Monday, February 15, 2010

Renovate the smart way: jump to 5 easy budget renovation tips

There was a time, say ten years ago, when you couldn’t go to a dinner party without having to hear somebody’s renovation stories. Tedious discussions about the 27 shades of green they’d been through before finally choosing the ‘Eucalypt Heritage’.  Anecdotes about how the simple wall ‘knock-through’ became an open-plan kitchen/living/dining area after half the house collapsed.
During the property boom, these stories were replaced with endless discussion about the next ‘big’ suburb. People no longer ‘went up’, they simply sold up and moved on.
Well, guess what, renovating is back in fashion!
Rising interest rates, escalating moving costs, kids staying home longer… it all adds up to homeowners staying put and making home sweet home even sweeter.
Of course, some things never change and the idea that no renovation ever comes in on time or on budget is one of them. It will always take twice as long and cost 20 per cent more than you’d anticipated. But there are ways to keep costs down – here are five top tips for renovating to a budget.
While a wall of bi-fold doors really brighten up a room, there are less expensive ways to bring natural light into your home.  Brighten up a windowless hallway or dark bathroom with a solartube skylight (less than $500), which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down below.
When it comes to things like flooring, ask your tradie if he has materials left over from other jobs. It never hurts to ask – you may find that someone in his network is finishing a job and needs flooring/doors/windows removed from a site. It’s a win/win situation.
Even if you have no expertise, you can DIY and save money – provided you choose your tasks wisely. The best places to add sweat equity is either up front, doing your own demolition, or at the back end, by doing some of the finish work yourself.  Most people can try their hand at installing insulation, painting, sanding and rubbish removal.  Also you can slash your material delivery fees by picking up your goods yourself.
Or the toilet, if you can avoid it. Plumbing is one of the largest chunks of your renovation budget, and once you start moving pipes, renovation dollars end up down the drain.
Know what you want in fixtures and appliances – and what they cost – so that you can specify them up front. If you aren’t absolutely specific about the details, you’ll have to rely on your builder’s allowance or quote, and his noting of what is acceptable may be quite different to yours. That glass-tiled splashback you had in mind, for instance, will be quite a different price to the builder’s basic white ceramic tiles.

Of course, the number one tip is all about researching and planning. Visit homes for sale in your area and see what’s working well. If you’re in the inner city, it might be that your best bet is to organise some off-street parking. In a leafy garden suburb, spending extra on quality bi-fold doors and decking could really pay off.
Don’t slavishly follow interiors trends. Instead, make the property work for you – and future buyers.

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