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In this series, we follow a Christchurch couple in their bid to turn their 1960’s fixer-upper, from a retro rental to a modern home.

If you’ve ever considered buying an older home but have lacked the confidence to tackle something totally outdated, this guide is for you. It’s a whole lot of fun, and not as hard (or anywhere near as risky) as you might imagine.

In the previous chapter, Jeremy and Alana shared how they approached the task of finding a builder; the questions they asked and what they were looking for.

With their builder found, and pricing agreed; it’s time to go.

Day one was a key day for their renovation. They’d plan with their builder, all the trades they’d need, and identify these tradespeoples’ various roles in the renovation. Mark (their builder), needed the house electrically isolated, so it was safe to begin work. Then it was straight into demolishing the old in preparation for the new.

So how did day one start, what were the priorities?

With their builder contracted, and the high-level plan settled on, it was time to get into the nitty-gritty. Work would start at 7:30am, and begin with a short planning session to determine priorities and goals.

  • We met Mark and Tim, the builders on-site at 7:30am. We had arranged for our Electrician (for which a future chapter will be dedicated to)  to meet us that morning too.

    The builders couldn’t begin until the house was made safe electrically. This involved isolating the electricity supply at the main board and installing a “site power box”, with sockets on it; so everyone still had power for tools etc.

    The other priority was detailing a list of jobs required to be done by other trades. This would form the job descriptions we would use to post the jobs on Builderscrack, finding the other tradespeople we needed.

What did your plan look like at the end of the initial session?

After spending some time discussing the finer details of the project, Jeremy and Alana had a long list of jobs, and the respective trades that these jobs would be done by. Future chapters will cover each trade and the jobs they were responsible for in more detail.

  • Even if our story wasn’t going to be featured on Builderscrack, we’d have used it.

    • We could put in all the details about our job, and have builders express interest. (rather than ringing around)
    • By going through each builder’s history and feedback, we got a good idea of other people’s experiences with them. (rather than the hit and miss of navigating multiple websites)
    • We controlled who we then communicated with.

    We carefully crafted our job post to appeal to the kind of builder we wanted to make contact with. We viewed our job as a kind of ‘ad’, to attract the best builders for our job – and made sure to include as much detail as we knew about what needed to be done:

    We have recently purchased an original 1960’s three bedroom brick home. We would like to completely refresh the house inside and out. This includes the following building work:

    • Remove all existing timber single glazing and replaWe required the services of an additional 9 trades, in addition to the builder. Each trade would need to be on-site on a certain day, and most work would be dependent on other work being done first. For example, painting couldn’t start before plastering was finished.

      For most renovations the builder would take care of this, and would use their own “subbies”, or sub-contractors, arranging with them to be on-site when needed.

      We were doing this job ourselves, so we needed to work closely with Mark the builder, to make sure everything went smoothly.

      We went over every aspect of the renovation, and all of the details. We made a basic timeline, and pencilled in dates for when each trade should be on-site and ready to do their bit. From our previous research, we were already pretty well informed of what trades would do what – but finalising this with Mark was essential. We had a solid job list, with all the trades that were needed.

      Here is the list of trades and jobs they would do, loosely in order of when required.


      • Measure all existing window and door openings
      • Manufacture new aluminium joinery with double glazing
      • Manufacture two new triple stacker sliding doors and a front entrance door
      • Deliver all new glazing to site


      • Make safe the entire house for building work to commence
      • Install site power supply for tradespeople to use while power is off
      • Assist us with lighting choices and install selected lights and switches
      • Install and wire additional wall sockets
      • Generally check existing wiring, sockets, switches and switchboard, and bring up to code where needed
      • Wire up and install new oven, hobs, extractor fan and hot water cylinder
      • Any other electrical work as required


      • Brick over two existing external doorways. These have been framed up by our builder. This brickwork will need to be toothed into the existing brickwork to create a seamless pattern
      • We will replace two large windows with triple stacker sliding doors. The doors will extend down to floor level, another foot or so lower than the original windows. The surplus bricks will be removed. We need angled brick sills re-built for the bottom of the doors.
      • The main entrance door was not possible to install without removing a column of bricks from the wall next to it. These will need to be rebuilt.


