Deciding to take on the challenge of project managing your own home renovation or extension can help you to minimise costs and make sure you stay on budget. If you’ve never done it before it can seem daunting as it requires a lot of planning and responsibility on your part. It’s important to have a realistic idea of what your new role requires and what is necessary to ensure your project goes smoothly and successfully.
So what can you do to make the process as stress-free and easy as possible? Here are our eight essential steps to a successful home renovation.
Time spent researching will seldom be wasted. From architects to planning regulations to materials, the earlier you know what you want, the easier your build will be. If you make a start without having planned as far ahead as possible, things could go wrong. For example if you’ve dug up your garden for the foundations of a kitchen extension that you don’t subsequently get planning permission for, you will have wasted time and money and, potentially, your garden. Get all your ducks in a row before you kick things off.
One of the most common ways a project runs into trouble is by running out of money. It’s crucial that you are realistic about how much money you have and what you can actually achieve with it. A finished project that is a little below your dream spec will ultimately be a lot more satisfying than a project that drags on and causes untold stress because you’re trying to go beyond your means.
If there is an element of the project that you really must have, for example a flagstone floor or tadelakt plaster, compromise by making other elements cheaper to ensure you’re still within your budget.
Once you’ve settled on your budget, you need to add a 10% contingency sum on top. If you have no way to raise an extra 10% then you need to pair your original budget back to 90% so that you have some money to spare should something go wrong. Whilst it may seem like overkill if you’re confident in your plans, unforeseen events regularly occur and you’ll be kicking yourself if you haven’t got a back up plan. Plus, if you don’t use it, you’ll have a nice lump of cash to spend once everything is done.
The chances are that you’ll be sinking most of your wealth into your extension or renovation, so it’s important to cover your liability if things go wrong. Domestic buildings and contents insurance don’t usually apply to major renovation works, so you may need to buy a self-build policy or something similar. The crucial thing here is to check with your current provider whether you’re covered or not: don’t just presume you are as you could end up in difficulties.
One of the biggest potential sources of stress when having a renovation or extension is hiring incompetent or unreliable builders or tradespeople. Whilst a cheap quote is always attractive, it won’t be worth it in the long run if you end up dealing with problems caused by bad workmanship.
Ask friends for recommendations and look at online reviews so you can feel confident you’re hiring the right people. Good tradespeople will be more expensive, plus they’ll be booked up in advance, so make sure you plan this into your schedule and budget.
Planning rules and regulations are there for a reason, so don’t be tempted to try and get away without sticking to them. If you’ve bent the rules and not applied for planning permission when you should have, you may have to remove your extension, which will be devastating. You need to know the difference between planning permission and permitted development rules, and you need to be aware that even if you don’t need planning permission, there are still building regulations to follow.
If you don’t get the correct permissions you may get away with it for now, but when it comes to selling your property the purchaser’s solicitors will start asking some awkward and potentially very expensive questions.
As project manager you are also essentially site foreman, so it’s down to you to make it a nice place to work. Provide a place for breaks, plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits, and ensure invoices and payments are settled in full and on time. Making the job pleasant for your contractors not only puts them in the frame of mind to do a good job, but makes the project easier to keep tidy, efficient and under control.
Just because you aren’t a project manager for a living, you still need to act like a professional at all times. It can be hard to remain detached when working on your own home, but getting upset or angry if things go wrong won’t help. Different issues will come up all the time and you need to deal with them quickly and calmly. This is especially important when dealing with suppliers and contractors. Fostering good relationships with the people you work with will make them much more likely to want to go the extra mile for you if necessary.
If you haven’t project managed before the task before you may seem overwhelming. However, with careful planning, realistic budget setting and a commitment to stay within your means, you will be able to keep your project on track. This is especially true if you are on good terms with your builders and tradespeople, and you must maintain a professional image at all times.
It’s also worth remembering that if you find the learning curve too steep, you can hand the reins over to an expert and pay someone to manage your project for you. By closely watching an expert you’ll gain the skills and confidence necessary to do it yourself next time.