You are here:/, Design Tips/To Renovate or not to Renovate?

Renovations are often seen an economical alternative to building a new home. Numerous DIY building shows continue to inspire us to renovate when in fact renovating is not always appropriate. It’s never as easy at it looks and people end up spending more and taking longer for results that are less than satisfactory.

While it does normally cost significantly more to build a new house there is much misconception with how much value there is with renovations. Labour costs in Australia are one of the largest cost considerations in the building industry and renovations are always more labour intensive. Furthermore there is so much work that is unseen and difficult to quantify in trying to rectify old defects or in marrying old structures with new. A new build by contrast allows you to see and account for every nail and piece of building material that goes on site. There is a much more assurance that you are getting what you pay for where by contrast you could spend $5000 rewiring a few rooms in an old house and not see the difference. To make things harder there are few building contractors who enjoy doing renovating because of its fiddly nature. The few who do take on renovation works thus tend to charge a premium. Knowing what a renovation might cost is another headache as there are always so many unknowns. What logically should only cost $200,000 can easily blow out to $400,000.

At Wolf Architects we always ask our clients to carefully consider the reasons why they might want to renovate. With heritage protected properties a renovation or extension may be the only option but in many instances people just feel they should renovate because they don’t want to waste what still seems to be a perfectly good structure. While we agree that it is wasteful, it’s just not economical to try and expand or enhance existing strictures due to the high labour costs. On top of this there is the difficulty with how the building will finish up looking.  With period buildings you either design to match the period or choose a complete contrast to clearly define what is new and what is old. Both of these options are less favourable with buildings from the 1950 through to present day.

Another thing to keep in mind is the long term value of the property. While a renovation may at the time seem like a good solution in the long term it could devalue your project and limit your resale potential. Renovations are always a compromise and often vulnerable to more criticism than new buildings.  An original un-renovated property or a brand new build is more appealing than someone else’s renovation.

So are renovations in this day and age completely out of the question?

Well if your budget is limited there is probably not a lot of choice but we would encourage you to be very careful and selective with where to put your money. Unless you want to spend over $300,000, you should try to keep any structural changes to a minimum. Remember that a new Kitchen alone can cost anywhere between $25,000 and $70,000. If you need to extend out or upwards it’s important to understand how to connect the new area with the old and how it all ultimately functions together. This is where it benefits to have a good architect but they will command higher fees for smaller jobs like builders do for the same reason that it’s extremely fiddly and time consuming.

Our position on renovations is that we would rather not do them because for us they are often as much work if not more than a new house. As far as our design fees are concerned we can’t really charge less for a renovation than a new house and this does not always feel right by clients who expect design service for renovations to be significantly less.

As a result of this most renovation projects undertaken by WOLF ARCHITECTS are ones in which the budget is in excess of $400,000. With these projects we often ask our clients to consider what they might get for a new build if they were willing or able to further extend their budget to say $600,000 or $700,000. Unless the property is heritage protected or there is some other strong sentimental attachment to the property a new build if you can stretch your budget to afford it will often represent the best overall value.

Below are some images of a renovation project designed by WOLF ARCHITECTS. Click the images to enlarge.

Wolf-Architects-Renovation-Project-Front-View Wolf-Architects-Renovation-Project-Living-Room