Classic budgeting errors of renovators
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 (riai.ie)
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