Christmas has come and gone, and you’re chock-full of ideas from the latest season of The Block where apparently everyone had bucketloads to spend. But where should you start? We’ve all read up on the ‘how tos’ of renovating, but what are the big decisions we need to make before taking a sledgehammer to the wall? Deciding if and when it’s best to engage an architect or an interiors expert is the first step to creating the home of your dreams. And now’s the perfect time to figure out your update by making your new year’s reno resolutions. Let’s have a look at the whys and the why nots of our favourite and most expensive pastime.

WHY RENOVATE?

Apart from the 0.00001 per cent of us who have a lazy $500k burning a hole in our back pockets, renovations are usually undertaken out of necessity. A growing family, the need to down-size or even the dream of a new style can see us planning modern kitchens, an extra bedroom or that zen-like space we all yearn for. The list is endless, but before you start, know what you want (sometimes the hardest step, but more on that later). Write it down, have your budget in order, and have a clear direction of where you want this thing to go. Preparation is everything, and the more meticulous you are in the early stages, the easier it will be down the track. Set a date for when you want to have everything ready to go because it’s easy to lose track of time and forever be changing your mind. Don’t be distracted by every little new tile, tap or rug that hits the shelves – think of the endgame and what you want to achieve. Budgets always blow out when plans change, so be black and white with where you are headed.

DO I REALLY NEED AN ARCHITECT?

Architects aren’t cheap – but the good ones are worth their weight in gold. If you’re looking for a quick reno with no major floorplan changes, a good builder will be your best friend. If you’ve checked with your council and know you don’t need DA approval for your project, you can bypass the expense of an architect, and a decent interior designer or a savvy builder will more than suffice. If you have a clear indication of where you are headed, an intuitive builder will know the most practical way to reach your goals. An interior designer, who can be cheaper than an architect, will bring a level of flair to a project, and a draftsperson can submit basic plans for DA approval, so there’s always more than one way to skin a cat. If you do have to go through the DA process, proper plans are a must, and considering councils love to deny plans on the smallest of oversights, a thorough and experienced architect can be a godsend. It would be a huge bonus if your architect has worked with your builder before, as this relationship is crucial to a great build. Architects are generally dreamers and the builders are the ones who translate those dreams into a bricks-and-mortar reality. Costs can run into thousands upon thousands of dollars with an architect, so make sure you have a predetermined structure of fees, or you will end up having great plans but no money left for the build. Saving on architectural fees can free up funds for that much-loved vanity or that hot marble tile that you’ve always wanted.

WHEN CAN I GO WITHOUT AN ARCHITECT?

If you’re not up for a big build or changing the floorplans too much, ask your builder, designer or draftsperson to draw up some plans. Make sure your builder knows the local and national building codes and signs everything off before any work commences with the necessary approvals. Architects are brilliant for a big-picture project and can offer ideas you wouldn’t have even thought possible but if the job is small and simple, you may not need their expertise.

WHAT ABOUT A BUILDER?

A good builder is fundamental to a successful renovation, and unless you’re just laying tiles or splashing paint around your home, they’re more often than not a necessity. If you’re not sure which tradie to hire, ask friends for recommendations. Experienced builders will ensure your trades turn up on time, do the job right the first time and manage the entirety of the build. They can deal with council and should know all the regulations necessary for your certificate of occupancy. If you’d like to manage the reno yourself, be prepared for countless hours chasing materials and labour, and fighting like hell over that pricey invoice. A decent builder will have a contact list of trusted trades, and you can sleep easy knowing that they are on the ball.

WHAT ABOUT AN INTERIOR DESIGNER?

If you’re not too sure where you want to start or how your style can be interpreted into a build, an interior designer will be priceless. They can interpret any visions or ideas you have for your reno, and structure that into a manageable project. Quality interior designers can project manage your entire build and have a little black book full of professional contacts. They (well, we) are an artistic bunch, so make sure you choose someone who has a proven track record and has your vision in mind throughout the project. If you know exactly what you want and the style you want to achieve, an interior designer may be a wasted cost as a builder and a draftsperson can get the job done for you.

One last thing….

EYE OF A HAWK

This is the most important thing to remember. No-one is as passionate about your reno as you. Be the master of quality control, but it’s a fine balance. A healthy line of communication with your builder and your trades is a must, but avoid hounding them every day. You shouldn’t judge a job before it’s finished, but make sure you get what you pay for by understanding every step and decision made throughout the project. Transforming your home, whether it’s a small or big change, will probably be one of the toughest new year’s resolutions to keep, but find the right team, and you’ll have ticked off that box come next year.

Want more?  Check out our favourite rooms from The Block 2016: