Watch Out for These Unexpected Renovation Costs

Don’t let these unexpected renovation costs bite you in the budget! We’ve covered the top things renovators often forget about until it’s too late.

Our top renovation budgeting tips:

  • Add 10–20% on top of your budget to allow for unexpected costs.
  • Get ALL your quotes before you start work.
  • Save money by checking out building material auction houses. 
  • Use a professional building alterations and renovation specialist as they’ll have plenty of experience working within a set budget.

Taking on a home renovation project is an exciting, but stressful, time. The last thing you want is to stumble upon some unexpected renovation costs to blow your budget and your dreams for your home. 

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, we’ve sourced how much to expect to spend on your renovation, as well as some sneaky costs to budget for—just in case.

Average Renovation Cost in Australia

According to an article written by Bank of Queensland in January 2019, home improvements make up 19% of all total broker loans on RateSetter. Of these, the average loan value is $14,996. But what can this get you?

Bathroom Renovation Average Cost

hipages reports the average bathroom renovation in Australia costs $5,000 to $15,000 for a budget project, while a high-end renovation can exceed $30,000. The prices can vary depending on the quality of fixtures and materials, size of the bathroom, labour costs, permits, etc.

Kitchen Renovation Average Cost

Location makes a big difference in the price of renovations. For example, Domain reports the average cost of a kitchen renovation in Australia is $17,000. However, if you look into the average price in Sydney for a basic kitchen reno, you’re looking at around $23,000. It’s best to shop around to get the best price to suit the look you want and financial situation.

Bedroom Renovation Average Cost

Bedroom renovations can be extremely cheap (even as low as $2,000, according to eChoice), or the budget can be as much as $30,000+ if you want to install an en suite. It all comes down to what you want to do, your location and working within your budget.

Living Space Renovation Average Cost

Finder shares that for a living room approximately 4.5 square metres, you should expect to pay anywhere from $14,445 to $17,145, depending on the quality of materials and fixtures. However, these figures appear to include furniture and entertainment electronics, so you can give or take what you do and don’t need.

13 Unexpected Renovation Costs to Budget For

1. Asbestos

If you’re renovating a property built before 1990, you’ll most likely come across some asbestos. The problem is, if you do find asbestos, you have to immediately stop what you’re doing and call in a specialist to remove the materials. Not only does this eat away at your budget, it delays your project too.

How much does it cost to have asbestos removed? It really depends on the amount of asbestos and where it’s located, however, you’re looking at anywhere from $20 to $60+ per square metre. 

The best way to stop this from being an unexpected renovation cost is to book in an asbestos survey before you start work.

What does asbestos look like?

Unfortunately, it’s tricky to identify asbestos just by looking at it. It’s easier to assume if the property was built or renovated before 1990, you may have asbestos and to have an asbestos survey/test performed.

2. Old Wiring & Plumbing

If you’re renovating a property built before the 1960s, you may want to plan for some unexpected renovation costs, like replacing old wiring and plumbing. 

Prior to the ‘60s, galvanised pipes were used in Australian homes, as well as for sewer pipes. As it’s now more than 50 years on and galvanised pipes are known to corrode over time, if you have them, you’ll want to get them replaced. They are also prone to blockages.

You’ll be looking at $5,000 to $20,000+ for replacing sewer pipes, so plan ahead if this is something you need to do.

On the other hand, you also have old wiring that may need replacing. If you’ve ever plugged in a hairdryer or turned on the jug and a fuse has blown, then it’s worth looking into rewiring your home or upgrading your switchboard. A switchboard upgrade will cost you anywhere from $500 to more than $1,800, so it’s best to talk to your local electrician to get a quote.

3. Relocating Plumbing & Electrical

Would moving your basin to another wall make better use of the space? Or maybe you want to turn a second living space into an office. Whatever you plan on doing, before you decide on it, consider how much it may cost to relocate plumbing and electrical points. 

Where you move sinks, bathtubs, toilets, electrical points and other plumbing and electrical points, you’ll also need to move pipes, fixtures, tiles, benches, etc. Ensure you make room in your budget for all of these before going ahead with work.

4. Correcting Existing Work

Chances are you didn’t build the home you’re renovating. And while you may know to only use reputable, fully licensed and registered tradespeople, the past owners may have done a bit too much DIY or skimping. Depending on the age of the home, it may even be that the building codes they adhered to simply aren’t the ones around now.

