The everyday experiences of a young family taking on full home renovation

Home renovation, Renovation tips and advice

13 ways to cut home renovation costs

If anyone tells you you can renovate a whole house for less than £30k, I for one will laugh. There’s a big difference between refurbishment and a full renovation.

Cosmetic facelifts are great for those who find the right property and are focused on a quick resale. In reality those properties are quickly snapped up by developers giving backhanders to estate agents and solicitors. For the rest of us, typically a bit more effort is required.

There’s a huge amount of satisfaction to be had from turning around a wreck into a beautiful home, but it costs time, effort, stress and money. A lot of money.

Being an ordinary person with no notable personal benefits in relation to the building trade, I had to renovate the properties I’ve owned without mates rates or solid advice from someone who’s been there and done it (without a builder for a dad or an electrician for an aunt).

So from the point of view of a (very green) renovator of their main home, here are my top tips for cutting down costs:

  1. Live in, if you can. We couldn’t as we have a small child and felt it was too much to ask friends and family to take us in for the duration, so we rented a flat at the end of the road for seven months. That was at least £7k in rent on top of mortgage we could have really done without.
  2. Weigh up your options in terms of tradesmen. While you don’t want to take the risk a job may be done badly, look for start ups who come good recommendations who are not yet VAT registered. When it comes to big jobs such as plumbing, electricity, plastering etc, it could save you 20% – but involves taking a chance – call around a few of their previous clients for their verdict. The main thing I’ll say is – even if you go with a start up with a proven track record, you should expect the job to take a bit longer. Don’t rush it, just think of the cash savings.
  3. Don’t underestimate the cost of waste disposal. For us, living in a permit holders only zone meant each skip cost around £500. We needed at least 10 and hadn’t budgeted for this element of the project whatsoever.
  4. Try not to change your mind last minute – this always causes problems and means people spend longer on the job and can charge more.
  5. Get job lot quotes rather than agreeing to a day rate. This will encourage tradesmen to work harder and smarter to get the job done quicker. It can be really frustrating when you’re paying daily and the builder has made six trips to the same merchants.
  6. Don’t scrimp on paint – going for the bigger cheaper tub will enviably cost you more in time alone. A cheap mist coat is fine, top layers need to be hard wearing and good quality, otherwise you’ll repaint the room three times when you could have done it once. Painting is also one of the easiest jobs you can do yourself.
  7. Don’t pay for stuff you don’t really need, such as a £1k consultation with an architect (that only really confirmed what I already knew I wanted to do).
  8. DIY – wherever, however you can. Roll your sleeves up and get dirty!
  9. Save where you can – kitchen cupboard carcasses, architrave, skirting etc. If it’s period, not rotten or totally battered, save, save, save.
  10. Ensure your power tools are under warranty and keep receipts – we went through x5 mouse sanders on our stairs… luckily it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been.
  11. Free up cashflow – delay payments where you can, such as on a 0% interest deal for the first year on kitchens or bifold doors, this can be invaluable if budget is tight.
  12. Stick to smaller jobs – if budget is a concern and you’re not planning on staying in that particular property forever, steer away from changes that require fitting steels or any big structural works as this will quickly ramp up costs.
  13. Book up way in advance. Most good tradesmen will have jobs booked for at least two months ahead. If you’re unorganised and leave it late, you’ll either end up hiring someone who’s not very good or delaying jobs and holding up the whole renovation process (which in turn costs you money).

I hope this helps those of you starting out on your own exciting renovation journey. I’m also keen to hear other people’s renovation money saving tips – feel free to comment!

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