Starting a personal building project, whether that’s renovating, remodelling or extending an existing place, or even building your dream home from scratch, should be an exciting journey.
However, more often than not, managing a renovation or building project can turn out to be a stressful and drawn out experience if certain considerations haven’t been addressed at the start.
While we all have a vision of what we want and lots of brilliant ideas – which are often the foundation of our most successful projects – sometimes a lack of technical knowledge or having no previous experience of dealing with large scale projects can cause unexpected and unwanted headaches.
The worst thing about this? They can really sap the joy out of creating a place to make memories with your family.
With this in mind, we’ve taken our extensive experience of delivering residential projects and compiled a list of seven things you MUST consider before starting a renovation or building project of your own.
What is the problem you want to solve?
If we asked you what your goal is, you might answer “extend our kitchen” or “build our forever home”. As great a starting point as that is, what you actually need to know is what problem are you trying to solve.
For example, “extend our kitchen” might be a resolution to the problem “I need to create more space for entertaining in our home”. But it’s not the only solution and it might not be the best or most cost-effective one either. By going straight to the outcome you think you want, you may have missed what you really need, such as reconfiguring the layout of your home’s ground floor.
Getting our clients to think about this question is something we do a lot at ArchiPhonic. Thinking first about the problem that needs to be solved will leave you open to consider all of the potential solutions, so you can pick the one that will best meet your needs. We often come up with solutions that our clients didn’t know were possible, while always keeping to budget!
What is your budget?
Speaking of budgets – when it comes to your options the possibilities are endless, but only if your budget is. Whether you have £30,000 or £30 million to spend, your budget will define what is possible.
If you engage an architectural design firm it’s important to be transparent about your budget from the start. Giving your true maximum budget doesn’t mean they’ll immediately find ways to use it all and make a profit, it simply means they will have a clear picture of the parameters that they need to work within. You’d be surprised what can be accomplished with a well-managed budget, guided by professionals who are committed to making sure you get the very best value out of your budget, as our team is.
In your budget, it’s also important to account for unexpected issues that may arise along the way, we suggest adding at least 10% extra, ideally 20%, to allow you some wiggle room. If you don’t use it – fantastic – but if the need does arise, you’ll be glad you planned so well!
Do you need planning permission or are there restrictions?
It is essential that you get the required planning permission for any work you carry out, from building a new property or renovating your home. Of course, there are some situations where planning permission isn’t required but it’s always best to check.
Failure to gain the appropriate permissions can mean a ‘planning breach’ is caused. If this happens you may have to apply retrospectively for planning permission – a stressful and sometimes drawn out process where the future of your home/renovation lies in the balance – you may even receive an enforcement notice.
There are also restrictions when it comes to making changes to listed buildings (there are more than half a million in the UK) or if your home or the site of your development is in a Conservation Area. If you’re unsure if you will be affected by these, why not contact our team to discuss your concerns – they’re something we deal with every day.
Does your home or building insurance cover the work?
Most people don’t realise that their existing home contents or building insurance will not cover extensive building work and that a separate policy may be needed. Carrying out work without checking could mean you find your policy is void if anything were to happen.
If you’re planning to move out while work is done, this can have an impact too as most standard policies only cover a house that is inhabited. Before you move out and work starts, check with your insurance provider and take guidance from them.
If you’re contracting out the work, make sure you know what cover is needed. If you are handing your project to a main contractor (who then manages other subcontractors) – a role we often take for clients – they will need site insurance and the liability will be theirs. If you are subcontracting and managing the project, you will need to arrange site insurance yourself, covering you for public liability, employers liability, legal expenses and damages on site.
Who will do the work?
Do you have contractors in mind? If so, do you really want the responsibility of organising and managing them? Can you get them all to work together?
The idea of managing a big project can seem appealing and exciting, but if you’re new to it then it could lead to more headaches and stress than it’s worth.
Here at ArchiPhonic we like to relieve our clients of this stress by introducing them to our network of trusted contractors. We’ve worked with them before, we know they’ll do a great job and we know that we work well with them.
What’s your timeline for your building project?
However long you think your building project will take, be prepared for it to take longer, especially if you need planning permission or if your home is an older building. It goes without saying that there can be unavoidable delays when applying for planning permission, but other things can extend your project timeline too.
Old houses are full of secrets and surprises that may only reveal themselves as work progresses, so it’s important that you plan in contingency time for this. The same is true when it comes to ordering materials, fixtures or fittings. Lots of things will be readily available, but if you want specialist materials or harder-to find furnishings, it could take a little longer.
Considering timelines is important, especially if you are planning to move out of your home while work takes place. Delays could mean a longer imposition on family members you may stay with, or unexpected additional costs if you choose to pay to stay elsewhere. When it comes down to it, being realistic is the key here.
Have you got professional support where you need it?
We’re sure that when you’ve been considering such a significant building project you’re research will be extensive. You’ll have taken inspiration from homes magazines, spoken to friends and family who have been through similar projects and absorbed information from online. This is great and absolutely essential, but when it comes to taking all that and creating a plan to turn your vision into a reality, you’re more than likely to need some professional help.
It’s not cheating to get help. Managing your renovation or building project alone from start to finish is a lovely, almost romantic idea, but with so much to consider it’s just not realistic. You can’t make yourself an expert in everything and definitely not in your timescales.
Working with experienced architectural designers and contractors gives you access to a wealth of information and expert guidance. We don’t want to take over your project – it will always be just that – YOURS – but we can give advice that will ensure your project is successful, delivers a solution to your problem and sticks to timescales and budgets.
You can see examples of our recent work here.
Do you have a project you would like to discuss with us? Why not contact us today on 0151 345 7600 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org