Renovation tips and mistakes to avoid
Kiwis love a good renovation project, but it can be hard to know what you don’t know before you start.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of common pitfalls and ways to avoid them. And, if you’re not sure about the best way to do something, just ask your NZCB builder – they’re only too happy to help out.
Don’t cheap out on materials
When you’re looking at your reno budget, we know it can be overwhelming. But try not to panic and save money by buying cheaper materials. Often they won’t last as long, or may be more difficult to use, which ends up using more labour time. Another common pitfall is to assume overseas materials are cheaper. Most New Zealand council consents specify materials, so any unusual brands or materials may end up costing you more in the consent process! Essentially, if your builder recommends a particular type of material – trust them. And if you need to trim your budget, talk to your builder and they can recommend where it’s possible.
Get your builder to do the measurements
That old saying “measure twice, cut once” became common for a reason. When it comes to building, even 2mm can make a difference! If your measurements are out, it can throw out your entire project. If in doubt, get your builder to measure.
Don’t start demolition without a plan
It’s all good and well to think to yourself “Hmmm, I wonder what’s behind that wall?” and pick up a sledgehammer or crowbar, but if you don’t have a fully formed plan, it can end up being very expensive to fix!
Consider lighting – both natural and artificial
First-time renovators often forget to consider lighting. Think about the way you use a room – do you need task lighting as well as feature lighting? A statement light fitting can make a room, but you also need to be able to see the vegetables you’re chopping!
Consider natural lighting, too. Where does the sun hit? Are there any windows? A skylight can make a world of difference to an otherwise small, dark room.
How big is your doorway?
If you’re renovating a high traffic area, consider a wider doorway than normal. This will allow more than one person to enter/exit at a time, which can be useful for kitchen and living rooms.
Go green now!
Considering the environment when renovating is usually a great way to save yourself money in the long run (and feel really good about doing your bit for climate change). But it’s cheaper and easier to build green thinking in at the start of your project, than to add it later. Consider insulation and ventilation, materials, utilising the sun, and waste disposal unit or compost. Building waste is also an issue in New Zealand, so chat to your builder about ways you can recycle or reuse materials or reduce wastage. (Sometimes it’s as simple as tweaking a measurement so you only use one sheet of ply or GIB instead of one and a bit).
Don’t skimp on quality windows
When it comes to windows, you get what you pay for. Think about how annoying a sticky or squeaky window is! You’ll never regret paying for a higher quality item when it’s something you use often and want to last a long time. Not to mention, changing windows is often requires consent so can be a costly thing to have to fix again later.
Speaking of consents…
Often when renovating, people will make decisions based on what requires a consent or is exempt. What they often forget is that the consent process exists to protect you. Yes, it may mean your project takes a little longer, but it also means the work done has to be completed to a regulated standard, which is better for you in the long run. We understand it can be frustrating, though, so ask your NZCB builder for help with the consent process if you need it.
Pick the right builder
Different builders have different specialist areas, so it’s important to keep that in mind when choosing a builder. It’s great getting a recommendation, but if your cousin’s amazing builder did their bathroom and you want a new deck, they may not be the right fit. Use our Find A Builder tool and find an approved NZCB Builder with the right skills to tackle your reno.
Have a realistic budget
We’ve all seen the cash blowouts on Grand Designs, so trust us when we say you want to have realistic budget expectations at the start.
Talk to your builder about your dream outcome and they can help give you a realistic idea of what it could cost. They can also help you work out how best to deliver champagne results on a lemonade budget, if that’s what you need.
And don’t forget to keep at least 20 per cent extra in reserve. Because you never know what might happen once you’re finally allowed to get the sledgehammer out…