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Large renovations: any regrets?

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#26 Freddie'sMum

Posted 19 February 2020 - 11:01 AM

Null - we are in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom townhouse.  Because it's a townhouse (in a block of 4) we can't extend it / put another storey on / knock down and rebuild, so very limiting.

This is what we have done over the 8 plus years living here, got the inside of the house completely painted, squeezed a second shower into the laundry and completely renovated the bathroom and laundry, installed a new back deck (the old one was held together by the ants), had to put in new air con when the old one died.  There is lots we have done but it's not on a par with huge renovations.

My concern is that when people do large renovations and even if the quote is (for example) $150K - they never leave any money for a buffer.  I've watched too many property renovation shows where the home owners are in dire straights because there is always extras that they find out need to be done once you start knocking down walls etc.  So my advice would be to have at least a 10% to 20% buffer.

#27 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 11:01 AM

I can't help sadly as our place is built in the 70's so not heritage listed, but I LOVE the idea of a 150 year old place, the history would have me enthralled.

Kitchen's wise - in our case (and again, younger home), it wasn't subject to any approvals so you should be OK there, and bathroom would be the same.  It's mainly external facade that I think has to meet set criteria for heritage.  I think I would be considering the structural stuff so if you have an engineering report, that's definitely important, especially if moving any walls etc.

our wiring and plumbing hadn't been replaced since the original build, so 40 odd years ago, if yours is only 10 years surely that'll all suffice.

Can'tstayaway - yep, all our plumbing was the clay pipes too!  On the plus side, surely it'll never be an issue again lol

#28 can'tstayaway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 11:23 AM

View Postnull, on 19 February 2020 - 10:02 AM, said:

We have paid for a concept design but the building company will do the plans to submit for approval. It's like an all in one type of arrangement. They have drafts-people and people that can check if certification is likely.
When it comes to building or renovating, if it seems too simple then it’s possibly too good to be true.

Our local council requires certification for just about everything. We also need development approval to make changes to the old parts of the house and that takes months even IF it goes smoothly first go.

I would be taking the concept plans and getting an independent town planner to look it over for you. They will be able to tell you how likely you are to get approval and it’s much cheaper to make changes earlier on than later.

Also check your contract that it explicitly says you are allowed to stay on the premises. Depending on your reno, it is sometimes easier and therefore quicker if you can move out so they can get the work done - things like turning off water and power without having to work around the residents. Generally, builders want control of the worksite because they are liable for anything that occurs like injuries or theft.

#29 Veritas Vinum Arte

Posted 19 February 2020 - 12:18 PM

I will say we ended up paying an extra $100k in “variations”.

My advice is go through contract with fine tooth comb. Even giving detailed specifications they did not include all of those in contract in the end.

#30 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 12:40 PM

We found with some quotes, things would be itemised, for example $55per sqm of carpet, or $500 for a vanity etc, and in others it was an "allowance" for the entire space, so maybe say $5,000 for the bathroom fittings.

In the end we went with a contract that had an allowance for things like painting, electrical, wet areas, carpet etc and so we made sure we understood the total allowance when choosing those things.  In some cases we knew we were exceeding the allowance and therefore accepting a variation to the contract price, and in other areas we stuck to the allowance, or slightly below it.

We've also made sure that we keep checking in with our builder and asking for an update on the variations so there's no surprises as we go (other than the plumbing and electrical).

Having a good builder/building team really does make all the difference.  There's been many times along the way where our builder has really clearly walked us through the different options for things that would save, or cost more which has really helped with us being able to budget for the variations.

Edited by Gonzy, 19 February 2020 - 12:41 PM.

#31 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 12:46 PM

So with respect to the quotes, we have had builders tell us to give out a fixed price quote, it would cost any where from between $1500 to $8000. Some builders won't give a fixed price until they have got all the engineering done but others don't seem to require as much planning work to be done before giving a fixed price quote. Is that typical?

#32 Jennifaraway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 01:14 PM

We extended our house a few years back (before kids!). It was a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom fibro, now it's a 3 (or 4 - we carved out a study more recently) bedroom 1.5 bathroom, with two living areas. We desperately needed the space. We had a limited budget too. And our land slopes up from the street - we got a lot of dirt dug out! We couldn't justify going up a storey or a knock down rebuild, because at the time it would have been rather overcapitalised.

We had a local draftsman do the plans and lodging with council - he knew what our council would insist one etc. Then DH did it as owner-builder - he hired two builders (with licenses) and they did the framing etc, we got a concreting company to do the foundations and dig out part of the backyard, and a plumber to do the bathroom. We did have to rip out the bathroom and start again because of asbestos, but it was also pretty yuck anyway. We couldn't justify the $$ to redo the kitchen (and we don't plan to stay here forever).

