So, you have an upcoming home renovation project. You already know it’s an expensive and arduous undertaking. However, when done right, it surely pays off. Home renovations should be geared towards the future, i.e., the long-term benefits they can provide.
Most homeowners now realise how important it is to work with a master renovator with adequate experience in their local area. But even working with an expert renovation specialist can result in a few headaches.
The good news is that you can avoid problems with proper due diligence. It means you investigate, audit, and review all aspects of home renovation.
Based on our years of experience, our partners at Perth Renovations Co have identified five of the most significant due diligence tasks you should do before renovating a home.
5 Things to Do Before a Home Renovation
1. Be Transparent and Determine a Budget
Before anything else, make sure that you first understand where the clients are at, particularly their expectations. What should be the direction that they want to take for renovating? What are the main plans, especially what they want to achieve when all is said and done?
Talk about their expectations regarding:
- The finishes
During the discussion, it is vital to know the client’s budget from the get-go. For transparency’s sake, you should explain why having a budget is essential. It’s where all the renovation elements stem from, allowing you to determine what you can and cannot do.
Having a set budget from the very beginning of the project can prevent going beyond what the clients intend to spend. From there, you can tell what are and what are not included within their budget.
The whole process of renovating cannot always be perfect. Even if you have years and years of experience in building and remodelling, some things can still go wrong. You should take the time to talk to your clients to know about their expectations and strive to achieve them. Communicate regularly and be upfront.
2. Plan for the Unexpected
Having a budget and plan is not enough to control all the outside elements in the project. Even the ones that are directly related to the renovation can have certain issues. For example, when tearing down the walls, you might discover an old plumbing system. Therefore, you have the added jobs of telling the owners, increasing the budget, and replacing that system.
Below standard concrete slabs are also a huge issue, even with more modern homes. They can appear anywhere, from the lounge room, bathroom, and bedrooms where the walls are too weak and thin. Wrong sizing, sunken flooring, and termites under the floors are just some of the other common problems that can delay the completion of the project.
Although they are common, they are still often unexpected by the owners. The house may look like it is in good condition, but there can always be surprises lurking below the surface. Be prepared for these unexpected issues, which generally mean that there will be additional work and expenses along the way.
That’s why it is important to have at least $5,000 to $10,000 extra budget just in case.
A good rule of thumb is to set a realistic budget, then add about 20% of that amount for emergencies or unforeseen conditions.
When providing a timeframe to the clients, add more to the expected completion date if some problems arise. Just like with budgeting, you should set a timeline, which should be as realistic as possible so as not to cause you and the clients any stress. Then, add 20% to this timeline. For example, you estimate that it will take about six to eight weeks to renovate a medium-sized kitchen. You can inform the client that the total time you need is between 10 and 12 weeks, instead.
3. Allow for Delays
In line with the unexpected issues above, there will be delays in the project. Therefore, you should always have a plan for the delays and variations in the contract. You must compromise with the client, especially when working on a residential property. That property is typically where the client resides, so there can be delays depending on how frequently it is in use.
Also, remember that you will be working with other professionals or perhaps your team. You need to communicate with everyone, not just the clients. Through constant communication, you can predict delays, expect the unexpected, and find a way to rectify the situation.
The key thing here is to make sure that you are realistic about your timeline, as we have mentioned above. Renovations may seem straightforward, especially if you compare the activity to building a whole new house. However, it does take longer than expected, most of the time. You have to be prepared for issues and be willing to make accommodations to help avoid any frustration.
For instance, replacing a whirlpool tub and double vanity can look like a quick task. Removing the old fixtures can indeed be finished in about an hour or two, but clients can take a long time to decide on which vanity and tub they want. The whole process can take a few weeks and then some more time for the delivery of the fixtures.
4. Understand What the Client Likes and Wants to Achieve
Renovation is about improving the quality of life for the dwellers.
