Get ready to build your dream home
Although millions of low income families are suffering financially due to the health crisis, many UK residents now have both the time and some spare cash to upgrade their properties. In the March 2020 Budget Boris Johnson’s government announced “a £12 billion plan to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses, whose finances are affected by COVID-19.” (1)
A lot of working and retired people have cancelled all their holidays over the last year and the majority of individuals will not be confident in booking any expensive getaways until at least this coming autumn. So many folk have a budget available to customise, update and expand the home that they have been spending nearly all their time in recently.
Tip 1 – Research resources
It is clever to ask the manager at your local builder’s merchants for some advice on what current products are in good supply and easy to purchase in bulk this season. Working out what materials are convenient for your depot to stock makes sense. Often you will need a few more items in addition to what you have originally ordered. Therefore knowing the popular best sellers are at your nearest ‘builders yard’ is an advantage for achieving a smooth running project.
Calling your local timber or building suppliers and asking what their recommendations are for the best choice of materials to build with at this moment, is time well spent. Knowing what products the merchants have good supplies of ensures that you can consistently receive the same wood grains or tiles for example. This means you can keep your project both easy to build and also visually consistent.
Tip 2 Special offers make budgets go further
Find out what products are in promotional offers this month in each of your nearest building merchants. Ask the sales assistants to highlight what is on sale at the moment and if there are any future deals on new products or existing lines that are just about to happen. Concentrate on researching the most expensive investment pieces for your design, which could be the timber for example.
Tell the showroom team members about the project you are planning and they may know of some returned stock from an incorrect order or some discontinued products that may be perfect for your scheme. Commonly a manager can offer you a special price on some excess stock to clear their stockroom. Involving your local distributor could save heaps of time, effort and money in the long run.
Recycling where possible is a cool idea and is a chance to respect the environment and grab a second hand bargain. Find out who might be dismantling any old properties nearby as they might have good quality wood, metal, fireplaces and lots of other building components like doors and windows that can be repurposed quickly. Facebook local, Gumtree and Ebay are great resources for finding ideal pieces for your project. Ebay has a search filter where you can select results based on the travel distance from your location.
Tip 3 Compare delivery costs
It is worth looking at online delivery charges for a variety of stores. Find out which companies can offer you a trade discount and what their minimum spend is to qualify for free delivery. There are a lot of changes taking place for all businesses at present so it is wise to check if a supplier’s service charges will be the same price this year as it was last year.
Tip 4 SMART plan facilities,
While we are all trying to stay at home and not mix with any other households in order to stop the spread of Covid-19 it is a good idea to ask yourself if this project is S.M.A.R.T. This means considering if your home improvement plan is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Given the seriousness of the pressure on the NHS ‘timely’ is a key element here. Is it possible to complete your DIY idea without any risk of anyone inadvertently passing on the virus on to anyone in the team or in your family? Would it be better to postpone this renovation mission until a later time when flu season is over and all the adults have had a vaccine?
Many designs in 2021 will focus on expanding living space to more easily incorporate the changes of activity related to preventing Covid-19. Home study offices, home schooling areas, quiet garden studios, separate bathrooms and bedrooms for those who may be shielding or self isolating may be essential for the smooth running of households of all ages. Adding new indoor rooms like gyms and yoga retreats can be brilliant for maintaining health, well being and keeping fit whatever the weather, especially during a national lockdown.
Adding decking adds value to your property as well as providing the backdrop for an ‘outdoor living room’. Choosing a major garden make-over was very popular in the UK in 2020 and will most likely be fashionable again in 2021. An exterior focused job that can be done outside in the fresh air is a briht decision in terms of avoiding any unnecessary household mixing indoors this spring.
Tip 5 Managing the build to keep everyone safe
According to Westminster’s new lockdown rules in England tradespeople can still be employed during this period where we are all staying indoors and social distancing as much as possible. It is important to follow the government guidelines and keep everyone safe. The construction industry is used to managing personal protection equipment as part of their usual work tasks but it is critical to make sure that everyone has the masks, gloves, antibacterial gel etc. that they need on site at all times.
