Home Improvement Projects
by: Marcus Brooks
We have all heard about the horror stories associated with home improvement projects - untrustworthy builders, projects running way over budget, poor workmanship and disputes with neighbours. Before you start, just let your head rule your heart for a moment and follow my top tips for making sure your own projects avoid those pitfalls. Some sound upfront planning is the key to a happy and stress-free home improvement project.
1 - Get your neighbours buy-in - Putting up a huge home extension without their knowledge is bound to upset your local residents, so get them involved early, let them have their say and make a few compromises where reasonable. However make sure you still get what you want without disputes cropping up.
2 - Aim for a usable but inspiring design - Don't go for a cheap and boring scheme, but equally, make sure you don't chose an extravagant design that just hikes up the cost for no real benefit.
3 - Check that the value-add to your property is economical - Make sure the scale of your home improvement project fits the type of home you have. There's no point in spending £20,000 on a building scheme that will only add £5,000 to the value of your home.
4 - Choosing a Builder - Getting references for similar types of building work is crucial, but it's also a good idea to go with your gut feel about a builder. It's important that you get on with them - afterall you'll be seeing a lot of them over the coming weeks. Also check that the builder has appropriate insurance - things can and do go wrong with home improvement.
5 - Can you live with the project while home improvement takes place? - Tidyness - will the builder maintain a clean site and regularly hire a skip to dispose of any rubbish? Working hours - builders like to start early (and finish early!) Can you cope with a 7am alarm call everyday? Safety - if you have young children, is the builder going to be sensible about protecting them from any hazards? Disruption plan - make sure you know about, and plan for, any downtime on kitchens, bathrooms, heating systems etc. Duration - get a completion date agreed upfront and a rough work schedule so that you can spot and sort out any overruns as early as possible.
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6 - Document your build specification as accurately as possible. This is a must if you are to avoid disagreements and cost worries later. At some point a decision has to be made on every facet of the build. Either you make them upfront and everyone knows what's going on or someone (the builder or you) will need to make the decisions later - this can easily lead to misunderstandings and extra costs.
7 - Agree, cost and document all changes as they happen - there will be plenty of amendments to the home improvement project despite all your best plans, but make sure they are agreed in terms of scope and cost as they happen, to avoid any nasty disputes and costs at the end of the project.
8 - Payment plan - Agree in advance when you will pay your builder and the amount. If paying in stages, agree the breakdown and timings.
You can then save interest payments by planning to receive your home improvement loan (if you have one) at the most appropriate time and not earlier.
9 - Withhold some cash for snagging and approval - Agree with the builder to retain a fixed amount or percentage of the total fee until you have reached final completion and got local authority approval for the work. If they don't like this, be worried and maybe find someone else, because this is normal practice.
10 - Plan for full completion - Don't leave the home improvement project partly finished, otherwise your enjoyment of the whole thing will be compromised. If costs are tight, then scale something back so that you have enough money to finished off the planned job.
11 - Don't underestimate self completion costs or time - a builder will work more quickly and efficiently than you can, especially if you only have weekends or evenings to spare - don't leave yourself a huge finishing off job to do that will seem to take forever and spoil the project.
12 - Buy cost effectively - Your builder may want you to buy most of the raw materials through him and profit from, or share, in any trade discounts he has in place. It's best to agree how this should work beforehand.
So plan, plan and plan again. Chose the best builder you can afford and good luck! It everything goes well you'll have a more valuable asset and an improved home to enjoy for years to come.
About The Author
Marcus Brooks writes on a variety of real estate and home improvement subjects for the UK Skip Hire company http://www.skiphiredirect.co.uk