February 15th, 2020 in

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Featured Renovators – The Stone Family

Today we are catching up with featured renovator Sam Stone. Sam and her husband Matt, daughter Olivia and son Declan are about to tackle a pretty major renovation in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Five Dock.

Sam has been writing about her experience so far over on her blog A Life On Venus, and as I write this they have had their plans finalised and are nervously waiting for their Development Application (DA) to be approved.

Like a lot of people Sam has never tackled a major renovation before, so it’s been great to follow along and see some of the road blocks and obstacles through the eyes of someone with little experience in the field of renovating.

I caught up with Sam to ask a few questions about her experience so far, and this is what she had to say.

When did you first get the idea that you wanted to renovate, and what gave you the inspiration to do so?

A lot of people in our street are renovating and then when our neighbours started renovating and we began to see the massive transformation in their place we decided it was time to make some changes to our place too.

We had also been watching a lot of home makeover shows on TV and saw that it was possible to renovate your home to achieve the space that you want.

 

What kind of research did you do before you decided to take the plunge on starting the process?

We googled around onto Interior Designer websites and Renovation websites to try to find out what could be achieved in the space we have available. We talked to friends who have renovated to get their ideas and experiences.

 

What part of the process have you enjoyed the most so far?

The most enjoyable part so far has been working with the architect. He had some really great ideas and some we would never have thought of ourselves.

 

What has been the most stressful?

Definitely the DA process, waiting and seeing if we will get approval and if not, what do we do!

 

Given that you are yet to start construction, what if anything are you the most nervous about?

I think the budget is the biggest thing we are nervous about at the moment. How much will it all cost, can we afford it and will we possibly totally blow the budget once construction starts.

 

I have enjoyed following Sam’s progress so far and I look forward to hearing about what lies ahead in their exciting renovation journey.

I will be checking in with the guys again from time to time, so watch this space and make sure you stay up to date by also following along. We wish Sam and her family all the best with their renovation and hope they have an enjoyable experience.

 

Have you renovated before? If so how did you find the experience? Leave me a comment below and share your story as we would love to hear about it.

Cheers,

James Mason

 


 

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March 28th, 2020 in

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How long does it take to renovate a house? Renovation time calculator

The average duration for home renovation takes between 4 to 8 months. There are exceptions to this rule when the projects are very small or big in size, but most home renovations will fall somewhere within this timeline.

If you are fully renovating or remodelling your house, chances are it could take up to 6- 8 months or even more if you are adding large spaces with architectural detail. In case of renovating kitchen and bathroom with some minor cosmetic changes then it could be a just matter of few weeks.

 

James Construction Timeline method: calculating home renovation durations made easy

With more than 20 years of experience in the construction field working in hundreds of construction and renovation projects, here is what I found.

For a full-time builder or project manager, 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. This is called James Construction Timeline Method (named by myself) or simply JCT method.

I.e. if you were looking to spend $150,000, build time could be between 7.5 weeks and 11.25 weeks, or if you are spending $500,000 (Calculate as follows -> 500K  -:- 80K = 6.25; (6.25 * 4) weeks to (6.25 * 6 ) weeks = 25 weeks to 37.5 weeks approximately 9 months).

 

Note: This is not an exact scientific derivation but looking back over the data from my completed projects, I can say it comes pretty close to this figure.

To clarify the above I’m only talking about build time on site, I.e. When you strike your first blow with the hammer to vacuuming the dust off the floor for the last time.

You still have to factor in preliminary work that includes design, planning, getting permits etc.

 

The preliminary stages for most projects (if done correctly) can and probably should take longer than the construction time on site.

house renovation

What other time needs to be factored in?

Before you strike your first blow there are 3 critical stages that need to be done before and 1 more stage after it. So, that’s a total of 5 Key stages that all my renovation and builder’s course covers.

These key stages are listed below with some average times for how long each stage may take –

 

  1. The Research Stage – 2 weeks to 2 months or more.
  2. Plan Stage – 2 months to 6 months or more.
  3. Pre- Construction Stage – 3 months to 6 months.
  4. Construction Stage – Use JCT method to find the time duration for your construction project. ((4 weeks to 6 weeks on average per $80K of building cost).
  5. Project Completion Stage. – 3 months.

 

If you are reading this article, you are probably in one of the first three stages, more than likely in the initial research stage.

The Research stage

The Research stage is when you have first decided that you want to renovate your property and start to do your homework. You will start by working out what you can afford to spend. Start looking at the style of renovation you want. Search blogs and social media for ideas and inspiration, talk with other people who have renovated and generally start to build an idea in your mind of what you want.

Depending on how much homework you choose to do you could take anywhere from 2weeks to 2months for this stage.

TIP – Keep an organized filing system during your Research Stage where you can store all your information and ideas that you come across. This will help to communicate your ideas in the next stage of the process.

 

The Plan Stage

Plan Stage. This stage is where you get your ideas out of your head and down on paper in some form of a plan or sketch. So how long should this stage take? well depending on how many revisions you go for your initial concept drawing and the scale of your project it could be anywhere from a few months to six months or more.

