Home renovation 101 – Everything you need to know.
Home Renovations involve a wide range of changes and updates you can make to your home. The purpose of which is to improve the quality, style, and value of your home. Knowing what your renovation options are, what each step entails, and the costs involved can help you make an informed decision. Let us look at what those options are, their costs and some common mistakes you should avoid.
What do Home Renovations entail?
A renovation is defined as the process of repairing, restoring, and uplifting the state of something (like a house or a building). Renovations are usually done on outdated, run-down, or damaged houses but are by no means reserved only for that. You can renovate your house at any point and for any reason. While some may renovate to handle damp or structural issues, others may renovate to breathe new life into an area. There are many benefits to renovating your home.
Home renovations are more than just attending to mere maintenance issues which keep the home in a decent condition. Home renovations involve taking what you currently have and either adding onto it, (make the space bigger) or making it better. You can update an old kitchen, a tired bathroom, or simply improve the layout to better use of space.
The main benefit of renovating is that you get to customize and choose the changes yourself. You can add onto your current house to make space for a new child or grandparents. It would be cheaper to add a 4th bedroom onto your already existing 3-bedroom house than trying to sell your current house, find and buy a 4-bedroom house. By renovating you are passively investing your money into an asset you own. Besides the cost implications, renovating adds value to your house. By upgrading to more modern finishes, you would fetch a better selling price on your house than before. Best of all, renovating gives you the opportunity to install energy efficient solutions which will have a substantial effect on your monthly utility bills.
Renovation vs Maintenance
As mentioned, a renovation involves changing or adding something to your house. It generally involves something new; like new tiles, a new bathroom, a new kitchen, or a new bedroom. Maintenance on the other hand, is basically “servicing the existing”. For example, the waterproofing on your slab has a shelf life. This ‘shelf life’ can be extended by regularly maintaining the waterproofing. The plaster on your house will last much longer if the paint on it is looked after and repainted once every few years. As with a car that needs regular servicing, your house needs regular maintenance.
Regular Maintenance: To avoid major and costly renovations, it is always best to maintain your house regularly. Areas to maintain would be:
- Walls: Repainting of your house should be done when you start seeing hairline / settlement cracks, or when you start seeing the paint has faded. Newly built houses need to be repainted within 3 years. This is because the first coat of paint is reacting to the plaster, effecting the longevity of the paint. Subsequent recoating should be done every 5-7 years thereafter.
- Timber Doors: Oil or Varnish doors regularly, as well as shave them when they start to stick/jam. Hinges, sliding door and window mechanisms need to be oiled as well. Aluminum doors need to be serviced by an aluminum company at least once every 2-3 years, or when a moving part starts giving problems.
- Slabs/Roof: Regularly waterproofing where needed. (Slabs, windowsills, tops of walls, plinth of the house). Slate roof tiles to be checked / serviced every 12-18 months, or when contractors work on the roof. A normal tiled roof needs to be checked and serviced every 5 years or so. The ridging and waterproofing of the ridging needs to be redone at same intervals, or as needed. Valleys and gutters need to be cleaned out twice per year, or as needed. Concrete slabs need to have their waterproofing membrane serviced/checked once a year.
- Cracks: Filling in plaster cracks when they happen to prevent water ingression.
- Gutters: Clearing gutters regularly to avoid water damage, peeling paint, and leaking.
- Flooring: Tiling should be checked for any hollow tiles or missing grout. Repair this sooner rather than later. Timber floors can be sanded and sealed as needed, this will depend on the type of wood and what your installers have recommended. Coloured/cement screeded floors and many natural stone tiles would need to be sealed regularly to prevent stain ingression.
Renovation choices: The areas to renovate in your house are endless. Here is a list of the most common areas people choose to renovate:
- Doors and windows: If your doors are worn out, replacing them with new timber or aluminum doors will make a difference. Replacing your steel or wooden window frames with aluminum increase the longevity of this area and add to the energy efficiency of your home.
- Painting: Repainting a house to a new colour, internally and externally. A quick refresh that upgrades the appearance of your house at a relatively low cost.
- Flooring: Another quick way to refresh the state of your house is to redo the floors and skirting. You could add new carpets, modern wooden floors, or new tiles.
- Kitchens and Cupboards: Replacing your current kitchen and cupboards will provide more storage and a more personalised layout. Adding a modern kitchen will also increase the value of your home substantially.
- Bathrooms: As with the kitchen, redoing your bathroom allows you to configure the space to your needs and upgrade the finishes to something more modern.
- Internal restructuring: Reorganising the internal layout of your house can be helpful as well. You can reconfigure the rooms to create a more open plan feel or create private areas by partitioning larger rooms.
- Additions and conversions: Many families are converting garages or unused areas into additional rooms or home offices to allow for a better use of space and lifestyle.
- Adding Cottages: If your property allows, you could add a standalone cottage for grandparents, office space, or entertainment area.
Which renovation would add the most value to a home?
Adding a new kitchen, bathroom, or the addition of a new space all increase the value of your property. An important thing to remember when renovating is to ensure that your plans do not overcapitalise the property in relation to the area you are in. The balance would be to ensure that your renovation plans, and the costs thereof do not increase the value of your house to the point that selling at a profit is not possible. When in doubt, it is best to chat to a trusted estate agent who knows the area. They will be able to give you a valuation for properties in your area and guide you in terms of the investment value you should look at making.
