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Don't create a DIY disaster

24 February 2005

In the second of her new monthly columns, interior design consultant Jayne Webb, whose company Southover Design is based in Horley, warns about the dangers of biting off more than you can chew.

The abundance of room makeover and DIY programmes on TV are a reflection of the nation's current obsession with home improvements. Busy estate agents and packed auction rooms confirm the amount of people desperate to find a run-down property that they can turn into their dream home.

But it isn't quite so straightforward in real life. It is all too easy to view an old and unmodernised property and do an estimate for the cost of the decorating, curtains and carpets and completely overlook the essentials. Don't forget the new damp proof course, the plumbing, the rewiring, the windows and even the cost of skips to take all the debris away.

Once you have found your dream property, always make a detailed calculation of exactly how much it is going to cost to put right before you are the proud owner of a new set of front door keys. Contact reputable builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, damp proof experts, decorators and plasterers, and get a good surveyor to tell you exactly what you are letting yourself in for, not only in terms of cost, but also time.

If the property is uninhabitable, build the cost of alternative accommodation into your budget and remember that by moving into the property while extensive building work is going on, you may slow down the project, which could ultimately cost you more.

If you are going to manage the renovations yourself, do not book the various trades people with too little time in between. Remember that the electrician can't start until the building work has been done and that the plastering has to be done after the electrics. It all sounds very elementary, but if one trade overruns, you may have to postpone another and this can lead to lengthy delays and lots of Tippex on the timing plan.

If you decide to go it alone and do the majority of the work yourself whilst holding down a day job, think VERY carefully. Are you really going to feel like knuckling down to a good four hours a night stripping woodwork after a hard day in the office and will your family cope with your absence every weekend for months on end?

Also, consider sourcing your materials. Have you got a very understanding boss who will overlook endless phone calls to the builders' merchants during work hours and can your family car double up as a pick-up truck easily?

If despite all of these hurdles you are still determined to brave it, good luck and enjoy it! 

Derek wiring a fuse board