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  • Tamiko Gleeson

Renovation Resilience: Tips on Surviving AND Enjoying your Home Renovation

Renovation progress of a house in Sydney
Renovating and extending our 1960s home in Newport

Renovating your home can be fun and exciting, but also a daunting, stressful, expensive and confusing experience. Your home is not only to be likely your most significant financial asset, but also emotionally - it is a space for your family to feel safe, loved, nurtured and inspired. No wonder there's some pressure to get it right and even more so if it's the first time you are renovating. While it's true that you will learn as you go - it pays to learn from the experiences of others and plan your renovation for success, with the right tips and tricks.


Experiencing and living through my own renovations, here are my top 5 tips for planning a successful and enjoyable renovation - yes, it IS possible!


Tip #1 - Be Resourceful Before you Start


Join a local Facebook renovating group - great for advice, local trade/supplier recommendations, knowledge of local regulations with council, real people asking and explaining in a real way.


Joining a local Facebook group before undertaking a renovation can be a valuable step for various reasons:


  • Local Advice and Recommendations: Members openly share their renovation experiences, offering advice on contractors, suppliers, and materials specific to your area. You can benefit from the collective knowledge of people who have already gone through similar projects.

  • Contractor Recommendations: Take note of recommend reliable contractors, builders, or tradespeople based on their personal experiences. This can help you find trustworthy professionals for your renovation project.

  • Cost Estimates: Local group members may share their renovation costs, giving you a realistic idea of what to expect in terms of budget for similar projects in your area. This can help you plan and more accurately allocate funds .

  • Regulations and Permits: Gain insights into local regulations, zoning laws, and permit requirements. Understanding these factors beforehand can save you time and potential legal issues during the renovation process.

  • Problem-Solving and Tips: If you encounter challenges or have questions about your renovation, the local community can offer solutions and tips. This collaborative environment can be a valuable resource for troubleshooting and problem-solving.

  • Access to Local Resources: Members may share information about local stores, suppliers, or discounts on materials, helping you find the best deals and resources for your renovation needs.

  • Community Support: Renovation projects can be stressful, and having a supportive local community can provide encouragement, motivation, and a sense of camaraderie. You may find people who have faced similar challenges and can offer emotional support or practical advice.

  • Inspiration and Ideas: Local groups can be a source of inspiration for your renovation project. Members often share photos of their completed renovations, providing ideas and design inspiration that align with local preferences.

Once you have found a local renovation Facebook group, introduce yourself, ask questions, and engage with the community to make the most of the valuable insights and support available. But, be warned - do not take the information for absolute gospel, they are fantastic to broaden your general knowledge of building, but the majority are every day people that may not understand necessary building codes - and it is always best to verify your queries with your builder, architect, draftsperson or designer.


For those in the Sydney area I have included some recommended Facebook groups at the end of this post!


"Be warned - do not take the information for absolute gospel, they are fantastic to broaden your general knowledge of building, but the majority are just every day people that may not understand necessary building codes.."

Progress of a home renovation in Sydney
CHIFLEY PROJECT: Luke and Renee's dad with the new view of their living room extension

Tip #2 - Develop a Relationship with your Builder


Below are ways my husband and I developed a relationship with our builder and trades. You may not be able to commit to all of these, but showing a small effort is always appreciated and respected by your building team. A hot coffee or cold drink (weather dependent!) every now and then also never goes astray.


  • Determine what you can help with (whether it is demolition, rubbish removal, cleaning space ahead of time. i.e. moving furniture from a room ahead of time). This not only saves on labour costs and delays, but develops a respectful partnership between you and the builder. Word of warning: Know your limitations and always check with the builder. While it sounds a novel idea to get your (or likely hire... who has one really?) sledgehammer to your old bathroom, without the proper advice and knowledge you're likely to do more harm than good. Check with your builder, get advice, see what's achievable (for you) and leave the rest to the experts.

