Not so long ago we renovated a mid century home, and after having done many renovation and new build projects before, it made me realise that every renovation is just another learning experience.

Planning is crucial to any renovation project no matter how small.

The devil is always in the detail so making a plan and budget is extremely important.

Going over budget is very common so having a good plan is crucial.

Knowing what you could be up against is a good way to plan for the unexpected.

That way if you include a 20 % buffer in your budget you will be pleasantly surprised if you don’t have to use it.

Nasty surprises

Nasty surprises could include ripping up the carpet to find rotten floorboards, or finding layers of old floor coverings like “lino” which could contain asbestos.

Perhaps, when removing wall tiles from the bathroom wall you could find that the tiles have just been laid upon more tiles?

Dry rot, mould, termites….there could be many hidden nasties just waiting to be found by an enthusiastic home renovator.

Be strategic when planning as every little thing adds up in the long run.

Here are some renovation ideas to get the look you want for less:

Natural Light

If you want more natural light perhaps install a light tube so that sunshine can funnel through into a darker living space.

The cost of busting out a window to make it bigger would probably cost much more given all the structural unknowns.


If your kitchen seems small, what about re-organising it to include slide out drawers and racks for maximum storage.

You could replace the cupboard door fronts or handles plus the bench tops to smarten them up.

There are more cost effective ways of updating your kitchen than knocking it out completely.


Make sure you prep all wall surfaces well and then your finish will be a good one. Don’t take shortcuts and use good quality paint.


You can still save money if you do some of the simple demolition yourself as long as you proceed with care.

For instance, remember NOT to remove structural beams!

Removing tiles from an old patio floor might be time consuming, but worth while.

Perhaps by digging the holes ready for the posts for a new fence could be a way that you can save money before your chosen contractor begins.

Make sure you know what is required first and certainly make sure that you know where any underground cables or drainage pipes are before you begin any work.

Hitting a pipe underground with a pick axe and cutting off services can be a costly exercise, just as uncovering live wires in a wall can not only be very dangerous but costly when things go wrong.

Do your research well

Knowing what materials were used in the era that your home was built in will come in handy.

For instance some plumbing pipes in the late 1970’s in NZ were called Dux Quest, postdating copper pipes.

Dux Quest was withdrawn from the market a number of years ago after hundreds of faults were reported.

It was notorious for splitting, particularly around the joins and if it cracks can cause a nasty mess.

Worse still, some insurance companies won’t cover damage done by Dux Quest piping, especially if it has leaked before.

If it is worth doing, then it is worth doing well