Make sure you plan your renovation project thoroughly with expert advice from experienced renovator Michael Holmes.
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- Put together a scrapbook
- Prepare your budget
- Have your floorplans drawn up
- Check the positions of drains and utility meters
- Speak to the planners
Put together a scrapbook
Once you have identified your wish list in terms of space, start to create a scrapbook or mood board of ideas for each room. The more images you collect, the easier it will be for you to decide what you do and don’t like. This will make it clear to a designer what you are trying to achieve and what your taste is.
Pinterest.com is a great tool for scrapbooking, and you can invite others to share your ideas online, but if you prefer an old-fashioned scrapbook, just cut out pages from Real Homes magazine, catalogues and brochures.
Make sure you identify on each image what it is you actually like, such as the flooring, worktops, windows, colour or the sense of light and space. This will then make it easier for a designer to understand why you chose the image.
Prepare your budget
Speak to lenders and find out whether you can increase your mortgage to release funds for your home-improvement project. You can obtain an unsecured loan up to around £25,000, but often it will be cheaper to have a loan secured against your home. Mortgage funding is usually the cheapest way to raise funds, but unlike a secured loan, the maximum you can borrow will be calculated on a multiple of your income.
To get an idea of the total budget available to you, add any borrowing to any accessible savings you plan to spend on the project.
When planning how much to spend and what you can afford to build, it is always a good idea to hold back 10-15 per cent to deal with any unforeseen costs that might arise during the project.
Have your floorplans drawn up
The starting point for any home-improvement project that includes remodelling, conversion and/ or extension is a set of floorplans. You could draw up a set of scale plans yourself using one of the many free computer-aided design tools available to download online, such as Trimble SketchUp (sketchup.com). However, if you are going to proceed with any structural alterations that require Building Regulations consent, or intend to submit any planning applications for extensions, you will need a full measured survey. This is a set of plans of the layout, roofplan, elevations and sections of your home to scale and showing all key dimensions. This will cost from between £600 and £1,200 or more, depending on the size of your home. To find a surveyor in your area visit rics.org.
It is also a good idea to get a site plan for your property so you can see the extent of the garden space around it and where the boundaries are with neighbours. If you do not have this, you can get an office copy of the title plan from HM Land Registry for £4 (landregistry.gov.uk). Google Earth (google.com/earth) is another useful tool for seeing how much garden space there is for extensions.
Check the positions of drains and utility meters
If you plan to add or move the kitchen, utility room, bathroom or cloakroom facilities, it will be more cost-effective to connect these to the existing soil stacks and drains than to add new ones. To help narrow down layout options, it is therefore a good idea to mark the position of soil pipes on your floorplans.
In the event that no existing soil pipe is available where you need it, you can add a new one, provided that it can be positioned to reach an existing drain – which will usually mean placing facilities on the side of the house where the drains run. To map out the route of the drains, mark the position of the inspection chambers (manholes) on your plans.
If you plan to extend but discover a drain in the way or within three metres, first find out if it is a private drain (serving just your home) or a public sewer (serving other properties too).
Provided that the drain running where you intend to extend is private, you can arrange to add a vacuum seal over the inspection chamber and build over it, but the Building Regulations will need you to leave access for rodding in case of any blockages. If you want to build over, or within three metres of a public sewer, obtain permission from the local water utility that manages the sewers in your area. You will need to make a Build Over Application and there will be a fee, typically £300-£500. Contact your local water utility company to find out whether a sewer is public or private.
Consider where your gas and electricity meters are located, especially if you plan to remodel the space, for instance by converting a garage into a living area or the under-stairs space into a cloakroom. Only utility providers can move an electricity meter and mains switch, and only National Grid can move a gas meter. It costs £500-£800 to move each gas or electricity meter, so it is more cost-effective to avoid moving them.
Speak to the planners
Check out where your home is located and how the area is designated in planning terms. For example, is it an existing settlement or in a conservation area, the Green Belt or a National Park? You can find this out by searching your local planning authority website, where you can then download and view the planning policies for your area, used to determine planning applications for alterations including extensions and loft conversions. There is usually some useful supplementary guidance available to download too, giving clear examples of what is likely to be acceptable in terms of alterations and extensions, and what won’t be.
If you find your home is within a conservation area, a National Park, in the Green Belt, some other designated area, or in the setting of a listed building, your planning options may be constrained. It’s best to know this now.
All prices and estimates correct at time of publishing