• Helsby Construction Group


No matter how well you plan, how complete your designs and drawings are or how thoroughly you plan the construction process, in a renovation project you will encounter variations, which are unfortunately unavoidable.

What is avoidable however, are the most common causes for these variations within the average “reno” project.

So read on below for our thoughts on how to safely navigate two of the most common variations we have seen.



As around roughly 70-80% of variations come from the owner changing the original plans, and from this, around 10-15% of the total cost of a project usually consists of changes to the original plans (architects’ fees, engineer fees, labour onsite, new materials etc.) we recommend adding a 10-15% contingency plan on top of the allowed budget to give yourself some wiggle room for those last minute changes. It is not uncommon for your needs to change throughout a project, so knowing you have the ability to make changes and not go over budget means the project can continue to progress smoothly.

As an added bonus, if you don’t end up using this money, it can potentially be utilised to upgrade some features near the end of the project or just kept as a bonus.


Many variations are done at the request of the homeowner. Sometimes this is the result of over-optimistic planning and under-achieving. A common example of this is where owners will plan to finish parts of the build themselves, often finishing touches like painting work or building a deck and then run out of time as the deadline approaches.

This type of variation leads to additional costs as well as potentially delaying your desired finish date because subcontractors need to be arranged last minute.

This is not to say that owners shouldn’t DIY some parts of the build, just that it’s important to be realistic. Don’t take on a key task if it’s something you’ve never done before, or if you’re busy with your job and your family. Talk with your builder and other contractors to see where it might be possible for you to do some DIY to save on costs while not holding up the project.

A final word on Variations, and their effect on project COSTS...

No matter how seemingly simple a variation is, it has the potential to cause significant delays and increased costs. It’s the flow-on effect that should be considered eg. one small change to a kitchen layout may lead to weeks of waiting for a new bench top, which means the plumber can’t install the sink and the tiler can’t finish their job, which delays the entire project for a month and adds to project management costs.

That is why it’s best to try and minimize the number of “change of plans” variations to your project as much as possible. Although some things like rock in the ground or old wiring can’t be avoided, many variations can be.

In our experience, the homeowners who plan carefully, think through their options, and don’t rush into a renovation project, end up with the fewest variations and their budget intact.

Of course, it’s also important to work with a reputable building company specifically experienced in renovations, who will do their due diligence and work hard to pick up on problems with the existing house before the project starts.

So, if you’re preparing for a renovation project, take it slow. Think hard about what you’re trying to achieve, engage the right experts and listen to their advice – remember that you’ll be living in your house for many years to come so it’s worth doing right.

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