If you’re looking to renovate without breaking the bank, follow these top tips for a budget-friendly project.
1. Do you Need an Architect?
There is no doubt that for certain renovation projects, engaging the services of an architect or architectural technologist is the best route. However, not all projects require these services, particularly small-scale extensions and internal remodels.
If you want to renovate and are on a tight budget, you do have alternative options when it comes to your plans:
- Draw the plans yourself. This is quite acceptable from a planning department’s point of view, providing you include all the information they require. Bear in mind you’ll need drawings for Building Regs’ purposes and that these will also be what you hand to your builders to tender for the job
- Employ a draughtsperson – this is a technical artist capable of transforming ideas into precise plans. If you choose to use a draughtsperson, make sure they carry adequate professional indemnity insurance appropriate to the size of your project
- Ask your building contractor to come up with a set of plans
According to CIAT, there is little difference between architects and architectural technologists in terms of fees — your location and project are the factors that will determine what you are quoted, as well as the size of practice and their experience.
Chartered architectural technologist Eddie Weir MCIAT, says that homeowners should expect to pay (depending on the size and location of the project):
- 3-6% of their final build costs for planning drawings
- up to 12%+ for a full service, including working drawings, project management and periodic site visits
It’s worth checking out ArchitectYourHome, a ‘pay-as-you-go’ architectural service that allows you to use an architect as much or as little as you need, selecting from a menu of services, from drawings only, through to a full design and project management option.
2. Suppliers: Biggest is Not Always Best
Although it is all too easy to be seduced by slick brochures, stylish websites and fast-talking sales reps, do bear in mind that just because a supplier or tradesperson has a large number of employees and impressive sales literature, it does not mean they will necessarily do a better job than a ‘one-man band’ — but it does mean that they will probably charge more.
3. Act as a Project Manager
The majority of homeowners trying to stick to their budget when they renovate find the most cost-effective route is to project manage the build themselves, choosing and hiring the separate trades as required.
The role of a project manager should not be underestimated — the decisions you will have to make and the time you will have to devote to the build is often all-consuming. On the upside, acting as your own project manager means you are in control of what you spend on labour and materials — and it can leave you free to choose which jobs you do on a DIY basis.
4. Shop Around
Although buying all your building materials or an entire kitchen or bathroom suite from one supplier is the simplest and quickest route, it is definitely not the most cost-effective.
Shopping around can really pay off when it comes to new kitchens. There is absolutely no reason why you have to buy all your appliances and worktops from the same company that is supplying your kitchen units — in researching the many alternatives available you are almost guaranteed to save money. The same goes for bathrooms.
5. Get Multiple Quotes
It is surprising how many renovators fail to get more than one quote for work — the prices quoted by trades can vary by hundreds of pounds.
- get at least three quotes
- get recommendations from trusted sources
- the cheapest quote may not always represent the best value for money
6. Consider an Unfinished Look
Anything that cuts down on labour costs is good news. Finishes such as birch-faced ply or exposed brickwork, for example, will do away with the need for a plaster finish (a task which is best left to a professional plasterer).
Exposed brick walls are most suited to internal walls rather than exterior walls where good insulation will be necessary.
7. Reuse Old Materials
Many renovation projects involve the demolition of ramshackle outbuildings. Reusing the original bricks offers huge savings. Likewise, reusing roof tiles and slates in sound condition will not only save you money, but will also help your new additions to blend in with the old.
In the case of timber windows, it is typically preferable to repair rather than replace — plus it is usually more cost-effective too.
8. Mix High End and Standard Products
High quality no longer goes hand-in-hand with high cost. While not all cheap bathroom suites and kitchens offer value for money, many off-the-shelf ranges have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.
Buying standard unit fronts and carcasses and sprucing them up with more unusual or striking worktops, handles and concealed lighting, for example, offers a purse-friendly alternative to designer ranges.
9. Plan Ahead for Bargains
Organise storage space that gives you the option to store too-good-to-miss bargain buys such as ex-display kitchens and sanitaryware.
Don’t wait until just before you need a new kitchen to start your search — buying a bargain when you see it can result in huge savings.
Rolling up your sleeves and tackling work on a DIY basis is one of the top ways to make savings when it comes to renovations.
How far you go will depend on how confident you feel about your skills, and some jobs are almost always better off left to the professionals (like electrical work and plastering).
However, you can save thousands by doing simpler jobs such as painting and some tiling — you might enjoy it too!
There will also be occasions where a DIY approach carries the risk of costing you more than a professional would. We all know an over-enthusiatic DIYer who has ruined expensive materials and had to pay a professional to put it all right.
Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Editor. She is at the end of the DIY renovation and extension of an Edwardian cottage.
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