Save $$$ on your renovation

MARK HUGHES is the Barefoot Renovator, and he recently moved his office down Freo way – into the old World of Renovation building at 86 High Street. Mark, who’s got a blog on the side ( is pretty passionate about good advice on all things reno and says he been increasingly asked for advice about the ‘myths’ of the industry. Here’s part 3 of his thoughts on how to save yourself money – and hassles, while renovating. 

PICK a figure. This may be easier said than done but the principle rings true. Pick a figure – a budget that you’re comfortable with, including a bit extra up your sleeve for those freakishly annoying unknown factors that invariably crop up – then, stick to it!

Easy right?

So, here’s how I see things change in the often all-too-common events that follow:

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being ‘the Earth will continue to orbit the Sun on a 365-day cycle’ and, 1, being ‘no it won’t’, this is a ‘10’ on the scale of reasons why budgets blow out.

The budget is unrealistic in the first place. Sorry, far from mind-blowing but nearly always the case.

Sometimes it’s a poorly thought through ploy to work the builder, designer/architect into designing something that’s impossible to crow-bar into the ‘budget’, while blissfully knowing there’s more available – “but I ain’t gonna tell the builder that!”.

Unfortunately, this approach usually costs more because, after getting prices back and realising the budget was unrealistic, the project gets rethought, redesigned and repriced. The net effect is either you ‘find’ more money to accommodate the design, or the job finally does come into budget but not until spending considerable time, and usually money, with changes to plans and specifications etc.


Often this is due to a client having been ‘burnt’ in the past by a previous builder or from a mistrust of the industry as a whole. 

They think if the builder knows the budget, they will ‘spend it’ no matter what and “how do we know we’re not being ripped off?”

Sadly, this stereotype is perpetuated throughout the industry by a few less-than-scrupulous builders, which taints the rest of us. 

More common it is a general lack of understanding from the client, architect/designer’s perspective on what the project is likely to cost. 

Magpie fever kicks in!

Oh yes, the shiny stuff you want. We see budgets shoot northwards at a far more rapid rate than when Robert Peary trudged endlessly to the North Pole in 1909, due to emotional spending on fixtures and fixings and changes during the build that can become costly. 

Pinterest and glossy magazines forego the need to include price-tags on their beautiful images yet lure unsuspecting clients into a costly design process. 

Even simple specifications and selections [or lack of] can impact significantly. 

For example, a hotplate that isn’t specified and ‘later’ becomes an induction hot plate…which needs its own electrical circuit. Caching! 

This is why we suggest engaging a builder from the outset, to work alongside the designer/architect or find a builder that can offer the design service as part of their in-house package. 

This way they can help ‘guide’ the design from a cost perspective, so there are no big surprises when the quotes come back. 

The simple truth is a budget can be rendered as useless as trying to straighten deckchairs on the Titanic if a clear idea of the scope, fixtures, fixings and details aren’t locked in as part of the overall budget.

The option we take is to work on an ‘open book’ process, which you could discuss with your builder too. 

In this scenario, the trade and supplier quotes are reviewed with the client and the builder applies a cost for their time to supervise, manage and administer the project, plus their profit margin, which is also disclosed. 

This is then ‘fixed’ based on the scope of works and expected timeframe. 

So, no matter if you have marble benchtops or laminate, Cedar cladding to the walls or render, this cost remains the same. 

Now, what’s your budget?

If you have any questions you’d like answering, please send them in and we will try to address them 

“A budget can be rendered as useless as trying to straighten deckchairs on the Titanic..”

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