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Picture this: You’ve got your dream space in mind, and you’re keen to dive head first into managing your first renovation project. But where do you start? What happens next? And, what obstacles might you run into along the way?

A smooth renovation happens long before the hammer swings, and those unknowns can stall projects for months, even years, leaving homeowners wondering how they could have done things differently from the outset.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about managing a renovation project, from:

  • Initial planning

  • Setting your budget

  • Understanding consents

  • Hiring a tradie

  • Tips for managing a renovation project

  • Homeowner hindsights

  • And, a checklist to round it up.

Whether it’s your kitchen, bathroom, outdoors or somewhere else always start with a plan

Initial Planning

Every well-executed renovation begins with a plan. It’s your chance to get creative and bring all of your inspiration and research together to form an idea.

Think of the “Who, What, When, and Why” of your renovation, from:

  • Who’s the renovation for: Think about who will be living under your roof. Is it just you, your family, or are you prepping your home to attract potential buyers?

  • What’s the focus: Which parts of your home are in need of a makeover, and which are going to be the most beneficial in the long run?

  • Timing is everything: Before biting off more than you can chew, decide what needs to be done now, and what can wait?

  • To, the big WHY: Why are you carrying out this renovation? Is it to add more value to your home, put your style in every corner, adapt to changing needs, or just to spruce things up?

Expect the unexpected when drawing up your budget

Setting Your Budget

Determining a budget is like laying out a roadmap for your initial concepts and ideas. It’s your guide to decision-making, and helps you navigate through options while staying within your financial boundaries.

Ideally, you don’t want to spend more on your renovation than what your home is worth, even if selling isn’t on your mind right now.

Every budget should have some wiggle room, incase the unexpected happens, and figuring out a maximum spend can help you avoid over-capitalising.

You can choose your maximum spend by looking at:

  1. How much you initially bought your home for
  2. The estimated resale value based on the current market conditions
  3. Your home’s current condition.

Pool installations are one of many additions that require a council consent

Understanding Consents

Before diving into your renovation, it’s important to figure out if you need a building consent.

If you’re thinking of making big changes like knocking down walls, structural modifications, additions, or anything that affects the building’s safety, accessibility, or weathertightness, you’ll most likely need a consent.

The first step you can take is consulting a tradie, the local council or a building authority, as they can provide guidance and information specific to your renovation.

From there, the building consent process typically follows these stages:

  • Submission of detailed plans, specifications, and relevant documents outlining the proposed work.
  • Reviewal of submissions to ensure compliance with building codes, safety standards, and regulations.

  • Approval of the consent, granting permission for the renovation work to go ahead.

  • Periodic inspections throughout construction to ensure ongoing compliance.

Get your A-team of tradies together before your renovation commences

Hiring a Tradie

Skilled tradies not only bring their know-how; they also offer an understanding of regulations, best practices, and costs for your project.

In the design stage, architects and engineers can help ensure your plans look good and will create a space that lasts, while the likes of builders, electricians and plumbers will bring quality workmanship to every corner.

No matter the trade, they will be able to help you turn your idea into a reality, ensuring precision and quality, while following requirements and building codes along the way.

When choosing a tradie on Builderscrack, it’s important to consider:

  • Their qualifications, certifications, and licences

  • Their track record through assessing their profile

  • Any relevant experience in similar projects

  • Reviews and references to see whether they’re a good match for your project

  • The way they collaborate and communicate with others on Builderscrack.

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Tips for Managing a Renovation Project

If you’re aiming for a swift renovation with minimal involvement, engaging a project manager to oversee your project might be your best bet.

However, if you prefer a hands-on approach, and you’re eager to absorb knowledge and gain experience, you might opt into managing the renovation project yourself.

Either way, here’s what you can do to get the best outcome for your project:

  • Pre-plan: From budgets to design, make sure you have everything in place before you dive in (see our ‘Pro tip’ below).

