July 18th, 2015 in


Selection’s process: What is it, and do I need an interior designer?

Selection’s process: What is it, and do I need an interior designer?

The selection’s process is what I call the system that I use for selecting all of the products, materials, and various items that will be used in putting together your building project. The list of items can be somewhat daunting and will be driven by the scale and size of your project. In my opinion this is one of the most important steps in getting organised and setting yourself up for success.

The list of selection items could be endless and will depend on your individual project. Below I have listed some examples of the items you may need to select or at least have some input on when dealing with any of the various professionals who you may have employed.

You can download a copy of the basic selection’s template I use in the pre-commencement stage of all my projects.

Various selection items may include, but are not limited to:

  • Internal Finishes — Kitchens and appliances; stone benches; glass or tile splashbacks; vanities; shaving cabinets; detailed joinery; toilets, taps, and other associated bathroom fittings; tiles; various stones such as marble, granite, limestone, etc.; shower screens; light fittings; plaster cornices (or none depending on detailing); skirtings; architraves; internal doors; door handles and associated fittings; networking cabling or smart wiring for home automation; floor boards; carpets; paint finishes and colour selections; wall paper and feature wall detailing.


  • External Finishes— Windows and doors; face bricks; cladding; various sheet panelling; rendered surfaces; roof coverings; terracotta tiles; concrete tiles; slate shingles; metal roof sheeting; fascia and gutter styles;external surfaces with tiles, stone, or concrete such as driveways, paths, and retaining walls etc.; decks; pergolas; and painted surfaces including colour selections.

The list is endless depending on the level of detail that is required for your project, but you will be surprised because even the smallest projects can include many of these various items.

Depending on the level of assistance you have through your selection’s process, it is going to take you a considerable amount of time to select all of these items — believe me that it will be worth it!

I have personally been involved in hundreds of construction projects over the last fifteen years that have been at both ends of the spectrum: from everything completely selected right down to the last detail prior to starting onsite, to others that are just so anxious to make a start they are prepared to wing the selections along the way. Let me tell you that the clients with the latter approach usually ended up with considerably longer build times onsite due to delays with selecting and supplying materials. They were usually the ones that ended up blowing their budget as well. When you’re rushed or pressured for a decision, it does not leave you a lot of time to shop around!

So the lesson to take away from this is to select as much as you can up-front in the pre-commencement stage. By doing so you will be able to shop around for the best prices, and also adjust your selections if you find out that costs are over or under your original budget.

interior design and the selections process


Allowances and Showrooms

If you go out to the marketplace for tenders from various builders, tradesman, or suppliers with your plans before you have made selections, it will be difficult to compare your prices as people may be making various allowances, either based on their standard inclusions, or guesstimates until the selection is finalised.

Allowances made for items before a selection is finalised is usually referred to as a ‘provisional sum.’ We will touch on this more in our estimating section of the site, but my advice would be to try and avoid too many of these before you start because your true building cost will be unknown.

Part of the selection’s process will involve you having to visit various showrooms and talking to suppliers about the products you are looking to purchase or receive quotes on. This part of the process can become time consuming and frustrating if not performed correctly. I recommend downloading my selection’s template, in my 5-stage process, where I lay how to focus on getting the big ticket items out of the way first.

There are also various showrooms and suppliers out there that are one-stop-shops. If you can select your plumbing fittings, tiles, kitchens, and appliances in one spot, it will save you a lot of running around. Even if you do want to shop around, starting at these suppliers will help you to create a wish-list of everything you require, including prices that you can then take away and break down to shop around with.

Some of these suppliers and showrooms will require appointments, so I recommend you call ahead to arrange one as you will need to allocate a good portion of your day to this process.This way you will be guaranteed to get your showroom representative’s full attention in helping with your selections.

If you can plan or block out a full day then you should be able to squeeze in at least three major selection item categories. For example, you might choose to focus on the bathroom fitting and tile showroom, the kitchen showroom, and the window and door showroom. I recommend them in this order because the first one is a the most time-consuming and can be draining when you consider all of the individual fittings, such as taps and toilets, that maybe required in your project.

Kitchen selections can also be onerous, but if you have a reasonably detailed plan of what you require, the process should be streamlined.As for window selections, depending on the level of detail you or your designer has specified,the selection may only be between timber or aluminium, colour of frames and hardware, or a selection of frame-size grade of residential, commercial, or semi-commercial.