  • Be on site each morning: At this point in my career and life I was leaving home at 6AM for work. But during the renovation, I delayed leaving for work until 7AM when the builder arrived on site. This gave us an opportunity for a daily update and task list. Everyday I would ask “what do you need from me next?" - it could be the ordering of vanities, tapware, tiles, deciding paint colours, etc. We initially experienced being 'caught out' by having to quickly answer questions from our builder, so we quickly learnt to create a foreseeable workflow/to-do list that gave us time to consider options and/or purchase items, ahead of when it was needed by the builder. They appreciated the result it gave them - that we had responses and direction that weren't on the run. (I think renovations can become mind fields of 'on the run' unless you are proactive and try to be ahead of the game). I know not it is not practical to be on site for everyone - so instead, ensure you are available to communicate, or set up a regular face-to-face or over-the-phone catch up meetings to ensure you are being kept up-to-date and aware of what's coming next.


I know not it is not practical to be on site for everyone - so instead, ensure you are available to communicate, or set up a regular face-to-face or over-the-phone catch up meetings to ensure you are being kept up-to-date and aware of what's coming next.

  • Communication - be available for questions, have images, have drawings (doesn't have to be professional), don’t pretend to know 'builder talk' and ask questions! Our builder respected me wanting to know, not to question, but to understand - they knew I was respecting their craft

  • Who fancies a cuppa? - Now this is definitely not required and I understand now always possible (be it due to timing, proximity or financially) - but in my experience being able to offer your trades something as simple as a hot coffee in the morning goes a long way. By no means is this an expectation that builders have, but more a welcomed surprise if they were to be offered. Every now and then we would shout a take away lunch or a plate of hot hashbrowns on a cold morning. Once after a particularly solid week of work, we decided to make everyone a BBQ lunch using our new outdoor kitchen. Totally understand this can't be done all the time, and we were very fortunate that my husband was able to work remotely in order to do this.

Builders enjoying lunch on a work site home renovation sydney
The boys from Modcon enjoying their lunch from our new Tucker BBQ
"... renovations can become mind fields of 'on the run' unless you are proactive and try to be ahead of the game"

Tip #3 - Be Flexible

  • Prioritise areas - when it comes to renovating your home, it's all about setting priorities. Figuring out which areas need the most attention can make a huge difference in how smoothly the project goes. Maybe it's fixing that leaky roof first or upgrading the outdated electrical system. Prioritising helps you focus your time and budget where it matters most, making sure you tackle the important stuff before getting into the more cosmetic changes. It's not just about making things look good; it's about making your home safer, more functional, and suited to your needs. So, take a step back, figure out what really needs fixing or updating, and go from there. Your wallet and sanity will thank you!

  • Learn to work with your families routines - e.g. baby/toddler naps are paramount as a new mum. If you are doing some of the work yourself, my husband knew only to use power tools when bub was awake, or if builders were on site, our daughter's naps moved to walks in the pram or in the car for a long drive and visits to showrooms were planned between naps - learn to be flexible, know it isn’t forever, and work out what is best for your family, instead of fighting it. (No point being upset or annoyed that the work is impacting your family life - but rather, remembering it is to better your home and environment for your family). 


  • Not everything will go to plan - flexibility during a home renovation is essential because unexpected challenges and changes are inevitable. Whether it's discovering hidden issues behind walls, adapting to rising budget constraints, or adjusting the project timeline due to circumstances out of anyone's control, being flexible allows you to more smoothly navigate these challenges. Understanding that while you may have had your heart set "that cladding" or "that stone", but with rising costs they could now come back at more than 40% of what you were anticipating. Learn to pivot, and either adjust your budget in other areas if they are a must have, or find an alternative that you will be happy with, that also allows you to finish your project on time, and at a reasonable cost.


"Learn to pivot, and either adjust your budget in other areas... or find an alternative that you will be happy with, that also allows you to finish your project on time, and at a reasonable cost."

Tip #4 - Understand a Realistic Budget


Creating a realistic budget for renovating is crucial to ensure that your project stays on track financially. Here are some tips to help you understand and develop a realistic budget for your renovation:


  • Define Your Goals and Prioritise: Clearly define your renovation goals. Identify must-haves and nice-to-haves. Prioritise areas that need attention and allocate budget accordingly.