DH did all the internal gyprocking, the new floors, the window frames, and cabling (he has a licence). He has an electrician mate who gave us a good rate on wiring (and also recommended the plumbers and concreters I think). The plumbers organised the tilers for the bathroom. We got a plasterer to finish the walls. Window people for double-glazed windows (so great to have!).

We had a second-hand fibreglass shower shell in our laundry for a while - DH also rigged up the temporary plumbing. That was fun while pregnant!

It TOOK FOREVER. DH, however, does do a lot of project management for work (he's a telecomms engineer) and he also is a bit paranoid (see: engineer) so would have wanted to oversee it himself anyway. We also saved a lot of money by him doing it all.

He does say that he doesn't want to do that ever again! But I suspect he will anyway... (his current project is restoring a vintage car) :rofl:

#33 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 01:14 PM

I am assuming that is the cost of them doing the plans/drafts to base their fixed price off?

We had our architects plans before we went to builders for quotes so I think that made it much easier for them to quote because every little detail was laid out in the plans.  This did mean of course that we had to pay for the plans before we started getting quotes but then we never paid a cent for the quotes.

#34 FuzzyChocolateToes

Posted 19 February 2020 - 01:24 PM

Ignore people who tell you that you can KDRB for $200,000. They're dreaming! Those sort of prices might get a small, basic house with one power point per room, the cheapest appliances, tiles and flooring available, no window coverings, no driveways etc etc. Then there is a year to 18 months of rent while you move out, $15,000 demolition fees, moving fees x2, underground electricity $3000 or more, etc. We spent a lot more than $200,000 to KDRB.

Edited by FuzzyChocolateToes, 19 February 2020 - 01:29 PM.

#35 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 01:27 PM

Yep, I agree - definitely not happening for that price.

#36 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 01:34 PM

Maybe that's were I am going wrong. Perhaps I should spend the money up front to get plans done then get free quotes based on the one set of plans. That would make it more competitive and feel less like I am being held to ransom. Do plans include everything that needs to submitted for approval or have they already been approved?

#37 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 01:51 PM

In our case we needed to get quotes before we knew for certain that we were in a position to go ahead with the work financially in the time frame we wanted (we had a set budget in mind based on what we would have been prepared to spend if we were selling and moving). So we outlaid for the architect knowing that we may have had to revise our time-frame, go back to the sell and buy idea, or even consider shaving some of the things off the design.  The benefit of this of course is quotes were definitely not ambiguous. Once we had quotes back and knew it was definitely within our budget, we then hit go on choosing the exact builder (we went mid-range of the quotes in the end) and signing contracts with both the bank and the builder.

We are in the ACT and our actual renovation and extensions were exempt from needing an approved Development Application (DA) based on the fact we were not adding a storey (privacy and shadow implications etc), and being on a large block (over 900sqm), in a non-heritage listed place, we could build within boundaries of our block that didn't require a DA (7 metres back from the boundary line for example).  Also because it was renovations/extensions, not a new build.

What we did have to do was "notify" our planning authority, including providing all our plans and appropriate information on our builder and certifier.  We also had to notify all our immediate neighbours (including the ones behind us - our extension has gone out the front of our house, not the back, but still had to tell them).

We had to get certification from an engineer and certifier and then all things like the electricity and gas lines (all the easements) had to be checked and approved also.  We ended up having to get our gas line moved so that took a while as we only have one provider in the ACT and we had to wait for them to physically relocate it - and they wanted the money upfront before they even did the work.  So whilst we didn't have to go through the period of having the planning authority decline our plans, or indeed our neighbours, we did have to still follow a process before anything could formally commence building wise.

Depending on the state you are in, you should be able to jump onto the council or government website and get an idea of what approvals you will need and that may help guide some of those upfront costs and decisions also.

#38 can'tstayaway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 02:07 PM

The more detailed the plans the more accurate the quote.

I am definitely of the mind that spending some money upfront saves time, money and trouble down the track.

I would go from concept plans -> talk to town planner that you’re allowed to build it, appropriate set backs etc etc -> talk to builder about if it can physically be built and suggestions they may have -> have an engineer look over it to identify any glaring issues -> update the plans to incorporate any changes and get working drawings done.

Once you’ve got the new plans, get the official engineer’s report, submit for council approvals (or private certifier if your council allows that) and take those plans to a few builders for tender. You should have a complete list of finishes and specifications so the builders are quoting on the same thing and you’re comparing apples to apples.

