As the weather warms up, your thoughts are sure to turn to what home improvement projects you can do. It’s far easier achieving certain jobs when the sun is shining, whether that’s sorting out the sash windows in your London home, painting the entire house or simply investing in some decorative items to put here and there.
Whatever job you decide to tackle first, big or small, you’d certainly be wise to really take the time to sit down and think about it long and hard, so you know what you want your home to look like when the work has been done.
It could prove useful to write a proper plan down, including everything from the colour of the walls to curtain fabric. If you’re planning on bringing painters and decorators in rather than doing the job yourself, this will be really invaluable.
It’s also certainly worth making sure that you seek out at least three quotes from a range of different tradesmen so you know you’re being charged a fair price… you might even be able to negotiate with your choice of company as a result as well.
When it comes to finding a tradesman you can trust, you can of course look online but you might find it helpful to get in touch with your local council as well, searching for Trading Standards or approved traders.
There are also schemes that recommend traders, including TrustMark (a government-run scheme), Buy with Confidence, Checkatrade and the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. These are all excellent resources and if you’ve got a big job in mind it could be worth having a look since you’ll want to ensure that the work is carried out to a particular standard, to budget and on time.
Should you already have a trader that you’d like to work with, find out if they’re a member of a scheme – and then always check to make sure they’re telling the truth.
Don’t forget to inform your insurance company and let them know that you’re having work done on the house. You might have to update the policy you have if it doesn’t cover what you have planned for your property.
Homeowners with big jobs ahead of them this year might find they need the help of an architect to see it through to fruition. Be as clear as you can about what you want to achieve at the very beginning as this could prevent problems from cropping up later down the line.
Decide how involved you want your architect to be, whether you simply feel you could benefit from advice, if you need some drawings or if you want them to imagine the entire project from start to finish.
Following the advice of your architect is wise, but don’t feel shy about letting them know if you don’t feel comfortable with any of their ideas. It is your house, after all, and you’re going to be the ones living in it.
Something else you must make sure you don’t neglect is sorting out planning permission if you need it for the project you have in mind. If it falls within your permitted development rights, then you shouldn’t need to make an application (and the government just made reforms to the rules permanent, which should make some renovation work easier to complete).
Remember that you won’t have typical permitted development rights if you live in a listed building, conservation area or a flat, and if you’re a leaseholder always check with the freeholder that your lease allows you to do the work you want at home.
When it comes to the installation of new windows, remember that any work you have in mind that will alater, enlarge or improve the property should remain as sympathetic as possible to the building as it stands now. So, under permitted development rights, you’ll need to choose materials that are similar in appearance to those visible from the exterior of the house.
You also need to be mindful about window placement, as well, and you must protect the privacy of your neighbours when thinking about putting upstairs windows on the side of your home. Making use of registered window fitters could prove useful and more efficient, since they’ll be able to self-certify the work they do and you won’t have to get in touch with your local council building control department.
How to finance your renovations
Your first step when doing any home improvements is to work out how much the project will cost and then you can find out how best to go about financing it. There are numerous options available to you, such as using a credit card with zero per cent on purchases for a prolonged period instead of taking out a loan.
Remortgaging could also be a potential route and the majority of lenders will allow you release equity from your property in order to fund home improvements. You’ll likely pay more interest because you’ll be spreading your debt over a longer period.
Home improvement loans are another option that could be right for you, but make sure you think properly about how long you’ll realistically need to repay the money if you are thinking of going down this road. It might not be suitable for older people, because you may find yourself in debt during your retirement.
Should you DIY?
Doing as much of the work at home as you can by yourself is a great way of keeping costs down but you should only attempt jobs that you know you have the skills and experience in so as to achieve it to the highest of standards.
Electrical and plumbing work is perhaps best left to the professionals, because you could end up causing more problems than you started with.
New research from Which? shows that changing sockets and switches, and replacing light fittings are the most popular DIY jobs where electrics are concerned… but are also the top two jobs that electricians are most likely to be brought in to finish or rectify.
As for plumbing, replacing taps are the most popular DIY jobs, with traders telling the watchdog that they’re most often hired to finish fixing leaks, followed by plumbing in appliances, plumbing in bathrooms and changing taps.
You could put your home and family at risk of fire or serious injury if you tackle electrical jobs with limited knowledge and experience so bear this in mind. Some jobs will also have to be signed off by local authority building control, unless the registered electrician you’ve hired can sign the work off themselves.