Avoid budget blowouts and run rennos efficiently

Monday 23 March 2015, 7:37AM
By Harold French

Getting stuck into home improvement is a great Kiwi tradition and with some smarts, you can get that perfect kitchen or bathroom without having a persistent financial hangover. Giving a little thought to how you approach the job – and pay for it – can mean a better result, faster and at a lower cost.

1. The first step in any renovation is figuring out just what it is you are hoping to achieve. While most of us like to think we know what’s going on in terms of the idea, this is probably the one place you really should consider getting the input of a professional. Do yourself a favour: take a blank sheet of paper and draw your bathroom or kitchen to scale. Sticking to the kitchen, place the refrigerator, the cooktop, the oven, the cupboards, the sink…you’ll find that getting these items in the right place is really quite tricky. Even the seemingly simple job of knocking up a deck requires some design expertise – and there are regulations which apply, for good reason too: a deck has to bear load, so it has to meet certain engineering specifications to ensure the safety of those who barbecue on it. For any structural changes, consents are required from Council – and a professional will advise of these requirements and their cost.

2. Once you know what you want to achieve, set a budget (or cost it and see if it is financially possible). At this point, it is useful to consider how you will be paying for the renno: got cash in hand? No problem – but typically, you’ll be financing it. If so, there are a couple of options to consider. One is to take out a personal loan from a provider like GE Money.  Look for a competitive interest rate and a proven credit provider. The other popular option is to access equity from your mortgage; while this typically provides a favourable interest rate, consider the fact that you may be paying off your renovation over a period of tens of years. Ringfencing the cost of the renovation in a fixed-term personal loan can be a far better option, as it has a considerably reduced repayment period.

2. With the finances sorted out, formulate a project plan. This is where it starts to get exciting: how exactly will you go about getting the job done? The range of options is wide and (as a result) can be more than a little daunting. There’s materials to consider, from the ‘kitset’ offerings from hardware stores which offer all kinds of great products which make it easier to upgrade, improve and enhance your living areas, to the more mundane aspects like nails and cement. As Kiwis, we tend to want to do it all ourselves, but once again, it can be worth getting the experts in, particularly for those jobs which require some expertise (like cabinet making or plumbing and electrical work). Bear in mind that some jobs (particularly electrical) require professionals with relevant qualifications for their safe execution and compliance with applicable standards.

4. Source your expertise with some savvy. When it comes to manpower for home improvements, the time-tested Kiwi way is undoubtedly to source from a pool of willing mates – and, while we’ve discussed using the input of professionals for a number of critical aspects of the planned renno, there are other parts that depend on skilled input to achieve the desired result. For example you and your mates probably won’t face too many difficulties in getting the dry wall installed, but the tricky bit is the GIB-stopping – if that’s not done right, the entire job can be a disaster. Bear this in mind: don’t be ‘penny wise and pound foolish’, by knowing your limitations (and those of your helpful friends), you can get the balance between cost and a professional outcome. Remember, when doing it yourself, you don’t want the end result to look DIY.

With just about any project, planning is always the most critical component of success. As the builders say, ‘measure twice and cut once’ to make sure  - with a clear idea of what you intend to do, with the necessary funds to finance it and the right help lined up, your DIY project can be executed more quickly and will deliver a lasting result.