The Renovate Don’t Relocate regular imparts some insider wisdom for tackling a big project. By Luke Rix-Standing.
Current weather patterns might be trying to trick us into thinking otherwise, but it is now officially spring – so what better time to cultivate your own little bit of domestic rebirth?
With house prices constantly rising, home renovation is an increasingly common option for those seeking a significant change, without the immense expense or hassle of moving. Of course, a big project like renovating can add serious value to your property too, or simply provide the extra space or refresh you’ve been dreaming of.
But renovating is no flat-pack wardrobe, and for the vast majority it’s not a DIY affair – so where do you start?
Step forward Kunle Barker, presenter of ITV’s Love Your Home And Garden’ with Alan Titchmarsh, expert on Renovate Don’t Relocate with Sarah Beeny, and host of Grand Designs Live with Kevin McCloud.
Renovations are a big task – but Barker has handled a fair few, all under the rigorous glare of TV cameras. Here are his top tips for getting started…
1. Assemble your team carefully
“Always hire the most skilled person for the job. That means choosing an accredited architect who will not only be able to help you imagine your ‘grand design’, but deliver it on time and to budget, without compromising on quality.
“Choose a good, reliable and stable builder with a track record you can trust. Your architect will be able to recommend someone (ideally someone they have already worked with) who will deliver good value for money.
“Ensure your builder provides you with an itemised quotation, and your architect with a schedule of work and full specifications (for materials and fittings). This will allow you to make a thorough assessment your pricing.
“Even with recommendations from your architect, make sure you contact your selected builder’s referees directly, and try to visit a live site they are working on. Don’t be afraid to ask their referees lots of questions about the project delivery!”
2. Set up clear boundaries for the project
“It’s imperative that you get the right contract established for the project. Your architect will be able to help you with this. It will cost extra but it’s absolutely essential for establishing terms such as payment clauses.
“Should you employ a project manager? Yes, ideally an independent project manager from a construction consultancy – it will end up saving you money in the long run and will help the programme to run to schedule.
“Set your parameters for success (this could be defined by quality of work, budget and timescale) and communicate these to everyone in the project team. Your architect, builder, project manager and suppliers all need to understand what you are working towards.”
3. Supervise – and keep an eye out for ways to cost-cut
“Price check, negotiate and place bulk orders with suppliers where possible. For smaller items and sundries (screws, fixings, brackets, etc), shop around and split them from bulk orders if necessary, in order to get the best price.
“Control your budget carefully by linking it to your programme, having weekly meetings with your project manager, and always adding contingency as backup.
“Design hacks, such as better storage solutions (instead of an extension), lowering windows (instead of widening), changing materials and updating your kitchen can deliver amazing results at much lower cost.”
4. Don’t underestimate the final touches
“Final touches – like adding mirrors, flashes of colour, statement furniture and fabrics – can have transformative effects on your space. Don’t be afraid to play around with what you like and try to work creatively with what you have. Statement pieces mean you don’t need to get rid of your existing things to radically change the feel of a room.
“And don’t forget the garden. They are often the most neglected parts of properties and offer the opportunity to provide a natural extension of your home – add colour and decoration with planting and accessories.
“Lighting is fundamental to the feel of a space – never underestimate the value of getting this right. The key is flexibility – you want to be able to light the room in several different ways – and lamps are a great way to deliver this and create atmosphere.”
Kevin McCloud and Kunle Barker will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at London’s ExCeL from May 4–12. For more information and tickets, visit granddesignslive.com.