Level Up Your Home Improvement

Last year I became a bona fide home-owner. After so many years of renting – what a feeling! Now I have the freedom to drill holes, paint walls, and put up new tiles – whatever takes my fancy.

But after several blissful landlord-free months, my partner and I are now facing the daunting prospect of our first renovation.

Watching the current season of The Block All Stars has done nothing for my self-confidence either. If those guys have their struggles, even with all their combined experience, how am I supposed to know where to start? I’ve never even held a drill.

After raising this issue with my long established home-owner friends – they have come to the rescue with all kinds of advice and useful apps. In fact, I’m a little scared by the intensity with which they discuss parapet walls and tile grout. Nonetheless, there’s a whole host of useful tools out there to help you get started down renovation road.

Getting ideas

If you’re like me, you’ll probably spend most of your time researching and collecting photos of what your ideal (but completely unaffordable) Moroccan bathroom will look like.

This is what Pinterest was made for. It’s a massive resource for the DIY and décor-inclined. No more scanning photos or playing cut-and-paste with old home and garden magazines. Welcome to the digital scrapbook! You can search, pin and organise photos to your heart’s content. This can save you a lot of time and effort. Rather than trying to describe the cute little vintage tile you once saw in a Paris flea market – just show them instead.

Sketching / Drafting 

Short cuts make long delays. Or so I’ve been told. Either way, it makes sense to start with a solid plan of what you want to do.

Available in free and Pro versions, Google SketchUp helps you plan your future space to the millimeter in impressive 3D. If you prefer, you can use Floorplanner to outline your design in 2D. Although they can be a bit tricky to use initially – especially if you haven’t used software like this before – they are quite powerful and you’ll soon appreciate the ability to lock in all the details.

Whichever website you decide, you’ll still start at the same point – by getting out the old measuring tape.

Project Management

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do, you’ll need something that keeps your plans – and costs – on track.

Evernote is a free app available on a range of devices (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry) and also as a desktop version (Windows, Mac).  This will take care of your notes, store documents, record supplier details, capture photographs, and keep track of receipts – helping you stick to your budget and timeframe. If it’s a joint project you can also share that information with other people.


There are loads of apps that will help you calculate this or measure that. For example, Bubble Level does exactly what it says. With over 21,000 downloads it might save you when you’re in a moment of strife.

I may not know as much as The Block All Stars about how to renovate (I’ve only just learned the difference between skirting and an architrave) but these tools definitely give me the confidence to do some informed research and speak to the experts. Who knows, I might even consider learning how to use a drill.

Have you used any of these apps or websites? Would you recommend any others? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit 


  1. In terms of drafting and interior decorating, selecting and arranging furniture, lighting, colours, etc., it might be worth a furrowed brow to use a 3D modelling package such as Sweet Home 3D. It’s free.

    While a 3D model is more work to set up than a 2D plan, the 3D model provides visualisation, letting people experience the (virtual) room before they’ve started any physical work; or worse, spending money on stuff that simply won’t be “right” for them. The other bonus with 3D models is that most provide a “bill of materials”, which helps to plan the budget and, if the DIY’ers have relevant nous, to schedule the work so that it gets done as quickly as possible.

    • Natalie Marinho says:

      Hi Bernd,

      Thanks for the tip! I agree, 3D modelling is worth the effort, if only to give an idea of the extra dimension (height) which is difficult to appreciate in a 2D plan. And the ability to “walk through” your plans is especially good to plan how functional spaces will work. The more planning done up front the less problems down the track.


    • Kerry says:

      @Bernd Felsche, Hello, I absolutely agree with you on Sweet Home 3D. I’ve been using it to plan my granny flat, and it really is very good. The 3D and walkthrough views make quite a difference to actually seeing the space, rather than trying to imagine the space between objects.

  2. glyn says:

    I’ve only just learned the difference between skirting and an alcatrave ??
    Don’t you mean architrave?

    • Natalie Marinho says:

      Hi Glyn,

      Good pick up – architrave it is. Looks like I still have a lot to learn!

      Natalie (Communications Officer, iiNet)

  3. Brett says:

    Good Post. I have learn new things from it. Really project management is important thing that is necessary for the fulfillment of any work.

  4. iphone says:

    Fine way of describing, and pleasant piece of writing to obtain
    facts regarding my presentation subject, which i am going to
    deliver in school.