You are here: How to kick start your home improvement

How to kick start your home improvement project

Start transforming your home with these pointers

Rising property prices means improving rather than moving has become an attractive option for home owners.

In the 1980s, a property sold on average once every ten years; today the average time between moves is 21 years, according to the latest Home Track report.

But it can be daunting embarking on a home improvement project for the first time. Whether you plan a simple bathroom refurbishment or a major two-storey extension, here are a few tips.

Get a survey done

Accurate drawings are essential for any successful home improvement project, so get a measured survey done. This will help you explore the possibilities, prepare a preliminary design and work out a budget.

Be creative

Knocking through internal walls can be a great way of updating older properties. A small kitchen can become part of a bigger, brighter living space by removing an internal wall and adding floor-to-ceiling windows or skylight. Or you could add floor space by building a rear, side or even front extension. It may be possible to remove the roof and build an extra storey or dig down under the house. Find out what your neighbours have done or ask an architect for ideas.

Do the maths

Work out the ratio between the cost and the end value. Ask local estate agents for the average price per square metre in your area and compare it with your proposed project. They can also advise you on the improvements most likely to add value to your property whether it is an open plan kitchen/dining room or extra bedroom. Basement excavation only makes financial sense in very expensive areas, such as London.

Make use of professionals

DIY can save large sums on labour but it will take longer and it is important not to over-estimate your abilities. It is essential to use a professional for electrics for example. A structural engineer will ensure you don’t damage your property. There are no rules on when to employ an architect. Some people use them for a small extension while others successfully remodel their whole house themselves. Architects are highly trained design professionals. They don’t just produce a set of drawings. Architects can lift your project out of the ordinary. Good design adds value to your property.

Check if you need planning permission and building regulations

Check if permissions are required before building starts. Minor extensions may not require a full planning application but ask your local council. Even if a project doesn’t need planning consent, it may still require building control approval. Inspectors check if the work meets building regulations, including structural strength and fire safety. Keep all completion certificates from building regulations as you will need these when it comes to sell. Getting planning permission for major extensions can be tricky, especially for period properties or in a conservation area. An architect or planning consultant can steer you through the process and increase your chances of success.

Transform your home in no time at all with these easy tips
Transform your home in no time at all with these easy tips

Get several estimates

Check price comparison websites such as, and Get several different estimates from builders. You should ask to see examples of past work and check references. Make sure that all the tradespeople working for you are properly licensed and insured.

Get a written contract

A written contract makes things clearer for both sides and helps prevent misunderstandings. Make sure you agree on the work to be done, materials to be used and time it will take. For larger projects, it is a good idea to agree a payment plan with your builder. Stage the payments as the work is completed.  It may not be necessary to pay anything up front. Discuss this with your builder.  

Work out your budget

Chances are your dream project will cost more than you expect. Before you choose a high-end marble work top or porcelain tile, find out the cost per metre and how much you will need. There may be cheaper alternatives with a similar look. Don’t forget to allow for labour costs and VAT, if applicable. Make sure you leave a contingency fund for unexpected costs.

Consider the neighbours

Keep the neighbours happy by notifying them as soon as possible about a major extension. Show them drawings and discuss any concerns before applying for planning permission. Consider the impact of building work on neighbours, tell then when work is due to start and apologise for any inconvenience.