Remodelling a house can be a great way to turn a tired building into a dream home, but taking on such a big project isn’t always smooth sailing. From delayed deliveries to unforeseen structural problems, there are always snags along the way. Be prepared by checking out these common home renovation mistakes before you start.
having a plan
A half-hearted renovation plan can lead to unnecessary stress. The more decisions you make beforehand and communicate to your contractor the better. Try not to change your mind too many times during the build, you may have to make some exceptions due to unforeseen challenges anyway. If possible try to tackle one room at a time or a least have somewhere you can escape to that is calming and restful and that doesn’t feel like a building site.
Going with the cheapest quote
Don’t choose your builder or contractor on a whim or without research. Always get a few quotes, don’t be afraid to ask for references or case studies and then check them out on ‘word of mouth’ forums and social feeds. Don’t base your selection on price alone – good communication is key when sticking to a construction plan so it’s important to feel comfortable.
Running out of time
Never underestimate the time it takes to renovate or remodel your home. Set out a realistic schedule with your contractor before the job starts that outlines every task from start to finish. Include who is doing what and the budget for each task. Build in extra time for delays in materials or unforeseen problems along the way.
Cutting professional corners
Depending on the size and type of renovation you may need to consult other specialists which come with extra costs. As well as a builder or contractor you may need to consult architects, structural engineers and council planning officers to fine-tune your design plan or sign off works.
Planning permission oversight
House extensions are marvellous for making more space or redesigning a floor plan. However, not going through the right channels is a criminal offence that could prove costly. Some types of extensions come under permitted development rights and do not require planning permission but you will need to do your research and contact your council rather than guess. Listed buildings and properties set in conservation areas will need special permissions, too.
Not having the correct measurements seems like a rookie mistake but it’s more common than you think. The simple task can be costly and set your schedule back, so measure accurately twice to avoid frustrations further down the line.
Not considering neighbours
Factoring in your neighbours is about more than just general consideration as you must allow them the ‘right to light’. First Choice Extensions explains: “Double-storey extensions build upwards, and if you’re not careful, this can block out other homes’ natural light. You will likely need to get planning permission if you have close neighbours, and if your plans will greatly reduce your neighbours’ right to light, they can be rejected.”
Dishonouring a property’s period
Take into account the period of the property you are renovating. Additions will look more professional and well-finished if the new scheme is in keeping with its roots and original structure. For instance, a traditional Shaker kitchen complements this Victorian chimney breast yet the modern appliances are streamlined and contemporary in this position.
No contingency fund
Don’t make the mistake of thinking nothing will go wrong. There are always hidden hiccups and extra costs that crop up so try to assign around 20% of your budget for the snag list. Otherwise, you might have to live in an unfinished room until you can save up to finish the project.
Don’t forget function as well as form. Map out all the door openings in the design plan as they’ll need to open comfortably or you’ll end up with obstructions or potentially no privacy. This ensuite has overcome the lack of door swing space with an unobtrusive sliding version.
A wet room sounds luxurious but if you get it wrong, it can be a water-logged nightmare. The drainage system needs to have an efficient capacity for the water flow rate and floors need to have the correct recommended gradient in the direction of the drain location.
Knocking down structural walls
If you are planning on removing walls then bear in mind most of them have a structural purpose, so knocking them down without seeking expert advice could leave you with a costly repair or worse. Seek the expertise of a structural engineer or trusted builder, who will know which are load-bearing and if there are pipes and wires within them that need moving first.
A basement conversion will add more square footage but the conversion work and costs can be easily underestimated. Ask these questions before you begin: Are the ceilings high enough? Is there any damp or flood risk? How will daylight enter the room? Are there any bulky items like furnaces that need to be hidden or even moved?
Efficient insulation will ensure your new rooms are warm or cool (depending on the climate) as well as keep energy costs down. Special attention needs to be given to loft conversions, basement changes, garage remodelling and glazed structures.
Forgetting to allocate storage could be an impractical hiccup and in the long term even devalue your home. Design your new layout to maximise every inch of your space and meet your exact storage needs. Simon Tcherniak, Senior Furniture Designer at Neville Johnson explains: “As we acquire and retain more and more, we all need more room. However, as property sizes get smaller and space becomes more of a premium, we look at innovative, clever storage solutions to aid us in achieving an uncluttered, streamlined lifestyle. Sometimes going bespoke and built-in is the only option for this.”
Scrimping on outdoor materials
With outdoor space at the top of many wish lists, spending time and money making your garden gorgeous will undoubtedly pay off. Choose good quality materials that will weather well and last for decades to come. Do your research too and select elements that have innovative installation systems, such as DIY-friendly composite decking tiles to simplify, streamline and speed up the process where you can.
