Is a home improvement project on your list of New Year’s Resolutions? Embarking on any kind of home improvement project can be daunting. There’s so much to consider, from the design and finish to your budget and timing, not to mention finding the best tradespeople and suppliers. What should be an exciting time in your life can quickly become stressful.
Proper planning is essential and is the key to success. Without it, not only will you not enjoy the process, but you are far more likely to make poor decisions and spend unnecessarily, pushing you over budget.
Here are my top five tips to help you prepare and adequately plan for the home improvement project you are about to undertake in 2022.
Figure out exactly what ‘you’ want
Before you start any kind of home improvement project, big or small, you must spend some time evaluating how you currently use your home. You want to make sure the work you do will help improve your quality of life.
A good idea is to use a tool like our weekly tracker workbook often to track a typical week at home, identify what’s working and what is causing you stress to build a clear picture of where you need to focus your attention and invest the budget you have.
Without this kind of analysis, it’s easy to decide you need more space and end up with a large extension to the rear of the house that doesn’t improve anything. You also risk jumping into a small project when there is a much bigger issue to deal with.
Small projects are okay, but not if they are only a stop-gap solution. I often meet people who want to add a room or convert part of their home, but the underlying issue with the house is much more significant. Investing in an attic conversion when the layout of the rest of the home is not working is not the best way to spend your budget. We’ll all favour going for the quick win over the more disruptive solution, so spending time evaluating how you use your home is vital to ensure you make the right decisions.
Make sure you have a plan
Never start a home renovation project or extension project without a watertight plan. Improving or updating one area of your home will highlight other areas that need work, so proper planning is essential. This is one of the most commonly made mistakes when renovating a house.
Without a plan, you risk starting a snowball effect of work needing to be done. Separate works are unlikely to complement each other. You’ll waste money and won’t be adding value to your home. All this will have a negative effect on your day to day life, and you’ll end up worse off than before you started.
Make sure you plan for the future
When analysing what you need from your home, don’t just focus on your immediate needs, especially where small children are involved. Lot’s of open-plan spaces might seem like a great idea when your children are toddlers. But your needs will change as your children grow, so you must try to look into the future and design some flexibility into your home.
The layout should work equally well when those little toddlers grow into teenagers. Having a separate den or sitting area is a good idea for families. You might never use it when children are small, but once they get older, you could find yourself spending a lot of time there.
It’s not uncommon for couples in their 40 s who are renovating to plan some form of ground floor space that could be adapted to a bedroom in the future. This kind of forward-thinking will mean your home will only need minor, if any, adjustments as your needs change over time.
Get professional help
You might be inclined to cut out an architect to save money, but if you are planning on any kind of medium to large scale home renovation project, you should enlist the help of an architect.
Structural renovations without professional design is a big mistake. This doesn’t have to cost the earth and many architects will have options to get advice for a fee that suits your budget.
For example, our Optimise Home Design pack is a cost-effective way to get architectural advice. We offer a pay as you go solution to working with an architect, giving you a design to work with at a price to suit your budget and ultimately peace of mind that you’re making the best possible decisions for the changes to your home. Why not book a no-obligation call with one of our team HERE to see how we can help.
Get a handle on your budget
You must set a realistic budget and be prepared to make trade-offs along the way. It’s very easy to get carried away and try to include everything on your wishlist, but you could find yourself in trouble very quickly. It’s essential to keep the budget at the front of your mind when making decisions.
Prepare a budget before you start work and put aside sufficient contingency funds to cover unexpected expenses, for example, discovering damp or structural issues. Be open about your budget with your architect, designer or contractor. They will help you modify the scope of work to align with the amount you have to spend. An experienced team will help you find compromises that mean you get maximum value and return for your budget. Being budget conscious from the start is far better than running out of money halfway through a project. In my experience, regardless of how much clients have to spend, compromises always need to be made.
In the past, I have tried to find solutions for clients to help them phase the work so their budget can be spread out. But now, where at all possible, I advise my clients to wait. This often means I talk myself out of a job, but if they can move in and make the house livable until they have the money to do everything at once, then this is by far the best decision. They will get better value for money and only go through the build process once, but they will also have the added benefit of time, which might mean their plans change, leading to a better job in the future.
The build is an unstoppable process and this feeling that once you start, there is no turning back is probably the most unsettling of all. Be as organised as you can be; your contractor will have a program of works to guide you when critical decisions need to be made.
My advice, however, is to have all of your decisions made before the work starts on site. This is something I’ve always told my clients. But my experience of going through the process myself has confirmed it’s probably the best single piece of advice I could give anyone taking on a home improvement project.
Once the build starts, you’ll feel under pressure, there will be distractions and emotions to deal with, so you won’t be at your best when it comes to making decisions. Making the decisions before anyone asks you to make them will significantly lessen the stress and make the process much more bearable. You might even enjoy it.
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