The essential guide for first-time renovators

Embarking on a home renovation project for the very first time can be an exciting prospect and it can be very tempting to skip ahead to the exciting stage of choosing new paint colours and fixtures and fittings – but, before enthusiasm gets the better of you, put on the brakes and do your homework.

Claude McKirby, co-principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, says that many novices who take on the challenge don’t realise their very first steps are likely to set the course for the entire project and can have far-reaching consequences way down the line.

“Having a clear idea of your desired final results and your budget before you begin will enable contractors to immediately advise about the possibility of achieving them and guide you if you need to consider alternatives. It will also enable you to establish a more accurate budget and timeline – and stick to them.”

Whether you’re updating a fixer-upper or personalising your new home, proper planning and preparation are essential for a successful renovation project.

McKirby offers invaluable tips to guide first-time home renovators through the process:

Set clear goals and budget

Before diving into any renovation project, define your goals, priorities and budget constraints. Determine which areas of your home require renovation and establish realistic expectations for the scope of work. Setting clear goals and budget parameters will help you stay focused and avoid costly surprises along the way.

Look up the ceiling value for your neighbourhood

To determine your return on investment and to avoid overcapitalising, check on websites like Property24 what similarly priced properties in the neighbourhood have recently sold for and what the top price range is in your neighbourhood.

Research and gather inspiration

Take the time to research design trends, materials and renovation ideas that align with your vision for your home. Explore home improvement websites, magazines and social media platforms for inspiration and ideas. Create a mood board or digital scrapbook to organise your thoughts and visualise your design preferences.

Consider functionality and lifestyle needs

When planning your renovation, consider how you use each space in your home and tailor the design to accommodate your lifestyle needs. Focus on functionality, flow and practicality, ensuring your renovated spaces meet your family’s unique requirements and enhance daily living.

Hire reliable professionals

While some DIY projects can be rewarding, certain renovations require the expertise of professionals. Research and vet contractors, architects and designers thoroughly before hiring them for your project. Obtain multiple quotes, check references and review portfolios to ensure you’re selecting reliable professionals who understand your vision and can deliver quality results.

Obtain necessary permits

Depending on the scope of your renovation project, you may need to obtain permits from your local building department. Research the permitting requirements for your area and ensure all necessary permits are secured before commencing work. Failing to obtain permits can result in costly fines and delays down the line.

Prioritise structural and mechanical upgrades

Addressing structural issues and mechanical systems should take precedence over cosmetic upgrades. Prioritise renovations that enhance the safety, functionality and efficiency of your home, such as repairing roofing, upgrading electrical and plumbing systems and reinforcing structural integrity.

Create a detailed plan and schedule

Develop a comprehensive renovation plan outlining the scope of work, timeline and budget for each phase of the project. Establish a realistic timeline that factors in potential delays and allows for contingencies. Communicate your schedule clearly with contractors and tradespeople to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Allocate contingency funds

Unexpected expenses and unforeseen challenges are common during home renovations. Allocate a contingency fund of 10% to 20% of your total budget to cover unexpected costs that may arise during the project. Having a financial cushion will provide peace of mind and help you navigate unforeseen setbacks without derailing your renovation plans.

Focus on quality materials and workmanship

Invest in the highest quality materials and craftsmanship that you can afford to ensure the longevity and durability of your renovation. While it may be tempting to cut costs by opting for cheaper materials, compromising on quality can result in costly repairs and replacements down the line. Prioritise value and longevity over short-term savings.

Communicate effectively with your contractor

Open and transparent communication with your contractor is essential for a successful renovation project. Clearly communicate your expectations, preferences and concerns from the outset, and maintain regular communication throughout the project to address any issues promptly.

Be prepared for disruption

Renovations can be disruptive to daily life, particularly if you’re living in the home during the project. Be prepared for noise, dust and temporary inconveniences, and plan accordingly to minimise disruption to your routine. Establish designated work zones and take steps to protect unaffected areas of your home from damage.

“If you have a clear understanding of the scope of work that needs to be done and the amount of time you will have to dedicate to the project, with a little forethought, planning and research it’s possible to add substantial value to your property,” says McKirby.

“At the end of the day – and despite the inconvenience – a renovation project can be a very rewarding experience with several positive spin-offs: You will save money, you can oversee the process and keep things moving and you will also learn a host of new skills.”

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