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Bathroom renovations – how not to overcapitalise

Renovating your bathroom can be a great way to increase both your own comfort level and the value of your home. But what factors should you consider when seeking to make a change and how much is too much when it comes to spend?  

For a nation that thrives on its love of the outdoors, Australians are surprisingly fond of finding innovative ways to improve the way they live indoors.

A report by renovation specialty group All Seasons Home Improvement found that in the 2015/2016 financial year, Australians spent a massive $7.7 billion renovating their homes and properties.

The same report revealed that each year eight million Australians do some form of renovation to their properties. Yet while the costs of renovations vary widely, more than two million of these admitted to spending over $5,000 on improving the value, the aesthetics and the functionality of their homes.

And with the average return being $2 for every $1 spent, the bathroom is commonly cited as a great space to renovate. But it is also one of the key areas where it’s easier to spend more on the renovation than the value the update will add to your home.

Veteran plumbing expert Bec Senyard, the architect of plumbing lifestyle blog The Plumbette, says that while there is no blueprint on how much a bathroom should cost, those contemplating undertaking such a task should always spend at least a couple of months working on their budget and planning the renovation roll out.

She says typically, homeowners should expect to hand over in excess of $20,000 for a full demolition of a bathroom, reinstatement of water proofing, plumbing, electrical services and fit-off.

If you know you’re going to sell your house, a complete renovation may be overkill when the new owners may already intend to replace the bathroom with their own style.

Likewise, a cosmetic renovation – where the fixtures and taps may be replaced and the tiles painted over – can be done for under $5,000 and may be sufficient to get the bathroom looking great for the real estate photos and open home inspections but won’t last as long as a full renovation, she says.

“As a general figure, most bathroom renovations will cost between $20,000 to $50,000 governed by your choice of materials, the size of bathroom, its layout and if you project manage yourself or opt for a builder.”

Senyard says budget blowouts and over capitalisation in bathrooms tend to be caused by one of two things – lack of planning and an over reliance on your own abilities.

Project managing the bathroom reno yourself when you’ve had no experience renovating can also cause headaches with tradies, so if you’ve never renovated it is worth getting your builder to project manage. Their experience can prevent budget blowouts.

As well as ensuring they always buy taps and fixtures from reputable plumbing companies and have selected licensed tradespeople, homeowners keen to avoid an overspend will do well to remember that bathrooms can hide a myriad of problems behind the surface, Senyard says.

“No one knows what is behind the walls. If there are termites or asbestos, this can add significant cost to get treated/removed and can add to the budget. Always allow a buffer of 15-20 percent with your budget to allow for these unexpected situations.”

Lastly, she recommends homeowners work hard at reminding themselves of their end goal for the bathroom renovation project.

“Compromise on some fixtures and taps or even materials if what you love is way over budget. Find something similar. Do you really need a double basin when one is sufficient? Get your builder to project manage so they can run the correct sequence of trades. This will save money and time.”

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