1. Have a clear vision
Before you even think about approaching a builder, designer or choosing your perfect shade of paint, you need to know what style you want to create in your new surroundings. A successful renovator should spend time looking at other people’s houses, magazines, media sites, colour swatches and books to create boards with all their favourite looks.
By keeping a scrap book this will keep your vision clear, not only for you but for your designer too once your ready share your plans.
2. Know what’s achievable
Once you’ve compiled the design structure and all of your ideas are in one place, you need to know what’s actually achievable for your property. You may well need planning permission or whether this can be achieved under permitted development.
All your ideas will still need to meet with Building Regulations. Listed buildings or houses in Conservation Areas have rules all of their own so make sure you do your homework. The planningportal.co.uk is a good place to start!
3. Call in the professionals
For larger projects, such as extensions, conversions or complete house renovations, successful renovators will consult an architect or designer. They should have the knowledge and be able to let you know if it can be achieved and if not, what is achievable.
In smaller renovations or internal reconfigurations, seek guidance from a trusted builder and consult a structural engineer. Similarly, specialist trades such as plumbers, kitchen fitters and electricians can offer expert advice on specific areas of any project.
4. Get the Council on your side
Keeping in touch with the council throughout a project is always a good idea. Any planning applications will have to go to the local authority, but you can get in touch before this stage to seek rough guidance on what will be accepted. Most Councils will appreciate you seeking their opinion prior to any expensive plans being drawn up.
Remember, this doesn’t compose any agreements of approval and certainly doesn’t mean you don’t need to formally apply for permission. Your council can deal with building regulations approval, and can organise a building control officer to visit your property all the way through the process.
5. Realistic budgets
Calculate how much you want to invest into your home then add another 10% to that for a contingency. Be truthful as to what you can realistically achieve within that budget, this is key to any successful scheme. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your trades, as they may be able to guide you on where savings can be made.
The sooner you decide on how much you want to spend on the fixtures, fittings and finishing touches the clearer this is for the build. It’s going to be hard but try to stick to your allotted amounts. Changes made to a design later on can be costly.
6. Appoint the right team
Successful renovators know that having the best team on board is key. You should start by putting together a tender document detailing exactly what work needs to be done and which trades are needed. Then, search locally for the people you need; ask friends and family for recommendations and look out for local established companies.
A builder that’s been trading for many years means they are doing something right.
7. Call in some favours
If you know anyone who’s a builder or designer, ask for some free advice, maybe they can offer their services for mate’s rates. But please be warned when using friends for the work that this could jeopardise the friendship.
Don’t be afraid to ask family or friends to help out when it comes to removing or storing furniture or even a bit of decorating. You can always repay the favour with a home cooked meal or a bottle of something!
Don’t forget, if you’re asking others for help, be prepared to do your bit!
8. Establish a realistic timescale
A successful renovation will take time. Do plenty of research, finalise your designs, gather the correct permissions and find the right trades. Once these are all in place, then ask the pro's for a realistic timescale.
A well-managed project will always run more smoothly, but don’t be surprised if some unexpected dilemmas delay proceedings. Try and work out the best way to move forward as quickly as possible. Hurrying a renovation could result in unacceptable finishes, whereas dragging it on could incur additional costs. Work with your team and be honest about your expectations and don’t forget when you add extras to the programme, the job will take longer and the completion date will move.
9. Be heard
As well as setting a realistic budget, be up front about what you have to spend and this will prevent your trades providing you with ideas that are unreachable.
Just because you’re renovating your home doesn’t mean you have to become an expert in the field. It will pay to have a basic knowledge of technical terms, jargon and practices but not any more than that - this is why you hire the experts, after all.
Take every opportunity to ask questions if you don’t understand.
10. Move out or stay put
On large renovations, the house will literally be a building site. No stone will go unturned. Remember to work into your budget costs for temporary accommodation for part or all of the build and stay close by as you will need to keep check of the progress.
Weekly meetings with your contractor or project manager should be factored into both your time plans so to find out what’s been completed and what’s planned for the following week. This should ensure your trades are meeting the required deadlines.
12. Be prepared
Expect the unexpected and remember that time is money. Unforeseen incidents are terribly annoying and cause delays in the schedule or even break into your contingency. But if something goes wrong, the quicker you make a decision on a remedy, the better.
As the build progresses, you could be asked about anything from the size of gaps in-between the tiles to the depth of skirting, the list goes on! Do however remember though, if you have a specific way you want something doing be clear from the offset. Never assume the trades will do it your desired way and re-doing jobs at this stage will incur additional costs.
13. Stay focused & enjoy the process
Once the walls are painted and the builders leave, the designers can now start to implement the finishing touches. Hanging the curtains, puffing the cushions and strategically placing the furniture to look beautiful in your new space. A designers job is to bring everything together, suggest things that you didn't see and make your house into a home, one to be loved and cherished for many years to come.
14. Be patient
After all this planning, decision making, cost calculating and possibly moving out of your own home, you’ll soon realise all the effort was worth it as your dream home begins to take form.
The last few weeks of the project will probably drag, especially as you’ll be itching to move back in. Hold your patients and it will be worth it in the end.