​Before choosing any materials or fixtures, talk to your contractor and do your research.

You can choose all the products for your building project yourself, or you can agree with your main contractor what you'll choose and what they'll choose. It's best to at least get their input on any structural materials, and anything that might affect your implied warranties.

Your builder is likely to get trade discounts, so talk to them about whether it's cheaper for you to order things directly, or go through them.

1. Research

Whatever you need to choose, make sure you do your research on it first. There are a lot of things to consider, including:

  • whether it's fit for your purpose, eg will the cheap and efficient to run fridge actually hold enough food for your household?
  • how it looks and how easy it is to use
  • its energy efficiency — a product or appliance that's more expensive at the outset might end up costing less over its lifetime if it uses less energy than cheaper alternatives
  • the price, and what you're getting for it — is the cheaper option lower quality and less durable? Will the more expensive option save you money in energy costs?
  • safety — emissions, structural integrity, durability
  • whether it needs ongoing maintenance
  • whether it's environmentally sustainable
  • whether it complies with NZ standards and has the documents to say so.

Building Guide website(external link)

If you're building a new home, check the BRANZ Up-Spec resource – it provides actual data for different things you can do to improve your home's warmth, energy efficiency and water usage.

Up-Spec(external link) — BRANZ

Construction and decor materials

When you're choosing construction materials and decor items like paint and flooring, pay particular attention to durability and safety.

The construction materials you choose can have a big impact on how warm and dry your house will be long term.

Many decor materials can release toxic emissions, called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into your home, so make sure you look for materials that are low in VOCs.

Materials inside your home(external link) — Smarter Homes

Renovating(external link) — Gen Less


When buying appliances, check their energy efficiency rating and their annual predicted energy use — these are displayed on the energy label, which is compulsory in New Zealand on new:

  • fridges
  • freezers
  • washing machines and dryers
  • dishwashers
  • televisions
  • heat pumps/air conditioners (single phase, non-ducted)
  • computer monitors.

Choosing energy efficient appliances(external link) — Smarter Homes

Appliances(external link)  — Gen Less

Appliance running cost calculator(external link) – EECA Energywise


The right lighting design can help save you money in energy costs. Consider LED lights, dimmers, and ways to use natural light better.

Lighting(external link) — EECA Energywise

Down lights and recessed lights(external link) — Smarter Homes


Good insulation will help reduce your home heating and cooling costs, and make your home healthier to live in. Retrofitting insulation can be trickier than insulating new builds, but if you're renovating it can be a good time to add insulation.

Underfloor and ceiling insulation can be retrofitted without the need for a building consent, but you’ll need to talk to your council if you’re planning on adding wall insulation, as this may require a building consent to carry out.

Remember that you may need a building consent to install insulation. As it currently stands, retrofitting underfloor and roof insulation does not need a building consent, but retrofitting wall insulation does.

Insulating your home(external link) — Smarter Homes

Grants are available to help pay for insulation for low income home owners and tenants.

Funding for insulation(external link)  — EECA Energywise

Windows and glazing

Windows can cause a lot of heat loss, but there are lots of options to improve their insulation levels, whether you're renovating or building a new home.

Windows(external link) — EECA Energywise

Glazing and glass options(external link) — Smarter Homes

Window and door frames(external link) — Smarter Homes

Window & Glass Association NZ and BRANZ have developed a Window Energy Efficiency Rating System (WEERS) that can tell you the energy rating of each window or glass door you buy. For more about the rating system: 

Energy efficiency(external link)  — Window & Glass Association NZ

If you’re planning on replacing or adding any windows, you should read the guidance on the Building Performance website, or talk to your local council first, as you may need a building consent to carry out the work.

Building work that does not require consent(external link) — Building Performance

2. Ordering materials and fixtures

If you're ordering some or all of the materials or fixtures yourself, talk to your builder and other sub contractors about when they'll need specific items. Check well in advance, because some items may take longer than you expect to arrive.

Talk to your main contractor about what items they can get trade discounts on. They may be happy for you to use their discount, even if you're buying materials.

If you are ordering materials yourself, make sure they comply with the New Zealand Building Code. Choose products that have Product Certification to ensure you meet the requirements.

Product certificate register(external link) — Building Performance

All electrical products must comply with NZ standards. If they comply, they should come with documentation that say so.

Electrical appliance and fittings product information(external link) — Worksafe

Once you've ordered things, let your contractors know when they'll arrive, so they can plan around it.

3. When things are on site

Once materials and fixtures are on site, they are the responsibility of the main contractor — if you have a labour-only contract with your builder, this means you'll be responsible for everything while it's on site.

Talk to your insurer about any steps you might need to take to ensure you're covered if anything goes wrong during the build. Check with them who's liable if anything happens to uninstalled fixtures or materials.