I know 6 months might seem so distant. But going back and forth between a drafter or architect and your friends and family is a long process.  It took 6 months to get our plans ready for the “Small Space Big Build Project”, and over 12 months in total before we were ready to start on site.

 

The Pre-Construction Stage

Pre-Construction Stage consists of getting approvals from the relevant authorities. Here in Australia it is referred to as a Development Application (or DA for short). Along with getting your approval granted there is also time required for mapping out the timeline and schedule for your works, organizing trade contractors and material supply quotations and the selections process.

In my opinion, the Pre-Construction Stage is the largest most time-consuming stage out of all the 5 stages. You really need to put a lot of work in to ensure smooth running of the project. In retaliation to timing, t really does come down to how complex your project is. If you are doing a relatively small renovation (i.e $100K) 3 months may get you out of trouble. But for larger projects,6 months’ worth of planning may be closer to what it actually takes.

 

The project completion stage

Lastly after the Construction Stage is completed the final stage of Project Completion Stage comes. This stage takes into account all the requirements for obtaining final sign off by the relevant authorities. You are required to obtain an occupancy certificate upon completion of the construction works. It is not required for smaller renovations where a DA approval is not required.

There are also warranties and defects liability periods that you should enforce with your tradies and contractors. Some defects liability periods on average are around 3 months after the contractor has completed their work. So, I recommend allowing another 3 months at the end of the renovation to encompass all of the warranties and liability periods.

 

There you have it. I know it’s a lot of info to take in, but we are only just scratching the surface. Each one of these stages will have its own complexities and special requirements based on your own individual project. It’s my job to try and lay out as much of that information as possible.

 

I hope this information comes in handy, please feel free to drop any questions in the comments section below.

 

Until next time, happy renovating.

 

James Mason.


 

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July 26th, 2020 in

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How to prepare renovation plans and sketches? (with cost indication)

Confused where to start your renovation planning? Not sure whether you require a proper plan on paper? Don’t worry. As always James has got the answer for you.

Planning is an essential part of the renovation project that needs to shared amongst every contractor, subcontractor working in the project and might also be required for some legal procedures.

So, there is no way you can miss out on planning. Now getting to the real question of ‘how to get you renovation plan drafted?’

Well, You can do it yourself depending on the type of work you and your budget. Or hire other tradespersons to do it which is the common practice.

Do I need to put out a plan for a home renovation?

No matter how big or small your project, you must have a renovation 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 a plan for the renovation?”

The answer is: You must put out a plan for the successful building experience. The more planning you do up-front, including getting your ideas on paper, the easier the next stags will be.

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

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.

 

Do I need development approval?

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 research as well.

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 floorboards.

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.

Don’t freak out! Renovation Planning is not complicated or costly.

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. Planning is one of the 5 major stages of any construction project without which you can move further.

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

 

Plans and sketches for a renovation

 

How to draw your own renovation plans?

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.

There are two way to do it yourself. First is taking a formal approach and using industry famous tools to design your own renovation plan. While that is not easy, you have plenty of tutorials to learn. All you need is time and basic knowledge on planning.

The second method is doing it by yourself with just a pencil, paper and measuring tape. A minimal representation of the ideas in mind which the contractors can develop on. these are ideal for basic renovation projects only.

 

Draw your own renovation floor plans with an online software package

Now if you do want to have a crack at getting your own ideas onto a renovation 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. It’s 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.

There is a tonne of different software packages out there that you could use if you want complete control over what you do. Some of them are great – but others are, well… crap! Here are my top picks.

EDRAW

 

SMART DRAW

 

SKETCH UP

  • A very powerful 3D modelling program.
  • Can come in handy to draw details if 3D visualisation is needed.
  • Note: This program has a big learning curve and will take a lot of study to go through the video tutorials and learn. Certainly not recommended for the beginner.
  • There are free and paid versions. Check out: sketchup.com

 

Draw your own plans by sketching out a scale diagram on the paper, and then scanning and saving

If you feel that a hand-drawn sketch with notes and instructions will suffice for your basic project, then that’s fine. Make sure you can save, copy, and distribute your plan and instructions to your various contractors and suppliers. A formal document that can be referenced is required when you enter into a contract with them.

This option is the most ‘hands-on’! Depending on how you’re going to use it, you can be as precise or as rough as need be.

If you’re going to be doing most of the work yourself then you’ll want to be as bang on with measurements as possible. On the other hand, if you’ll be using a project manager/builder to do it for you – then a rough sketch is ok.

Its important to be accurate with all your measurements, so your bathroom floor plans match what you plan on building on site. For example, lengths and heights of walls, where vanities and basins will be positioned, taps, cabinets, light fittings, towel rails, toilets etc all need to be carefully positioned and marked down on plan.

Keep in mind, the reason you’re scanning and saving your bathroom floor plans is so they can be emailed and reprinted. Don’t just make one copy!

