Completing a renovation

When do you complete a renovation?

A code of compliance (CCC) certificate would be issued (from a council) that you have followed successfully the council application. This is a great assurance that you have a quality renovation, certified by a council – adding a value to the house.

What do they check? Electricity, gas, water leak (plumbing), windows, beams, roof, practically everything  indicated in the architectural drawing. They charge the final inspection cost (several hundreds extra) as a certificate fee –  a final tax to them.

With this certificate, we conclude the renovation is done successfully.  Yey!

However, there were some remedy works I needed afterwards -mostly cosmetic, such as  some electric lamps were not yet fixed, the misplaced pipes, etc – mostly an electrician’s work. It took a few months to chase the electrician. But it is finally finished.

What a relief – we had several visitors since then to enjoy the house – and New Zealand. Now that I’ve finished the renovation project, I hope to share my experience, which I previously had written a detailed blog in another link.  

This word press version is not written much detail (as the original Japanese blog) but just a few key points – and if you have any questions, you can contact me and I can answer them hopefully.

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New Zealand Houses

I forgot to tell you about a standard of New Zealand houses. Why renovate?

First thing I noticed in NZ houses was – it is cold inside the house – compared to European houses, in much colder climate such as in Germany.

Almost all houses before 90’s built have no double glazing – even with double glazing, it is not properly done (without argon gas and thermal frames – thus reducing the effect).

Because the under floor insulation is not done properly, they put carpets, cork, tiles, that  vary from room to room – this mismatch decrease the value of the house. Our bathroom was carpeted and underneath, the timber was rotten.

Heating is done locally, no central heating (chimney or heat pumps are common).

New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere – no snow in Wellington but it can have a cold breeze. Humidity is also a problem.

Also, there is an earthquake.

Timber houses get old and need a maintenance. The houses are not made of solid stones or marbles.

As mentioned, (I believe) the double glazing and insulation should be a priority for renovation for dry and healthy house. It is not too obvious for New Zealanders though who walk the road bear footed (yes, you see them on the street). But we miss the central heating and insulation in European homes.

If you would ask a Kiwi which do you prefer “a large jacuzzi room or a proper insulated house ?” I am not sure.

Our priority of renovation – double glazing windows and a central heating – may not be the right choices for every Kiwi. But reducing a monthly cost of heating and electricity to less than 200 dollar for a large house would justify the reason in long run.

Or would you still prefer a large jacuzzi room to an insulated home ?

 

 

 

 

 

During the renovation

It is not just a builder or tradesman who are busy during the renovation. It is your investment, your renovation, you are paying – you need to watch out what is going on. It is difficult to intervene as you are not qualified builder however, you can talk with the head builder or tradesman (you have a right to) to know what is going on. It is recommended to understand the process and it is not a problem to ask questions. If the builder does not like you ask questions (too much is not good), it is a bad builder. He is not confident. Any confident person would be happy to be asked what he/she is doing. Talk to the builder, tradesman and make them motivated. Sometimes, you can share lunch together, or serve coffee (they would love this) and discuss fishing (a common subject here). You are an employer but at the same time, you want them to work in good feeling – as if they are building a house for his family. Ask “what would you do if it is for your house?” They would love to talk.

Renovation is not always straight forward, especially for an old house. They also may ask questions to you of some methods. I enjoyed sharing experience with a builder to create something beautiful. Maybe not an easiest customer as I asked specific requirements which was new to them – but the result is what we wanted and they are happy to know new ways.

  1. Motivate (greet cheerfully)
  2. Serve coffee / tea
  3. Ask (not too many) questions
  4. Check the daily schedule (a what-to-do list with the head builder)
  5. Give feedbacks (daily if possible)
  6. Be ready for questions from them
  7. Create something together feeling
  8. All of above will result in high quality renovations

Most important thing is ”good communication” as always in any circumstances of life.

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Scheduling

You want to do a whole house renovation, but don’t know where to start? OK, where are you going to live while you are doing a renovation? If you live in a house (or in a room), you should at least secure where you can sleep.

The ideal renovation to start with would be a roof. Roof replacement also requires good weather. So it is better to book a roofer way in advance as they are often very busy. At the same time, you need a scaffolding. This would be charged weekly. So choose the best time of the year with sunny weather – to limit your cost of scaffolding rental and the time of roofers (hopefully to finish in a week or so).

