Hope for the best but assume the worst and do the planning to finish the refurbishment with minimal setbacks
Ask anyone who s survived a renovation how it went and chances are you ll hear stories about budgets stretched to breaking point, termites discovered, builders gone bankrupt and work put on hold.
Even a mini crisis, like a delivery mishap or measuring error, can make renovating a stressful event.
It s important to start with a realistic expectation that you re going to encounter a lot of surprises, especially if you re working with an old home, says Melbourne ~ v architect Ed Ewers.
Every time you pull away a layer, hope for the best but assume the worst.
Ed upgraded a classic 1930s cottage, staying true to the traditional style at the front of the house but modernising the back with a sloping roof and feature walls.
FACTOR FOR BUDGET BLOWOUTS
The most common complaint of first-timers is that everything costs more than expected.
Overspend often results from not recognising that changes cost extra.
It s standard for builders to write into the contract that alterations after work has started incur an additional cost, often an extra 10 to 20%.
MAKE IT WORK Most renos are fairly unpredictable so it s almost impossible to lock in an exact price. Do the sums then factor in a contingency fund of up to 20% to cover any emergencies.
Says Ed, We tell our clients to have about 5% in reserve. Usually all the nasties are found in the first stages of work, so if you get through the initial demolition you know what problems you re dealing with.
CHOOSE A REPUTABLE BUILDER
Whether it s poor quality work, overcharging or bad communication, the repercussions of having a dodgy builder or tradie can last for years.
Remo and Tracy Sica s builder went bankrupt after doing substandard work. The renovation has been redone at a further cost of $150,000 plus another two years, Tracy says. MAKE IT WORK Do the research, get at least three quotes and check that the builders are quoting for the same inclusions and allowances.
Nicky Hurst says, Personal recommendations are important. Also visit the Department of Fair Trading in your state to check the builder is licenced and insured, and the licence matches the name on the contract. Visit their previous work, talk to ex clients and go with your gut feeling.
HAVE A WATERTIGHT CONTRACT
Many disaster stories are linked to bad contracts and homeowners locked into agreements they can t get out of.
Remo and Tracy discovered too late that their contract didn t protect them from poor building work.
A contract should have ironclad escape clauses regarding lateness and the quality of work. Otherwise the builder can claim he s completed a wall even if it s not straight, says Tracy. MAKE IT WORK Read the fine print before signing and understand every clause. If in doubt, run it past a lawyer.
Also check protection against delays and poor quality, and be clear about how much extra you ll pay for any variations. If the builder wants to add 20% to any variation required during construction you might be able to negotiate that down to 15%. EXPECT TIMELINE STRETCHES
While ordering materials and booking subcontractors is the builder s job, some decisions are the homeowner s.
If you re going to order things with six to eight weeks lead time, get in early so you don t hold up the builder, says Robert Harwood of My Architect.
MAKE IT WORK Avoid renovating around time-sensitive events, such as a new baby or family coming to stay. Steer clear of the Christmas period, when much of the building industry takes two weeks off. Make sure the contract has a clause that includes a penalty for the builder if delays go past a certain point.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH SOLUTIONS
Renovator Jane Slack-Smith found there was no sewerage connection to an outside toilet she had planned.
Jane stuck to her guns and it cost thousands to install. But we don t use it, so it was a waste of money, she says.
A successful choice she made was to restore the front to the original period style, painting the exterior in one colour to improve the streetscape. MAKE IT WORK Look at the big picture and be prepared to make changes if you come across problems once building has started. Keep an open mind and consider expert advice when looking for the best solutions.