Interior Designers

Now if all of that sounds a bit overwhelming, and considering it’s only the tip of the iceberg, I would suggest you go back to the first question I posed: Do I need an interior designer? If you are time-poor, don’t feel confident with selecting your items, or just want some guidance in the look and feel of your overall design, then an interior designer could be the way to go.

The benefit of hiring an interior designer to take care of your selections is that most companies or individuals will have two or three standard suppliers that they use for individual products or required items that mesh with their overall design style. After an initial meeting or brief from yourself to the designer, a selection schedule or finishes schedule could be generated with pictures and prices of the majority of items ready for you to approve.

Of course with this method you would probably still want to visit the showrooms and look at the individual items or products you will be purchasing, but at least this way all of the leg work has been done for you upfront,which can save you the headache of all the decision making (or at least relieve some of the pressure).

Some architects, builders, and building consultants will also offer an interior design service, so I suggest shopping around if you need some extra assistance and guidance with all of your selections.However please remember that the more of this process you do upfront prior to starting with your project, the more money you will save!

While on the topic of money, you are going to need to find out what your proposed workis going to cost, so let’s move onto ‘Estimating: What is it and how can I save myself thousands?

Good luck and happy selecting 🙂

Best wishes,

James Mason




Online Course Available Now

The super-simple, step-by-step process I use in my business to renovate bathrooms fast and on budget.


Yes, I Want to Know More!

July 18th, 2015 in


The importance of having plans or sketches for your project.

Plans: You have an idea, now it’s time to get it on paper. Do I draw something myself, or engage a draftsman/architect/builder/building consultant?

First things first: no matter how big or small your project, you must have a plan set down on paper!

I can almost hear some of you saying “But I’m only doing some small internal modifications/renovating a bathroom/removing a doorway, why would I need plans?”

The answer is: You must if you plan on having a successful building experience. The more planning you do up-front, including getting your ideas on paper, the easier your life will be.

Plus I GUARANTEE that you will save yourself money by being organised. Subcontractors, tradesman, and suppliers will want to work with you if you are organised. If you’re not, you will quite literally pay the price.

Unfortunately, if the people you are looking to work with on your project get the slightest hint that you are unorganised, they will factor this into their pricing to compensate for the extra running around and organising that they will need to do. Which takes us right back to the original question I first posed:Can I save 30% on the building cost by becoming an owner-builder?

Don’t freak out!

You don’t have to spend thousands if you are only doing small jobs; sometimes a simple sketch that can be replicated and distributed is enough to get you started.Plus there are various programs I use that can help you with drafting. I will touch on those later.

On the flip side, if you are doing major work, you should be expecting to spend thousands and even tens of thousands depending on the scale of the project and the detail involved.

So we come back to the original question: Do I draw something myself, or engage a draftsman/an architect/a builder/building consultant?

Drawing or sketching something yourself

I would only recommend this if the work is minor and does not require approval by the council, or the relevant authorities, and you have the idea and confidence to write down exactly what you want to do. To best determine if approval is required, you should contact your local council and ask to speak with a duty planner to discuss the work you are proposing to do. They will have guidelines and information you can use to assess this. Most professionals, including builders, building consultants, draftsman, and architects, should be able to point you in the right direction, but I always recommend doing your own research as well.

You can research online through this link (NSW): http://hub.planning.nsw.gov.au/BuildingorRenovating/DoIneedapproval.aspx

Generally speaking, projects that would not require approval are non-structural internal modifications that are classed as :making good an original item or internal area of your property.” For example: a new internal coat of paint and lining, some bathroom refurbishments, kitchen replacements, new furnishings such as doors, handles, skirting, architraves, cornices, carpets and floor boards.

NOTE: some dwellings may be heritage sites, and even replacing or removing internal fixtures may require council approval. I recommend you do your homework if you think you fall into this category.

Now if you do want to have a crack at getting your own ideas onto a plan, I recommend trying  Edrawsoft which in an online programme that has some great packages and tutorials for beginners, they have a FREE TRIAL that can be downloaded to play with, and if you want to purchase the program its around $149. Its a pretty simple drop and drag style of program, so once you watch a few tutorials and draw your first few plans it will be pretty straight forward.

