I have undertaken several small reno’s in the past but nothing is like building your own home from scratch. Call me crazy but I likened the process to (a very long!) pregnancy. There are the highs and lows and you know there is an amazing reward at the end of the journey. Along the way, I had a few requests from readers to share my advice for building. So here are my 10 Tips for Building or Renovating a House.
1. Do your Research and Have a Plan
Whether you choose to go with an architect or draftsperson, having an idea of the style and floorplan of your home will be a great start. I would highly recommend starting some Pinterest boards to capture styles/facades you like. Give some thought into the future years and how your family will use the space as they grow and enter different ages/phases. Although my girls are 8 and 11 now, I considered their teenage years. We decided to put their bedrooms upstairs and keep our master bedroom downstairs. We included a separate rumpus room with TV (which could double as a bedroom if we were to sell) so they could have their own chill out space. We also separated the girls’ toilet from the bathroom so they could both use these spaces independently, and included a sink each in their bathroom. By doing research and going in with a plan, you will be clear on what you want and save time and money (every alteration can be costly).
2. Choose The Right People
I already knew that I wanted Devlin Mees to build our home. They had built and renovated many beautiful timber homes in our area. I was also fortunate that a few friends had used them before and all had positive experiences. I would recommend speaking to previous clients if you can. Having good communication with your architect/draftsperson, builder and site manager is crucial to everything running smoothly and your desired outcome being achieved.
3. Know What is Involved
Much like a pregnancy, you really don’t know what is involved until you are in the thick of it! The reality is, building can be stressful. Throw in working within a budget, making a million decisions and often living in less than ideal circumstances during the process, it can take its toll. It is also extremely time-consuming. Visiting multiple showrooms with kids in tow is never ideal. We planned some small mini breaks throughout the duration. They don’t need to be extravagant but just seeing different scenery, some fresh air and having some time not thinking about the build, can be therapeutic. And of course, like with a pregnancy, the reward at the end makes it all worth it!
4. A Picture Tell A Thousand Words
I know I mentioned Pinterest in Tip #1 but this is one of the most helpful (and free!) tools. Pinterest is a gold mine of inspiration and ideas. There are so many small details that are part of a home design, they can often be hard to describe, or you may not know the technical term for them. By showing an image, the look you want can be conveyed without question or doubt. I would suggest creating Pinterest boards for each room. This way you can see how things all look together.
5. Document Everything and Stay Organised
Site meetings are exciting but can be also overwhelming. Take notes and document all the details, otherwise you are sure to forget. Building or renovating can bring with it a lot of paperwork. Keep a folder to separately file contracts, plans and product brochures.
6. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, Mistakes Can Be Positive
Hindsight is always a wonderful thing but it is easy to stress about the nitty-gritty details. It can be tricky to see the big picture and sometimes it isn’t until everything is installed that you realise that all those little worries weren’t worth losing sleep over. There were a couple of things with our build that didn’t go how I expected. For example, about half way through the build we were told that our meter box needed to be placed near the front door. At the time I think I almost cried over this. I was convinced it would be an eye sore and impact the front entrance. We worked with the builder to minimise the visual impact and now I don’t even notice it!
7. Order Early
Delays with products are inevitable so I would suggest order items as early as possible. Some items such as lighting or bathroom products come from overseas so will take time to be delivered. You want to avoid having moved in and still be waiting for goods to arrive. The same goes for window furnishings. As soon as it’s possible, curtains and shutters should be measured to ensure these are installed before the handover date.
8. Use A Floor Plan
I asked my Draftsperson for a blank copy (without any text but to scale) of my floor plan early on. I used this floor plan to sketch out my furniture plan. As there were some key pieces we were bringing with us, I wanted to make sure they would fit. Things like my daybed in the study required the bay window to be slightly deeper in order to fit. The bone inlay chest needed the nib wall to be slightly longer. It also allowed me to make sure the power points were placed exactly where I needed them, behind consoles for lamps etc. Using the floor plan also helps to ensure that details such as feature lighting are to scale.
9. Be Clever With How You Spend Your Money
Sticking to a budget can be one of the biggest challenges with a renovation or build. There are some things that will make more impact than others so I would suggest spending more money on those. For example, in my bathrooms, I used basic white subway tiles on the walls. These were relatively inexpensive and I knew I needed a lot of them. To add a bit more interest with them, I chose a slightly darker colour grout and added a capping tile. Even the floor tiles are porcelain with a ‘faux’ marble look. But having them laid in a herringbone pattern makes them look more interesting. This allowed me to spend more money on tapware and fixtures. In my front sitting and dining rooms, I knew I wanted wallpaper. Due to the size of the space I had to be very clever with what I chose. I found a less expensive vinyl product which resembles grasscloth and appears to have a texture through it.
This leads me to my final tip……
10. Hire A Designer
Yes, I am biased but if you have if for no other reason than Tip #9, a designer will know where to best spend your money to get the look you want. Yes, there is a cost involved in with their services but in the end you will get the look you want. Also, a designer has access to trade products that aren’t available in retail stores, giving you more options to create a bespoke home. We can help you communicate your ideas with the builder and help you to visualise the bigger picture.
And finally, good luck. The handover day is almost as exciting as the birth of a newborn (and far less painful!).