ARTICLE Shane Hood IMAGES courtesy of Refresh Design

Are you looking to buy a do-upper to transform into your dream home? Or have you been living in your house for a while and are ready to make some alterations? Here are the key steps that will help you plan your renovation and create the home you want.

One of the most vital parts of planning your renovation is a concept design. It provides an early insight into the spatial dynamics allowing you to envisage and plan the project to ensure that it is going to achieve your vision.

Collecting ideas to help visualise what you want your renovated house to look like

Before getting a designer around, determine what you are trying to achieve. Having some idea of what you want at the end of the project will help both you and the designer through the design process. Gathering images of existing examples is a great way of creating inspiration that will highlight what trends and styles appeal to you. A simple Google search for key words, or flicking through house and design magazines can highlight what you like and don’t like. You should look for inspiration in product selection, style, colour and scale. Reviewing these images with your designer will be extremely useful, as it will enable the designer to align with your personal preferences.

While the aesthetic qualities of a renovation are important, understanding what impact your project has on your house and site can hold even greater significance to a project’s outcome. Start by becoming familiar with your council’s website. Tools such as the Auckland Council’s GIS viewer and District Plan links reveal your land title, land area, boundary and zone. This information is critical as each zone has strict requirements impacting on what you can and can’t do on your site. Simple things to look out for are height to boundary, land coverage and heritage zones.

Finding the right architectural designers

Once you have decided on what you want to achieve it is time to start looking for a designer. The best way to start is by researching companies’ existing work and specialisation on the Internet. Work out if the company will fit your project and budget. Some companies focus only on high-end design, while some focus primarily on renovations. Determining this will help ensure the project is realistic and comes in on budget. If you’re unsure the best thing is to ring the company. Most will be happy to give you advice and will more than likely come for a free site visit to consult with you.

Creating a brief for your architectural designers

The brief is the most important component of the concept stage. It is where the scope of the project is determined and provides the direction for the designer. Even if you have no idea what you want, it is still vital to create a brief. The most important thing is to create a priority list. While it is great to get all your ideas out, prioritising will ensure you have a tool to manage your ideas against the budget.

Planning your home renovation budget

It is critical to highlight your budget in the brief. While you may not know what the building costs are, you should determine how much you can and can’t spend. Are you doing it to sell? Or to live in for the next 20 years? In these cases you need to review the value of your house and determine if you want to under or overcapitalise your property. 

A budget blow out is a common occurrence in renovations and one of the main reasons for this is not engaging the concept stage. Trying to quote a project with no image or design is always going to have a high variability in price. Concepts will allow you to establish an idea of what the project will cost early on and determine if it is financially viable. The later refinement into working drawings will provide you with an in-depth breakdown of components enabling a highly resolved cost estimate. This process and assessment before the project is important to ensuring the project comes in on budget. Due to the unforeseen nature of renovations, allowing for a contingency is critical. Unknowns such as leaks, rotting and subsidence are examples of common issues found after a project has started. Allow a minimum of 10 per cent of the costs to cover these types of issues.

Understanding the difference between Concept Drawings and Working Drawings

The definition of concepts is broad throughout the industry and determining early on what you are getting is essential. This is usually identified in the pricing of the concepts. The lowest price is not always the best. Weigh up the cost with other factors such as reliability and quality. You are looking for something that is going to help you visualise and plan the space. For some people a line drawing will be sufficient. However, a lot of people prefer to see Concept Drawings. A good concept explores form, function, colour and style. The more realistic this is the greater the ability to critique and improve the design. Companies offering Concept Drawings provide the best means for visualising these components. While they may be a little more expensive, the output provides you with superior spatial dynamics that take into account lighting, materials and product specification.

A common mistake is the confusion between concepts and working drawings. Working drawings are required from council for work involving building and resource consent. They are an extensive set of detailed drawings that are legal documents for the building work to be carried out. It is vital to find out early on if you require council consent, as there can be a considerable cost associated with this. There are two types of consents required by council: building consent and resource consent. Building consent is required to ensure the building work meets the building code. This usually takes a minimum of 20 days to complete. Resource consent is only needed under special circumstances, and your designer will be able to advise if you need this.

Getting underway with the home renovation project

Once you have your consented plans, you will require a builder to undertake the work. To find the right builder you should start with referrals. Seeing and hearing of a builder’s existing work will help you determine the quality and finish of the workmanship. You also want to ensure the builder is a licenced practitioner, which will show that they are correctly qualified and liable for their work. Your designer may be able to recommend a builder.

When negotiating a fixed price with your builder, be cautious of PC Sums (Provisional Cost Sums). These are factored into the costing of a project and allow the builder to change the sum as a project progresses. While they are unavoidable and usually justified, be cautious the builder is not undercutting these sums to win the project from you.

You might be interested in reading: Home renovation experiences.

 
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This home renovation article by Shane Hood featured in issue 006 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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