10 Problems People Face when Renovating a Property and How to Fix Them
- Choosing an architect
The first thing to consider when starting your project is finding the right architect. The first problem faced by most is working with an architect that does not suit their project. The ability to work alongside an architect that understands your brief, budget and vision is necessary.
To make sure you chose the right architect, don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment. Many architects are driven by a desire to win work, and will not always be realistic when discussing budget and expectations.
Often, an architect who carries out a reality check at the start of the project is the most reliable. Although disheartening, having an architect tell you your project is too ambitious, or your budget is too small at the start is far better than being told halfway through a project. These architects may lose a lot of work this way, but it is more likely that will deliver on their promises.
Always compare 2-3 architects before making a decision, and ask to see recent projects with similar budgets and planning success.
Scenario Architecture’s Tip: The best and easiest way to independently check an architect planning application success is to visit your local council’s website and search Planning Applications. In there, you can find all the applications they ever submitted and their success rate. (click here to find your local Council)
- Expectations Vs Reality
We all want to achieve more with less, its human nature. When it comes to a renovation project, the discrepancy between what you want and what is realistic regarding planning, budget and other limitations can become painfully big.
If expectations are not accurately discussed from the outset, many problems are bound to arise along the way and create disappointment and even unnecessary disputes.
To avoid this, include your architect in your briefing process rather than presenting a fixed brief. Make sure you’re upfront and clear about your requirements regarding what is essential and what isn’t. If your architect fully understands your project, they can provide alternative ideas on how to achieve it these may be more cost efficient, or easier to obtain planning and construction terms.
Example – We had clients who asked for a loft conversation with a large dormer. However, when we analysed their exact specifications regarding expectations from the space and its purpose, we realised these objectives could be met without a full conversion or dormer. We lowered the ceiling of the floor below slightly and created an attractive loft room, ideal for relaxing.
- Unrealistic deadlines & Christmas Eve on a construction site
Everyone knows that construction projects tend to take longer and cost more than expected. However, with correct planning and management by your appointed professional team lead by your architects both can and should be avoided.
Often, people choose to be optimistic and pre-arrange important events such as inviting everyone from abroad over for Christmas to enjoy and celebrate in the new house, ten days after the official end of the construction contract…
Your architect will advise you to allow contingency, both regarding budget and time frame, over what is officially indicated in the building contract. However, the reality is that this contingency is likely to get lost somewhere along the way or forgotten altogether. Typically this happens at the tender stage when it becomes apparent that not everything you wished for can be accommodated within your target budget.
Scenario Architecture’s Tip: We always advise clients to allow a contingency (about 5% on budget and 20% of time frame) over any “declared” contingency, which we discuss together and build into the program, and we advise that you not tell anyone about it, not even us…
- Staying at home during the works
Often people approach a renovation project shortly after buying a new house and moving in, in which case the thought of having to move again during the works is daunting.
Depending on the extent of the planned works and the feasibility of isolating the project area from the rest of the house, staying at home may be feasible in theory. However, in reality, levels of noise and dust are always more than expected, and sudden unplanned cut offs from electricity, gas and water are extremely common.
Simply don’t do it, find a solution, family, friends, airBnB…trip around the world…
- Over controlling
Your home is naturally your most prized possession, and understandably many people wish to stay in control of the whole process themselves.
However, too much involvement from clients can do more harm than good. Visiting the site too often without the architect present and instructing even minor changes to the contractor directly, creates delays and gives rise to contractor claims for additional time and money, ultimately resulting in an exact opposite from the desired outcome.
The solution? Be very picky and particular about choosing the right team for your project, micro manage and fully control this process to make sure everyone’s expectations are clear and aligned. Once you have assembled your dream team, take a breath and a large step back and trust them to deliver what they committed to delivering.
- Neighbours & Planning
A common misconception is that neighbours are likely to have a significant impact on planning results and if they are generally (and understandably) not too warm to the idea of construction works next door they can quickly make the planning process tough.
The source of this misconception comes from relatively rare circumstances where neighbours do manage to overturn planning results, normally with a good reason
To avoid this problem be informed and act on time, start the discussion with neighbours early on and give them the reassurance that they are consulted and listened to, but at the same time that you are fully aware yourself of the impact, neighbours can have on your project. While neighbours are consulted by the council and can object to any application, councils tend to rightfully disregard, irrelevant and emotional objections. After all, it is unlikely that a neighbour will raise any concerns that the council is not already aware of and considered about national and local policies.
- Neighbours & Party walls
Another common misconception is that, if they wished, neighbours can use the Party Wall Act to influence the design or layout of the neighbouring scheme, and delay or even stop projects.
Luckily, this could not be further than the truth (although, if not dealt with in accordance to correct procedures things can indeed go very wrong and lead to significant loss of time and money).
Unless your neighbours are very friendly, the scheme is simple and does not involve significant structural alterations. It is recommended to appoint a party wall surveyor who will accurately record the existing conditions on both sides of the wall, and will also know exactly how to manage the conversation with the adjoining owners or their appointed surveyor.
Scenario Architecture’s Tip: Always approach your neighbours yourself before you appoint a surveyor, it will increase the chance that they will agree to a joined surveyor which will significantly reduce your cost as you are paying for both.
- Escalating building costs
Possibly the main source of concern for people is the potential for construction cost to escalate and spiral out of control.
While it is true that building projects and renovations, in particular, are notorious for taking much longer and costing much more than expected, there is no real reason for this to happen.
It all starts with aligning your expectations with reality and setting aside real contingency as per point 2. It continues with early integration of cost consideration into the process, and the best way of doing this is to make sure your architects intend to issue clear and descriptive drawings and information for initial pricing early on in the process.
Scenario Architecture’s Tip: Including indicative structural scheme within initial pricing packages will dramatically improve the accuracy and reliability of the returned estimates. An early appointment of a structural engineer is highly recommended, most engineers will prefer to come on board early, and their overall fees should not be any higher.
- Saving on preparation reports and investigations
Soon after the appointment of an architect, several surveys and reports are likely to be required, such as topographical and arboriculture. Later towards planning and construction several more such as daylight & sunlight, CCTV drainage survey, asbestos, etc.
These additional costs can often become an easy target for people to try and save on, either by selecting the lowest price they can find or simply by not instructing recommended surveyors.
Considering the entire cost of a project from inception to completion, more often than not this approach ends up creating additional costs and delays.
Do not try to save cost on preparations, investigation works and surveys. Information is power; you can expect and trust the judgment of your appointed professional team to only request information which is needed.
Scenario Architecture’s Tip: Appointing consultants that your professional team has used in the past is always preferable, not only because they come recommended based on experience, but also they naturally feel committed to architects and engineers who repeatedly generate business for them.
- Overlooking the garden
When renovating a property, it is natural to focus most of the work on the house itself and overlook areas such as garden, driveways and paths. This may be less of an issue if the project is a long-term home. However, if you are preparing to sell the property on, ignoring this work can have a detrimental impact on resale value, no matter how beautiful the property is internally.
Make sure that these areas are part of your brief and will be given sufficient attention from the professional team, make sure to leave enough budget at the end of your renovation for landscaping and make sure you do not run out of time and money for this!