There are four key things to consider when considering a renovation project:
1. Expect complications & plan around them
In a renovation, you are working with an existing building, which means that you may not have the original house plans, not fully understand the existing structural conditions of the house (for example, inside the walls), or you might not know what can be kept or changed during the course of your renovation. In some cases, some important items may need to be upgraded, like insulation, or retrofitting windows, which although may add cost to a project, they are really important things when considering the overall value it adds to the house and more importantly, your own health and wellbeing.
If you are doing major alterations, like changing the use of a building from a residential to public/commercial, there are certain regulations you must comply with, even if you're making changes to only part of the building. This includes things like fire alarms, access routes, fire escape routes, etc. Council will not approve a Building Consent unless all these requirements have been fulfilled, and that any future plans meet council regulations.
2. Be ready for compromise
Unlike a new build, when you renovate, you are working around an existing building. This means you may have to compromise your design around the style of what is already there. This includes materials, finishes, and tolerances. Be prepared for compromise between old and new materials, selection availability, as well as things generally taking longer and being slightly more costly than a new build.
3. Getting an amendment to your consented plans
Before starting construction, you may need to take apart or undo some parts of the building, to understand the nature of the building structure. This can reveal the need for different requirements, and potentially the need to amend the building consent. Your Council can advise you what amendments may be required, and what additional processing fees, inspections and additional time delays you could expect. You will also need to consider additional design costs to accommodate the changes.
4. Your satisfaction at sign-off stage
The finished result of your renovation project may end up slightly different to what was originally agreed on at design stage. As mentioned earlier, tolerances with working along an existing building is generally lower than what is achievable with a new build project. Some common examples are walls not being plumb, and floor levels being slightly different. The main reason for these are the difference between old and new structures, materials, and general wear and tear that may have affected the older materials.
In most cases where an exact match is impractical, or cannot be guaranteed, a rational approach needs to be taken to determine what are the variable outcomes, and what can be deemed an acceptable result. It is advisable to record these in writing and include it within the contract at an early stage of the process. This is very common for cases where buildings have suffered from natural disasters, fires, earthquakes, etc.