The Rules of Renovation

It’s a pity there’s not a wedding planner-type agency out there to take the whole renovating experience out of your hands. Imagine waking one morning and your dream home has magically materialised.

Let’s be honest, the aforementioned scenario is as much a fantasy as Santa Claus and life without death and taxes. In the real world, you have to consider what your council wants, what the builders want as far as regulations, there’s what future buyers want, what the environment wants, and then of course what you and your pocket expect from the experience. So we’ve put together a few of the basics you’ll need to get started… use it while trying to track down that renovation planner.


Ben Humphreys says while renovating can be a rewarding experience, proceeding with caution is paramount. “Renovating can be a long process,” Ben advises. “It’s not for the faint hearted. A good renovation demands major commitment of money, time and effort.”

Ben says a common mistake inexperienced renovators sometimes make is to rush ahead without considering:

  • How much to spend.
  • What they want to achieve and how best to achieve it.
  • How long it will take.

However, Ben believes the decision to renovate could be a timely one considering the time to build a new home can now take 12 to 18 months in the WA market. “I believe the most important part of any building project is design,” Ben emphasises. “Just as important is the choice of materials. Make sure you either choose those that will complement the existing building, or completely reinvent the style of your home. Do your research and find a builder who specialises in the type of construction relevant to you and your project.”

Ben adds that in today’s market, referral is almost essential when choosing a builder. “Talk to previous clients and check on the quality of the work, reliability, license, and insurance provisions,” he says. “Effective communication with your builder is vital. They should provide a full specification stating the type of materials, stage payments, estimated time of completion, construction details, number of power points etc and the requirements of both yourself and the builder which need to be studied carefully before signing any contract.”

SEAMLESS is a word to remember when adding and extension to your home — your goal is to match the old with the new. Ben’s thoughts are to ensure things don’t look tacked on, and the addition should also incorporate solar passive design where possible, including features such as correct window size and placements, cross flow ventilation and the correct insulation.

Ben says one of the most important considerations is the function of the addition, and what existing floor area could be lost to create access to the new areas. This could mean losing a bedroom to create a passage, but the remaining area could then be used for valuable storage. There’s no hard and fast rule for positioning and addition; it’s an individual project decision and dependent on lot boundaries and infrastructure such as trees, swimming pools and outbuildings.



Unfortunately there’s no blanket advice to give in this area because every council has different guidelines in place in regards to residential development and alterations. Head down to your local council before you begin, to get information on the specifics and zoning. This lets you know what you’re allowed to build on your block in terms of law and determines what regulations and standards apply. This will generally refer to the size and height of your project and the materials you’re allowed to use.

Lastly, don’t forget you’re likely to need a permit stating that a building surveyor has given you the green light. Often your builder will look after this but if you don’t have one then you’ll need to apply to your local council.

Leave plenty of time to submit your plans, especially as councils are under a lot of strain with approvals at the moment. And remember that trying to push parameters of design codes will only result in delays and cost increases to you as a result —  listen to the experts involved in your project because nine out of 10 times they’re correct. Your local council’s also the place to go when you’re establishing the boundary lines for your property.



Ben says a major renovation including demolition and rebuilding can take anything from three to six months, so to maintain a schedule ensure you stick to your original plans and are available on site to discuss any problems. Ensuring the job is done properly the first time will save you disappointment in the long term and hopefully a large capital gain on your investment.

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