Planning your home renovation


The planning phase of any renovation or brand new construction is so important. You need to ensure that enough time is spent going over a number of options that suit both your needs and budget. There is a lot that goes on in this stage, from the initial concepts to finalising the working drawings.

Here we break down what is involved to ensure the process is as smooth as possible.

Mood / Vision board

The first step is to start putting together a mood or vision board. This is so critical as it allows anyone who is designing your place to get a sense of what you are trying to achieve. There are so many different ways to do this but our favourite and the one we see work the best every time is to use apps such as Pinterest or Houzz. Within these apps you can create your own board for different parts of the house, for example, a bathroom board, kitchen board, etc. Once you have enough images in each of those boards with an overall idea of what you are trying to achieve, it is time to start looking for a professional who can bring those ideas to life.

Finding and choosing an architect or designer

Aren't architects expensive? Do I actually need one? Where do I find one? How do I know if they are good? These are just some of the questions that may be crossing your mind when deciding on who should draw up your plans.

There is a misconception that architects are expensive and that they are only for people who are undertaking complex or luxury renovations. This is far from the truth. Yes there may be some architects that are expensive and work solely in the high end space, but there are also architects who can operate within any budget and design realm. Any architect you call will generally come out and meet you to have a chat about what you are trying to achieve before they give you a fee proposal. Your fee proposal should also have a breakdown of what is and isn't included in your quote. Most architects will have a portfolio of some of their previous work. This may include recent work as well as client testimonials on their experience working with them. Some other questions to ask are whether or not they have had any experience with your type of renovation or build before, have they worked with your particular Council or their knowledge of Council and State planning laws, and what their involvement will be during the construction phase of the project.

The project brief

Put simply, it is putting down a list of needs vs. wants. What is it that you are actually in need of? More rooms? Bigger kitchen? Better floor plan? Start with what you and your family need the most and then start to add to your secondary list those items that would be nice to have eg. more expensive stone, better appliances, etc. Your brief together with your mood board will create a detailed idea of what you are after. This will allow the architect to better meet your needs when they are coming up with their concept drawings.

Now you need to be mindful that you may not always get what you want. And a lot of the time this is dictated by budget. This is where a good architect can help and will be able to let you know from the very beginning that what you want may not be possible with your budget, so you may need to compromise on either the finishes you are going after or the scope of works.


The elephant in the room that no one likes talking about. This is something you need to decide on upfront and be honest with yourself and also your architect. The budget will generally be dictated by what your goals are. Are you renovating to sell? Or are you going to be spending the next 10+ years living here. Although you never want to over capitalise it will dictate where the money is spent. Whatever your budget is you need to always allow a contingency of about 10-20% of your construction costs. If something can go wrong it generally will. Never assume that nothing will go wrong no matter how well you may have planned. Problems such as electrical, plumbing, moving of services, asbestos, etc can occur and if you are prepared for it early on it won't be as bad as finding out something is going to cost $10k to rectify and not have it in the budget.

During the design and concept phase it will become apparent if the budget is still going to be realistic to achieve your goals. This is a good thing as it gives us time to reassess our goals and make any changes to bring the costs down if need be. Poor planning at the start with an unrealistic budget will not be rectified down the track.


A good question to ask your architect is whether or not they will be able to draw up some concepts before finalising the drawings for construction. A concept is a snap shot of what the space will look like, possibly with some 3d renders or images, to give you a better idea of the finished product. Generally speaking most architects will have this included as part of their service. In saying that they won't be recreating 5 new ones for free if you keep changing your mind. That is why your brief to them is crucial and also finding out what is included in their fee proposal.

Once you are happy with the concepts of what the architect has come up with, they can then start to complete the construction documents that may be needed for Council approval. Your project will either require Council approval through a Development Application (DA) or you may be allowed to go through a Complying Development Certificate (CDC). Either way your construction documents are going to be fully detailed drawings sufficient enough for you to hand over to a builder to be able to complete the work.


Once your approvals are granted it is time for your work to start. But before this can happen there are a few things you will need to do and organise before any demolition starts. The first is to obviously choose the right builder for your project. When choosing the right builder for your project it can be a daunting and time consuming process but it doesn't have to be. If you know someone that has recently completed a renovation ask for a referral to the person they used. Referrals are always a great start. You will want to get a few different builders to quote so you can compare what everyone is offering and see what is included and excluded from the price. It will also help if you ask the builder to physically see some of their most recent or current work. This way you can see the quality of the workmanship before you make a decision.

Once you have selected a builder you will need to organise when you will be moving out. If it is a major renovation then living in the house will not be an option. If all you are doing is renovating a bathroom then it may be possible to still live in the property while this is happening.

There is a lot involved in the planning phase of a build or renovation. With the right tools from the start and a definitive plan, you can set yourself up for a more streamlined approach to your project.

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