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Think first

Here is some advice to help you start thinking about how you should begin you home renovation project, whether it be a bathroom or kitchen upgrade, an addition or a complete renovation.

  • Find a builder you can trust and are comfortable with. This is crucial to a good renovation experience. You need to check out the renovation builder’s history including their past projects, customer recommendations and necessary registrations. Ensure that the builder you choose has the appropriate licences in your state or territory. The Housing Industry Association (HIA) can help. They have more than 35,000 members who abide by a code of conduct. Members can be found on tradebuild.com.au. Ask a builder a lot of questions when you meet. Talk with their previous customers. Visit past or current projects. You need to be confident that the company is financially stable and will be around in the future. And while it may be hard to define a comfortable personal fit, you need to feel instinctively that you can trust and work well with this person.
  • Find out what services the renovator offers, at the early planning stage. Homeowners often don’t realise that many professional builders also provide design and planning services. Even if you want to work with a designer or architect of your own choosing, a builder can add a lot of value to the process.
  • Make sure you have a detailed written contract. HIA building contracts are in plain language and set out the building process in a clear and concise manner. Make sure your builder uses a HIA Renovations/Alterations and Additions contract.
  • Know the facts before the work begins. What does the work entail? How will it be done and by whom? How will it affect your day-to-day living arrangements? Should you consider moving out? What if you have questions or want to make changes? The more you know upfront about the whole process, the less anxious you’ll feel.
  • Take an active role throughout the project. The best results come from good communication and a good working relationship between you and your builder. A good renovation builder provides regular, if not daily, updates and is easy to get hold of if you have questions or concerns. You should be prepared to spend time going over drawings, monitoring the progress of your project, and discussing decisions with your builder.
  • Don’t expect a problem-free renovation. The bigger the project, the more likely you will run into the unexpected, such as existing deficiencies hidden in the walls, delays in special orders or bad weather. Be flexible and understand that some things are beyond the builder’s or your control. If there is good rapport and trust between you and your builder, it is usually easy to find a solution and to quickly move beyond the problem.
  • Plan ahead for your finishes. Typically, homeowners are responsible for choosing cabinets, flooring, tiles, fixtures and the many other finishes that will complete the job. This can be time-consuming. Set aside plenty of time and begin early – in some markets, there may be a significant delay for special orders. And take full advantage of your builder’s experience to help you find the best options.
  • Keep money in reserve for extras. Once the work begins, it is not uncommon for homeowners to want to go an extra step – a better quality tile, brand new appliances, and so on. Once you are into it, you often realise that just so-so is not good enough, and that now is the best time to get those extra little touches of style or luxury.

Finally, a caution – there is no way of completely avoiding the dust, the dirt and the inconvenience that comes from a home renovation. But remember when it’s all said and done, the pleasure of living in your newly renovated home will be worth it, if you take time to think first and make it what you really want.

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