Top 5 tips for renovation projects

The success of any renovation project is in the eyes of the beholder. I don't think anyone nurses deep regrets after renovating their own home. We know how things looked beforehand so we appreciate the improvements. Today, thanks to a knocked-out wall, there's a new kitchen that opens up to the living room. Way better! By Duncan Stuart.

A traditional house with blue sky
COLUMN Duncan Stuart

Anyway; who are we to judge if a friend tackles a project that is just a tad beyond their skill level? They get an “A” for effort. So in that case, a couple of rough edges on the new deck are better than no new deck at all.
If the work is carried out by us or by our friends, then everything is sweet.
Yet, if we look at strangers’ renovation projects; well that’s a different story. Now we get mighty quick to judge.
Go to many motels in New Zealand, and you’ll see the work of handymen who clearly aren’t so handy. We’re paying good money to stay here, so when we see a bathroom shower with the showerhead mounted at chest height we get pretty snarky. “Darling look at this! They must think we’re bloody Hobbits or something!”
But your darling doesn’t hear you because they are standing in awe of the crooked wardrobe shelving.
But they both illustrate a big point: a renovation done quickly and on the cheap will almost always look that way. Here are five pieces of advice to ensure you get more value, more wow-factor for your project.

Work from plans

Any project hits a few unexpected obstacles. There’s the mystery plumbing that runs through the wall you hoped to knock down.
There’s the fact that the rooms in your home are not actually square. If you renovate without plans your decisions are going to look exactly like shortcuts and improvisations. The act of planning is the best preparation for each job. Measure the job, check the unexpected, choose carefully the materials and agree on the finish before you start anything.

Avoid what’s fashionable

In my first home when we renovated, (it was 1981) gold coloured textured glass was just the coolest thing along with mustard yellow benchtops. Guess how quickly these aged?

Do the basics right

If you’re adding rooms, make sure they have enough power points and decent lighting. If you’re adding windows, stretch a bit to get double-glazed. And if you’re uneasy about doing a smooth plastering on the walls and ceiling – then get an expert in.

Keep things simple

Design details don’t have to be fancy to look good. A simple, basic new room can look terrific thanks to a splash of colour from a few cushions, or through a clever choice of bookshelves.
You’re better to have a simple design with some space dollars for decoration than to burn up your budget on over-expensive fittings, and to have nothing left for furniture and furnishings.

Keep it in character

One day when we will all go to heaven or hell, there will be a special hell for renovators who didn’t modernise their old homes so much as bastardise their homes completely.
I’m thinking of the folk who added hacienda arches to their 1960s bungalows. The truth is, most homes have good bones. State houses from the early 50s have timber floors that are astoundingly beautiful. The 1960s Keith Hay homes have a Jetson vibe about them that lends itself to open-plan living. Whatever the age of the house, keep the new work in sympathy with the character.
Renovator hell won’t actually attract too many people. Yes, I’ll be there on account of my damned golden glazing. I’m sure to meet up with the owners of a few motels, as well as the guys who sprayed asbestos onto the ceilings of many homes in the 1980s.
For our sins, we’ll be forced to watch an eternity of ‘Location, Location, Location’. An endless loop of videos where they laugh at renovation work.

You might be interested in reading: Top five crucial pitfalls when renovating.

This column by Duncan Stuart featured on page 119 in Issue 016 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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