A word to the wise, when it comes to renovating your home; what you see on The Block is not necessarily reality – though the pressure and stress seems pretty right.
As any experienced renovator will tell you, don’t underestimate the time, money and hassle that goes into even the most well thought out renovation project.
The important thing is to be aware, not afraid when you set out on a renovation. With some expert advice up front, you can avoid many of the pitfalls and mistakes that lead to problems down the line.
Here are some of the top tips that I recently shared with newby renovator, Emma Samia, on our recent ‘renovation special’ episode of the Spaces podcast. If, like Emma setting out on new renovation, these tips will help you get things, and keep things, moving in the right direction.
Hand Over The Reins to a Pro
A renovation can be a wonderfully rewarding challenge, if your situation is suited to it. If you’re going it alone, there’s typically going to be so many things you don’t consider. If you’re planning on going down the DIY route, consider hiring a project manager, or another professional, such a builder or architect, to take on this role. Mistakes can be a brutal lesson, and an experienced project manager will help you avoid them.
For those without the budget for a project manager, there is still a lot of merit in talking to a professional in the planning stage. Be prepared for the fact you’ll be entrusted to make many decisions, so anything you can do to avoid making any costly mistakes is worth the effort.
Get Out of The Way
Emma and her family definitely tick the first box when it comes to renovating – they’re moving out. Staying with Emma’s in-laws might not be ideal, but they’ll be thankful later. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people who try to live in the house while they are renovating. It just makes it too hard, and slows the whole project down.
Spending Your Budget Wisely
How to fit your wishlist into your budget is one of the biggest challenges for any renovation. That’s a worry for many renovators. Emma summed it up succinctly: “I guess my biggest fear is going over the budget. You know, I really have this idea of this perfect home that we’re going to live in for a really long time, and I guess my fear is not spending money on the right things or spending too much money where I should have cut back,” Emma says.
A big part of Emma’s fears was spending on things that are not necessary, or not spending enough on things that are. The biggest challenge here is that word necessary. However, factorising your budget based on what’s important to you and your family is a good place to start.
Work Out What’s Important to You and Your Family
In this exercise, I challenge renovators to stop thinking about doors and fridges and ovens, and start thinking more about what is really important to you and your family. Go deep. Then it’s about reverse engineering that into your home.
What became clear in my conversation with Emma (a chef in a previous career) is that she loves to entertain, and gathering family and friends around is a big part of her family’s life. So right away, two aspects of the renovation come to the fore – so a spacious and very functional kitchen and large entertainment areas with a bit of a wow-factor are essentials in this renovation. For others, personal safety or environmental sustainability, for example, might take a higher priority.
With this in mind, spending money in the right places and on the right things becomes a lot easier. If there are things that you need to leave out because they are not on your priority list, you might engage in a bit of pre-planning as part of the renovation so you can easily implement these features in the future. Planning on adding an outdoor kitchen in future? Now’s the time to be thinking about the spaces and putting the services (water, electricity, gas) in place for when you’re ready.
Consider How You Use Your Home
Another important part element is thinking about how you and your family use your home – not only now, but how you’ll use it 10, 15, 20 years from now.
In Emma’s case, she works from home as well as looking after the children, so that needs to be an important consideration. Perhaps this means a separate office space, or hybrid space where she can easily keep an eye on the kids. When she’s not working, Emma likes to have the children around the kitchen while she is cooking, so a big functional breakfast bar is a must.
Emma needs to also consider how life is going to change when her children become teenagers and want their own space. Want about as your parents age? What’s the access to the property like? How easy is it to move around the home? The trick is to remember you’re not just renovating for yourself.
By thinking clearly about these considerations and what’s important to your family, you can then really start to drill down into every single decision you make now, and where you’re going to spend the money on the renovation as you go forward.
Ultimately, renovating is a big undertaking, but don’t be afraid of that. Get it right and it will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.
You can hear the entire episode with Emma Samia here.