Renovation rescue

Whether you’re renovating a run-down property because you love a challenge, you love DIY, or simple because it’s all you could afford, one thing remains the same: it will be enormously disruptive.
PA Photo/ThinkstockphotosPA Photo/Thinkstockphotos
PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos

And first thing to consider if you’ve bought or are buying a property that needs a lot of work, is whether you can live in it while the work’s being done. Major work, especially if it’s disruptive, may make this impossible, at least for a while, but if you don’t have anywhere else to stay, it’s amazing what you can put up with if you have to! That said, living on site is often difficult, dirty and stressful, so it’s not for everyone and if you haven’t done it before, you may find that you can’t cope.

Doing the work as and when you can often makes life easier. However, some jobs - often the dirtiest and most disruptive, such as rewiring, reroofing, repiping and damp treatment - shouldn’t be delayed, because you need to get the basics right before improving the property in more cosmetic ways. It’s no good replastering and then rewiring later, for example, because rewiring involves making channels in the plaster for the cables.

If you’re not sure about the order of works, a good builder will be able to advise you. However, your builder and other contractors may not thank you for living on site, as they’ll have to work around you and your stuff. Hiring a storage unit or garage for unnecessary furniture and possessions can be money very well spent.

Living in the property can also make it hard to objectively decide on the order of works. You might delay ripping out the bathroom and kitchen for as long as possible, as this will make living conditions worse, but it also causes unnecessary delays.

Because it’s hard to manage without a shower and loo, but perhaps you can shower at work or the gym and hire a portable loo? Life without a kitchen is also bearable - for a while. You can rustle up all sorts of meals with a microwave and George Foreman Fat Reducing Grill ( - the new range is excellent), or if you don’t mind buying an appliance you probably won’t use after the renovation, a mini multifunction oven with hotplates - Russell Hobbs ( does one.

It often makes sense to get the new bathroom and kitchen in early on, although they’re not the cheapest rooms to fit out, or you may want to concentrate on finishing one room or storey so you can live there. Start at the top and work down, with both the property in general and each room in particular, to avoid ruining things you’ve already done. Getting the order of works right is key - get it wrong and you’ll waste time, effort and, most importantly, money.

That said, however well you plan your project, renovations tend to cost a lot more money - and take a lot longer - than you expect, so if you’re on a budget, you’ll need to prioritise your spending, especially if unforeseen problems arise.