Are you planning to renovate and update your home with contemporary design features and open plan living?
Would your family’s lifestyle benefit from a major extension of extra bedrooms and living space?
If so, keep your renovation budget in check – because having affordable plans are essential to a successful project.
To help you do that, here are 13 tips on how to manage your budget and save more than just money!
1. Home renovations in Sydney within budget
Understand what changes to your home are essential (needs), what could be completed later (wants), and what your budget is.
You must be as clear as possible about your needs and budget, from the beginning. With this clarity, you will be able to describe your well-considered balance of your needs and wants to your designer. With this information your designer will prepare suitable design options that are within your budget.
Start your assessment by reviewing your home and family’s lifestyle:
- which spaces currently work for your family
- what your family will need in the next 5-10 years
- what is not working for you
Next, prioritise your changes based on:
For example: if the kitchen is the centre of your family’s life but it is not in the best location or condition, then renovating it is a “need.”
If you feel it would be nice to have a pool, but you do not have the budget for it yet, then this is a “want.” However, it is still worth planning for. You will then have space and access available for it later.
A realistic budget is essential to achieve a successful project.
- What funds do you have available now?
- How much money are you planning to borrow?
- How much can you afford later, if you stage some of the work over the coming years?
- Do you have flexibility with your budget?
2. An essential renovation budget tip
This single action will have the most impact on your project: select the right designer for you.
Select and engage a designer that you connect with, and who makes you feel heard and understood.
If you engage an experienced and highly recommended designer and builder, you get the best opportunity to keep your renovation budget in check. Experts like these can anticipate most pressure points for you, even before these become an issue.
However, bear in mind that different designs will also differ significantly in terms of cost, even when they are all the same size.
Selecting your designer
- Review the designer’s previous projects from the Project Gallery on their website
- Be cognisant of the fact that the designer’s previous designs reflect their client’s briefs, not necessarily the preferred styles of you or the designer.
- Most designers have completed many more designs than they show on their website.
- Research your designer’s previous clients and review the testimonials to understand how smoothly their project went.
- Enquire regarding the percentage of successful submissions the designer has had accepted and approved.
- Dealing with Councils takes patience and expertise.
Before commencing a design, your designer should assess all the constraints of your property, like drainage, height limits and setbacks. There are other planning constraints such as Bushfire Prone Land or Heritage and many more.
Designing within planning constraints is essential for a successful project. Therefore your chosen designer should be keenly aware of this. (It still surprises me that there are DAs and CDCs that get rejected simply because the designer was not aware of the basic constraints. This awareness is essential to designing a building!)
You will need a designer with the appropriate experience and expertise in your particular type of project. Ask yourself, for instance: have they had success in the residential space with extensions and first-floor additions?
If they satisfy all your criteria, engage your preferred designer immediately from the outset. They will be able to guide you and save you time and money with your decisions.
Home designer or architect?
Should you engage an architect or a home designer? Click on the following link to find out the difference between a building designer and an architect.
3. Home design is critical
Good design is cost-effective, and the outcomes are worth it!
Making major changes to your home is a wonderful opportunity to personalise how you want your home to feel, how it can suit your family’s lifestyle, and how welcoming it can be to friends and family who visit you.
You can incorporate this “feel” into your home with the right designer and budget.
Ensure your new home design will not be any larger than what makes sense. Every unnecessary square metre will cost you extra money to build.
- Planning constraints
- Site constraints
- Construction challenges
- Light and thermal considerations
- Longevity of the structure and style
- Naturally, aesthetics and style
4. Home extensions on Sydney’s North Shore
Your budget drives the design possibilities of your home extension and renovation, as there are many design options.
Achieving a home that sits comfortably within your local area will require the use of suitable materials, which will then affect your budget.
Once you have discussed and agreed on your budget with your designer – stick to it as closely as possible! This is just like going to an auction to buy your house – stay within your budget and do not let yourself get absorbed by options you cannot afford.
Discuss with your designer how much flexibility you have with the budget. Request a list of typical costs you will incur during the design and approval stage. Ask your designer to design with your budget in mind and to inform you if your requests are outside of your budget.
Expect a potential 10% budget variability at the construction phase for unforeseen circumstances. For example: if rock needs to be excavated and is not fully visible, or existing timber framing that has deteriorated and therefore needs to be replaced.
5. Top idea for an economical home renovation budget
A Master Plan can be a huge money saver.
It is tricky to gaze into a glass ball and predict what will happen to you and your family over the next 5- 10 years. However, one thing is certain: you have the potential to save yourself a lot of money, time, and inconvenience if you do take on this challenge!
You may need an extra room or two or a new kitchen now. But in years to come, the house may need to be extended either out or up.
