Renovating an Old House Where to Start?

renovating new house

Renovating an old house where to start? Do you need 3D scanning and/or land surveying before starting the project. Read on to find out the answers.

First, it’s about knowing the actual present condition of the property and possible boundary issues. Assessing and visualising the property’s current condition is important for planning and optimising.

This may be best accomplished by 3D scanning the old house. This results to a more accurate and detailed survey of the site.

In addition, 3D scanning is valuable for the following reasons:

  • Allows advanced visualisation and analysis
  • Easier to interpret data (3-dimensional which leads to easier visualisation and collaboration)
  • Quicker results and faster survey (including less time on site and fewer interruptions to the client)

Why old house renovations have different requirements?

For example, few areas of Victorian style homes might be already vulnerable. That’s why extra care is needed whenever a site evaluation is done. There might also be areas that are difficult to access for evaluation. In addition, there should be minimal demolition to preserve the historical value of old houses.

Renovations of old homes also require proper documentation. One reason is for comparison between the old and the new. Another reason is for ensuring compliance with the original or revised plan. This way, you as the homeowner will have a reference before, during and after the renovation project.

Owners of old properties also have a unique set of requirements specific for each home. For instance, homeowners may request for a renovation while keeping specific areas of walls or floors intact. Perhaps this is for historical or sentimental value. Other homeowners may also request for the expansion of a kitchen while making it consistent with the rest of the home.

Whichever is the case, an accurate and comprehensive survey is the key to a successful home renovation. Specifically, 3D laser scanning can provide detailed information regarding a home’s present condition (especially for relatively larger homes). This is crucial for renovating old homes with high historical and financial value. This way, old houses will remain appealing even with the changes applied to its rooms and other areas.

What about land surveying?

This is different. The 3D scanning gathers data points for evaluation and visualisation. On the other hand, land surveying is about compliance to requirements and avoiding legal setbacks.

For instance, some renovations may require expansion. This might result to pushing near the property lines (property encroachment). The legal consequences can be time consuming, expensive and emotionally draining. In other words, a 3-metre encroachment to your neighbour’s property might lead to thousands of dollars of expenses and dozens of hours dealing with the legalities.

Aside from improvements on the actual area, renovation may also include the following tasks:

  • Fence construction
  • Building a driveway, deck or garage
  • Building a swimming pool
  • Repurposing an existing space


It often starts with a simple renovation task and then one thing leads to another. In fact, the additional tasks related to the core renovation might cause more problems down the road.

For instance, a simple fence construction might raise property line issues. Perhaps the fence is just for aesthetics but it’s also a sign of “owning” your property. You’re setting the boundaries which might be incorrect in the first place. As a result, this will be a source of dispute and legal ramifications.

In addition, it’s a huge commitment and investment. Building a deck to complement your old home’s appearance may require at least $5,000. It will also require a significant amount of space which might “challenge” the property lines.

Aside from additions and using more of your property, repurposing an area may also challenge the property lines. That’s because repurposing often lead to extensions and additions. Whether it’s an addition or repurposing, there should be a “safety zone” wherein it’s permissible to build or add something.

Whether it’s for the homeowners or tenants (repurposing the home as an apartment building), repurposing might push close to the boundaries. These boundaries might get blurry or misinterpreted during the course of the project. These are where land surveys will be crucial.

Is a land survey required for every renovation project?

The short answer is no. That’s because many renovation projects (especially kitchen and bath remodeling) don’t require surveying. These projects are smaller in scale and they’re often done inside an already private space.

If surveying is required for every renovation project, you will see land surveyors all the time. However, this is not the case. There will be no extensions done that might raise issues about your property boundaries.

How do you know if a survey is truly required? The building contractor you hire should be knowledgeable about local regulations. Moreover, if your renovation will resemble a new home construction or addition, a land survey might be required. That’s because these will lead to extensions (and probably going near or beyond your property boundaries). Also, building permits (and probably a land survey) might be required for the following projects:

  • Tearing down and rebuilding
  • Building a shed or garage
  • Renovations near easements


Tearing down and rebuilding is similar to new construction. After the demolition, the boundaries might get blurry and forgotten. When rebuilding starts, the resulting walls might push close to the boundary lines.

That’s why a land survey is crucial for those types of projects (especially in significantly large rebuilding). The survey will serve as a guide during planning and actual construction. This will effectively prevent property encroachment and other related issues.

In case of building a shed or garage, this is similar to building a deck or swimming pool mentioned above. It’s a new construction project that will push the outdoor boundaries. A land survey might be important if you want to prevent property encroachment issues.

Aside from rebuilding and building an outdoor infrastructure (e.g. shed, workshop, garage), renovations near easements might also require a land survey and property inspection. Easements are commonly used for utility access. You still own that area of your land but perhaps it’s prohibited to build anything near or on it (cables and pipes are buried underground).

During the earlier years there might be no issues regarding easements. Maybe you already have a shed on top of an easement. However, later on a company or government agency might contact you about it.

Also, easements may limit your usage of the land. For instance, if you’re planning to place a full deck to complement your old home’s design, the easement might make some specific areas unsuitable for the deck’s reach. In other words, easements should also be considered during planning and construction to prevent problems with utility access.

Renovating an old house where to start Sydney

It starts with a thorough evaluation of the property and site. This may be accomplished by land surveying and 3D scanning. Land surveying is done for the following reasons:

  • Prevent property encroachment
  • Guide for proper project planning
  • Possibly optimising the use of the area (know how far additions and new constructions can go)


These types of projects may require land surveying:

  • Additions (these may push close to the property boundaries)
  • Repurposing (this is also a renovation where there can be extensions)
  • Building a deck, garage, shed, workshop or pool
  • Renovation or addition near an easement (areas you own but you can’t build anything on)


Aside from land surveying, 3D laser scanning can also be valuable especially with renovations of old homes. 3D scanning allows full visualisation and interpretation of a property’s present state. This is very useful for accurate evaluation and planning. 3D scanning even allows visualisation of hard-to-reach areas.

How do you know if you need land surveying or 3D scanning for the renovation of your house? If the remodel is already within the private space (and not occupying more space than before), it’s likely you won’t need a surveyor. But for projects that may push near the boundaries (additions, new construction, fence building, deck building), a land survey might be required to ensure there will be no property encroachment.

On the other hand, 3D scanning may be more appropriate for significantly large properties. That’s why it’s popular for surveying of large commercial, industrial and historical sites. 3D scanning measure billions of points to produce a model with depth.

Whether you need a surveying service or not, it’s advisable to contact professionals before starting with the project. You should ask the building contractor about the required services and potential issues regarding the renovation. You may also contact professional surveyors if you need more information.

For example, here at Geosurv our experienced surveyors have already handled residential and commercial projects in Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong, Gold Coast and nearby areas. We’ve already handled all types of surveying assignments for our clients. You may contact us anytime if you have questions for your home renovation project.

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