Controlling Building Costs

March 6, 2018

How do you control and minimise the costs of your proposed Extension?

You need more space. The builders who have responded to your enquires have all varied wildly with their anticipated costs. (No builder will give you a genuine quote without an approved drawing.)

The most positive thing you can do to save money is to take a hands –on approach If you can source information and are prepared to do some legwork, you can and will save money.

Begin by Setting up a folder where you can store information. Create sections for the different spaces you are planning to renovate. Collect information and prices.

I always tell my clients the second thing they should buy is an 8m metric tape. All the trades you deal with will be talking in metric so become familiar with it. In time you will surprise yourself with the understanding and knowledge you will develop.


Begin by putting a reasonable time frame on your job; you are not going to transform your home in six months. More than likely from the time you start planning till the time you complete the job will take at least eighteen months, if not longer. If you have thoughts of transforming the house, because a cousin is coming for a six-week holiday in six months; forget it! Do not tempt fate!

On the two occasions I have seen this attempted the relative on both occasions arrived in the middle of renovations.

To achieve a quality job within your budget you will need time and definitely no added pressures.


The most important question is budget. How much can you really afford?

If $80,000.00 is the limit,  you are not going to achieve a great deal. The stark reality is that ground floor alterations to a typical bungalow including a new kitchen start at $200,000.00 and can easily be more in some cases a lot more. Granny Flats although advertised for around $120,000.00 on some websites generally cost a good deal more.

In reality after you remove the cost of the kitchen, light and bathroom fittings, and the painting what is left is your building budget. In some instances you may just need to move.

1. Your plans should be simple and straight-forward. Try to utilize the existing sewage and water. If you are going to move the bathroom consider the position of your existing kitchen.

2. Keep demolition to a minimum. Everything you pull down will have to be disposed of at $360.00 per tonne. If you demolish internal walls in an old house, built with lime mortar then save, clean and reuse the bricks. Remember if you remove a wall you will have to patch the floor where the wall used to be.

3. If your rebuilding external walls then consider lightweight cladding, If your budget is tight, Do not expect to be able to build with double brick. (If you are building on the boundaries you will have to use masonry, (brick, hebel or block) to satisfy the councils interpretation of the Building Code.)

4. Consider using secondhand windows and doors. They will match better with an older house and you can save big money. This was written in 2002 and I now tend towards buying new windows and doors. At least you will be getting materials that are not warped or have unseen rot in the joints. Of course there are exceptions but tread carefully when buying second hand. Remember there is no comeback if you are paying cash.

5. Consider the Roof Space. An attic is the cheapest way to add floor space to a home.

6. Hire a designer who is interested in your problems, offers sound advice and drawings that are detailed enough to be handed to builders and carpenters’ to tender from.

7. Consider taking out an owner-builders license and supervising the job yourself. Remember building is a full time job. No contractor is going to manage your job if they are not paid to do so.

8. Tender your work in the herald, eg Price required to rebuild kitchen and bathroom. This is an excellent way of getting competitive prices.

Remember any builder who has loads of work may be very good but they are not going to sharpen their pencil to get you work.

Controlling building costs will require commonsense and a fair bit of hard work on your part. You probably won’t do much else for the duration of the project. However, you will learn a great deal about building and will be better equipped when the fatal urge to renovate strikes you again.


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