Differences Between Renovation Builders and New Build Construction Builders in Auckland

When it comes to building projects, many homeowners and even some builders often conflate the terms “renovation” and “construction.” However, these two types of projects are fundamentally different, and each requires a unique set of skills and expertise. If you’re considering a project in Auckland, it’s crucial to understand why choosing experienced renovation builders Auckland has to offer can make all the difference.

Common Misconceptions About Builders

One of the most common misconceptions is that any builder can handle both new builds and renovations with equal proficiency. While both types of builders possess essential construction skills, the nature of their work differs significantly. New builds involve starting from scratch, while renovations require modifying existing structures, each presenting unique challenges and requiring different expertise.

Can All Builders Do Renovations?

Challenges Specific to Renovation Sites

  • Existing Structures: Unlike new builds, renovations involve working with existing structures. This means builders must deal with old walls, floors, and sometimes outdated building practices that are no longer legal. According to BRANZ, the complexities involved in dealing with existing structures require a specific set of skills that not all builders possess.
  • Unique Challenges: Each home presents its own set of challenges, from structural issues to plumbing and electrical concerns. Renovation builders must be adept at identifying and solving these problems creatively. For instance, the presence of asbestos in older homes, as discussed by WorkSafe New Zealand, is a significant challenge that requires specialized handling and removal procedures.
  • Consent Plans: Renovation consent plans are tailored to each individual home, unlike the more predictable plans of new builds. This customization can complicate the renovation process and require more thorough planning and approval from local councils. The Auckland Council provides detailed guidelines on how to navigate the consent process for renovations, emphasizing the need for site-specific plans.
  • Dealing with Old Homes: Older homes often come with their own quirks, such as non-straight walls and floors. Builders must adapt to these conditions, which can require significant adjustments to the original plans. The New Zealand Institute of Building notes that older homes may also involve dealing with obsolete building materials and methods, which adds to the complexity of the project.

Creativity and Problem-Solving

Renovation builders are often forced to be more creative and resourceful. The unpredictability of renovation sites demands quick thinking and innovative solutions to keep the project on track and within budget. This is where the experience of renovation builders becomes invaluable, as they have a history of overcoming such challenges effectively.

Can Renovation Builders Do New Builds?

While renovation builders have the skills to handle new builds, the transition isn’t always seamless. New builds require a different approach, often more straightforward and predictable than renovations. However, the creativity and problem-solving skills honed in renovation projects can be beneficial in new builds, providing a unique perspective and attention to detail. According to Registered Master Builders, renovation builders bring a meticulous approach to new builds, often resulting in higher quality and attention to detail.

Is Renovation the Same as Construction?

In essence, renovation is a type of construction, but the processes, challenges, and required expertise can vary significantly. Renovations often involve more compromise and adaptation compared to new builds, where builders start with a clean slate.

Why Choose Specialist Renovation Builders?

Skills and Qualifications

Not all builders have the same skills and qualifications, especially when it comes to renovations. Experienced renovation builders bring a wealth of knowledge and problem-solving abilities that general builders might lack. This expertise can help avoid costly mistakes, budget blowouts, and delays. According to the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ), the nuances of renovation projects require a specialized skill set that is developed through years of experience.

Renovation Complications

Renovations differ from new builds in several ways:

  • Lack of Original Plans: Often, original plans are unavailable or do not reflect what was actually built. This can lead to significant surprises once the renovation begins, requiring on-the-fly adjustments and changes.
  • Unforeseen Issues: Parts of the structure, such as inside walls, might not be understood until the build starts. This can uncover hidden problems like water damage or pest infestations that need to be addressed before proceeding.
  • Retrofitting: Renovations may require retrofitting items like insulation or windows to meet current building standards, adding another layer of complexity. The New Zealand Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) emphasizes the importance of upgrading insulation and windows to improve energy efficiency in older homes.
  • Compliance: Meeting additional requirements for fire safety, access, and facilities, especially when changing the building’s use. For example, transforming a residential home into a commercial space or a retirement facility requires adherence to stringent regulations to ensure safety and accessibility for all occupants.
  • Material Matching: Matching old materials with new ones can be challenging and may require significant compromises. Older homes often have materials that are no longer manufactured, making it difficult to find exact matches. This can impact the aesthetic continuity of the renovation.


Challenges in Sourcing Materials for Renovations

One of the significant challenges in renovations is sourcing materials and products that need to match the existing home. Unlike new builds, where materials and supplies are readily available and consistent, renovations often require finding or custom-making materials to align with the original structure’s aesthetics and functionality. Older homes might have been constructed with materials that are no longer in production or that were manufactured using methods and dimensions that differ from today’s standards. For example, finding matching weatherboards, skirting, and scotia can be particularly problematic, as older materials were typically machined in imperial sizes, while modern materials adhere to metric dimensions. This discrepancy not only complicates the procurement process but can also increase costs and extend timelines, as builders may need to source rare materials or commission bespoke items. Moreover, maintaining the historical integrity of heritage homes or ensuring seamless integration in aesthetic updates requires a meticulous approach, which adds another layer of complexity that is not typically encountered in new build projects.

