10 Tips for Renovating Property

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

10 Tips for Renovating Property

When you decide on your budget for renovation plans, it is prudent to also set aside a reserve fund for unforeseen costs – but what do you need to consider specifically? A good architect should advise you on this at the outset. Here are the most common hidden costs you might not have taken into account...

Building permits and planning permission

Building or extending a new property is key to its future value. It’s wise to enquire if you need local council permission before you begin. Mostly, you will need to employ a registered architect to do this for you and pay a small fee to the council.

Survey reports

There are other reports required for a building permit. These are additional surveys that determine the state of the existing structure and drains, whether your building has dry rot or asbestos, or whether it’s close to a waterway or river. It’s always worth speaking to your council and your architect if you are in any doubt.

Structural alterations

If you are planning structural works, such as creating a large opening at the rear of your property with sliding or folding doors, or you need a new floor to create your loft space, you will need to allow for a structural engineer’s fees to professionally design your project. Some structural works will require additional permits – check with your local council or municipality.

Building control

You are required by law to employ a building control officer to oversee the works done by your builder. Their purpose is to advise both you and your builder on current building regulations, fire escape provisions and health and safety – during the works and after completion. The building control officer is responsible for informing the council about the start date of the build and will provide a certificate at the end. You can choose between an officer from the council or a private company.

Listed building and conservation area consent

If your property is listed, you will need to submit a listed building consent application. This requires your architect to document, identify and preserve historical features within the planning application and also to protect these features during the works.

In France, the designs will need to be approved by the Architecte des Batiments de France. Providing you seek advice from the Mairie at an early stage, you should have little difficulty obtaining permission for any reasonable proposals.

Party wall agreement

If your project requires work to your property’s party walls, or would undermine the stability of your neighbour’s home, you will need to have a party wall agreement in place before starting.

Builders’ preliminaries

It’s advisable to ask your builder to provide an estimate (or devis if you’re in France), particularly if you’re purchasing an old property. There may be additional works to factor into your project plan, like electrical rewiring, improving water pressure, levelling old floors, thermal insulation, works to pipes and drainage or weatherproofing.

Works to your garden

If you are having work done to your garden, part of it may be underground to improve water drainage. For example, if you have pools of water in your garden, a concealed soak away may be needed. If you want lights, power, or a water tap fitted, you will need cables and pipes laid well before you can focus on the planting.

Fixtures and finishing

This cost is usually the one clients care about most, as these are the parts everyone will see. So it’s important to focus, with your designer, on the style, specific finishes and materials you want. This expenditure should be considered at the same time as you and your architect decide on the layout of your renovations, in order that all costs are included and not hidden until the end.


Last not least, having a safety net, a certain percentage of your overall budget, to help cushion any unforeseen costs – such as fluctuations in exchange rates – is a very sensible idea.

Michael Schienke

Originally published in the A Place in the Sun magazine - Issue 127