The 7 questions you want to ask someone who has lived through a renovation and extension

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With three young children and a dog; Phil and Dee lead a very busy lifestyle. The home they purchased was in the area they loved, knowing they would eventually need to make some changes to accommodate their family as they grew. After living in the home for some time to get a feel for what worked and what could be improved; they engaged architect’s Architecture Republic and thoughtfully designed their home renovation and extension.  Having renovation experience and strong appreciation for quality and custom finishes, they knew their project required extensive research into the best builder for them. We sat down with the family to ask them about their experience.


1. What were you looking for in a builder?

We looked for honesty, friendliness, ability to share our vision, attention to detail, punctuality and skill. Someone in whom we could trust our family home being built around us and our young kids. We wanted someone honest, flexible and have the ability to visualise problems looming ahead in the build and be quick to identify issues that needed to be resolved ahead of time.

Before – the back of their home
After – a new rumpus room which required digging into the ground and a kitchen extension with a bay window. Photo credit @kirstynsmartphotography
2. What finishes and materials were important to you?

We are really proud of making our older home have new life with our young family. And in the same way, we liked giving a new purpose for re-milled timber from other people’s discarded roof rafters as was the case with our new floor. By selecting a better grade timber, we could achieve a high quality look while introducing character, age, and warmth into our home.

In the kitchen, we really wanted to maintain that idea of responsible sustainable materials and selecting a thicker plywood gave us the feel of a substantial material while also knowing we were making an environmentally friendly choice.

Beautiful re-purposed timber floor and Balmain red brick finishes. Photo credit @kirstynsmartphotography
3. As you lived through the renovations to your home, how did it affect your everyday life?

For most of the build it was actually quite manageable. Empire Homes were amazing in staging the renovations so we could get by. As we had young children, they understood we couldn’t go for too many days without a washing machine and organised temporarily solutions while waiting for the laundry to be complete. In Canberra, probably the cold winter was difficult to manage with heating, but bearable. We were fortunate enough to have a large enough home with a kitchenette already, and space to have a temporary camping style kitchen set up so we could manage.

4. What is your family’s favourite space?

It would have to be the kitchen. Watching the kids have a go helping out with the cooking, the dog following behind us looking for scraps, being able to pull a coffee and not be in the way of getting breakfast ready – that’s what the extra space and the butler’s pantry gives us every morning.

The family’s favourite space – the kitchen area. Photo credit @kirstynsmartphotography
5. Would you recommend living through renovations?

It’s definitely harder with young children, but it was also a good excuse and opportunity to try some amazing restaurants and takeaway food options in our area. We don’t mind the concept of our kids understanding all the work that goes into improving their home and after they’ve lived through the build, I think they appreciate it much more and they’re proud of what everyone has done and what they get to enjoy every day.

With the kitchen under construction, many camp-style dinners were made in the family’s makeshift kitchen.
6. What lessons have you learnt?

It’s worth double checking and triple checking every little detail on the plan, even before engaging builders. We tried to add things along the way that we assumed might be simple to do – for example, hydronic heating pipes into a concrete slab. We understand now that every feature we are serious about adding really should be planned as far in advance as possible.

Rooms that matter the most – like the kitchen – need the most amount of planning. It’s such a personal decision, it’s worth investing plenty of time to understand all the options available.

We also learnt that the importance of landscaping can be overlooked, as we were hoping to make the outdoor space as usable as the indoor space. If you are investing a lot on the renovation and extension, the landscaping needs to be considered along with it.

7. Since the completion of your renovation, how has it changed your everyday life?

The majority of every day we spend at home is in the kitchen and the informal dining room. It’s where we start the day as a family, and where we come together to talk about the day we just had. When friends and family come over, it’s where we always start and linger.

The indoor space we created in the rumpus is invaluable as the weather doesn’t always permit the kids to play outside.

Durable yet stunning burnished concrete floor in the rumpus room. Photo credit @kirstynsmartphotography


If you want to talk to us about your home renovation and/or renovation project contact Empire Homes at or 0409548221.


Architect – Architecture Republic

Kitchen design and supply – Pioneer Kitchens

Windows supply – Architech Windows

Recycled timber floor supply – Thor’s Hammer



One thought on “The 7 questions you want to ask someone who has lived through a renovation and extension

  1. Hi, how are you? We bought a house in Macgregor and would like to do some renovations like open plan kitchen, living, flooring, laundry and bathrooms.
    If you could let me know when you would be free on a Saturday to see the property, we’ll take it from there.

    Kind regards,

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