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Worst House on the Street: Scarlette Douglas' Money-Saving Renovation Tips

Scarlette Douglas and brother Stuart outside a pebbledash property
Scarlette Douglas and brother Stuart outside a pebbledash property featured in the show (Image credit: Channel 4)

'Worst House on the Street' sees Scarlette Douglas and her brother Stuart share their advice on renovating homes; the new property TV show airs on Channel 4 for the first time on Tuesday 2 August. 

Scarlette and Stuart help couples renovate their house purchases into comfortable homes with 'kerb appeal' — and all on a budget. They use their combined knowledge of renovating houses over the last 15 years to help the people in the show add value to their own buys.

In the first episode of 'Worst House on the Street', Scarlette and Stuart meet newly-weds Harry and Yimika, who have bought their first home, a terraced house in Purley, Croydon. The young couple, who are living with their parents, have never owned a home before and have given themselves the fairly enormous task of completing a full-scale renovation project in six weeks with a £40,000 budget. 

While there are plenty of property shows that focus on grand or fantastically wacky projects, the show is a refreshing real-life look at what an increasing number first-time homeowners are trying to achieve — namely, creating a home that also has long-term value and saleability. In essence, not spending more than the home will ultimately be worth.

The brother and sister property developer duo spoke to Homebuilding & Renovating, sharing some of their money-saving renovation tricks from the series.

1. Design a Kitchen Yourself Using Online Retailers

Scarlette Douglas and Stuart recommend using online kitchen retailers over showrooms to cut costs, estimating that couples can save as much as 50% by designing a kitchen themselves. 

During 'Worst House on the Street', Harry and Yimika went to DIY Kitchens for their kitchen units and spent only £4,000, which was pretty impressive given the size of the room.

The key to using online retailers over showrooms and achieving a cheap kitchen is double checking your measurements over and over again because if you make a mistake, you'll be liable for the costs yourself to put it right. 

"You need to do your research. Go on forums, have a look online, look at reviews," says Scarlette. Finding the best deals is about working out who is offering a quality product for the right price at the time.

2. Go Direct to a Manufacturer For a Worktop

To a seasoned renovator, going direct to a manufacturer might seem obvious. However, it isn't always when you're tackling a project for the first time. But doing so can save you hundreds of pounds.

"Cut out the middle man and go direct to the supplier. I often think if you are willing to put the time in and do your own research, this will save you money," Stuart says.

Where opting for a natural stone worktop, you can save money too if you make sure your worktop length is no longer than the manufacturer's standard slab length, he says. He adds that sometimes you can get a worktop cut from offcuts too, if you have a smaller kitchen.

Going straight to the manufacturer means you can haggle on prices too.

3. Leave Plumbing Where it is in a Bathroom

Buying new for old can be enough to completely transform a bathroom. There's often no financial benefit in rejigging the configuration of the toilet, sink, bath or shower so just don't do it. 

If you start moving the plumbing, it can add hundreds of pounds to your renovation as it can be expensive moving items like the stack, piping and joists, says Stuart. "On a tight budget it doesn't make sense," he adds.

4. Avoid Expensive Structural Changes

In the first episode of 'Worst House on the Street', both Scarlette and Stuart advise homeowners Harry and Yimika not to remove a chimney breast and stack from the living room and bedroom to give themselves more space.

Doing so would have given the couple a few extra cubic metres of wardrobe space in the bedroom but cost them thousands of pounds and potentially even more if they encountered a problem while carrying out the work.

"It's about the cost and the outcome. What is going to give you more bang for your money. If it were my house, I would rather use the money elsewhere," explains Stuart.

Scarlette adds that in that particular example, not doing the structural work could free up extra budget to instead make a beautiful entrance to a home, where there is value to be added.

5. Spray Paint uPVC Windows Rather Than Replace 

The nifty trick of spray-painting uPVC windows is seen in the series to impressive effect. With Harry and Yimika's renovation, it would have cost thousands to change the windows but spray painting them cost only a few hundred.

"If you look at the comparison, it is very difficult to tell the difference between that and changing your windows entirely," explains Scarlette. "But you are saving yourself potentially hundreds of pounds."

She adds that boosting the outside look of your home, or its 'kerb appeal' can add as much as 5% to the value of your house.

6. Ditch Dated Glazing But Keep The Frames

Sometimes it's the glazing in a window that is ugly while the frames themselves are perfectly fine. 

Rather than buying entirely new units, it is worthwhile investigating whether you can simply change the glazing unit and keep the frame to save money, says Stuart.

"A lot of people think a uPVC window is a complete unit when it isn't. In fact, the glass can be a lot cheaper to replace than the whole thing," he explains. This again can save you hundreds of pounds.

It's also handy to remember when moving furniture into a house. When Stuart couldn't get a sofa bed in through the doorway in one of his renovation projects, the simplest solution was to remove the glass from a window and carry it inside that way instead. 

Scarlette Douglas and her brother Stuart

(Image credit: Channel 4)

7. Pimp Up Flat Pack Furniture Over Bespoke

This is where the siblings differ in their opinions. While Stuart hasn't the patience for flat pack furniture and finds it too generic, Scarlette is a self-declared "flat pack Queen".

She explains how in one episode of 'Worst House in the Street' filmed in Bedford, the family wanted an island in their kitchen but didn't have the budget for it. But the problem was solved when they went for a flat pack kitchen island and personalised it. After the renovation, it became their favourite part of the kitchen.

8. Paint Ugly Render to Give the Outside a Boost

Adding that extra 5% value by addressing the exterior of a property can also be achieved by refreshing render with a new coat of paint.

In another episode of 'Worst House on the Street', a couple in the Wirral transformed the exterior of their home by painting the pebbledash. "Pebbledash can be off-putting," says Scarlette. But if you are savvy, rather than paying to re-render the entire exterior of a house, you can simply paint it.

"People are used to painting the inside of a house but not the outside. But doing so can add lots of value," adds Stuart.

Making sure you don't have dead plants in your hanging baskets might seem like a minor detail but it all counts towards making that important first impression.

9. Paint an Unappealing Front Door

Brown front doors are a turn-off. That's according to Scarlette, who says a simple trick to add value is painting your front door blue or a dark colour. "Make it beautiful outside. Make it as presentable as possible," she says.

"It boils down to first impressions and first impressions count. The outside of a property tells people what they should expect when they go inside the house. The entrance is very important," explains Stuart.

If you have the budget, adding a porch to the outside of a home can add value and space too.

Amy is in the middle of the renovation of a period property in rural Suffolk. She's taken a hands-on DIY approach to the project, knocking down walls, restoring oak beams and laying slabs herself with the help of family members to save costs.