Property renovation

5 key things you need to know before you renovate

by Suzanne Burke and Steve Burke | May 30, 2019
1 minute read

5 key things you need to know before you renovate

We’ve all heard building horror stories, like building projects that took years to complete, dodgy workmanship and trades not being able to come back to fix things. It’s enough to put anyone off renovating. So, how do you make sure you have a success story instead of a horror story?

The good news is that it is not like that most of the time. We simply hear more about the building horror stories than the good ones. For every building horror story, there are hundreds of projects completed on budget, on time and to a high standard.

By being aware of what you need to know before you start renovating, you can ensure your renovation is a winner.

1. Have a realistic budget

Can you afford what you have set out to do? If you do not have a realistic budget, you will probably run out of money before you finish.

When this happens, home owners often end up living in a half-finished home renovation for years on end. With over 20 years of renovation experience, we have found that 90 per cent of people grossly underestimate the cost of home renovations.


The last thing you want to do is to start renovating and run out of money halfway through. To avoid this, plan and fully cost your renovation in advance. If you have no idea how much things cost, get a builder or individual trades to provide written quotes for the complete scope of works before you start.

2. Ignoring existing issues

When you tear down walls and rip up floors in an older home, there is always the chance that you will find something unexpected. Common problems are the discovery of dodgy electrical or creative plumbing work done in years gone by.

Even if the cost is unexpected, it will usually save you money in the long term by fixing it now. Going back to fix plumbing work after tiles have already been laid is difficult and costly.

It is always better to fix problems as soon as you find them. Problems rarely go away just because you choose to ignore them.

3. Doing things in the wrong order

Sometimes when home owners undertake a large renovation project themselves, they realise after 12 months or so, that they simply don’t have the time to complete the project in addition to working a day job.

At some point, the family gets sick of living in a house that is being constantly renovated and we get the call in to help them out.

The biggest problem we find at this point is when I discover that tasks have been done in the wrong order. Sometimes this means that work needs to be taken out or redone so that the next trade can do what they need to do. Other times, it means that the work can get damaged by other trades and will need fixing and patching.

A classic example is painting too early. Painting should be the last task in any home renovation, but it is often the first one DIYers go for.

When this happens, you are left with patching and repainting every time a new light switch or light fitting is installed. After a while, constant patching becomes noticeable and starts to look terrible and you are back where you started.

4. Changing your mind. A lot!

The more you change your mind, the more your renovation will cost you. The later in the process you change your mind, the more it will cost!

Selecting tiles is one area where most property owners get confused and change their mind over and over again. So what happens is that they place an order for their tiles, see something else they like, change their mind and change their order.

Unfortunately, this can mean losing a deposit or, worse, if the tiles have been ordered in – or imported – just for you, you might find that you cannot get a refund and will need to pay twice.

I have found that indecision usually comes about due to lack of confidence in your choices. I always recommend engaging an interior designer for a couple of hours at the start of your project to help you lock in your choices at the start.

This will give you greater confidence and reduce your stress levels too. We find that people are often reluctant to do this as they think it will be outrageously expensive. This is not the case. There are plenty of great interior designers out there that will only set you back a few hundred dollars for a couple of hours of time.

The value they add is most certainly worth it. They can really make the difference between a disjointed look to creating a home that flows from one room to another. Best of all, it gives you the confidence in your choices so that you don’t end up second guessing yourself and changing your mind constantly.

5. Using your friend, cousin or mate as a trade

There always seems to be a family member, friend or mate of a mate that will offer to help you out. In over 20 years of renovating homes, every time a home owner insists that they have someone in the family they want to use as an electrician, plumber or painter, it ends in tears.

We know they are probably trying to throw some work their way or they are trying to save money with mates rates, but unfortunately, we have found so much can, and does, go wrong.

If you are going to go down this path, you need to ask:

  • How will you get them back when you are unhappy with the quality of the work? If they think they have done you a favour, they might not be interested in coming back to do the minor fixes to finish off the job.
  • Will poor quality work lead to a breakdown in your relationship with them? Will this make your future family get-togethers awkward or unpleasant?
  • Will you agree on the costs of the work upfront? Without a formal written quote, you are leaving yourself exposed to a bill that is more expensive than you expected.

These are all ingredients for a nasty disagreement, and for this reason, we don’t recommend engaging family, friends or a friend’s mate. We have seen it go wrong so many times.

About the author

Suzanne Burke and Steve Burke

Suzanne Burke and Steve Burke

Suzanne Burke and Steve Burke are authors and owners of Amerex Renovations and Additions, an award-winning home renovation and additions building company. 

5 key things you need to know before you renovate
Property renovation
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