Renovating Mums chatted to Trang about her experience renovating her semi-detached in Sydney’s Inner West  as an Owner / Builder, check out her story here…

Renovating as an Owner / Builder in Sydney

We’d had our semi-detached for a good 7 years before embarking on our major renovation. We did do a small bathroom renovation when we moved in and whilst I was 6 months pregnant so you could say I’m a sucker for punishment!

Our 3 (read 2.5) bedroom semi was ok but we were really uncomfortable with the layout of our kitchen/dining and bathroom. We basically felt the back of the house was really unusable and never enough room to have people over for a sit down meal which we really missed.

Loving our location, community, kid’s school and importantly; our neighbour (we have one of those rare neighbourly relations with same aged kids and a shared gate between our back fence for the kiddies to play) we really didn’t feel that we had a choice to move. So renovating was our path.

How did you find the planning process? Any tips to make this easier?

I’m a lover of planning (and process *cringe*) so I’ve loved every bit of it. It really was for me such a reflective time to research and consider all the ways in which I’d like to live with my family. So much so that what started out as a someone-else-will-build-our-place to I-really-want-to-owner-build-this.

A well-defined budget and making as many decisions as possible upfront really made the project go smoothly, also taking the time to understand the technicalities of how a certain design, fixture or fitting will impact the build.

Master Bedroom Renovation Owner Builder Sydney Inner West
Master Bedroom

Where did you find your reno inspiration? And, how did you juggle the workload with your husband?

Renovating Mums page, Pinterest and the ‘Manage your build course’ by Amelia Lee was what gave me loads of motivation.

Hubby and I knew very early on that if we were going to start a renovation and stay married by the end of it we need to divide and conquer and very rarely should our roles cross over (LOL). So I took on the renovation and hubby took care of all of our domestic affairs and kids. He’s a total gem! We maintained both our full time jobs during the process as well (but that’s not something I recommend…)

How did you go with the budget?

Overall I was very lucky to be able to keep to our budget and (believe me) I watched that budget day and night (LOL). The biggest blow out though and what surprised me the most was the cost of brick labour. In part due to a number of things that happened on site. We didn’t expect to be rebuilding a whole wall and we were certainly (pleasantly) surprised to be able to use recycled bricks which really added to that costing.

Did you use an Architect, Building Designer or Interior Designer? Did they make the process smoother?

I had a really down-to-earth architect who I got along very well with during the design stage. Our architect really encouraged me to think about the impacts of certain design elements and in so far as to provide the initial moral support for my path to owner build.

I also loved having full liberty over our interiors, that was a part of the reno that I have enjoyed immensely.

Semi Detached Renovation Owner Builder Sydney Inner West
Choosing beautiful finishes.

How was the build period and trades management? Any tips?

I had an owner build consultant who helped enormously with trades management.

My advice would be to stand your ground and always act with mutual respect. Building our home has been such an eye opener and I have really enjoyed getting to know the roles of each of the trades. At the end of the day, its really important to keep in mind that every trades person has a family to support and they are in the end just people. Clear and respectful communication is everything, and never be fearful of asking questions. The whole building process is far from obvious or even logical sometimes.

Do you have any fabulous trades you can recommend?

Yes! Our cabinet maker was a delight – AO Designs – Alan 0418 414 522

My air conditioning guy is amazing Hamill Air (Gareth – 0414 296 799)

How did you source your fixtures / fittings?

As I did an owner build, every piece of material/ wood/ fitting/ fixture/screw was ordered by me. I visited countless display home display appliance centres and hearing other mums talk about their finish (reviews!) was where I was able to get a lot of my info.

Instagram and Pinterest are also candy for the renovator’s eye.

Bathroom Renovation Owner Builder Sydney Inner West
Renovated Bathroom

What do you love about the renovation?

There is so many things I love about our home from the kitchen to the bedrooms to bathrooms, it is really exactly what I wanted.

What does your husband and children love about the renovation?

My husband loves our kitchen (that’s important since he cooks more than I do ☺), our kids love their rooms decked out with built in cubby houses and they love that we have an upstairs!

They (hubby and kids) and I loved that I was the builder ☺

Ceasarstone Kitchen Renovation Owner Builder Sydney Inner West
Stunning New Kitchen

What was the hardest part of the renovation for you?

Keeping the trades seamlessly following each other and on track.

Did you have a timeline? Did you meet it or did it blow out? If so, why?

I was aiming for a 6 month build which I knew was one of those BHAG goals but we did it! With weather on our side for the build phase we were extremely lucky and the 2 years of planning our reno has really paid off.

Did you do any DIY? What was it?

We cleaned and saved about 1100 recycled bricks from our renovation, I also cleared all the rubbish offsite which is no mean feat.

A few quick fire questions:

Lessons Learnt? So many, with owner build even though I had complete control it still was another world altogether for me. Don’t over design (or let the architect over design the place), there really is something to be said about a design that’s useable, functional, and not bigger than you can manage. Although being in the inner west, space is not a luxury we have!

Biggest Mistake? Not so much a mistake as I didn’t understand the plan well enough, our under-the-stair-laundry was certainly a challenging surprise.

Biggest Cost? Kitchen including our appliances

And finally…how would you describe your reno in one word? Exhilarating!

Thank you Trang for sharing your stunning renovation of your semi-detached in Sydney’s Inner West. Love how you really embraced the process of being an Owner / Builder and it really shows in the quality of the finished product! (And that kitchen benchtop is beautiful!)

Do you have have great renovation experience you would love to share with us (or even a not so great Real Reno story?). We would love to hear from you! Drop us a line here and let us know all about it.  

Don’t forget to also join our community Facebook group to chat with other local Sydney Renovating Mums.

For more reno goodness with local tips and experiences click here.

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  1. Meri-jade lambert

    Hi I’m about to do my owner builders course. Which one do you recommend. I’m doing a semi detached going up one level and of corse doing a bigger living area and a wooden deck