  • Establish roles: Every project starts with clearly defined roles and responsibilities to avoid confusion and ensure accountability.

  • Hold progress meetings: Schedule regular meetings with the renovation team to discuss progress, challenges, and share updates, to keep everyone aligned with the end goal.

  • Be adaptable: Be prepared for any unexpected issues or changes and remain flexible in adjusting schedules or plans accordingly.

  • Communicate: Establish clear communication channels with your tradies, and make them aware of any crossovers (more on this next).

Meticulous planning can help you achieve dream results, just like this couple in Project Home

Communication Is Key

When it comes to managing a renovation project, communication is key. And, with plenty of tools to help you keep everyone in the loop, communication is easier than ever.

On Builderscrack, you can manage all conversations with your tradies through our messaging system. This helps ensure integrity, accountability, and security if you ever need to refer back.

Here are 3 communication tips you won’t want to miss when managing your renovation project:

  • Clarify expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations around quality, timelines, and any specific project requirements early on.

  • Stay in the loop: Use the tradies’ knowledge and experience to your advantage by being open to ideas, concerns, and hearing progress updates along the way.

  • Feedback: Listen to any feedback, so that you can address any issues promptly and prevent potential delays.

  • Be mindful: Remember that you may not be the tradies’ only client. Openness and honesty can go a long way.

Manage your tradie conversations all in one place with Builderscracks messaging system

Homeowner Hindsights

Over the past year, we interviewed homeowners across New Zealand who managed their own renovation projects — each with amazing outcomes.

However, every renovation project comes with hindsights, and these homeowners, despite their amazing outcomes, have shared what they wished they had known before they started.

  • Try to use the same subcontractors so that the workmanship and finish are consistent, and don’t underestimate the cost and timeframe for the job to be done at a high standard — Dave from Wellington

  • Take your time planning and start looking early, and create a schedule so that you can manage efficiency and outline when things may overlap — Melissa from Auckland

  • Start with collecting what inspires you in a folder or other. Put the time and effort into researching how you want something to look; it’ll be more rewarding in the end — Clare from Auckland

  • Check reviews to build confidence and avoid surprises, and have a contingency plan in place and explore other options (tradies) if necessary — Christine from Wellington

  • Visualise how you will use the space, and don’t always rely on DIY — Hana from Christchurch

  • Approach the project one day at a time by breaking it into smaller bite-sized chunks. Don’t get overwhelmed, and have faith that everything will come together with a bit of help — Shalini from Auckland

Real-life renovation hindsights | Read more

Checklist for Managing a Renovation Project

Before the Renovation:

  • Define goals and budget: Set a realistic budget to cover all expenses, from materials, to hiring a tradie, to consents, to contingencies.

  • Research and planning: Gather inspiration from magazines, online, or professionals who can conceptualise your ideas.

  • Choosing professionals: Research, read reviews and engage qualified tradies who will meet your style and functional needs.

  • Get consents: Check, or have your tradie check, local building codes and acquire necessary permits and approvals before starting the work.

  • Demolition and preparation: Get started on any demolition work and start preparing your home for the work.

  • Material supply: Finalise material choices and place orders with the supplier or your tradie to save time and avoid delays.

During the Renovation:

  • Construction and installation: Oversee the renovation process and keep up-to-date with your tradies’ progress.

  • Regular inspections: Verify progress, quality, and compliance with regulations to avoid any risks and prevent any do-overs or delays.

After the Renovation:

  • Finishing touches: Complete painting, flooring, installations, and any remaining details.

  • Final walkthrough: Do a final walk through to identify any possible changes or issues before completion.

  • Clean-up and completion: Start clearing the work site and organise for all the renovation waste to be removed from your home to avoid safety hazards.

  • Final approvals: Arrange for final inspections to get final approvals and certificates.

Project Home: Chapter 1

If you're looking for more inspiration, see how this Christchurch couple managed their full house renovation, warts and all, in Project Home.
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