Whether you’re dying for a little doer-upper or would prefer to move straight into a new build, you can’t escape the fact we’re a nation of DIY fanatics who love to get stuck into a project.
Around 300,000 homes are renovated or extended each year, according to Homebuilding & Renovating magazine – and you don’t have to look far to find a skip outside someone’s house these days.
Homebuilding & Renovating’s Natasha Brinsmead says do your homework first: “Almost all properties have some potential for renovation - the key is assessing design and financial potential before committing. Be realistic about factors you can’t change, and be bold about what you can.
“An assessment of a house you’re interested in should involve at least two viewings (one of which should be recorded for future analysis) so you can get as many questions answered as possible.
“A structural survey is a great starting point, but you need to carry out a comprehensive analysis of where the key problems are before turning your mind to the key areas for development.
“Almost all structural problems are solvable to some degree, but the more severe will impact on your ability to finance the project and insure the end result.”
Spot the potential
The key to finding a great project is being able to see past the pebble-dashing and picture what it could become. Look for warning signs such as cracks more than 3mm wide that might indicate subsidence, says Natasha, but also check for space to extend into.
Is it a corner plot or a two-bed detached bungalow with room to extend? Have other people in similar homes done loft conversions on the street? And think about the location. What are the schools like in the area? Is there off-road parking? Those are things you can’t change, whereas you can solve most structural issues.
Many older homes will have a bathroom on the ground floor – and nothing upstairs – and a small kitchen you’ll probably want to extend. But these structural changes will cost money, so make sure you’ve factored them into your budget so you’re not living with inconvenience while trying to save up to put things right.
Back to basics
Once you’ve had an offer accepted, it’s wise to pay for a full structural survey to be carried out on the property, which should throw up a list of things that need putting right. For old houses, these can include rewiring, replacing or even installing a central heating system, repairing the roof and correcting any damp and structural issues.
Make sure you do things in the right order – there’s no point plastering over the cracks before you know what’s causing them.
Repair versus replace
Part of the fun of renovating an old property is restoring original period features to their former glory, including tiled floors, wooden doors, sash windows and fireplaces. But you need to weigh up whether it’s more cost-effective and aesthetic to repair or replace.
If your house is in a conservation area, you may need planning permission to change interior doors and windows. Chemically dipping doors to strip off gloss paint can cost from as little as £12 per door, says Natasha, while timber floor restoration specialists charge from £35 per square metre.
When it comes to original windows, Natasha says: “Do all you can to rescue them before you even consider replacing. Even if there is extensive damage, such as wet or dry rot, they can always be repaired - conservationists advise that, providing there is at least 50% of the original remaining, a window should be repaired.”
Some people will move from project to project while others will consider this a long-term family nest, but whatever your circumstances, it pays to think about adding value to your property to sell it on in future. Open-plan living is always desirable, so consider knocking through walls to create a kitchen-diner – or how you could extend to get that dream kitchen.
However, internal remodelling can be an expensive business if load-bearing walls need to be replaced with structural steelwork – and you might need to think about changes in floor level, says Natasha: “Bear this in mind when considering knocking two rooms into one as getting the floors level will add to costs.”
Have you done up an old house? Share your experience and give us your tips in the Comments section below.