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Building Up (House Extension) in Canberra?

By Kristielee 27 September 2011 26

My fiance and I have looked around the Canberra market and cant work out how we can buy a bigger house and afford the repayments so we are thinking of building up on our existing home. Its just a small 3 by 1 but we are hoping to look at the possibility of building a main bedroom, bathroom and possibly a sitting room which we could turn into a study on a second floor, effectively leaving our three rooms downstairs open for expanding our family.

I have heard that it can cost more to build up than to move, (and maybe I am dreaming) but I was hoping we could make the extension happen more affordably and with a reliable builder…

I have done a preliminary search online but it is all very confusing therefore I am asking you fellow rioters for any recommendations or warnings (against companies etc) which you would like to share based on your own experiences – everything and anything from your experience with particular companies, their building quality, cost, price, processes to research and get the project underway (e.g. do you speak to the bank first or get quotes first etc), managing expectations etc.

Thanks in advance for your comments.

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Building Up (House Extension) in Canberra?
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Hosinator 12:48 pm 28 Sep 11

wildturkeycanoe said :

Kristielee – How can you consider 1 child to be growing out of a 3 bedroom house? We, likewise, have 3 beds but with ensuite, combined living/dining, single garage and that’s it. Total of 108 square metres. But, we also have 3 kids and get by quite okay. Until they become teenagers there isn’t any need to get them a room of their own.


We own a modest 100sqm home with three bedrooms and no ensuite. Even though we can afford a McMansion, I’m hoping to use the limited space to our advantage.

1. Encourage our kids to play outside more, go for a ride on their bikes rather than being cooped up inside.
2. Encourage our future teenage kids/young adults to move out of home sooner or to live on campus at university.

I’ll be damned if I’m supporting a future 30 year old gamer in my house.

buildingquoteHQ 11:25 am 28 Sep 11

” For comparison, a quick look at the Simonds Homes website shows that brand new 4 bedroom Mcmansions can be had for less than $200k, double story ones from $215k+. “

Simonds Homes do not operate in the Canberra region. They are based in Victoria which is widely regarded as the having the cheapest building costs in the country. Unfortunately ACT building costs are much more expensive. A better comparison for a large volume new home builder would be Masterton Homes who are now operating in the Canberra region.

poetix 8:40 am 28 Sep 11

Kristielee said :

Thanks schmeah for your not so helpful comments.

Paying $2-300K on extending my property is still going to be cheaper than buying a $6/700K property that needs extra work done on it. Not to mention the wasted money spent on selling fees and stamp duties.

I have asked the question to obtain advice from people who have tried this before and are willing to share their learning not to get spat on.

Our house is very small and basic – a 3 by 1 with no extras (no ensuite, no second dining or lounge, not even a proper laundry) and with already one child under our belt we are growing out of it quickly. We like our neighbours and the location so we are simply considering our options and seeking information from all angles.

Just one more point: Do you realise that for this much money you could buy a modest property at the coast and escape there at weekends? Beats an en suite any day!

bearlikesbeer 8:34 am 28 Sep 11

A few of my friends have used Canberra builder/renovators ProStyle for their extensions. Very nice work, but certainly not cheap.

wildturkeycanoe 6:07 am 28 Sep 11

Kristielee – How can you consider 1 child to be growing out of a 3 bedroom house? We, likewise, have 3 beds but with ensuite, combined living/dining, single garage and that’s it. Total of 108 square metres. But, we also have 3 kids and get by quite okay. Until they become teenagers there isn’t any need to get them a room of their own.
If you can’t work out how to afford anything bigger, don’t. Live within your means. Have you considered that when you have the extra children you will also have to get a bigger car, which you won’t be able to afford with the larger mortgage? Times have changed and the dream of a large family with lots of living space is now only for the wealthiest of people. Add the ensuite, that’s a smart move, but a sitting room?? Unnecessary.

buildingquoteHQ 10:33 pm 27 Sep 11

I run a building design practice based in Canberra and we specialise in residential projects including extensions/renovations and new homes of all sizes and budgets. The queries you have are typical of most of our clients.

The only way to know how far your money will go is to spend some money getting some advice and designs/drawings from a designer or architect. The first thing we do with our new clients is determine if their budget and brief belong in the same ballpark; if not we give them some advice on how they might need to adjust either the brief or budget, or both. You shouldn’t need to pay a fortune for this partial service as you only need to get sketch plans completed so that a couple of builders can then complete a preliminary estimate for you. If the estimates meet your budget you can proceed with the full service, if not you’ll need to weigh up your options.

I think that in your case some professional assistance will help greatly as there may well be a worthwhile and desirable option for you to extend at ground level. The Rioters are correct about it being much more expensive to build up rather building at ground level. The most significant factor in the difference between building new and extending/renovating is the cost of labour required to demolish, dismantle, remove, repair, make good etc elements of the existing house. Any project that involves building up will have significant amounts of this work required in the roof removal/conversion alone. Also, beware the pimple on a pumpkin look which often results from a small second storey addition. Planning and approvals are also often trickier with build-up projects.

There are a few objectives I try to achieve in all extension designs to make them more cost effective; in no particular order they are:
– minimise the amount of demolition work ( its probably just as expensive to dismantle a wall as it is to build a new one). The lighter we touch the existing structure the more money there will be to invest in the new spaces.
– try to find a ground floor design solution.
– minimise demolition and redesign of the roof where possible
– minimise major works to kitchens and wet areas where possible. Although these are often the first rooms that need attention, try to remodel rather than completely redesign or relocate.

So onto costs… the reality is that you are going to pay a premium for any extension project over a new build. Most new homes can be built for $1500-$2500/sqm and most extensions will cost $2500-$3500/sqm, but just remember that’s the cost for the extra floor space you are adding and doesn’t include spaces you are renovating within the existing house. There will also likelt be extra costs for demolition/make good repairs etc. Most build-up projects will be at the higher end of that range (and possibly more depending on the existing structure and design etc).

So, a worked example for your project; bedroom (14sqm), bathroom (6sqm), sitting room (18sqm) = 38sqm. Lets make it 45sqm by the time you allow for access spaces and wall thickness’s etc. You’ll also need to allow extra space for the stair if you opt for two storey.

45sqm x $2500 = $112,500; 45sqm x $3500 = $157,500, and so on… You will no doubt also need to make allowance for renovations/make good to the existing house; budget for about another 50% of the costs of the extensions.

As for finding a builder, this is something that I have seen many clients really struggle with and it is the reason I have developed a new on-line service –, which will help clients find the right builder for their project, give them the tools to ensure they receive comprehensive and easy to compare quotes and save time by being able to research and select builders to quote their project from home or work.

Although the site is not yet live we have nearly 30 reputable builders (all licensed and members of either HIA or MBA, or both) who have registered and are eagerly awaiting the site to go live. We expect the site to be complete in about 2-3 weeks, so hopefully you will be able to gain benefit from it when you are ready to find a builder.

Good luck!

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