Home Renovations - Where To Start

Real Estate Institute figures for February 2021 indicate the median house price across NZ was up 23% compared to the same time last year (rising to $780,000). Unfortunately, this current post-Covid spike in housing values has squashed many kiwis dreams of buying a new home – however, under these conditions; it makes sense to consider renovating instead.


Whether you already own a home that just doesn’t quite fit the needs of a growing family, are trying to get on the property ladder, or want to upgrade but can’t afford it, renovating a house is a cost-effective way of making your new home dreams come true.


Not sure where to start? Take a look at our 6 house renovation starter tips below; with proper planning and preparation (and a bit of patience), your next renovation project is bound to be a great success!




1. Identify The Issues

Identifying the existing issues is vital to making sure your money is well spent. This may mean prioritising existing damage or much-needed repairs or adding extra space.


Reflect on what’s propelling you to undertake this renovation work in the first place? What are the existing issues with the house? Identifying these issues can help to make sure you are resolving them in your renovation plans.


The most common issues that drive people to renovate revolve around lack of space, existing damage, or lack of light and warmth. Some other things to think about are:

  • Maximising existing space

  • Boosting natural light

  • Resolving storage issues

  • Increasing Insulation

  • Water tightness

  • Electrical and plumbing replacement

Be sure you are making the most of both the investment required and the use of existing space. If you are unsure at this point or feeling a little out of your depth, it is a good idea to talk to a builder, architect or designer as they can often provide ideas (and solutions) you may not have thought of.


2. Decide What You Want

Deciding on precisely what you want to achieve can be the most challenging aspect of any renovation project – but setting out the scale and scope of the project will mean the road to successful completion is much much smoother.


Keep in mind what your goals are for this renovation. Are you trying to remodel with the aim to sell on for a quick profit? Are you altering the layout to better fit the family’s needs? Is this reno intended to improve the rental returns?


Think methodically about each room that you intend to remodel. Consider flooring, walls, the ceiling, lighting, and furnishings and possible repurposing of space by moving walls or adding on extensions. Consider any electrical or plumbing features that may need to be moved or replaced. Imagine you are designing the brief for your ideal home.


It’s important to think about future changes to the family dynamic, such as additional children or what teenagers might want versus toddlers. Taking into account extra things like the increased possibility of working from home and minimising the ongoing environmental impact of your home are also worth considering at this initial planning phase.




3. Prepare The Paperwork

Being clear on the steps you will need to take to renovate the property before you start is an integral part of any renovation. This helps prioritise the work creating a clear vision for the whole house, and gets everybody on the same page.


Now is the time to make an extensive list of everything that needs doing. The more detail you can get into here, the better. Itemise everything that needs to be purchased and completed and sort them into the order they need to be done. Be realistic about what work you can afford to do and when.


Identify how much of the work you intend to do and how much you intend to hire a professional for. Bear in mind that any electrical, plumbing or structural building work will need to be completed by a professional. There may be implications you are unaware of, and getting the advice of a professional early on may save you a lot of heartache.


4. Check If You Need Consent

When renovating in New Zealand, it is necessary to make sure you use licensed tradespeople where appropriate and obtain the required building and resource consents. Basically, anything that requires external or structural changes, such as changes to the building’s footprint, or load-bearing walls, new decks or awnings, as well as plumbing relocations, will require a building consent from your local council.


It is always best to get in contact with your local council to confirm what is required (and how much it will cost) before commencing any work. Be aware the consent process may take around six to eight weeks to process, and Councils will often ask for professional architectural drawings.


See here for helpful information on what building work needs consent in NZ or here to check if you need resource consent.


5. Set A Budget

Securing the funds for your renovation will require you to have some idea of how much it is going to cost. The best way to do this is to work from your itemised list getting quotes and pricing each item, remembering to factor in the tools and equipment needed to complete the work you intend to carry out and the time that each task will take.


Depending on what part of the country you live in and the materials you use, renovation and building projects costs can vary a lot. As we all know, it is easy for the cost of building projects to get away on you, leading to financial difficulties and sometimes the inability to complete the project – nobody wants to end up in this situation. Make a budget and stick to it!


5 things to consider when setting the budget:

  1. Professional Labour Services. Such as builders, electricians, plasterers, painters and plumbers. As well as any other tradespeople required.

  2. Building Materials, And Fixtures And Fittings. Purchasing top of the range products and materials will of course, have an impact on the budget; it is best to decide on these and get a firm price before starting out. Many people choose to recycle materials from the old house.

  3. Insurance. Check who arranges the insurance, you will need to cover property loss due to natural disasters, theft, and vandalism, as well as contract works insurance and public liability insurance.

  4. Contingency Funds. Always incorporate a contingency fund of around 10–20% of the total cost to allow for the unexpected expenses that can arise (especially when renovating older homes).

  5. Alternative Accommodation. If you plan to move out while the reno is being completed then remember to factor this into the costs.



6. Establish Timeframes

Having completed the budget and itemised list of what needs to be done, you may now have some idea of the time this project is going to take. However, it is best to establish a more realistic time frame by talking to professionals, such as a builder, designer or architect. The advantage of speaking to the professionals is that they have done this kind of thing over and over and will have a better idea of what it takes to get the job done.


All building projects rely on certain aspects being completed before others can follow. This means there can be delays if something is not completed on time. As a rough guide, here is the order in which building work is usually carried out (of course, this will depend on the specific scope of the project).

  • Structural Building Work. This includes things like knocking down walls, altering existing layouts, and fixing existing issues such as leaks, dampness and foundations.

  • Windows. Installation of windows, moving windows or replacing windows.

  • Electrics And Plumbing (1st). This is called the first fixing stage and includes the prewire and pre-plumb which is when all the wiring is installed for the lighting, power outlets and appliances. It is done while there are no wall linings as it makes the job easier and faster.

  • Plastering And Gibing. This is the time to replace wall coverings and prepare the walls and ceiling for painting. Spending some extra time here will ensure a good finish, especially if you are merging the old and the new.

  • Tiling. Tiling needs to be completed after the wall linings go on and before the rest of the floor coverings go down.

  • Painting. The painting always takes much longer than you expect, be sure to allow for contingencies in the timing on this one.

  • Electrics And Plumbing (2nd). After the painting is complete, its time for the second fix from the electrician and plumber. This includes things like installing light fittings and power outlets, shower and tap fittings.

  • Flooring. Floor coverings such as carpet and vinyl are the last thing to finish off as you don’t want to damage the flooring by getting any paint, mucky footprints or other stains on them.

Congratulations! The planning stages of your house renovation are now complete! Its time to get the action underway and make a start! Or check out more of our articles here for inspiration for your renovation project.