Actually the very first person you should speak to is your mortgage broker or bank and find out just how much you can borrow to facilitate your dream home project. Without knowing your available budget, you are lining yourself up for possible disappointment. The banks can be difficult, particularly with renovation projects on how they are valued and approved. Once you have passed this hurdle its so much smoother as well to get to the construction stage.

Now, as to whether the builder or architect should come first?… Well the best approach to a renovation or custom home is to ensure you are talking to your builder and your architect at the same time.  This approach is made even simpler when you engage us to complete the design for you.

If you find your architect first and get on with the design before you find your builder that is fine, and likewise your builder first. We recommend discussing the project with both parties as this will often dispel the issue of going over budget at an early stage. An architect or drafter will complete the home as per your specifications, but this often means the budget can snowball very quickly out of control, as we all get carried away with adding particular features, but not thinking about the end cost. The most important thing is to be discussing the project from conception stage with your builder and your architect, that way your scope and budget remains in focus throughout and often solutions to design ideas, can be developed by both parties.

You can live in the home while it is being renovated – Sometimes it can be difficult or simply too expensive to move house while you are renovating. We understand this, that is why we have developed a process for keeping you and your family safe and happy living in your home while we renovate. We just hope that you are morning people for the duration of the project as we do like to start our work days very bright and early!

There will be instances where living at home during the build won’t always work, though where possible we do like to section the house off, provide secondary access and undertake daily tasks to ensure your home is clean and safe. The times when it will be impossible to live in the home, some examples include when the house is being raised and is positioned on sties or a second storey is being added. As the house is not tied down, and a roof may be removed, it would not be safe for living in, there will also be no plumbing or electrical facilities (i.e. toilet, shower, power access). This is not the only instance where a home may not be habitable, but there are alternatives that some owners have taken on. Such as camping in the backyard, with temporary amenities (shower, toilet, power) hired on site.

Things to consider:

  1. You should consider that a builder will need to take into account the labour for disconnection and reconnection of water and electricity, such as during demolition and again for varying renovation stages, in order to facilitate your needs while living in the home. This may add to the cost of the construction a small amount, depending on the extent of works being completed.
  2. You should also consider whether you are up to the challenge and extra time it takes for daily activities when you are “roughing it”.
  3. Can you stand the dust and dirt? This is a component of any build, and as much as we can clean and sweep up general messes, when concrete slabs are exposed they generate dust daily, and mud can still enter the home from foot traffic. So be prepared to either clean regularly or live with things being a bit dirty for a while.
  4.  Do you have small children? Where kids are involved, many aspects of a building site can be exciting and all they want to do is explore and touch. However there may be such things as nails, screws and glass particles on the ground, or reinforcing steel exposed while slabs are prepared. A builder is not liable for any personal injury that you encounter while living on the property, as access cannot be closed off to all areas. Despite cleaning measures and fencing areas that really shouldn’t be accessed, this isn’t always enough. For example, for some time you may have to walk through an area under construction to access your temporary living quarters.

Every renovation and custom home project is different, so the time to taken to complete any one project varies greatly. So it is important to understand the process and be confident in your builders ability to schedule and organise everything in a timely manner. Without careful planning, it is the same as asking how long is a piece of string!

The best tool for you as an owner is to ensure your builder has a schedule that you have access to, so you can understand when critical stages of the build will be undertaken and completed. Project schedules ensure setbacks, delays and unforeseen things are dealt with and accounted for so they do not unnecessarily extend the completion date on what should be an efficient building project.

Though we understand when building your house, particularly if you need to meet a deadline, you will want to know how long it’s going to take. On average it can take approximately 6 months to complete the build of a new house. However, it can be as little as 4 months or potentially more than 12 months depending on the scale on complexity of the project. 

