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Ask any builder what they think of renovation shows like The Block and House Rules and

you’ll probably get a roll of the eyes in reply. Reno shows are incredibly popular and loved

by many, but for those in the building trade we know there are certainly some smoke and

mirrors being used behind the scenes. (Dare we say, shortcuts?)

Like any good magic show, things are not always as they appear. So, let’s bust some myths

around how renovations are completed on “reality” television – and reveal how it works in

the real world.


One week to complete a bathroom? In reality, that is unheard of – and if it’s completed in

such a short timeframe we’d be a bit worried! Although bathrooms can often be a small

footprint, they are labour intensive (builders, carpenters, tilers, waterproofers, plasterers,

electricians and plumbers) and require extra TLC to ensure it is spot on.

High-quality bathroom renovations take time – from planning and design, approvals,

demolishing and clearing the existing bathroom, waterproofing and plumbing to installing the

finishing pieces such as shower frames, cabinetry and tapware. Waterproofing alone can

take 4 to 5 days to complete professionally (depending on the time of year, as colder

temperatures take longer to cure), otherwise you risk leaks or structural damage and much

bigger problems down the track. A 24 hour flood test is required to guarantee that the

membrane is perfect, with many builders completing a double waterproofing system once

the tilers screed is installed and dry to eliminate any chance of defects.

“Waterproofing defects is one of the highest claims under the government Home Owners

Warranty Insurance, and it always made me wonder how this affects the builds on reality

programs – particularly once the cameras have left,” says Adam Souter, Director of Souter


“I ran into a judge from a reality TV show at a café in Berry a few years ago and asked ‘What

about all the Home Owners Warranty claims after the show is completed?’ His response? ‘I

don’t know anything about that.’ It doesn’t provide much confidence for home buyers –

certainly a case of buyer beware!”


If you’re planning a low-budget renovation, it’s important to be realistic with the costs of

renovating. The price of a new kitchen – even the “budget” variety – can start from $25,000

and if you are considering higher-end appliances, cabinetry and finishes you’ll need to

budget more again. A “standard” bathroom renovation is upwards of $30,000 and a ground

floor extension to add an extra bedroom, will cost from $2000 per sq metre.

Taking the DIY or budget approach when renovating can be a tempting way to save money,

but can cost more in the long-term. Cheap materials and appliances that are poor quality –

from window frames to tapware and lighting - will need replacing sooner and are often less

energy-efficient, which is bad news for the environment and your utility bills. Investing in

sustainable options upfront can make a huge difference – both in cost and lifespan – so it

pays to consider the overall value to get best the bang for your buck.

Before you pick up a power tool or start demolishing a wall, talk to a qualified builder for

advice. Engaging the professionals will ensure that all work in completed to a high standard

and they are fully insured.


As much as you’d like to start your renovation ASAP, reputable builders and tradespeople

are booked weeks, months, if not years in advance. It also takes time for design and

approvals to be finalised, particularly if your local Council needs to assess your application.

Unlike the renovation shows, builders often manage multiple client projects at the same

time, so it’s important to work with a builder that can keep you updated with realistic

timeframes, project milestones and who will manage other trades on your behalf. They’ll

keep the project on track and hassle-free for you.

For expert advice on your home renovation, talk to award-winning local builder

Souter Built. Specialising in heritage restorations, passive haus construction,

environmental homes, solar passive buildings, sustainable homes, certified passive

houses, eco homes, alterations, additions and renovations in Wollongong, the

Illawarra, Sydney and the Southern Highlands.


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