Clas­sic bud­get­ing er­rors of ren­o­va­tors

The Irish Times - Thursday - Property - - The Market - Denise O’Con­nor will

Be­ing “cer­tain” is what is im­plied in the phrase “I cer­tify”, but, as the of­fi­cial code of prac­tice agrees, no in­spec­tion process can catch all short­com­ings in con­struc­tion.


When it c o mes to bud­get­ing f or a home ren­o­va­tion there’s a lot of “ex­pert ad­vice” avail­able to guide you on how best to save or spend the money you have. But a lot of it is con­flict­ing, so it can be hard to know what to be­lieve. Here are six com­mon mis­lead­ing ren­o­va­tion “facts” and how to ig­nore them. Un­der­floor heat­ing is more ex­pen­sive than ra­di­a­tors Ten years ago this was the case but to­day the cost of fit­ting ra­di­a­tors ver­sus un­der­floor heat­ing is pretty much the same. For a ground-floor area of 100sq m, the in­stal­la­tion cost might be about ¤1,500-¤2,000 more to in­stall un­der­floor heat­ing. But you will have a much bet­ter heat­ing sys­tem com­pared to tra­di­tional rads. Un­der­floor sys­tems are more ef­fi­cient to run, mean­ing you will re­coup your in­vest­ment pretty quickly. Ra­di­a­tors are prone to over­heat­ing and cre­ate hot and cold spots in a room. Un­der­floor heat­ing, on the other hand, gives an even and con­sis­tent heat through­out a room. The sys­tem should be set with ther­mostats lo­cated in each zone. The heat will only come on when the room tem­per­a­ture drops be­low your pre­ferred set­ting, for ex­am­ple 20 Cel­sius. Com­bine it with a smart ther­mo­stat and you will have a re­ally ef­fi­cient sys­tem with big bill sav­ings. You shouldn’t say how much you have to spend There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that telling a builder, ar­chi­tect or de­signer how much you have to spend will drive the project over bud­get. This is ab­so­lutely not the case. In or­der to be able to ad­vise you prop­erly it’s im­por­tant the peo­ple you are work­ing with know how much you have to spend or how much you are com­fort­able spend­ing. This is the only way they can ad­vise you on how to get the best value for the money you have avail­able. It also means they will be able to guide you on where to com­pro­mise with­out im­pact­ing on what you are try­ing to achieve.

By not be­ing up­front about your bud­get, de­sign de­ci­sions will be made to ac­com­mo­date a lower amount mean­ing you might be miss­ing out on ideas or fea­tures sim­ply be­cause the ar­chi­tect or de­signer is con­cerned about bud­get. It’s far bet­ter to be com­pletely up­front – that way your con­trac­tor or de­sign team can ad­vise where it’s worth spend­ing and where you can scale back, such as with fin­ishes, to en­sure you stay on bud­get and get the best re­sults. Any at­tic con­ver­sion will add value to your home An at­tic con­ver­sion will only add value if done prop­erly. This means putting in a proper stair­case. You want this to feel as much like a con­tin­u­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing stair­case as pos­si­ble and will make the at­tic feel much more like an ad­di­tional storey rather than an af­ter- Even more dis­con­cert­ing is that the pro­fes­sional cer­ti­fier might be an em­ployee of the builder or even the builder him­self, par­tic­u­larly in the area of house and apart­ment con­struc­tion. This is “self-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion” taken to ex­tremes and surely would not be ac­cept­able in most other ar­eas of so­ci­ety, in par­tic­u­lar where pub­lic safety is in­volved, as is the case in con­struc­tion and de­vel­op­ment.

The premise be­hind the Build­ing Con­trol (Amend­ment) Reg­u­la­tions, pub­licly stated at the in­tro­duc­tion of the leg­is­la­tion in 2014 by then min­is­ter Phil Ho­gan, was that the con­sumer would have re­dress through the courts if some­thing was wrong with their home by su­ing the sin­gle cer­ti­fier.

Courts should be the last re­sort and de­fects in­sur­ance should be the first. We in­sure every other com­mod­ity we buy against de­fects – for ex­am­ple, cars, fridges and elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances – but not the thought. Most at­tic con­ver­sions are classed as “stor­age” rooms be­cause the ceil­ings are not high enough. An at­tic can only be con­sid­ered a bed­room if 50 per cent of the floor area is 2.4m high (just un­der 8 feet).

