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Australia is in the midst of a renovation boom, with ABS data showing private renovations reached $9.896 billion across the country in the 2018 September quarter.

But with so much money flowing into home alterations and additions, it’s crucial that homeowners get it right the first time. That’s why planning is so essential to the renovation process. Here are the steps you need to take before diving into a new renovation project.

1. Do your research

The first question to ask is: will this renovation offer an adequate return on my investment? If you end up pouring money into a project that either blows out its budget or doesn’t add significant value to your home, consider whether it might be a wiser investment to sell your property and move into a more appropriate home for your needs?

Once you’ve decided that a renovation is the best option, do your research and outline the scope of the project. Plan out every change you intend to make and verify that it’s doable within your timeline and council regulations. For example, will the renovation be minor aesthetic changes inside, or do you want to expand the house size or build an additional level?

Finding out whether or not your dream project can come to fruition legally could be as simple as researching on your council or state’s planning portal.

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A great renovation starts with a solid plan! Do your research to ensure you can achieve your dream look within your budgets and time restrictions. Image via Three Birds Renovations

2. Get the right approvals

First, the good news: many renovation types don’t require you to obtain planning or other approvals before commencing work. That being said, it’s recommended that you contact your local council prior to renovating so you don’t run into any legal issues down the track.

Minor internal and external changes that don’t impact your home’s structural integrity or services won’t need any sort of council approval. However, government entity Your Home does state that: “Alterations to services (plumbing, drainage, gas and electrical) do require approval and inspection by the relevant authority but may not require planning or building approval.”

In all instances, it’s better to be safe than sorry – so conduct your due diligence and contact the appropriate authorities to ensure your proposed renovations are all above board.

3. Compare Quotes

Now that you’ve finalised your renovation plans and are ready to get started, it’s time to organise who will do what. Are you a DIY expert who plans to complete the entire project on your own – or with your family? If so, you’ll only need to focus on your own expenses – materials, approvals, potential cost of taking time off work, etc.

If instead you’ll be hiring professionals to help out or do the whole renovation themselves, you’ll need to source a variety of quotes to determine the total cost. This task should go hand-in-hand with Step 4 below.

Don’t take verbal quotes as gospel. Get your potential renovators to give you written contracts that outline every piece of work that will be done. More importantly, get several quotes – from at least three different contractors or companies – so you get a better idea of expected costs. You may also be able to leverage those quotes to get a better deal.


Finally, remember that in some states you must hire licensed contractors for renovations above a certain cost. In New South Wales, for example, NSW Fair Trading requires all residential work over $5,000 to be done by a licensed builder.

4. Lock in your budget and timeline

If your renovation is multifaceted, it’s important to create ‘budget caps’ for each stage of the project. This will mean you are billed when, for example, the kitchen alterations are complete but before your team starts work on the bathroom. This will avoid cost blowouts and also ensure you don’t end up with a huge bill at the end of the renovations.

It’s also wise to have three budget costs in mind:

1. What you hope it will cost (as inexpensive as possible).
2. What it will probably cost (the proposed costs you lock in before commencement).
3. What it might end up costing should anything go wrong (e.g. price surges on materials, unexpected delays, etc.).

Then settle on a timeline. Work with your contractors on this front and get all deliverables and dates in writing. It’s not uncommon for timelines to fluctuate depending on unpredictable factors (weather, illness, budget constraints), but a signed timeline in your contract will help keep the project on track.

5. Organise your living arrangements

Where will you live during the renovation? If the alterations are minor and the work can be completed during daytime hours, you may not have to make any alternative living arrangements.

However, if there may be health concerns due to being exposed to dangerous materials, or if the project will involve renovating bedrooms, then it’s important to work out where you will stay. If friends and family can’t accommodate you, it may be necessary to stay in a motel or rent another property for the duration of the renovation. Always factor in these costs to your final budget.

Tip: It’s also a good idea to let your neighbours know about any planned renovations. Having happy neighbours is good for everyone!

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