The Experts

Renovating on a budget


By AMP Financial Adviser Dianne Charman

We are dazzled by the beautiful renovations seen every week on those amazing reno shows but what if you’re not renovating on a television network’s budget? How to embark on simple DIY renos that won’t break the bank.

We have all seen the glorious, glistening finishes of the freshly completed bathrooms of the TV renovation shows, complete with eight-foot voids and granite shower floors. And we’ve all dreamed about having a bathroom like that in our own home.

From a financial standpoint, adding value to your home with a renovation is a smart move. You’re adding value and improving your re-sale price.

But if you don’t have the budget of a television network, can you still renovate? And how do you keep the costs down if you don’t have an additional $10,000 bonus for winning the bedroom round?


It’s amazing how much cheaper things can become when you shoulder a lot of the work yourself. When getting a painter in, strip the old paint yourself. When getting a cabinetmaker in, remove the old cabinets yourself, with the help of a friend or partner. Do the painting yourself. Sand back the floors yourself.

Attend a class or two. Many chain hardware stores host free Saturday morning classes that teach everyday people how to use power tools, measure and cut materials for installation, along with a raft of other DIY handywoman skills. So ask around and find out who’s teaching the things you need to know.

2. Small, manageable goals

Break the project up into smaller projects. Don’t renovate your entire house at once. Do one room at a time, or even one section of a room at a time. Or just the garden.

When you turn the project into smaller jobs, it becomes something that can easily be managed over consecutive weekends. You don’t have to take a month off work, move the family into a hotel and bring in teams of professionals to gut the house and re-build it from the ground up.

When it’s smaller, it’s easier on the budget.

3. Bargain hunt

There are lots of ways you can save on materials. Ring builders and ask what off-cuts they have available. Ring paint companies and ask if they have any discontinued lines they’re selling cheaply.

Re-use and recycle materials – can the taps that are coming out of the bathroom be re-used elsewhere, the laundry perhaps? Or can they be sold online?

Do you really need brand new pavers around the side of the house? Second-hand pavers are everywhere – put a notice up on Facebook, asking your friends if they’ve got any pavers they don’t need. Ask them to share your request with their friends. You’ll be amazed at what pops up!

4. Reality check – don’t over-capitalise!

Yes, the eight-foot void in the bathroom is breathtaking. It adds drama to the room and really gives it the wow factor. And it’s great if you can afford it. But don’t over-capitalise! By spending $50,000 on the bathroom, you have to be realistic about making that money back. If you live in a two-bedroom fibro house in the outer suburbs, it’s unlikely you’ll add $50,000 to the sale price, no matter how great the bathroom is.

Also, depending on your age, you need to be careful about spending money that is designated for your retirement. Why blow $50,000 on a bathroom when you can have a great, albeit less dramatic bathroom for $5,000 and keep $45,000 for retirement?

5. Plan, plan, plan

When you have finalised your plan, print it out and laminate it. And then don’t let anyone distract you from your plan. Certainly, things change from time to time and it’s good to be flexible, but if you are clear in your priorities you’ll be less tempted to deviate from your plan, even if someone tells you that backyard duck ponds are the latest in-thing and will add the most value to your home!

Renovating your home doesn’t need to be an all-consuming job that bleeds your bank account dry.

Approach renovations sensibly and do as much as you can yourself, for as small a spend as you can. Be disciplined about sticking to the plan and you’ll keep control of your costs.


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