5 things to be aware of when breathing new life into a heritage house

Buying and renovating a ‘fixer upper’ is nothing new in Australia. It’s basically the premise for most home renovation shows on television. Before they take the plunge, renovators, aka you, must take a moment and consider these points before powering up the tools.

  • Check the structural integrity

Before anyone picks up a hammer, get the builder and an architect to walk through the property to check the foundations. Will you need a new concrete slab? Are the wooden frames free from termites? You must know if there’s going to be any problems going forward. Knowing the risks means you can prevent them.

  • Set up an emergency fund

Delays happen, unforeseen circumstances pop up. Have 10 – 20% extra money added to your budget just in case. It’s better to be over prepared than taken by surprise.

Have some emergency cash to prevent this

  • There’s rules…

In Australia, homes with heritage listings have a host of rules that builders and renovators must abide by. This ensures the character of the property and the area around it is preserved.

  • …and permits

There’s a list of conditions on the Brisbane City Council website about demolishing and renovating. You need approval for your project if the home or planned development is in a certain area. It’s best to get on these early, preferably right after settling. Building approval and planning approval aren’t the same thing so educate yourself early.

  • Be flexible

Renovating an old home, and even just in general, is stressful and you’re going to feel under the pump. You’ll feel like time is against you. In reality, you must learn to take the setbacks in your stride. Be flexible with dates by one or two days.

Essential deliveries, like concrete and pipes, and setting up the frames, are your main concerns. Everything else will need to come second to those ‘foundation’ activities.

These aren’t the only things you need to be aware of when renovating an old home, or developing in a heritage area. Australia has a rich history reflected in its architecture, hence the rules. Internal developments, like a concrete slab, are acceptable in most cases. But it’s better to read the rules, and to be safe than sorry.


Need more help? Read these…

  1. Planning a renovation? 5 ways to prevent budget blowout
  2. Budgeting your renovation, from the scope to concrete prices

Planning a renovation? 5 ways to prevent budget blowout

We’re experienced in construction and have poured a few slabs around new home builds. The apprehension and excitement that comes with renovation can overshadow money matters until it’s too late. You’ll have a lovely home, but can end up with some excess debt you don’t need.



Organise your quotes

The builder, the concrete delivery and trades, the painter…everyone working on the home. You’ll have an initial budget planned already. Having those quotes laid out in front of you will help you allocate what needs to be spent where.



Reduce, reuse

Recycle! New isn’t always better. It certainly doesn’t equal a better bank balance. When you renovate you can save more money by going to a charity shop or some other reseller.

Remember this old saving trick?


Only the essentials

Essential expenses like concrete slabs and plumbing are what you need to ‘splurge’ on. Plumbing, carpentry, concrete delivery and laying, electrical wiring; these come first. Decoration is fun but it needs to take a backseat sometimes. Having proper drainage and running water is more important than a few designer throw cushions.



I’ll pay you in…

Family loves you, so they’ll naturally help out, right? Well…

Organising a ‘working bee’ or a ‘please help us move back in’ event post-renovation will help you get the little jobs out of the way. Even some of the bigger ones, like painting and general maintenance jobs, can be done for ‘mates rates’. Mates rates can include a barbecue with the works: burgers, sausage sizzles, and good times with friends.

It’s important, though, to give people advance notice that you need help. Tough, sweaty work isn’t everyone’s idea of weekend fun and they mightn’t help out if you just spring it on them. Put up a Facebook event and promise a barbecue at the end to thank everyone for their effort.



Have extra ‘just in case’

Unforeseen circumstances happen; extra expenses due to complications. There’s a problem with the wiring, plumbing, etc.

These mightn’t happen to you, but the general amount to set aside ‘just in case’ is 20 – 30% of your total budget.