before starting on a renovation project, compile a “look book” of cuttings, ideas, colours and swatches that appeal – inspiration abounds in magazines and on the internet. Slowly but surely these elements should begin to provide valuable direction.
Whether or not you plan to hire a design professional, write a brief describing what you hope to achieve. It will help to distil your vision and may serve as a useful guide in moments of uncertainty. In addition to structural concerns, the brief should cover the mood and tone you are aiming for, as well as specifying the core purpose of each space. Peter Eising, registered architect at Pacific Environments, advises homeowners to stay open-minded when planning: “Sometimes an idea from left field can make the biggest impact and improve planning, flow and efficiency.”
Four key principles underpin most home improvements. As a general rule we want indoor-outdoor flow, a sense of spaciousness, an abundance of natural light and clean, uncomplicated lines. “Indoor-outdoor connections allow living spaces to extend and take advantage of the sun. Create a focus, such as a barbecue, fire or pizza oven,” says Peter.
There’s a cynical rule of thumb that says renovation projects take three times as long and cost twice as much as initially planned. Many people opt to carry out renovations in discrete stages that allow work to be delayed in the event of budget blowouts.
The extent of your budget may also be affected by your future plans. Are you prepared to lavish large sums of money because this is your ‘forever house’ or is this a financial exercise in which you hope to recoup your expenses when you sell?, adding that “clever storage and utility spaces” are essential. Awkward attic rooms and the unused volume beneath the stairs can be transformed into storage for suitcases and winter quilts in the off season.
Should you live in the house while the work is being done? It depends on the amount of upheaval involved, your level of tolerance and your family structure. Small children and massive renovations aren’t an ideal combination. Bear in mind that, if the builders have to work around residents it could slow the process, so moving out may be advisable, even after you’ve factored in the cost of renting elsewhere. For some, though, it’s almost a rite of passage to remain. We lived for about three months with just an electric jug and toaster, which made our brand new kitchen seem all the more stupendous when it was finally complete.
Planning a logical sequence of work is critical. You want to make sure that electricians aren’t still drilling holes in your walls while the painters are perfecting their final coats. Surfaces such as baths and polished floors should be well covered with layers of thick cardboard to protect them from damage.
“It’s almost inevitable there’ll be some minor damage yet in a good relationship responsibility is readily acknowledged and repaired before blame sets in,” says Peter Eising, who recommends taking photographs of areas likely to get damaged “so that there is at least some proof later”.
If you’re staying in residence, plan for the work to be done systematically room by room so you always have habitable spaces to occupy. Check that your insurance policy remains effective during renovations and upgrade it if it doesn’t. And, of course, safety is a priority for DIY-renovators so see consumerbuild.org.nz
for tips on work involving ladders, treated timber and electricity.
See talktoanarchitect.co.nz if you decide to employ an architect and visit nzrab.org.nz (NZ Registered Architects Board) to check your architect is registered. An architect will provide a concept, developed design and working drawings – and, depending on your requirements, may even manage the building project. Expect to pay between six and 15 per cent of the total project cost. You’re likely to pay about the same amount for an architectural designer (see adnz.org.nz
). A draughtsperson, who draws up plans from
a client’s ideas, should charge considerably less. A quantity surveyor can be retained to make an independent cost estimate based on the plans. If the alterations are simple enough, you may be able to draw the plans yourself. See your local council for a copy of the plans it has on file.
A personal recommendation is one of the best ways of finding a builder. Also check certified.co.nz
to see if they are registered. You will need to agree on the type of contract, such as labour only or full contract. Your builder may have a team of skilled subcontractors who can be called on to perform specialised trades, such as plumbing and electrical. Peter Eising’s tips on how to maintain a happy relationship with your builder include: “Good communication, fresh scones and jam – and pay promptly, to an agreed schedule, ensuring the appropriate work has been completed”.
You may need to apply for a building consent from your local authority. Broadly speaking, consents are required for structural work such as adding doors or windows, shifting plumbing points and removing walls. See the Department of Building and Housing (dbh.govt.nz
) for more information about the consent process.
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Story: Shelley Bridgeman
Photographs: Melanie Jenkins
Stylist: Claudia Kozub