Buying a property that needs an extensive revamp is both an exciting and daunting prospect.
With so much work to do, it’s often hard to know where to start. So, in what order should you renovate a property?
We’ve often had this dilemma. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious but often we’ve found there are multiple ways we could do it, each with their own pros and cons.
A lot depends on the property you’ve bought, how much work is required, what kind of work is needed, and how much of the work you need to hire tradesmen for.
However, here is a general guide as to which order to tackle the jobs that need doing that will apply to most renovations.
1) Put A Plan In Place
Before you start anything, write down everything you THINK you need to do to the property. We say ‘think’ because at this stage you won’t be sure – there are bound to be things that you didn’t consider.
It’s important to have a plan to ensure you don’t forget to do anything, and so you can easily see which of the below points are relevant to your property.
We usually create a spreadsheet of all the jobs we can think of, then start rearranging them in order of priority.
Typically, we’ll put things we can’t control earlier in our list, and things we can control later – though of course it depends on how long things will take.
We’ve also found it’s a good idea to think about the layout of the property. For instance, in a property where the only access to the rear garden is through the house, it would make sense to get the garden sorted before you get too far with making the inside look good.
If you will need planning permission for any part of the works, get this in progress as soon as possible as it can take months to sort. Remember, get the things out of your control in progress first!
You Might Need Unoccupied Renovation Home Insurance!
Home insurers often get nervous if you’re planning significant renovations on a property and won’t be living there during the works.
They’ll want to know exactly what work you’re doing and may increase your premiums to cover the extra risk they perceive an unoccupied property under renovation to pose.
However, all is not lost. There are specialist renovation home insurance policies available on short or long-term cover. It’s usually pretty cost effective, can cover you if your property is to be left unoccupied during the works.
2) Fix Any Structural Problems
If the property has any visible cracks on the exterior, get them assessed by a structural engineer. If they are more than just cosmetic, get them repaired as soon as possible.
As many of our properties have been in Nottinghamshire, an area known for its mining past, cracks have been a common theme throughout all the properties we’ve bought.
Our first step, before we’ve even bought the property is to get it checked by a structural engineer. That will give us a remedial plan, if needed, and we will then ensure the work is scheduled in on our spreadsheet as a priority.
Significant structural issues need sorting first so that you can be sure the property is safe to work on, both inside and out. No one wants to work in a structurally unsafe building.
Get the opinion of an expert:
3) Make Sure The Property Is Watertight
Before you touch anything internally, make sure the roof is sound and not leaking. Leaking water is your number one enemy. There’s no point doing any internal work until you have made sure it cannot be damaged any further.
Water penetration has been one of the biggest issues in our most recent purchase and we’ve found that while the cause is often obvious, occasionally there can be a bit of trial and error.
It never ceases to amaze us how water can find it’s way in to the smallest gap then travel along a wall and appear in a completely different place. We’ve found it pays to check for possible leak points very careful and ensure all possible issues are fixed (even if you’re not sure if its causing a problem).
Check for missing tiles or structural roof issues and get them repaired. If there are any missing or broken windows, make them good again. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace the window immediately, but at least board it up to keep the property safe and secure.
4) Strip Everything Back
Assuming you have a complete revamp to do, strip everything back to a bare shell. This has the advantage of revealing any hidden problems such as damp or rotting joists. It also gives you a blank canvas to work from.
Once you have stripped everything out, it will become easier to do certain jobs such as upgrading the electrics or adding central heating.
Remember that you might not need to strip every single room back. For instance, in our current home, only the living room needs taking back to brick.
Long-term damp issues have caused the plaster to stain and crack and so we need to chip all the old plaster off right down to the brickwork. That will allow us to apply a damp treatment under the plaster, then finish as new.
However, the rest of the house is in good condition so there’s no point us stripping everything back.
5) Fix Any Damp Issues
Once you have stripped everything back, you should have revealed all problems with the fabric of the building. This could include damp patches, rottings joists, and so on.
Usually, the damp will be visible on the walls before you strip them back, but occasionally we’ve been surprised by damp patches below otherwise perfectly good walls.
Admittedly, this usually only happens when the previous owners have attempted to cover up the issue without first rectifying it.
Your next step should be to work out what is causing any damp or rot issues. Is there a leaking drainpipe or a blocked airbrick? Fix the problem before you fix the damage.
Once you are sure the cause of the issues has been rectified, you can go ahead and repair the damage that was caused, safe in the knowledge it should not re-appear.
6) Reconfigure The Space
If you plan on changing the layout of the property, now is the time to do it. That applies whether you are simply adding or removing a wall, or building a whole new extension.
If you are removing a wall, make sure you get the advice of a structural engineer to ensure it’s not load bearing.
If you are moving the bathroom, plan the plumbing work which will need doing in step 8.
7) Check The Garden Access
This applies mostly when access to the back garden is either restricted or only available by walking through the house. This is common with terraced properties.
The last thing you want to do is get the house looking perfect, then realise you need to cart a few wheelbarrows of mud through it from the back garden, destroying the interior of the property in the process.
This is something that has nearly caught us out before. It’s too easy to become so fixated on the internal stuff that the impact of doing the garden doesn’t even cross your mind.
If it looks like you’ll need to go through the house to access the rear garden, get the garden sorted before you work on the internal property. If the property has good, easy access to the rear garden, you can leave this to the very end if you wish.
8) Update Electrics & Plumbing
Once you have got the layout of the building exactly how you want it and fixed any obvious issues, it’s time to get the electrics and plumbing sorted.
Most properties that need renovating will at least need their electrical work bringing up to current standards. Use this as an opportunity to also get any additional sockets or switches installed.
Many renovation properties will also need work on the plumbing system, whether that’s a new boiler or installing central heating.
Get this done now, but make sure you bring in a qualified expert to do the work. For electrical work, you’ll need a Part P certificate, and gas works will need to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
We’ve been burned before when an electrician we used didn’t send us the Part P certificate. The work had been done to the correct standard, he just didn’t issue the certificate and that came up when we tried to sell the property.
So, using qualified tradesmen isn’t enough, you also need to be sure you get the correct paperwork from them!
9) Replaster The Walls
Once you are sure all of the electrical and plumbing work is completed and up to standard, you can get the walls and ceilings replastered ready for decorating.
Now it’s time for the final part of the renovation, redecorating!
Start with bathrooms and kitchens first, they tend to need the most work and you’ll be bringing sinks and cupboards and things through the house so you don’t want to scuff any freshly painted walls.
We always use special bathroom or kitchen paint for these rooms as it helps to stop condensation causing mould issues later down the line.
We’ve also had good results when we used anti-condensation paint in a cold bedroom too so that’s worth considering.
We always start with the rooms furthest from the front door and then work your way back. That way, we don’t have to keep walking through freshly decorated rooms.
When decorating, work on the walls and ceilings first, and don’t forget to put in any new doors or skirting that’s required. Save the flooring until last and you’ll ensure everything looks perfect once you are finished.
The Final Word
Ultimately there isn’t a single, definitive answer to the question ‘in what order should you renovate a property?’. Every property is unique and you’ll face different problems and challenges on each one, some of which may not even be mentioned above.
However, as a general rule of thumb, you’re working layers. Start with the external layer, followed by the inner structural layer, and then finally move on to the interior decor.
In each case, think about how future jobs might impact the work you’ve done and consider the layout of the property so that you can finish the rooms that aren’t used to access other rooms first.
These are the rules we’ve always abided by during our renovations and they have always served us well.
If you take the time to properly plan out the project and consult the experts as and when is necessary, then you shouldn’t go far wrong.