What to spend and save on when renovating

27th October 2016

You’ve bought the house and now it’s time to renovate. The bathroom is in dire need of an upheaval and the kitchen has seen better days. With money to burn, you head to Pinterest to get inspiration for your dream bathroom and kitchen. But the dream comes crashing down when the quotes from tradies come in and suddenly you understand how the teams on The Block run out of money after renovating one room.

Renovating can be fun, but it’s hard work and there isn’t much glamour. Planning your renovation and making good design and fitting decisions will help you save money in the long run.

Whether you’re choosing to stay in your home forever or a short term, it’s important to get a renovation right by thinking how you will live in your home and whether your design will appeal to others should you choose to put your home on the market.

What may be in now, may be out later on, so it’s best to renovate to your tastes, but make smart decisions on getting the look for less.

Here are some tips on what to spend and save on when renovating.

Do choose a reputable builder. A builder will collaborate with the relative trades and organize the renovation from start to finish. Many DIY renovators make the mistake of project managing themselves and it can cost them time and money. It might be tempting to avoid engaging with a builder, but if you want to save your sanity and avoid making costly mistakes with labour, hire a builder.

Don’t DIY unlicensed work.  Plumbing and electrical work requires a licensed tradesperson to do the work. There are big penalties for renovators who do unlicensed work and should the installation cause a flood or fire, your home insurance could be void.  Making smart decisions on the tradies you use will ensure your house doesn’t go up in flames, literally. Spending right can save you losing thousands in fines and damage.  

Get a minimum of three quotes. It’s important to ensure you’re comparing apples for apples when renovating. Getting a minimum of three quotes doesn’t necessarily mean you go with the cheapest. If you like one builder better than the other, barter using the lowest quote to see if the preferred builder can match the price or do better to win the job.

Don’t get confused over brand names. Too many renovators get hung up about the brand names of taps and fixtures and they think expensive = life time warranty. Wrong. All taps and fixtures will need some sort of maintenance in the future, so it’s smart to buy a brand where the spare parts don’t cost an arm and a leg to purchase.

Do consider middle range fixtures and taps. In most circumstances a brand will reproduce a cheaper equivalent under a different name. I don’t recommend choosing cheap plumbing fixtures and taps with a limited warranty. To make your dollar go further, some reputable brands, like Caroma, offer a budget range of taps and fixtures that get the same quality, but for less. Source these brands out at your local Reece or Tradelink plumbing store.

Do consider the depth of the renovation. A cosmetic change to a bathroom may be tempting, but it does pay to do a complete renovation by replacing pipework in walls and reconfigurating waste pipes for the new design. If there are old gal water pipes, they will need to be replaced as the sediment inside the pipe reduces water pressure. The last thing you want is to get the bathroom looking how you want it, but a burst water pipe requires the bathroom to be re-done again.

Do consider imitation materials. Marble might be a popular choice for benchtops, but it’s expensive and does require effort to maintain. Caesarstone can offer the same look, for less. You just need to do your research. Your builder will be able to direct you on what to consider when using an imitation material.

Do choose classic neutrals. It is true that black, white and grey bathrooms and kitchens are timeless. If you want your design to last a decade, do choose vogue-like colours.

Pretty it up with savvy décor. When the bathroom or kitchen is complete, it may be tempting to spend a fortune on designer décor to style the space. But department stores and grocery stores, (looking at you Kmart & Aldi!) offer fabulous textiles and décor for budget prices. Best of all, these pieces can be changed to suit the trends of the time. 

Guest blogger Bec Senyard believes a girl can be both practical and stylish at the same time. Which is why she's both a plumber and a stylist. She's also a stay-at-home mum and jokes that she changes more nappies than washers these days. Bec is a mum to three little girls (6 years, 3 years and 2 years) who she styles on a daily basis. She loves to read (when she can), shop for clothes (when she has spare cash) and simultaneously scroll through Facebook and watch Netflix (when she has time).

Bec writes two blogs: The Plumbette , which is her foot in the construction pie, sharing plumbing tips and lifestyle memoirs and Styled by Bec, which offers fashion advice for busy mums who are after budget-friendly tips. Connect with Bec on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

* Based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. WARNING: This comparison rate is true only for the examples given and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate.