Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Building or Renovating a Home

January 30, 2018

Renovating or building a new home is an exciting opportunity indeed! It is your chance to create something completely unique, perfect for your site and tailored to your ideal lifestyle. But if you are unfamiliar with the process, there are many potential pitfalls to be aware of. Here are the top 7 mistakes to avoid when building or renovating a home.


1. Inadequate planning at the start of your project

The biggest mistake you can make when building or renovating, is not taking the time to plan your project properly during the early phases.

It is incredibly easy to get carried away with the excitement of a new project and launch straight into the design phase before you have established exactly what you need, want and can afford – not to mention, what is possible on your site!

The fewer changes you make during the building journey, the cheaper your project will cost. That’s why it’s extremely important to identify and explore all your needs and options before you launch into design.

Try to think ‘long term’ during the initial planning phase of your project. Consider how your needs may change over time and how this will impact your spatial requirements. For example, as your children grow older, how will their needs change? Will you start to work from home? Will an elderly parent move in? Thinking long term at the start of your project will give your home ultimate longevity.

Successful building projects can almost always be attributed to careful planning in the early phases. Select an architect that has a clear process from start to finish and be sure your architect is particularly thorough at the start of the project before launching into design.


2. Misaligned brief and budget

There are endless possibilities when designing a home. For this reason, it is extremely important to establish a clearly defined brief and to set a realistic budget before you plough into the design phase. To understand whether your budget aligns with your brief, your architect should be able to provide an estimated range of probable construction cost. If your budget is unlikely to achieve your brief, you will need to either reduce your brief or increase your budget. Not making these adjustments early on, may lead to additional costs for redesign, extended project timelines and budget blowouts down the track.


3. Not hiring a suitable team for your project

Why would you hire a motorcycle mechanic to fix your car?

The cornerstone to a successful project is hiring an architect who has appropriate project experience and who’s past projects you admire.

An experienced architect will add significant value to your home which will pay off in the long run. With an ever-increasing design savvy society, a well-designed home will be in hot demand and will increase future resale value.
An experienced architect can save you money.  By siting your building appropriately, creating an appropriate form and selecting durable materials, your architect will reduce ongoing maintenance and running costs. Your architect can also minimise stress and budget blowouts by managing the entire design and construction process, as well as managing consultants on your behalf.

When selecting an architect, be sure they have the skills to provide both architectural design services as well as interior design services because a holistic approach to design will deliver a cohesive, considered outcome and streamlined service experience.

Renovating or building a home is a long journey, typically taking around 2- 3 years from start to finish. Over this time, you will have a close working relationship with your architect, so compatibility is essential. Make sure you select an architect who has clear communication skills, is organized and is someone you feel comfortable with.


4. Bigger does not equal better

 Don’t be fooled by the illusion that a bigger home is a better home. Just because the Joneses have a cinema room, doesn’t mean you need one too! Take a step back, ask yourself why spend money on space that you might only use once in a while? Instead, ask yourself; what are the most important things in my life and how should my home support those things? Consider the activities that will make you truly happy and what type of space would be practical for your activities and lifestyle.

As housing prices continue to rise, it is becoming ever more important to be smart with space. A better home, is a clever home, one that has been thoughtfully designed to suit to your particular requirements – no more, no less.


5. Sacrificing quality for cost

One of the most common regrets people have after completing their project, is having sacrificed quality for cost. There is nothing more frustrating than spending huge amounts of time, energy and money on a building project, only to find it doesn’t perform or function properly due to low quality building materials or products. Once something is built, there is no going back without added cost!

It is very hard to resist temptation of that cheap product or material, but when it ends up costing far more to repair or replace in the long run, the initial saving is absolutely worthless! Cheaper building materials and finishes are often coupled with lower levels of performance and durability, requiring ongoing maintenance. Ongoing maintenance is not only inconvenient to organise but will cost more to maintain.


6. Managing the construction process yourself  

There is no doubt about it, constructing a house can be incredibly stressful and time consuming. Some people make the mistake of trying to save money by managing the construction process themselves. Firstly, if you go down this track, you must be on call at all times to respond to builder queries. If you do not have suitable building experience, let alone the ability to interpret architectural drawings properly, you will have difficulty making the right decisions under pressure. The biggest risk is, if you make the wrong decision, the flow-on effect can seriously jeopardise the built outcome and could be very costly to rectify later on.

Administering your own construction contract with the builder is also an area that can create unnecessary tension and stress. It can also be incredibly costly if you do not understand the contract and your rights.


7. Proceeding into construction without a detailed set of construction documents and specifications

Constructing a building without a detailed set of drawings and specifications is fraught with danger. It’s the equivalent of setting out for a hike across the Sahara Desert with only half a map! If there is not enough detail included in the documents, this indicates little consideration has been made to the fine details of the project leaving the builder open to make up their own solution – would you rely on a builder to design your home?

The construction documents and specifications are effectively a set of instructions for the builder to follow. The level of detail included in the documents will inevitably affect the outcome of the project and the final cost. The more detail you have in your documents the more accurate the construction cost and built outcome will be.




If you would like to know more about how to avoid mistakes while building or renovating, or you have a burning question you’d like to ask an architect, book your FREE 30 MINUTE PHONE CONSULTATION with NORTHBOURNE Architecture + Design.

Shoot us an email at with your details and preferred time and we’ll be in touch!

We look forward to hearing from you.

Good luck with your project!