​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 and interior product finder(external link) — Building Guide

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) — EECA Energywise

Appliances

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) – EECA Energywise

Appliance running cost calculator(external link) – EECA Energywise

Lighting

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

Insulation

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.

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(external link) 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.

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.