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Most homeowners take on a major renovation to expand their home because they need to accommodate a growing family.
The timing of needing that space is therefore completely unrelated to current economic conditions.
Usually, there’s a baby on the way, or the soon-to-be teenagers who were sharing a room now need privacy, which means creating their own bedroom and study space.
For others, it’s because of multigenerational living, where one or both retired parents come to live with a son or daughter in their family home.
With money tighter than ever, most growing families who approach us regarding their renovation:
- Can’t put things off for much longer.
- Are on a tighter budget than anticipated.
So, how do you carry out that much-needed renovation when every dollar counts?
It is possible, and these are six clever ways you can really stretch your budget to make your dream home become a reality.
1. Smart Prioritisation
If your budget is tight, it’s not the time to overindulge in ‘nice to haves’. Start by listing the absolutely essential needs of your family, and only then start on your list of wants. Put them in order of priority.
The needs cannot be overlooked so get them priced first before you look into whether you have enough budget to include some or all of your ‘wants’.
The discipline of doing this gives clarity to your builder in understanding your priorities and what you are trying to achieve.
Experienced builders with lots of projects under their belt can then draw on their past knowledge to suggest solutions they know are tried and tested, and that can fit under a tight budget.
2. Make a Detailed Plan… and Stick to It
If you watch the TV show Grand Designs, you know that most of the renovations featured go over budget. Have you noticed the number one reason? It’s usually because the owners have a change of mind or have failed to plan in advance.
There is no point in being ‘on a tight budget’ if you then blow it.
Some changes of mind might be unavoidable, but the trick is to minimise them to the absolute minimum.
Every change causes a ripple effect and likely has a cost implication – very few changes reduce your budget.
Time spent upfront ensuring that the plans you start with are the plans you work to – and finish with – will make sure you stay on track.
The more reputable building companies offer a fixed-price contract, and, aside from completely unforeseeable circumstances, that’s the price you will pay… unless you change your mind.
3. Do As Much as Possible At the Same Time
If you are on a tight budget, splitting up your renovation into different but separate phases might seem like a logical solution, but rarely will it be more efficient than taking on the complete job at the same time.
The cost of separate project management, development approvals, site restoration and more will total up to a bigger cost in the long run.
Plus, there are two hidden dangers:
- By splitting up the build, you may be tempted to assign more of your budget to your ‘wants’ than your ‘needs’ because you aren’t forced to make hard choices to start with.
- You are better off locking in a fixed price now rather than hoping that the second phase will be based on the same costs. They likely won’t be the same, but if your budget hasn’t grown in step in the meantime, you might never be able to afford that second stage.
4. Use the Latest Building Materials
Modern building materials have many advantages over traditional ones, and, most importantly, they usually cost less to buy per square metre and are quicker – and therefore cheaper – to construct with.
Brick, for example, is essentially an old ‘technology’ and whilst we all are conditioned to think it looks better, there is a significant cost in both price and performance.
In around 70% of our building projects, Addbuild uses a material called Foamular which has several advantages over brick as well as being cheaper is buy and quicker to build with:
- It is far more thermally efficient and water resistant.
- It can be finished with a smooth render to match a cement-rendered brick home.
- It can be 50-70mm thick, allowing windows to be recessed to match the rest of the home.
- The epoxy render finish can be a specific colour that never needs to be repainted unless the homeowner wants to change their home to another colour.
Brick, on the other hand:
- Requires more support underneath.
- Requires more scaffolding during construction.
- Takes far longer to build — days versus hours for Foamular.
Also consider using less expensive but good-looking and high-performance modern materials in other areas, such as bench tops, tiles, floors, decking and more. For example:
- Engineered wood for flooring costs less, can look like natural wood and is longer lasting.
- Bamboo flooring has similar advantages and is even less likely to expand or contract.
- For benchtops, there are many alternatives to natural stone that are less expensive, equally durable and will look just as beautiful in your project.
5. Standardised Dimensions and Plans
Using standardised plans specifically designed to take advantage of the NSW Housing Code for Complying Development can also save you time and money.
A ‘Complying Development’ doesn’t have to go through the potentially lengthy Development Application process.
You aren’t paying for bespoke plans, and it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll need to spend money on redrafting.
It’s also worth emphasising a few crucial points about standardised plans:
- You may be surprised by the variety of plans to choose from.
- Don’t assume that just because plans are ‘standardised’ that this means they won’t give you what you need. Most houses are built to standard as this takes advantage of years of knowledge about design and home use.
- They aren’t set in stone: altering them is likely to be cheaper than creating new plans.
- They are usually designed to standard dimensions which saves money when your builder is buying the materials for the job.
- By example, Addbuild – and other established renovation specialist builders – have a variety of plans to choose from like Addbuild’s Classic Design range.
6. Consider a ‘Design and Build’ Specialist
Builders like Addbuild offer a design and construct service that can save you considerably.
Plans created by a ‘design and build’ company will be used not just for development approval but also for construction, subject of course to any changes required by Council.
So, the same plans are used for both stages of the process, avoiding the possibility of a potentially costly redrawing of the plans before construction can proceed.
Employing an architect to turn your dreams into reality isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective option, and you don’t have to give up on those design ideas if you use an alternative path.
Your plans will still be drawn up by qualified professionals with specific and deep experience of major renovations.
Time to Renovate?
If you are a growing family and your current home isn’t coping, putting off your renovation will only cause you more pain, and moving to a bigger house isn’t always the better option.
With these six suggestions, you can look at a cost-effective renovation as a solution that adds space and value to your home.
Addbuild is Sydney’s leading builder of home additions and extensions with more than 2,000 projects completed since 1980.
Feel free to delve into our comprehensive suite of articles with advice about all aspects of renovating.