Rebecca D’Souza : 5 common renovation project pitfalls & how to avoid them

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If you are planning to renovate an old property and convert it into your dream home, then read on for our top tips on how to avoid common renovation pitfalls.

Buying without a survey

It may be tempting to skip a building survey to cut costs at the beginning of a renovation project but cutting this particular corner could result in huge financial losses in the long-term.  Before taking on any new project always get a building survey conducted by a Chartered Building Surveyor to find out as much as possible about a property.  These surveys are an invaluable source for finding out the type of construction and materials used, learning about any defects found and giving an idea of the likely cost of any big repairs needed.

Ignoring rules

It is important to check the requirements of the law to see if you will need planning permission or Building Regulations approval or whether you will need to notify neighbours or leaseholders of the work you are intending to carry out on a property. Failing to get planning permission can be catastrophic and result in unnecessary expenses & wasted time further down the line.

If in doubt, then call in the experts.  This is exactly what Alex Tarry, an experienced property developer and Managing Director of luxury Suffolk cottage holiday company, Best of Suffolk, did when he restored and extended a Grade II listed 16th century farmhouse in rural Suffolk. During this project, Tarry came up against the problem of gaining the correct insulation value because of the property’s Grade II listed status, which meant that double glazing was not allowed to be installed. “We hired an architect to help us get as close as we could to what we wanted and ensured that the building complied with the necessary legislation.  To gain the correct U-value we overcompensated with plenty of floor and roof insulation,” he says.

 Setting an unrealistic budget

A common mistake people make when renovating property is underestimating the cost of a project. In some cases, problems are not revealed and uncovered until you start working on a renovation.  Others simply forget items from the budget or change the design or specification half-way through, which again alters the cost. To avoid getting caught short, always add between 10% and 20% on to your initial budget to factor in any costs that crop up along the way.  Remember you must be fully prepared and expect to spend this contingency money.

Trying to do too much

A great way to save money on a new renovation is to undertake some of the work yourself. Being overly ambitious by taking on more DIY than you have the capacity or skill to successfully undertake can majorly slow the project down & result in financial loss.  It can also distract you from overseeing the overall project. Draw up a schedule and be honest about your skills and limitations to determine what work can be outsourced.

Living on site

Living on site while your project is underway will enable you to keep a close eye on how the work is progressing and allow you to be on hand for quick decisions or out of hours’ deliveries.  However, the downside to this is that if you are finding the renovation particularly stressful, there is no escaping it. This can change your mind-set towards the project and leave you feeling negative about it.  Moving out while the major work is being undertaken will help. However, if this isn’t an option for you then take time to isolate the construction work from your living space to separate the two.
Rebecca D’Souza 

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