How to reconfigure an existing space in your home

As circumstances in your life change, your home’s layout may not fit your life as well as it once did. Here’s how to reconfigure a space to suit your changing needs


How to reconfigure an existing space in your home

If you need extra room but building an addition isn’t an option, you can divide a large room into two smaller rooms with a partition wall, or remove a wall to create a more open-plan space. Completing these projects can be ideal ways to make the best use of the space available, and staying within your home’s original footprint will help keep costs down.

The costs will vary widely depending on the scale of the project but our experts recommend a budget of $1200-$5000.

What the experts say

The architect, Natasha Markham

+ If you are thinking of installing a partition consider your furniture layout and circulation patterns within the room. Big pieces of furniture such as beds need additional space around them for access. In a bedroom, the ‘bed wall’ (the wall the bedhead rests against) should be long enough to accommodate the width of the bed plus around 700mm on either side for access.

+ Consider the entry points into the room. If you have a wardrobe which is accessed off the bedroom, try to streamline traffic routes so that you are not tripping over furniture every time you want to access this area.

+ Dead spaces such as alcoves or low-ceilinged, attic edges can be great opportunities to incorporate storage. You’ll need 600mm clear depth to create hanging space for clothes, but shelves can be built in much less and are an easy project to carry out for those wanting to flex some DIY muscle!

Shelves are an easy project to carry out,

for those wanting to flex some DIT muscle

The House Doctor, Nadia Sakey

+ Think about combining a dining room and kitchen to create a dining/kitchen and other potential multifunctional living spaces – thus freeing up space for a new room.

+ Fewer but larger communal rooms with clear sight lines will make a house seem bigger, especially if the flooring and wall finishes are the same, or similar, throughout.

+ Before removing walls, work out which are structural by checking the direction of the floor joists. Joists should always rest on structural walls. Structural walls can be removed, but will need to be replaced with expensive steelwork. Adding new stud walls to divide existing space is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, but remember to add acoustic insulation.

Make use of traditional circulation space such as halls and corridors

that may not be needed in a home suited to today’s less formal lifestyles

The Builder, Lee Brandford

+ Even for small jobs such as a partition wall, get your contractor to organise materials to be delivered to site. Although purchasing materials yourself may seem like an obvious way to save money, in the majority of circumstances the builder will get a better price than you.

+  Ensure you get your builder to include delivery costs in their quote.

Builders know exactly what to order to keep costs down

without over-expenditure

The Financial Planner, John Bishop III

+ Finding out that the work will cost more than you expected or budgeted for is normal, but don’t eat into your contingency to stretch the budget. Follow the number-one rule and make every decision ahead of time. You can probably get away with a five percent contingency if you have a good contractor.

+ When you want to borrow money, lenders will look at the size of the renovation, which is measured in dollars and complexity. ‘Dollars’ refers to the amount the homeowner wants to borrow, which is structured in bands, eg $25,000, $50,000, 75,000 etc. ‘Complexity’ refers to whether consents are required and whether the homeowner will be structurally changing the existing building.

+ Have a contract in place. Builders can walk off projects in dispute over costs and payments – it is rare but it does happen.

+ Don’t start work without having the approved banking funds in place.

+ Have a contingency fund.

The Resource Planner, Alex Findlay

Top tips for reconfiguring an existing space

+ Get the experts to assess the property to check whether the house is structurally sound, what kind of foundations it has and if there are any other foreseeable problems with structural changes. Generally speaking, for a small renovation that isn’t removing structural walls, a planner is not required.

> Draw up a simple floor plan of your existing space, and look at where an extra room would make sense, taking into account the size and shape of your section.

> Sit down with your chosen architect and go through design ideas for an extension.

> If you can’t move out for the whole job, try to schedule some time away. Set up a clean, comfortable place to retreat to when you can’t handle coming home to a messy and stressful construction site.

> Think about windows. Is there a view or outlook that can be taken advantage of? Or is there a need to screen certain aspects for privacy? The design and position of windows in a room can have a huge impact on the feel of the space.

You can never have too much storage space, and one of the best ways of increasing it is to use the ceiling voids.

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