Most of us have little plans to turn our humble home into something with more space or just a little more modern. Here’s how to think about renovating so you get the most bang for your buck.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have our dream house at a price we can afford? With some strategic thinking about design, materials, and timing, it’s not so hard to cut renovation costs without cutting corners. The universal truth about renovations is that every little thing adds up. So save a little here, save a little there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real value.
If you can reorganise and equip your home, kitchen or bathroom for maximum utility, you may not need to rebuild to create more space. Start by replacing space-hogging shelves with pullout drawers or concealed cabinets. This is especially true in the kitchen, where planning to gain more storage space pays off by not having to expand the cabinetry into other rooms or extend.
Before cutting a big hole for those bifold doors you’ve longed for, consider less invasive—and less expensive—ways of capturing light. To brighten up a windowless hallway, for instance, install a solartube skylight for less than $500 – it slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down below. Velux also make beautiful skylights.
Reap big savings with recycled or lightly used fixtures and building materials. But beware, because some tradies and builders won’t guarantee their work if they have to use salvaged items because they don’t want to assume the liability if something goes wrong. That said, if you’re doing your own work, you can find anything from prehung doors to acrylic skylights to windows and reclaimed hardwood timber floors.Oh, and this one works in reverse. Don’t forget to salvage any re-usable materials if you’re about to embark on demolition work.It will also save you on skip and rubbish removal fees. And doing your own demolition can also save you. Knocking down may not be as costly as rebuilding, but you can still shave dollars by doing some of the demolition yourself—as long as you proceed with care. Beware of unwittingly take out a load–bearing wall or, worse still, sawing through live wiring or plumbing.
Buying pre-finished materials can be costly upfront, but works well if it means you save on an extensive paint or finishing job. Some examples of this include primed and painted weatherboards, decking boards, skirtings and even some prefabricated wall finishes. These materials cost more upfront but will save time and money down the track by helping you avoid too much painting.
When it comes to things like flooring, ask your tradie if he has stock left over from other jobs. Sometimes tradies have mates who are about to trash material from a demolition job and want material taken away, which means you might just get something for nothing (OK, that’s unlikely, but it will be cheaper than buying from new).
Low voltage halogen downlights can cost more to run and usually require eight or 10 for one room to create general lighting. In addition to the fixtures, there’s labour costs to cut all the holes and insulate them properly. One wall or ceiling mounted light can also deliver more wattage, which means you may be able to get away with fewer fixtures.
Depending on the scale of your project, you might not need a full–on architectural commission, which involves extensive meetings, multiple visits, and several sets of construction drawings. You might be able to tap an architect’s design savvy by having them undertake a one–time design consultation. For example, for a flat fee, some architects will meet with a homeowner, examine the problem, and sketch out a few solutions that can be given to a builder or drafting service to crank out formal construction drawings.
Unless you’ve got loads of time (and expertise) to spend on your project, the best way to add sweat equity is up front, by handling your own demolition, or at the back end, by doing some of the finish work yourself. Most people can try their hand at installing insulation, painting, sanding and rubbish removal. And slash your material delivery fees by picking up goods yourself.
It’s a fact that major renovating can cost more than building from new. Carefully weigh up the best approach to renovating if demolishing and starting again is an efficient option. Don’t schedule your reno in the height of peak demand times for builders – wait until there is a lag and fit in with their availability to get the best price.
Or the toilet, if you can avoid it. If your new layout requires that you move the toilet, use the opportunity to upgrade the pipes at the same time.
Use manufacturers’ off–the–shelf dimensions from the outset and you will save the premiums of custom fabrication. Buying doors, windows and storage systems in normal sizes will save hundreds, if not thousands. This also applies to kitchens, which can be bought cheaply from flatpack factories if you don’t need to custom-make each cabinet.
Start prowling the aisles at the hardware store way before the wrecking crew shows up. Get a good feeling for what you want in fixtures and appliances and what they cost. If you aren’t absolutely specific up front about what you want, you’ll have to rely on your builders allowance or quote, and his notion of what is acceptable may be quite different from yours. For instance, you may have had a glass–tile backsplash in mind, but your builder priced in basic white ceramic tiles.