Minor renovations may turn out a waste of time and money
Before you make any significant modifications, assess your future needs whilst living in your home. If you must make interim changes, request a master plan from your designer. If you must alter anything immediately, limit these initial changes (like a coat of paint or a new carpet).
For instance, you may want to renovate your kitchen right now. However, there is a good chance that the final renovation plan of your dream home works best with the kitchen in another position in the house. If you want an open plan living area, would you demolish the walls of your newly-renovated kitchen? Most people cannot justify wasting this amount of money!
Staging your construction
In your briefing with your designer enquire about the possibility of staging the construction into 2 or 3 stages. This will allow you to build what you need now without negatively impacting your future plans. For staged construction, the only approval process available is a DA
A master plan that includes all renovations and extension work you would like to complete is therefore the best solution.
Staging your construction is not an option with a CDC.
There are efficiencies in construction that are best done in a single construction stage. However, you can delay the renovation of some of the cosmetic features until you have the budget. For example, an existing bathroom can be renovated at any time if the walls and windows are to remain in the same place.
In your master plan, make sure you prioritise the construction of the main structure of the house. You must firstly complete the walls, windows, doors, and roof. Ensure that the essential spaces are functional before you spend all your available funds on things that appear to be more important for aesthetics and comfortable living. Remember this is a long-term project and you have a long-term goal in mind.
Also read our article on horizontal and vertical extensions to find out which one may be better for your home.
6. Home extension or renovation
A good builder is a major asset to your renovation project.
Decide on the right builder with the skills and experience pertinent to your project.
For a home extension and renovation, choose a builder who works in the residential market. If you are planning a first-floor extension, enquire about this specific level of experience.
Selecting a builder with specific experience is most important for properties with specialised requirements. This includes properties on Bushfire Prone Land and Heritage Conservation Areas or those considered as Heritage Items.
Builders have different levels of Homeowners Warranty Insurance, which drives the size of the projects they can afford to accept. Check whether the builders have insurance to cover your project before you sign a contract.
Your designer may be able to offer you the details of a recommended builder. Alternatively, invest your time in high quality, in-depth research before appointing a builder for your home renovation.
Speak to potential builders and request contact details of their past clients. Call these clients and hear what they might have to say about their work. Make your judgement based on their responses and your own instincts.
A builder can advise you on whether your dreams can be built or not. They can estimate construction costs. However, they are not experts on whether or not an approval is required, or if your plans meet the criteria to be approved. Your designer is your preferred adviser on what is possible and what is viable for your extension and renovation.
7. Renovating home on a budget
The type of building quote you sign with your builder can have implications on your construction budget.
Decide on the extent of the work and (ideally!) obtain fixed price quotes for your design and its construction.
A Cost-Plus Building Contract is of benefit to a builder as they do not need to accurately estimate the costs of materials, the trades and rubbish removal. You therefore will not know how much to budget for, and the costs and time to completion can blow out.
The best you can do is agree with the final plans from your designer and resist the urge to keep adjusting them. If you want to make changes to your plans during construction, call your designer for advice. There may be consequences you will not be aware of that impact your choices.
If you do make changes during construction, these will be considered as “variations” by the builder. Variations will be charged over and above your contracted price.
Limit your variations to unforeseen circumstances, like deteriorated frames or rock requiring excavation.
8. Best value designer and builder – not always the cheapest
To find the best value designer and builder balance the best you can afford between quality, price, and timelines.
Price is only one factor in the value equation. Explore how comfortable you feel working with the person along with all the questions on how well they can meet your needs.
Remember the old saying? You can have it faster, better, or cheaper, just not all three!
Considerations when reviewing your quotes.
- For designers consider the quality of design solutions or affordability of construction.
- For builders consider the quality or size of the materials, construction techniques or delays.
It is your choice and your money, so spend wisely and seek the best designer and builder to suit you and your project.
9. Top sustainable home renovation ideas
The secret to a thermally, comfortable home most of the year is in the sustainable design features and construction.
Here are some solutions to balance the temperature and light requirements through the seasons:
- Let Northern light into the home, whether your property has the ideal aspect or not.
- Allow for shading from the western sun.
- Use the most appropriate construction materials and techniques
- Insulate all new walls and the roof space. If you are replacing sheeting or cladding, add insulation to existing walls wherever possible.
- If not already in the existing structure, add windows that permit cross ventilation in every room possible.
These measures will reduce your reliance on powered heating and cooling whilst still being comfortable in your home.
As a result, you will minimise your power consumption and monthly bills. At the same time, you reduce your household carbon emissions. It is a “win-win” for you and the environment.
10. Kitchen renovation costs can be cost-effective
Good kitchen design equals satisfaction and longevity, which is ideal for sustainability and your budget.
The elegant design balance of function and form offers your kitchen longevity. If your kitchen works well and looks good, you will be happy with your kitchen. Then you will choose to keep that kitchen for many years.
