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Deciding What Work To Do

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Property Renovation Renovate Extension

When you’re facing a big renovation project, and you’ve listed all the work that needs doing, it can sometimes seem like such an overwhelming amount that you spend all your time trying to work out what to do next, rather than just getting on with it.

The trick is to break everything down into sub-projects, put them in order of importance and then tackle each one, one step at a time.

Get The Right Priorities

You are likely to have different things influencing this priority order. Time, money and available skills will all play a part.

If you’re paying to live somewhere else while the renovation is being done, then spending money to get things done faster might be better overall. If you can move into one part of the house, once finished, while the rest is completed, then it’s not so much of a problem.

Each project will be different, so ask yourself these questions and prioritise your projects accordingly.

Big Jobs Get Done First

It is usually best to get all the big structural work out of the way first as, quite apart from anything else, this gets the mess out of the way.

If the building isn’t weatherproof, then that will be the first thing to aim for, so look to do walls, roofs, insulation, doors and glazing as quickly as possible. Once the building is watertight the time pressure isn’t so great, as work can continue inside the house when the weather is bad, and exterior work can be done when the sun shines.

Consider Staging

If you know that you won’t have enough money to complete the whole job in one go, consider how you can break it up into modules, with some that can be left until later.

Unfortunately, with major works, it’s usually best to get it all done in one go, as it will be a lot more expensive to get builders back on site to do a second phase.

But once that’s done, perhaps you can concentrate on getting all the inside work done on one floor, then move in and complete the rest as and when you have time.

Again, there are some jobs that will be a lot more expensive if they are done in two chunks, like initial wiring and plumbing, but the more basic later work (the ‘second fix’ stage) can be delayed without significantly increasing the cost.

First Fix

Builders talk about the two stages of a build as ‘first fix’ and ‘second fix’.

In the first fix builders, carpenters and joiners will put up the walls while plumbers and electricians install the guts of the plumbing and electrical systems. Plumbers will put in the boilers and lay all the pipes to the correct locations while electricians install the any central equipment and lay the necessary wires all over the house, through walls and floors.

Second Fix

Once this is all done, the plasterers move in and cover the walls, knowing that nothing will change (at least hopefully!) and once that’s done, second fix can begin. For the electrician this means connecting light switches and sockets then testing and certifying the circuits before connecting the mains.

Similarly the plumber connects all the sanitary ware, radiators and the like and will test everything out. They will then work together to connect the boiler to the electrics and test that too.

At this point the final stages of decoration, and installing and finishing bathrooms and kitchens can be done.

Understanding Leads to Better Planning

Knowing this makes it all the more important that you have planned where you want everything to go and timetabled the build, so you aren’t paying for tradesmen to be on site when they can’t do their work.

And it also explains why the having the first fix in a number of stages will over-complicate the build and increase costs, but delaying the second fix, perhaps on one floor, or in some rooms, while you wait to have the money available, isn’t such a problem.

Make sure your tradesmen are aware that you will be following this approach, however, so that they can plan their installations accordingly.

Project Management

With all this to think about, getting it all down on paper is crucial. If your renovation is a big job, consider employing a project manager to take care of all of this for you. It will cost money, of course, but it might well be cheaper than correcting the mistakes that may arise from inexperience.

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