‘Stressful’ is a word I often hear clients use to describe the renovation process. With this in mind, I’ve sat down and put together some advice and handy tips to consider before a home renovation.
Before jumping in to your renovation, have a think about how you’d like to live and what you want to achieve in the space. For example, rather than deciding you need a brand new kitchen, could you simply update the appliances and cabinet doors? Sit down in the area you are wanting to renovate, and list things you want to achieve as you would a supermarket shopping list – looking up, looking down and looking sideways as you write – as you can miss an opportunity if you don’t think things through methodically. Pull together a mood board of your favourite materials, finishes and appliances from magazines and Pinterest. You may not be able to afford all the lovely things but you need a place to start, and it can always become a process of elimination. I’ve taken the approach of listing things that are most important to us as a family for this house i.e. I can live with the dated entrance stairs at the front of the house for now, but being such foodies, we can’t live without the beautiful white Smeg gas and electric cooker that’s been selected for the new kitchen (I can’t wait for that baby to arrive)!
Break it down
Whether you’re lucky enough to have savings in the bank to start your build, or you’re re-financing your mortgage to fund the project – keeping to budget and always knowing how you’re tracking is really important, so if you’re not sure how much things cost, speak to tradies and get those quotes rolling in. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet up to date and every invoice and receipt has been filed correctly in my ‘HOME’ folder (I’ve been treating the folder as my Renovation Bible). And remember, it’s safe to say that every renovation project usually comes with an unexpected surprise. From the start, try to factor in a buffer of no lower than 10-15%. This extra cash will be helpful if an unexpected expense comes up and you need to find money to pay for it, fast.
The more professionals your budget allows you to employ in the early stages, the better. If using a Draughts person, make sure you have a detailed list of the rooms you’d like, their ideal sizes, finishes and number and position of windows and doors. If this seems too daunting, speaking to a Decorator like myself for advice early on is always handy.
An experienced Architect is a luxury, but definitely a good idea. They will also be able to give you a good estimate of cost so you can decide whether your plans are achievable within your budget before you go to the trouble of applying for planning permission with your local council. Starting a renovation without correct permission could result in a fine or create some issues when it comes to selling your home, which is something you definitely want to avoid.
And remember, you will also need to speak to an Engineer if you are moving walls. A professional will advise you if you find you’re stuck on an aspect, they are also great to let you know where you can save money, e.g. “Don’t take that wall out, as your house will fall down with out it” (which were the exact words spoken to me not that long ago)!
Talk to a few Builders
Before choosing your builder, it’s so important to go off recommendations – speak to your architect, your neighbours, and your friends. Good builders are busier than ever at the moment (have you noticed everyone seems to be renovating?), so gauge their genuine interest by how many questions are asked, whether they want to visit the site quickly and hopefully they’ll then write up a scope of work with a quote soon after receiving the brief. Trust me, there is nothing worse than working with a builder that is too busy to take on the job. If time allows and your budget is tight, consider taking some of the load off your builder by arranging elements of the build yourself i.e. outsourcing with your own electrician and plumber and completing tasks like ordering all the bathroom fittings, and arranging things like floorboard installation and painting. Remember to go off good recommendations for every trade you use – I can’t stress this enough.
As soon as your renovation is under way you need to follow the progress closely to avoid any surprises. It is good to check in with the builder a few times a week so that any issues can be discussed and acted upon quickly. Also, it’s never a bad idea to treat your builder and trades to a coffee or a Friday afternoon beer every now and then – good work should be rewarded, as you know.
Look after yourself
Last but not least, to keep stress at bay – remember how important sleep, eating well and some exercise is. Easier said than done, I know – but it’s something I’ve had to address lately with so much going on. I’ve certainly got a clearer head space for the big decisions with good sleep and a bit of exercise under my belt!