Renovation Guide Part 1: Professional Help

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


Most 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.


If your renovation sits at the major end of the scale, consider working with an expert Lizzi explains what each professional does.


“An architect is important if you want to change any external elements of your house. They know about building consents, regulations, foundations, soil reports and boundary confirmations and can coordinate the processes involved. They also look at the way a building fits into its surroundings and design to these considerations. They can offer options you hadn’t thought of, or a different, more effective way of doing something. They should be able to point you in the direction of good builders, electricians, plumbers and other tradies. They can be expensive, but if you’re doing a huge renovation they are an investment because architecturally designed homes sell well and retain their value better than others. What you can expect to pay for an architect differs depending on where in New Zealand you are (sorry, Auckland and Christchurch!), the scope of the project, what services you need them to perform and the complexity of the work. Some charge a project fee, some a percentage of the final build (such as 7.5 percent) and some an hourly rate. Find someone whose work you like, ask around for a good one and then meet as many as you need to until you find the right one. All should be upfront with their fee schedule and share their ideas and vision for the project.”


“An architect is more qualified than a draughtsman, and looks into how you use the house and how it fits into the environment, but a draughtsman is a whiz at drawing up very precise plans to create a blueprint for you. If you’re on a strict budget and your reno is minor, the services of a draughtsman may be all that’s necessary.”


Designers are like architects for the interior, explains Lizzi. “A designer holds a qualification and is experienced in creating a home that flows well, works well and looks good. Designers look at the interior as a whole and change anything (including internal walls) that doesn’t alter the external footprint of the building. They know about building consents and regulations related to internal work and, like a draughtsman, draft drawings. They can act as a project manager and usually have an impressive black book filled with suppliers and contacts who give them – and therefore, you – VIP rates. Cost-wise, designers will often work to a fixed fee that you negotiate, or an hourly rate.”


“Decorators are all about decor choices and can help you with aesthetics, such as choosing paint colours, cushions and furniture. They have generally done a colour course and charge hourly. If you have a tight budget and need guidance on how to make your house look like a home, decorators are a good port of call.”

Project managers

Project managers can save you money on a big renovation. As well as keeping the renovation on track, the tradies in line and the time frame under control, they can save you money on labour through their connections. “They can also tell you if any additional costs you may be faced with are reasonable. If you’re going to employ a project manager, involve them from the early stages, including pricing,” Lizzi suggests. “They can use their experience and expertise to ensure everything is included in the pricing.”

Read related articles:

Renovation Guide Part 1: Costs & Budgeting
Renovation Guide Part 1: Planning
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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