How to get ready for your renovation

It’s pretty exciting when you first start thinking about doing a renovation or decent-sized project around the house. You start tearing pages out of magazines (yes, I’m that old) or adding to Pinterest along with taking pictures of cool tiles you spot in cafés around town. However, getting from Pinterest to a new family room and kitchen is a long journey and there are a couple of things you can do right at the start to make life a little easier and give you a better chance of getting the result you’re looking for.

Work out your budget. Your real budget. Not how much you think it’s going to cost based on a magazine feature you read where some of the work was done by the homeowner’s dad who’s an electrician. Actually how much money do you have to spend on this renovation.

Meet with a builder. Builders are not designers, but they’ve got a very good idea of how much things cost. Just because you have $350,000 to spend, does not mean your dream can really be built for that much. JD meets with potential customers all the time and it comes as a surprise to many that only about 60% of the budget is spent on actual building and construction – the rest goes on design and planning, demolition, site works, fixtures and fittings (the sky’s really the limit here as you need to decide if you want a $200 toilet or a $1500 toilet) and external works (landscaping, fences, driveways etc). Meeting with a builder early on will give you a realistic idea of what you will be able to achieve with your budget. And please, just tell the builder the actual amount you’ve got – he’s not there to steal your money, he’s there to help you work out what you can achieve for your budget.

You will need a Level & Detail survey of your home (this will cost around $2000) before having initial concept plans drawn up – these can be done by an architect or a building designer (I do concept plans – call me!). Once you’re happy with the concept, get them costed by a builder. These are NOT final plans and this will NOT be a final price but it’s better to know now whether you’re looking at a $500,000 project when you’ve only got $350,000. Believe me, JD sees it happen all the time. It’s frustrating for the homeowner, who has spent time and money with an architect/designer only to discover that their plans bear no resemblance to their budget. If you’re working closely with a builder right from the start, you’ve got a much better chance of creating a concept that fits both your budget and design parameters.

When both the design and the estimated project cost are looking good, go ahead and get final plans done. Depending on the job you’ll need to get council approval and some changes may be necessary. Then, you’re ready to get a final estimate from your builder. I know, everyone says get three quotes. Some people get six. JD does not like tendering for jobs against multiple other builders. I’ll got into more detail about that in another post, but the last thing you want to do is have builders give you the price you want to hear, rather than a realistic cost. Far better to find a builder you trust at the start of the process and work with them throughout the project. Renovating and building is a team effort and it’s worth building a good team right from the start.

Once all that’s done, well, you’re ready to get started. Happy renovation!

Are you planning a renovation or building project? How did you get to Day 1 of the actual build? Are you a pinner or a tearer?


  • Bec Senyard

    It definitely is a team effort. All great tips here.

  • Ingrid @ Fabulous and Fun Life

    Pinterest has totally changed the dreaming/planning stages from the magazine days! The choices and options are almost overwhelming!


      Hi Ingrid – I totally agree. I work in the magazine industry and know exactly how much work goes into those “prefect” shots. And now, you don’t even have to buy a magazine to get bombarded with images of what your home “should” look like. I love having a nice home but I try not to get too caught up in the absolutely limitless options that are out there these days.

  • Nicole @ The Builder's Wife

    As always, great advice! We are struggling at the moment with a glut of clients who bypass the builder in the beginning and step straight to the architect, only to find their ideas are far too expensive. Disappointing for all involved!


      Yep, way too easy for people to get caught up in the dream and only then discover that they can’t afford it. Frustrating for both homeowner and builder and really doesn’t further the cause. Getting a builder involved re costing early on is a message that bears repeating!

  • Di from Max The Unicorn

    Yes, we are getting our bathroom renovated soon and I am dreading it. We only got two quotes, as the third builder was dodgy so we are ruling him out. Maybe we should ring some more companies for quotes?


      Hi Di – thanks for visiting. If you like the builders you have quotes from and are happy with their previous work (have you spoken to some of their customers), I’d probably leave at that – unless their quotes are hugely different (ie one seems really cheap and one seems really expensive). If that’s the case I’d get another quote to see which end of the spectrum he falls. Good luck with your bathroom! You might be interested in this post I wrote about bathroom renos –


  • Natalie @ our parallel connection

    Great tips here. We recently did an owner builder extension and blew our budget, and now reading this I know why. I wish you wrote this 2 yrs ago #tesmIBOT

  • EssentiallyJess

    Great tips. Hopefully I’ll be able to use them one day.

  • Sasha @ From the Left Field

    Wow that’s very insightful! Thank you! We had a pretty ick build experience with our house and we’re a bit gunshy on the whole thing now, but these tips are very handy to know. x

  • JF Gibson

    Great tips. So many don’t realise how much it can actually cost. But then others, also don’t realise how it is also possible to build within your budget if you really knuckle down and don’t go over the top with expense too.


      You are so right – definitely possible to build within your budget if you are realistic and don’t get too distracted by shiny things. And yes, a lot of people really have no idea how much building costs – all those renovation shows have done us no favours!!

  • Tegan

    Fabulous tips! My partner works at a wholesale nuts, bolts and tools place and he hears the best and the worse of the building world. One local company would undercut other builders with their quotes all of the time, the region isn’t really big enough to do it though and word of mouth soon got around about their dodgy tactics.


      Thanks Tegan. Yeah, undercutting might get you the job but the customer is going to be pretty unhappy pretty quickly when they start adding in extras to make up the money. And you’re right – doesn’t win you any friends with other tradies either. That strategy is a very short term one! Cheers.

  • Michelle - Jarrah Jungle

    I have learnt a lot from renovating my home over the last 5 years we have completely gutted it inside and out and transformed it into our own. Starting with the budget and then working out the design from there is the best advice and listening to the professionals – cabinet makers or tilers etc – as they know what they are doing they do it every day for a living!


      Totally agree Michelle – starting with the budget rather than the design as a priority is a sensible way to go!

  • Shannon@ my2morrows

    Such great tips and perfect timing. I’ve finally convinced the huz that we need to start the Reno process but have no idea where to actually start. This helps so much! Thank you! Xx

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption

    I start a new board on Pinterest for any projects I want to get done and pin away but I am still a big fan of finding inspiration from my favourite magazines. 🙂

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