Common sense will guide as to whether your contractors can access your garden or yard easily. Not having a separate side gate or driveway to your property could be a good reason for waiting until everyone has had the vaccine and the virus levels have decreased substantially before embarking on any new team efforts to add any extension or similar scale project.
A makeshift tea room kitchen area can be set up in a garage or workshop for example. Every individual will need their own eating and drinking equipment set and care must be taken to steam clean and disinfect all the facilities every day.
Mobile portable conveniences for contractors personal comfort needs can be hired and delivered to your garden to help keep everyone correctly socially distanced from each other. This can be a way of making it easier for householders to stay at home while tradespeople are working on the project all day.
Tip 6 Hire the best and most reliable people
If your exciting enterprise requires more than straightforward amateur technical drawing with a plastic scale ruler and some pens and paper, then it is time to consult an architect. The fee that hiring a professional at the inception stage incurs can be quickly justified by adding the opinion, ideas and experience of a qualified expert. They will help ensure any construction meets building regulations. An architect’s advice can make the most of all the available space that you have. Architect’s know how to achieve a stunning finish with the most appropriate materials and this is why it is an intelligent investment to hire a design consultant right from the start.
In the south east of England it has been hard to find builders who are available at this time. Local design agencies are sending emails to everyone on their mailing list to try and find builders for their clients this month. This is due to many people taking advantage of the fact that they are not allowed to go away on holidays this year and focusing on renovation projects instead. In addition many experienced builders have contract work in the commercial construction industry which has been continuing to fulfill several national infrastructure projects.
Some skilled builders are choosing to scale down or postpone taking on projects with new clients this month. Seasoned construction professionals may be conscious of their own age or individual health conditions and they may prefer to wait until they have had a vaccine before taking on work in new places. This means that those who are still happy to take on new plans to build are in demand this season.
Beware of picking professionals based solely on internet searches even if they are recommended with online ratings. It is much more preferable to get a recommendation from somebody you know. It can be a good idea to agree to complete the first part of a project, e.g. pouring concrete foundations for example before promising to give a whole project to a particular company. Approaching it this way means if it goes well you can ask them to carry on with the next stages. However if there are any problems you can settle up and call it a day for now, without too much stress.
It is a sad fact of life that some disreputable companies in the building and decorating trade can take advantage of and even financially threaten women, senior citizens and other vulnerable homeowners in order to make money without doing all the work they promised. Take time to research thoroughly and obtain detailed quotes in order to avoid any financial loss, heartache, stress and delays later.
Tip 7 Plan labour and payment type
Depending on the type of work that you are doing will affect whether it is a good idea to agree to pay contractors by the hour, day or when they have finished a specific stage of work. Some trades people have a particular way of working. It is important for you to agree between you based on the tasks required how you will engage financially and what the expected timescales are.
Often unexpectedly events unfold which means it is not possible to just work with one person and their team all the way through a build. Therefore it is prudent to think ahead about how you can positively settle up and pay for the work done so far to date and then round off the engagement politely. Then you can easily move forward with instructing another company to begin work on your project if your original contractor is suddenly unavailable for whatever reason.
For the purpose of getting several smaller property maintenence jobs done, a day rate agreement is ideal. For larger builds agree in advance the 3 or 4 stages in the project where you can pay for the labour given at specific points. Make sure you have a written quote to refer to that clearly outlines these goals. Developing a good working relationship with a few knowledgeable and trusted professionals, who will happily go the extra mile to help you achieve your dream home vision is the aim. This strategy will be infinitely preferable over calling the cheapest inexperienced outfit, who is free in a hurry.
