One of the main motivations for tackling a major project is to get a higher-quality home; one that looks good and meets your expectations in terms of how it performs for your family.
In general, it’s sensible to pour plenty of budget into the structural fabric first, to achieve your space and energy efficiency goals.
But once those building blocks are in place, it’s really all about the finishes. After all, nobody’s going to be spending too much time gazing at your foundations or posi-joists once they’re covered up. It’s the elements on show that will wow friends and neighbours, and give you greatest satisfaction once the works are completed.
A self build, total renovation or major extension is likely to be the single biggest investment you’ll ever make – so it’s understandable that you’ll want to strive for the very best you can afford. But be careful about shooting for pure perfection, even if you’ve got a near-unlimited budget. For most of us, a better approach is to aim for a good standard (with details that look and feel right) that’s genuinely achievable within the cash reserves we have available. By all means aspire; but realism is important, too.
To illustrate the point, allow me to share the tale of a couple I once encountered who wouldn’t accept anything less than perfection. They loved the look of polished concrete floors and wanted theirs (across the entire ground storey) to be flawlessly smooth with the ideal sheen, colour and texture to the surface.
Learn more: Polished Concrete Floors Explained
Cue the contractor laying and ripping up a perfectly serviceable floor not once, not twice but three times before it was grudgingly accepted – at a cost of £10,000s a pop. Now, that’s fine if you can afford it (and they could) but not so great if you want to finish your project on time and close to budget!
We experience this every day, from the standards we expect of working partners, through to use-by dates on our last online food shop, or if/how our kids tackle their domestic chores. When it comes to building work, what a contractor or trade churns out for a big developer isn’t likely to reflect the craftsmanship and quality of materials you’re expecting for your self build or extension project. So, without effective communication, you can end up with a mismatch that will cost you an arm and a leg to sort out.
Learn more: Sourcing Trades
Thankfully, there are ways to bridge the gap. An easy one is to include an indication of the standard you’re expecting, along with photos to back it up, in all your contracts with trades. Neat brickwork with crisp mortar lines, for instance; well-fitted windows and doors; perfectly level and aligned floor or wall tiles; smooth plasterwork etc. If possible, visit a project they’ve worked on before and reference that in your agreement. So, if the finished job isn’t up to scratch, you’ll have something to fall back on.
If you want a job done well, you need good people on your team. That applies across the board in terms of your team, from designers to engineers, suppliers and contractors. So do your research, vet your project partners properly, and accept that you’ll need to pay a bit more for high-quality trades who can demonstrate they have the skills and experience to get things right first time.
Suppliers can be a great source of information, and it’s a good idea to bring them on board early on in the process so they can input at the design stage. This way, you can lean on them to decide on the right details for your project – and, ideally, get your architect to work them into the technical package prior to seeking contractor quotes.
Windows, doors, flooring, lighting and staircases are just some of the big-ticket items that need a lot more attention to detail than you might initially expect. Get them right, and they’ll add real wow-factor. So, lean on providers for advice and ideas – and consider supply-and-fit contracts to give you peace of mind that the install and design teams are fully integrated.
It’s worth bearing in mind the impact behind-the-scenes items can have. How services are run throughout the house could dictate the number of box-outs that gobble up precious living space, for instance. Quality isn’t just about looks: aim to design out issues like creaky floors and noisy pipework, for instance. Think about the finishing elements from a sensory perspective, too. For example, good, well-fitted ironmongery will give you tactile reassurance that your home is up to the standard you want.