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Morrells reno budget

See how Jess and Jarrod Morrell completed a major renovation.

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Wickham couple Jess and Jarrod Morrell set out to complete a major renovation of their 100-year-old miner’s cottage in just five weeks. So how did they go, and what did they learn along the way?

The renovation of their family home was extensive and included redesigning a modern open-plan kitchen, reconfiguring the bathroom and laundry to maximise space as well as replacing the upstairs leaking ensuite. The couple added more natural light throughout the property with increased hallway entry heights, a skylight and new windows.

It was important to the couple to maintain the historic charm of the cottage, with the restoration of the original floorboards and continuation of horizontal timber boards as feature walls in newer parts of house.   

Jess and Jarrod say they love every element of their renovation but singled out the kitchen and living space as the thing that has changed the family of four’s life the most.

“Using the kitchen now is so enjoyable, it’s actually functional and big enough for our family,” says Jess.

“Mornings are one of my favourite things now, making breakfast for everyone; we’re all around the kitchen island together, it’s so much better.”

Jess says their two daughters also love the makeover.

“They’re so wrapped with everything. When they have friends over, they’re so proud to show them around.

“I think the study space in the kitchen is a great use of some previously unused area between the kitchen and lounge room. Now our eldest daughter enjoys using this for homework while we’re all around in the kitchen of an afternoon.”

So did the Morrells manage all of this on budget and within their timeframe of five weeks? The couple says they came in on budget and just a week over their original timeline.

Here are some of the lessons they came away with.

Tip one: be willing to compromise

“We moved back in after six weeks,” says Jess.

“There was still some finishing to do but we had all the major work done by then. So we went a little bit over [budget], but realistically we allowed for some contingency budget so it was OK.”

Jarrod says bumps in the road popped up every day as the renovation unfolded but they could all be worked through or around.

“Every day there were problems, with everything, but none of them were too major,” he says.

Jarrod says anyone undertaking a renovation should know what they want and set goals, but also be flexible and expect things to change. Doing this and being able to compromise on design and finishing choices was necessary to save time, money and heartache, he says.

“Decisions that need to be made, unforeseen and on the spot, have inevitable flow-on effects, such as measurements for kitchen or bathroom cabinets and plumbing, but our builders do this all the time,” says Jess.

“They were great at keeping things in perspective and doing work-arounds; their problem solving skills are awesome.”

The Morrells new bathroom.

Tip two: you can’t be too organised

“When you’re as organised and as ready as you think you possibly can be,” Jarrod says, “have another look at your plans.

“I don’t think you can be too organised. I was on the phone every day checking suppliers were on time and that people were going to turn-up when they said they would. You need to be proactive with that”.

Tip three: Pay close attention to your budget

The Morrell’s are the first to admit they aren’t vigilant on household budgeting but did keep a close eye on all outgoing costs for their renovation.

“We avoided pain points by paying really close attention to our budget,” says Jess.

“Every day we would capture every cost within a budget. We could easily have run out of money towards the end for some of the big payments such as the final payment on the kitchen. But our number-one priority throughout the process was paying trades, because that was always an unknown cost. So we knew what we had left to spend every day.”


To make their dream renovation come true, Jess and Jarrod spoke to their local Newcastle Permanent Mobile Lending Manager, Melanie Norman.

“I remember when Jess and Jarrod came to see me; they were a young family that was looking for options to renovate their home,” says Melanie.

“They wanted to know what equity they had in their home and what their borrowing capacity was.

“We discussed a few scenarios that would potentially meet their needs. We took some important steps first to determine their borrowing capacity before exploring the exciting prospect of the value their renovation could add to their home – as well as the much needed upgrades and space.

​“I’m delighted that Jess and Jarrod are happy with their finished renovation.”

This article originally appeared as sponsored content on the Newcastle Herald website.

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