DIY First Timers
If you are about to tackle a DIY home renovation for the first time there are some things you'll need to know to help you avoid some very common traps.

DIY

If you're a do-it-yourself enthusiast you're probably well aware of some of the traps. If you're a first-timer a grasp of the basics might save you heartache in the long run. Keep in mind that you won't want to squander your time or your money, no matter how small or how large your project is.

DIY First Timers








Seek advice

The main reason why DIYs go wrong is inexperience so the first thing to do is get some advice from someone who has completed the sort of project you have in mind. The more ideas you can assimilate, the better your chance of overcoming your lack of experience. There are plenty of useful DIY magazines and videos. But also be aware of your limitations: as a rule, always get professionals in for any potentially dangerous work, including plumbing and electrical work.

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Getting started

Make sure that whatever you are building on to is structurally sound. You may need professional advice from a builder or structural engineer.

Before you make your working drawings, measure-up in detail the relevant sections of your house. If your renovation is an addition or extension, prepare a site plan so that you are aware of the distance of the finished structure from the property boundaries to avoid encroachment.

Note clearly the position of switches, power points, all electrical wiring and plumbing points affected by or close to the work you are about to carry out. This is an important safety precaution essential to keep in mind for even the smallest DIY job.

Measure, then measure again

For any major renovations / additions you will need to note all the physical dimensions of the spaces and features affected. These include windows, ceilings, floor level variations, door sizes (and swing directions), roof lines, eaves, chimneys and verandas. Measure, then measure again: take the guesswork out of work.

With this accurate data in hand you can draw up a plan of existing conditions (try a metric scale of 1:100 or 1:50). Once you are satisfied that all of the relevant features and dimensions have been rendered accurately in this plan, you are almost ready to design your renovation in detail (using the same scale as your plan of existing conditions).


DIY First Timers









Now step back

At this stage it's worth stepping back to see whether your first ideas are the same ideas you now wish to pursue. You now have a better awareness of the physical conditions you are dealing with - both the opportunities and constraints - and this should allow you to anticipate any difficulties you had not seen earlier. This is your chance to see if there is a better way of doing things.

This is also the time to discuss the project with other users of the space. How much new space do you really need? Be clear about what you are going to use this new space for, how frequently, and what furniture and other essential fittings it will contain.

Ask yourself:
  • Do you have to cross an existing room to get here?
  • Are you sure the entry points are well positioned?
  • Where should the windows be positioned to make best use of the views and aspects, as well as natural light?
  • What is the best way to ensure adequate heating / cooling?
  • Have you considered the impact of internal and external noise, and the best ways of minimising this?
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Budget

Obviously, cost is always a major consideration. Estimate what you are prepared to spend before deciding on the size of the renovation. Talk to tradespeople, get quotes, browse around at the price of materials, consider recycled materials and, most of all, become familiar with what the components will cost so you can avoid any last minute expensive surprises.

Also, do you need to buy tools to get the job done? You might ultimately decide that a staged renovation is most appropriate, or on a reduced scale.


DIY First Timers









Drawing the plan

This is where your imagination can come into play. There is always more than one way to solve a design problem so try not to become too fixed on an early idea.

If your renovation impacts on the external appearance of your house, do a rough exterior sketch or take photos of the affected area. Now do several rough sketches from different angles.? Study the proportions, keeping in mind the rooflines and contours. Do you want to duplicate the existing look of your house or do you want a contrasting style?

Will the new extension be the first thing a future buyer would rip down? Does it complement your house and add to its value? Discuss this with someone whose judgment you trust. It's not too late to make changes and come up with new ideas and resolves.

Your choice of the right materials is vital and can minimise the cost of creating the right effect. Go to display centres and home shows, read brochures and design magazines, and talk to friends and neighbours who have achieved something similar that you admire.

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Now you're ready

If you're satisfied with your final plan your next step is to seek advice from your council on whether you need a permit to go ahead. If so, the council will explain the procedure to you. If your DIY renovation is relatively minor and does not require council approval, you are ready to start.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as making your own changes with your own hands and having them turn out better than you expected - so good luck! And remember, at some time everyone is new to the challenges of DIY so never, ever be afraid to ask for advice.


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