The ultimate guide to home renovation

Is there such a thing as a stress-free build?

We’d like to say yes, but because we’re also realists we understand architectural planning, designing and building can be stressful. Sometimes, though, just knowing what’s around the corner can alleviate a lot of the worry and uncertainty that comes with home renovation and building your dream home.

Our experienced architects completely get the ins and outs of the entire renovation process, so we asked them to put together a guide about what to expect at each step, how long each stage will likely take and how you can work with your them to get the dream home you’re after. While there is no ‘one size fits all’approach, we work closely with you throughout the process to ensure the path you take is the one best suited to your requirements.

Book a free, no-obligation consultation with our architects to start your home renovation

1. GETTING THE BRIEF RIGHT

This early stage is about finding out exactly what you’re picturing and how realistic it is in terms of your budget, timeline and the actual build site. We’ll sit down with you and talk in detail about your wish list, then we’ll pull all of that together into a briefing document outlining your specific project needs (things like spaces required, room areas, quality of finishes etc).

Watch Georgina Wilson explain the initial consultation meeting in 90 seconds

Once you’ve given us the tick of approval on that, we’ll start talking with your local council to make sure our plans abide by their rules and regulations. We’ll also get a building surveyor involved – commissioning a full site survey and ensuring that you have all the required information before we start the design process. We’ll measure up your existing building structures and prepare “as existing”drawings and 3D models, on which we will base the new (more exciting) plans.

By the end of this phase, you’ll have a discrete package of information and a foundation on which to start your design. 

Time frame: 1-4 weeks

What you’ll need to do:

  • Be upfront about what you want to achieve so we can put together a brief which accurately reflects what you’re imagining
  • Be prepared to meet with us as needed – typically, this would include a site visit and a subsequent meeting to discuss the brief and any findings we’ve uncovered from discussions with council and the surveyor

2. INITIAL DESIGN

This involves us putting together simple drawings to illustrate the general planning and style of the design. Our award-winning architects adjust these designs along the way to incorporate your feedback or any changes needed around planning controls (for instance, building heights or character guidelines specific to your neighbourhood). Well definitely need at least one meeting with you and possibly even a pre-DA discussion with council.

Time frame: 2-8 weeks

What you’ll need to do:

  • Provide feedback and sign-off on the drawings we give you
  • Meet with us and potentially the council, too

3. COUNCIL CHATS

There’s a fair bit of paperwork involved in this one. We’ll put together CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) designs detailing plans, sections (the drawings which look as though they’ve been ‘sliced’ so you can see inside) and elevations (to show the front, back and side of your plans, giving you a really clear idea of what it looks like from the outside).

This is often when we bring in other consultants such as engineers, landscape architects or quantity surveyors*, too, so they can categorically ensure our designs are in line with council requirements.

We’ll incorporate any feedback from the consultants into our plans and will also prepare a Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE) report (to explain the likely impacts of the build and how we’ll minimise those), as well as a BASIX Certificate (to assess water and energy use).

Time frame: 4-8 weeks to prepare documents, 2-4 months for council to assess DA (though timing can vary enormously)

What you’ll need to do:

  • Attend a couple of meetings (at most)
  • Sign any agreements between yourself and consultants (we’ll coordinate these)

4. THE NITTY GRITTY: detailed design and documentation

Now it’s getting real. We’ll start bulking up your plans with all the details – things like the facade design, interior finishes and the fittings you’re thinking for rooms like the kitchen and bathroom, and present them to you.

This is a highly collaborative process so now’s the time to revisit the ‘my dream home’ folder and show us exactly what you’re thinking. 

Prices can vary greatly between different materials, surfaces and finishes so decisions at this point can seriously impact final costs. Don’t worry, we research everything really thoroughly, so you can make informed choices about what you are and aren’t willing to compromise on.

So, where necessary, we’ll get further input from consultants, then prepare detailed drawings on things like ceiling plans, joinery, windows and doors so the builder/s tendering for the job know exactly what’s involved. The more detail, the better: it will allow builders to accurately quote and also ensure you can easily compare those quotes (if we are getting multiple builders to tender for the job). We may also share your plans with our quantity surveyor at this stage to get their input and further reduce any cost surprises down the track.

