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kitchen with black cabinets and appliances, white walls and plantain shutters
When it comes to renovating, timing is everything. Get your head around the order of events with our beginners’ guide.

First things first

It’s incredibly exciting when your renovation plans are on the verge of becoming reality. But the first question is, ‘Where do I start?’ Understanding what to do first, the order of events and how long each step will take is key to getting your renovation off the ground and, ultimately, over the finish line.

Set your budget

You’ve got a broad vision of what you want to do – a new kitchen, an upstairs extension – so the first thing to do is set a realistic budget and lock down the funds. If it’s a smaller job like a bathroom revamp, you may have savings you can draw on, but a large renovation can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a good idea to talk to your bank or lender about a construction loan and what’s realistic for you. There’s no point getting excited about a reno that’s going to cost $300,000 if the bank will only lend you $100,000. Also ensure your budget includes contingency funds.

Chat with a builder

Builders are not designers, but they do have a good idea of how much things cost. Meet with a builder – and pay them for their time and knowledge – to discuss what’s possible. “Understanding your realistic budget and getting the finance approved before you start will ensure a smooth and stress-free project,” says Eyal Snehor of Novam Design Studio (novam.com.au). “Council fees, permits [if needed], design and documentation fees, other consultants’ fees [for example, structural engineer, hydraulic engineer and surveyor] will be approximately 15 to 20 per cent of your total budget.” Taking initial plans to a builder, before you’ve had them finalised, is essential, adds Eyal. “Their preliminary estimate will be good enough to evaluate your project and decide which design option is the right one to pursue.”

Finalise your plans

When choosing your design plan, online and in-store tools can be helpful – try Bunnings’ Kitchen Design service or the 3D Kaboodle planner. Depending on the scope and budget of your job, you can also work with an architect, building designer or draftsperson on your design. They will be able to advise you on whether you’ll need council approval, plus they should be aware of council requirements, and can prepare all necessary documentation. Before hiring an architect or builder, seek references from at least two recent clients. Depending on the scope and complexity of your project, getting plans drawn up can take at least a month. Making multiple revisions will add to the time frame (and cost).

You should only proceed to the approval stage once you’re happy with the design and have a realistic idea from a builder of how much it will cost. If your project has a heritage overlay, work with heritage consultants from the start to avoid costly delays and redesigns later in the process.

A development application (DA) is often the first step in the approval process; once that’s done, you can get final quotes or estimates from your builder or put the job out to tender. Once your builder has been selected, you’ll usually need to apply to council or a private certifier for construction approval and any other service-related approvals.

modern black and white bathroom with bathtub

Get your orders in

Consider the lead times on prime cost items, like tiles, fixtures and fittings, and custom elements like joinery. If your taps and toilet aren’t on site when they need to be, it will hold up the job and have a knock-on effect. For joinery (like custom kitchen cabinetry) you should typically allow a minimum of six weeks, while custom doors and windows could take up to three months. These time frames vary, so make sure you check when placing your order.

If you are ordering items from overseas, ask your supplier for a realistic time frame for delivery. With the current building and reno boom, lead times for joinery – and even for structural timber and other building supplies – may also be longer than previously. So it’s important that you or your builder talk to suppliers and joiners early on to make sure everything has been ordered and will arrive on schedule.

Pay your bills

Payment terms will be laid out in the contract you sign with the builder. With a fixed-price contract, you’ll usually be billed weekly or monthly for a set amount. Or you might have agreed to a cost-plus contract, where the builder charges you for time and materials, and payments vary depending on what’s been done on-site. Builders need to pay their staff and subcontractors as well as for materials, so it’s important that invoices are paid in a timely manner to keep the job flowing.

Keen to do some reno work yourself?

Use our step-by-step guide on how to build kitchen base cabinets to learn a DIY skill or two.


Photo Credit: Tim Williams, Brigid Arnott
Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.