Planning is king of DIY renovations


The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” is particularly true when it comes to home renovations. It is easy for your exuberance to override your common sense and embark on a project before setting out a clear plan on paper. There are a few key steps in the planning phase to go through before clipping on the tool belt.

Step 1 – Determine bang for your buck

Put simply, any work done on your house should be completed with an aim to increase the saleable value of your house by more than what the work will cost you. Well, that’s the official line anyway.

“Value added” can be a subjective term depending on whether you are improving your house to live in yourself or performing a “flip” on a purchased property. If the work you’re about to embark upon will add to the functionality or enjoyment of the area and you are planning on living there for a while, then that has just as much value as an increase in the resale figure. You should still aim to not overcapitalise financially but you and your family’s enjoyment also is worth the investment.

Step 2 – Look at the big picture

Think about how the area you’re working in will relate to the rest of the property. It’s a good practice to think of the job as a stage one, with at least some thought to a stage two and three. For instance, if you’re building a deck consider the surrounding landscaping and flow into the adjacent areas. If you’re renovating a bathroom, be sure the style and function is in sync with the house as a whole.

Step 3 – Crunch the numbers

It’s a good idea to initially come up with two figures. Firstly what you are willing to spend, which is as simple as coming up with a ballpark figure based on your current bank balance. However, the second figure takes a bit more work.

Note down all the processes and materials needed for the job and get quotes for everything. Prices from raw material suppliers will always be cheaper than retail prices from hardware stores. If you have any trade contacts who have accounts with any of these suppliers, ask them to get you a price as it will likely be cheaper again.

Also don’t assume that doing everything yourself will always be cheaper. A good example is concreting. You can spend hours driving around picking up sand, gravel and bags of cement, more hours mixing it and then working out what to do with the excess after you’re finished. Or you could pay a couple of hundred bucks to a get a concrete truck out, use what you need and be done in an hour or two. Your labour and time has a worth to consider too.

Once you have a firm estimate, compare it to what you actually want to spend and make some decisions. Obviously if it has come in more expensive than you were hoping then you will need to make some concessions. If it’s under though you have a few choices.

1) Proceed as is, pocket the savings.

2) Upgrade some components for a better finish.

3) Proceed as is, invest the savings on tools.

The third option is often the best if you’re starting out. Having your own set of quality tools is indispensable when renovating a house.

The most important part of your budget is your contingency. This is the financial buffer zone that will save you when you come into an unexpected problem. The amount will vary depending on the job, your research and your knowledge, but there should always be some money set aside.

Step 4 –  Upgrade your skill set

Sit down and work out step-by-step the processes the job is going to require. If you haven’t physically done any of the steps before, then research as much as you can about it. Employ critical thinking to discover any pitfalls you may encounter and decide how to overcome them in theory before you’ve started. By the time you commence the work, you should have built the job start to finish in your head numerous times.

Look at the hidden work. When you see a beautifully finished bathroom, you can’t see the hours of plumbing, checking levels for fall, screeding, under tile waterproofing etc. Don’t assume that you know how to do it just because you’ve looked at a finished version.

Some things should always be left to the professionals. Major electrical work especially should always be performed by a licensed electrician, as is also the case with plumbing.

Step 5 – A picture is worth a thousand bucks

Brush up on your technical drawing skills and sketch out a plan of what you’re going to do. Familiarise yourself with the different views that need to be drawn.

Plan view – looking down on the area from above, birds eye view

Elevation views – looking at the area from the front and sides

Section detail views – close up views of components of the work and how they relate to each other or the surrounding structure/ground

Take measurements of the area and scale them down create a workable zone on paper, before adding in the various components and details. Accuracy is the key. If you are willing to make the investment, relatively cheap CAD programs are available which will enable you to produce highly accurate drawings on your computer. Once you learn the capabilities of these programs they are significantly superior to paper based drawings.

Step 6 –  Time waits for no man

Final step. As well as estimating materials, it pays to work out a rough estimate of how long the job is going to take so you are well prepared. Break it up into small process and then multiply it back up. For example, it’s going to take about 3 minutes to glue, lay and grout a tile and there is 400 tiles so just the tiling will take approximately 1200 minutes or 20 hours. Do this for as many processes as you can before adding it all together for your rough estimate.

Having an approximate time frame will prevent you from losing motivation and allow you to plan the rest of your life around the work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s