In the contract, I would include a requirement for all variations to be signed off on, by you, in writing before they can proceed. That way, if they do proceed without your ok, it’s on them to wear the cost. I’ve had tradies who just wanted to do ‘x’ because it was easier.  They would lie to their boss that I had verbally ok-ed it but because I had the contract and hadn’t approved in writing, they had to cover the cost of rectifying it.

#39 Veritas Vinum Arte

Posted 19 February 2020 - 05:42 PM

We had a group do our drawings for council then put together everything builders would need to quote (working drawing including internals, Electrical plans etc) that way (in theory) the builders were quoting off the same information. Quotes came in very differently cost wise with some builders (having visited site) saying XYZ needed to be done too, and as mentioned above some things were left out.

We went with a builder who seemed willing to deal with me (woman) being their main contact for build and not DH. I knew plans intimately (mostly my design- I could not do the technical stuff) and would be the person they had to deal with. One builder was not receptive to the idea of working with a woman so they didn’t make our shortlist.

#40 Grassyrat

Posted 20 February 2020 - 09:01 AM

Null, definitely get your own independent plans done. Find a good draftsman that’s been recommended in your area and then take your plans to different builders and get quotes. This is what we did and ended up choosing the builder with the best quality work.

And I’m glad you realise you won’t KDRB for $200k.... we spent significantly  more than that 8 years ago. A 70’s house will not be a difficult Reno, our place is 60’s era and wasn’t a long job, it took 17 weeks from start to finish. Also living in the house keeps them moving because you know every day when the builder is on site

#41 YodaTheWrinkledOne

Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:07 AM

View Postcan, on 19 February 2020 - 02:07 PM, said:

The more detailed the plans the more accurate the quote.

I am definitely of the mind that spending some money upfront saves time, money and trouble down the track.
Tend to agree with this, although it very much helps if you know what needs to be detailed in the first place.

For our build, the 'architect' plans were 8 pages (essentially the floor plans and the external views). The structural engineering plans were 37 pages, included framework, electrical layout, plumbing layout, sewage, air con layout, window/doors, all the major joins and fittings, etc. I had a document that specified finishes etc (11 pages). And we still had to make decisions as we went! But I will give my husband full credit for this, we did not go above the fixed contract price, which was brilliant. In fact, we wre 8K less. I know the builder had some blow-outs (the concreting was way more than he had priced), but we managed to still come in just under the fixed price.

It was because a LOT of thought had been put into the design - the builder could calculate a lot of stuff from the plans, which made it easier for him to provide a fixed price with confidence. We tried to be as realistic as possible about the costs (we were always asking about "what else might pop up, just in case?" and I did heaps of research for fittings etc). And we communicated a LOT with the builder during the process. Plus, my husband just didn't take any sh*t from anyone when it was happening, LOL!

It took us a while to find a builder where the cost was appropriate and it felt like a good fit.  There were massive variations in price. In the end, we had approached 11 builders before we signed up with one.

It sometimes pays to have your plans assessed by a quantity surveyor before you put it out to builders for their own quotes. That usually gives you a reasonable ball park figure for the build cost.

Edited by YodaTheWrinkledOne, 20 February 2020 - 10:11 AM.

#42 RichardParker

Posted 20 February 2020 - 11:15 AM

From my extensive experience in watching many episodes of Grand Designs, the people with the detailed designs upfront fair much, much better than those that just start building and hope to figure it out as they go.  

It seems as though if you make detailed decisions ahead of time about things like where you need your powerpoints to be, where you want the kettle to be in the kitchen, you can save money in the long run when you don't have to make changes later.  

If you've got plans, you can also discuss them with builders etc who can take one look at it and tell you why something won't work or a way to do it cheaper.

It also seems that hiring an experienced project manager is money well-spent.  The people that do it themselves having never been on a building site before always end up traumatised by the experience.

#43 null

Posted 20 February 2020 - 06:09 PM

Thank you all for the valuable advice.

Yoda, I appreciate you describing what is in the "plans". I can't imagine going to 11 builders but I guess if you get all the planning work done, there is not to much extra effort to hand them out to builders and then field the results.

I will chalk up my first tentative steps to get a concept design to inexperience. Next to research how to get the real "plans" together!

#44 Angelcandy

Posted 20 February 2020 - 07:31 PM

We had an architect draw up plans for a (very) significant extension last year. When we went to get quotes from builders the builder we would have used quoted about the same amount to completely demolish the existing house (1960s) and rebuild the same, extended house plans new. Be sure that what you plan to keep will actually save you money. We didn’t end up going ahead because we fell in love with (and purchased) a different house.

