Last edited 22 Jul 2021


See also: Self-build home: project plan.

Lath and plaster.jpg


[edit] Introduction

The term ‘renovation’ refers to the process of returning something to a good state of repair. In the construction industry, renovation refers to the process of improving or modernising an old, damaged or defective building. This is as opposed to 'retrofitting' which is providing something with a component or feature not originally fitted, or 'refurbishment' which is a process of improvement by cleaning, decorating, or re-equipping.

According to Approved document L of the building regulations, 'major renovation' means '...the renovation of a building where more than 25% of the surface area of the building envelope undergoes renovation'.

It is common for people to purchase run-down properties, often houses, and renovating them as a means of increasing their value. Typically, renovation work is categorised as ‘cosmetic’ or ‘structural’.

Structural renovation might include:

Cosmetic renovation might include:

[edit] Renovation process

Carefully preparing for renovation before starting is crucial terms of estimating the likely cost and programme and ultimately delivering a successful, problem-free project.

[edit] Finding a project

Online search engines are the easiest way of finding suitable properties, although it should be borne in mind that agents may not be aware of the true potential of some properties.

Properties may also be found by word of mouth, or simply by keeping your eyes open when passing buildings.

Very often, renovation projects are sold at auction, go to sealed bids, or are settled on best or final offers. Understanding these processes is integral to becoming the successful bidder.

For more information, see Bidding for renovation works.

[edit] Financing

If the renovation is to be more cosmetic, high street lenders may be the best option in terms of acquiring a loan. If more structural work is required, i.e. to make the property habitable, then financing may require a specialist lender. There are several lenders that offer renovation-specific mortgages with only small cash deposits required. They are often stage payment mortgages meaning that funds are released at various milestones during the project delivery.

Grants may also be available for renovation works, either at a local level from local authorities or at the national level from central government bodies.

In additional to the work itself, there are other costs associated with renovation projects, including:

[edit] Condition assessment

It is important to get a detailed assessment of the condition of the building. A chartered surveyor can be commissioned to provide a building report identifying essential repairs or further investigation that is needed. This will also help identify the type of construction used throughout the structure which can provide a steer in terms of appropriate redesign and construction techniques.

It is generally beneficial to attend the survey, as it is then possible to ask questions or to draw the attention of the surveyor to specific issues.

A measured survey, and the preparation of scale drawings may be required if the building is to be remodelled or extended.

[edit] Secure the building

A building will start deteriorating if it is left empty for more than a few months. This can rapidly accelerate if damp gets inside due to broken windows, slipped tiles, and so on. An empty property may also be susceptible to vandalism, trespassing and theft.

It is important therefore that a property is secured and made weathertight before work begins. Metal shutters can be rented, or sheets of plywood used to board up windows and doors. Waterproof sheets can be used to secure missing or damaged roof sections.

Buildings and public liability insurance cover may be required to protect against damage, fire, construction works, and so on.

[edit] Consents

While some aspects of the project, such as a garage or loft conversion may fall within the allowances made under Permitted Development Rights, it is necessary to consider which aspects of the proposed renovation might require planning permission. In addition, building regulations approval may be required for anything other than minor cosmetic works. Other permissions may also be required, such as listed building consent, conservation area consent, landlord approval, party wall act agreement, and so on.

A solicitor can help check the title deeds or lease for any other development restrictions that may apply.

The earlier that applications are submitted the better, as they can take several months to be processed.

[edit] Initial construction works

The initial works might include:

[edit] Structural work and extensions

Structural work can begin once the existing building is stable. All structural work must comply with the Building Regulations. It is important to ensure the existing building is protected from damage during the works using plastic sheets, boards, and so on.

[edit] First fix

When the structural works are nearing completion, work can begin on internal stud walls, flooring, fixing ceiling joists, new staircases, wiring and plumbing works, and so on.

Things that may later be concealed by plaster will need to be installed at this stage, such as:

Following this, re-plastering can be carried out, along with new flooring or other surfaces that are required.

[edit] Second fix

This includes:

[edit] Decorating

Painting, staining, varnishing and so on begins once second fix work and preparation is complete. To achieve a good finish it is important that the surfaces are thoroughly smooth and clean in advance. Tiling of bathrooms and kitchens should also be done at this stage, as well as any soft floor coverings such as vinyl and carpet.

[edit] Snagging

Small problems will often arise after the renovation is complete. A retention sum may be retained until tradesmen or contractors have resolved any defects which are their responsibility.

[edit] Common pitfalls of renovation

Renovation projects can face a number of common pitfalls.

[edit] Wrong property

The aim when looking for a property to renovate is to find one that isn’t in a condition that will require very serious work, or even rebuilding. It can be wise to commission a survey before making a bid, as this can highlight defects and structural issues that could make the investment more risky than expected. If it is an old building, it is important to check whether it is listed, or in a conservation area as this can limit the changes that can be made.

It can also be wasteful to purchase a property that is already in reasonable condition, as renovation works may involve removing items that still have life left in them, whilst only marginally increasing the value of the property at significant cost.

[edit] Poor cost control

It is prudent to keep a contingency sum of 10-20% of the remaining spend in case of emergencies (not just as a general 'slush fund').

In older properties it can be better to ‘make do and mend’ rather than spending on costly replacements.

In order to keep costs down and avoid misunderstandings over details, good communication between client and builder is vital.

Often people can make the mistake of ordering too few materials in the process of trying to keep costs down. Ordering extra materials can incur time delays and additional costs.

[edit] Incorrect budgets

Budgets are often over optimistic, as developers are keen to get on with the work. This can prove risky, as renovation is generally less predictable than new build, with many ‘hidden costs’ not being accounted for in the original budget.

Generally costs go up, whilst actual returns do not match expectations.

[edit] Focus on unnecessary work

Renovators can sometimes focus on the more cosmetic aspects of the project, whilst neglecting the more important structural issues that could end up being very costly.

In period properties it is sensible to adopt a ‘repair not replace’ approach, as retaining period features is often cheaper than replacing them, and they can add character to the property.

[edit] Incorrect materials

Problems can arise when buildings are renovated using incorrect or the cheap materials.

So-called ‘miracle treatments’ can also be a problem when applied to older buildings. For example, spray-on renders and polyurethane foams can obstruct crucial ventilation paths in walls and roofs.

[edit] Spending over the ‘market ceiling

There is a ‘market ceiling’ that applies to every location which dictates the maximum amount buyers are prepared to spend, regardless of the special features that can be added to a renovation project. It is important not to get carried away and fit features that exceed those expectations. Conversely, it is important not to spend money on misguided works that actually reduce the value of the property.

[edit] Management

Renovation works are often taken on by people with little or no experience of the construction industry. Whilst it may seem to be a cost saving not to obtain professional advice or project management services, this can prove to be an expensive mistake in the long run.

[edit] Renovation in relation to a thermal element

According to approved document L, renovation in relation to a thermal element means:

the provision of a new layer in the thermal element (other than where that new layer is provided solely as a means of repair to a flat roof) or the replacement of an existing layer, but excludes decorative finishes, and 'renovate' shall be construed accordingly.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External references


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