What are the dos and don’ts of a successful property renovation?

Use these tips by architectural designer Greg Toon to make the best of your home, retain its character and save money while still ensuring a successful home renovation

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Considering a home renovation and keen to get it right first time? Much of creating a good design is about achieving the maximum effect with minimum effort. This is particularly important to ensure success in refurbishment and renovation projects, where overdoing things can lead to spiralling costs and destroy a building’s character. Use these dos and don'ts to get the best result for your renovation project.

Do: be aware of the downsides of refurbishing a home you already live in

Refurbishing or renovating a home you already in live means you know the house’s idiosyncrasies: which areas get cold in the winter and probably need additional insulation; which walls are structural; and where the plumbing goes (and so on). 

Using this knowledge properly can result in a more cohesive design. On the downside, it’s harder to be objective about your own house. People become set in their ways about things like layout, so are more closed-minded to swapping room functions around, even though this can be the key to unlocking potential. Buying a new property lets you approach a refurbishment with fresh eyes.

Do: research the property’s history 

Often, the original house may have been well-designed and later additions and alterations have messed it up somewhat. Some careful research into its past might influence your ideas on where to demolish or extend, and will show you things like which walls are structural. With this information, you can work with the house, its character and structure, and arrive at an economical design. 

Do: reap the benefits of ‘light-touch’ refurbishment design

Avoiding major building work has in-built cost savings. Knowing a wall is structural might make you look at other options and eliminate the need to remove it and replace it with expensive steel beams and columns. Light-touch design might point you to a ‘broken-plan’ solution instead – connected spaces that can be partly opened up for summer and parties or closed off for winter and privacy. Clever, efficient planning also reduces the chances of unforeseen elements showing up the more work you do, which can cause delays, stress and drain your contingency money.

Greg Toon advises on what are the dos and don’ts of a successful renovation

Working with period buildings in urban settings, where there are often space limitations and planning restrictions, is an art

(Image: © getty)

Don't: be put off by constraints

Working with existing buildings is an art form in making the most of what you have. A neglected home can be transformed through renovation. It is something many people who can’t afford to move have to do, and it can be very rewarding. This is especially true for period buildings in urban settings, where there are often space limitations and planning restrictions, and it takes real skill to get the best out of them. 

Don't: stick rigidly to a wish list 

When starting a refurbishment, avoid making a list of things you’re absolutely determined to incorporate. Assess each space on its own merits, deciding what is right for it. In a few years, as your lusted-after element goes out of fashion, you might be relieved you didn’t force it into the design.

 Don't: think about details too early on

Focus on functional considerations rather than finishes, then turn practical necessities into design positives. If you need to add a bathroom, this could result in a soil pipe running through a downstairs room which will need boxing in with a false wall, which might then contain shelving or a pocket door – a solution that brings other benefits than just hiding a pipe. 

Don't: default to consistent finishes 

A refurbishment can have less importance placed on having the same level of finish throughout. Renovated houses carry off quirky better than new-builds, and mixing old and new finishes not only retains character, it saves money. In older houses, you can treat some areas with luxury touches and keep others simpler. It makes more sense than spending excess amounts that you won’t get back at resale.

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