How to plan a deep retrofit renovation

Renovation projects are very challenging to manage, especially deep retrofit. There are so many component parts to arrange and each needs to be dove tailed neatly into the next for a successful outcome. Unless you have a deep knowledge of construction and experience in construction management you will struggle to succeed.

However, construction continues to be the one industry in which people presume that they can give it a go themselves and succeed. Without experience oversights and delays will occur and they will always cost you money – extra money for numerous simple things that you wouldn’t even consider at first. For example, the tradesmen left standing around with nothing to do for a day or two, they’ll still have to be paid for those unproductive days. Or simple things like not ordering the correct quantity of materials, or even just forgetting to have the portaloo removed on time. These are all ‘slippage’ and slippage cost money. If you don’t have experience in construction management, you’ll most likely fail to successfully manage a renovation project. Not only will the quality of the finished product not be good, but you’ll suffer budget over-runs too.

We recommend that no-one every attempts to renovate by direct labour. Renovation works and especially deep retrofit require close co-ordination and co-operation between tradesmen and suppliers. There are a host of jobs and tasks that are not the responsibility of any particular trade. These are known as ‘builders’ works’ and will become your concern if you decide to give direct labour a shot. Buildings renovated by direct labour usually reflect the fact that there is no experienced individual in charge with an interest in overall the finished product. Builders and tradesmen are accustomed to operating under the instruction of a project manager, normally an architect. An experienced project manager will consider all the elements of your renovation, using experience, expertise and joined-up thinking to stitch them all together. The project manager will care about your project and the quality of your completed deep retrofit.

In addition to this, for health and safety reasons it is now a legal requirement to appoint a competent person to plan and oversee your project. It is essential therefore to ensure that the company you engage is competent and fully insured with public liability, employers liability and all risks insurance cover. If the contractor you engage is not competent and properly insured and an accident happens on site, then you may find yourself badly exposed.

Carrying out a survey to establish the condition of your existing building is also of utmost importance. By doing this you will minimise the likelihood of ‘nasty surprises’ during the course of the job. By getting a survey done you will also avoid wasting time considering unworkable solutions such as, for example, underfloor heating, which may not function in your building due to its original condition.

On account of this need for experience and competence you should plan to engage experienced people to manage your renovation project for you.

Having done that, the next most important thing to do is to prepare a clear brief. Competent and experienced people will still need you to tell them what you want to achieve. This is ‘the brief’.

Be very clear about what you want to achieve in your deep retrofit renovation project and why you want to achieve these things. What is your primary motivation for doing the project? It may be that you are uncomfortable or cold in your home or that your fuel bills are too high. Perhaps your house is draughty or suffers with condensation? Or your main priority may be to transform a badly laid out, old-fashioned and dated house that doesn’t function well for you and your family. Make a definitive list of all the elements of your home that don’t work well for you and make sure that the final plan for your house solves as many of these issues as possible. Don’t loose sight of these priorities during the design process.

Knowing what you want to achieve also means that design decisions can be finalised well in advance of the project commencing. By being well-organised beforehand you will avoid the stress of making important decisions under pressure while the works are ongoing on site. This will also greatly speed up the whole building process and you’ll be able to occupy your home sooner and avoid any extra costs.

Finally, our finances should also be arranged well in advance. The budget is an essential component of any plan because it dictates the scope of works that can be carried out and informs you design decisions. Seek professional advice on how to achieve your goals within your budget.

RENOVA’s advice – employ good people to take care of your renovation and get the most out of them by providing a clear brief and sticking to it.

Tel: 01 2021122