Canberra Owner Builders share their renovating tips - Owner Builder Club

Canberra Owner Builders share their renovating tips

Renovating as an Owner Builder

We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Erica and Simon, who openly shared their experience from the recent renovation of their townhouse.

But a renovation was simply not enough for this super resourceful, energetic and organised couple who’ve already moved onto their next Owner Builder project – a complete new build.

Here’s what they shared in their own words (not one bit of editing required).

  1. Before going into a plan – the couple needs to be agreed on what they want.  If you can’t agree, there is no draftsperson or Architect that is going to be able to sort that out for you.
  2. If you know what you want, don’t bother going to an architect.  Take your plan to a draftsperson.
  3. Be flexible about design options, and talk, talk, talk.  Get as many ideas and show as many people the plans as you can.  You never know what someone has seen before or ideas that they have.
  4. Allow tradies to provide some ideas about how to solve problems.  They often know the fastest (and sometimes the cheapest) way to do it.
  5. If you are going to live and work in the reno, pack up as much stuff as you don’t need and put it away.
    • Use removal boxes.  They are the same size and easier to store in a room in the house.
    • Have as little stuff to move in the workplace as possible.  When we did the Kitchen, we just had the washing machine, dryer and refrigerator.
    • Be prepared to spend an hour a day cleaning up if you plan to live in the space.
  6. Be onsite when the tradies are there.  If you are there, you can answer their questions immediately.  Otherwise they will either stay until you are there (for which you will be charged) or leave (and you will have to arrange to bring them back)
  7. Treat the tradies like humans.  Offer them coffee, cake or a beer.  You never know where that will get you!
  8. Don’t have an expectation that everything will be done by Christmas.  That is what everyone wants.  You’ll be surprised as to the response you get when you order before Christmas, but expect a delivery in Jan (or Feb!).  The manufacturer/tradie will love you for it.
  9. Put the Gyprock on last!  If the tradies can work with no ceiling, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your work will get done (hint – no-one likes to be in a roof space over summer…just saying!).
  10. Be creative.  We re-used brace board (thin ply) as temporary benchtops when we were waiting for the benches to arrive.  This meant that our kitchen was reasonably functional whilst we were waiting.
  11. Be creative.  We used building timber and a spare door to create a makeshift kitchen.  This meant that we had a basin and plumbing, but we could move it around when we needed to.
  12. When designing a renovation, be considerate of where plumbing is.  Cutting through concrete is a pain and expensive.  We only moved the plumbing 600mm and this was enough cutting of concrete for us!
  13. You never know what you are going to find when you start renovating.  Make sure that your budget (and patience) is flexible.
    • In the kitchen, 2 walls were completely destroyed by termites
    • In the kitchen, the ceiling had to be replaced due to rat damage.
    • In the bathroom, the baseplate was water damaged and had to be replaced.
  14. Have a pair of steel capped boots.  No really.  They are awesome!
  15. Use the internet to do your research.
  16. Get the right tools for the job.  It might cost you up front, but it will save you in time and energy down the track.

Our sincere thanks Erica and Simon. We very much look forward to hearing your experience with your new build! GOOD LUCK 🙂

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