Insider tips to saving money on a home renovation

Keen home renovators will be feeling the pinch as inflation has hit the construction industry hard, but builders say there are ways homeowners can keep a lid on rising costs.

The price of materials and labour have skyrocketed since the pandemic began but tactics can include setting a clear budget, a willingness to compromise on materials, while locking in other aspects of the projects early on, and engaging specialists on major renovations.

tips to saving money on a home renovation
The cost of construction materials and labour has skyrocketed since 2020. Photo: Getty

Builders say many homeowners are surprised to find out their budget buys them less than in this inflationary environment, forcing many to go back to the drawing board, and in some cases walking away, after spending unnecessary money at the outset.

Melbourne builder Alex McGough, of AMG Construction Group, said homeowners should get a job costed from the outset before spending money on expensive preliminary tests and processes.

“People will go to draughtsmen and architects and engage in a building survey without getting the job costed. Get a job costed before you start spending all your money,” McGough said.

In one case, a homeowner had a budget of $250,000 for a renovation with the expectation it would cover their plans, but the renovation was costed at $450,000.

McGough said locking in materials early on was another good way of avoiding price rises during renovations and ordering through their builder who has access to suppliers at better prices.

“We have bigger buying power. We generally will be able to get a better price for them than they would supplying the materials,” he said.

The warnings hit close to home for owners facing cost blowouts. Residential construction costs increased by 11 per cent over the 12 months to September, CoreLogic’s Cordell Construction Cost Index for the September quarter, released on Friday, showed.

Over the September quarter, construction costs rose 4.7 per cent, the largest increase on record excluding the September 2000 quarter when the GST was introduced.

Sydney Builders Group managing director Ashley Agostino said it may be worthwhile to engage specialists if homeowners are undertaking major renovations.

“One of the biggest things we find is a lot of clients don’t want to pay professionals, like hydraulic engineers and building specialists. Having those specialists upfront will minimise surprises in the middle of a renovation,” Agostino said.

For minor renovations, leaving existing plumbing, choosing cheaper materials and reusing parts of the home, such as doors, that are still in good condition will save homeowners money too, she said.

“Switch up materials, you don’t have to go with the tiles that are $100 per square metre. No one will know it’s from Italy,” she said.

“If they don’t want to incur costs, don’t move the plumbing. As soon as you touch plumbing, costs rise.”

Sydney-based builder Simon Pilcher, of C.E Pilcher and Son, said fixtures and finishes were typical culprits of budget blowouts, especially in the current inflationary environment.

“Now with the increased price in materials, you’ve got to make sure you pick materials to your budget. That’s where you can save some money,” Pilcher said.

“The sooner you can lock in fixed prices for the materials the better. The price of concrete, everything is going up. The sooner you lock it in with your supplier the better.”

He also said that it was crucial that the designer, builder and homeowner were on the same page when it comes to budget at the outset and along the way.

“Having a good working relationship with your builder, having weekly meetings, keeping abreast on the job, so if any difficulties arise you can get onto them quickly,” Pilcher said.

“It’s important now that with things getting more expensive, labour and materials everyone is on the one page, working together.”

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