There’s nothing more crucial than careful planning when it comes to carrying out an apartment renovation hence this apartment renovation checklist.
Renovating an apartment is actually more complicated than a house. For a start you need to work with the Owners Corporation to get approval for your project – otherwise you could end up in trouble. You can’t start knocking down walls or even installing new floorboards without following the appropriate procedures. You also need to have a budget to work from, which will determine the scale and scope of your project.
The good news is we have worked on countless apartment renovations across Sydney, and with many strata managers and Owners Corporations.
We will help you navigate all the regulations around strata, and make sure we have everything in place before any works begin. The secret to a successful apartment renovation is to:
- Engage and communicate with your Owners Corporation from day one – so you know what is required and how the process works
- Present well-thought-out plans to help streamline the approval process
- Manage the works according to the relevant by-laws
Apartment Renovation Checklist: Tick these 8 boxes for a smooth project
Let’s start by looking at all the boxes you need to tick for your apartment renovation to be a success.
Here they are:
1. Decide what you want to achieve and collect ideas
The first step is to decide what you want to achieve with your apartment renovation. Start by thinking what you want from each room and what features are on your must-have list.
Then think how you want to use these spaces, and how they relate to the rest of your apartment. You can then start researching materials, specs, appliances and fittings to get an understanding of what your budget will look like.
On the creative side, you can start by gathering a mood board of all your favourite finishes, materials and appliances and get inspiration and design ideas for your project from sites like Houzz.
Speak to family, friends and colleagues and learn from their experiences – good and bad – to help inform your renovation planning.
We work with you to help plan your renovation and determine what is achievable on your budget.
2. Choosing the right builder & project manager
Any renovation or building work in NSW needs to be carried out by a licensed builder. They should also carry valid insurances; public liability insurance and builders warranty insurance – if this is required.
Hiring an unlicensed builder or one without the necessary insurance cover is asking for trouble, and is actually against the law. It could lead to a fine, or worse your project could be delayed or completed incorrectly.
We are fully licensed and insured. We hold public liability insurance and all the necessary warranties to work on your job; we also use a network of licensed tradesmen and contractors for all our projects.
3. Think about all the logistics
There are lots of practical questions you need to answer before your apartment renovation starts.
It is not like working on a house where there are no neighbours and access is usually straightforward.
You need to think & plan for many of the logistics when renovating an apartment, such as when you are allowed to undertake works and make noise.
Other issues that crop up on a project like this are parking for contractors and delivery trucks, and where all the renovation waste will go.
You also need to work with the Owners Corporation from the beginning to ensure your project is approved.
Working with you we will get all the answers to these questions and build this into your project plan. This helps to ensure the project runs smoothly and avoids delays or conflict.
4. Working with the Owners Corporation
Renovating an apartment or unit means working closely with the Owners Corporation, typically represented by a committee or executive committee.
They manage the building that your apartment is in and represent all owners – including you. They, together with all the lot owners, are responsible for approving renovations – so you need to follow the process to have your project approved.
Each strata has slightly different rules – called by-laws, these require you to submit your plans for approval. You will generally need permission if you are doing a kitchen/bathroom renovation or making changes to the walls, floors, ceilings, as well as any pipework or ventilation ducts.
One of the most common projects people get in trouble with is changing their flooring without permission.
They may also require you to provide details of the contractors working on your renovation.
Having worked with hundreds of strata companies, as part of our solution to you, we provide you with a detailed scope of works and Capabilities Statement that makes getting approval for your renovation a whole lot easier.
5. Understand your strata by-laws
A by-law is required to approve renovations to your apartment when they make major changes to the common property in your lot or building.
In an apartment, common property is normally the four main walls – ceiling, roof and the floor. It is also all the external walls of the building, as well as areas like foyers, driveways and the gym or pool.
By-laws generally apply if you are doing any sort of structural work to your lot or work that may affect common property.
As an example, renovating your bathroom will affect the existing waterproofing – which is common property – which requires a new by-law.
