Renovation Guide Part 1: Planning

We’ve consulted the experts for our three-part guide on how to renovate like a professional

Reno-guide-part-one-planningMost of us think our homes could benefit from a renovation, either modest in scale or monumental. No matter the scope, success lies in smart planning. Our three-part renovation guide will arm you with all the information you need to master a successful renovation of any size.

PLANNING Consider how you live within your home. If you’re renovating for yourself rather than resale, think about how you use the different spaces before you talk to an architect or work on design. Ask yourself:

What time of the day do you use the different rooms?

Who uses them and who will use them in the next five years? What storage do you need? Do you have a budding cellist who needs space to practise and store their instrument? A husband who desires a quiet spot to sprawl his newspaper out on a Sunday afternoon? Do teenagers need a chill-out space to watch TV?

Is the bedroom primarily for sleeping, or is it your reading refuge?

Do you use the kitchen island solely to prepare food or do you jostle with children finishing their homework or guests chatting to you while you work? How do you want your home to flow – open plan or easy to close off? Indoor/outdoor flow or focused internally?

Creature comforts

Consideration of how you want to use different rooms will encourage you to think of the comforts of living, such as lighting, speakers and surround sound, and underfloor heating. From the outset, decide what you want in the way of heating, plumbing, drainage, lighting, insulation, HRV, double glazing, storage and so on. Then plan and budget.

Light play

Take note of how your home sits on the land, where the sun rises and where it sets. If you’re reconfiguring the house, determine which rooms you want the light to fill throughout the day. People often like sun in their kitchen and bedrooms in the morning, and afternoon light in their living room. Bathrooms and garages are a lesser consideration.

Position description

Take note of the light in these spaces when they are in use. A particularly sunny room may be used at night – think about whether you want to change this, or just choose furnishings and fittings that work around it being light and bright.

Considering these scenarios gives you a good idea of what you need to do with your floorplan.

Put it away

Good storage adds value and makes living easier (and clutter-free). Ensure you think about what you want to store before designing the storage, and get creative with your home’s nooks and crannies, Lizzi urges.

✔ Use the space under the stairs to store cleaning equipment

✔ Add a desk to that empty wall near the kitchen

✔ Build floor-to-ceiling shelves in your office

✔ If there are stairs from your lounge to your living area, add nifty pull-out-drawers to house kids’ toys or DVDs

✔ Build big drawers with wheels next to the fireplace to store wood

✔ In kids’ rooms, build bench seating with storage; ditto window seats, foot stools and beneath beds

✔ Make sure your bathroom vanity has enough cupboards for toiletries

✔ See how you can maximise kitchen storage – add smaller shelves for tins, a herb rack and in-built drawer and cupboard systems to access corners

✔ Create toe-kick drawers to store rarely used baking and serving trays

✔ In the laundry, have cupboards and shelves to store cleaning products, pet food, vases and gift wrap

✔ Install a wardrobe organiser to make better use of the space and hang more clothes and fit more shoes

✔ Go upstairs into the roof cavity

Time frames

There are three Ps when it comes to a successful reno: planning, preparation and patience. The third can often be the most challenging because renovations always take longer than anticipated.

It depends on what the renovation entails as to what time of year is most suitable. Summer is obviously best for external work, while internal work is often done in the middle of the year – the battle for tradies isn’t as tough, and you won’t lose your painter on a nice day to an exterior job.

Establish your time frame by talking to professionals, such as a builder, designer or architect. Be realistic and allow a contingency time frame. “In the industry, we have a rule of thumb that if you are occupying the property during renovations, you can expect it to take 50-75 percent more time than if you vacated the property,” says Lizzi.

Depending on how intensive the work is, kitchens can take six to eight weeks on site; this doesn’t include design development or ordering of materials. If it’s a simple joinery change, paint and lighting upgrade, it could be four weeks. This will depend on how much you do yourself. Bathrooms are much faster, taking about three weeks.

Council and consents

Anything that requires making external changes; changes to the building’s footprint or structure; new decks and plumbing relocations will require building consent from your local council. Speak to the council about what you can and can’t do, and what consents will cost. Lizzi advises staying onside with the council by using them as an advisory rather than hoping for retrospective consent. If you are doing your renovation yourself, talk to a council building officer and they’ll advise what you need in terms of consent and Building Code requirements. Consents may involve the need for architectural drawings and take around six to eight weeks to process. Councils often ask for additional information – be diligent in responding to keep the consent process rolling.

Couple’s therapy

Renovating is exciting but it’s no picnic. Couples can differ on what they want and compromises will need to be made. An architect we spoke to suggested consulting a third party during decision making to prevent differences becoming arguments. She asks divided couples to explain their priorities, what their choice means to them and why they feel that way. Listening to each other and considering an alternative viewpoint helps a partner understand what the choice means to the other. Get your most convincing arguments ready!

Planning checklist

✔ Talk to your bank about how much you can borrow

✔ Talk to a valuer or real-estate agent about what similar homes in your area are selling for

✔ Get quotes from a local builder, architect and/or project manager about the square metre cost of building in your area

✔ Talk to an architect

✔ Write up a priority list of work to undertake

✔ Decide on scope of renovation

✔ Hire project manager, if you’re having one

✔ Hire architect, if you’re using one

✔ Hire designer, if you’re using one

✔ Hire builder, if you’re using one

✔ Draw up renovation house plans

✔ Talk to the council and start the consent process

✔ Work out a timeframe

✔ Draw up a schedule and strategy for your living plans

Read related articles:

Renovation Guide Part 1: Costs & Budgeting
Renovation Guide Part 1: Professional help
Renovation Guide Part 1: Decisions Decisions!

Words by: Debbi Harrison and Lizzi Hines of Spaceworks and Room by Room
Illustration by: Samantha Totty


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