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 renovation plans onto paper.

 

Engaging a draftsman, architect, builder, or building consultant to draw a renovation plan

To start with, let’s break the different options down and discuss the differences between them. The following are broad descriptions of each title, and every one of them may actually have differing skills and accreditations depending on each individual’s qualifications and business structures.

 

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. The practising architecture provides services relating to the design and construction of buildings. They also work on spaces surrounding the building that is 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.

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.

 

Alternate methods

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. 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.

 

IMPORTANT TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN DRAFTING YOUR RENOVATION PLANS WITH ANY OF THE ABOVE 3 OPTIONS

You’ll need to make sure you include the following in your bathroom floor plans, especially if you’re doing it yourself:

  • Plumbing layout for all services to be shown including heights of taps, mixers and spouts.
  • Electrical layout to be shown for all light points including LED strip lighting, downlights, pendant fittings, exhaust fans, light switching points, power points, heated towel racks and under floor heating including thermostat locations.
  • Tiling layout to be considered, will there be a step down in the shower, if so mark it on the plan. Will there be any feature walls? If so mark them on the plan as well. Is there a particular pattern you would like the tiles laid, i.e. brick pattern, diagonal? Where should cut tiles be placed, at the doorway, bath or other location? Thinking about the set out of tiles is important.

 

Cost involved in renovation plans and sketches

If you have a healthy budget 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, you could be looking at an average of about $30,000–40,000. This is for the architect to take your renovation plans from concept stage through to the construction-certification stage. Meaning: ready to being onsite with all approvals. This excludes any external consultant fees, such as surveyors, engineers, and council fees.

NOTE: 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. The draftsman is the most economical and building consultants being the most expensive.

You can save even more if you know a little about building and the various steps along the way. Be prepared to study and do your homework regarding the approval’s process in that case.

 

Other costs involved in planning

There are also other factors that need to be taken into account when calculating planning costs.  A big one is the specifications and selection of finishes. The degree to which you need your chosen professional to assist you will also factor in the cost of their offered services.

The above examples on renovation 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. You will get an idea of the costs and services they offer before deciding which is the right fit.

 

No matter which path you chose to go down with your renovation 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.

Budget is another thing that needs to be taken into consideration when drafting your renovation plans. 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.

 

Getting Organized With a Renovation Project Plan

As with any home improvement job, you really should have a renovation project plan before you get started. It’s a bit like a recipe – you can’t bake a cake without knowing the ingredients!

This stage of the project might seem boring, but creating a good filing system where you can keep all your information stored is critical to staying organized.

This really is a simple two-step process.

Step 1: Gather the Information

So the first thing to do is look at the different types of information you’ll need to gather to undertake all the bathroom renovation jobs.

This information will come from a variety of places and include for example:

  • Research – ideas, products, suppliers, contractors etc.
  • Bathroom renovation plans
  • Local council/State regulator regulations & approvals
  • Contractor agreements & contact details
  • Budget
  • Construction schedule
  • Supplies – types of products you’ll need to finish the renovation

This list is by no means complete but it gives you some idea of how broad the info gathering process is and why you need a renovation project plan.

renovation project plan contracts

 

Step 2: Organize the Information

Pretty soon you’ll start to see all the info piling up so you’ll need to organise it so you can find it later on. Going back to the good old-fashioned ‘filing cabinet’ approach, start by setting up some key folders – electronic or paper (I suggest both).

Try setting this up before you start gathering the info. That way you won’t have to backtrack and waste time re-filing or tracking down loose bits.

WHAT IS A JOB FILING SYSTEM?

A Job Filing system is simply a series of folders for all the items you may use in your renovation that can be accessed with the click of a button. An example of this is below, let’s call it “Bathroom Renovation 101”.

Create a folder on your computer that is easy to access and name it what you want (i.e. Bathroom Renovation 101), then you will need to create all the subfolders inside of the project folder like the ones below:

Renovation project plan filing system

 

Here is a download link to populate these folders on your computer and save some typing – Bathroom Renovation Job File Structure Folders

Now you may not need all these subcategories for your renovation, but it’s a pretty good example of all the things you may need to cover when doing a full blown bathroom renovation.

The idea of having all these folders is so that you can save all your information in relation to your project into these folders as you go, and be able to have that info at your fingertips in an organized manner when you need to re visit it.

Some of the folders I will go on to discuss in more detail when we cover those topics (i.e. Construction Schedule & Finishes Schedule), but most are self-explanatory.

STAY ORGANIZED AND STAY IN CONTROL

So this stage is pretty simple, but do it right and get organized upfront before starting. It’ll help you to stay on track and on top of things.

You’d be surprised at the number of stressed out people renovating – so don’t become one yourself!

This step, along with the selection’s process, will be required to help finalize your design and all that it encompasses prior to starting on site. Remember that the more planning, homework, and research you do upfront in the pre-commencement stage, the better the building experience you will have.

 

Until next time, Happy Renovating!

 

James Mason.


 

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