Renovation Disasters: Where People Lose Money, and How to Stop It Happening to You

Sadly, no matter how well you think you’ve budgeted for your home renovation project, it seems like things always end up spiralling out of control. You need to fix things you didn’t expect, a mysterious pipe in the wrong place causes a delay – it all puts a serious dent in your bank balance. However, it is possible to achieve your desired results without overspending – if you know what money traps to look out for. Let’s examine the most common money-draining mistakes people make and figure out how to avoid them next time.


Hiring the wrong tradespeople

It’s a simple fact of life that hiring the right people will get any job done better, faster and more cost-effectively. Dodgy tradespeople are a hassle you really don’t need when you’re trying to renovate your home, so it’s vital to do your online research before making a decision. Check whether they’re fully licensed (you’d be surprised how many aren’t), and examine their list of services to ensure they can meet your specific requirements. For example, if you want a builder to create a new kitchen bench, it’s probably not wise to hire one who specialises in decking. You’ll get the best results with someone who has extensive experience in your particular area of reno work.

Find out how much experience they have, and always check websites like True Local to see what previous customers thought of their workmanship. Did they complete the job on time? Was it to a high standard? Were they friendly, honest and punctual? There’s no way for you to know these important things without speaking to someone who’s used the company before. Word of mouth is the best way to pick a trustworthy tradie, and online reviews are invaluable in recreating that in a digital sense.

Just remember, this is something you have to get right the first time, or you’ll only end up spending more money hiring new tradies to fix the botched efforts of the previous lot. Even if you have to spend weeks finding the right crew to tackle your job, it will be worth it in the end.

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Failing to plan

It is extremely important to plan out your renovations properly before you start. You need to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, with every aspect of your project mapped out in as much detail as possible. Know exactly how much you can spend, and keep it firmly in mind – everything needs to be arranged around this number.

Look at house and design magazines for inspiration, and get a good idea of what styles, colours, sizes and products you like and don’t like. If you imagine yourself in the space, going about your daily routine, you’ll understand how the room should be styled in the renovation – and this will allow you to thoroughly and accurately plan your layout. A good architectural designer, like Mark Lawler Architects in Charlestown, should be able to help with this process. Knowing the space is going to work for you from the start means you won’t have to spend more money later fixing the elements you hate

Remember to triple-check every single measurement you make during the planning of your project, because being even half an inch off could cause massive problems if it’s discovered too late.  You don’t want to be paying excessive amounts when you realise your dishwasher doesn’t fit into the kitchen cabinets.

You also need to consider your council. Have a look at their website or give them a call to find out their policies and restrictions on what you can and can’t do on your site. Look out for things like height to boundary guidelines, land coverage and heritage zones. Plan around this, or you could find yourself in a lot of trouble – and if mistakes need to be fixed, it’s going to cost you.

If you don’t have a firm plan in mind, and you just make things up as you go, your costs are going to blow out hugely and unexpectedly. You’ll find yourself paying for things you never thought of – like door handles for the bathroom cabinets, or moving a door to accommodate your gigantic new fridge. Go into your reno knowing exactly what you want and what you’re willing to spend, and fully commit once you get started.

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Trying to DIY

Chances are you aren’t exactly Scott Cam, so you should really resist the urge to tackle any portion of your renovation project by yourself. If you’re not qualified, DIY is just not going to work. You might think you can knock down that wall – but what happens if it’s load-bearing, or there’s an important gas or water pipe hidden inside it?

There’s a reason people have to go through years of training to acquire the skills and licences needed to work on buildings, and it’s not because they want an excuse to wear hard hats. There’s so much they have to consider, from electricity to water to gas, to even the power tools they use. Some jobs are dangerous, others are just complicated.

Even aside from the possibility of hurting yourself, so much more goes into a great job than you would expect. Those home reno shows make the process look easy, but it really isn’t. Even something as basic as painting the walls is a lot of hard work – and you’ll never achieve a perfect finish the way a professional would. Tradies have the skills and equipment needed to not just do the job, but do it well.

Ultimately, it’s just better to steer clear of DIY. When you inevitably screw something up, you’re going to have to get tradies in to fix it anyway, so you might as well just do so from the start.


Going too trendy

There’s a certain sweet spot of trendiness that you have to hit when planning a renovation. It might be tempting to go with the ultra-cool flavour of the month design, but think ahead before you get too excited. Going full tribal-bohemian might be all the rage now, but where will it leave you in five years? Unfashionable design will have a negative impact on the resale value of your home, and could well lead to you needing another reno far sooner than you’d like. Either way, you’re bleeding money.

Stick to proven design elements with a hint of timelessness, and learn to recognise the difference between a fad and something that’s here to stay. If all else fails, lean towards simplicity. A functional, sensible home will never be out of style. Pick neutral colour schemes, such as shades of white and beige, and don’t make things too decorative. Stick to clean lines – cabinetry with ornate inlays or detailing is going to date much faster than more basic designs. In general, leave the trendy items for smaller furniture items and decorations, which can be switched out later if you’re trying to sell the home.

We hope this article cleared a few things up for you. If you’re looking for more helpful tips, just swing by our renovation blog.

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