Our recent renovation project where we set the goal of a 3-week renovation within a 30K budget during one of the busiest times of year, November / December, was no small endeavour. But come December, the moving truck was booked and we moved into a newly and quickly renovated house. When our electrician and his team came around to do the final fix they were completely taken aback by the extent of the progress we had made in such a small time, having seen the house after the first weekend of demolition - “You guys have done in 3 weeks, what takes most people at least 3 months”. Here is an overview of our work in photos:
Now for first time renovators or people who are renovating a home, we want to put some context to our success. We have had experience with renovations with varying challenges over the past 6 years where we have been able to develop what works best, with one of those being The Block NZ where in 66 days (without 1 day off) we renovated an entire house. We have created a formula for ourselves for how to make decisions and allocate available budget, we have a preference of colour and design styles and we have established relationships with various suppliers and contractors. We made quick decisions and had suppliers and trades who went the extra mile to fit into our renovation plans. Most people can’t sit down with their kitchen supplier and finalise a kitchen design and all the fittings in under 1 hour without any say from their spouse - but those are the sort of realities needed to work with to achieve what we did. Renovation gets easier with experience as you know what to focus on, what decisions need to be made in advance and how to plan, project manage and execute - which is why our first renovation 6 years ago took us 3 months to complete with less scope.
Experience has taught us in how to efficiently use our time to shorten our programme without having to spend more, compromise on quality or cut corners. Here are 5 practical things we used on this project to help us compress our programme to finish earlier than normal.
- We avoided structural changes and worked with the houses existing constraints. Every change you make, moving a light or cable fitting comes with a cost and takes time, we looked for ways to use the space, structure and existing services we had. If I had more time and budget, I would have changed the way the lights were situated in the open living area, but a simple move of a light then requires new fittings, cables and the patching where the light used to be. You need to consider what you don’t change, just as much as what you do.
- We are prepared for each task on our to do list. Find out what you need for each task you have assigned yourself, in terms of knowledge, material and tools. Not having everything you need can bring a sudden standstill to your to do list and cause frustration that can be avoided. If you don’t know how to do a task – YouTube it, there are so many tutorials online that are simple, straightforward and save you the time of trail and error. If you consider “there must be an easier way to do this” you are probably right in that thinking, it may be you are using the wrong tool or just don’t know how to use the right tool in the right way.
- We used Builderscrack to find tradespeople on short notice. Builderscrack.co.nz is a web service connecting tradespeople to people like us, an online noticeboard to find someone to do a specific task for you. You simply post the details of your job and then receive interest from tradespeople and can then select the best tradespeople to quote on your job. With this website you have the benefit of connecting with tradies who are in need of work, you can see recommendations or warning from previous clients and the response rate is impressive. In this renovation our two plasterers who we normally use were both booked during our timeframe, within 3 days I had posted the job, picked my top 3 tradies, had all of them come onsite and quote the job, where I went with the best price that was most accommodating to our requirements.
- We hired a spray gun. When it came to our painting schedule, the decision to use a spray gun saved us a whole week of painting time - we wouldn't have had a chance to finish in 3 weeks without it. Within a single weekend we had completed undercoat and top coats to all of the internal walls, we only needed to do a coat over the ceiling and some walls, as well as finish off the architraves and skirtings with enamel paint. There is more time in preparation, taping all the windows and removing doors, but ease and quickness of the spray gun makes it all well worth it. We made the decision to have all the ceilings and walls the same flat white, Okarito Dulux Colours of New Zealand, with the trimmings and doors painted in semi-gloss Hakataramea Dulux Colours of New Zealand.
- What we want is more important than what others advise. The place where we have been misguided in the past is assuming that all advice is the best advice. Don’t be fooled by the statement “you need to have” – the only person who should decide what you need to have is you. Even if you are doing your first renovation, we all have lived in a house before so you know what you require to live the way you want. The thing I value the most about the team we work with is they ask us what we want and use their expertise to give us the best option that meets our requirements. Be weary of upgrades – sometimes it is just about upgrading an invoice.
The three week timeframe for us was about moving into the house as soon as possible and before the summer break. The downside of moving in is the time pressure comes off from doing all those small projects around the house that give the finishing touch. So even though the original renovation we set out to achieve in 3 weeks is 95% complete, that last 5% is going to take longer to finish – and the list of final projects gets longer and longer in the meantime. At the same time we haven't started on the exterior which we want to see happen in the next few months. Stay tuned - we still have lots of projects to share with this renovation!