Building a new house or renovating your current one can be an exciting time. But things can easily go wrong, especially with more complex projects. We ask the experts how to make your build a success.
Keep it water tight
If there’s one thing homeowners need to get right, it’s waterproofing. Brian Seidler, Master Builders Association NSW executive director explains why.
“Water defects are the biggest issue homeowners face with kitchen, bathroom and laundry renovations. 48 per cent of defects are water-related and the problem is due to the incorrect application of waterproofing products, or the wrong product for the particular application.”
Doing your own research is essential to understanding what needs to be done to waterproof your home and ask your builder what waterproofing process they will be using.
“We had a recent example where two builders quoted for the same job, and one was $90,000 cheaper. The difference in the build and price was in the waterproofing alone. But the project had five wet areas planned and the higher quote detailed a different process that was more thorough and effective.”
Run a fine-toothed comb through the quote, don’t skimp on research and find out as much information as you can. “This is where the relationship with your builder comes into play. Keep the channels of communication open and ensure they will be using the right products and techniques to the necessary standards or above.”
Damage from failing waterproofing works can have huge repercussions on the structural integrity of your home and your hip pocket.
“Double and triple check everything. Asking as many experts as possible is always better done before the build, rather than after the trouble starts.”
David Bare, executive director for NSW of the Housing Industry Association stresses that focusing in on the details before starting the project will make a world of difference down the track.
“Spend time upfront planning your project. Be well informed so you don’t have to go back and get stuff done again. Reviewing the ins and outs of your contract and being clear on each aspect before you start will save you from heartache and headaches as your build progresses. Do it right the first time.”
Home renovator Robert Pietsch agrees that knowledge of the contract’s fine print will also help you spot if something isn’t going to plan as the project progresses. “Seek help early if you believe that you’re potentially heading toward issues,” he says.
If your project is going to cost more than $20,000, it’s best to check your tradespeople are able to supply a valid builders’ warranty insurance certificate under the Home Building Compensation Scheme.
“It’s compulsory for licensed contractors that take on residential work of this size. They must obtain this cover before starting any work or taking any money under the contract, including the deposit,” says Bare.
This safety net protects homeowners from losses should there be any defective or incomplete work. It’s also essential to review your home and contents insurance before starting a reno.
Where to live?
Not a problem for those building from scratch, but one of the first things all renovators should decide is whether to live in the house during construction or move elsewhere.
“You may decide to cordon off areas, but if it’s an older home built before the mid-80s, there’s the possibility it could have asbestos or other hazardous substances. This means you will need to get a clearance certificate and ensure that the construction site is not dangerous,” says Seidler.
Rent is another consideration to factor into the overall cost of your project. “As sometimes is the case, timeframes can blow out, especially in complex projects or when removing layers reveals unplanned surprises.”
Contact your council
Seidler says seeking appropriate council approvals before starting work is essential. “If you will be changing the floor plan, removing walls or extending the property you need to contact your local council to find out if your home improvements adhere to regulations.”
For new home buildings, it’s necessary to find out if the land is contaminated or has heritage or indigenous significance. “Was it previously a dumping ground or is it reclaimed land that was used for factories? A past client had a block that was next to an old garage and over the years the petrol tanks had leeched into his land. Cleaning up contamination is a big and expensive job.”
“It’s worth checking if there is a heritage or indigenous importance to the land. There are indigenous heritage maps that show where it’s likely that Aboriginal communities have lived. As we’re spreading the urban sprawl it’s more common to encounter these circumstances and there’s significant penalties for disturbing such land,” says Seidler.
Keep an eye on things
Finally, says Seidler, once your renovation is complete don’t forget to keep on top of routine maintenance.
“When you have a shower, run your eye over your tiles and grout. When you clean your bath or kitchen sink, check the area around the fittings to ensure it’s not failing. If you do find any problems, it’s best to contact tradespeople immediately to reduce the impact of any damage.”
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