You don’t need a building consent to replace a roof to new material. However if you change the type of roof style (from a galvanised to slates, etc), you will need a building consent – which will require an inspection (more cost). Therefore if you have no problem of the style, it’s better not to change its style.  You can change the material though from galvanised steel to aluminium.

Another priority would be any structural changes. Beam enhancements, wall break-down, etc – should be calculated by a structural engineer to secure the extra damage.

Flooring would come at last as you don’t want to damage it by tradesmen to walk on the finished floor.

In between, you need to think of window replacements to double glazing, kitchen or bathroom installations.

If you are importing materials from abroad, it is also better to order much in advance – as this will take time – and you don’t want the tradesmen to have a blank time (even unpaid) and loose their motivations.

  1. Order materials from abroad (after the design is decided)
  2. Schedule the work which requires good weather (roof, external work)
  3. Start with structural work
  4. window, wall, paint to floor

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Cost of a builder

Licensed Builder – LBP

It is tricky to hire a builder. It all depends. Someone says to you, “he is an excellent builder.” This does not mean he would be excellent for the size of renovation you are up to. The size is important, the most important one – I believe is –  the quality he can deliver in time. He could do it but in two years time – would you be happy?

Another tricky one is a price of the builder.

Cost of builder would vary – from my experience – the hourly charge would be 45 to 65 dollar per hour. A head builder (55-65 dollar range) would come with an apprentice (35-45/hour). The apprentice is not yet qualified and work under a big supervision.

You can check the qualification of builder on this link. All the construction work with the council application must be carried out by a Licensed Builder. I recommend to check his name and its LBP number before hiring.

It is the same for the plumber and the electrician. You need to make sure they are licensed so that you will have no issues afterwards to get appropriate certificates for the council inspections. These license must be renewed every year so some tradesman can be licensed last year but not this year. The job quality itself may not vary if he/she is not licensed this year but it is like a tax – so if you are going through a council application, you also need to make sure this is done by a qualified licensed tradesman.

Other way to pay a builder is a fixed quotation (or an estimate – not too sure of this as this may vary upwards) of a project. As it is a quotation, a builder often put higher price to cover unexpected costs. This high price is a premium not to worry about calculating details and surprises of the cost. Many people prefer this total quotation – as this sounds ”more secured”. However never do an advanced payment to those types – as I often hear problems such as; a builder does not finish the job and disappear,  or not to use the promised material, etc. Another issue is that a builder often carries out a poor quality job within limited time in a quoted job than an hourly paid job – this is just stories I hear – so it is not absolutely true for all reputable builder.

I chose the hourly rate for all tradesman except materials such as windows, stones, bathtub, etc. Our house is almost 100 years old, there are so many unknown factors that a builder could not make a quote. We thought it was fair to do this way to both parties.

Often, a builder plays a role of project manager. He often prefers to work with his plumber and an electrician. They often work as a team. You can bring your own electrician and your own plumber of preference – in this case – you are the project manager and need closely work together with the builder to coordinate the timing.

 

 

 

Cost of materials

You can get a quote (or an estimate – which can change afterwards) from a builder, the global cost including materials but if you want to understand how much are the general material cost, there are some ways to know it.

  1. Building materials

Bunnings, Mitre10 and Placemakers are the largest do-it-yourself factory shops in New Zealand. It is the most popular shops where builders use with ”builder’s discount”. These builders are sometimes invited to special trade events (e.g. fishing, trip to Australia, etc) and they sometimes favour one particular distributor and get some margins as profit.

If you have time, you can also check the global cost by yourselves. You can create your own “builder” account (cash or credit) to get the same or smaller discount if you are planning to get a big renovation done. You can call the sales representatives and they are happy to visit your house for estimating the total cost of the renovation. This will be a good idea (if you are doing a big renovation to understand the cost of materials). I have done this and it was useful 1) to get discount for my painting materials which I have done ourselves and 2) to compare the cost shown by the builder for a negotiation.

If you are intimidated to ask them to come over, you can just bring your architectural drawings (with materials indicated) to the trade shop and they will give you back the total estimated cost of materials in a couple of weeks.

