Planning! Planning! Planning!

Ready to start your home renovation project?

It’s exciting. It’s daunting. And if you’re like most homeowners in North London, you’ve been saving for it for years! But before you jump in boots and all, it’s important that you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and the processes involved. The planning phase is probably the most important part of the whole project, so take your time and ensure that you’ve covered all your bases.

1. PLANNING MAKES PERFECT:

The first phase of your project involves planning, putting your dream out on paper, and submitting your drawings to council. We recommend that you involve the experts from the get-go – either an architect of your choice or your building team if they offer a full planning service.

There’s no rights or wrongs when it comes to who you choose to do your plans. It’s good to note that if your building team can do them for you, this might be your best option because they will likely be able to get the plans done quickly and through council in a shorter timeframe. If you decide to use an architect, the process may take a little longer and be a bit pricier.

How to plan for home renovation project

An experienced home designer will be au fait with your local regulations and be able to help you maximize form and functionality in your design. Take their advice on board and give due consideration to their suggestions – these guys might be able to save you a pretty penny by suggesting areas to concentrate on, and where you can afford to cut back.

Going back to architect fees, be careful before you commit to a percentage of the overall project price. For example, your architect might charge 5% of the overall project cost, which on a job worth £150,000 will be £7,500. If he/she adds in higher-end products that bring the overall job cost up, their fees will go up accordingly.

2. WHAT DO THE TERMS ‘PLANNING PERMISSION’ AND ‘BUILDING REGULATIONS’ MEAN?

These two phrases are common in the building world, so let’s take a moment to explain them:

– Planning permission is simply consent from your local council to carry out the works you are proposing. Not every type of home renovation requires planning permission, but without it, there’d be no regulation over what you or your neighbors did that might devalue surrounding property.

– Building regulations are the minimum standards that must be met to ensure that your works are up to scratch in terms of design and construction.

3. HOW DOES THE PLANNING PROCESS WORK?

Once your plans have been drawn up, they will be submitted to your local council. Nowadays that process is done electronically, and there is generally a fee to be paid for processing the application.

If there is anything you are proposing that is likely to cause the project to be rejected by the authorities, it’s important that you take the time to work through this with your designer before you submit your plans.

After your application has been submitted, your neighbors will be informed and given the opportunity to comment on your proposed works. Public notices will also be put up stating the nature of what is proposed. Provided there are no objections, you can reasonably expect to have permission granted within 8 – 12 weeks.

In the situation where objections are received or the plans are not approved by the local authorities, you’ll be back to the drawing board to revise your plans and re-submit them. You may choose to appeal the refusal; however this process may take months.

4. WHAT IS PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT?

There are some renovation projects which fall under the category of permitted development (PD), which simply means that they can be carried out without having to lodge a planning application.

What is Permitted Development?

Projects which fall into this category may include loft conversions, small home extensions (both single and double story) and garage conversions.

Although the scope of PD includes both internal and external works, there are size limits and other restrictions on how much you can change an original home under permitted developments rights. This includes any alterations which have been done by previous owners.

If your home is listed or in a conservation area, there may be tighter regulations on what you can and can’t do.

5. WHAT IS BUILDING CONTROL?

All building works carried out on your site must meet current building codes and safety standards. And the purpose of the Building Control Service is to ensure that everything is up to scratch.

Building Control surveyors visit sites and ensure that building works comply with the government regulations which protect people’s safety, welfare, and health on and around construction sites.

Regular visits from your Building Control surveyor will help to ensure that your works are carried out properly, and if there are any issues, your surveyor can work through these with your building team and get them fixed up immediately.

What is Building Control?

So, what kind of things will the Building Control look at?

Here are a few of the things (but certainly not everything) they’ll be checking up on:

  • Foundations
  • Damp proofing
  • Structural issues
  • Emergency precautions (e.g., fire escape access)
  • Sanitation
  • Ventilation
  • Accessibility
  • Waste
  • Staircase

Your Building Control Inspector (BCI) will make several visits. These are the stages at which you should expect him/her to come around:

1. Before the works begin – some inspectors like to have a look at the site before the project commences
2. After demolition is complete and foundation trenches have been put in
3. Drainage and Fall – all new drainage will need to be inspected for alignment prior to covering over
4. Damp-proof courses – all damp-proof courses and damp-proof membranes need to be inspected before they are covered with brickwork
5. Oversite Materials – materials and insulation over the site will be checked to ensure that they’re up to standard
6. Steel Structure Completion – once steel structure is completed, but before plaster goes on
7. Roof Structure – when roof structure is complete, and insulation is in place
8. Prior to Occupation – if you intend to occupy the building before the works are complete, an inspection will be necessary
9. Completion – once works are complete, a final inspection will be necessary. If everything is found to be satisfactory, a completion certificate can be issued.

