What needs to be done when making home improvement? Find out the explanation here. There will always be overlaps, but most work is either essential remedial work or home improvement.
These deserve more serious consideration than, say, decoration, because they have a lasting impact on the value and saleability of your home.
Essential Work and Improvements
There is nothing glamorous about repairing a roof or curing dampness and rot, but your priority must always be to make and keep the basic structure of your home sound.
Failure to do so jeopardizes the tens of thousands of pounds that you’ve committed to paying for your home. You may choose to have other work done at the same time, to save disruption later.
The aims of any home improvement should be:
- to improve the quality of your life, giving extra space, light, warmth, or convenience
to add value to your property.
- Keeping a balance between these two criteria is important. Don’t put in too much capital, it doesn’t make sense to install a kitchen that’s worth a third of the value of your flat.
- And beware of devaluing – replacing traditional period windows with aluminum or uPVC frames is a classic mistake.
To avoid these pitfalls:
- Look at neighbouring houses to see what changes have been made, and whether or not they are successful
- talk to local estate agents about the effect your proposed improvements will have on the value of your property. Most agents are happy to give free advice. If not, you need not use them when you come to sell your home.
Prioritising Work When You Buy Property
If you’ve bought a renovator’s delight that you are not planning to extend, these should be your priorities.
- Potentially dangerous problems: faulty electrical wiring, old or damaged gas appliances, unsafe structures (from staircases to garden walls), loose chimney pots or roof tiles, unstable masonry that could fall and cause injury.
- The exterior. If this isn’t sound, any work you do inside is likely to be spoiled. Carry out repairs to the roof, cracked or damaged masonry, damaged gutters and downpipes. Repoint brickwork if necessary.
- Repair damaged drainage systems. Replace or repair rotted window frames – now is the time to decide whether you would benefit from putting in double glazing.
- Problems that will get worse if left: rising or penetrating damp, dry rot, and woodworm.
- Installing new wiring and new plumbing while floorboards are up and before the walls and ceiling are replastered.
- Putting in a wired security system if you have decided to do this; it will be more expensive to do later.
Roof insulation, one of the most cost-effective home improvements. Decide whether you need any sound insulation, perhaps against a party wall.
- Making good plaster and floors, which will be durable and provide a firm basis for any fixtures.
Improvements to Consider
Here are some home improvement to consider
Ill-chosen replacement windows can seriously devalue a property. Since 2002, new windows must comply with building regulations.
And if you live in a Conservation Area, you will need to get planning permission to replace them. However, a house with double glazing is attractive when it comes to selling, as double glazing reduces draughts and cuts out some noise.
- If your windows are of architectural interest, consider secondary glazing instead of double glazing.
- If your windows are beyond repair and must be replaced, try to replace like with like. A local joiner will be able to make exact replicas or even sympathetically designed double-glazed windows.
- Even if the new windows are the same size as the old, internal plaster will need to be made good around the frames.
Insulation is one of the most cost-effective home improvements and, with planning, can be installed as you carry out other work.
- Draughtproof gaps around doors and windows with foam or rubber strip, but don’t seal the room completely. Ventilation is essential.
- Lag hot water pipes and tank to prevent heat loss.
- Lag cold water pipes and insulate cold water tank to prevent condensation and freezing.
- Loft insulation can be bought as rigid sheets, fiber rolls, or loose granules (which are useful for awkward spaces). Install it after all other work requiring access to the attic (plumbing, wiring, roof repairs) has been completed. Make sure the insulation material does not impede ventilation around the eaves.
- Underfloor insulation is now a requirement for new buildings. In an existing property, it is easiest to install it while the floorboards are up. Tack plastic netting between the joists to support the insulation material.
- Double glazing is most effective at preventing heat loss if the gap between the panes is between 8 mm (1/3 in) and 20 mm (3/4 in).
Cavity wall insulation should be carried out by a professional. Consult your local Building Controls office before having the work done.
Increasing the Power Points
If you’re having electrical work done it’s worth thinking about how you may be using different rooms in the years ahead, and have extra power points installed now.
Bear in mind that adding extra ones later will be far more expensive and disruptive.
Having eight or ten power points in a room is not excessive. Even a modest home office area is likely to need a computer, printer, scanner, and fax machine. Then allow for a desk lamp, perhaps a music system, and you still need somewhere to plug in the vacuum cleaner.
A well-built roof will last for decades, if not centuries. Unless the roof structure has been seriously weakened by rot or woodworm, or the tiles and slates have started to disintegrate, most roofs can be repaired.
- If problems warrant a complete re-roofing job:
- reuse as much of the existing material as possible
- even if you are not in a Conservation Area, try to choose materials that are sympathetic to the original style of your house and the neighbouring properties
- try to do the work during dry weather
- don’t undertake any interior work until the roof is sound.
Taking up the floor coverings, lifting floorboards, cutting away plaster, and knocking holes through walls are things to do as infrequently as possible. They are unavoidable when you are dealing with urgent problems such as woodworm, damp, or rot, or carrying out improvements that involve plumbing or electrical work.
Once you know what your proposed work will entail, decide whether there’s anything else you can afford to do at the same time.
If some jobs will have to be done later, leave access to under floor spaces – screw, rather than nail, floorboards in place, and don’t put down fitted floor coverings until all the work is behind you.