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Renovation Plans

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):

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 and 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.




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Hi Guys, Im a 40 something year old builder who loves to help people, if you have come to this site to find out tips and tricks on how to renovate you are in the right place! When im not adding content to this site im usually hanging out with my beautiful wife Alison and two daughters Alana and Eden. We have recently moved from the hustle and bustle of Sydney to the beautiful Sunshine Coast of Queensland. My two passions are my family and building, so that is probably why our homes are always under constant renovation!

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