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Renovation Rescue - What Can You Do When It All Goes Wrong

Friday, June 17, 2016


Attempting a DIY is usually a LOT more work than you’ll think it will be, so occasionally we get called to a job where either a DIY has gone out of hand (could be the budget or the workload) or the owners have realised they’re out of their depth with the undertaking and need help. We’re happy to help when that happens and generally speaking the owners have ideas and plans in place that just need someone with a lot more experience, skill and knowledge to help them bring it together.

But occasionally we get a call from a client that just amazes and quite frankly angers us on the client's behalf. We’re talking about a call where a “renovator” had been hired and has made a complete mess of the job from the very beginning leaving the client's home in tatters.

Today we’re sharing one of these stories with you. With a lot of work and persistence we achieved a great result for the client and hope to share with you the things that were learnt along the way so that we may help others heading down the same path.

Here’s what happened before we were called in:

Our client inherited a house upon her father’s passing and she planned to have the house renovated before putting it up for sale. Thinking she was doing the right thing, she hired a “renovator” to work on the bathroom and laundry as well as retiling the flooring at a cost of $18,000 that she paid upfront.

After working on the project for a while, the client checked in to see the progress and discovered that the “renovator” had done a hodge podge job in every single room. Not one room was completed. Parts were ripped out and some parts were half done or not done properly. For example, floor tiles were improperly installed, the plastering/sheeting work was abysmal and the painted tiles in the bathroom were so bad that the client attempted to strip it back. The kitchen had also been pulled apart with the benchtop and cabinets missing, even though all that was required was a refresh with new door handles, appliances and benchtop.

Unfortunately for our client, the “renovator” was clearly unqualified to do many aspects of the job leaving the client $18,000 poorer with nothing to show for it but a destroyed house.

As you can imagine, the client was in shock and obviously this was an emotional job to begin with so she really wanted to see it through and get it done.

After Nu Look were contacted:

When we first met with the client it was clear that she didn’t know what to do next and how the renovation could be salvaged while being sure not to overinvest. Even Matt, an experienced renovator of over 10 years, was dismayed by the state of the house. So Matt brought in a trusted real estate agent friend to look at the house and together with the client we determined a way forward.

When the team arrived, we were shocked at how much damage this renovator had caused. All in all the client needed to spend a further $6,000 to get the house back to bare bones in order for the actual renovation to begin.

We worked with the client to renovate the house with the goal to sell it quickly. Using simple but smart design techniques, while investing in some key features like stone benchtops and LED lighting, the house was transformed into a clean, neutral residence to attract potential buyers.

What can you take away from our client’s experience?

  • For peace of mind, get a contract in place (HIA have contract templates available to make it simple). This not only protects you but also keeps everyone accountable to the agreement and gives you an avenue of recourse if things go badly.
  • Make sure the team or person completing the renovation is fully licenced.
  • Clear two way communication & building a relationship is essential to making sure you get what you want from your professional renovation team.
  • Never pay the full cost of the job upfront. A good renovation team should always expect progressive payment for work as it is completed & major milestones achieved.
  • Research (aka stalk) your professional renovation team. Ask for testimonials, see if you can visit current job sites to see the quality of their work, talk to their past clients, ask your friends who they used if you love what they've done, do a web search and check their social media pages.
  • Be clear about what you want from the beginning and make sure they understand so you’re all on the same page.
  • Actively research how you would like your home to look. Get ideas from Houzz by using their ideabooks feature and Pinterest by creating boards. If you show these to your professional renovation team they can easily visualise what you have in your mind.
  • Ask for and take advice from the professionals on what works and what doesn't. It's their day job and they should know what works if they've completed plenty of other projects.
  • If things are going badly, don’t wait for catastrophe before getting help - this goes for DIY and using a renovator.

We’re happy that we were able to help our client out of a terrible situation and that the renovation allowed her to present a house to the market that she was proud of. We’d hate to see anyone else go through the same ordeal so please follow the tips above if you’re thinking of undertaking a renovation or better yet, get in touch with us for a free consultation and quote so you can be assured of a quality outcome.

"I could not be happier with the service that Nu Look have provided. I feel incredibly lucky to have found you guys and feel quite humbled by your generosity, care and genuine desire to help me. Matt was so great in providing guidance where I was clearly out of my depth and made a lot of the decisions easier for me. I am so grateful for that.
The house looks incredible - I actually couldn't even imagine it beyond the state it was in when you started. You've exceeded all expectations!"

Take a look at the gallery to see the before, during & after photos of this project.


Click images for larger views

1. Kitchen - Cabinets under the window removed1. Kitchen - Unfinished kitchen. Floor tiles incorrectly installed with significant lipping2. Bathroom - Bath removed but not reinstalled2. Bathroom - Client's unsuccessful attempt to strip the badly painted tiles2. Bathroom - Tiles removed for no reason3. Ensuite - Vanity unit removed and not reinstalled
4. Toilet - Toilet removed and not reinstalled5. Laundry - Most probably the least damaged room6. Renovator's unsuccessful attempt at plastering6. Renovator's unsuccessful attempt at sheeting6. Tiling - Misaligned tiles and ungrouted6. Tiling - Unclean cuts in the tile would look disastrous after grouting
6. Tiling - Unfinished tiling at an unacceptable quality


Click images for larger views

1. Kitchen - Cabinets and stone benchtop have been installed2a. Bathroom - Feature tile yet to be installed on bathtub2b. Bathroom - Feature tile added3a. Ensuite - Entrance into the ensuite on the left3b. Ensuite - Most of the tiling has been completed grouting required5. Laundry - Tiled but not grouted already looks better
5. Toilet - Waiting for the toilet to be installed and splash to be tiled6. Entrance


Click images for larger views

1a. Kitchen - Caesar stone benchtop with waterfall ends to the island bench1b. Kitchen - Redesigned kitchen with more space and storage1c. Kitchen - Brushed aluminium handles with kick to match1d. Kitchen - Stainless steel appliances1e. Kitchen - Sink with a difference2a. Bathroom - Quality finish which is a significant improvement to it's original state
2b. Bathroom - Semi frameless shower screen2c. Bathroom - Custom made vanity unit2d. Bathroom - Textured tiles as a feature against the bathtub2e. Bathroom - Subtle feature tile3a. Ensuite - Entrance to ensuite on the left, featuring a semi-frameless shower screen3b. Ensuite - Custom vanity unit with clean lines
4. Toilet - New toilet installed and tiling5. Laundry - Tiling and installation of a tub and tapware6. Entrance - Quality finish to the floor tiles6. Hallway - Seamless and clean