5 Tips for Couples Planning A Home Renovation


1.Get On The Same Page

As they say 'opposites attract’, so there is definitely going to be differences in your approach to the project versus your partner's. The key is to get on the same page before starting, making sure you have your plans, designs and style mapped out and agreed.

Each of you will have strengths to contribute to the finished result, however, both of you will need to work as a team to get there. If one of you is good with the budgeting and dealing with the builder or one of you is good with the design aspects, then acknowledge these strengths and work to compliment each other. Questions will be raised and decisions made during the process, so always consult with each other along the way.


2.Choose The Right Builder

Choosing the right builder for your project is the most important aspect of your renovation. To help you make the right choice, here are 5 questions to ask before you hire.


1. Proof of Qualifications

When choosing a builder, always ask for proof of qualifications. Our Tradesmen Guide is a handy resource that will help you understand what builders do, their qualifications as well as provide details on other trades.

2. Ask for a written quote

Before work commences you should have a written quotation, a staged payment schedule agreed (more details below) and date of completion.


3. Insurance

‘All risks’ insurance cover is ideal, but a current certificate of public liability insurance should be a minimum level of cover. This will ensure that any accidents are claimable under the builder’s insurance policy rather than your home insurance or you personally.

4. Ratings and Reviews

Ideally, you should be able to view ratings and see for yourself evidence of the standard of renovations completed. Where possible, speak with previous clients before you commit. This will help you access the level of service you can expect and the level of satisfaction derived from previous customers.

5. Project Contract

This contract should cover timeframes, payment terms, materials, warranties and dispute resolution guidelines. To make it easy for you we’ve created a free home improvement contract template that you can download here.

Finding the right builder for your renovation project is going to offer more than just previous experience and expertise; you’ll also be looking for a person you can work well with and rely on, as they'll be the person you’ll likely consult with every day, track progress and communicate issues.


3.Should You Stay or Should You Go Now

Your decision to stay or move out will depend on the type of renovation project you are planning.

Living on-site maybe possible; especially when one part of the house is being renovated and other areas remain untouched. However, make sure you have allowed for hidden costs, inconvenience and have also discussed living on-site with your builder.

For example, if planning a kitchen renovation, ask your builder to cost a temporary partitioned area where you can relocate your existing oven and fridge. This arrangement will at least allow you to minimise the expense of numerous take-outs – even if you are washing up in the bathroom sink!

You’ll also need to plan for plenty of disruption to family life, as builders will typically arrive on-site from 7am (even on Saturdays) and although most builders will aim to tidy up the site at the end of each day – expect dust in every part of the home.

If you have young children, be sure to keep them out of the building area, especially when tradesmen are on-site. If you have pets, you’ll need to find alternative living arrangements during the renovation, as you don’t want to risk them getting in the way or even running away!

Living on-site will allow you to observe every part of the building process, so be careful that your judgment is not misplaced, as an overly critical eye might just drive you (and your builder) to despair.

You should also note that many builders and tradesmen take on-site smoking breaks. If this is something that will bother you – be sure to say something up front, otherwise, it might be something to endure – as these small concessions should all be worth it in the end.

If the budget allows, we would recommend you move into temporary accommodation. However, if you can both stand the disruption and living on-site is possible, then store up plenty of patience and good humour.


4.Stick to your budget

Before your home renovation starts, you should have your loans approved, budget determined and building, labour, materials, fixtures and fittings estimates received and many items pre-ordered.

During this process, always factor in a 10% contingency. There will always be unforeseen costs and pay close attention to windows and flooring estimates, as you might want to upgrade if the product quoted is not to your liking. Always do your homework and shop around to source the best-priced products like ovens, baths, fridges, lighting etc.

Discuss with your builder on what they will and won't be installing. For example, kitchen suppliers often provide an installation quote, but many builders can also quote this service. Interior painting and decorating is often an overlooked expense by many homeowners, which is not often quoted.

During the project, if the builder is asking if you want something done – it’s probably because it’s not included in the initial estimate, therefore always clarify before your builder commences any additional work, making sure you have agreed to a price and include in the contract.

Always consult your budget during your renovation. If inspiration strikes during the project for additional improvements, make sure your budget allows.



5.Have A Payment Schedule

The best way to manage finances during the renovation is to have a staged payment scheduled agreed with your builder. The schedule should include a list of dates when payments will be made, coinciding with the fulfilment of pre-agreed activities. The payment schedule usually includes the following:

  • Starting date for the contract
  • Amount to be paid as an initial payment
  • Intervals of further payments after the initial payment
  • The timeframe of project completion
  • Total building contract amount

This will help your builder source materials and recruit trades required and you’ll have piece-of-mind that final monies paid will be at the point of project completion and satisfaction.

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