Guide to planning your home improvement project.

Planning a home improvement project? There are so many options so “where to begin”? We are asked this very question every day, so I hope this guide is a good starting point. Of course, we are still happy to be asked but if this article serves to get you started then that is the aim.
Everybody has their own reason for upgrading, upsizing or modernising their home. Whether you might be somebody who loves the location and don’t wish to move, a developer looking to add value or a growing family needing more space; you get the idea.
It is important, however, to plan this carefully to ensure that it works for your intended objective. So, what should you be thinking about right now?

Add Value, add Space, build a home office, use an uninhabitable space??

This will be a significant investment so even if you just want more space, you should think about how this might benefit the value of your home for when you eventually sell.
Estate agents are a good source of information with regards to understanding the value of your home, both before and after the modifications. This may also help you with planning your budget and give you some confidence when asking for additional funds from your mortgage.

Your Rights to Develop

You have a ‘right’ to make certain changes under the rules of ‘permitted development’. For example, if you live in a detached, single storey home, you can extend the rear wall by up to 8m. If you have a second floor this is restricted to 3m.
If you have two floors you mustn’t go closer than 7m to the rear boundary, the extension must not be higher than the original building and a single storey extension should not be higher than 4m to the ridge.
It is important that extensions be ‘in-keeping’ with the area and existing building so similar materials to the existing property must be used. Our local planning department offer advice with regards to permitted development guidelines so click here for further information.

Planning permission

Planning is a detailed subject and the rules are often open to interpretation. For this reason, we offer a consultation service whereby your ideas can be put to a planning consultant. This will avoid you jeopardizing your chances of approval when your plans are submitted.

Insurance

The increase in your property size will influence your insurance premiums. If you are concerned about this contact them first to find out the likely impact.

Neighbours

Get your neighbours on side before you start! Discussing it with them ‘early on’ could avoid all sorts of issues. Your neighbour has a say in the approval process and will have to endure the noise and disruption along the way. We have seen many situations where an unhappy neighbour will complain about the noise, make it difficult for the builder to park, damage the builder’s reputation and more.
On the flip side, we have seen neighbours who bring around cups of tea, get involved and thoroughly enjoy the process. A lot of this depends on the communication early on and if you can find some way getting them interested rather than making them feel alienated it will pay dividends.
After much thought you will hopefully have an idea of what it is you will be doing to your home. You should know how much funds you have available, or can raise from the bank, so you can set a budget. It is now time for some design work.

Design

You might think that you must find an architect at this point, but here’s some useful advice! A good project manager (or building contractor) will be working with an architect all the time. If your project manager employs the architect as part of the project, then any mistakes made by the architect will be covered by the project manager. Otherwise, any mis-measurements or errors will most certainly trigger cost increases that the builder is not liable for. Sure, you could argue this out with the architect later but employing a project manager means you only have one person to call (one throat to choke!).
If you take this route, the project manager will arrange several meetings with an architect for you. Make a note of all the details that you want the architect to consider before the meeting. There are many factors that will affect the type of build that the architect will specify. For example, if the work must be completed quickly then the architect may specify a timber frame construction. This could be built offsite and then put together very quickly onsite. If the budget is tight then a traditional construction may be specified.

Obtaining the ‘right’ price

Your project manager may directly employ a workforce, or more likely will use sub-contractors for the various parts of the project. If you require a fixed-price, then your project manager will put the work out for competitive tender and will receive several quotes back to be collated into your fixed quote. The project manager will not necessarily choose the lowest quote as experience will show that it is often more efficient to pay for quality and reliability. A tradesman that doesn’t show when he said he would will lead to delays and the knock-on effect is that everybody else is delayed and so on. Essentially, this costs money and it is in the project managers interest to have every trade carefully knitted together and working efficiently.
It may be possible to negotiate a percentage contract with your project manager; this method is safer for the project manager but may leave you exposed if you don’t have an idea of the total build costs.

The specification

One of the biggest factors affecting the costs are the level of specification that you require. Sanitary ware, kitchen equipment, bathroom options vary hugely. If you specify ‘budget’, ‘mid-range’, or ‘high-end’ your project manager can allocate a ‘nominal sum’ to each area. When it comes to choosing your bathroom suite, kitchen, etc. the project manager will be able to tell you the funds that are available, offering upgrades or downgrades as appropriate.

Contingency

The project manager will assume that your existing house is in good order, so another area where costs could increase is if any repair or preparation work needs to be done that were unexpected. This could be due to dangerous electrics, rotten timbers or an undiscovered Well within the ground works.

Allow an additional 10% of the total cost as a contingency for unexpected additional costs.

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