• Helsby Construction Group


First Things FIRST

If you’ve got grand plans and designs on how to transform your home, the costs involved will almost certainly be on your mind from the get go, and you may not be aware that even the planning stage of a renovation involves some costs.

Therefore, it’s worth making sure you can afford the build, before you begin investing in things like consents and drawings.

In our experience, people tend to make two main mistakes when it comes to thinking about their renovation budget:

  1. they have unrealistic expectations of how far their budget will stretch and,

  2. they have no idea of today’s building costs.

So to help you steer in the right direction here’s a few handy tips on how to get a handle on your renovation project, to make sure your budget is realistic.

1. Create a draft, or initial Concept plan

Establishing a budget for a renovation is complex and almost impossible to do without determining a number of details first.

Firstly, you need at least a loose plan of what you’re trying to achieve, secondly you need to consider the quality of finishing you want and thirdly identifying anything that looks likely it needs replacing.

If your home is old, the chances are things like wiring, the roofing structure and piling will need to be looked at too. If you’re breaking new ground to add an extension, the earth works can add significantly to the cost, especially on a sloped site or one with potential for rock.

It often helps to sketch out a plan of the renovation work you’re thinking of. Even if the plan changes once you take it to a contractor or architect, it can provide a valuable starting point for getting some cost estimates.

Without it, you’re dealing with unreliable ‘guesstimates’. Even the most experienced building company will only be able to provide a broad cost based on average square-metre rates.


The cost of a renovation doesn’t just include the build.

There are design, building and resource consent costs to consider and these often include costs from specialists such as engineers, surveyors, stormwater and Geotech experts to determine details specific to your project.

It is important to research these costs and include an allowance in your budget. They can quickly add up and be a significant cost in the planning of your renovation.

Council requirements can also add to the complexity and therefore the cost of your build, with height-to-boundary and site-coverage rules, or drainage and vehicle access requirements.

So, it’s important to bear these things in mind too.


Once you’ve moved past the scoping stage and have proper house plans and consents, the real figures will start to emerge. The chances are there will be costs you hadn’t thought of, or figures that are much higher than expected.

This may mean compromising. Our advice is to focus on your must-haves and leave the wants for a later date.

Think about the key areas of the renovation and where the most value will be added or benefit derived.


In renovations, expect the unexpected, especially if yours is an older home.

Non-compliant windows, rotten floorboards, wiring from last century – these surprises are why a realistic budget should always include a contingency fund.

Under a fixed-price building contract, we always recommend a contingency of 10-15% so you have funds available for the unforeseen if needed. The contingency for a charge-up/cost reimbursement contract however will need to be more around the 25% mark. This is because the builder won’t have necessarily spent the time to determine all costs as carefully.

5. Two brains are better than one

The best way to keep control over your renovation budget is to work alongside a builder through the planning and design stages.

Look for builders who specialise in renovations and offer a wrap-around service, with expert start-to-finish planning. A builder will always be more up-to-date on current building costs than a draughts-person or architect. They also have a more vested interest in getting the build planned and ready to go.

So, give us a call

Here at Helsby Construction Group, we pride ourselves on being able to offer our clients a full-service package from concept design stage, right through to handover, so get in touch on 09-218-5255, or email to set up an initial meeting

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