When it comes to renovating an older house there are many issues you are likely to face not normally associated with a newer build. This can range from updating out of date plumbing and electrics to bring them in line with modern regulations, to structural issues where the building has experienced movement and subsidence over the years.
If you are a relative novice in home renovation then undertaking large scale work can become very complex and expensive. In worst case scenarios people spend thousands of pounds without having professional plans drawn up, this can often lead to a depreciation in the value of the house, especially if the property is stripped of its historical nature.
A successful renovation of an older house involves the modernising and rebuilding of the structure and fittings whilst preserving its character and heritage.
In today’s article we will be looking at 10 most common mistakes people make when renovating an older house and how you can avoid them.
Mistake number 1: Proceeding without plans
This mistake is at the top of our list for a reason. By far the biggest reason the renovation of an older property does not go according to plans is because there were no plans in the first place.
Many people feel the planning stage just takes up time and money which could be better spent on the ‘doing’ stage. Why get plans when all we need is some tiling and carpentry work done? They ask.
With older properties it is not uncommon for unforeseen issues to occur, people then react to these quickly and turn to crisis management. This then removes their focus from the overall project and stops them assessing their future needs when attempting to fix the problem.
Many also feel it is the responsibility of the tradesperson to react to issues or changes as they go along. A good tradesman will be able to cope with most things, but if they have no real plan of action to follow from the start, do not be surprised when the work turns out differently to what you expected.
A successful project all starts with a detailed and comprehensive plan including the full scope of the renovation work required.
Mistake number 2: Believing you can make large scale transformations quickly
One fairly common error is to think that by making minor cosmetic changes (carpet, paint, tiles) it will quickly make a large difference to the look and feel of a home.
This misconception is often because people who watch TV shows where transformation are made over night. This changes are often only skin deep and done to simply get a quick sell of a property. If a building requires real attention it is going to include structural changes, new footings and foundations and modern plumbing and electrical work.
These take time to do, not least due to unforeseen setbacks and the waiting for new materials to be delivered. If rushed, this can seriously damage an older home and make re-doing the work at a later stage very costly and disruptive.
Mistake number 3: Having an unrealistic budget
Like any project, costs must be controlled , but projects with little or no management can quickly lead to overspends when on a tight budget.
If a tradesperson is unable to give a fairly precise breakdown of the costings because of the complexity of the work then it is even more reason to spend time defining the work further so that you can get an accurate budget.
Many tradespeople advise that the budget you agree with them is not at the very top end of the funds you have available. At the very least you should have 10% of the total cost in reserves to cover unexpected problems which are outside the scope of the original work agreement.
To help ensure you stick within budget it is worth comparing several quotes. This not only helps you get a competitive price but if all quotes are fairly similar it will give you confidence that the estimated spend is correct.
Mistake number 4: Miscommunication with tradespeople
It is vitally important that you and your tradesman/tradesmen are in constant communication. Ask for regular updates as the work progresses and make sure you fully understand what is happening.
One of the main reasons for projects going wrong and relationships between homeowners and tradespeople souring is poor communication.
Make sure you and the contractor both set aside time to discuss the work and to raise any concerns you have. It is also important that different tradespeople you may have working on your project at the same time communicate well and understand what each other are doing.
A plumber who needs to drill a hole through a wall can easily disrupt electrical work going on in the other room.
Mistake number 5: Not taking environmental issues into account
Older building often contain outdated construction methods and materials such as lead based paints and asbestos is ceilings and insulation.
It is therefore advisable to have a full survey of the building before you start any work to make sure these are known about in advance. The extra work involved can quickly delay proceeding and sky rocket your costs.
Mistake number 6: Not checking energy efficiency
Older houses are known for their poor energy efficiency, not least those in need of renovation.
Increasing energy efficiency and reducing heat loss from a building may be one of the biggest challenges you face. Why spend all that money on a new central heating system to just see all the heat escape out the roof?
In most older buildings, energy efficiency can be increased by a much as 50-70% by implementing modern insulation techniques. To get this right however, these must be planned out from the start. It’s no good asking for cavity wall insulation once all the plastering and decorating has been done.
The use of a high powered fan to de-pressurise a home can be used by a tradesperson to help detect air leaks before the work begins.
Mistake number 7: Installing new windows
The decision to repair or replace windows in a building can often be one of the hardest decisions when renovating an older house. They are often one of the largest defining features of the character of a home.
Many people will not buy a period property if all the original windows have been replaced with modern uPVC double glazing. So do not be too quick to just rip them out.
In many homes only 10% of heat is actually lost through the windows and replacing them may not make the energy differences you expect. The cost combined with the time it takes to do this can often be better spent on insulating other areas of your property.
Mistake number 8: Replace rather than repair
Just like windows, there are also many other aspects of your property where repairing what you currently have is better than simply ripping it out and starting again.
Stained glass, custom doors, electrical fittings etc can all define the character of a house. Often their minor imperfections help tell the story of a house and the new fittings will look out of place.
Electrical and gas components can often just be tested to make sure they are in line with modern regulations. Doing so can save a lot of time and money.
Mistake number 9: Ignoring the strengths of the property
Old homes were built in a time when rooms were used for different functions that are now no longer required.
It is therefore a good idea to understand exactly how you will use the house before you start the work. This will also help you get the best out of the space you have available.
Older buildings often have large attics and cellars which can be easily converted to gain space and increase the value of your home.
You may also want to convert outbuildings or old barns. So make sure you know the strengths of your property and how they can work well for you and your family.
Mistake number 10: Missing the opportunity to future proof your home
It is likely that the house you are thinking of renovating has not had any major scale changes done to it since it was built.
You now have the chance to make the changes which could last another 100 years. It is therefore important to take into consideration; energy efficiency, environment friendly products and use of recyclable materials.
Bring the house in to the 21st century but at the same time look to restore original features such a old fireplaces and oak floors to their former glory.