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Is my home worth renovating?

We love working with clients to create comfortable, sustainable and delightful homes.

When we talk about renovating homes we don't mean a quick facelift - we mean could it be upgraded (and maybe extended) to feel, function and perform as well as a new home?

So, these are our top 10 things to consider when thinking about renovating your home:

1. Budget

Once you start talking about redoing two bathrooms, a laundry, a kitchen, upgrading insulation, new windows, repainting, new flooring… and probably moving a few walls around too - it can be a fine line between renovation and new build.

But even when it’s a fine line for some people that extra $1-200k can be a breaking point, and in my many years of experience a good renovation can look, feel, function and perform just as well as many new builds – with a whole lot less waste, more character and history... and is a much more sustainable option.

This is our own 1969 courtyard home in Belconnen. Purchased in original condition in 2015 and renovated (without an extension) to add an additional bedroom and open to the back garden in 2017. You can read more about it here.

2. Location

This is a personal one and at the end of the day, if you love your neighbourhood and area then renovating your existing home will appeal to you more than moving into a new home out in the new suburbs for a similar cost.

3. Do you like the look of your home, or is it easy to change?

We are bombarded on social media with beautiful old meets new extensions on heritage homes. But what if your current home is a fairly typical suburban home from the 70-90s? (Think face brick in shades of brown, simple box forms and not a lot of character).

But these homes provide a great opportunity to insert a new form and colour and let the brick blend into the background. The orange brick home above is a great example of how this can work - you can find out more about this project to modernise this 70's home and add a master bedroom here.

Of course, painting or rendering the whole home is also very popular at the moment, but beware of committing yourself to a lifetime of ongoing maintenance.

4. Can you focus on one area of the house and stage the works to live in?

The last 2 years have been a bit of a disaster in the construction industry. Between covid and material delays I know of several clients that ended up pushing towards 18 months of construction – and 12 months is becoming the new norm - that’s 12 months of rent, 12 months of not living in your home, 12 months of neglect for your garden and upset for your pets.

For many of our clients we now design staging into the construction process to avoid all of the above and I would encourage you to consider it as well.

5. Is the home well located on the block?

Is the existing home located to allow for good sun access to your garden and to your living rooms (or could you rearrange for that access?) And does the location of the home optimise garden space and indoor outdoor flow?

This home was a definite knock down rebuild for us, as the existing home was both at an unusual angle on the block meaning the family had very little functional garden space and the living areas were at the front and not connected to the yard or the lovely elevated views.

In contrast, our proposed design both rotates the living areas to face north but also pulls the bulk of the home to the southern side of the block, creating a large northern garden. You can read more about this knock down rebuild design here.

6. Is it well built and approved?

This may sound simple enough but we often find previous extensions in particular are hastily built or just enclosed porches or converted garages... and to create a functional, comfortable home into the future the best solution is to demolish that area and start again.

7. How is the existing home constructed?

Building on my previous point, not only the quality but also the type of construction can make a difference to the options, ease and costs of renovating.

Timber floor construction is common in Canberra and if you have good subfloor access can make it easy to both relocate services and also to retrofit good insulation. Slabs on ground make moving bathrooms and kitchens more expensive as the slab needs to be jackhammered up.

Brick internal walls may provide good thermal mass in theory, but if they need to be moved costs will increase quickly. Double brick homes are also difficult (but not impossible) to retrofit wall insulation if thermal comfort is important to you.

And finally roofs - here in Canberra we seem to have an abundance of cut roofs. Put simply, these custom built roofs were hand crafted onsite by carpenters and supported off internal walls and external walls. Hence it can be a disaster when people DIY removal of internal walls and the whole roof and ceiling structure is no longer supported. You can read Paul's blog explaining the difference here:

8. Can you master plan for future proofing?

This is something we like to incorporate into all of our designs – how your families needs will change and evolve over the next 10, 20 years or more. Things like kids staying at home while studying at a local uni (or saving up to buy a house!) is something we all need to think about, particularly here in Canberra.

We often design for a smaller renovation now but master plan for future expansion... but then also consider a third empty nester stage and the ability to close off unused areas of the home or even rent them out for passive income.

Beyond that, we also encourage our clients to consider the livable housing guidelines – this is designed to ensure you home is ready for aging in place, but also if someone ends up on crutches or a friend visits with a pram this ensures they can easily manoeuvre in your home. You can read my blog about livable housing here:

9. Are you ready for the journey?

Doing a renovation is not a project to be taken lightly and one thing I would say is that as an architect it is amazing how much relationship counselling I get to do. I would encourage you and your partner to chat a lot about what each of your priorities are, take time together to sit and write out a brief of what you need and want and dream of for your project... and be sure to involve your kids in the process too!

From the initial steps it will likely be 2 or more years before you are settled into your 'new' home, and those two years can be emotionally and financially stressful. We understand that life is busy and for many people this will be a once in a lifetime experience, which is why we project manage the design, approvals and tendering for you and have a clearly staged 9-step process to help break down the decisions for busy working families. You can read more about our process here.

10. Have you done your research?

These are a couple of my favourite places to recommend to clients to help you feel more informed: - fabulous and recently updated government resource and a great starting point. - Amelia Lee is a residential architect in Byron Bay with a wealth of free blogs, podcasts and paid courses all designed to help homeowners. - Like pinterest but just for houses!

What next?

If you would like to arrange a time for us to come to your home and chat about your project and how we can help you, please fill out an online enquiry here:

We look forward to chatting to you!


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