Thursday, March 5, 2015


 By Kate Dyer
A child of the 80's, Kate was raised on country music and family camping adventures. She documents more recent adventures on her blog This is My Family. When she's not pulling her house apart, Kate aims to rid the world of cheesy family photos. Find out more at Urban Safari Photography.

Hands up if you’ve ever thought about renovating.

We’ve been wanting our own home since we moved in together 4 years ago, but like most people the journey to home ownership was a long and winding road. With an architect for a husband (Simon) and a keen interest in colour and decorating, tackling a renovation began in my mind long before I picked up any paint swatches.

I built up a library of interior magazines and a healthy collection of ‘Pinspiration’ long before we owned anything we could touch without permission from someone else. I had an idea of the kind of place I wanted to live in, and Simon had his - we just needed the building.

Fast forward a solid 6 months and we made it off the roller coaster that is buying a house (a story for another time), title deed in hand and a cute little address to call our own. We were ready to jump in, jackhammers blazing.

It can be hard to know where to start.

If you’ve been living in the same place for a few years, chances are you know what you want to achieve. You might have a picture in mind for the end result but starting the project can take months, even years! What to tackle first?

We’ve been in our house for 6 months now and I’m glad we didn’t start tearing down walls in Week 1. We’ve had some time to think about how we want to use the space and decide which of our ideas will suit the building. Thinking ahead, we knew we’d want a nice space to retreat to when the rest of the house is a worksite, so we decided to warm up our reno muscles on the two bedrooms.

The rest of the house is still a bit overwhelming, so here’s my first tip:

Firstly, break down your big idea into smaller tasks.

If you think of the project as a whole, it can be enough to send you batty. Instead, see if you can break it down into rooms, zones, or stages and then break it down even further. For example, we’ve got an existing house that needs work and a garage we're planning to replace with an extension. We also wanted to get the garden started so we could plant some summer veggies and get a hedge growing.

Garden - Stage 1
House - Stage 2
Extension - Stage 3

Stage 1 then became a series of projects:

    •    Front Hedge
    •    Garden bed overhaul
    •    Raised veggie planters
    •    Restore rear lawn

Stage 2 was a little more intense:

    •    Design
    •    Council Approvals
    •    New Roof
    •    Bedrooms 1 & 2
    •    Living/Dining/Kitchen
    •    Bathroom & Laundry
    •    Rear Deck

Finally, break each project down to individual tasks, for example:

Front hedge:

    1.    Remove existing plants
    2.    Add compost and soil
    3.    Purchase and plant new hedge
    4.    Mulch and fertilize

Now, when a free weekend comes up, I can select a project and work my way through the tasks without the stress. Take a few nights on the couch to write down your Stages and Projects, then arrange them into an order that works for you. This order might change down the track but at least you’ll have a starting point!

So you’ve got your To Do list ready - what’s next?

Keep all your ideas and plans together.

All these lists will work best if you keep them together in one spot. If you’re a pen and paper person, get a big folder, some tabbed dividers and loose sheets than you can shuffle around as required. A good starting point would be sections for:

    •    Ideas & Inspiration
    •    Budget & Quotes
    •    Receipts

If you like a paperless world, Evernote is a fantastic app for managing multiple notebooks and notes within these. You can upload PDFs and images and save directly from websites, thus avoiding that horrible feeling of finding the perfect bathtub and not remembering what it’s called or where it’s from.

Pinterest is also an incredible tool for collating images. I’ve got boards for nearly every room in the house and can quickly identify my favourite colours and materials after adding a bunch of pins to a board. I even got Simon on the Pinterest wagon and we both pin to the same boards. We don’t always agree but at least we have a clear idea of what each of us like the look of!

Decide what you can and can’t do yourself.

Some people are naturally handy, and for the rest of us there’s YouTube. We’ve watched all sorts of videos, from how to hang plasterboard to how to change the cord on a whipper snipper. You can save a lot of money by doing some of the work yourself but remember not everything should be a DIY job. Some things are better left to the experts, such as electrical, gas work and asbestos removal.

Go over your project list and identify the ones you’ll need help with. While you’re there, check which ones will require approval from various authorities. Doing it right the first time is worth it!

Then estimate how much it will cost.

Costs can be measured in both money and time values. Each project will need cash for trades, tools and materials and will take some amount of days, weeks or even months! You can find out the price of most supplies with a trip to the hardware store or a browse of the internet, and you’ll want a minimum of three quotes for any work you’re outsourcing. Create a spreadsheet or list of expenses for each project and an estimate of how long it will take. If you’re unsure, jump back online and ask your social networks or a dedicated forum for some ideas based on other’s projects.

Now, go tackle the first task!

You should now have a good idea of where to start with your renovation project. Whether it’s making over a room or overhauling the whole house, it all begins with the first step.

Share your next project with us in the comments!


  1. We're about to take on a reno/ extension too Kate! This post was SO timely for us… yet i'm feeling remarkably unprepared now!

    1. Just don't remove any walls without a bit of preparation! Can't wait to see some Shack updates, Em.

    2. Yes, good tip! We've got a builder staring before the end of the month! Let's see how far we can stretch the budget, right? eep!

  2. I love this, I love a project but get frightened by the big jobs.. Im going to break it all down and hopefully the little tasks getting ticked off will motivate me

    1. It's a great feeling crossing those completed jobs off. You can even start your list with a few tasks you've already done, tick them off straight away and feel extra productive! :D

  3. Good luck with the renovations, I look forward to seeing how amazing it all looks once you have finished (and seeing all of the progress along the way :) )

    1. Thanks Danielle! I'm looking forward to the end result too :) Hoping to get most of the inside done before our first bub arrives in September, talk about deadlines!

  4. Without sensible renovating the house is inclined to a great deal of disregard and the general population will likewise never wind up valuing the home of the person. useful content


Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em