Renovations – How Much Per m2 Please?!

Undoubtedly the most common question asked and yet the most tenuous to provide a satisfactory reply. Can I answer this without the use of the “How long’s a piece of string” line....? Nope!

This by no means is supposed to be a flippant reply and everyone who’s asked me the question always follows it up with a second questions along the lines of, “Come-on, just roughly, what do you reckon?”

So before I give a level of reasoning from which you can deduce your own square meterage, let me put some context around the question. Firstly, m2 rates only really came about in relation to new homes, where it’s far easier to be definitive with the ‘construction & content’ of the building. Also, for the average floor area whether single or double-storey, it’s more reliable to offer a comparison between designs and builders. But, when it comes to renovations, the system simply doesn’t work.

The type of work involved in a renovation is so different from project to project that any comparison is nigh-on impossible.

Renovations can be both structural and non-structural. Maybe we can differentiate between renovations and additions….but then again many renovations still have structural components.

As an example, a recent internal non-structural renovation of a bathroom, laundry and ensuite, with simple detailing and economical fixtures and fitting totalling 15m2, would equate to $2,500 per m2 whereas an extension to an existing house with structural works (albeit a pretty high spec) totalling 120m2 equated to $5,416 per m2.

Introducing the ever-versatile ‘Car Analogy’!

Assume for a moment we’ve established the requirement for a three-door, hatchback with leather interior and a sporty engine. That narrows the field down considerably. So, upon entering a car dealer’s showroom, let’s pose the question “How much for a three-door, hatchback with leather interior and a sporty engine?”

I’d be surprised if an answer would be given, but for the odd salesman trying their luck, I would hazard a guess of somewhere between $25,000 and $125,000…plus!

In general I’d imagine most people would agree it’s hard to answer without first conquering a tranche of questions, from which the salesperson can more accurately direct the customer.

But, without labouring the point too much, let’s consider the design and detailing which differentiates the $25,000 car from its $125,000 counterpart. If we merely focus on a single component, we have a raft of questions to get through….

Alloy wheels? (run with me and assume ‘yes’)

Any specific brand?

What size – diameter & width?

Pitch circle diameter?

Load rating?

Offset?

Weight?

How many wheel bolts and what pattern?

What style of bolts?

What style of rim?

How many spokes?

Milled spokes or cut face?

What ‘colour’?

Carbon?

What type of driving are you planning to do?

What type of tyres do you want on them?

Based on answers the wheels alone would easily vary from between $400 and $5,000 a set.

So back to the renovation…and focussing on one component – ‘electrical’…..

What type of light fittings (LED down-lights vary in cost from $35.00 - $125.00 and pendants are anything from $40.00 - $2,000 +)?

Type of GPO’s – slim-line, block mounted, brushed aluminium cover plates, white plastic?

How many and location of each?

Condition of existing wiring – any upgrade of the meter box required?

Any three-phase power required?

What type/model of cooker, hob, air-conditioning, ceiling fans?

Photovoltaic cells?

Data points required – do you need a hub?

Free-to-air TV / Foxtel?

Security?

External power and lighting requirements?

Reticulation?

I could go on…you get the picture!

OK, so all that said, can we be realistic by stating a m2 rate? Invariably, I’d be very hesitant unless there’s sufficient detail in the plans, specification and following a thorough inspection (including an engineer’s report) of the property and without making allowances for possible unknowns.

However, a couple of years ago I rewrote an article for the Master Builders Association’s website, covering renovation costs to try and bring a better expectation to possible m2 rates. In it I suggested working on between $2,500 and $4,000 per m2 including GST. But even now, I think these figures would be conservative depending on the scope of works and property condition.

Furthermore, I am increasingly trying to re-educate clients and get away from entering into a conversation where m2 rates are banded around.

I’d be more inclined to advise clients to consider the project in its entirety and ensure they get a thorough set of plans and specifications. Working with a company that can provide the design and development of the plans as part of the service will provide a better outcome as they will have a thorough understanding of the project, home and budget.

Plus, always plan for some unknowns when budgeting, it seems to impact well on m2 rates and they have an uncanny knack of making themselves known at the most inconvenient times!

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