Wonder what your home is worth? Find out with our free service.

How to keep construction costs down

Aspect Designs, Sydney, NSW

Find a tradesperson
... or get 3 obligation free quotes

Search   Post a job

Aspect Designs, Building Designers, Sydney Aspect Designs, Building Designers, Sydney Aspect Designs, Building Designers, Sydney

Six essential tips you need to know

Just last night while relaxing in front of the TV watching Grand Designs, I was reminded of the stresses involved in home renovating and building. The building process is nerve-racking and expensive, and if given the opportunity to do it over, many people simply would not.

So why do building and renovating cost so much? And what can you do to limit the mental stress and tame the capital outlay that will inevitably occur? Here are six tips to help keep the process in check and prevent the loss of your sanity.

Tip 1: Don't make emotional decisions

Think hard about decisions that will increase the cost of construction. Listen to the professionals when they say 'that is going to cost you more'. And if they don't say 'that is going to cost you more', ask the question: 'will that be an extra cost?'. Just having this level of awareness will save you thousands.

Tip 2: Limit your unknown building costs

There are two main reasons why it's tough to keep costs under control when renovating.

The first is you don't know what you're going to find during the renovation process. And the second is all professionals involved in the job will need to keep referring back to the existing structure.

For these reasons a renovation generally takes more time, more thought and more money than a new house, per square metre. Footing costs can work into the hundreds of thousands and are an unknown cost until construction is complete. As a general rule, builders exclude footing costs from their quotes because the cost will depend on what is found in the ground. However, it is generally safe to assume sloping blocks and waterfront properties are going to have the highest costs for footings.  Try to gain as much information as possible early in the project by speaking to the right people such as well respected quantity surveyors.

Tip 3: Choose a builder with a good local reputation

The best way to select a builder is to spend six months or more chatting to people. Talk to anyone and everyone from friends and family to mums and dads from your kids' school. Find out which builders those people have used and ask if their building jobs were well managed and if they were happy with the work. Do this and you will start to notice a few builders keep being mentioned, and from this you will be able to choose the right builder for you. Building is a big job, so avoid using family or friends and be extra careful if you choose a builder from our online directory or some other website such as the YellowPages.

Tip 4: DIY what you can, but keep within your comfort zone

There are loads of jobs you can do yourself, the most obvious being painting and landscaping. But the average person can also do tasks like tiling, assembling flat-pack kitchens, carpeting, paving and more. However, if you do plan to go down the do-it-yourself path, ensure you have enough space in your life to take on these tasks - otherwise mistakes will be made and they will cost you extra. See our DIY house design article here.  If you decide to build using an usual structure such as a strawbale home, bear in mind that you will probably need extra professional advice and a longer learning period.

Tip 5: Become an owner builder

Owner builders will save themselves the supervision percentage that builders charge to manage a job. And typically this charge is about 10-15% of the total bill. However, in reality, you are capable of doing it yourself. Managing the build means engaging the trades, managing them, checking their work and paying the bills.

If this idea appeals to you, there are weekend courses you can do to educate yourself about the process. Also, speak with your local council to find out what they require from you to be registered as an owner builder. For further reading, see "The building process fully explained" to get educated about the construction process.

Kit homes are perfect for the owner builder and depending on the size you may not even need council approval.

Tip 6: Stick to your building budget

Stick to your budget, stick to your budget, stick to your budget. This is a critical tip so many people seem to ignore during the construction process. But this is the golden rule that you must abide by, or you will run the risk of over capitalising or enduring a huge mortgage.