Does your Renovation Look Like a Craftsman or a Handyman Job?

Have you ever walked into a house or apartment and the first question you asked or wanted to ask was:

‘WOW!! Did you do this yourself?’

Don’t get me wrong – I love DIY’ers, and your everyday mum/dad or young Gen-X renovators who work hard, do it themselves and save money along the way. The problem I have is when I see renovators work their butt off, and the finishes just aren’t up to scratch. If you can see that something is out of place or the property has obvious defects or imperfections – it actually will reflect poorly on the overall value of the property.

Have you ever been into a renovated home or builders’ home and they are explaining what they have done or changed- and you asked them:

‘HUH?! Wasn’t it always like that?’

The skill in building and renovating is adding value or updating in a way that makes it look like it was always like that. YOu simply can’t tell where the old work finished and the new work started. Instead of sticking out like a sore thumb, it blends in and looks great.

It can be helpful to be strategic on what you do, and don’t do yourself. The aim is to pick the things that costs the most amount of money to do, but also is the easiest and requires the least amount of skill. The things that could be easiest to do yourself include:

  • Demo-ing (beware of electrical items – always have your electrician turn off electrical hazards before starting) – this includes ripping up carpet, ripping out old vanities and bath, ripping out non-structural walls etc.
  • Wallpaper removal, scraping peeling paint or other surface preparation
  • Staple or nail removal from floorboards or chipboard flooring
  • Gap Filling
  • Painting – ceilings, walls, architraves, doors, external cladding, gutters, trims etc. This can be done manually or with a spray gun.
  • Planning and organising

The three things that I have seen time and time again first time renovators get wrong (including myself when I first started) are:

  1. Poor planning of plumbing outlets leaving wastes visible under wall mounted vanities
  2. Not enough space left for important appliances – i.e. fridge or washing machine (tiling over can make existing spaces tight)
  3. Poor painting finishes either due to poor surface preparation or no undercoat used to bind paint to surface

Planning is vital for a renovation. It is important to decide on the new floor plan and stick with it! Once you plan your floorplan and layout you can quite easily pick where the main fixtures will go – i.e. new bathroom vanity, toilet, bath etc. The other key to planning is to buy your main fixtures even before you start so your plumber knows the exact measurements and locations of wastes for ruff-in. If you have a wall mounted vanity – make sure you check with your plumber that the waste goes through the wall not the floor where you will see the pipe from the hallway sticking out!

Space can be an important issue especially on a tight layout. My first cosmetic renovation – I tiled over asbestos walls only to find that my washing machine couldn’t fit by the thickness of a tile! Also beware of designing kitchens too big that impose on the space for a good size dining table or lounge area.

The EASIEST and MOST COMMON thing to stuff up is painting. I know it is soooo tempting for first time renovators to paint, to save a good 3-5 grand. I have to say there is an art to painting. First you need to find out what you can or cannot paint over. I.e.


‘You can’t paint acrylic (water based) paint over enamel (oil based)’

If in doubt, always use either a zinzer paint or an oil based undercoat before you start. I have found the Dulux Oil based undercoat the best product (although there are a lot of zinzer enthusiasts who will disagree!). This oil based product will seal anything including nicotine, timber stain, mould, dirt… ANYTHING!

In short the steps for problem free paint adhesion are:

  1. [For timber and trims] use fingers to detect any imperfections give a light sanding (fine grit sandpaper) and fill any noticeable gaps with gap filler for timber or plaster filler for gyprock
  2. Clean with a soft broom/dustpan/broom to remove loose dirt
  3. Wipe down with sugarsoap mixed in hot water
    Undercoat with oil based undercoat (with the exception of some surfaces you can get away without undercoating)
  4. Use your fingers to find any imperfections, and give a light sanding and fill any noticeable gaps with gap filler for timber or plaster filler for gyprock
  5. Coat at least 2 coats of top coat


‘If you can feel an imperfection with your fingertips, you will see it under the paint! (especially gloss – flat can be more forgiving)’

Happy renovating! Feel free to comment below with any questions, comments or tips of your own.


As Jade Hamilton does not know your individual circumstance and is NOT qualified as a financial adviser, accountant or solicitor, this blog contains information and opinion only. Jade is speaking only as a Real Estate Agent and Investor from her own Personal Experiences, and recommends you seek your own personalised advice from a suitably qualified person.