Building Renovation

Discover how to plan and restore different projects from small to large, residential to commercial dwellings. Learn to renovate individual rooms, homes & other buildings. Study construction methods, materials and finishes for building improvements.

Course Code: BSS104
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Renovate Homes, Offices, any type of Build

  • for Building Owners, Managers or Budding Tradesmen/women
  • evaluate, prioritise and plan the renovation of a building or part of a building; then enact that plan by undertaking the work, managing the work, or both.

Building renovation projects may be large or small, costly or expensive, complex or simple. All such projects should be carefully considered with respect to these issues before anything is ever done.

Any project can be disruptive for a home owner or building manager. The longer it takes to complete, the more disruptive it can be. Give serious consideration to what is an acceptable level of disruption, and make sure everyone concerned understands the time frame which needs to be worked to.

For any project to be successful it should be realistically conceived and its execution should be planned to achieve a useful outcome within the constraints of financial and other resources available, and with a comfortable margin of error.

Recognise Reality from the Start!

Renovation projects often don't tend to go to plan. This is because there are inevitably unpredictable factors at play which can impact a project as you proceed. Always expect the unexpected.

Prepare for the unexpected by allocating more money and time than what you first think is needed. This way you have the unexpected covered; and if the unexpected does not happen; you will have a pleasant surprise.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Building Renovation Projects
    • What & why are you renovating?
    • How Do You Judge what is Worth Doing?
    • Where to Begin?
    • What Rooms to Renovate
    • Manage Risks and Avoid Surprises
    • Gathering the Facts
    • What are the costs?
    • Dealing with Subcontractors and Tradesmen
    • Selecting Tradesmen
    • Safety on a site
  2. Core Structural and Site Works
    • Moisture problems
    • Fire damage
    • Foundations
    • Load-bearing beams
    • Repairing damaged walls or roofs
  3. Replacing/Repairing Roofs and Floors
    • Roof Coverings
    • Roof Repair Jobs
    • Replacing Slates
    • Replacing Tiles
    • Repairing Flashings
    • Temporary Roofs
    • Cleaning and Painting
    • Floors
    • Floor repair jobs
    • How to Replace a Suspended Timber Floor
    • Cleaning & Staining
    • Coverings
  4. Doors, Windows and Walls
    • Wall Maintenance
    • Repair Jobs
    • Windows
    • Choosing Materials
    • Types of Window
    • How to Repair Broken Window Glass
    • Doors
    • Considerations
    • Types of Doors
    • How to Hang a Door
    • Adjusting Existing Doors
    • Plastering
    • Tools
  5. Plastering
    • Plasterboards
    • Cutting Plasterboard
    • Fixing Plasterboards to Walls
    • Jointing Plasterboard
    • How to Repair Holes in Plasterboard
    • How to Repair Cracks
    • Fixing Plasterboard to Ceilings
    • How to Plaster Over Plasterboards
    • Finishing Outside Corners
    • Tiles
    • Tiling Tools
    • Floors
    • How to Tile a Wall
  6. Carpentry Reno
    • Carpentry tools
    • Power tools
    • Choosing wood
    • Buying wood
    • Working with wood
    • Cutting & joining
    • Fixing joints
    • Finishing
    • Applying Woodwork Skills
  7. Painting
    • Painting tools
    • Paint Work
    • Before Painting
    • Sanding
    • Preparing to Paint
    • What to Paint a Surface With
    • Getting ready to paint
    • Using Brushes
    • Cleaning & Storage of Brushes
    • Using Rollers
    • Cleaning & Storage of Rollers
    • Sprayers (spray painting)
  8. Plumbing Basics
    • Roof Plumbing and Guttering
    • Water supply
    • Plumbing tools
    • Plumbing fittings
    • Earth bonding
    • Sanitary appliances
  9. Electrical Basics
    • What is electricity?
    • Basic home electrics
    • Tools
    • Other Tools
    • Basic Wiring Jobs
    • Solar Power
    • Energy Ratings
  10. Renovating a Room
    • Planning a Room Renovation
    • A Schedule of Works
    • Planning Time
    • Drawing up a Budget
    • Project Management
    • Choosing Materials and Appliances
    • Special Project

