Read this before you start your first renovation

Bringing new life to an old property can be satisfying, but it can also be a minefield.

Buying a renovator’s delight to do up means you are usually dealing with older properties, which will have ageing electricals and plumbing, possibly asbestos, and almost definitely a range of unforeseen problems that will consume extra time, money and patience. So it’s usually worth allowing a contingency of at least 10 percent for any budget.

Here are some handy tips to follow to ensure you enjoy your renovation and the end result:

First-time renovators would be wise to initiate themselves on a small cosmetic project rather than launch straight into an ambitious structural overall. Jobs like replacing the flooring, updating lights and window furnishings, painting throughout, and modernising the kitchen or bathroom, can transform a property. They’re quite manageable projects for first-timers provided you’re highly disciplined with your budget and time management, and have a good team of tradies available.

DIY can keep costs down on a renovation, but you must be selective about what you take on yourself and what you outsource. Dodgy work is easy to spot, and will likely be picked up by potential buyers, so rather than save money you could actually devalue your property. Tradies will tell you that Monday is usually their busiest time, as weekend DIYers swamp them with requests to fix botched projects. Unless you’re an experienced handyperson equipped with a good set of quality tools, you should probably limit yourself to the more straightforward jobs, such as painting. Never attempt to do any plumbing or electrical work yourself. It’s not only illegal, but highly risky.

Any property built or renovated before 1987 potentially has asbestos in it. Asbestos was commonly used for wall linings, on external eaves, roofs, fences and as wall cladding. You must educate yourself about where it’s typically found and what to do if there’s asbestos present. Because of the health dangers, you cannot remove it yourself – it’s a job for specialists.

Consider what you can recycle after you demolish. Remove plants and offer them free to neighbours. Can you reuse bricks as pavers, lawn edging, in a fire pit, or garden bed? You can even sell flooring and roof tiles on sites such as Gumtree.

You’ll save money on kitchens and bathrooms by doing a “cosmetic refresh” of surfaces, rather than removing everything and starting from scratch. You can renew a benchtop, paint over old tiles, replace flooring or cupboard doors relatively easily and it’s much cheaper then a new kitchen or bathroom. Here are some tips for choosing your bathroom vanity.