Why hire a renovation builder for your home renovation rather than a new house builder

At the outset of any renovation project, it's important to ensure you are aiming for the best, most cost-efficient and high-quality outcome possible. Part of that means choosing a specialist renovation builder who understands the job at hand and has the expert knowledge to see it through and deliver the project on time and on budget.

Refresh Renovations, home renovation specialists, open-plan office with two renovation consultants at their desks.
ARTICLE Clare Chapman PHOTOGRAPHY Scott Espie

Home renovations are markedly different to new home builds, and as such, the skills needed to successfully complete each type of project are vastly different.
Renovations require a specialist knowledge of the different types of construction methodologies employed over the last one hundred or so years in order to successfully blend old with new, match materials and comply with all relevant legislation relating to the addition or renovation.
In order to make a renovation successful in every aspect of the word, employing the skills of an expert team of builders, contractors and project managers is key and makes the world of difference to brief, budget and to get a final outcome.
Home renovation extension, in process with wooden J-Frame's


What is the difference between a home renovation builder and a new home builder?

Building new homes is big business. As a result, builders often focus on building houses, and see renovation work as a sideline to their business. But specialised home renovation builders are a different breed to new home builders, and are equipped with specialist knowledge, expertise and skills.
We’ve spoken to some of the country’s top renovation builders and asked about why they are different to new home builders. The following specialist are part of Refresh Renovations, a company that is pioneered an entirely new category in the building industry with its renovation specialists, and leads it with a growing international brand.
Refresh Renovations builder  working in home renovation in process

Home renovation builder and Refresh home renovation consultant owner Wayne Gordon

Wayne Gordon, a Refresh home renovation consultant, is a stickler for detail, and that’s what makes him and his team of subcontractors and builders the best at what they do.
The biggest thing with a new home is that it’s a blank canvas so you are starting from scratch. With a renovation, there’s often a demolition aspect and you’re working with something that’s already there, within existing floor, ceiling and roof heights,” Wayne says.
“Our team of subcontractors and builders specialise in renovations. It is their area of expertise. There is harmony involved in making new meet old; there’s a real skill to it. Materials can change, and building methods that were used in the existing structure are often outdated. Electrical and plumbing services can place hurdles in front of you as well.
“As renovation specialists we are different because we understand earlier construction methods, working with houses aged from five years old to 120 years old.
“There’s no set model for dealing with these sorts of situations; it is a level of knowledge and experience that is the key to dealing with each client’s needs successfully. For example, when you take wall and floor linings off, unexpected problems can arise. But with experience, these can be dealt with quickly and effectively and minimise costs for clients.”
Two refresh renovations builders onsite of home renovation, overlooking working drawings

Why it’s important to choose a home renovation builder to do your renovation

At the outset of any renovation project, it’s important to ensure you are aiming for the best, most cost-efficient and high-quality outcome possible. Part of that means choosing a specialist renovation builder who understands the job at hand and has the expert knowledge to see it through and deliver the project on time and on budget.
But it’s not as simple as just picking the first renovation builder you come across.
There are various attributes that are worth considering before you sign a contract for work on your home.
Refresh Renovations construction site sign at an in progress home renovation

Keeping prices down and delivering projects on time

Refresh New Zealand national operations manager Matt Steele says: “The building market is very fragmented and there are lots of builders out there with very different skill sets. There are also a lot of sub-trades to deal with like plumbers and electricians that in busy periods, are often very hard to get hold of. The benefit of using a nationally-branded company like Refresh means that you have access to a team of subcontractors who work almost exclusively for us so costly delays are avoided.”
While using a larger company has its benefits in relation to timing. It also means the overall cost of a renovation project can be reduced due to the company’s buying power with suppliers keeping prices down; a relationship smaller builders don’t have access to.
“Refresh also offers a fixed price model, which means there is certainty of cost for clients, “Matt says. “We’re able to do this because we invest in detailed concepts in the early stages of the project, which means we can be confident in our pricing and significantly reduce variations in the later stages.”
Refresh New Zealand national operations manager Matt Steele sitting with a couple at a Refresh Renovations Office

Simplifying the renovation process

Refresh uses a six-stage process starting with a briefing meeting with clients to understand their aims and budget. Then it’s the concept stage, where an initial concept is developed in conjunction with the clients. A lot of time is put into communication with the client during this stage to ensure the concept meets all expectations and works within the required budget. Following the finalisation of the concept, and from which costs are developed. A quote is then created, followed by the build stage, and final completion. “It can be hard to navigate through the process of a renovation. These steps are in place to allow that process to be less complex,” Matt says.
A renovation consultant explaining the Refresh Renovations six-step process to a couple interested in renovating
Refresh director Chris Caiger says this process is the critical reason why clients save money by using Refresh. “In order to really understand the costs and the time and the feasibility of a renovation, you need to do concept plans first. In a renovation, everything is very unique so before you can have any idea of the costs, you need to start building the concept plan, which incorporates what is existing and what is new,” Chris says. “Then you need to do an initial square metre rate costing and that will give you a fairly good indication of what is a realistic cost. Then you need to get those plans accurately costed, with detailed drawings. At this stage, all finishes have been chosen and details finalised.”
Chris estimated that to take a set of plans and accurately quote from them takes between 40 and 70 hours, so a typical builder won’t spend those hours on it. “He will just say what he thinks it will be, and he will be wildly wrong.”
Refresh Renovations project manager with client discussing aims and budget for future home renovation
Chris says the variables that change pricing in a renovation are things like the design itself, the size of the renovation, and the quality of the finishes. “The only other variable is how efficiently you build it, in other words, how efficiently the project is managed, which includes how tradespeople are managed. The normal approach to dealing with project management is quite chaotic, with lots of decision changes happening throughout the project that change the costs significantly; this is something we avoid by ensuring a detailed concept is completed prior to starting the building work. At Refresh we manage the entire process, which, compared to a typical builder situation where you will have a lot of independent people working on the project and no one person coordinating it, ensures you save a lot of time and money.”

To see the different types of home renovation work we do, visit our Renovation Projects.

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This article by Clare Champan featured in Issue 018 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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