If you feel that a hand-drawn sketch with notes and instructions will suffice for your basic project, then that’s fine also, as long as you can save, copy, and distribute your plan and instructions to your various contractors and suppliers so that they have a formal document that can be referenced when you enter into a contract with them. I would also recommend having the various people you hire sign a copy of your plan along with a contract, but we can touch more on this when we get to the CONTRACTS section of the site. For now we will stick to getting your plans onto paper.


Engaging a draftsman, architect, builder, or building consultant

To start with, let’s break the different options down and discuss the differences between them. The broad definitions of each are as follows:

  • A draftsman (or draftsperson) is someone who makes detailed technical plans or drawings.
  • An architect is a person trained and licensed to plan, design, and oversee the construction of buildings. Practising architecture means providing services relating to the design and construction of buildings, as well as the spaces surrounding the building that are principally used for human occupancy.
  • A builder is a person who constructs something by putting parts or materials together over a period of time. His job is to plan, supervise, build, coordinate, repair, and warrant all works performed to clients.
  • A building consultant can be a builder, an architect, surveyor, engineer, project manager, or interior designer, among others. The job of a building consultant is to give advice or to undertake tasks that are related to the building industry, including the design and supervision of various building components.

The above are broad descriptions of each title, and every one of them may actually have differing skills and accreditation’s depending on each individual’s qualifications and business structures. When looking to engage any of the above, you need to consider a few of the following: the size of your project, your budget, and your knowledge of the building process.

Plans and sketches for a renovation


A few examples

If you have a healthy budget and are looking to build your dream home, then an architect would be my recommendation. Keep in mind that depending on how much of the project you want them to manage (from the small stuff, like producing the drawings and documents, to the larger, like managing the entire process from concept to completion) you could be looking at anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 for the construction of a new home.

For an average residential renovation project that costs around $500,000, if you were to engage an architect to take your plans from concept stage through to construction-certification stage (meaning: ready to being onsite with all approvals), you could be looking at an average of about $30,000–40,000, and that’s usually excluding any external consultant fees, such as surveyors, engineers, and council fees.

NOTE: I will discuss the COUNCIL APPROVAL STAGES later on this site so that you can get an understanding of what’s involved and some of the various fees you can expect to pay. Some architects also work on a percentage of the overall estimated building cost.

For the same example above, if you were to use one of the other options like a draftsman, builder, or building consultant, you could save yourself some money because their average prices range from $10,000–25,000 for a similar service, with a draftsman being the most economical through to building consultants being the most expensive. If you know a little about building and the various steps along the way, or are prepared to study and do your homework regarding the approval’s process, you will be able to save yourself some money by managing some of the various stages and steps yourself.

There are also other factors that need to be taken into account when costs for drafting and architectural services are calculated, and a big one is the specifications and selection of finishes. We will touch on the SELECTION’S PROCESS in the next topic, but the degree to which you need your chosen professional to assist you will also be a factor in the cost of their offered services.

The above examples on plan-drafting and associated costs are based on my experiences only,so the costs for these services will vary from state to state and, of course, country. I suggest doing your homework and contacting a few of each type of professional that I have listed above to get an idea of the costs and services they offer before deciding which is the right fit for you.

There are also sites that offer off-the-shelf plans, such as www.houseplans.com and www.dreamhomesource.com. Both are American websites,but there are various Australian sites as well. I would only look at using these services to get ideas if you’re building a new home, and even then I would engage someone in your local area to tailor the plans to your specific ideas. That way they can assist you in drafting full construction drawings, which are more detailed and costly than just concept plans.

No matter which path you chose to go down with your plans, expect there to be a few revisions once you figure out your initial concept, as it’s rare that you will nail it the first time around.


Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration when drafting your plans is your budget. You must design something around what you are willing or able to spend. I recommend having an estimate performed on the concepts before your plans are finalized so that you will know if it’s within your budget. The ESTIMATESTAGE is really a three stage process: Stage 1 is the initial ballpark estimates based on your concepts, Stage 2 is the firming up of the estimate once selections have been made, and Stage 3 is putting the final design, along with your selections, out to the marketplace for tender. (not sure what you mean by tender…are you talking about money?)