Installing wood-burning stoves
While a wood-burning stove may seem a desirable asset in a home, they do come with their own set of hazards, not least in relation to the environment and your own health. Do your research and choose an Ecodesign Ready Stove to comply with the government’s Clean Air Strategy. Part of the strategy has seen the government pledge that by 2022 only the cleanest stoves will be available for homeowners to buy. In terms of installation, there are regulations to follow and cutting corners could create a dangerous home hazard. Even an existing old fireplace will need reconditioning to accommodate a modern eco-design wood burner safely and efficiently.
Forgetting loft limitations
A loft conversion is a great way to extend your home without losing garden space but it’s a big job with lots that can go wrong. There needs to be a minimum head height, additional light and heat sources and don’t forget you’ll lose a lot of storage space in the process. In addition, you will need to take space from another room or landing to provide access stairs.
Looking to create a beautifully raw and texture exposed brick feature wall? Make sure the brickwork of the wall you want to strip is the right type of brick you want on show – grey breeze blocks won’t have the same effect! Choose a wall with the least amount of windows, doors and sockets. If a whole wall is a bit scary go for a feature like a chimney breast or a kitchen splashback wall. Lastly, be prepared, this project will whip up a dust storm.
Bi-fold door blunders
ou can’t look at an interiors magazine, website or social feed without coming across chic bi-folding doors that blur the boundaries between a gorgeous kitchen-diner and garden terrace. But before you lose your old patio doors you need to make sure your new expansive concertinas have the right support and are fitted properly. Bi-fold door systems are large, top-hung, technical door systems, that come with a pretty big price tag, so you’ll want them to slide right.
Shorting out on electrics
Don’t dodge the proper procedures when dealing with the electrics. Enlist a qualified electrician to make sure wiring and circuits are safe and efficient. When planning ensure you have allocated enough electrical sockets and lighting combinations, and that they are in the correct positions when key elements and furniture is all in place.
Not requesting a new insurance quote
Finishing a perfect renovation with a few added luxuries is an incredible achievement but have you thought about insurance adjustments for your new home? That extra bedroom with Juliette balcony or the luxury plunge pool in the freshly landscaped garden will need a new insurance assessment too. You may need cover for the property being unoccupied while work is carried out and renovation insurance too, so it’s best to check before work begins.
Not following a flow
If you are altering layouts, changing to open-plan or shifting kitchens and bathrooms to other rooms ensure the walk-through path still works and it is easy to manoeuvre around your home. Then, hone in on individual room plans; consider the kitchen work triangle or balancing focal points in the living room.
Impractical design choices
A stylish and striking interior design may seem a glorious idea and make you the envy of your friends but is it really practical and safe for everyday living? Perhaps it’s better to leave the floating stairs, low hanging chandeliers and super-slippery, polished floors in favour of solid design that’s comfortable to use every day.
Not considering soundproofing
Soundproofing a home is often overlooked, but it’s a necessary consideration for young families who make a lot of noise but need quiet when it’s bedtime. Also, period properties will benefit from an acoustic design update as they do not meet the soundproofing demands we have today. Poppy Szkiler, founder of the Quiet Mark charity, explains: “Planning acoustic design helps create a long-term peaceful, protective, comfortable-feeling living environment, missing this vital step can lead to annoying reverberation.”
Terrible temperature control
Desperate for an elegant conservatory or funky kitchen-diner extension with a glass roof? Make sure you consider room temperature first as sun streaming through untreated glazing can heat a room fast. Generally, south-facing rooms will bask in sunlight all day so go for good airflow. North-facing will be cooler, so may need heating. Easterly make great breakfast rooms with morning sunshine and westerly will benefit from afternoon warmth.
Not ordering extra flooring
Make sure you’ve ordered enough material to complete flooring jobs. The general rule of thumb is to buy 20% extra to account for installation wastage and defects. Woodfloors suggests measuring the length by width at the floor’s largest areas to get the right square dimensions. In L-shaped rooms, measure each rectangle separately.
The boring bits like guttering, cladding and ‘making good’ outdoor spaces once building work is finished is often an afterthought, but the costs can add up. Take your time choosing the materials; after all that hard work a rush job could let your efforts down, resulting in exterior damage or look unprofessional and unfinished.
Before you get carried away with gadgets, mod cons or designer materials, step back and consider if it’s needed or will these costly additions prove more troublesome in the long run? Unless you have an unlimited budget look out for cheaper alternatives – marble bathroom tiles are luxurious, but there may be a cheaper alternative that look like the real thing but are much less porous.
Blowing your budget on the wrong rooms and features can be an error of judgement you’ll regret. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be the go-to rooms for expenditure as they are practical investments that should only need replacing each decade. As such it’s a good idea to go for timeless cabinetry and flooring that you can update with décor and accessories to keep the style feeling fresh and up-to-date.