  • Research Costs: Research the costs of materials, labour, and permits in your local area. Prices can vary, so getting local quotes will provide a more accurate estimate (or depending on your postcode, it may be more cost-effective to source from another area).

  • Get Multiple Quotes: Don't settle for the first quote you receive. Obtain quotes from multiple contractors and vendors. This will help you understand the average cost for the services and materials you need.

  • Consider Contingencies: Unforeseen issues can arise during renovations. Set aside a contingency fund (usually 10-20% of your budget) to cover unexpected expenses or changes in plans.

  • Factor in Hidden Costs: In addition to materials and labour, there are often hidden costs such as permits, design fees, taxes, and disposal fees. Make sure to account for these in your budget.

  • DIY vs. Professional Labour: If you plan on doing some of the work yourself, be realistic about your skills and the time it will take. While DIY can save money, mistakes can be costly, so weigh up the pros and cons and seek advice from a professional of what you should and shouldn't do.

  • Energy Efficiency and Long-Term Savings: Consider the long-term savings that energy-efficient upgrades may provide. While they may have a higher upfront cost, they can save you money over time.

  • Timeline and Phases: Consider the timeline for your renovation. Some projects may need to be done in phases due to budget constraints. Plan accordingly and prioritise the most critical areas first.

  • Consult with Professionals: Engage with architects, designers or contractors early in the planning process. Their expertise can help you make informed decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

A cover page for a bathroom renovation budget
  • Track Expenses: Keep a detailed record of all expenses related to the renovation. This will help you stay on top of your budget and identify any areas where you may be overspending. Renovating a bathroom? Download our free bathroom renovation budget spreadsheet!

  • Regularly Review and Adjust: As the renovation progresses, regularly review your budget and make adjustments if necessary. This proactive approach can help you avoid major financial surprises. Remember that communication and flexibility are key during the renovation process. Be prepared to make adjustments to your plans and budget as needed while keeping your overall goals in mind.


"Set aside a contingency fund (usually 10-20% of your budget) to cover unexpected expenses or changes in plans."

Renovation progress kitchen cabinets
BUDERIM PROJECT: New build progress on their stunning MCM inspired kitchen

Tip #5 - Shop Around


It pays to be consumer aware. Just like it is advised to get at least three quotes for your builder, it's also wise to get additional quotes for other items, such as kitchen bench tops, tiles, etc. But be warned, ensure you know your contract with your builder, as there may be stipulations on what you can and can't source yourself.


  • Get multiple quotes - Your builder may have a preferred supplier, but it doesn't always mean that it is the best option financially for you. For our own home, our builder provided a quote for our kitchen benchtops - which was significantly more than we had budgeted. Instead of changing the stone choice, (which my husband was very keen for!), I 'shopped around' and found a highly recommended stonemason in one of my Facebook groups (funny that!) that provided a quote 30% less than our original quote.

  • Trade pricing - Did you know most of your PC items can be purchased by your builder, carpenter, designer at trade prices? This is part of the construction world, just like the steak you pay for at a restaurant isn't the same price as was bought from the butcher. If you are purchasing your PC items, you might want to consider utilising the services of an interior designer. Not only will they help you with spatial planning, feedback on plans and help you design your ideal home, but they also have access to trade pricing. They may be able to offer you most items at a price below RRP, saving you potentially thousands of dollars. For e.g. the savings off specified PC items for a recent bathroom design for one of my clients, was MORE than my design fees. By utilising my services, the couple will actually save money. Wild right?


"...the savings off specified PC items for a recent bathroom design for one of my clients, was MORE than my design fees. By utilising my services, the couple will actually save money. Wild right?"

Finished home new build Sydney mid-century modern northern beaches
The end of our renovation/extension - but you'll soon discover it never really is the "end"... always something else to do!

Use these tips to plan for your home renovation as well as for success


Instead of purely learning as you go - remember to use my tips to help you plan for a successful renovation project.


If you feel you need further support, book a free introductory call and let's chat about ways I can help guide your project.


Have you recently renovated? Are you about to? I would love to know if you have similar or other tips for others? Or do you know of a Facebook group that you would recommend to others? Leave a comment below and let others know!


Recommended Facebook groups:

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