The scale of work required for my home extension and renovation is not something I’ve managed before, so I’ve been making a note of any pearls of wisdom shared by people who have come out of the other side of their renovations and now have wonderful dream homes to call their own.
I’ve condensed all the general tips that I’ve received and read about into this post which I hope will give someone else considering a home renovation some pause for thought. First though, I have some celebratory news: we have planning permission! 🍾🎉🙌 On the flip side, however, it seems that we are not going to be able to afford everything we want to do. 🙁 Prior to inviting builders to tender, my architect very sensibly arranged for an independent detailed estimation of our project, so we know what region of costs to expect. The estimate turned out to be much higher than expected, which brings me to the first bit of renovation advice that I have heard all too many times and now I fully appreciate why –
1. IT’LL COST MORE THAN YOU THINK
It will. Even if you think you are being realistic about construction costs, brace yourself for a massive reality check when the figures come in. It goes without saying that if you’re good at DIY, you can take on work that you feel comfortable doing. I’ve known of people who have done a plastering course for a few hundred pounds so they can plaster their own house following building work, thus saving themselves thousands. Your architect or builder may be able to advise you on other possible ways to reduce costs. It’d be wise to have a 10-15% contingency fund, because some things can’t be predicted until work starts.
2. YOU REALLY NEED TO GEL WITH THE PEOPLE YOU’VE HIRED
When you first meet with people who will potentially play a huge role in how your home shapes up, try to get a feel for what they will be like to work with and whether they will listen to you or try to impose their own ideas. This was a big factor when I was looking for an architect, and I feel like I’ve really lucked out with one I hired. His service is topnotch and he is always super helpful and lovely whenever I need to request a change, discuss something to fill my knowledge gaps, or have a difficult conversation about costs. Now the hunt is on for builders who will hopefully be equally lovely to work with. 🤞
3. RENOVATIONS INSURANCE
Most home insurance policies exclude alterations and renovations as standard so if you are converting, renovating or extending, arrange for appropriate insurance during the building work. For more information about this, check out this article: Renovations Insurance Explained.
4. LIVING ON SITE VS MOVING OUT
This depends on the scale of the renovation, of course. If you are tackling one or two rooms at a time, it may be perfectly manageable to live through it. However, if you are planning a significant amount of building work at once, don’t underestimate how hard it may be to live in a building site. You may be able to live on microwave meals and pot noodles for a while, but the absence of a shower, hot water or heating for any length of time is no fun. Site safety is also a concern particularly if you have young children, and then there’s the mess and dust which gets everywhere, on every surface, in your food, in your hair, in your nose, down your bra… So for extensive building work, consider moving out for at least the worst bit. Renting elsewhere would add to the overall costs so this would need to be budgeted in, but there would be some benefit if the builders can get on with the work without you being in the way, and of course, there is the invaluable benefit of you not being driven over the edge.
5. STAY ON TOP OF THE PROJECT
GanttProject is a brilliant (and free) project management desktop app which I will be using to keep up with the schedule of works and delivery timescales for materials. If possible, be on site everyday and ensure that you and the builders are on the same wavelength about what is going to be done and when. Some people prefer to hand their keys to a builder, go away for the duration of the work and come back to what they hope will be a finished project. I understand the thinking behind this approach – wanting to get away from the stress of it – but personally, I would want to ensure that all the little details I have planned are brought to life in the way I have envisioned them, not left to interpretation by the builder.
“The details are not the details.
They make the design.”
– Charles Eames
6. DESIGN BACKWARDS
First fix comes around quicker than you think, and at that point it’s very helpful if you know, at the very least, the room layouts, electrical plans and plumbing requirements. This is actually a lot of detail, so it’s helpful for everyone if by then you have a pretty good idea of how you want your spaces to function, because remedying any wrong decisions later will be costly.
7. TRY NOT TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
Think about all the details that you want to incorporate, be clear about all the specifications and ensure that the builder has detailed plans to work from. Avoid changing your mind in the middle of works as this can cause delays and add to costs.
8. SAVE BY SHOPPING AROUND AND BUYING ON SALE
It pays to put in the legwork to find the best deals. Sign up for offer newsletters at the stores you want to make your purchases from. If you see that a big ticket item you want is on sale but you don’t need it just yet, it’s worth asking the supplier if they’re able to deliver it at a later date.
9. GET A HENRY!
Two renovators recommended the Numatic Henry vacuum cleaner to me, and I also saw it recommended in this post about renovation tips. It is powerful, tough and reliable: able to withstand anything! When my old vacuum cleaner tried to blow itself up recently, I knew my next one had to be a Henry. I turned to my favourite appliances company, AO.com, who very kindly gifted me the Henry Xtra Pet HVX 200-11 cylinder vacuum cleaner. I chose the Xtra version as it comes with a Turbo brush which is great for embedded dirt and pet hairs, so it’ll come in very handy through the renovation and also when we have a pet in the future. Everyday vacuuming has become a doddle with the Henry and it is proving to be quite a hit with the kids thanks to its cute face, so much so that they’ve declared vacuuming to be their job. Ok kids, I won’t argue. 😊
10. IT’LL ALL BE WORTH IT
Managing a renovation can be tricky and stressful, but keeping a positive problem-solving attitude will help massively. Take photos along the way as a reminder of the progress being made whenever you’re feeling like there’s still so much to do and asking yourself if it will all ever end. Given our budget constraints, some of the finishing work like decorating will likely become my job, and my paint splattered trousers my uniform. It’ll be a long time before some rooms get done but that’s ok. I’m all too familiar with ‘decorating fatigue’ so when I need to, I’ll give myself a break. I know the day will come when we’re all feeling pretty chuffed about the home we’ve created that we get to call our own.
This post is in association with AO.com who very kindly gifted me the Numatic Henry Xtra vacuum cleaner. As always, all ideas and words are my own.