Designer: Studio McQueen, 

How to decide how to run your home renovation?



This is a big question I get a lot from my renovation clients and this decision ideally needs to be made as soon as possible, once the overall 2D plan concept is done and a clear scope of works is decided on. I should also mention I’m an Interior renovation designer based in Perth Western Australia, so this information is specific to out state.

Really the first question is how big is the renovation budget? And will I need a building permit/ council approval if structural changes are needed? And decide whether the clients will have enough time and confidence to manage the renovation process themselves. Renovating is not the faint hearted and needs to be considered as a second job, you opt to run the project yourself.


Building permit do I need one for my home renovation?


You will need a building permit for any structural work, for example removal of an existing internal wall that is supporting the roof. Any external window changes- mainly increasing in size and if you are increasing your homes footprint, the height or any changes made to moving exterior walls.

Check here with the Housing Industry of Aust website which states requirements based on your state.

HIA LINK HERE for further info


Studio McQueen Interiors | Photographer: Denise Rix

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Do I need a builder to carry out my renovation works?


The WA Building commission states this:

“The Building Services (Registration) Act 2011 requires that an individual, partnership or company that carries out, or contracts to carry out, ‘builder-work’ valued over $20,000 (within the area of jurisdiction) must be a registered building service ‘contractor’ and named as a builder on the building licence or permit.” Link Here for more information

Individuals that are registered building ‘practitioners’ can not contract with others to provide building services, but may wish to be the nominated supervisor of a registered ‘building service contractor’.

Conditions on a builder’s registration may relate to the Building Code of Australia Building Classifications.



The grey area of builder work valued over $20,000:


What can become a grey area is doing what I call a retrofit renovation, meaning you are just replacing ( non structural )items such as a new Kitchen, bathroom, laundry, new flooring and painting. As long as you’re not adding a new bathroom or toilet, and only altering non structural internal walls. You should be ok thinking you don’t need a permit and therefore not need a builder to undertake the works. But I always check with a structural engineer &/or a builder to confirm this information.

There are plenty of Kitchen and bathroom companies that undertake renovations over $20,000. Let’s face it, a 20k kitchen you would really need to shop at Ikea or bunnings not opt for a custom made Kitchen supplied and installed.

Another grey area I’m noticing within the industry is becoming a ‘building practitioner’ they can undertake renovation works as a supervisor directly to clients. This is untrue. A building practitioner or supervisor can only undertake supervising work on behalf of a registered builder or a registered architect only, not contract directly to a client.


What is a renovation contractor or team of tradespeople?


A renovation contractor I would refine as a carpenter, that probably has a team of laborer’s to help. And have contacts such as licensed electrician, plumber, painter to help complete the home renovation. This renovation contractor team, won’t necessary have a builder’s license so they cannot take on more than $20,000 worth of renovations costs.

The grey area is: Does the $20k mean overall renovation costs the invoice amount or in 20k worth of structural changes. I have found multiple opinions from builder’s and trades people on this definition. My insider knowledge and my opinion only here…When builders have no work, they mention any renovations costs, when they have too much work they say structural changes only.

Head to HIA WA for the accurate answer:

In Western Australia, in most circumstances, only a registered building contractor may enter into contracts with others to carry out building work valued at over $20,000. However, building work of a non-structural nature would generally not require a building permit, which means it could be carried out by someone who is not a registered builder.

Therefore as long as your renovation is non structural in nature and doesn’t need a building permit. You are able to undertake the work yourself and appoint trades directly.

When appointing a contractor or trades person directly you would need to check they have appropriate insurances in place and have high recommendations from other clients. These insurances are only for their health/liability, not your home. You will need to contact your home insurance to make sure you are covered for any accidental damage that may occur onsite. If trades people go into liquidation, or do not come back to complete the work you can report them to WA building commission. But you need to be aware you’re taking on more risk than appointing a registered builder. 


Studio McQueen Interiors



What if my renovation does need a permit and I don’t want to use a builder?


If your renovation does need a building permit and you want to undertake the project management side of things, and directly appoint trades yourself you would submit the application as a home owner builder application.  See the site’s below with further info on what’s required:

Owner Builder LINK TO HIA

There are certain rules around going owner builder, while you won’t need home indemnity insurance there’s also a clause you can’t sell your home within 7 years, otherwise if you do need to sell you’ll need to take out indemnity insurance up to the 7 year point from finishing the renovation.

Yes you will typically save anywhere from 25-35% on markup buy not using a builder, but you are open to more risk if you choose the wrong contractor or trades people. Typically the projects usually would run longer to finish as you are relying on when trades can come out to finish.

Just in my opinion if you renovation is expected budget is under 200k, You would also have an issue on finding a builder in this current (busy building) climate. Most Builders I have spoken to are too busy and are not quoting on projects unless they are $200k+. So it does become a difficult decision for clients to make.



Interior Designer: Studio McQueen Interiors, WA | Photographer: Alana Blowfield

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As designers we work with builders on a lot of projects, see the above Carrick St project with worked with Merge Building to pull off an amazing home transformation.

Benefits of a builder:


If you are doing structural changes within your home in WA you will need a building permit and decide whether a builder or go home owner builder. As a designer I would always push the client to find a builder even if structural changes are under 20k. Your home is your number 1 asset and you’re investing a lot of funds into any renovation. Of course if the client has a trade background or has renovated a few times, owner builder application may be a better option.

Perth is a small community and there really is no room for rogue builders, as we have very firm guidelines and a building commission – they can’t afford to lose their builder’s license if in breach of poor workmanship, quality ect.

When you signup with a builder you also need to undertake home indemnity insurance which is part of the WA building contract you sign with the builder. This protects you against financial loss of the builder going into insolvency, is unable to complete the works (health reasons, death) or against faulty work non-compliant with the Building Code of Australia.

Commerce WA states:


“Residential building work contracts in Western Australia are governed by the Home Building Contracts Act 1991 (the Act). If residential building work valued over $20,000 is to be undertaken, the Act requires that a builder take out home indemnity insurance in the name of the owner before accepting payment or commencing work.” Link Here for Further info

The builder runs the renovation from start to finish and organizes all the trades in an effective manner, they get paid in progress claims set out via the standard housing contract. So builders are always pushing their trades to finish on time, so payments can come in. You’ll also have piece of mind throughout the building process that questions can be answered onsite, communication is key! Builders also need to guarantee their work for 6 years, after practical completion once the renovation is complete.


Choosing a renovation contractor a Builder or even submit as an owner builder for your home renovation, really depends on your level of experience renovating. How much risk you want to take on, the size of the renovation project and if a permit is required or not. As I’m only the designer, it’s a key part to planning your renovation. I do have this discussion usually at the first point of the discovery call and more in-depth at the in-home consultation where we discuss the pro’s and cons of each option.



Interior Designer: Studio McQueen Interiors, WA | Photographer: Alana Blowfield

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