In 2021 the most common way to research a future do it yourself task is to look at YouTube videos. It is really helpful to see professionals and enthusiastic amateurs attempting to complete any given handyman or woman repair or upgrade around the house. Reading website forums set up for tradespeople offers a homeowner valuable information for when deciding between purchasing different paints and other products that can be expensive and technical.
Tip 8 Modernise rather than totally renovate to keep it simple
Upgrading some rooms in your house like kitchens and bathrooms can be an expensive and chaotic process. In order to transform these important functional zones on a budget it is worth looking at the option of modernising just the cabinets and the flooring for example. This less invasive scheme can create the effect of a freshly fitted contemporary abode at a fraction of the price. Adding trendy finishes and fittings to the latest surfaces can give the effect of sprucing up your pad without the need for calling in a whole band of contractors.
Unless you have a traditional period style cottage or townhouse it could be time to ditch the old fashioned cooker and white goods. Urdesign online magazine advises that in 2021 “you should also consider replacing old kitchen appliances with newer, more energy-efficiency models. This will improve the overall appeal of your kitchen and save you money on energy bills” (2)
Tip 9 Add Green Home Improvements
It is a great time to think about how environmentally friendly your home is and what steps you can take to improve its energy efficiency. We have just mentioned the sense of installing ultra efficient appliances and the same principle works throughout the home for all the equipment we use every day.
Hiring a specialist to replace an old boiler with the latest energy efficient model might be possible to do whilst still maintaining social distancing depending on the layout of your property.
Replacing old light bulbs with LED’s is a very sensible low cost swap. Fitting low flow showerheads and toilets can minimise water usage considerably.
Setting up a network of solar panels on unused roof space can suit some houses particularly for homeowners who live in sunny locations which make the potential of ‘selling energy back to the national grid’ especially attractive.
Adding extra insulation and draught proofing reduces energy usage and heating bills. Putting in new uPVC windows and doors that have a high level of thermal performance can really help to create a cosy home even as temperatures plummet.
In England the government is offering grants of up to £5000 towards assisting residents in installing low carbon heating and insulating solutions until 2022. Emily Folk from GreenMatch recommends prioritising your eco friendly changes by picking the best ideas that will add value to your dwelling too. (3)
Tip 10 Review your overall layout plan
It is vital before embarking on any new project that the functionality of the layout is reviewed. The activities of most families have changed with everyone living with the restrictions and lockdowns. It is smart to think about how everyone can have the right facilities to meet their needs with the flexibility of privacy when they need it. Quiet working time and often noisier leisure time pursuits are now often taking place simultaneously in the same building. More and more homeowners have discovered that open plan living isn’t for them anymore. “Many homebuilders have reported over the last few months that buyers are having second thoughts” about open plan floor layouts, says Rachel Brougham at Bob Vila home advice. (4)
It is relatively easy to create an extra school work study, fitness work out zone, home office or games room and so on by putting up stud wall partitions that feature stylish internal doors. These sound reducing elements can enhance the function of any busy dwelling. These recently added activity pods can then be fairly swiftly taken down in the future if needed if adults change their minds later or when children are old enough to leave home. The best residences will continue to evolve as technology advances and life returns back to a new normal.
(1) ‘Budget 2020 policy paper’ HM Treasury, Gov.UK, 12 March 2020 ‘Budget 2020 policy paper’ HM Treasury, Gov.UK,
(2) ‘Smart home improvements to consider in 2021’ Urdesign online magazine, 16 December 2020 ‘Smart home improvements to consider in 2021′ Urdesign
(3) ‘12 Home Improvements that can add value to your property’, Emily Folk, Green Match 13 January 2021 (2) ‘12 Home Improvements that can add value to your property’, Emily Folk, Green Match
(4) ‘21 Home improvement projects to put on your to-do list for 2021’ Rachel Brougham, Bob Vila home advice, 22 January 2021 (3) ‘21 Home improvement projects to put on your to-do list for 2021’ Rachel Brougham, Bob Vila