Thinking of building or renovating?

How your project comes together…

If you’re thinking of embarking on a home renovation or building an all-new house, it can be a daunting task and an overwhelming process.  Needless to say, TV shows like Grand Designs and The Block have given the public very unrealistic depictions of how these projects really come together, and you might be wondering how a regular project plays out.  If you’re planning on a home project in the near future, here are a few tips and tricks to start the ball rolling…     

  1. Build a good picture in your mind of what you want.  (An extra bedroom and rumpus room?  A new level to your single-storey house?  An extension out the back?  A widened garage? Internal alterations to your wall layouts to create a combined open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area?)  Don’t just think about what your house needs are now, but think about what you’ll need from your house in 5-10 years’ time.  This consideration is particularly important if you’ve got young kids or are planning a family…how you use your house and what you need from it will change.  Or, alternatively, at the other end of the spectrum, consider if you’re likely to soon be empty nesters or if aging is starting to limit your mobility.  Don’t plan a 1st Floor addition without a lift if you already struggle with stairs! 
  1. Have a clear picture of how much you want to spend, i.e. what is your total budget?  Your budget should allow for not just the construction cost, but for consultants’ fees, Council fees, financing fees, and – if applicable – the costs of moving out or renting while the construction work takes place.  Bear in mind that construction costs – particularly in the domestic homebuilding sector – have skyrocketed in recent years, so be sure to have realistic expectations of what you can afford, or what your money will buy you.  And make sure you give yourself a buffer for any interest rate changes.  Also allow yourself a buffer with your time scale – most building projects take longer than initially anticipated. 
  1. Engage an architect.  Your architect will understand your local council’s Development Control Plan (i.e. what you can and can’t do) and tailor a design that takes into account the project’s objectives, your budget, and – of course – they’ll inject their creative flair!  Your architect can project manage your submissions to Council and other authorities, and can also assemble your project team, e.g. your structural engineer, your civil/stormwater engineer, your surveyor, and the like.  They can also recommend builders, call for tenders, project manage the procurement processes, help you select your builder, and then project manage your project through the construction phase.   
Your architect will liaise with the other consultants (for example, your structural engineer) and co-ordinate the project through the design phase.
  1. Choose your architect and builder carefully.  Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you might find yourself in a close, working relationship with these entities for a year or two – even longer on big projects.  It’s important to ensure you share the same values, and that the respective personalities gel well.  (Bear in mind that architects already know this!  The first meeting you have with them to discuss your project will likely double as them interviewing you to decide if they want to work with you!       
  1. Your project is now underway!  Each project is different and will follow its own unique course with its own set of requirements but, for the most part, the majority of projects will play out roughly as follows: 
  • You and your architect will arrive at the agreed design and the architect will prepare the appropriate plans for approval.  
  • The architectural plans will be submitted for approval – either with your local council for a DA (Development Application) or with a principal certifying authority (i.e. a private certifier) for a Complying Development.  Note that the initial plans submitted to council are usually just a basic set of drawings.  Once the project has official approval, i.e. development consent, your architect will start preparing more detailed and complete plans for the construction stage.       
  • Your project manager (typically your architect, unless you’ve engaged a specialist consultant) will issue their drawings to the various consultants for their input and design, i.e. the structural engineer, the stormwater/hydraulic engineer, etc.  Their drawings, reports, and certificates are typically required to be submitted to the certifier in order to obtain the Construction Certificate.  The Construction Certificate is the magical piece of paper that permits you to actually start building on site!  Depending on your project and personal preferences, other consultants may also come onboard, e.g. an interior designer, landscape architect, quantity surveyor, heritage consultant, etc)  
  • At any stage along the preceding steps, you’ll be liaising with one or more builders.  You may have a builder lined up from the start, or you may choose to go out to tender and get quotes back from several builders.  It’s obviously good to get pricing back from builders early in the process to make sure you’re still within budget, although it’s unlikely a builder can give you an accurate price until all the final designs, drawings, and specifications are in from the various consultants.  
House renovation engineer
Lots of different trades, consultants, and authorities (e.g. Council officers) will play a role on site during the construction phase of your project.
  • During the construction, many of the preceding parties will still be involved with your project…it’s not only your builder taking care of the construction work. For example, the structural engineer has to inspect the building work as it proceeds so that it can be certified as being in accordance with their design and the various Australian Standards.  Your architect will make regular inspections to check for conformance and also quality.  There may also be difficulties encountered on site (unforeseen and latent conditions, delays with materials, etc), or you might change your mind about a feature and a design change is needed.  Most consultants are required to submit their sign-off and certificates at the end of the project so that you can obtain the Occupation Certificate, and so they’ll have ongoing input and oversight of the project during the build. 

Sound daunting? Yes, it can seem overwhelming at the start, and there’ll inevitably be twists and turns along the way.  But gather a good team around you, and the result – and your house – will be worth it.  Get in touch with us here if you’d like to discuss any structural aspects of your house or to chat about the feasibility of your plans before embarking on your grand design! 


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