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Determine the nature and scope of work required for a building renovation project.
  • Explain how to prioritise and address the most important structural deficiencies in the early stages of any building renovation.
  • Explain how roofs and floors can be repaired or renovated in an old building.
  • Explain how doors and windows can be repaired or replaced in a building or room renovation.
  • Explain how plastering and tiling work is undertaken
  • Explain tools, techniques and applications for carpentry work in building repairs and renovations.
  • Explain selection and use of paints in interior and exterior decoration of buildings.
  • Explain plumbing work for renovation jobs
  • Explain electrical work for building renovations.
  • Plan and either manage or undertake the renovation of a room


  • Evaluate a house and identify the scope for renovation. This could be your own property, a friend's property or any other building you have access to. Determine why it needs renovating what your priorities would be. Take some photographs. 
  • Look at properties for sale in your locality, and note variations in prices. Try to make sense of what looks more saleable due to price, features, etc.  Have the more saleable properties had any renovation work done? If so, what sort of renovation work? What sort of renovations seem to have the greatest impact on price?
  • Talk to someone who has done a renovation or supplied materials or services to a renovation project. Ask them: What structural issues did the building have (most buildings will have at least one issue relating to structure, even if only minor)? How were these overcome?  Did they have to bring in any professional help? If so who did they bring in, and why?
  • Contact a scaffold supply company. Find out what you can about supplying and using scaffolding. How much does it cost to have scaffold delivered, erected for a job and then dismantled and taken back afterwards? Let's say you need it to be 5m long so as to access the ground floor and first floor at the rear of a 2-storey building where you are going to re-point the outside of the building, and you need the scaffold erected for a minimum of 4 weeks. 
  • Go online and watch a video or two on how to repair or install stepped lead flashing and soakers. Search using phrases such as "How to make and install lead soakers video", "Video how to install stepped lead flashing and soakers", or "Replacing stepped flashing and soakers".
  • Visit or contact a local timber merchant or hardware store. Find out what options they have available for wooden floor coverings. Make a note of the different types of timber and composites, different dimensions, any different types of interlocking board edges, how they are sold (metre, feet, metres squared), costs per unit, and delivery options.  Note: You may need to contact more than one store to find a variety of options.  
  • Go online and watch a video or two on how to repair or replace wooden floorboards. Search using phrases such as "How to replace wooden floorboards video", "Video remove and replace floorboards", or "Install wooden floorboards video".  
  • Go online and watch a short video or two on how to create different types of pointed finishes in brickwork. Search using phrases such as "How to point brickwork struck flush video", "Video how to re-point old or damages brickwork", or "Raking out and replacing old pointing weathered finish video"
  • Then do either one of the following: 1. If you have some old brickwork to practice on, attempt to re-point it. Take photographs of your work. Or 2. Alternatively, look for an example of some damaged brickwork in your locality which is in need of re-pointing and photograph it.
  • Take a look around the house or apartment you live in. Look at the windows and the frames they are set into. Note what type of materials they are made from. Also, note what type of windows they are e.g. hinged, pivot, sliding. Photograph one of the windows.
  • Find out what you can about replacing a handle on a door. This could be on an entrance door to a house or an internal door. Look online, talk to someone at a hardware store, or contact a locksmith.  
  • Visit your local DIY shop or hardware store. Look at the range of plaster and plasterboard products they have. Look at the options for different types of boards, jointing tape and compound, plaster finish, corner beads, and fixings. Also see what they have in the way of trowels and floats, and other plastering tools.
  • Watch a short video or two on how to fix dry lining to wooden stud walls. Search using phrases such as "How to fix plasterboard to wooden studs video", "Video how to nail or screw a dry wall", or "Fixing plasterboard to walls video".  
  • Now you've seen how to fix boards, watch a short video or two on how to apply a plaster finishing coat to plasterboard. Search using phrases such as "How to apply plaster skim to dry lining video", "Video how to plaster a dry wall", or "Applying a plaster skim to plasterboard video".  
  • Visit a local DIY store or timber merchants. Look at the different hardwood, softwood and composites they have for sale. Note the stress grades of the timbers, the appearance, dimensions, cost per unit, and find out about suitable uses.  
  • Obtain some wood and attempt to make a mortise and tenon joint. Take photographs of your efforts.
  • Undertake a simple woodwork project. Choose from one of the following: • A bookshelf (with one or more shelves), • A wooden box (with or without a lid), • A coffee table or TV stand, • Cupboard doors
  • Take photographs of each step (e.g. cutting, joints, fixing, finishing). When you have made it, you can fill any holes and sand it, but don't worry about painting or staining it.
  • Watch a short video or two on how to cut in paint using a brush. Search using phrases such as "How to cut in paint video", "Video how to use a paint brush cutting in", or "Cutting in painting walls video".  
  • Prepare a surface for painting. This can be anything of your choice e.g. a plaster wall, brick work, a metal window frame. It could even be the wooden project from your last assignment.
  • Prepare the surface using whatever practices are appropriate e.g. washing with sugar water, sanding, filling, stripping, and so on. Take photographs as you go.
  • Decide on a suitable paint and paint system e.g. primer and top coat. Paint the surface and take photographs.
  • Visit a few plumbing suppliers or wholesalers (real or virtual visits). Observe the scope of products available that may be used to improve the plumbing appliances in a house (e.g. your own home, a friend's house, or a house you have lived in or are familiar with).
  • For your chosen appliance, work out what the different options are and how much they cost. Also, determine what fittings might be needed for that particular appliance e.g. taps, washers, pipes, and pipe connectors.  
  • Conduct research into different types of water tanks. You can do this online, by contacting suppliers or through consulting relevant literature you have access to. Find out the main advantages and disadvantages of: polyethylene (plastic), concrete, ferro-cement (concrete, steel reinforcement bars and wire mesh), galvanised steel (zinc coated), fibreglass, and wood (plastic lined).
  • Watch a short video or two on how to seal either copper or plastic pipes. Search using phrases such as "How to solder copper pipes video", "Video how to seal plastic pipes using solvent", or "Bonding plastic and copper plumbing pipes video". 
    The remainder of this course is a special project. Here you are encouraged to undertake a room renovation of your own.  Your renovation can be as simple as painting a bedroom or as complex as refitting a kitchen or bathroom. It is entirely up to you. Since we recognise that you won't necessarily be in a position to undertake this task, there are alternatives presented so that everyone can complete the project in a way that suits them.