Demolition and Protection Challenges in Renovations

Renovations often involve the demolition of existing structures, including plumbing and electrical systems, which presents a unique set of challenges. Unlike new builds where construction starts on a blank slate, renovations must carefully dismantle parts of the existing home without causing damage to the remaining structure. This necessitates extensive protective measures such as floor coverings to prevent scratches or dents, and building wraps to shield the home from dust and debris. Additionally, access issues such as narrow driveways and height restrictions can complicate the movement of materials and equipment, making it more difficult to work efficiently. These constraints are generally less problematic in new builds, where the site is prepared specifically for construction activities, and there are fewer existing elements to work around. In a new build, the layout and logistics are planned from the ground up, often allowing for optimal access and minimizing the need for protective measures. These differences highlight why experienced renovation builders, who are adept at managing these complexities, are essential for successful renovation projects.

Renovation Services Requiring a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) Builder

When undertaking renovations, certain types of work necessitate the expertise and certification of a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) to ensure compliance with New Zealand building regulations and standards. Here is a list of renovation services that typically require an LBP builder:

  1. Structural Alterations:
    • Removing or modifying load-bearing walls
    • Installing or replacing beams or lintels
    • Adding or removing floors, ceilings, or staircases
    • Modifying foundations or support structures
  2. Additions and Extensions:
    • Constructing additional rooms or living spaces
    • Adding a second story to an existing building
    • Extending existing rooms (e.g., enlarging a kitchen or living room)
  3. Roofing Work:
    • Replacing or extensively repairing roofs
    • Installing new roofing systems (e.g., metal, tile, or slate roofs)
    • Altering roof structures or pitches
  4. Cladding Changes:
    • Replacing exterior cladding (e.g., weatherboards, brick veneer)
    • Installing new types of cladding materials
  5. Plumbing and Electrical Work:
    • Major plumbing system upgrades or replacements
    • Rewiring electrical systems
    • Installing new plumbing or electrical systems as part of a renovation
  6. Waterproofing:
    • Waterproofing wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens
    • Ensuring proper drainage and moisture protection
  7. Window and Door Modifications:
    • Installing new windows or doors, particularly where structural changes are needed
    • Enlarging or reducing window or door openings
  8. Insulation Installation:
    • Retrofitting insulation in walls, floors, and ceilings
    • Ensuring compliance with current insulation standards
  9. Decks and Balconies:
    • Constructing or extensively renovating decks and balconies
    • Ensuring structural integrity and safety compliance
  10. Seismic Strengthening:
    • Reinforcing buildings to meet seismic standards
    • Installing or upgrading earthquake-resistant features
  11. Fire Safety Upgrades:
    • Installing fire-rated walls, ceilings, and doors
    • Ensuring compliance with fire safety regulations
  12. Access and Mobility Improvements:
    • Installing ramps, lifts, or other accessibility features
    • Modifying structures to improve accessibility for people with disabilities

Choosing an LBP builder for these services ensures that the renovation work complies with the Building Code and meets all safety and quality standards. This not only enhances the longevity and value of the property but also ensures the safety of its occupants. For more detailed information on LBP requirements, visit the Building Performance website.

Building Consents and Amendments

Renovations might reveal the need to amend building consents, which must be approved by the council before proceeding. This process can add time and costs to the project. The New Zealand Building Code provides detailed requirements that must be met during any renovation, ensuring that all safety and compliance standards are maintained.

Minor Works Without a Builder

Some minor maintenance works, plumbing, electrical work, and painting do not require a Licensed Building Practitioner (LPB). For more information, refer to building.govt.nz.

Specialist Renovation Builder vs. Generalists

Much like how the medical field has specialists for different health issues, the construction industry has specialists for different types of building projects. It’s important to choose a builder who specializes in the type of project you’re planning, whether it’s a new build or a renovation, to ensure the best results. The New Zealand Certified Builders Association recommends choosing builders with specific experience in your type of project to ensure quality and compliance.

Renovation and construction are not the same, and each requires a different set of skills and expertise. For projects in Auckland, choosing experienced renovation builders can ensure your project is completed efficiently, on budget, and to the highest standards. At Superior Renovations, we guide you through the entire process, from pre-planning to project completion, ensuring your renovation is a success.

For further information, visit the Building Performance website by the New Zealand Government, the Auckland Council, and the BRANZ. These resources offer comprehensive guidelines and information to support your renovation or new build project.


Can all builders handle renovations?

Not necessarily. Renovations require specific skills and experience that not all builders possess.

What makes renovation projects more challenging than new builds?

Renovations involve working with existing structures, unforeseen issues, and the need for creative problem-solving.Renovations involve working with existing structures, unforeseen issues, and the need for creative problem-solving.

Can renovation builders handle new builds?

Yes, but the transition can be challenging. However, their experience in problem-solving can be advantageous.

Do renovations require special building consents?

Yes, renovation plans must be tailored to the existing structure and often require amendments and additional approvals from the council.

Why should I choose a specialist renovation builder?

Specialist renovation builders bring a wealth of experience, reducing the risk of costly mistakes and ensuring the project runs smoothly.



If you’re looking for “specific” cost estimates, try our Renovation Cost Calculator Tools


Need more information?

Take advantage of our FREE Complete Home Renovation Guide (48 pages), whether you’re already renovating or in the process of deciding to renovate, it’s not an easy process, this guide which includes a free 100+ point check list – will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Download Free Renovation Guide (PDF)


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