99% of people make this mistake when renovating!

July 28, 2022 Renovation By: David Steadman

Everyday this is the vision playing out somewhere for somebody travelling the renovation path.

Everyday the vision below is playing out somewhere for somebody travelling the renovation path. In some cases its trying to get started with what to do, for others its their first interaction with the building trade or maybe their carrying out a daily inspection on works underway. In every scenario, there is usually a single underlying element – Communication breakdown leading to frustration.


Communication is not just conversing in a particular language, it is a means of sending and receiving comprehensible information to one another. It can be verbal or written and most importantly to a renovation project, portrayed in plans and drawings. So what is the biggest mistake when renovating – trying to communicate your vision to builders and tradesmen without a set of plans. Quickly followed with expecting  them to know how much it is going to cost, how quickly they can do it and that it will turn out exactly as you pictured it.

It can be very difficult to transfer the vision within your mind, into the mind of somebody else. The most effective means of conveying your vision to builders and tradesmen is through pictures, diagrams and specifications – collectively known as plans. Builders and Tradesmen converse in a language that can appear quite foreign and daunting to those not from the industry. At times it can also be said in exact reverse, the builder  cannot seem to understand the clients dialect, they can hear it and they can speak what in our case is 99% English, but the  message is either not getting through or is being received as something else entirely. Welcome to the renovation and building journey. Frustrating yes, and preventable yes!

The role of the Building Designer or Architect is to extract your vision and portray or demonstrate it within a set of plans/documents that in the first case you can understand, and in the second case the Builder and Tradesman can understand. Whilst there is no guarantee that it will remove frustration from the journey entirely, it will most certainly make it easier to navigate. At Design Science, we have sat at the many different chairs surrounding the table. Our first priority is to understand your vision, and to express that picture you have in your mind, inside a 3 dimensional  digital space. We understand that basic technical drawings that only contain elevations and floor plans are not commonly understood in totality by our clients. It is extremely important that you the client can understand what your are looking at so as too assess whether it is an accurate description and picture of what you are looking for and that you agree that it represents your desires. We produce multiple translations of the same plan that communicate the design in the particular language that the different end users prefer. Design Linguists you might say! Portrait,of,confused,woman,apartment,owner,holding,document.,repair,works

The majority of our referrals come from builders. Your typical scenario plays as follows.

You decide a renovation is in order and have no idea how much it will cost. Whilst most people have some idea of their budget they have little idea if it is enough to cover the amount of construction they wish to undertake. Challenge number one appears – where do I find a builder? A little research is done, ask around, google it, or even the old school news paper and magazines are consulted. Challenge number 2 presents, you contact a number of builders and request a visit to explain what you wish to achieve. A percentage of the builders, usually a lot less than you were expecting, agree to come and have a look. Whether they agree to come is usually decided whilst having a chat with you. Why, whilst the builder wants work and without it they don’t produce an income, coming to visit you is time v benefit gamble. While they are travelling too and from, inspecting your existing building and talking to you whilst offering their hard earned experience and knowledge up, they are not earning money. Brutal truth number 1, yes, but it is reality and the core reason why many won’t even bother to make or keep an appointment.  Now comes brutal truth number 2, during your initial contact and discussion, the Builder is quickly coming to a conclusion on how well you understand what you are trying to do, how much your budget is, whether you can afford to do it, and how serious you appear to be. Why, see brutal truth number 1.

Maybe 1, maybe 3 or even maybe 5 or more Builders have answered your call and come to visit you. You have shown them your existing building and expressed your vision as best you can. You have likely listened to a few “yes we can do that’s” and maybe a few “no that is not possible” and maybe even a “you’ve got no hope of achieving that with the budget you’ve told me”. You ask how much do you think it will cost? Challenge number 3 has just appeared in a blinding flash right before you. For each Builder you managed to get to come and have a look, you have a widely different, and guessed price! “How can this be” you cry, “its just a renovation I want, I told them all the same thing, how can there be thousands or tens of thousands of difference in price”? For those of you within the Building Trade or those that have been along the building or renovation journey before, I hear your chuckle! Exhausted,young,adult,architect,freelancer,looking,at,house,project,,sitting

Some time latter, after the steam venting from your ears dissipates,  you run headlong into challenge number 4. Waiting in ambush like some long lost Ninja that forgot to move forward in history, the realization hits you right between the eyes, “Now what do I do? Who do I trust? Who do I choose? Should I contact another few Builders? (remember that thing about insanity being doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result). One builder said “we’ll sort it out and get what you need done”, another said, “well, (pregnant pause), I guess I can sketch something up for you and work out a price on that”, the other made a few interesting “grunts, hums and hars” and  said “I’ll get back to you shortly” and the final one said “Yep, no problem, i can start next week” and gives you a price that creates the same amount of damage as a nuclear bomb. Now hopefully, somewhere along the line somebody suggests you contact a building designer or architect, or they will contact one for you, and get you a “set of plans drawn up that we can price on”, (there is a god).

Oh no, just when you thought your problems had been solved, that other pesky mate of the Ninja’s, the Samurai, pops out and threatens your way – challenge number 5. By now your already getting sick and tired of bashing your way through a jungle full of hidden dangers. Architect or Building Designer, realistically, both can do the same job, one will cost 4 times the other, and either way you will get you hands on a “set of drawings” that whichever particular Builder mentioned whilst looking up in the sky with some forlorn 1000 yard gaze. Ok, we’ve now experienced a fair slice of the “99% of people make this mistake”, we tried to get a price from a Builder for a project that so far is lodged within our dreams.

With luck, you’ve now found Design Science and we have taken away all your aches and pains and set your journey straight. You’ve selected to have a consultation with a professional business that are Building Designers, Licensed Builders, and can offer and understand quantity take-offs and what your perspective builders are actually looking for in a “set of plans”.

Challenge number 6 has just been beaten down into an insignificant bump in the road. Getting an accurate price from a Builder. With a detailed set of plans and specifications that correctly represent your vision and take into account the structural elements critical within your existing structure, you’ve cracked the building trade code, yes you are now like one of those “code breakers” that helped win the war. For a small fee at the beginning, your existing building was assessed by an experienced and qualified professional that knows how to build as well as design, your desired project was related back to your budget, and you were able to decide if your proposed renovation was  a chance or not of becoming a reality. You then decided that it was better to spend a little money on a professional set of plans and documents, than to take a wild stab at which Builder was giving you the right price for the right job and being able to sleep each night knowing there wont be any hidden surprises along the way that will likely cost you more than the plans and documents anyway.  Such an easy job to now get a price. The builders and tradesmen all know exactly what i want, and they are all pricing on the same details. No more guesses, no more widely conflicting ideas and hopefully no more Portrait,of,stressed,woman,owner,of,renovating,house,examining,and

more widely varying quotations

Feel free to browse some of our other, hopefully thought provoking blogs. It is our goal to provide help, information and guidance to help you along your journey. If we can form a mutually beneficial business relationship along the way, all the merrier for those involved.