“We’re planning to be in by Christmas”
If a less lucky phrase exists in the renovation world, I’m yet to hear it.
You set your heart on being in your dream home (or more likely, your upgraded “for-now kitchen”) in time to entertain guests over the holiday period. And before you know it, it’s the 17th of December and your house is still swarming with tradies.
Superstitions aside, delays are common when you’re renovating – but many are avoidable. Here are nine tips to ward off the "Christmas Curse” and speed up your renovation.
1. Slow Down To Speed Up
When you decide to renovate it can be tempting to just jump in and head to Bunnings. Or, you know, rip out the bath when you’re bored one Sunday afternoon and then leave your bathroom an absolute disaster for two years.
Before diving headfirst into your renovation project, take the time to create a detailed plan. If you’re using a builder ask for the ‘Scope of Work’. This is a written document listing all the tasks that you require each trade to complete on your project, generally listed in order of completion or importance. It’s how you’ll get accurate quotes and it forms the basis of your timeline. If you’re self-managing your reno, create this document yourself – there are lots of templates online you can steal.
2. Try (At Home) Before You Buy
When it comes to materials and finishes like paint, tiles and carpets, there can be a big difference between what you see online and the final result in your home. While many businesses offer satisfaction guarantees, the reality (and time, and cost) of redoing something after it’s installed is probably going to put you off trying to return the products.
This doesn’t mean you need to find time to schlep into a store, where they typically have 5% of the range on show and lighting that doesn’t remotely resemble your home.
Instead, look for brands that offer samples you can order to test at home – like TileCloud, the online tile store shaking up the tiling industry. Founded by passionate renovators, they’re committed to making buying tiles easy, fun and inspiring. This is why they offer no-fuss samples on their entire range, so you can check out the tiles in situ and order with confidence. Once you’re ready to buy they deliver all over Australia, shipping the very next day.
3. Stalk your Tradies
Finding the right contractor is crucial in avoiding unnecessary delays. Take the time to research — have a look at their Instagram or other social media accounts to see how their projects are progressing in real-time. Read Google and Yelp reviews and check references – it’s completely acceptable to ask to see client testimonials or speak to past clients if you are about to engage a builder for a major project.
If your renovation involves various trades, such as plumbing, electrical and carpentry, ensure you hire reliable subcontractors who are known for their efficiency and professionalism. Your builder may suggest “subbies” they’ve worked with before. It generally pays to take these recommendations, as a coordinated team will help you navigate the renovation process swiftly and increase the likelihood of meeting your Christmas move-in goal.
4. Allocate a Contingency Budget
Building delays can sometimes result in unexpected expenses. Allocate a contingency budget to accommodate any unforeseen costs that may arise during the renovation process so work doesn’t get held up while you find funding.
5. Opt for Ready-to-Assemble (RTA) Solutions
RTA furniture, cabinets and fixtures are designed for quick and easy assembly. This not only saves time but also can save serious money in your renovation. Wardrobes, kitchens and cupboards are an excellent place to do this. Big businesses like IKEA have a huge range of options. If you’re handy you might even be able to assemble these yourself on evenings and weekends when your tradies aren’t working, which helps keep the project moving.
6. Plan Your Materials and Finishes in Advance
To avoid delays caused by material shortages or delivery issues, plan and order your materials in advance. TileCloud co-founder and renovation expert Drew Mansur recommends asking potential suppliers about stock levels and lead times: “Avoid anyone who can’t give you a clear timeline.” It also helps to look for Aussie suppliers if you want to reduce the risk of delays. As Drew says: “Because everything’s coming from our Australian warehouse, at TileCloud we’ve been in stock for 99.4% of orders over the last 12 months, so we can meet our goal of next-day dispatch no matter where you are in Australia.”
7. Prepare the Space
Forget “cleaning for the cleaner” – clear out for your contractors. Nothing makes it harder for them to do their job than trying to work around your stuff. Before construction begins, declutter and clear the workspace. Remove furniture and personal belongings to create an open and accessible area for the renovation team. A clutter-free space minimises potential obstacles and avoids awkward conversations if things get dirty or broken.
8. Be Available
Yes, your stuff needs to be out of the way – but you also need to stay in contact with your trades and potentially your suppliers. There will be small decisions to approve every day, payments to make, and you might be needed to complete paperwork or even provide access to your home. While it might seem like a good idea, a renovation is absolutely NOT the time to head overseas on a two-month international trip or go off grid. Help keep things moving: save phone numbers so you can pick up your contractors’ calls, check emails and approve contracts, quotes and other admin on the same day.
Ask your builder about their preferred communication channels and how frequently they’ll need you to meet and inspect work, then plan around this.
9. Stay Positive
Not to get too woo woo on you, but maintaining a positive mindset throughout the renovation process is crucial. Challenges WILL arise, and unexpected delays WILL occur, but keeping a positive outlook will help you stay clear-headed and focus on solutions rather than wallowing in self-pity. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a beautiful home, and every step taken brings you closer to that dream. And look, to keep things in perspective, there’s always next Christmas.