DIY Tips And Advice

Interview with The Block NZ Foreman


Experience is essential in the building industry and Peter Wolfkamp has plenty. His portfolio of work includes historic Devonport villas; ultra modern townhouses; rustic country estates; restoration of a 1890’s church; and even a few months sabbatical in the south of France working on a 16th Century farmhouse.

Peter also has a wealth of experience on talkback radio and is the Newstalk ZB regular ‘resident builder’, taking questions from callers and offering advice on DIY projects since 2002.

Professionally Peter has completed the NZGBC Homestar Home Coach and Practitioner training, and the new Licensed Building Practitioner scheme established by DBH.

We're very grateful to have him as our onsite Foreman for the Block NZ, and we were lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with him to talk about home DIY and renovations.

What’s some must have items when doing Home DIY?

Earmuffs, glasses, gloves, good work shoes. Most builders also carry an apron with them, and in the apron, you will have a hammer, a ruler, a tape measure, a nail punch, sharp knife, chisel and maybe a nail bar. And that’s the kind of standard stuff you need, and the reason they carry it on them all day, is they use that all day.

Outside of that, you need to have cutting tools, that’s a handsaw or a powersaw, as well as power tools, which can go on forever, depending on what you’re doing. Also pays to have a level, string wire. The basic is what you’d see a carpenter carrying in their apron.

What are the most common DIY mishaps you encounter?

Not having a plan, not using the right product or the right application, not knowing what their limitations are, in terms of, how much they can achieve in a day and how safe certain activities are.

And unfortunately, DIY has changed a lot because of the licensed builder practitioner scheme, and people need to be very aware of what they can and cannot do. It’s handy to go to the building and housing website to find out what activities are considered restricted building work.

Are there any DIY projects that you think should only be done by experts?

Any work requiring a building consent now must be done by a licensed building practitioner. That’s the simplest answer.

What’s the most common DIY projects people take on?

Most people, if doing DIY, will have a go at building a deck. Typically, if the deck is less than 1m high, they can build it without a building consent, but it still needs to be built to the building code.

A lot of people also have a go at bathrooms, but increasingly, alterations to plumbing must be done as part of building consent.

DIY nowadays is more likely to be painting and decorating, and providing sweat equity for your trades people.

What do you think audience members can take away from watching the Block NZ?

Inspiration and admiration, as well as the stick-ability of all the teams…

Anyone who has done DIY or renovations at home, thinks it’s easy, and then by the end realizes “jeepers, that was really really difficult”. Planning plays a huge role in that.

The teams that do well here are the teams that plan, if they put in the effort early, it pays off in the long run, as they’re not rushing to catch up. So while it might look like you’ve got heaps of time, do plenty of planning at the beginning.

What will the judges be looking at when judging the Block houses?

There’s the obvious build quality they’ll be look at, how well are the houses are put together. So regardless if you like the paint work or the finishes, are they done professional and properly?

But the judges and the public will also be looking at flare and design and the décor.

Starting the renovation of a home can seem daunting, where do you recommend planning should start?

As early as possible. There’s also heaps of great online tools available now too, like Kiwibank have their renomate program that allows you to track it, there’s also various apps you can download for project management. But really, the main focus is to plan everything out, and keep records of it.

What are some of the advantages of renovating an old home versus buying a brand new one?

You can live in it while renovating, so you’re not paying rent. You can do it as time and money permits. So while it might take 10 years for you to completely renovate your house, you’ve had somewhere to live, you’ve been able to save while doing it, as you’re not paying interest on your borrowings and you can take advantage of capital gain over time. You also get to know the house really well, and get to have it exactly how you want.

There are some disadvantages too, and most people realize that after they’ve done it,. You have to live with constant dust, as well as constant disruptions of not having places finished, and there’s a lot of moving things around. Unfortunately in some cases you may have hidden expenses.

What are your favourite features of older homes that you no longer see in new homes?

It’s a combination of the original craftsmanship and workmanship you see in an old house which you don’t see nowadays. Also the beautiful materials, things like Kauri, Rimu and Matai, and those sort of timbers, which are hard to come by now. And the detailing, which I really like.

Also, with age comes character. I find it hard to build in character into a new home, where as you’re able to draw it out of an old home.

If you had one piece of advice for a homeowner starting their own renovation what would it be?

Planning, planning, planning. The more you know and the more questions you’ve asked, the better able you are to make decisions, and to make the right decisions, on time, and potentially getting better product at a better price.

Become a fan of TV3 on Facebook , on Twitter .