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Your Renovation Checklist

Saturday, 24th July 2010

Mention the word 'renovation' and most homeowners will fall about telling you their horror stories - dodgy builders, budget blow-outs and endless delays being common issues. While you can't control everything that happens during a renovation, you can reduce the stress by being as organised as possible from the start. Address all the key issues, such as setting a budget, sorting out the paperwork, and deciding exactly what you do and don't need to help things go smoothly.

Create a wish list
What do you actually want done, and what can you live without? For example, do you really need a costly full kitchen renovation, or can you simply  update it with a fresh coat of paint and some new cabinetry finishes, and save yourself some money to put into a much-needed second bathroom?
If you're renovating for re-sale purposes, speak to local estate agents about what changes to the house will reap the greatest rewards. If it's for yourself, think about the rooms you actually need renovated to improve your quality of life, and prioritise those above cosmetic ones.

Find the right contractors
When it comes to finding contractors, word of mouth is invaluable - ask the people you know in the area for recommendations of good builders and contractors, and concentrate on sourcing local ones who won't charge extra for fuel and travel time.
The Building Designers Association of NSW (www.bdansw.com.au) and the Master Builders Association (www.masterbuilders.com.au) can both give you the names of local professionals who specialise in the areas you need. 
Interview prospective contractors, and make sure you cover all the important questions - What is their pricing policy? Do they charge by hour or job? How many other clients do they have right now? Is your time frame realistic? Do they have a speciality? Are they fully licensed and insured?

Set the budget
Many first-time renovators fall into the trap of setting an unrealistic budget that doesn't include at least ten per cent for contingencies. Check out www.archicentre.com.au for realistic cost breakdowns, and have a look around yourself for materials and finishes to get an idea of what you'll need to spend.
Get quotes from your builders and contractors, and once you've agreed to go ahead, request a more detailed break-down, as well as a contract that states the start and finish dates. For complex jobs you may wish to enlist the services of a surveyor, who will keep track of costings for you.
Read the fine print on any contracts - how much is the deposit? What is the schedule of payments?

Check your calendar
When can you begin the renovation? When would you like the job completed? How long will it take to get approval? How much wiggle room (ie delay time for things such as bad weather) do you need to factor in? Can you live at home while the work is being carried out, or will you need to find alternative accommodation at a certain point? Do you need to book a storage unit for furniture?
Sort out the paperwork
Check with your local council about what approvals and permits you'll need before you start your renovation - even small, simple jobs might require approval. Most councils require a development application (DA) and construction certificate (CC) before work begins.
Make sure your builders and contractors are properly-licensed and fully-insured before you hire them.

Establish good access
Make sure your driveaway is big enough for any large trucks, and that you have somewhere covered to store materials, such as a garage.

Set aside a peaceful spot
Aim to set aside a small oasis for yourself. Ideally it should be somewhere set aside from the chaos, and if possible, noise too (earplugs might come in handy!) If possible, find somewhere you can put a comfortable chair, desk, computer, television, kettle, bar fridge and any other essentials you feel you'll need to survive the renovations. s


Georgia Madden

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