3. Understand the programme risks from the outset

Top tips to avoid going over-budget and over-time on your home refurbishment

Ask your project manager, architect or contractor to develop a project programme before they start work. This will demonstrate that they have considered programme risks, how they interrelate, and importantly, target dates for overall completion, as well as the completion of each element of work.

It is a cliché that all building projects take longer and cost more than anyone expected at the start of the project (the UK government automatically adds 1/3 to their budgets and programmes once received), however it doesn’t have to be that way for you. Residential projects are not oil pipelines, and typical risks will be known by a competent consultant (again, why it is critical that you engage with the right people).

Some common causes of delays to watch out for:

  • –  Stretched planning departments are often taking longer to decide on minor planning applications than the statutory 8 weeks. Discuss with your consultants if your project can be carried out under ‘Permitted Development Rights’ or if it is sensible to allow time for a ‘Pre-Application Consultation’.
  • –  Negotiations over Party Wall Awards. Make sure your team are organised and submit any required Party Wall notices in good time. These can take months to negotiate and can get costly if each neighbour dissents and appoints their own surveyor (who you will need to pay for). Don’t leave it to a formal notice landing on your neighbours’ doorstep. Engage with them at the start of the project and discuss your proposals over a glass/bottle/magnum of wine with them.
  • –  Bats! Or any protected species such as reptiles, badgers, dormice, hedgehogs etc. Do you have any house guests? If so (or even if there is a potential that they could be present), your programme will have to take into account surveys and mitigation. For example, if it is suspected that you have bats, a surveyor will need to sit outside your house (at night) for 3 separate nights spaced between April and September and you cannot start certain works until they have been identified and a mitigation license agreed with Natural England. Ecological concerns like these can add months to a project.
  • –  Older buildings will often have heritage constraints, and separate permission is required for work to Listed Buildings. Time will need to be allowed for specialist surveys and consultation with the local Heritage Officer at the start of the project. Once you have a project programme, monitor it and update it regularly. Discuss potential time savings or delays with your team as the project progresses. A good project manager will often be able to think of creative ways of saving back time lost in one area by adjusting the program in others.