Renovating a house can be extremely rewarding, but anyone who has lived to tell the tale will also attest to it being one of life’s most stressful events! Get some top tips before you start.
You may start out with meticulously-planned budgets, strict schedules and lofty dreams, but it only takes one kink in the chain for these well-laid plans to spiral out of control - bringing pressure to make fast, often irreparable decisions, not to mention the impact it can have on the relationships around you.
So BEFORE you make the decision to leap into a renovation, consider these fail-safe tips from the experts -
Plan for your planning - getting approval
Getting local council approval for structural work, extensions or additions can easily take six months, sometimes significantly longer so you need to plan your renovation work well in advance. Planning, patience and persistence are the bywords of the experienced renovator and your first lesson in all three is going through the approvals process.
If you live in a heritage-listed property, there will be more hoops to jump through and committees to please. It also takes time to find the right architect and builder, then to have the plans drawn up. And having found an architect or builder you can trust, you may have to wait until they’re available. The good ones are always heavily booked.
Is everything legal with any prior renovations?
Before you sign on the dotted line, especially if the house has recently been renovated or extended, check with the local council to see if a building permit was issued. If the alterations are illegal, particularly if they contravene the building regulations, they could become your expensive responsibility. You could be asked to reinstate them to council requirements.
If you’re planning an extension, check council requirements on setbacks from boundaries, site coverage and restrictions on construction types. And its worth asking if there are plans afoot for road widening or re-zoning. You wouldn’t want to pour your hard-earned money into the house if the road is about to become a speed strip, or a factory is likely to be built opposite.
Do you need a permit to make any changes?
On the subject of permits, whether you’re renovating an old house or a newer one, you need building approval from the local council before you make ‘physical’ changes to it. These include relatively minor things such as altering doors and windows or demolishing a front fence.
You can do repairs and maintenance if you use identical materials. But if you replace iron on a roof with tiles, for example, you would need building approval. There is logic in it, because tiles are heavier, so you would need to reinforce the roof structure.
Remain true to the original style
As with most old houses, you can reproduce the detail of the original in a new extension or you can graft something modern in a contrasting style. If you go for a hard-edged glass addition, it must be done sensitively and handled by an expert to complement the house.
The preference is to retain the style and reproduce the line, windows, doors and door furniture so you can’t tell where the old ends and the new begins. If you go period-style, you must tread sensitively. Victorian houses didn’t have informal living rooms, for example, and kitchens were often an afterthought detached from the main house, so you wouldn’t want to re-create them. You can incorporate reproduction tiles, polished pine and brass fittings for an old-style look.