If it’s your first home improvement project don’t learn the hard way, here are my top tips to getting it right first time.
Home improvement checklist
1. Set the terms
Agree terms of the contract, a project schedule and payment plan before work starts. Only pay an hourly or daily rate for small jobs. When it comes to large projects like extensions you want the work to be carried out based on a fixed price, this will help keep costs under control. Agreeing the scope and cost of a project upfront is straight-forward and transparent, this can save you a lot hassle further down the line. Your tradesman may need a deposit to pay for materials, this is fine, but don’t pay the full amount until the work has been finished.
2. Brief your builder
Understand what you want. Of course your tradesman can help you make decisions and make suggestions, but to avoid disappointment and costly mistakes make sure you know what you want and what you expect in advance.
If you have something specific in mind make sure you communicate it to your tradesman, otherwise he will just work it out as he goes along. Unless you’re on site regularly, by the time you realise something isn’t what you had in mind, it could be too late to change without it becoming a costly mistake. Changing your mind will cost you time and money and these are the two things builders who are working at fixed rates hate – and a good relationship with your builder priceless.
3. Managing your project
Ideally you would employ an architect or project manager, when this isn’t feasible or even necessary for smaller projects you need to be on site at least twice a week. The idea is not to turn up and yell but to spot any problems quickly, perhaps the door frame has been put in the wrong place or using the wrong paint colour, if you can spot these things straight away you can keep your project on budget and on schedule.
Listen to your builder. Delays happen, delivers might be late, the weather may halt your job, or your materials might be out of stock. As a result you job might take longer than expected to finish and you may even pay more money for something that isn’t directly his fault.
If you’ve employed an architect he will take care of the snagging list (all the small problems that need to be fixed before the job is signed off). This is normal for large jobs so if you’re doing it yourself just write a list with your builder detailing everything that needs to be finished. When setting the terms it’s worth agreeing a 5% holdback which is paid when the snagging list has been completed and the project signed off.
Don’t be unrealistic, manage your own expectations, things don’t always go to plan. It’s always worth planning for your project to take an additional 10% longer than expected.
4. Staying on budget
It’s not just about how big your budget is, what’s more important is how you spend it. Designer taps at the expense of quality glazing is not money well spent, I always advise getting the fundamentals right before splurging on cosmetic features.
Even the best laid plans go wrong. Building work is often unpredictable, especially with old builds, and costs can quickly creep up. A 10% emergency fund is always a good idea – be prepared to spend it.
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