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Home renovation basics: the costs and how to get started

Switching your mortgage could be a helping hand towards upgrading your home’s heating, electrics and roof for a property that’s cosy and comfortable

In part two of our Switch it Up series we take a look at the basic renovations homeowners can do to improve the comfort, functionality and value of their properties, and the costs associated with each.

From a new roof to re-wiring or a new heating system, these essentials are the groundwork for future projects such as a reconfiguration or extension of the property or the addition of a new kitchen or bathroom.

Denise O'Connor, architect with Optimise Design, says that having spent so much time at home recently, we are honing in on problems we may previously have overlooked. We're determined to rectify the issues and may spend a sizeable amount of cash doing so.

“Holidays were maybe more of a priority up to now but as people can’t really go anywhere they are spending the money on doing up the house,” she says.


“One of the really pressing things we are currently seeing is that working from home is here to stay,” O’Connor says.

“Coming into the winter it’s about making the house more comfortable. Putting in a new boiler and more insulation or fixing the roof are great ways to do that.

These are the things that make a huge difference to people’s quality of life and are a really worthwhile investment.”

With those renovation basics in mind, Michael Walsh, quantity surveyor with Walsh Associates has priced some of the more sought after home upgrades, using the example of a three-bed semi-detached house in the Dublin region as a guide to costs.

Energy upgrade

Energy upgrades can be expensive at the outset depending on the job, but do note that grants are available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to defray the costs. Check the SEAI website for more information on what's available.

“External wall insulation applied to the exterior of the house can cost between €5,000 and €20,000, while in the attic, increasing to 300mm deep fibre insulation would cost around €2,000. To remove suspended floors and install insulation between joists and to replace flooring will come in between €3,500 and €5,000,” Walsh advises.

“There are three types of roof coverings and each has a different lifespan,” he explains. “To remove and replace concrete roof tiles, which have about a 60-year lifespan, costs between €12,000 and €15,000. Fibre cement slate has a slightly longer lifespan of 70-plus years, and will set you back between €14,000 and €18,000. Natural slates would only appear on period houses – pre-1940s – and they last up to 100 years, but cost up to €30,000 to replace,” he advises.

Plumbing systems

Turning our attention to plumbing, replacing an existing gas boiler with a high efficiency condensing boiler will cost around €3,000, says Walsh, who also advises that a new heat pump, in lieu of a gas boiler, costs around €7,000.

“However the entire heating system would need to be upgraded with high efficiency radiators and a new highly insulated water cylinder and this might cost in the region of €12,500 to €15,000,” he notes.

“Solar hot water heating plus a new high-efficiency cylinder will cost anywhere in the region of €5,000 to €6,000. Hot water heating with photovoltaic panels and a new high efficiency cylinder will set you back approximately €6,000 to €7,000.”

Rewiring re-do

Walsh notes that rewiring a typical three-bed house will see the homeowner strip the property of the existing electrical installation, at a cost of about €500, while the rewiring of the entire house will cost in the region of €9,000 to €10,000.

“A good rule of thumb is to allow around €120 per light or socket point. Additional costs to factor in when you are thinking of a re-wiring project would include a new smoke alarm and wiring to pumps and boilers. A hidden cost to look out for is the making good of décor that is disturbed by a new installation, and this might cost up to €2,000,” he says.

Period properties

If you live in an older home, expect these projects to come with additional charges and issues, Walsh warns. “All of this work will cost significantly more on a period property. Often times there may be rising damp to contend with and you cannot use external insulation as there are planning restrictions. Instead you can improve insulation internally by dry lining, unless the property has cornices,” Walsh points out.

Before any of these jobs commence it's important to have a good workable plan in place

“The treatment requires specialist advice, as the walls need to breathe. Insulation of the attics and under floors can be carried out in the same manner as a newer house, but roofs are normally natural slate.”

UPVC windows cannot be used and you have to go with sash which have pulleys and weights to operate. “These windows are twice the price of those used in a normal semi-detached house. In many cases you can just change the glazing from single to double glazing, but it’s a specialist trade and is expensive,” he says.

“To rewire, or add a new plumbing system, you are into significantly affecting the existing fabric as floors have to be removed or walls chased. When this happens you get what we call ‘creep’ with knock-on effects. The thing I would say about period properties is expect that advice will be required,” he concludes.

Before any of these jobs commence it’s important to have a good workable plan in place, O’Connor says.

“Get an expert opinion, generally a contractor, to assess what needs to be done. If you’re planning these works as part of a reconfiguration, an architect can recommend a good person, particularly for the smaller jobs,” she advises. “Always get three quotes so you know you’re getting a fair price, and look for references. Once you’ve agreed a price, fix that price. Most of all, do the research and ask the right questions.”

About Switch it Up

Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who may be considering a mortgage switch. With helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours and a super-useful FAQ, there’s lots to discover.

Of switching, Lorraine Costelloe, head of home buying and ownership at Ulster Bank, says, “don’t be afraid of it. There is no such thing as a silly question. It might seem daunting, but let us do the hard work, help you through it and make it as easy as possible.”

Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries.

From the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what's involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide online.

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