  • You may want to renovate your own home, or perhaps your place of work. Doing it yourself can not only save money, but provide more control over how the job is done; not to mention a wonderful sense of satisfaction when the job is completed.
  • Learning to renovate can also enhance your employment skills. It can help you secure employment in the construction or property management industry; or lay a foundation for developing your own small service business.
  • You may simply want to become a better handyman, to do more of the day to day maintenance at home or work, avoiding the cost and often wait, to get a tradesman in to fix a damaged floor or wall, or sort out a door that isn't working properly.

Learn things like How to Hang a Door

If you need to replace a door the first thing to do is take measurements. It is best not to rely on measuring the existing door since it may well have been planed to fit so that each side of the door may have a slightly different length. You are better off measuring the door frame. Check the frame using a spirit level to see if it is square. If it has moved you can try adjusting it before taking measurements. You can tighten existing screws in the jamb, or add more screws or nails to draw the frame in. 

Once you have your measurements subtract 4mm form the length and 4mm from the width to allow for a 2mm gap on all four sides of the door. This gives you your final door size. If the floor is to be covered with a raised surface e.g. carpet then you'll need to allow a larger gap beneath the bottom rail. 

It is usually a good idea to buy a door which is slightly larger than you need since the frame will probably have moved slightly. This will allow you to shave some wood off the door to ensure a good fit.  Nevertheless, you can't remove too much otherwise you'll compromise the structure of the door. For flush doors you can only remove a few millimetres.

Once you know the dimensions and have your door, to make adjustments to the height and width you'll need to plane the edges. To make the door slightly shorter, plane the bottom edge. Top make it slightly narrower, plane one upright edge (opposite the hinged edge). Before planing, make sure the door is securely held e.g. clamp it to a workbench. Measure the door and scribe a line where you wish to take the door height or width to. Make sure the blade in your hand plane is sharp and adjust it so it is straight and set to just take off fine shavings. 