Ensure the design works for your family by first understanding how you and your family members use the kitchen. Is the kitchen the centre of your house for gathering, eating, homework, or for gourmet cooking?
As part of your renovation, your designer will provide you with a floor plan including an outline of your kitchen. The walls and windows and a layout of the large appliances will already be designed in your renovation floor plan.
Work with your designer on these kitchen design considerations:
- Maximise the linear meters of uninterrupted bench space as this is ideal for food preparation, serving and gathering.
- Position the sink and cooktop so they are not in the middle of the main preparation space. (Some people have either the sink or cooktop on the main bench. However, this trend is already going out of fashion.)
- Select cupboard doors, draws and colours that are elegant and simple or they will date quickly.
- Select a benchtop that you think you will enjoy for many years, not just “On trend” this year.
- Decide on your essential appliances, as accommodating them will be a design consideration.
- Determine the type of oven you want. Under-bench or wall oven, 600mm or 900mm wide, fan-forced, steam, or pyrolytic.
- Choose a 4 or 6 burner cooktop – then select either gas, electric, halogen, or induction – depending on available services.
- Consider the style of exhaust fan – sleek, range hood or under bench.
- Select your fridge size and extra features – water and ice on the outside – there are plumbing and electrical considerations.
- Select the bowl configuration for the sink – one, two, or one and a half bowls, with or without a drainer.
- Consider your microwave’s size options and whether it is above or below the bench height.
Renovate your kitchen with a complete floor plan
Your designer will consider how each room integrates into your renovation and submit plans for approval. Once approved, the placement of the kitchen walls and windows are fixed. Your kitchen company will not be able to make further structural changes to the kitchen.
Your designer or builder may have a kitchen company they can recommend from a workmanship and efficiency point of view.
If not, take the new floor plan to your chosen kitchen company. Discuss the details of the cabinetry and obtain a quote.
During construction, your builder will coordinate with the kitchen company to coordinate each of the tradespeople. Efficient coordination of these trades will impact your budget.
11. Bring down the average cost of home renovation
You are protecting your asset by timely maintenance – which in turn saves you money.
Maintenance that has not been attended to can add a great deal to the cost of your renovation.
See to your home’s maintenance without delay. For instance, do not delay if you have a leaking roof, as it can lead to rot in framing timbers. Repairs become more expensive if left unattended. It is best practice is to rectify the leak immediately so that the framing timbers are not effected.
There may be repairs that have to be completed as part of the renovation for safety or the Building Code standards. This will be a convenient time to have the repairs attended to however it will reduce your available budget for your renovation plans.
12. Save money and the environment with sustainability
Sustainable choices are cost-effective whilst good for the environment
Reducing the carbon emissions from your home need to be planned at the design stage of your renovations or new home.
- Responsibly sourced renewable materials e.g. timber from harvested trees rather than old native forests
- Recycled materials
- Energy-saving appliances and hot water
- Consider whether solar power is a viable option
- Insulation – walls and ceiling
- Smart design to gain the best aspect for your home’s windows and shading will reduce your reliance on powered cooling and heating.
- Having a home that is not larger than you need for the time you plan to live in the home will reduce the resources that go into building your home.
Ask your designer and builder to select locally manufactured goods that are sustainably managed. For example, timber grown in local forests with sustainable practices that regenerate this product will offer you a way to improve the environment.
13. DIY is not always cost-effective
Large projects are a large investment of time and money. Living with the outcome will happen over many years. So seek advice from professionals and experienced tradespeople.
In 2021, an owner builder requires a permit for projects on their own home with a cost of construction over $10,000. If the project construction cost on your home is over $20,000, then there are also essential educational requirements through the State Government.
You will still need an approved DA or CDC and all the required documentation for:
- A change to the room configuration in your house or unit (e.g., knocking down a non-load-bearing wall) that turns two or more rooms into an open plan
- Changing the size or position of any external doors or windows
- Changing the footprint or floor area of your house
- Repairing a timber deck on a property with a high Bushfire BAL Rating. Requires specified materials, construction and a DA Approval.
Check out our feature article on what to be aware of before you start knocking down your wall.
Limit work to small jobs and beware of legal safety requirements
If you are capable and permitted, then DIY is quite popular for the small jobs around your property.
Unless you have some level of practical experience, or a mate who is a builder and is willing to help or advise you in his spare time, do not contemplate taking on the large jobs.
Examples of building work that is only permitted by a licenced tradesperson.
A large renovation can be exciting and the results fabulous for many years to come. Obtain advice from professionals who have dedicated their careers to improving homes.
If you are planning an extension and renovation, I look forward to discussing your project with you. Please call Martin Kolarik Home Design on 0407 900 068.