5 “real life” lessons about renovation costs

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5 “real life” lessons about renovation costs, hidden in plain sight, They Don’t Teach You in School.

Whether or not you’re thinking about renovating your home to take advantage of the Governments home builder $25,000 grant or not there are a few things that you should know about the costs of renovating a home, especially if it’s a major renovation you have in mind.

Some of these things are fairly obvious you might say once they’ve been pointed out to you – hidden in plain sight so to speak. Nevertheless, we frequently come across people who expect that renovating is cheaper than building new.

For a small cosmetic renovation this may be true however there can often be a significant difference between the cost of building a new home compared to the cost of renovating and extending an existing one. Following are 5 factors to consider when estimating renovation costs.

renovation costs
Council zoning meant this beauty had to be saved & renovated

Costs v Compromise:

The most cost-effective renovations and extensions tend to be those where a level of compromise in the layout is accepted to meet budget constraints. That is because the cost of overcoming these compromises often leads to more demolition and reorganising of the layout of the existing house, which can be expensive.

Let’s face it; most older homes are small by todays accepted standards and work best when extended. Try to retain as much of the existing layout and structure as possible, keeping in mind that every wall that needs to be removed adds considerable cost and diverts money that could otherwise be spent on building brand new spaces within an extension.


Dare we say it [again]. Major renovations demand quality documentation! The quality of your documentation set is critical for renovation and extension projects as it needs to clearly set out the scope of works.

Unlike a new home where every part of the project is new, the drawings for a renovation or extension project will show both the existing house and proposed works. The drawings and supporting documentation need to clearly indicate to the builder and trades which parts of the building are new and which parts are existing and for those parts that are existing, whether they are being renovated, refitted, refinished, repainted, etc.

Poor quality documentation that does not clearly indicate this to builders is more likely to cause higher renovation costs due to either inaccurate or inflated quotes. This is because builders are much more likely to add a larger contingency into their quotes so that they are not exposed to the risk of cost overruns that often occur when the scope of works is not clear.

renovation costs
It was raised to allow for rooms downstairs & a rear deck was added


Unlike knocking down an existing house, which is relatively quick and easy using heavy machinery, partial demolition to renovate can be expensive. It’s one of the most significant costs that renovation projects can incur. That’s because the careful dismantling and manual demolition that is required for renovation projects often takes much longer, which adds to the cost.

You also need to be aware that for each wall, door or cupboard that is removed, there will be repair and remediation work required, sometimes involving a variety of different trades. The result is that you are spending a potentially significant portion of your budget on removing and repairing things rather than creating them.

Uncovering past mistakes:

The older your home is the more likely it is that it has already had work done to it. Some of that work may have been done correctly in a tradesman like manner, however a lot of it is likely to be hidden behind the walls, under the ground and above the ceiling – and there is no way of telling who completed the work or how well it was done until your demolition work has commenced.

So you need to be aware that there may be some rectification costs that need to be allowed for to correct or upgrade previous work which sometimes can add significant cost to your project. We, here at SCM will be able to highlight some of the hotspots for you and give advice on the method for rectification and likely costs involved.

It formed part of this larger town house project in Herston, a Brisbane suburb


This is something that should always be given a generous allowance. If not, the lack of one can lead to stoppages and hold ups along the way. One of the realities of an extension or renovation project is that there are likely to be a few surprises along the way, and unfortunately these generally aren’t happy ones.

A renovation may have any number of surprises that do not reveal themselves until work has commenced. Upgrading electrical work, structural modifications and waterproofing issues are common just to name a few.

There are two ways that surprises frequently lead to additional renovation costs. Firstly, the builder will often add a contingency into their quote to allow for some of these surprises which is understandable.

Secondly, unless they were foreseen and planned for, [in which case they would not be a surprise], they are likely to  be treated as variations to the contract price each time they come up. This means that the additional work and cost will also incur a builder’s margin of up to 20 per cent on top of the cost of the additional work. In some instances, both situations will eventuate, where, even after making some allowance in the quote, the actual cost of dealing with unknowns is over and above what has been allowed for and quoted.

Fixed Fees take away some of the worries

This especially an area where we here at SCM can help as we operate on a quoted fixed fee basis which we break down for each stage of the job. We do not add any margin to the costs of the works and what’s more, you’ll benefit greatly from our experience, especially if you engage us early in the process so that we can set your renovation project up correctly.

Please give us a call on [07] 33697779 for a no obligation chat.

This is why people use our services

Hi Team at SCM,

Apologies for the late testimonial for all you have done for us.

“Over 8 years ago my wife and I started on our journey to build our dream home. In 2012 we bought a 100year old Queenslander nestled beautifully on an 800m block in Ashgrove – an opportunity most people aspire to. Unfortunately, the house was in dire need of a renovation – something neither of us had done before.

Our plan to improve our home began immediately and we sold our investment properties to accumulate money to renovate our family home. Five years on we had set ourselves up financially (so we thought) and were ready to renovate, but did not have any experience or guidance on how to move forward.

We went thought a tough design period dealing with designers (something naive renovators should do without direction) and after 8 months finally had plans to tender out. To our dismay and shock all of the quotes returned were $100,000 above what we could afford.

It was at this point it was suggested we speak to Jacon at SCM. After 1 meeting it was clear to us that SCM offered the guidance that we wished we had before we started our design process. Within 3 months SCM had shaved $90,000 of our project (inclusive of their fee) while still having everything we wanted in our build. 

Now, the only regret of my renovation was that we never engaged SCM at the beginning of our project to co-ordinate our design and council submissions – would have saved more money not dealing with designers directly. Their management of start to finish was stress free and reassuring as they dealt with every aspect of the build. All we did was watch it happen with a sense of pride and happiness. They were the perfect middle-man who worked for the client before themselves of their agenda (something that is rare in the building industry).

Overall, we would not have renovated if it was not for SCM. They are worth every cent and second of time they require. Additionally, I would like to commend SCM on the way they match the perfect builder to the client. We did not have one negative interaction with our builder – something SCM assured us was part of their service.

I recommend SCM to every prospective renovator.”

Ryan Apps.

Ryan’s house is in Ashgrove Avenue Ashgrove – imagine how much time, money and anguish we could have saved him and his family if he’d got in touch earlier – don’t let that be you – Jacon Parry – call me on 07 / 33697779 if you need help with your Reno project – [if you still need convincing you can read about some more here]

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