Tips when renovating an apartment

These must-know tips will help you sidestep the pitfalls that can come with renovating an apartment before anything goes wrong.

an apartment with tiles flooring and white wallpaper
ARTICLE Jenna Moore

Renovating an apartment can be rewarding, but being sky-high can also throw a few challenges your way. There are more neighbours to consider, for starters, but there is also the issue of access to manage, and a strata committee or Body Corporate to check in with. There is a slew of upshots to renovating an apartment, but you need to have a savvy plan in place to avoid some potential traps.

Work out your budget

“What you spend is really going to depend on what you want,” says Refresh Renovations Evonn Reyno. If you want to renovate the kitchen for instance and create a larger space then you’ll need to get designers in to figure out what’s do-able.”
A simple rule of thumb is to base your budget on your apartment’s square meterage. Multiply this by a ballpark price – say $100 NZD or $1,000 NZD x m2 - you can live with. Take into account the entire project including lighting, electrics, flooring, appliances, a little bit of structural work, tradespeople and decoration.
Then take that figure and make adjustments to suit. You may choose different materials depending on your priorities. For example, investing in a good quality paint ensures longevity, while a budget option is a quick fix, and items such as kitchens and bathrooms can vary enormously from affordable Ikea choices to high-end custom designs.

Make A Plan

A roadmap is crucial for making your renovation journey smooth as well as cost- and time-effective. “You don’t want any surprises,” says Evonn.
Consider what you’re trying to achieve. Create mood boards, put together a folder with brochures from suppliers, tear sheets from magazines and swatches of your colour and material preferences.
According to, there’s a logical order in which renovation works should be undertaken. “Stray from this progression and you may have to undo completed work to tackle basic repairs and improvements,” they say.
1. Build internal stud walls, fix floorboards, door linings, window reveals and sills and then undertake first fix plumbing and electrics.
2. Apply plasterboard/dry-lining to walls and ceilings, or repair any damaged plaster. Floor screeds for the ground floor will be laid at this point.
3. Lay timber, stone or tiled floors, hang doors, fix skirting and architrave, box in services. Install the bathroom, kitchen, boiler and fit radiators. Complete all painting, staining and tiling.

Important Considerations

  1. Do you need planning permission?
  2. Do you need Body Corporate, Strata Committee or Building Regulations approval?
  3. Check your deeds for restrictive covenants, leases or other overriding interests. ### Talk to The Experts If you’re considering structural changes it’s advisable to talk to an architect as to possibilities. Other experts include builders, plumbers, electricians, painters, glaziers and cabinetmakers. Refresh Renovations can work with you to streamline the process. There are far too many stories out there of unreliable tradies who turn up late or not at all. “Part of the service we offer is to take the burden of renovations and dealing with tradespeople off the owner,” says Evonn. “We can ensure a tradesperson can come in and do their job, leave, and the next tradie can come in and complete the next layer of the project.” There may also be challenges with access to the site so there needs to be a strategy for bringing materials in and disposing of detritus. Some materials may require a cherry picker to lift heavy or large items in/out through windows and doors. A renovate apartment with a bookshelf ### Make Friends With Your Neighbours and Body Corporate In apartment situations, there are often neighbours beside, below and above. “Body Corporate rules say you can’t affect someone’s quiet enjoyment,” says Andrew Murray of Apartment Specialists. “Reserve active renovation mode for working hours and let your neighbours know what’s going on. If you’re going to be making serious noise like polishing a concrete floor ensure you check it’s OK with them.” Body Corporates can have strict rules of what you can and cannot do. “If you’re going to be structurally affecting the apartment or making externally visual changes you may need council and Body Corporate approval,” says Andrew. “You might not be able to take an internal pillar out or change the colour of the deck and some buildings have rules about window dressings like a requirement for venetian blinds or colour rules.” Even putting in a new kitchen may need approval, and if you’re laying a new floor an acoustic membrane may be mandatory to help reduce noise transfer to an apartment below. You can save yourself a lot of grief if you speak with your Body Corporate and neighbours first. The last thing you want is delays halfway through because you failed to ask permission. ### Get Your Basics Right Generally speaking, apartments are smaller spaces than stand alone houses so you need to use design strategies to make each room look as spacious as possible. White paint on the walls opens up the rooms and creates the illusion of space. “Basics like fresh paint are very important; you need to do them no matter what and they need to be done really well,” says Andrew. An open-plan layout creates an illusion of space and Andrew suggests choosing furniture that you can see under to further enhance that feeling. “If you’re looking to resell get a pro in,” he says. “It’s not a good to start playing around with taste if you don’t have it, it’s far better to get in a professional.” ### Refit The Kitchen A sleek and modern kitchen can seriously improve the value of your apartment not to mention its livability. Key areas include benches, cabinets, floors, appliances, handles and splashbacks. A new bench, faucet, handles, floors and appliances can transform the room. The addition of splashback glass is simple to do and brings the room into the 21st century. “If you’re on a budget keep the fronts of cabinets and change handles from dated, round edges. Ensure appliances are all one colour, add splashbacks, change lighting and change the benchtop,” advises Andrew. ### Remodel The Bathroom All bathrooms sparkle when they’re fresh, light and bright. Simple, inexpensive changes can make all the difference including replacing the lighting, tapware, cabinet handles and stained grout. “Other easy fixes are to change the mirror and any old school basins,” says Andrew. If you’re doing a complete update, white’s the perfect choice for your tub and vanities as it doesn’t date (remember avocado green bathtubs, anyone?).    #### You might be interested in reading: Renovating a student flat. Renovate Magazine Logo This article by Jenna Moore featured on page 104 in Issue 023 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page. ### Get in touch with Refresh to discuss your home renovation project If you would like to discuss home renovation options for your next renovation project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too. *All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.
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