Some of the more extensive renovation projects – such as adding a new room – require the skills of a designer or architect. We explain how to work through the planning process.

Plan renovation projects carefully

Plan a renovation project carefully. Unless you are moving out while work is in progress, you are going to have to live with the mess and inconvenience which can be considerable and stressful.

The first steps in planning are:

  • Plan the projects, room by room.
  • Consider the future and how your needs will change over time.
  • Collect ideas and information from books, websites, magazines and brochures.
  • Ask other people for their ideas and experiences.
  • Work out a budget and decide what is and is not achievable. Some things may have to wait so plan out over a number of years.

Planning for a specific project

Once you have decided on your first project:

  • Consider whether you can realistically live in the house while the work is being done. If you are planning major work, such as adding another storey, it might be sensible to move out while work is underway.
  • Decide if you need to hire a designer to work out the scope of the project, and prepare plans.
  • Take the time to find reliable tradespeople to do the work – some quite simple jobs can involve a number of tradespeople. For example, replacing a hand basin and vanity could involve a plumber, builder, plasterer, painter, electrician and floor-layer.
  • Decide who is going to manage the work. Management of a major renovation project is no different from managing a new house project – someone needs to be in charge, making sure each of the trades are ready on site when needed, the quality of the work is checked, variations are handled in a consistent way and progress payments are made. Careful project management is essential whether you decide to manage it yourself or leave it to the designer, builder or one of the other tradespeople.

Do I need designs drawn?

Whether you need a designer to design and draw up plans really depends on the extent of work being done. Major renovations involving moving walls around, adding new rooms or having a new kitchen put in will benefit from the design expertise of an architect, architectural designer or architectural draughtperson. Their ideas can help to maximise floor space, aspect to the sun, and flow. They can also advise on materials and special design features, such as making the best use of natural light, heat and other energy efficiency aspects.

With a few exceptions, major work is going to need building consent. The building consent application will require plans and specifications to be attached. A designer can prepare these for you.

Finding a designer

For major renovations and alterations, finding a good designer should be carried out as carefully as if you are having a whole house built.

If you are having a bathroom or kitchen renovated, you can use the specialist services of kitchen and bathroom designers. Some offer a design service only but others can offer a service which includes all or some of the following:

  • A consultation at your home.
  • Bathroom/kitchen design service.
  • Strip out of existing fittings.
  • Installation of new fittings.
  • Plumbing work.
  • Electrical work.
  • Paint and paper finishing.
  • Complete tile services.
  • Payment and finance options.

Sometimes you need to use an engineer

With some renovations and major alterations, you will need the services of a chartered professional engineer.

If there is concern about the stability or load-carrying capacity of the ground, a geo-technical engineer will be called in, usually by the architect or designer, to do some testing. Special design of the foundations may be required, with input from the engineer. Engineers are also necessary when you are extending up or out, or when you are removing structural elements.

Engineers may also provide expertise where there are other features out of the norm, for example, to calculate beam sizes or methods of developing lateral restraint to provide adequate support, and anchorage against wind uplift, earthquake and snow-loading.

Your architect or designer should let you know if an engineer is required and what the extra costs will be. Or you can contract one directly by looking in the Yellow Pages or getting referrals from other people.