Tip Sheet: Bargain Renovations


The first thing you need to decide before embarking upon a project of this size is whether you are, in fact, renovating or just wanting a bit of a facelift. The difference between renovation and rejuvenation could mean the difference between spending either thousands or just hundreds of dollars.


Thanks to the boom in home makeover television programs, most of us are quite familiar with ways to cut corners and create new looks for our homes and gardens. Here are a few helpful ideas to get you underway:

  • Instead of retiling your bathroom, consider giving the tiles a new look with specialised paint. This will save you a few hundred dollars.
  • Replace kitchen cabinet doors and door handles rather than buying new cabinets.
  • Replace light fixtures or add strategically placed lamps. This can give a whole new dimension to a room.
  • Buy sofa covers or recover them instead of buying brand-new ones. This will mostly keep you away from “interest-free, buy now, pay later” deals that can become a nasty debt trap. A few chic cushions will also add a fresher look.
  • Buy some pre-stretched canvas and oil paints and get busy being creative. Or turn one of your own photographs into a big canvas. A few minimalist, bright canvases will bring life to any room.


For the more serious makeover artist, renovating is the way to go. This involves knocking down walls, rewiring and plumbing, new ceilings, building new walls and basically changing the shape of your entire house. The key to doing this cheaply is to do as much rebuilding yourself as possible. There are, of course, a few dos and don’ts regarding DIY renovations:

  • Get a copy of a good classifieds paper such as The Trading Post and keep your eyes peeled for auctions, sales, home demolition sales and other DIY renovators selling bits and pieces they may have bought by mistake (this does happen regularly).
  • Wherever possible, buy second-hand. Check out the Bargain Renovations chapter of the Bargain Shoppers Guide to Sydney for outlets that specialise in selling second-hand items.
  • Go to auctions. Again, check out the Auctions chapter of this book for reputable, bargain-savvy auction houses and classifieds for news on upcoming auctions. Entire bathroom vanity sets can be reduced from $20,000 to $1200 at an auction. Avoid online auctions, however, to ensure that you really get what you pay for.
  • Look out for sales. We recently saw a great top-end manufacturer’s warehouse sale for ovens and cooktops going for unbelievable prices.
  • Home demolition sales happen when a newly built house gets demolished for whatever reason. Before the demolition trucks move in, the house is cleared of all fittings and features. You can expect to get a brand new kitchen, for example, valued at $40,000 for just $1000.
  • Isolate which jobs you can do yourself and don’t hire a general builder. If you hire a builder to “do” your bathroom or kitchen, they will subcontract out to various specialists and hit you with the bill in the end. Cut out the middle man and become a project manager and hire your own plumbers, carpenters, electricians and renderers. As a general rule, you can do pretty much everything yourself except wiring and plumbing. If you find you are paying for anything more than this to be done, you may be wasting money.
  • Hire tools rather than buy them. There’s no point in spending $1000 on a fancy tool you are only going to use once. Visit a tool hire shop and let the staff advise you on which tool is best for the job.

Please send us your own tips and pearls of wisdom for our future issues of this Savvy Shopper section. Email us at bargaintips@universalmagazines.com.au or write to us at:

Bargain Tips NSW
Universal Magazines
Locked Bag 154
North Ryde
NSW 1670


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