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Maintaining a home

Renovation costs: advice from a builder


Kel Harvey is the Director and Construction Manager at Axcis Build in Queensland. Kel started Axcis Build in 2013 with his business partner Michael after working for a variety of quality residential and commercial builders throughout South East Queensland. He's a qualified carpenter and builder and is responsible for all work being undertaken across Axis building sites, making sure all works are completed to a very high standard, done safely and all within the scheduled time frame.


Even if you’re only doing a minor renovation you should engage a professional builder. They can act as your project manager and make sure subcontractors carry out their work correctly, on time, in budget and to certification. That means working with everyone involved in the project, from the guy operating machinery to the guy putting plants in the garden. 

While employing a builder will cost you money, you’ll most likely save in the long run because you’ll get it all exactly right the first time. To get the best value for your money, approach your builder with your architectural plans already drawn up, and from there they can estimate your renovation costs.

You’ll find that things can go wrong – or cost a lot more than expected – during renovations. The best way to minimise this is to be fully informed of any potential hidden costs before you commit. Here are my top 3 tips for keeping your renovation costs down:

1. Spend time on planning

The planning stage is the most important part of the renovation process as it allows you to work out what you want and get a realistic estimate of how much it will cost.

"Talk to your architect, builder and certifier, get lots of quotes and work out exactly what you want to achieve before you begin… right down to the kitchen taps you’ll install."

Make sure you get your plans done correctly by professionals. Having a thorough plan will bring your budget down, as it means work can be completed as quickly as possible without any delay. Don’t waste time making decisions down the track, work it all out before you get started.

2. Get a detailed quote

You’ll want to get a few detailed quotes from builders. Don’t feel bad about doing your research properly. Builders don’t get mad about you shopping around. We know that we’re competing – that’s the game. Compare your options and make sure you’re getting “apples for apples”. 

"Your detailed quote should be itemised and should include a section about any potential hidden costs that could arise."

Your builder will give you provisional sum quotes with the understanding that costs could increase. For example, I could quote you a $20,000 provisional sum for an excavation, but if the earth is rocky and hard the cost could creep up to $28,000. Similarly, we could quote a particular price for fixtures or fittings and you may end up selecting a more expensive option that suits your preferences or style. 

Doing your research at the quote stage is important as it will determine how much of a loan you need to request from the bank. Keep in mind that quotes given to you are a calculated guess at best. The best thing to do is to add a 20% contingency plan in case your provisional sums or prime cost items blow out the budget.

3. Communication is key

Select a builder who will talk to you daily and keep you updated on the build process and costing. Consistent communication will give you peace of mind. You need to know that your builder is going to communicate with you and with everyone onsite – that’s what you’re paying them for.

Make sure you choose your builder carefully. There are unfortunately some dodgy guys out there who will intentionally mislead you on the cost of a project just to land the job. A good builder should work out what you want and what specific materials you like, and calculate the costs accurately beforehand to communicate a realistic expectation to you. 

There are a few things you can do to qualify your builder before you agree to engage with them:

Ask to see their registered builder’s licence

Ask for their licence number and do a quick search on your state’s building authority website.

Check out their website

If they’ve got a good site with examples of past work, you know they’re capable of completing good work. This is also a chance to see if their past work is in line with what you want to achieve. Builders can have specialist areas. It’s probably not a great idea to engage a builder who has built high rises and commercial shopping malls when you just want a bathroom renovation done!

Look for Instagram and Facebook accounts

Good builders usually have an online presence. Look at their social accounts to check the quality and consistency of their work. 

Find reviews and recommendations

Facebook and Google may have reviews on the builder. It’s also great to ask your friends and family for recommendations.

If you’re interested in accessing some additional funds for a home renovation, you might choose to look at home loan options. To find out more about Suncorp Bank’s home loan options, you can visit your local branch, enquire online or call us on 13 11 55.

The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.

Loans are provided by Suncorp-Metway Ltd ABN 66 010 831 722 Australian Credit Licence 229882 (“Suncorp Bank”) to approved applicants only. Terms, conditions, fees and charges apply and are available upon request.