It focuses on the following major aspects, which all contribute towards happier living in the home:
- Aesthetics: Most of the time, people want to renovate to enhance the look of their home. Whether it is changing the wallpapers, using more vibrant paint colours, tearing down old walls, and removing damaged cabinetry, it’s all about the look. When working with the client, you can help them narrow down their design preferences. You may have to work with an interior designer to help you figure out what will work best for the area while staying within the budget of the client. You can always get inspiration from home decor magazines, websites, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, and shows. Determine the design direction that should be taken without influencing the client’s decisions. While you can provide your ideas, you should let the client have the final say even if you think the colours do not go well with one another, for example.
- Functionality: What makes a home more functional? It has well-articulated spaces for relaxing, nurturing, storage, entertaining, and resting. It also lets the dwellers work or studies better and more peacefully. They can enjoy their hobbies without getting disturbed by the noise. Each room should have a dedicated purpose, which could be the primary reason for the renovation itself. Walls and dividers may be used, such as plants and bookshelves. Here is a list of the best indoor plants, if you are interested. Creating a logical layout to enhance the flow of the house is also crucial in boosting functionality.
- Feel: A house is not a home if it does not feel warm and inviting. It usually has something to do with the colours, lighting, and organisation. Renovation can improve the look and feel of the house, which can be as simple as changing the wall colours and décor. The interior hues can create a visual flow that makes it more pleasing to the eyes, especially when the colours are strategically chosen for the adjacent spaces. Layouts and styling also help improve the feel of the home, which may allow the client to personalise it and give it character.
- Future-Proofing: A reliable contractor will tell the client to renovate for the future. Some people renovate their homes every couple of years while others take about a decade. Regardless, the future should always be part of the plan. Future-proofing simply means that you create a functional and comfortable home that will remain useful for the years to come. It should adapt to the needs of the household, which tend to change quickly. For example, a newly married couple may decide to have kids in about a year or so. In that case, having extra bedrooms will prevent the need to renovate when the children arrive.
Having energy-efficient improvements is also a smart move, especially today. Some dwellers may need special access, which may need more suitable flooring for wheelchairs and disabilities. Replacing old appliances with new, energy-efficient ones, choosing formaldehyde-free cabinets, and using low VOC paints are just some of the enhancements that are valuable now and in the coming years.
The planning stage is not complete without talking to the local council or building commission. Experienced contractors already know what can and cannot be done in terms of zoning. Some parts of the plan may sound harmless and free of any issues – until you talk to the authorities. Special permits may be required to perform any changes to the house, which is why it is important to contact governing boards before commencing the renovation project.
The regulations and permits that you have to obtain will all depend on your location. If you’re a homeowner, you want to make sure that the builder or contractor does not cut corners. Hire someone who is registered for the type of work you need to be done, whether you have a small or large renovation. For example, in Western Australia, you should only hire a registered plumber for any plumbing work you require. If it is a major renovation, you may have to hire a building lawyer to understand what the project entails, especially the renovation contract. Remember that you are allowed to request changes if you are unhappy with the conditions or terms in the contract.
Some renovation jobs that go over $16,000 may require builders insurance. Ask to see the certificate of domestic building insurance before you pay. It’s also important to check your home and contents policy to be sure that renovations are covered; otherwise, you may buy extra cover before the beginning of the project.
According to the law, any structural work that should be performed needs the builder or tradie to be registered. It does not matter if it is a minor or a low-cost job. A building permit may also be required, so you should check with the building surveyor to be sure.
Extensions or renovations can be done by hiring a builder who will supervise the whole project, along with the subcontractors. If you choose this option, you should deal directly with the builder and not the subcontractors, which should be the builder’s responsibility. Alternatively, you can manage the building process on your own, in which you will be known as the owner-builder. You will then be responsible for engaging and managing the subcontractors by yourself.
When getting permits, you should make sure:
- Everything is outlined in the plan, including the specifications and measurements of the area.
- There is a detailed list of building materials that will be used, as well as the fittings, colour schemes, and appliances that will be removed and replaced.
- You have a building contract that identifies the person or entity that will obtain the building permits.
Not all renovations require a building permit. However, if you do, it should already be issued. You should also have a copy of it before the actual renovation work begins.