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Building or Renovating? So Where Do You Start? with The Undercover Architect

Building or Renovating? So Where Do You Start? with The Undercover Architect

We have an awesome post for those readers who are considering building or renovating. A common question we are all asked is “where do you start”? Amelia from Undercover Architect has a really comprehensive answer for you.

Building or Renovating? So Where Do You Start?

It is exciting to think about building or renovating your home. You can imagine what it looks like, feels like to live in, and even see your family enjoying it … hear the laughter, see meals being shared, friends coming around.


However, between that imaginary future, and where you are now, is a journey of choices, decisions, financial investment, time, energy and effort. It can overwhelm most homeowners.

So where do you start on this journey?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re building or renovating, knowing how to start can be confusing and overwhelming. There are mountains of information and advice out there, and finding a simple path through it all can be challenging.

In my experience, however, all projects start the same way. Building, renovating, subdividing, extending … ALL projects.

What is this way? Well, it involves bringing together the answers to four questions.

The questions that need to be answered are:
1. What would you like to do?
2. What does your local authority / council say you’re allowed to do?
3. What can your budget afford?
4. What do you, and your family, actually need from your home now and into the future (and this may or not have the same answer as question 1).

Step 1: What would you like to do?
Often homeowners start by thinking about their desires for their home as simply a wishlist of rooms and spaces. They try to piece their home together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Instead, ask yourself “What am I seeking to achieve?” (Because ultimately, this is the guts of the question “What would I like to do?”)

What are your big goals for your project? Is it to create your forever home? To give your current home a little more room? To make life simpler, by downsizing? Or another reason?

And then ask “Why”?

I’ll be honest here. Any project involving renovating or building is a long-term play – it’s a marathon. Your “why” is your sustenance to get you through. You need to know it, hang onto it, believe in it, and hold it high.

You may keep talking about your home in terms of what you want it to “do”, but it’s also important to think about “why” you want them to do these things.

Your connection to your home is usually quite an emotional one. Understanding the “why” of your project honours this, and will help set the framework as you move forward.

Step 2: What does your local authority / council say you’re allowed to do?
There will be planning regulations as well as building regulations, determining what you can and can’t do in your project.

Planning regulations are implemented by your local council, and help control how our suburbs and streets will look.

In some councils, if your project meets all their rules, you don’t need any council approval. With others, you will always require a Development Application (Council’s formal approval process) to proceed with any work.

The best place to start is your local council’s website. There’s usually fact sheets, or flow charts starting with “Do I need a Development Application?” that will help you get some information for your project.

There are also building regulations that govern how your project can be constructed. These are operated at a national level, with state variations.

Generally, you’ll need a Building Approval to commence construction, and this is when your project is formally checked against these building regulations. A Building Certifier (or Private Certifier) can assist you with these approvals.

In my next post on The Builders Wife, I’ll explore the answers to questions 3 and 4, and give you some resources you can use to resolve the answers to those questions for your project.

Thank you Amelia, for such an informative post. Amelia has a wealth of knowledge she shares on her Blog, Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to pop by and say hi!

This is the last of our Nuts and Bolts series for 2016. We will be back next year to answer more of your questions. As always please leave a question in the comments if you need help with an answer.

Nicole xxx

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  1. […] few weeks ago we shared the first installment of this story, Building or renovating, so where do you start? We are taking a break from our new My Trade Story, to share the second installment of this great […]

  2. […] Architects and builders work very differently, and when working together often provide the best result as far as practical well thought out spaces, within the required budget. It’s like working with an architect with a builder’s professional advice thrown in for free. […]

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