It is best to begin towards the centre of one edge and plane towards one corner, and then do the same on the other side. Position the plane so that it is on a slight angle facing inwards to avoid splintering the bottom edge of the door. Flip the door over and do the same on the other side. Then plane the middle of the edge. To remove larger amounts a belt sander would be more practical but you really need to know how to use one. Due to their power they can rip off a lot of wood in a short space of time. 
Once your door is ready to hang, you will need someone to assist. Put the door into position in the frame and use wedges to hold it in place. Take it down and do some more planning if necessary. When you are happy with the door fit, it's time to measure the hinges for the door. Top hinges have a smaller gap and are placed anything from about 130 to 200mm from the top of the door. Bottom hinges are generally about 170 to 260mm from the bottom. For heavy doors a middle hinge will be needed. 

Place the door back in position in the frame and once again support it on wedges.  Now take the hinges and hold them flat against the door stile and mark the position of the top and bottom of the hinges onto the door and frame. Remove the door and square off the marks around the hanging stile of the door and the inside of the jamb. Cut out your marks with a hand saw and chisel out the timber to create your housing. The depth of the housing should be equal to the depth of the hinge's flange. If you accidentally take too much wood out then you'll need to pack it. With the hinge's in place use countersunk screws to fix the hinges to the door.

Next, wedge the door at right angles to the frame and push the flange of the top hinge into its housing. Secure it with one screw but don't screw it all the way in. Now adjust the floor wedge until the second hinge slides into its housing and screw into place. Tighten up the first screw and with just once screw in each hinge test the door to see if it opens and closes freely. If so go ahead and put in the remaining screws. If not, remove the door and make further adjustments. 

Adjusting Existing Doors

Sometimes it is necessary to adjust existing doors which have become stuck or are binding. First inspect the frame. If it is out of alignment there are several possibilities. You might try using a rubber mallet or a lump hammer and straight edge to protect the door frame, and hit the door jamb. If there is no correction you may be able to tighten existing screws in the door jamb at the top or bottom. If not, it is possible to put in some extra screws through the jamb into the framework behind it. If that doesn't work you may be able to chisel a small amount off the frame itself but this would be a last resort. If the frame is considerably out of alignment then you may have to remove the door jambs and re-set them.

If the frame is all good, you may need to make amendments to doors. First, try to determine what type of door it is e.g. panel door or flush door and what it is made from before attempting to plane it. Some doors can't be planed e.g. some have plastic coatings. If the bottom rail is very shallow you could end up planning into the door's filling. To make adjustments look for where there are marks on the edge of the door. This shows where the door is sticking in the frame. To plane the door's edge, remove the door from the frame and clamp to a bench. In many cases you may not need to plane the door but can make adjustments by sanding the edge. You can do this by hand or with an orbital sander. Once again, look for where there are marks on the floor or door frame to determine exactly where the door is sticking. 

If doors have been painted, then you will need to touch them up after planning or sanding. Ensure you have appropriate paint to finish the job but allow for the thickness of the paint finish when preparing the door otherwise you may have to sand down or strip off your new paintwork.  

Note: Doors swell more in high humidity, e.g. winter months, so be careful not to take too much off because the door will shrink during low humidity. You may need to coat timber doors with a sealant to prevent swelling.       

Benefits of Studying This Course

This course is designed to be of benefit to people who are interested in learning how to renovate buildings for themselves or in business. It will also be of value to those who are operating an existing property development business who would like to broaden their knowledge.

Take this course if you would like to:

  • Find ways to improve an existing renovation business.
  • Enhance your employability in construction and building maintenance.
  • Improve your knowledge of practical aspects of building renovation.
  • Buy a property with a view to renovating it.

This course may be studied by itself or along with other 100-hour modules as part of a learning package.

ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Mitchell Skiller

Mitchell has over 25 year’s experience in the horticultural industry. He has held positions as a supervising horticulturist, landscaper, consultant, and a business owner growing cut flowers, specialising in tropicals.

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three years working in our Gold Coast office, as a tutor and writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine) which we produced monthly for a Sydney punlisher between 1999 and 2003. Since then, Jacinda has contributed regularly to many magazines, co authored several gardening books and is currently one of the "garden experts" writing regularly for the "green living" magazine "Home Grown".

Christine Todd

University lecturer, businesswoman, photographer, consultant and sustainability expert; with over 40 years industry experience
B.A., M.Plan.Prac., M.A.(Social).
An expert in planning, with years of practical experience in permaculture.

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