This is the second article in our “3 Essential” series about major home renovations. You can read the first article here.
Every homeowner carrying out a major renovation inevitably has some big decisions to make.
Using our 40 years of experience building extensions and additions in Sydney, we’ve picked the three that are foundational moments: the ‘either/or’ choices that will likely have the biggest impact on how your building project takes shape.
1. To Go ‘Up’ or Go ‘Out’
A major renovation means you are adding space to your home, so you will have to opt for a first-floor addition (going up) or a ground floor extension (going out), or both.
The choice can be dictated by factors outside of your control, for example the size and shape of your block of land.
When both options are possible, as they are for many homeowners, it’s important you have a clear understanding of the advantages of each before making this big decision.
A first-floor addition is perfect for adding extra bedrooms and bathrooms, creating separate living spaces, and fantastic if it allows you to take advantage of a view.
They can be more cost-effective than a ground floor extension because, being built on top, they avoid potentially expensive ground preparation and foundation costs.
Another plus to note is that many real estate agents advise that a two-storey home can have a higher resale value than a single storey with the equivalent number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
You might be forced to choose an addition if, for example, you don’t have enough land to comfortably create an extension, usually because your back garden simply isn’t big enough, or you just want to retain the garden you have.
The only downside to mention is that you lose some internal space from the original ground floor in order to accommodate the stairs required to connect the floors.
Ground floor extensions are ideal for creating more living space such as family rooms, rumpus rooms and open plan living, and for opening up existing spaces to the outdoors.
As our recent interview with a leading Real Estate agent confirmed, Sydneysiders continue to enjoy the lifestyle offered by reconfiguring their home to feature an open plan kitchen, living and dining space flowing out to a covered outdoor deck.
So, this option can be attractive to potential buyers should you decide to sell in the future, as well as being enjoyable to live and entertain in.
Ground floor extensions are also the most practical solution if you or your family have mobility issues, or you are likely to live there in retirement.
Whether you go up or out, as we saw with a recent client, your final choice might be something you hadn’t considered initially, so it’s vital that you remain open to ideas.
Consult with professionals who have built a wide variety of major renovations and are able to show you examples of previous jobs that are relevant to your home and specific requirements.
This will give you the confidence to make an informed choice that suits your particular situation.
2. Stand-Alone Architect/Designer or Design & Construct Company
Many people think that if you are making any significant changes to your home, you need an architect to draw up the plans.
Whilst this is certainly an option, you do have alternatives, and this is another key choice that likely has significant consequences down the track.
Your home renovation plans can indeed be drawn up either by an architect or a designer. However, there is a more nuanced distinction, not between these two professionals, but how they work – or, more importantly, who they work with.
You can select a stand-alone architect or designer and both could draw up your plans for you to take to a builder to have them priced and built.
Alternatively, you can approach a design and construct company who specialise in major renovations and have their own designer or architect to draw up your plans.
What’s the difference?
A stand-alone architect or designer might not specialise solely in renovation work and therefore likely won’t have the depth of understanding of the options available, limitations and common pitfalls.
Whilst this allows some freedom to create a unique design that appears to solve the problems with the layout of your current home, it may not take into consideration the full extent of the cost implications of all of their choices.
You may end up with an expensive set of plans that you have fallen in love with, but either you can’t afford the building cost, or you will need to make considerable compromises to bring the plans within your building budget.
A design and construct company specialising in renovations look at the project in a more holistic way and have greater experience to make sure that the bespoke plans created fit within the overall budget.
Another advantage is that they will often produce plans that can be built from directly whilst some architectural designs need to be redrawn into construction plans.
Lastly, many design and construct companies offer a service to manage the development application process on behalf of the homeowners.
Being the originators of the plans and having experience of what Local Council planning officers are looking for has significant advantages, saving you time and potentially heartache if the plans you have fallen in love with can’t easily be approved by your Council.
3. To Stay or Go
The common assumption here is that if you are building a major renovation, you will have to move out of your home for most, if not all, of the construction period.
As you’d expect, this comes with a hefty bill for renting alternative accommodation in addition to the cost of building.
However, this isn’t the only option. Staying home during a major home renovation is possible.
Experienced renovation builders should be able to give you a clear idea of how you can remain living at home, what will be involved, and explain the likely impact.
Whilst there will be a certain amount of disruption, your builder should be able to give you a clear plan of attack, especially for the use of key rooms like the kitchen and bathroom, minimising when they might be out of action so you can plan accordingly.
With the right arrangements and a cooperative approach from your builder, even a large family can stay home during major home improvements.
On the other hand, if you aren’t living at home, this can make the job quicker as your builder won’t have to work around you, nor spend time ensuring that they minimise the disruption.
If you are lucky enough to have access to convenient, cost effective alternative accommodation, there’s no doubt that this becomes a very good option.
If that’s not an option, it really is worth exploring with potential builders how they have managed to help families continue to live at home during construction. It’s important to go in with your eyes wide open being realistic about the compromises you’ll likely have to make.
A major renovation will likely be the next biggest purchase in your life outside of buying your home. It is often the final piece in the puzzle that lets you transform your home from the layout you bought to the configuration that really suits your lifestyle.
You don’t have to make these three essential decisions on your own.
Having guidance and advice from experienced hands is essential and available from a number of quality professionals. Take the time to research your options and ask for help with any aspect of the design, approval and building process until you feel you are fully across each option.
As one of Sydney’s leading design and construct companies specialising in additions and extensions, Addbuild has been sharing the benefit of its hard-won experience for many years.
Further free advice is only a few clicks away via our home alterations blog, consumer guide to home improvements, or serialised masterclass.
If you are ready to talk to a designer and/or builder, note that Addbuild offers a concept-to-completion service that includes experienced designers, the management of the Development Application process and, of course, construction.
We’d love to hear from you, so call our office on (02) 8765 1555 or send us a message using our contact form if outside of office hours.