As a customer, it is your responsibility to ensure that the Building Surveyor visits your property, unless this responsibility is taken on by your renovation team.

When the works are complete, your building surveyor will sign off on the completed project and issue a certificate which is proof that everything has been done to the correct standards. This certificate is an important document if and when you decide to sell your property – it is used by lenders, solicitors, agents, and property insurers as proof that all alterations comply with regulations.

You have two choices when it comes to who you use for your Building Control Inspector: you can either opt for your local inspector from the local council or you can hire the services of a private company.

There is a few differences between the two services, most obvious being the price – the private company will likely be a bit more expensive. But like any service, you’ll pay for what you get because a private inspector will generally do a better job and have a better attitude towards your project than an inspector from the local council.

Maintaining good relationships with your building inspector is a no-brainer. At the end of the day, you’re relying on them to sign off on your project and give you the paperwork to say everything is ok.

6. CHOOSING THE RIGHT TEAM FOR THE JOB:

A few minutes spent googling will bring up a long list of renovation companies in North London. The burning question is, how do you know who is the right team for your job?

Building teams can be roughly divided into three categories:

1. Maintenance and repairs contractors – small projects and fixups
2. Builders – medium-sized projects including home renovations, extensions, and conversions
3. Building/Construction teams – new builds and large projects

Don’t rush into choosing your contractor. Research online. Look at reviews. Speak to friends or family who have successfully renovated their homes and ask for referrals.

How to plan home renovation

Visit show homes. Look at past projects, both new and old – sometimes dodgy workmanship only becomes obvious as building ages.

Touch base with several builders and meet them on-site to discuss your plans. A face-to-face meeting is a great way to assess a builder’s professionalism and approach to your project.

It is important that your structural works are carried out by a professional team with the appropriate experience and skills. Take the time to ask about their insurance policies and equipment and investigate their history to make sure they have a clean record of accomplishment.

If you choose to arrange the electrical and plumbing works yourself, ensure that the trades you hire have the appropriate qualifications.

Joinery needs to be done by a professional who offers excellent quality and guarantees.

Whether you choose to do your own painting and decorating or hire a professional is up to you. If you’re handy with a paintbrush and roller, this might be one area where you can save yourself a few pounds.

The same applies for landscaping – you can either apply your DIY skills or get a landscaping company in to do it for you.

Maintaining open and clear communication channels with your building team is crucial. Renovating can be a stressful time, especially if you are living in the house while the works are going on, so it’s important to always preserve good relationships and discuss problems openly to avoid nasty confrontations or fall-outs.

7. FINANCES:

Setting a realistic budget for your home renovation can be a bit tricky, but it’s super important. Of course, renovating an existing building is a different game to building from scratch, and there’s usually a few hidden surprises. However, that’s even more reason you should understand and have control of your finances.

Finance

Go through your quotation with a fine-toothed comb. Make sure you understand what’s included and what’s not. Are there any extras that will be added to that bottom line or has everything been accounted for?

Budget an extra 10 – 15% for unexpected items. Even the most detailed quotation can’t account for surprises that may not become evident until after demolition has started!

Do you need to have the total sum of money in hand? Not necessarily. If you own the property, your bank will likely be willing to lend you some cash too.

8. TO STAY OR NOT TO STAY?

The decision to stay or shift out of your property during the renovation process is a personal one. There are pros and cons either way, so let’s take a quick look at the benefits and disadvantages:

– Financial Strain:

If moving out involves renting another property, this might be stretching the finances too far.

– Inconvenience:

Depending on the works being undertaken, you can expect a few (or more than a few) inconveniences if you decide to stay. For example, if you’re re-doing your kitchen, you’ll likely be without cooking facilities, storage, and kitchen sink for a while. If you’re doing a bathroom renovation, you might be without a shower or second toilet while these works are being done.

– Mess:

Renovating is dirty so if you’re a clean freak, you might find this too distressing. Of course, measures can be taken to minimize the dust and dirt, but somehow a certain amount of grit seems to filter into every part of the home!

Privacy:

With builders coming and going from your home, you’ll have to be prepared to sacrifice some of your family privacy, at least during work hours.

– Location:

If your home is located close to schools or work, you may find it easier to stay in – extra travel each day can be a big deal.

– Involvement:

There’s no better way to feel part of your project than to live in and see the project at each stage! And if you watch closely, you’ll even pick up a few new tips and tricks to add to your own DIY skillset!

Do you want your renovation project to be successful?

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