The stages of building a house

  1. Building Approval – this is undertaken either during the design stage, or just prior to construction. A building approval is required from the local authority to ensure the works comply with their codes and standards for building in the area. Basic rules for building requirements, such as set backs and report requirements can be found on the local governments website or asking them over the phone. 
  2. Land Preparation – the site will need to be free of trees and grass or shrubs that are within the building area. This is usually the responsibility of the property owner to manage. The builder will usually take care of the groundworks required to cut the block to suit the buildings footings. 
  3. Footings Stage – Whether its a concrete slab, piers or stumps this is an important stage of the build. It affects the outcomes for all other trades and is normally closely monitored. During the footing stage, other activities such as any in ground plumbing and initial electrical trenching take place. 
  4. Frame Stage The construction of external and internal wall frames begins. This stage also includes applicable steel beams and posts and the roof trusses.
  5. Lock up – at lock up stage the roof, gutters, temporary downpipes,  exterior wall linings (brick or cladding) and exterior doors and windows are completed. The plumber and electrician will also complete their “rough-in” of the cables and pipes for the planned plumbing and electrical points. This is often a stage when the owner will be required to advise on where they want switches, lights, plumbing fixtures placed, unless these are set in the design. 
  6. Fix-out – this is the details stage, when you will see interior linings (plasterboard and cornice etc), waterproofing, tiling, interior doors, skirting and architraves, cabinetry, wardrobes and glazing (i.e. shower screens) completed. 
  7. Practical Completion – at this final stage all the painting will be completed, followed by the finishing of plumbing fit offs (tapware, gas cookers, hot water systems) and electrical fit off’s (lighting, exhaust fans, ovens, cooktops, wall switches etc) and any other floor coverings to be completed by the builder. Landscaping works can be undertaken by the builder at this stage as well, should they form part of the contract. 

The stages of a renovation

The stages of a renovation are basically the same as those for a new build (see above), depending on the extent of works undertaken, but with the following stages added in, where applicable. 

  1. Demolition – this is either completed by the builder – where a little more complex, or undertaken by the owner. Disposal of waste materials needs to be taken into account with any demolition. Similarly the appropriate removal of asbestos materials should be undertaken at this stage to avoid any delays to trades. 
  2. Engineering Review – often some building materials are hidden from view during the design phase, and if these are structural materials such as beams and posts, an engineer may be required to review if they should remain, be reused, or be replaced to meet current standards. 
  3. Plumbing and electrical reconfiguration – where plumbing is to be added in, or relocated there will be further demolition required. Activities such as moving a plumbing waste, where the slab may be cut and a new waste installed at the preferred location. Electricians may find that wiring needs to be replaced, or relocated to facilitate the changes being completed. Examples include the relocation of the meter board or the sub-board, rewiring to meet current standards including adding in hard-wired smoke alarms. 

Should I be wary of a builder who says it can be done quicker? Only if they promise to build your home in a much, much quicker time frame than seems practical. This is often just a ploy to get you to sign up, which they will then change the details of later. 

Try not to use this method for your renovation or custom home. There really is a mountain of things that will affect your square meter cost. You will likely be disappointed if you attempt to estimate your costs based on some online tradies forum stating the average square meter rate. We recommend finding out what your budget is, so first on your list should be to visit the bank and see what you financially do, then get a reputable builder and/or architect to walk through your ideas and provide an initial rough estimate based on feasible solutions.

Time is money in any business, so expect to pay for someone’s time to complete a quote for you as well as any variations along the way. A reputable builder will request a fee to cover these expenses as it genuinely takes hours and hours to complete a detailed quote, just right for you.

Be sure to talk to your builder through the design process and be honest about your budget. It is the only way to accurately ensure you avoid disappointment after weeks of planning and designing, only to find out that you have over-run your budget and need to cut back on your dream design. Which anyone whom has renovated or built new will tell you it is sooo hard to compromise on your dream.


  1. Speak to your bank first about how much you can genuinely borrow! Do not rely solely on the mortgage calculators. Your bank will need to complete a valuation on your home and undertake a market comparison before providing you with any actual idea of how much you can borrow.
  2. Renovation projects can cost anything from $1,200/m2 up to $5,000 per metre squared. So don’t develop your budget based on a guess!
  3. Its the old adage “How long is a piece of string?” Renovations host all sorts of surprises, and homes can have hidden treasures or complete disasters behind wall linings and below concrete floors. A builder, an architect, and an engineer cannot quantify the cost when they cannot see the problem. So have a little extra cash up your sleeve for these cases! When you get past the structural nitty gritty in your construction and have that money spare, you can think about either a few upgrades, or getting those finishing touches you’ve been shopping around for.