This simply means you – as the owner – are ultimately responsible for the works, particularly if anything goes wrong which impacts common property.
The Owners Corporation must decide by a special resolution at a General Meeting with all lot owners to create a by-law for your renovation. To have the requested by-law pass, 75 percent of lot owners must approve your by-law.
Read our section on strata by-laws to learn more about how they apply to renovations of an apartment.
6. Is it cosmetic, minor or major works?
In NSW renovations in apartments are grouped into three classes – cosmetic, minor and major works.
These classes determine the permissions required in each case, based on the type of works.
-For cosmetic works – like painting and putting in picture hooks – you do not generally require approval from the Owners Corporation.
-For minor works – like installing new flooring – you generally will require permission.
-For major works – like large structural projects, you will always require permission.
Each strata plan has its own laws and rules around renovations, so we recommend engaging with your strata committee in the planning phase – so you know what permissions are required for your job.
7. Know the limits of an apartment renovation
Renovating an apartment is different to working on a house, as you are limited by the type of structural renovations you can do.
The most obvious of these are large projects like removing walls and changing the floorplan of your unit.
In most cases, this is not possible as this would impact the structural integrity of the building, as many internal walls are likely to be load bearing.
The cost of other projects could also limit your apartment renovation – including jobs like relocating plumbing and electrical services in your walls and floors.
These jobs will mean we need to commission structural drawings and x-ray the floors to determine the location of steel supports and/or other services.
Our structural engineer can help us work all this out, and make your new floorplan a reality – just be aware of the extra cost associated with this.
8. Don’t forget the community
Apartment blocks are typically high-density environments, so keep the community in mind when it comes time for your works to start.
If contractors start to jackhammer before any approvals or notices, your neighbours are unlikely to be happy if they know nothing about it.
The key is to prioritise communication and work to limit the impact the works have on the community.
A good starting point is to letter drop all the adjacent neighbours with a courtesy letter so they know when works will be happening, as well as the duration of works and approved hours of the works. We actually do this for you.
If contractors need to park on common property make sure they are in a visitors spot and not blocking access for residents.
In Sydney there are also regulations covering noise from home renovations and or construction works, which may affect neighbours, this means there are restrictions for when power tools can be used.
Construction work is generally allowed from 7am to 8pm during weekdays and to midday on a Saturday – though local by-laws will differ therefore it’s important you know what these times are.
As a courtesy to your neighbours, we also take a community-focused approach when working on any job in a strata building, and engage with them before and during works. They are also encouraged to feedback to us at any time.
How much will my apartment renovation cost?
Cost is an obvious concern when it comes to any renovation, and rightly so.
Cost can make or break any project – so you need to have a clear idea of how much you have to spend.
The best way of finalising a budget is to do your research. That means knowing how much you have to spend and what you want to achieve. Get organised and itemise everything in a spreadsheet – specifically the materials, fittings and fixtures you want, then shop around and look for the best price on these items.
In terms of the big picture your project budget is going to be determined by:
- The size of your apartment
- The type of materials you choose
- The fittings and appliances you select
- How simple or complicated the works are
We can help work out the cost of your renovation – get in touch so we can visit your home. We can then work out exactly what you want from your renovation, develop a final design and budget.
Suppliers we recommend
Ready to get started?
We are based in Alexandria, so are lucky to have access to a huge range of suppliers in the local area, including:
Alternatively view our other suppliers list page here.
Why choose us for your apartment renovation?
Make no mistake, renovations can be stressful – which is where we come in.
- By working with you in the planning phase we develop a detailed budget that takes everything into account – so there are no surprises down the track.
- We also project manage your reno from start to finish, and deliver your project on time, on budget & to a high standard.
- You deal directly with us, which mean no sales reps or chasing tradies. We also use a network of top-notch designers, tradesmen and contractors for all our projects. Needless to say they are experienced licensed professionals who take pride in the work they carry out.
- We coordinate everything and make it happen – read about our works process here – which takes the stress off you.