#45 Lifesgood

Posted 20 February 2020 - 08:08 PM

A few years ago we did a major renovation and upstairs extension on our 1960's double-brick bungalow. We transformed it from a house with lots of poky rooms and dark spaces to a light-filled, spacious house with lovely open-living areas, cosy (but roomy) living rooms, and decent-sized bedrooms. We went from 4 (little) bedrooms to 5 bedrooms, 2 of which are larger. We added a bathroom and a playroom plus an upstairs deck. The house is just lovely, people are very complimentary when they visit.

We had lived here for 10 years before we did the work which meant we knew exactly what we wanted and where we needed to let more light in etc.

We used a 'house designer' - they are a business which is somewhere between an architect and a drafts-person. Not as expensive as an architect firm, more expensive than a builder/draftsman. We told them what we wanted and what our budget was (we lied and took 25% off our budget), they came up with a design, we tweaked it and then they recommended a builder. This was really helpful as they knew the builder was good.

We allowed 25% on top of the build budget as a contingency and the builder gave us a contract which allowed a certain amount of money for each item eg. $ per square meter of tiles, X number of powerpoints per room, X$ for aircon and so on. If we wanted to vary this he would increase or decrease the contract price depending on what we chose. We used all of the contingency (which we had already budgeted) and then spent another 25% on landscaping, furniture, plantation shutters and blinds and a few 'indulgences' (you should see the light fitting above my staircase).

It was a really good experience even though we lived in the house the whole time. The builder was excellent and very considerate (he also adored my DS who was a baby/toddler at the time and used to carry him around as he spoke to all of his contractors). The final outcome has been terrific, although now I complain the house is too big and I can never find anything, including my children!

#46 Mumma bug

Posted 20 February 2020 - 09:10 PM

We extended 9 years ago. Started by getting a concept plan done by an architect through Archicentre. She estimated $250k. Went ahead to detail design and drawings for council approval. Best of three builders in the tender came back with a fixed price of $303k. Worked out to $330k in the end with upgrades and appliances.

We also had a sloping (downwards) block, not too steep, more of a gradual decline, so we went split level in the living area.

Would I do it again? Maybe. I live in Adelaide and we don’t have the same capital growth as the eastern states, so our investment hasnt increased more than what we put into it.

But I love my house because of its character features and location. If it was a non character brick veneer home we would do a knock down rebuild, probably for not much more and with a perfect layout. That’s what a lot of people in my area do because a lot of house are basic post war homes, often in run down condition.

Edited by Mumma bug, 20 February 2020 - 09:14 PM.

#47 can'tstayaway

Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:50 AM

View PostYodaTheWrinkledOne, on 20 February 2020 - 10:07 AM, said:

It sometimes pays to have your plans assessed by a quantity surveyor before you put it out to builders for their own quotes. That usually gives you a reasonable ball park figure for the build cost.
Building new, an architect taught me the rule of thumb figure of $1500-5000 per square metre. The difference is the quality of finish and difficulty of the land - slope, soil quality etc. Most of our projects have come within those ranges. Our current renovation has blown that out of the water but that’s due to the need to retrofit/fix hidden problems.

For a fixed price contract, I wouldn’t bother with a quantity surveyor because the builder is assuming the risk. For a cost plus contract, I’ve used a quantity surveyor to keep an eye on costs.

View PostRichardParker, on 20 February 2020 - 11:15 AM, said:

It also seems that hiring an experienced project manager is money well-spent.  The people that do it themselves having never been on a building site before always end up traumatised by the experience.
I’ve used an independent project manager and in house project managers from the architectural firm. The independent project manager was money well spent (about $20k 8 years ago for a custom large new build).  I didn’t get along well with one of the architect’s project managers and felt they prioritised their ‘vision’ over my vision.  

The project manager didn’t just time tradies and kept the project on schedule, they also were regularly on site checking the quality of work and we had ours approve work before the next stage could commence.

When we lived in a new estate, I witnessed tradies on a neighbouring building site stuff rubbish in the drain pipes. I mentioned it to the neighbour and the amount of chip packets that got pulled out was shocking. It’s the sort of thing that would have caused plumbing issues down the track. Luckily they hadn’t poured the concrete foundation yet. So, that’s the sort of thing that I’m wary of because you can’t keep track of everything going on but it’s much cheaper to check and fix before the next stage proceeds.

A friend had built new and her builder brother came to visit just before handover. He immediately noticed the bathroom flooring wasn’t the right slope to the drains. My friend didn’t notice and probably would have lived with an annoyance of water not draining properly after spending a fortune on a new build. It also has consequences when it came time to eventually sell because a building inspection would pick that up. The builder did rectify it but it pushed back the handover by several months. It would have been an easy fix if someone checked it while the tiles were being laid.

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