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Maintaining a home

Renovation costs: advice from an architect

23 January 2018

This article is part of The Homeowner’s Journey series, featuring case studies from homeowners and property professionals.

Melissa Bright, director of MAKE Architecture, is passionate about developing forever homes for her clients, but she also knows the strain that renovation costs can put on homeowners. Here, she shares her top four tips on undertaking home renovations while maintaining a realistic budget.

1. Use an architect

The best advice I can give is to pick a great architect. Finding someone whose work you love and who you’ll get along with is the best start to achieving what you want. The right person will collaborate with you, listen to you and help guide you through the complicated building and approvals process. 

Here are some steps to take to find your ideal architect:

Look at their work

"To get the best outcome from your architect, you want them to feel passionate about the project."

It is really important that you like their work and that their ideals and aesthetics match yours. That way, the design comes easily and aligns with something you both love. Spend some time looking at their work. You don’t have to love everything they’ve done, but you should be able to identify some projects in their portfolio that you like. 

Meet them

This is going to be a long working relationship, so find out exactly who it is you’re going to be working with, whether it’s the director or otherwise, and make sure you meet them. Get to know their personality and if you’ll be able to get along with them. 

Gather evidence

Talk to other clients of the architect you’re looking to work with, and ask what their experience was like. Websites are the best way to review architects’ work, so make sure you have a good look around. 

Don’t necessarily go with the big firms

This applies not just to architects, but to all your renovation experts (builder etc.). ‘Finding the right person’ might sound vague, but this means looking around at all the options, not necessarily going with the most well-known company. A smaller practice may actually be more suited to your renovation. Select the right person for the scale and size of your project.

Modern architecture
Modern artchitecure
Modern architecture
Modern architecture

Examples of projects MAKE Architecture have worked on. Photos by Peter Bennetts.

2. Design for the seasons

One of the most common mistakes we’re seeing at the moment is people using too much glass. Home owners seem to be obsessed with how much glass they have. While it’s important to think about letting natural light in, glass is not necessarily the answer, and I think there’s still a strong point to be made for solid walls.  

When building or renovating, put some thought into the seasons. The more glass you put into a home, the harder it will be to insulate. What will happen when the sun hits your glass walls? Your architect should be able to advise you on seasonal design. Good planning will allow you to feel warm in winter and cool in summer, and will feature heating and cooling design techniques, cross ventilation and good summer-winter window design.

3. Quality over quantity

There are lots of ways you can save on renovation costs, the most important being size considerations. We would much prefer to design smaller with high quality than try to stretch a budget over a large house. Consider square meter rates from very early in the design process and review the budget often. 

Always start simple, and build up from there, putting your money into the right places. Joinery and windows are often high cost items that you should consider carefully where you need them. Joinery can be something you could think about later if you need a way to save some more immediately.  

4. Think about the future

DIY home renovation TV shows can make it look easy to renovate your home in just a few weeks and have it valued at a million dollars, but this is the wrong perception. It is creating poorly constructed building stock for future generations, and is not a sustainable model. You need to think about your current and future needs during the design and renovation process.

You may have young children now, but your family’s needs won’t always be the same.

"Think about what features you can incorporate into your home renovation now to future-proof your home for later."

It’s more valuable for you to design a sustainable, high quality home that will last.

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