What this means for you is that you may need to do extra work to ensure your home is structurally sound to suit current building regulations. This is a little tricky to give an estimate price for as it depends on the work, so it’s best to speak to a professional.

5. Building Permits

Before you begin your renovations, find out if you’ll need a planning permit and/or a building permit. These permits are legal regulations for all building, renovation and alteration projects, unless exempted, and are there to protect you.

You’ll be able to find out if you need a planning or building permit through your local council. A permit will cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on the size and type of your project. It’s worth noting permits do have an expiry date, so ensure you keep it in mind.

If you don’t get a building permit, not only are you violating legal regulations and could be facing a fine of $75,835 to $379,175, depending on your situation.

6. Out-of-Production Materials

Imagine only needing to replace a couple of tiles only to find out you can’t. Maybe they don’t stock the material or it’s completely out of production—either way, you’re in a pickle.

If you can’t repair whatever material is in disarray, you’ll now need to rip out and replace the entire wall or floor surface. Then comes the cost of buying replacement materials and labour to install them. But lucky you allowed an extra 10–20% on your budget for this type of unexpected renovation cost, right?

7. Unexpected Labour Costs

Before you sign any contracts for tradespeople, read the fine print. There may be unexpected renovation costs tucked in there for the use of equipment and machinery, running over date and working on specific days.

8. Amenity Hire & Temporary Accommodation

You don’t want to realise when it’s too late that you won’t have a toilet at home for three weeks while you complete your renovations. Even the dust in the air may cause your allergies to flare up.

Take into consideration the parts of your home you won’t be able to use while you’re renovating and budget for substitutions, if you need to. This could include port-a-potties, a generator, microwaveable or takeout meals, accommodation, a portable shower, using a laundromat, etc.

9. Rubbish Removal

Your wheelie bins will not be enough to house materials you’re throwing out, packaging and everything else you need to throw out as part of your renovation. Hiring a skip bin with removal service is a great way to ensure you’re keeping everything tidy and easy. Plus, it means no tip runs.

10. Pet or Child Care

Of course, if you don’t have children, pets or you’re only doing a small renovation, this won’t apply to you. But if it does, take into consideration what you’ll do with your animals and/or children while you’re occupied and there is no secure spot in the home. 

For your pets, you may want to set up an outdoor enclosure for while you’re working during the day or look into dog or cat boarding. And for the kids, they’ll love a few days or weeks in vacation or before/after-school care.

11. Increase in Utility Bills

While you’re using those power tools and filling up buckets during your renovation, your electricity and water bills are climbing. This is definitely an unexpected renovation cost that will hit you months after your project is over and done with, and one you can definitely budget for.

In some cases, you may need to turn off your electricity or water altogether for a while, so you may need to budget for a generator or water cartage.

12. Termites

When you don’t know the signs, it can be easy to miss signals you have a termite invasion. But with having tradespeople around and getting up close and personal with our walls during a renovation, you may find you’re sharing your home with some unwanted guests.

Safeguard Pest Control reports termite treatments can cost anywhere from $300 for a minor infestation, all the way up to $5,000 if you have a decent-sized invasion. Keep in mind this doesn’t include structural repairs caused by the wood-loving creatures.

Even if you don’t have termites, your renovation is a great time to have a pest control specialist come out and install termite barriers or a baiting system. A termite baiting system will set you back roughly $2,000 to $4,500, depending on the size of your home.

13. Insurance

Ah, finally. Your renovation is done and dusted. You can sit back and enjoy all your hard work and put your mind at rest that there are no more unexpected renovation costs—or are there? 

Remember, your home insurance will need to reflect the value of your home. So, once you’ve finished renovating, it’s time to give your insurance company a call and update your policy so you’re protected. 

Feature image credit: Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

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      Sarah Russo

      UX Content Writer

      Sarah Russo is a UX Content Writer at Localsearch with a decade of experience in traditional and digital marketing. She has written for and assisted in the social media and marketing strategies for many different industries, including real estate, medical, health and fitness, trades and beauty. When she isn’t nose deep in data, SEO research or her content strategy, Sarah is a gym junkie, foodie and gamer with a brain full of random facts that come in handy far more often than you would think. As a digital marketing all-rounder and lifestyle specialist, her articles provide insight into marketing, advertising and branding for small businesses on the Localsearch Business Blog, as well as some handy lifestyle tips on the Localsearch Blog.