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Get Professional Renovation Help

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 12 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Property Renovation Renovate Extension

The reason that many people get into renovating property either for fun, out of necessity, or in order to make a profit, is because they enjoy doing much of the work. They are often people who find DIY fun and have tackled progressively harder jobs in their own homes until they feel confident to go out and do a whole renovation. Most of them know where the limits to their knowledge are or can identify when a job is too dangerous to tackle themselves.

Which Professionals to Hire?

But it’s not only the jobs that are technically too hard or unsafe for an amateur, where professional help can be of use. There are areas in a renovation project where outside skills can save you serious time and money.

At the beginning of a project it’s worth considering three sources of professional advice: an architect, a structural engineer and a surveyor. Of course the size of your job and its complexity will dictate whether or not you use any or all of these.


Even on an apparently simple job, an architect can prove his or her worth. On one house, where a garage was being added to the side, the architect suggested making it double-height and putting a master bedroom and en-suite above it. Although this was never in their minds at the start, they are thrilled with the result and the value of the house increased by 30% more than the cost of the work.

This is a good idea of the fresh perspective that an architect can bring, and they can also help move a project through the planning permission approval stage. A structural engineer can help with the building regulations approval as well.

Preventing Surprises

Structural engineers and surveyors are crucial for projects where the property is old and neglected or where there’s substantial rearranging or extending of the property to be done. If you are renovating for profit, it’s not wise to buy a run-down property without a full structural survey in any case. This will prevent you from any nasty surprises and means you can budget accordingly.

As the work begins, an experienced project manager may be worth their weight in gold. If you are a novice, they will prevent you from falling for the many traps that await the uninitiated, making sure that materials and workers are where they need to be and no delays occur. They cost money of course, but a look at some of the property renovation projects shown on TV these days should quickly demonstrate the cost of not employing one.

Consider True Costs

While the job is under way, you might think that its cheaper if you weigh in yourself and do some of the work, and that’s often true. Many renovators get the professionals in to do the major tricky jobs and then finish it off themselves, but the finishing off can often drift on for months, if not years. Of course in some areas, electricity and gas spring immediately to mind, there are some jobs that you are not legally allowed to do unless you are correctly qualified and registered.

The rule as what you do yourself also changes if you are still working while the project is underway. For labouring, for example, work out how much it will cost to pay someone and then compare it with what you earn. If you’ll earn more for the same amount of time, then it might be better to get a labourer to do the work, who will be faster anyway, and then use your time for something that is of more value to you.

Finding the Right People

Once you’ve decided which jobs you’re going to hire other people to do, the next step is to source reputable people to do them. The core rules are the same across the board, see at least three people, check their credentials, and if possible get recommendations from friends and neighbours who have used them.

Checking out trade credentials is important but be aware that many trade associations merely ask member to pay membership fees, there’s no assessment of the members. If you are concerned about a particular person or company, it might be worth enquiring with the planning department or the locals trading standards authority. They may be able to steer you into the arms of someone that they know by reputation.

The Right Architect is Crucial

If you are taking on a substantial rebuild and modification of a property, you may need to hunt around to find an architect who suits you. Architects have their own visions about what they want to create and although they’ll obviously listen to clients, their interpretation may not be exactly what you were thinking of.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you thought you could design and plan a home then you wouldn’t be looking for an architect, and you expect them to bring something of themselves to the project. But it’s important to find someone who’s in tune with you, otherwise their ideas are going to be too far away from yours.

Take Decisions Carefully

The whole situation of hiring people is critical to the success of any renovation project. Professional developers will tell you that getting the right team around you is a holy grail and you should keep them together as much as possible. So take time to consider where you want to do the work yourself and where a professional will be a better choice, and then take your time choosing the right people. It will be well worth it in the end.

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