If your roof is a lit­tle over 2.4m high you could achieve hab­it­able sta­tus by adding a flat roof dormer to the back. This will re­quire plan­ning but is worth­while pur­su­ing – if your bud­get al­lows – as it will mean you end up with a proper ad­di­tional room which will add value to your home. Do­ing the work your­self will save you money It can be tempt­ing to try to save money by do­ing some of the jobs your­self or en­list­ing a fam­ily mem­ber. But poorly-com­pleted work will cost you money in the long run. Your con­trac­tor may also charge a pre­mium to man­age trades he is not di­rectly em­ploy­ing, which will push his price up. And don’t forget your time has value. Just be­cause you are do­ing the work does not mean it is free labour. Home ren­o­va­tions can be com­plex and it’s im­por­tant to em­ploy ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple. Poor plumb­ing or electrics will be a source of con­stant trou­ble and ex­pense. Us­ing trusted pro­fes­sion­als will save both time and money – just get a de­tailed es­ti­mate of costs be­fore­hand. Adding square footage add value While many ren­o­va­tion projects will add value to your home some can be con­sid­ered dam­ag­ing by fu­ture buy­ers. You are bet­ter off to think in terms of “us­able” square footage. Big­ger is not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. Build­ing an ex­ten­sion might mean you lose valu­able gar­den space or you might find the orig­i­nal front room be­comes re­dun­dant. Be sure what you add will not com­pro­mise the ex­ist­ing house. Spend time re-eval­u­at­ing the lay­out of your home. Iden­tify any un­used spa­ces or rooms and re­work the plan to pull it all to­gether. Some­times re­con­fig­ur­ing the ex­ist­ing lay­out is a bet­ter so­lu­tion than ex­tend­ing. So­lar panels will save money straight away Fit­ting a so­lar hot wa­ter heat­ing sys­tem is an ex­cel­lent way of mak­ing your house more en­ergy ef­fi­cient as it re­duces the amount of fuel used to heat hot wa­ter. How­ever, while you will see sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings to your heat­ing bills al­most im­me­di­ately it will take a while be­fore you com­pletely re­coup the cost of in­stal­la­tion. A so­lar sys­tem with 6sq m of panels, to suit a house with four to five oc­cu­pants, will cost from ¤5,000 to ¤7,000, de­pend­ing on the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and cost of in­stal­la­tion. A sys­tem of this size could save in the re­gion of ¤600 a year in heat­ing costs, mean­ing it will take 10 years to re­pay the orig­i­nal out­lay. Denise O’Con­nor tect and de­sign @op­ti­misedesign is an archicon­sul­tant. most im­por­tant pur­chase most peo­ple make, our homes. De­fects in­sur­ance is now avail­able and should be manda­tory for de­vel­op­ers or builders to de­liver houses and apart­ments. This way in­sur­ers can pur­sue any wrong­do­ers while the con­sumers can get on with their lives.

Hon­esty and clar­ity should be the hall­marks of any cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process and it serves no one to have cer­tifi­cates that are not clear or do not mean what they say. Bad or mis­lead­ing word­ing will un­der­mine con­fi­dence in the sys­tem. The Royal In­sti­tute of the Ar­chi­tects of Ire­land (RIAI) has been call­ing for a change to the word­ing of the com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate that would go a long way to ad­dress­ing this is­sue and has also high­lighted the is­sue of the builder-developer act­ing as his own in­spec­tor. The changes we are seek­ing will only strengthen the sys­tem and, im­por­tantly, will make cer­tifi­cates more un­der­stand­able and cred­i­ble.

Fire safety cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as it ex­ists doesn’t do what it says on the tin – and it is in so­ci­ety’s in­ter­est to change this. Joe Kennedy (FRIAI) is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Smith + Kennedy Ar­chi­tects and RIAI spokesman on reg­u­la­tion (


Gren­fell Tower in west Lon­don: safety cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in Ire­land is is­sued dur­ing the de­sign phase rather than af­ter con­struc­tion.

Home ren­o­va­tions can be com­plex. It’s im­por­tant to em­ploy ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple. Poor plumb­ing or electrics will be a source of trou­ble and ex­pense

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