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House renovation tips

Lewis Potter
Last Updated 16 May 2024

Take a scroll on Insta or TikTok, and you’re sure to find loads of renovation reveals that make doing up a house look like the best side project. But navigating a reno can be tricky - there’s a lot of mess, noise and complications in between the before vs after. 

Lewis, one of the mortgage advisors here at Tembo, has recently renovated his house. Now safely on the other side, he’s sharing his top tips for avoiding a reno horror story. So if you dream of going full Kirstie Alsopp one day (LIOLI fans, listen up) then read on.

1. Plan, plan and plan again

Really think about your space and how you can make the most of it. We found that measuring spaces, moving our current furniture around and even rough sketches gave us a feel for how the new space could work. There will be some compromises, so make sure you know what you’re willing to budge on and what you won’t.

2. Budget obsessively

It is a common saying that if you have a budget for a build, double it. However, with a good builder, you can stay in control of your finances. Do leave a contingency though. Our builder said to us early on that the only people that push up the price are clients, so watch for budget-creep. You’ll reach a point where you want to fix/change/improve everything, and control and prioritisation are your best friends.

3. Ensure you get more than one quote 

…and don’t settle for a quote you’re not happy with. We had four different quotes and all were very different in quality. Some quotes don’t include much detail about what is included in the price and some quotes are brilliantly detailed - if one is very basic, ask them to itemise it. It isn’t always the case, but if someone can start your huge renovation work the following week, ask yourself why they have no work on at the moment.  

4. Go with a trusted tradie

The tradesmen will be in your house for months, so make sure they’re people you want around and trust to do the job properly. Our Ragdoll cat Molly is a house cat - with doors being left open, walls coming down etc, we needed people we trusted to not leave doors open behind them. Knowing that the builders would respect our space was essential to us. Use local recommendations, and check online reviews and photos. Plus, once you engage a builder seriously, they’ll introduce you to previous clients - either to go and see the work in person or for a phone testimonial. 

5. Love thy neighbour

Speak with your neighbours before any work commences - your work will cause disruption for them, especially with deliveries and vans parking everywhere. And the dust… their windows won’t thank you. So, it’s courteous to send a message or pop over and talk to them about your plans. It keeps them in the loop and helps keep everyone happy. 

6. Remember you need to eat

We had our kitchen ripped out in November and didn’t use our new kitchen until March. Luckily we had planned ahead for this - we adapted our utility room to use as a kitchen, which was a lifesaver. If you don’t already have one, buy an air fryer and electric hob - these can be used in any room!

7. Be prepared to work around building regs

This is one thing you won’t have much control over as the renovation will need to meet certain standards. For example, we had to have extra fire alarms and a heat sensor, as well as an exit out of the living room in case of a fire - all things we hadn’t planned for, but needed to have. But on the plus side, this meant we now have some beautiful French doors that lead onto the garden, which weren’t in the original design!

8. Don’t settle for anything other than the best 

If you’re unhappy with a piece of work or even if you’ve changed your mind on something, do not be afraid to speak with your builder. It’s quite amazing what they can change, often in just a few hours. Communication saves everyone time and prevents you from being disappointed with the end result. Also, as soon as they’ve finished the job, it is going to be really hard to get them back to do any snagging or fixes; take advantage of having them there and invest in the job. 

9. Keep those old mugs!

You’d be surprised how many mugs become a casualty of the build and how many of your mugs vanish and new mugs never before seen appear! We binned loads of mugs when we moved house and have regretted it ever since. A quick stop around charity shops in town helped us replenish our supplies.

10. Plan for the plumber’s arrival

Before the plumbers come in, go to the loo and fill up the kettle, and make sure you have some spare water to hand. There’s nothing worse than needing the loo when the water is turned off! Or flicking the kettle on and seeing it’s empty

11. Be thrifty and savvy with your money

We were really fortunate to work with some incredible companies who gifted us products in return for creating content on social media. This included a towel rail, lights and tiles, just to name a few. We also saved money by selling anything we no longer needed via Facebook marketplace including the oven, the old French doors and the breakfast bar. Although it’s always best to buy things outright, you can purchase big-ticket items on 0% interest finance and buy now, pay later schemes to spread the cost. We bought all of our appliances through one of these schemes and it really helped us budget effectively, and pay for these at a more comfortable time for us.

12. WFH? Keep your work in the loop

If you work from home, a renovation can cause a huge disruption, especially if you are on a lot of calls. Keep your employer in the loop and ask your builder for updates on when things are happening. Electrics and noise were the biggest challenges, however getting a reliable headset is a game-changer. You can also try to schedule your days off for when the electrics will be turned off.

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