What goes into home renovations?
1. Design and planning
Consider what changes you would like to make and how you can go about them. If they are internal and minor, you can contact a contractor to quote you on the work. If an architect needs to be consulted for the changes, for example if you are adding on rooms, you will more than likely need to have plans draw up, as well as submit them to town council for approval.
Besides considering the finances you have at your disposal; it is a good idea to think about whether you will recover these costs if you were suddenly forced to sell. This is a basic check to see if you are overcapitalizing. If you bought your house at R1 million, and you know you can only sell for R1.5 million, then renovating to the value of R750k would not be wise (You will be making a loss). Unless of course, you intend to stay in the house long enough for the property value to increase and recoup your costs.
3. Choosing a contractor
With your designs and budget in place, you can start finding a contractor. Keep in mind that not all ‘building’ contractors can renovate. There are different types of contractors, each providing different services. It is best to do some homework, get a few names referred by friends and family or your architect. Read more about choosing the right contractor here.
If your project requires extensive demolition you should have this done by a specialist. Extensive demolition would entail taking down a part of the house for example. Smaller demolitions, like breaking down a wall or two, can be done by contractor. Your contractor will be able to advise if the walls you intend to demolish are structural or not. If they are structural, you will need to consult with your contractor and an engineer to find a suitable solution.
5. Structural works
Any renovations that involve altering the structural integrity of the house will require the involvement of an engineer. An engineer carries a professional indemnity insurance so that in the event of a structural failure, you have recourse to claim. Contractors are not qualified to make structural decisions. (Even though their experience may help them provide guidance and the right solution, always refer to an engineer to be safe).
6. Electrics and plumbing
Be prepared for the unknown when it comes to plumbing and electrics. Depending on the age of your house and the plumbers / electricians who have worked on it previously, there could be a few surprises. You could possibly have to rewire the entire house so that the electrician can bring the house up to the correct code. The electrical and plumbing laws change all the time to accommodate the advancement in technology and their requirements. What might have been approved 10 years ago, may not be approved today. Allow a contingency value in your total price to cover for these unknown extras. And of course, use qualified trades people only.
Renovating kitchens and cupboards is perhaps one of the easier tasks. If you intend to redo your kitchen and cabinets, visit a kitchen showroom, and consult with a designer. Kitchen designers are trained to work out what configuration will work best for the space you have available. They also have insight into the basic requirements for a kitchen, pantry, laundry, bedroom, bathroom, and study. They will assist with a design that suits your style and functionality needs. Plan your kitchen sooner rather than later. Kitchens and cupboards take time to manufacture, so allow for this time in your project schedule. Work with your contractor to estimate when he will have space ready for the cabinet company to deliver and install. This will most likely be towards the end of the project, to avoid damage to the cabinets.
Replacing windows is a high value but also a high-cost item. Changing all windows from timber to aluminium for example, can add instant value to the house, but it is costly. Consider the type of windows you want, taking their unique attributes into consideration. Steel windows often do not provide the best energy efficient solution. And while timber windows have a lovely look, they require maintenance. Aluminium on the other hand provides the best energy efficient solution, with the least maintenance long term.
9. Painting, flooring and finishes.
There are many different finishing options available, and the price range is as diverse. Choose the best paint / finish that you can afford. Remember that the purpose of a renovation is to upgrade the existing to something better. By investing in the ‘best product’ you can afford right now, will ultimately provide longevity, as well as a better return on investment.
Common mistakes to avoid when renovating:
- Exceeding your budget:
Rather cut back on the scope and do a few things properly, than break your budget to do more things at a lower quality.
- Price Wars:
Avoid selecting a contractor based exclusively on price. We have seen numerous renovation projects go awry when a cheaper contractor could not do the work properly or finish the job. Amongst other things, consider reputation, references, price, and experience.
- Keeping the old:
Trying to repurpose too much of the existing finishes in an effort to save costs could be more detrimental to the project than good. Often the costs of repurposing an item for another area attracts unnecessary customizing and labour costs. For example, you might incur an additional R4000 for the contractor to repurpose a built-in cupboard from the bedroom to the garage, when buying a new garage cupboard would only cost R6000. Weigh up the options and costs involved when considering what items to repurpose.
- Live in Renovations:
Living in your house during a renovation is a weighty decision to make. If the renovation is going to impact more than 50% of your house, it may be better to move out for the duration of the renovation, especially if you have small children. Renovating is dusty, messy, and exponentially more stressful for homeowners who opt to live in rather than move out.
- Phasing a Renovation:
Unless this is absolutely necessary, aim to complete all renovations as one project. Besides having to stop start your life each time, a phased renovation will be more expensive. A contractor is likely to consolidate costs for a single project as opposed to charging separately for each phase, and the retail price for materials will change over time as well.
Do not lose track of site meetings and stay involved with the renovation. Renovations have substantially more unknown variables that surprise the homeowner and contractor during the project than a new build. The more you are involved, the more control you have over these variations and less of a surprise you will get when the final bill arrives.