So many of us (trust me I’ve been there!) dream of taking on their own renovation project; finding that run down house that needs a bit of love, turning it into something dreamy and turning a healthy profit at the same time.
It sounds like such a romantic notion – when in reality it’s anything but! It’s dirty, hard work, tiring and almost everyone on a renovation project will experience that ‘what are we doing?’ thought at some point.
However, from the excitement of planning it all, to the enormous satisfaction of tearing down walls and pulling off woodchip paper, to that wonderful moment when you’re painting the walls and putting the finishing touches together, it can really be one of the most rewarding experiences.
We’re currently working on our second project (yes we’re crazy enough to do this twice!) and so if you are thinking about starting your own renovation project, and want to know whether it’s really for you, these are the things I think you should consider before taking the plunge:
1. Why you are doing a renovation project?
Is it to be lived in by you? To be rented out? To be sold to make a profit? This is the first thing to decide as it will really change your focus; things that matter to you might not matter to others. Therefore if you’re renovating to attract buyers or renters then the front of the house, kitchens, bathrooms and number of bedrooms will be the way to maximise return on your investment and expensive fittings and furnishings are best kept to a minimum however, if you’re planning on living in it yourself then certain things – for example kitchen appliances – will be worth splurging on.
2. What is your budget?
It is so important to undertake as much research as you can early on so that you have a realistic understanding of what things actually cost. Something unexpected will always catch you out (for us it was an unforeseen ecology survey!) so make sure you have a buffer in place for this and don’t splurge this on decorative things until you get to that stage. The last thing you want is to end up with money on credit cards and short term loans in addition to your mortgage. If it’s a long term project that will be funded as you’re going then try and save up before you tackle each project so that works don’t stall half way through.
3. Do you have time?
No one will be able to prepare you for quite how much time a project like this will eat up. If you’re planning on undertaking a lot of the work yourself to save money then prepare for most of your time to be taken up. Do you have hours a week that you can spare for this? And if you do then can you sustain this level of dedication for weeks, months or even years? Be prepared for the exhaustion and arguments that will be caused from this too.
4. Where will you live?
There are pro’s and con’s for both living in or out. We lived in for both of our projects as it was a much cheaper option but it means we’re living in a building site (which believe me can be miserable) and we’ve had essential rooms out of use (I’ve spent a month before only having a microwave and camping stove to cook with and a fortnight having to shower at family members’ homes). On the other hand, living out would have meant a lot of travelling to get to the house at the end of a full day’s work at our normal day job day. However, I have always envied the people who can leave all of the dirt and dust behind and go home to a clean space.
5. Does the property have restrictions?
If you’re making any major changes that require planning permission and/or building regulations it’s important to really do your research to see what is going to be approved before you start spending money. If you already own the property then speak to your local planning authority and see whether they think getting planning approved will be a problem, check for any covenants on the property and make sure these are factored into your budget. See if any similar work has already been undertaken in the area and speak to your neighbours to gauge their opinion. If you’ve not yet bought the property then make sure you do the above but also check historical plans for what used to be on the plot, check flood maps around the area to see whether it’s prone to flooding (and if so consider factoring in flood defences in the project) and check for asbestos as it can be very expensive to remove.
6. Will you be tough with contractors?
Good project management can be the thing that makes or breaks a project coming in on time and budget. There are some wonderful tradespersons out there, and equally there are some not so wonderful. It is a skill in itself to manage multiple different tradespersons all working on the same project. You’ll need a daily update on progress, and it’s likely that you’ll end up having an awkward conversation or too concerning payment. It’s important that you keep emotions to a minimum – easier said than done when it’s both your home and hard earned cash we’re talking about. Even if you’re not using trades, you need to apply the same logic to yourself in order to stick to your budget and timescale.
7. Do you have realistic expectations?
Do you know what you’re hoping to achieve? It’s really important to have that end goal in mind before you start the work otherwise you’ll make mistakes and have to redo work a few times. Do you know what is actually achievable? I’m terrible for pinning my hopes on something I’ve seen on Pinterest to be told it won’t actually work in my home. You don’t want to spend thousands of pounds creating a dream bathroom to realise that you don’t actually have as much space as you expected or that your fixings will cost thousands of pounds. Make sure plans are finalised, correct and realistic before beginning the project. If you can, always run your thoughts past a friend or relative. It always helps having a second opinion.
Still excited by the prospect of a renovation project? Then try and enjoy every second and go for it!
The lovely Amy Marsden is a DIY and Interiors blogger, over at A Bit of Copper, currently juggling a new baby and the renovation of her dilapidated farmhouse with her husband. She is doing an amazing job and it was a pleasure to meet her a couple of years ago at the Living Etc House Tours!