They may not have the detailed price of kitchen or bathroom materials but they can indicate a general cost of beams, nails, necessary glues, insulations, deck materials – in great details.

2. Kitchen – joiner costs

If you have a design by the architect, or your own idea already, you can ask the architect (not recommended as it often is not true and would go over) or a couple of joiners by bringing your idea or discussion to get a quote or an estimate.

I now understand that a normal size of kitchen could vary from 20K to 50K or even more depends of materials (bench top, appliances) in New Zealand.

Most of the drawer materials or appliances are imported and thus expensive, so the more you have a drawer, you may add 800-1000 dollar depends on how you open the drawer. I personally imported a few materials from Europe and this was not relatively more expensive than to make it in New Zealand – as the labour cost is expensive here – and I could finally get a quality design kitchen with European appliances. I can indicate a few contacts who are specialised in this area.

3. Bathroom – tiles and bathtubs

Chinese tiles vs Italian tiles. All the tiles are imported here. If you tile your bathroom, especially the shower area, you need a building consent. In 1994 – 2004, New Zealand had a leaky home crisis.  Which means that they are extremely careful and strict about the wet-area renovation. You need a good tiler for application. Well, you can do tiling yourself (but not recommended), as you need a qualified tiler to make a certificate to the council. Often, the tiler has a specific store (to get a discount) for a tile and give some recommendations.

For a bathtub, toilets, etc. Mico, Plumbing world, ZIP are the major specialised stores. Knowing what to choose as a brand is also a key to compare the prices and its quality. I have chosen material based on my experiences in Japan and in Europe which are imported here. So I cannot comment much about the materials made in New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of renovation

Kitchen and bathrooms are the most expensive rooms to renovate, in my opinion as material cost. But you cannot ignore the administration costs as below:

  1. Application of building consent – This is a cost to the council. The cost would vary depends on the size of the renovation and the house itself. It also would include costs of checking the drawing (first stage) and inspections (second and more stages at the real construction sites) and for the last stage ”Code of Compliance” cost. This rates (tax) are not small; at each stage, you need to pay for an expert (hourly cost 250 dollar for one case?! ) – the renovation is not cheap in this country.

2. Cost of Architect/Draftsman and a structural engineer

You cannot ignore the cost of architect or a drafts man who draw the plan for the council’s building consent application. If it is just a kitchen, maybe not necessary to hire an architect but to my knowledge, we needed to pay costs to architect in three stages.

  • First drawing – to get a first image / idea presentation by an architect. If you don’t agree with the drawing plan, you need to decide if you want to go ahead with the architect or not. This is the stage you check and verify if the architect is flexible and understand your needs. Ask as many questions as possible so you can explore your idea and gain the knowledge – or erase your doubts. Be careful though to make sure how it is charged their time as some architect would charge by hour and this could cost enormously if you delay by asking too many questions. You would better check and ask questions before you engage him ideally. If you don’t agree with him/her, you can change the architect, ok, you may loose some initial cost here but the second stage ‘the working drawing” would cost even more, so it is better to have an absolute trust with the architect or a draft man. The best practice is to check what he/she has done before, and ask the references.
  • Working drawing – The architect would draw a detailed plan for the building consent including the suppliers and manufacturer’s information (e.g. specify REINZ, a certified producers statements included) – this is higher cost at the architect. You may also need a structural engineer’s producers statement (additional cost, too) for a structural change for a drawing and at the stage of inspection, too.
  • After an application at the council – questions and answer cost – normally, the council will ask questions (with an extra cost) after an application is done (e.g. 20 days after) and the architect would need to answer with more information.
  • In total, it depends on the scale of renovation but it could cost a couple (or more) of thousands  dollars for an architect and a structural engineer as a preparation of the renovation.

Some people do a renovation without a building consent application at the council (not recommended). You can save some money (a lot) here however without an application, you have no insurance coverage if there is some problem afterwards.

(case without a consent?)

You can take off the walls to make an open space if it is not affecting the structure of the house. You need only a builder to do it but how do you know if it is structural or not if you are not a professional? Can a builder tell you if it is not a central pillar nor a supporting pillar, I am not sure and it is (not recommended). My recommendation is to check with a structural engineer.