Unforeseen costs you need to know when renovating or building a new home.

Be aware to unforeseen costs by knowing the detail of these items.

When working with an architect or building designer, you spend a lot of time massaging the design to ensure it’s just right. You would probably get fixated on all manner of things from how the design flows, storage solutions, the size of rooms, floor finishes and window styles, to name only a few. However, underneath those higher-level decisions is a collection of a lot of smaller considerations that also need to be nominated and clarified in some way. There are dozens of things that are represented on the floor plan, or simply assumed to be included in a builder’s quote because it just seems obvious. However, these items are often not explained enough.

Wall tiles

Wall tiles are a great example of an item that, although rarely shown on a drawing, is assumed to be included in the builder’s quote. It is important that both the cost of the tiles and the extent to which they will be used is clarified. For example, you will need to know the cost per square metre that has been allowed for the tiles (for both floor and wall tiles), as well as if the wall tiles have been quoted as full height, half height or even skirting tiles only. This may well vary from one bathroom to the next, so take the time to set out your expectations room by room.

Internal doors

Doors are pretty easy to identify on a floor plan, so there should be no confusion about how many are required. However, there are many considerations when selecting doors, which can influence the cost significantly. How wide and high are the doors? Are the doors solid core or hollow core? Are they plain or panelled, and are they a painted finish or do you want a timber veneer finish? Getting your head around as many of these considerations will ensure that you avoid extra costs during the build.


Joinery is no longer confined to just kitchen cabinets. Homeowners increasingly want integrated joinery for storage and display solutions in all manner of spaces including bathrooms, laundries, bedrooms and living spaces. Joinery should be easy enough to identify on a floor plan, however, given there are so many options to choose from in terms of colours, materials, fittings, design detail and hardware, it is very difficult for builders to arrive at an accurate allowance for the item. In reality, unless there are detailed joinery drawings available for cabinet makers to quote from, the builders can only guess what the cost might be; and leaving builders to guess is never a good strategy. Either enlist the help of an interior designer to develop detailed joinery drawings for quoting or nominate an allowance (known as a Provisional Sum) in your Inclusions Schedule.

Robe fit-out

Built-in robes are a must-have item for any bedroom in any modern home. However, while always indicated on a floor plan, there are many options for actually fitting out a robe, from DIY wire racks and shelves to high-end bespoke joinery. We tend to focus on how big the robe is, but we often neglect the detail of how the space will be used. Ensure more accurate quotes by including details in the drawings.


Lighting is one of the most common items that cause budget blow-outs and there are a few factors that contribute to this. Firstly, it is rare that an electrical plan is completed at the quoting stage. Then, because most people aren’t aware of the lighting options available (and associated costs) at the time when quotes are being prepared, they don’t put enough time into considering lighting solutions. This leads to the situation where quotes are often vastly underestimated in terms of the number and type of lights. Make sure you visit a showroom in the early stages of your project to be better informed about what the builder is quoting.


A floor plan should indicate the intended floor finish; be that timber flooring, tiles, polished concrete, carpet, etc. In the case of carpet, which is most often left out of the building quote and contract, the detail isn’t as important, as you will most likely be handling it directly through a supplier. However, when it comes to other flooring types, timber in particular, you will need to make selections or allowances for the supply and installation of your preferred type of timber flooring in order to avoid nasty surprises and cost overruns. For example, ‘timber flooring’ can be a rather generic term when we consider that it may include imitation vinyl or laminate timber, floating timber floorboards, bamboo and traditional strip flooring, with the low-end cost starting at $25 per square metre and stretching all the way up to $200 per square metre. With such a wide range in products and costs, it is important that you understand what the builder has allowed for, as an inconsistent allowance can easily distort a building quote.

Garden taps

Garden taps can be neglected when it comes to featuring on plans and some rarely indicates their location. While they are easily overlooked during the design stage, they are sorely missed if not included. Rather than showing them on a floor plan, nominate how many taps you require in your quote.

Hot water

Again, this is another assumption we make, and yes, it’s fair to assume that any reasonable builder will include some kind of hot water unit. However, if you prefer to install an environmentally friendly solar hot water unit, you need to make that very clear, as the cost of solar hot water units can be up to three times more expensive than other systems.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls don’t get much love either. They’re certainly not as interesting as kitchens and custom joinery units; however, they still need consideration during the design stage so that they can be quoted on, because no matter how much we ignore them, they aren’t going to build themselves. For any block with even a modest slope, you (and ideally your designer) will probably need to put some thought into the location, height and type of retaining walls. It is not uncommon for builders to exclude retaining walls from their quote as they are often considered to be landscaping items; however, I believe them to be an integral element of the building site as a whole.


Despite their popularity in Australia, there is often critical information missing from drawings in relation to decks. There are many different types of decking boards available, including Australian and imported hardwood species, composite material decking boards and treated pine options; and each of these options are also available in different sizes. The cost of each of these options can vary dramatically, so if you have something specific in mind, you must ensure that your drawings nominate your preference. You may also like to consider the fixing method used, with a nailed fixing being the fastest and cheapest option and a stainless-steel screw fixing being the most secure, long-lasting and expensive option. Decks can be relatively expensive structures, so it is important that you set out your requirements in as much detail as possible so that when you compare a number of quotes, you are confident that you are comparing ‘apples with apples’.

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