A growing number of people are choosing to limit their DIY efforts to the cosmetic, opting instead to engage design and build specialists to handle more complicated renovation projects.
Professional management of even relatively small projects is seen as the smart way to ensure a project is compliant with the local council and building regulations. It also provides reliable project management, ensuring projects come in on time and on budget.
While it can be hugely satisfying to conceive a renovation project and, by the sweat of your own brow, see it through to completion, potential DIYers need to consider not just the risk involved but the time and effort – what’s envisaged as a few weeks’ worth of weekends can turn into months, even years – and the stress that inevitably occurs when you’re living in a construction zone.
By hiring a design and build company that ticks all the boxes, homeowners are effectively removing the risk factor and can confidently look forward to a renovation project that meets all their expectations. And they still get to enjoy their weekends.
When choosing a design and build company for your project, take your time and ensure you ask them detailed questions about their approach and their procedures. This checklist will help get you started.
Are they happy to pass on references?
When researching renovation design and build companies, the first thing you should do is look at their past projects and testimonials. See if the type of work they have done in the past matches up with your proposed project. Read what their past customers have to say.
If they are unwilling to pass on references and provide examples of their work, see it as a red flag and look elsewhere.
Do they have design capability within the company or do they expect you to find an architect and then get back to them?
Seek out a company that offers a design and build process using 3D technology. Rather than looking at lines on paper and having to visualise the end result, clients can see the concept modelled with every detail and presented as it will be when the project is complete. If it’s not quite what was envisaged, start tweaking or begin again.
Any problems, like bathroom fixtures placed so that doors can’t be closed or showers too low to meet regulations, can be identified and remedied before construction begins. 3D imaging also helps decisions such as which flooring finish to choose; tiles or timber? Just simulate it to see which looks best.
Will they project manage the whole process from design and consent to construction and compliance?
Perhaps the most crucial part of the design and build equation is the involvement of an experienced project manager who oversees every step of the process beginning with an initial site visit, followed by organising detailed concept drawings and costings, getting resource and building consents, and drawing together and managing the team of tradespeople who will handle the work.
The essence of design and build is the coming together of the two main processes involved in any renovation project – concept design and construction – within the one company, thereby ensuring a design that’s both workable and achievable, within the budget allowed.
What should the contract cover?
The contract you sign with a design and build company will cover a wide range of points and should include details around site safety and insurance coverage. A homeowner managing their own renovation project is liable should an accident occur, and home insurance can be invalidated during the course of construction.
Your project manager should handle all compliance requirements and ensure there’s nothing to come back and bite you should you be planning to sell within a 10-year time frame.
As the go-to guy or girl, the project manager will become an important person in your life; is this person listening to you? Are they communicating? Do you feel comfortable working with them?
Expect regular communication from the project manager. It’s his or her job to deal with everyone involved in the project and, if necessary, replace under-performing sub-contractors.
You should feel comfortable communicating your ideas to your project manager and they should be able to clearly explain the process to you. If this isn’t happening, ask more questions or look elsewhere.
Is Refresh right for you?
This article was featured in Issue 30 of Renovate Magazine