doing renovations the right way

In property-obsessed Australia, doing a “reno” has pretty much become a national sport.

But approach a home renovation with more money than sense, and you could very easily wind up a financial loser.

“The general rule of thumb for a cosmetic renovation is that you spend no more than 10 per cent of your property value – that’s to transform your property inside and out,” says Cherie Barber, who has created a course called Renovating for Profit.

A person who buys a $400,000, unrenovated house, for example, and then spends $80,000 will be “massively overcapitalising”, she says.

Here are a few major areas where people go wrong – and expert tips on what you should do instead.

Kitchen nightmares (and solutions)

 “I think first of all, people rip out perfectly good kitchens that they shouldn’t rip out,” says Ms Barber.

“It’s not unusual for people to spend $20,000 to $40,000 on a brand-new kitchen.”

However, with a little savvy, Ms Barber says you can easily create a similar effect for under $10,000.

Firstly, avoid going direct to a cabinetmaker. Instead, she suggests buying a flat-pack kitchen, assembling it yourself and then hiring a quality carpenter to install it.

Paul Eslick, of property-education business The Reno Kings, says laminate paint is another cheaper option to make a dramatic difference to existing cabinets.

 New handles – which can be bought for a few dollars each – can also make a surprisingly large difference, as can a cheap set of venetian blinds that let light in but also allow give you privacy.

Bargain bathrooms

A new coat of paint can work wonders in any bathroom, says Mr Eslick. Off-white is his go-to colour.

“As far as I’m concerned, white, it’s ‘BBC’ – it makes it bigger, it makes it brighter and it makes it cleaner.”

You may want to change the taps and consider using tile paint rather than spending thousands on a tiler.

Ms Barber says the bathroom is an area where people tend to spend vast sums on fixtures and fittings.

People tend to spend vast sums on fixtures and fittings in bathrooms. Photo: Supplied.
People tend to spend vast sums on fixtures and fittings in bathrooms. Photo: Supplied.

“Lots of people just pay retail price for their fixtures and fittings. Half your renovation budget will go on your fixtures and fittings.”

Ms Barber never shops in tile showrooms, instead opting for wholesale options such as tile factories, Asian importers or sites such as Gumtree and eBay.

She recently snapped up a porcelain vanity for just $73 on Gumtree.

“If I had gone to Harvey Norman or Domayne that size, that quality, would have cost over $1000.”

Auction site GraysOnline and Renovation D are other great places to nab a bargain. Also keep your eye out for liquidation sales.

If you are laying new tiles, Ms Barber says larger tiles are best if you want to give the illusion of more space. Likewise, they should be laid horizontally, rather than vertically.

Painting perfection

“Without a shadow of a doubt, the best value for renovating your house is painting,” says Mr Eslick.

However, if you hire a professional, it can cost thousands. And doing it yourself can lead to hours of frustration.

Mr Eslick says a much quicker way is to hire an airless spray gun, which should cost around $90 for a half-day.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, the best value for renovating your house is painting." Photo: Supplied.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the best value for renovating your house is painting.” Photo: Supplied.

“Even amateurs can paint the whole house inside in four hours,” he says.

Get the hang of it in your backyard first by practicing with water.

Once you’re up and running, use water-based paint (never enamel), and buy in bulk.

Mr Eslick recommends painting everything in the same colour, and using a low-sheen pant to hide mistakes.

Golden Acre Renovations provides professional renovation services.