Five speedbumps to avoid during a refurb

Get things right at the start or prepare for delays, rows and nail-spitting frustration

Keep the lines of communication with your builder open. Photograph: iStock

Keep the lines of communication with your builder open. Photograph: iStock

 

Delays are common with home renovations, with so many moving parts and so much to consider, no matter how much effort you put into planning your project things can go wrong. Popular TV shows rely on the fact that there are many pitfalls and hiccups throughout the building process to ensure good viewer ratings. The best advice is to plan for eventualities so that you are prepared when things go wrong and control what you can, and most importantly keep focusing on the end result.

There will be unforeseen things that are completely outside of your control, such as the underlying structure or stability of the building, particularly in period homes. These kinds of issues often won’t make themselves known until the work starts. The only thing to do here is to be realistic about the timeframe of the project from the outset and err on the side of caution.

Also ensure that if you are renovating a period home that you allow a contingency of at least 10 per cent to cover any unforeseen items. Other reasons for delays outside your control are supplier delays, inclement weather or issues with planning permission.

There are however other common delays you can do something about. Here are five of the most common speedbumps and how to avoid them.

1. Living in your home while the work is being done

Despite crazy rents, the impossibility of finding a short let, and the scary prospect of moving back in with your parents, you need to move out if you want your build to move swiftly. Not only will living in the house make the process far more stressful, but it will add to the timescale and make it much harder to find a contractor willing to take on the project, pushing out the timescale before you’ve even started.

2. Not having finance in place

Don’t underestimate how long the bank can take to actually give you the money. It can take months to finally receive the first payment. You will need to draw down the money in stages so be well prepared and stay on top of this as without prompt payment your contractor may have to temporarily suspend work.

3. Indecisiveness and changing your mind

Make decisions on time and don’t change your mind. Indecisiveness is one of the most common reasons projects go over budget and time. I can’t stress enough the importance of having all of your fixtures and finishes chosen and ready before your builder starts. Once the build starts it’s a fast moving process and you won’t be able to keep up with it unless you’re very organised. If the finishes and fixtures are selected and ordered before the contractor starts on site, as soon as the builder is ready to fit the items they can be delivered.

4. Long lead times

Make sure you check out the lead time on the items you are hoping to use. Not everything will be in stock. Bear in mind that over the summer many suppliers take holidays. This will have a huge impact on the lead times for ordering. Start by telling the supplier when you need to have the items. This way they will be able to accurately work out when you need to place your order. The items you are selecting may be on a four-week lead time but if the factory takes holidays this lead time might actually be six or eight weeks. If you are brave enough to be working to a Christmas deadline, ask well in advance what the cut off is for ordering to guarantee a delivery before Christmas.

5. Products selected being unsuitable 

Some products may require specialist fitting or additional preparation. For example your contractor may have priced to fit a standard floor tile in your bathroom but you have actually purchased a mosaic. This is a more complex fitting and will take longer and possibly add cost. Keep the lines of communication with your builder open at all times and run your plans past them before purchasing.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant @optimisedesign

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