Top five mistakes to avoid when renovating

I’d been waiting for the right time. Months and months of relentless researching and then finally I got in. I purchased an apartment in the location and price range I was looking for. I’ve always had a romance with the idea of renovating but before you start blaming ‘The Block’ it wasn’t due to a TV show. I’m a sucker for transformation. After years of hopping between cheap rental apartments in order to save I was ready to buy and enjoy the freedom to make changes.

I went for location over apartment features - it was all about the potential. My renovation plans started in a restrained place with a kitchen update, but after a few ‘what if’ moments I was looking into knocking down a wall and gutting the bathroom too. It just made sense to get the mess over with in one hit and to enjoy the updates immediately - in typical Gen Y fashion.

Now I’m about four weeks away from moving in (I hope) and I’ve learnt a lot along the way. Here are my top five mistakes to avoid when renovating.

1. Expecting to save money within the same time frame as a professional

By project managing my renovations and doing some of the work myself I’ve saved a lot of money. But (like most first time project managers) my expectations on when the renovation would finish were way off. Was it worth it? Yes - at least to me. Saving money was more important than moving in quickly but it’s different for everyone and should be carefully considered up front. For some people time is money - consider if you can live there during the works or if you need to pay for rent elsewhere. For complex jobs, doing the work yourself can end up more pricey than getting the professionals in. Be realistic when it comes to your skill set.

When considering time - there’s more involved than the start and end date. I’ve had no social life for six months - think carefully about this.

2. Demolishing the bathroom before you really have to

In a one bedroom apartment, removing the toilet and shower is a critical moment and one you can’t undo. With inevitable changes and delays along the way my ‘bathroom’ was a concrete cube for over six weeks. Ensure you have a really tight plan for this part of your renovation and allow extra time. My tiler was sick for two days and it put the schedule back two weeks because the next round of tradies couldn’t adjust their other jobs. Whilst some things can’t be helped, having all jobs scheduled and materials available on time is a great start.

3. Forgetting about waste

In many cases I chose not to pay for waste removal (it’s amazing how much tradies will charge for carrying rubble down the stairs) and in some I didn’t think to ask. Getting rid of waste can be expensive so my top tips are:

  • always ask if a quote includes removing all waste from the site
  • if it’s included find out how much it’s costing and investigate if you can do it cheaper
  • have an area dedicated to storing waste - this will keep your home cleaner and encourages tradies to be more respectful and tidy

4. Underestimating the power of demolition dust

If you’re renovating, you’ll have some demolition work carried out. The amount of dust this creates is incredible. I did keep my bedroom protected by pushing old sheets into the door cracks but dust killed all of my balcony plants and months after the demolition phase has ended, there are still puffs of dust with every step. Be prepared by covering everything that matters to you.

5. Painting without running water

I had to paint my entire apartment when there was no running water in the house. Fun, huh? Whilst it was fantastic to paint at a time where dripping onto the new floors wasn’t a factor, schedule the painting when there is running water as the worst part of painting is the cleaning. This involves being organised. You don’t want to paint before any demolition or dusty work and you don’t want to damage your beautiful new floors either - find that sweet spot (with water!).

 

Octavia Hammer

Sleep deprived renovator