Home repairs and improvements
Home improvements can transform and add value to your home but it is easy for costs to escalate and projects to go wrong. Our step-by-step guide sets out what to consider with different types of projects, how to find reliable tradespeople and how to keep on top of project costs.
Our step-by-step guide takes you briefly through each step you are likely to take when you are carrying out home improvements and repairs.
Before starting home repairs or improvements
- Don’t forget to contact your Local Authority Planning and Building Control Departments if you are doing significant works. Read more about whether or not you need planning permission.
- If you are doing a project which impacts adjoining or shared walls with your neighbours you may need to issue a
Party Wall Notice. See our advice guide Do I need a Party Wall Agreement?
- If you are doing a project which makes significant structural changes you may need the help of a structural engineer to enable you to obtain Building Control Approval. See our guide Do I need a Structural Engineer?
- If your home is listed or you live in a Conservation Area, check with your Local Authority for any restrictions on what changes you can make.
- Consider whether your building projects will add value to your home. A local estate agent can help you assess whether you will see a return on your investment if that is important for you.
- Once you are ready to commence, it is a good idea to inform your home insurance provider that you are undertaking building works to ensure your cover is not affected. There can be a higher risk of potential damage if you’re removing walls or opening up the roof as may be the case if you are extending or doing a loft conversion.
Obtaining quotes for home repairs and improvements
- Make a detailed list of everything you would like to have included, this will help when you ask for quotations.
- Compare quotes item by item and not just by the overall cost of the job.
- Check that VAT is included in the costs you are quoted.
- Set aside some money for unexpected problems – rule of thumb is 10% of total cost.
- If you are thinking about taking out a loan or using another form of credit to pay for the work, consider the full cost of the credit including the interest. Read our guide on how to finance your home improvement project. It may also be a good time to consider remortgaging as a way of freeing up funds.
- Include costs for labour and parts in your overall budget.
- When purchasing items, shop around and check online.
- Agree who will purchase items and be responsible for making sure they arrive on time.
- Clarify at the start what marks the end of the project and make a note of this.
- Read our guide to house renovation costs for an idea of what projects may cost.
Finding reliable tradespeople
- Carry out checks to find a good trader – this will stop most problems straight away. Take a look at how to find the best tradesman for the job.
- Find your tradesman by using our Find a Tradesman search tool. Or ask friends, family or neighbours who have undertaken similar works for recommendations.
- Check online for websites with a feedback option to rate traders, but be wary of relying completely on the reports. Our guide outlines how the online tradesman review sites work and what to watch for.
- If you are doing major structural works and your builder requires technical drawings, you can get quotes from Structural Engineers here.
- Be clear about whether you need building regulations certificates for any of the work you are doing, for example electrical, windows and water.
- Look for a trader well in advance of when you would like the project to start.
- Avoid using anyone who comes to your door cold calling.
Building work contractual information
- Produce a list or specification of what work you would like to have done and share plans or drawings you have to help them give accurate quotes.
- Obtain at least 3 written quotations and ask for a breakdown so you can see the price of work and materials.
- Make sure quotes include the cost of all materials, scaffolding, waste disposal and so on.
- Discuss delays, who is responsible if there are delays and who pays.
- Discuss and clarify house rules for example working hours, no smoking in the house, or no muddy boots.
- Confirm who will be carrying out the actual work — will outsourced labour be used?
- Check if you will be given a timetable for the work.
- Agree how payments will be made, it’s not unusual to be asked for an instalment up-front.
- Check if there are any health and safety aspects you need to be aware of.
- Agree a single point of contact for the project.
- If you are contracting a builder, take a look at RIBAs domestic building contracts.
Managing building works
- Have regular on site meetings.
- Raise any issues as they arise, don’t wait for the end of the project.
- Check that you are actually paying for the work that has been completed.
- If there are any changes to the specification or any extras, obtain a cost for these changes before agreeing to works.
- Check that your local authority Building Control Department has signed off key stages of the work, if they are required to.
Finishing building work
- Clarify what you would consider to be the end of the project. Make this clear at the very start and put this in writing so everyone knows.
- Be clear about when you will be required to make the final payment and what it covers.
- Remember that you are entitled to withhold a reasonable amount of money to ensure problems are put right.
Tidying up and snagging
- Have a clear idea of when the final payment is due.
- You have a right to withhold a reasonable amount of money if work has not been done to satisfactory quality.
- Keep a running list of items that are outstanding to form your snag list.
- You can get advice about your rights and how to deal with the trader if they appear reluctant to talk to you from Citizens Advice.
- Have the correct forwarding details for your trader.
- Make sure that you have paperwork for items purchased by the trader and building regulation certificates for work, instructions and warranties.
Advice for specific improvement projects
- If you have a specific project in mind, you may find our series of ‘where to start’ guides helpful: Home extension: where to start?, Kitchen renovation: where to start?, Bathroom refurbishment: where to start?, Loft conversion: where to start?, Garden rooms: where do I start?, Basement conversion: where do I start
- For advice on common maintenance issues, see our guides: Home maintenance checklist, Maintaining & updating your home’s exterior, How to spot and get rid of damp
- For advice on improving the energy efficiency of your home, see: How to make your home more energy efficient, What to expect when replacing windows and green mortgages which can help you fund energy efficient improvements.