Time frame: 4-8 weeks

What you’ll need to do:

  • Be available for a few (4-6) meetings to discuss the evolving design
  • Sign off on the final plans

5. CONSTRUCTION CERTIFICATE

This is another box to tick before we start the build – it’s confirmation from an accredited certifier that they’re satisfied your planned development meets legal requirements (things like structural integrity, fire safety and drainage).

Theyll do a few checks along the way, too, to ensure the build is progressing as per the approved plans. 

Once you’ve been issued with the Construction Certificate, it becomes part of the DA. In most cases, we use a private certifier; other times we’ll use the council’s own certifier.

While you’ll need to lodge the Construction Certificate in your name, we’ll help put together the documents and briefs you need and liaise with the certifier throughout.

Time frame: 2-4 weeks (though time can vary depending on the size and style of the particular build)

What you’ll need to do:

  • Complete the necessary forms (we’ll help where needed) and lodge the Construction Certificate with your local council
  • Engage a certifier (once again, we’ll point you in the right direction)

6. BRINGING A BUILDER ON BOARD

At last, it’s time to start talking to builders. Thought you’d never get there, right?

We are likely to have already begun the tendering process with one or more builders, so now’s when we engage in further discussions with them to understand the building elements and how costs may be affected.

Essentially, we’ll undertake a cost review and liaise closely with the builder/s to make any necessary changes to your plans, while also outlining our expectations on the length of the project.

Time frame: 6-8 weeks to develop final plans and specifications (timing depends on the size of the project and how many changes we need to incorporate along the way from either you or consultants).
This is the point where some people feel they can take over management of the build themselves. Our advice is to be wary of this as there is plenty of detail to be managed and it can easily soak up all your time as well as leaving lots of opportunities for things to go awry. Generally speaking, the bigger a builder’s remit, the longer it will take to nut out all the details and commence work.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Be available to meet with us and the builder/s tendering for the job

GWA’s top tips to a stress-free build

  • Clear and constant communication with everyone involved
  • Get on site regularly to really understand where the project is at
  • Be available to take a lot of calls. It can be disruptive, but if often a quick chat is all it takes to resolve an issue
  • Be as organised as possible: paperwork, decisions and moving parts all reach peak levels during a build, so staying on top of everything can really help you cope with the disruption
  • Treat your trades with the respect they deserve. It doesn’t take much to elevate your status from ‘nice enough’ to ‘awesome client’. Be polite, talk to them and offer them a drink or snack. You’d be surprised what a difference this can make!

7. BUILDING THE DREAM

After months of planning, discussions and decisions, youre finally seeing some action on site.

At this point, well start dealing more with your builder on a day-to-day basis, but well still be very much involved.

Depending on the stage of the project, we typically attend weekly or fortnightly meetings on site with you and your builder to ensure everything is on track and coming along as planned. Were also responsible for administering the contract between you and your builder and are available at any time to answer queries from your builder, or provide them with additional information as needed.

Time frame: Too varied to say – your builder will advise on this and you can negotiate timing before signing the building contract

What you’ll need to do:

  • Attend regular site meetings
  • Stick to the rules of the building contract

So there you have it – a realistic rundown on whats involved in a building project from your first chats with an architect to actually seeing your designs take shape in bricks and mortar. Its not always quick or easy, and each project has its unique challenges, but experienced and empathetic architects can certainly smooth the way, resolve any bubbling issues before they erupt and ensure everything continues moving along as it should.

Let us know if youd like to talk about your upcoming plans – we offer obligation-free consultations so theres nothing to lose. Plus, we really love chatting about design trends, innovation and how to create functional, beautiful homes, so its a win-win all around.

*Not to be confused with a building surveyor who has more of a site-based role liaising with clients and builders on design, surveys and legal matters throughout the project, a quantity surveyor is an expert in estimating build costs and keeping control of those from start to finish.

Free, no-obligation consultation