So, you’ve bought a property to renovate – how exciting! You’re itching to get started, and are full of possible ideas, energy, enthusiasm and the illusion that ‘it won’t take long’. Whether planning a basic renovation – replacing the bathroom, installing a new kitchen and decorating throughout, or major surgery – removing walls, re-wiring, plumbing, replacing windows and possibly adding an extension, planning is the the key to a successful project and conclusion. The old adage ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is true. However, another saying ‘The best laid plans of mice and men’ means that despite careful planning things can still go awry, and often do. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first ( and maybe your last?) attempt at home renovation, I have listed some key points, learnt from past experience, both good and bad, which I hope will be of help with your project.
1. Invest money and time in the main fabric of the building.
Roof, walls, windows, doors, electrics, plumbing, gutters etc. are the ‘bones’ of your home, even if it means having to wait until funds allow for beautiful furniture and furnishings you would like. A wall in a bad state of repair will not be improved just by painting it a different colour.
2. Does the existing floor layout suit your needs and lifestyle?
If not, draw a rough plan of the existing layout and look at ways this can be improved. It maybe as simple as hanging a door the other way round. Does a wall need removing? If it needs to be removed, then consult a structural engineer to ensure that it is not a supporting wall (the wall holding your house up). If it is, then the engineer will calculate the steel support beam required to be installed by professional builders. You or your builder will have to notify Building Control at the Planning Office who will carry out a site visit to inspect the work is being carried out correctly, and if satisfied will issue an Approval Notice for the work. For structural alterations, unless you really know what you’re doing, it is advisable to employ qualified professionals, including loft conversions and extensions. An architect is best for extension plans, but still show them you’re own rough plan of ideas and the sort of thing you would like at your first meeting. This is useful to the architect, and it avoids them going off on a huge (and sometimes expensive and unnecessary) ‘Grand Design’ tangent. Once you are happy with the design, the plans will be submitted to the Planning Department of the local authority for approval, one hopes. This takes approximately ten weeks. If the plans are not approved, changes will have to be made to your drawings and re-submitted again for (hopefully) approval. This is the frustrating part when you just want to get started, but is the law, and any buildings or extensions built without planning permission may well have to be demolished.
3. Plan Room Layouts
This might sound daft at such an early stage, to position your furniture within your floor layout plan, but believe me it saves a lot of ‘afterthought’ and unnecessary changes later. Either draw a scale plan with a scale ruler on graph paper or if adept, on a computer, and position your furniture in each room. If this is too difficult, measure the room with a tape measure and mark out the furniture with masking tape. You can now see if you have sufficient plug sockets in the right places for your needs, for lamps by beds, or in the living room, computer, printers etc. etc. Do you need any additional forms of lighting? Mark these on your master plan drawings and incorporate into your costs. If planning to change the layout of your bathroom consult a professional plumber, bathroom installer or talk to a specialist bathroom supplies showroom. They will advise you if it is possible to move the toilet etc. to another position. It’s not always as simple as you think, we often forget how the waste water is going to be disposed of! Likewise visit a kitchen designer to help you plan your kitchen, but do take along your ideas and rough plans too.
4.Plan Your Budget
It doesn’t matter how big or small your budget is, planning is key to a successful project. Remember to add at least 20% to the total budget as a contingency fund, in case unforeseen problems (and expenses) arise. The easiest way to do a budget is on a spreadsheet. List all the items, product codes, supplier (and possibly delivery lead times of the items) and price. It’s also useful to have all your information in one place to refer to as the project progresses. Knowing the delivery lead times of fixtures and fittings avoids a mad rush and panic buying when an item is needed and avoids delays. The most expensive items are not always the best quality, so shop around. Always get at least three written quotations from qualified and recommended tradespeople for the work for cost comparison. Do not ask for, or accept an estimate. An estimate is exactly what is says, and will no doubt cost you more than you more than you have budgeted for. For ease of quote comparisons draw up a detailed list of the work you require them to do, along with any drawings which can include details of start and finish dates. A written contract or agreement of some type should be signed to avoid disputes. For large projects you may want to include a penalty clause, should the work not be finished within the agreed time frame.
5. Keep to Your Budget
This is a lot easier said than done, we all know this. By keeping to your master plan and by not changing your mind during the work or choosing more expensive fixtures and fittings will help avoid this. If you do change your mind on fixtures and fittings, when you update your spreadsheet it will immediately show how much you will go over budget, and perhaps you can make savings elsewhere to compensate. Be prepared to compromise.
6. Time Plan
Be realistic. ‘By Christmas’ is often quoted as a benchmark date. Christmas comes and goes and you’re still unfinished. Everything usually takes longer than expected. As with any project have a start and finish date which is realistically achievable, and allows for inclement weather to avoid stress and disappointment.
Be Prepared – For a lot of mess and disruption to your life, if you’re planning to live in the property whist work is being carried out. Be prepared for blood, seat, tears and possibly disagreements and heated arguments. As the project progresses you can get very tired and stressed. Keeping a sense of proportion and humour is not always easy. But the sense of achievement and joy when you’ve finished your home makes it all worthwhile.