      • Check over existing plumbing and replace galv pipework and other outdated/substandard pipework if/where it exists
      • Replace existing low-pressure hot water cylinder with mains pressure cylinder. This will also involve moving the location of the cylinder and installing all necessary fittings, valves and pipework.
      • Remove existing overflow from roof
      • Remove and replace existing plumbing/drainage to kitchen and laundry sinks
      • Replace two seals in the shower and bath mixers – they are currently dripping
      • Install new faucets and mixers in kitchen and laundry
      • Any other plumbing work as required


      • Plaster extensive re-gibbing in living area including several wall and ceiling junctions
      • Skim-coat several square meters of existing gib
      • Skim some existing damage to wallpapered-walls
      • Work should be finished to a paintable standard


      • Paint the entire inside of the home and office area. Approximately 180 sqm in total
      • Provide list of paint required for us to supply
      • Fill gaps and nail holes
      • Prime timber surrounds of new double-glazing joinery
      • As part of this project we need several meters of spouting, a garage door, sliding door and entrance door to garage primed and painted black to match new house joinery

      Kitchen Maker & Installer

      • Experienced kitchen designer and maker to consult with us and design a beautiful new kitchen for our home


      • Tile approximately 1.5sqm of wall to act as a kitchen splashback
      • The tiles are white 150×75 “mini subway” tiles which we will supply
      • There are two wall sockets in the area to be tiled


      • Consult, source and install approx 30 sqm of vinyl plank and 80sqm of carpet

After the planning session was taken care of, what was next?

Now that Jeremy and Alana had the full list of trades they’d need to complete their renovation, and Justin the electrician had made the site safe, Mark could focus on demolition.

Since Justin was on-site, they all took the opportunity to discuss various electrical aspects of the project, like ballpark dates on when new wiring could be installed, and what Mark should do with any wires which were being moved.

  • It was a real thrill once we knew with certainty which trades we needed to find, to do what jobs (and roughly when). We were keen to get on with following the same process we used to find Mark, the builder – to find everyone else.

    With the planning with us done and dusted, Mark took the opportunity to go over the electrical considerations in a bit more detail with Justin and us. We had an initial discussion around what wiring would be moved where, and at which stage additional wiring would be installed. Because we were reconfiguring the space a little, some of the switches would need to be moved, so we just made sure everything was clear.

  • With the critical electrical details sorted, it was onto some hard work. Mark and Tim attacked the living area and kitchen first, pulling gib off the walls, and demolishing everything that stood in the way of our vision.

    This was quite a bit. The entire old kitchen, the hot water cupboard, a portion of the bathroom wall for the cavity slider, laundry and a portion of an old wall all had to be pulled out, amongst other things.

    It was amazing to see how much they got done on the first day given that they hadn’t run into any unexpected tricky parts.

    I must admit we had a bit of a “what are we doing?” moment, staring at the enormous pile of old house in the middle of the old living room. But we had confidence in our plan, vision, and everyone involved.

Lessons learned from the day

  • Any renovation that involves working around electrical wires will probably require the house be made safe by an electrician.

  • Regardless of whether you’re getting the builder to use their own sub-trades or not – it’s important to have a clear understanding with your builder on what exactly is going to be done.

  • Even if you’re only managing certain parts of the renovation like kitchen, or flooring – it’s still vital you make a plan with your builder for when they can be installed, so you can optimise timing and avoid delays.

  • Hold your nerve when viewing the site mid-demolition! It can be a little confronting to see your home in that state.

  • Generally speaking, it’s not easily possible to live in your home when it’s undergoing any kind of renovation of scale.

Gallery (click to enlarge)

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