxations and requirements, I’m referring to any construction within the boundaries of your block that’s deemed outside the ‘normal’ council regulations. One of the most common relaxation applications is building a garage or dwelling on the boundary of the block, which you’ll probably notice more and more in your neighbourhood. If you have a clear understanding of what you’d like to do as part of your renovation project and how you’d like it to look once completed then a building designer can achieve the necessary set of plans ready to take to council. But if you’re not too sure what type of addition or renovation you need, or what the finish of it might look like, then engaging an architect is another option. Architects are more expensive than a building designer, however an architect will provide the creative ideas or help instill the confidence you could be looking for.

​Engaging a builder is another early and important decision. Some people choose to engage a builder to meet on site first, to see if what they want to achieve as part of their renovation project is possible from a structural point of view. Both a builder and building designer are both great first steps. I’ve been to plenty of initial visits with a building designer present. It can be quite a creative and productive process and can stop a lot of ‘back and forth’ to finalise plans prior to submission to local council. Just remember that if you engage a builder or building designer for that initial step, you’re not governed by their services or advice. If both parties don’t agree on what you’d like to achieve, there’s no harm in seeking a second opinion.

Another point to consider is that you can engage a building designer personally. You don’t need a builder to have the plans for your renovation project drawn ready for council. The other benefit to engaging a building designer personally is that you own the plans and you can distribute them for estimations as you wish.

Engineering

​We have found that obtaining engineered structural drawings/plans is a big hurdle for many wishing to renovate and the step most stall on. While having plans drawn by a building designer can be a somewhat inexpensive process, obtaining engineered drawings for any structural modifications or additions to your home in a renovation project can be expensive. I get it! Most people want to know if it’s worth spending upwards of $3,000 on engineering plans to then find out that the extension you thought was $100,000 is actually $200,000 and as a result the whole project is put back on the shelf.

​With engineering plans, a structural engineer assesses the building designer’s plans and selects the appropriate beams, trusses and footing sizes to ensure the structural integrity of the renovation.

The process that we’ve adopted successfully here at Olbroc Projects is to have the plans drawn by a designer or architect first. Then engage the builders to give you a ballpark figure of what they think it will cost to complete the renovations. Then move onto the engineering phase.

​The key, however, is to remember that ballpark figure is just that, and not your final quote. Some builders work on square meterage rates for renovations, however to properly and accurately quote, it’s best to treat every renovation estimation individually, because let’s face it, they are. All renovation projects are individual, and the builder can never know what they’ll find when they start demolishing sections of your house. Engineering can change the overall cost of a project by 5-10% which can be considerable. A builder could predict beam and footing sizes, but these are just estimates and until they have a set of engineering plans any pricing remains subject to change.

​Gaining Traction​

Ok so now we’ve got the plans drawn, we’re happy with the ballpark figures and the engineering plans have been completed. We’re making good progress and other than your local council, your renovation project isn’t far away. Once you’ve obtained engineering, it’s time to go back to the builder and ask for a more accurate proposal of how much exactly the renovation is likely to cost, and what exactly you are getting for that bottom line number. A good builder should put together a comprehensive proposal of your renovation with some ‘provisional sums’. These are the numbers most likely to change as the renovation progress, such as adding in more downlights than was originally quoted for, or choosing a cheaper bathtub for example.​

Once the builder has provided you with the proposal it’s best to meet again to discuss it. Don’t be put off by the number at the bottom, but rather meet again to ask questions, gain some clarity and understand what you’re getting for your money.​

Once you’re satisfied with the builder’s quotation and you’ve understood the scope of works and what you’re getting for your money then it’s time to have the plans sent to council for approval. Two words; be patient! Depending on relaxations or the scope of works, this process can be rather lengthy. Every council or certifier is different, and you can never pick whether the turn-around will be long or short. Once the plans are approved and stamped then allow the builder and contractors to review any changes, if any, and formalise their quotation into a building contract.​

Don’t be scared by a building contract. These contracts are written to protect all parties. Groups like the QBCC and Master Builders are here to help all parties involved in the construction industry which includes you. Read and understand your contract and again double check that all the wording and amounts are correct. Essentially a building contract is the proposal put together by the builder that’s now formalised.

​Once the building contract has been completed then it’s a case of picking a start date!