I will go into the estimation process in more detail a little later on the site, but it needs to be touched on here as it forms a critical step in the plan-drafting process. This step, along with the selection’s process, will be required to help finalize your design and all that it encompasses prior to starting onsite. Remember that the more planning, homework, and research you do upfront in the pre-commencement stage, the better building experience you will have.

Okay, its time to move onto the next topic because it ties in closely and is a critical stage in getting your plans and specifications finalized:

Selection’s process: What is it and do I need an interior designer?

Until next time, Happy Renovating!

James Mason.




Online Course Available Now

The super-simple, step-by-step process I use in my business to renovate bathrooms fast and on budget.


Yes, I Want to Know More!

July 18th, 2015 in


Owner Builder Information

Becoming an owner-builder: What does it mean, and is it for me?

The definition of an owner-builder is someone who obtains an owner-builder’s certificate from completing an owner-builder’s course (91509NSW), and then uses that certificate to apply to the relevant authority for an owner-builder’s permit. That permit is then used for a construction project to manage trades and suppliers and complete the work as agreed. You may only use an owner-builder’s permit for one project in a period of five years.

If you read some of the various literature out there, a common selling point for becoming an owner-builder is to remove the need for an actual licensed builder. As the homeowner, you can manage the project yourself with your owner-builder’s permit and save yourself 30% or more on the overall cost.

Are these comments true?

The answer is: yes and no. If managed correctly with the right structure, documentation, discipline, and time management skills, you may find you can save yourself something close to the above figure. If a project is poorly managed, then you could quite easily end up spending more than if you had hired a professional to manage the project for you. A professional would also decreaseyour stress levels.

The Truth

Building is hard, and it takes a lot of skill to manage all of the various designs, approvals, regulations, insurances, trades  (quality assurance), and suppliers.If you are “time poor” managing all of this becomes even harder.

The question you need to ask yourself is: Do I have the time to become an owner-builder?You need to be very ruthless when considering this. There are many circumstances that need to be taken into consideration, and one of them is the size of the project.

For a full-time builder or project manager, I use the rule of thumb that for every $80,000 of work that needs to be performed, a time commitment of 4–6 weeks is required (this does not include any of the upfront pre-commencement work; we will touch on these time frames later).

Therefore a $160,000 project could take between 8–12 weeks, and a $240,000 project between 12–18 weeks.

How do you measure up?

The above is not an exact science because other factors will come into play, such as the level of detail and various site constraints, but it is a good gauge to show how long it should take professionals who have good contacts and priority with certain trades and suppliers. If you’re just starting out on your first project as an owner-builder with no real connections then you should factor in more time.

So we come back to the question of time. If you plan on tackling a $300,000+ project, do you have close to 6 months or more of your time that you can seriously invest in your project? I’m not saying that you will need to be onsite eight hours a day (although it would be great if you could), but you should really be there first thing in the morning to kick things off, and again in the afternoon to check on the progress that’s been made. It also helps to make yourselfaccessible on the phone throughout the day if any questions or problems arise.


Don’t be nervous!

If the above sounds like it could be too much work due to time constraints such as a career or family commitments, you can always choose to hire a project manager to help assist you with the day-to-day running of your project. With this option, you are still the owner-builder and have full control of what you want to happen with your project, but you work with one contact person who manages the day-to-day operations in your place.

Now I’m not trying to scare you off from becoming an owner-builder, in fact I encourage it because there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a project from conception through to completion.However I am trying to make you fully aware of what’s involved and how disciplined and organised you will need to be to make your project a successful one. With the right training and advice, I can assist you with the information to get you there.

Below is a link to the Department of Fair Trading NSW.It will provide you a guide to the rules and regulations surrounding becoming an owner-builder.



By now you should have a basic overview of what the term owner-builder means. Let’s move onto the next topic, where you will learn about the requirements to run a successful project.

Plans: You have an idea, now it’s time to get it on paper. Do I draw something myself, or engage a draftsman/architect/builder/building consultant?

Do you have an owner builder story you would like to share with us? If so please leave a comment below, or share with someone who you think will value from this article. 

Until next time, happy renovating!

James Mason




Online Course Available Now

The super-simple, step-by-step process I use in my business to renovate bathrooms fast and on budget.


Yes, I Want to Know More!