Top 15 tips for home renovation

Build projects can be daunting and it’s hard to find a quick guide covering the basic facts. As we near the end of our build, my top 15 tips for home renovation offers first hand experience that will hopefully steer you through the process and address certain points that you may not have considered.

1.Design ideas
Think long-term with design ideas and avoid large expenditure on rooms that may be outgrown in a few years, such as a playroom. Look at how rooms can be multi-functional and adapted over time. Think about living habits starting from the moment you wake up through to bedtime. Do you take baths or showers? Who showers first? Where do you hang your coats? Where is the dumping ground for coats and shoes and how will you alleviate this? Do you have a dog and where will he/she go after a walk? Do you currently have any upstairs rooms that you don’t use and why?  Could they be turned into an upstairs laundry room? etc…

15 tips for home renovation by Interior Stylist, Pippa Jameson

Collate ideas and start to piece the rooms together. Pinterest is probably the easiest place to start as it has a huge bank of inspirational images. Create a board for each room and try to commit to one or two ideas so it’s not too confusing, share with the builder when you meet him.

2.Find a builder
Good builders are often booked up at least a year ahead and so as soon as you find one that you are happy, try to book them in. Choose ones that have been recommended by friends or family, most reputable builders will be able to talk about recent builds and suggest that you take a look at their previous work, speak to the owners and ask about their experience with the builder. Other places to look are My or Trusted Traders

3.Build costs
Based on your ideas, your builder should be able to give you a very rough idea of costs. To provide an accurate quote, the builder will need to look at approved plans. Ask for a breakdown of costs with each service itemised such as groundwork, plumbing and decorating. Find out exactly what is included; does the decorating include tiling? What style sockets does his quote allow for; white or brushed chrome? How much has he allowed for internal doors and can you choose them yourself? Walk yourself through every room to work out what needs to be included in the quote.  If you want anything that is considered extra or specialised (such as brushed chrome sockets) you will need to stipulate this from the start.

Have your finance in place by the time the build starts. If you are re-mortgaging or taking out a separate loan, you don’t want to start repayments until the build has started. You will, however, need to pay for other items right from the outset such as planning applications, draft drawing etc. I would recommend having a budget of approximately £3,000 ahead of the bulk build costs to cover these items.

Banks do not like to see lots of credit searches on your credit history and so avoid applying for anything (such as credit cards) at least 6 months before your build to avoid any searches showing in your name.  If you want to see what your credit score is ahead of a mortgage or re-mortgage application, sign up to Experian as this has up to 6 years credit history.

It is imperative that you have a contingency, I would recommend this to be at least 10% of your overall build costs. It can be hard to understand why you need so much money as a back up but this amount is for the unforeseen costs. To give you an example, the plumbing may be more complicated than anticipated, you may change your mind with some of the design elements along the way and need to pay a little extra for alterations or, your builder may starts the excavation and hit something in the ground that requires different build materials. It might be that you never need to dip into the contingency, and that’s great, but it will give you peace of mind to know that it is there. This free build tool can help you to work out build costs.

Once you have the quote from your builder, create a spreadsheet of all the build elements. Write next to each section exactly what has been agreed by the builder. Ask your builder to look over your list/spreadsheet and approve the content in writing. If you make any changes along the way be sure to update the spreadsheet and again, ask your builder to confirm that he has read it. This is a good template to use Advanced Housing Systems or you can create your own one in Google Sheets. Google sheets is a great platform as you can share the live document with your builder and choose whether he can have access to edit the document.

7.Extras (!)
This can get to be a familiar term with build projects as these ‘extra’s’ can eat into your budget. Understandably, things often change along the way but insist that your builder notifies you of any additional costs prior to the work commencing, this will allow you to account for all costs along the way.

8.Payment schedule
Builders tend to be quite flexible with payment schedules but most will insist on an upfront payment to cover the costs of materials. A sensible plan would be to split the build costs into monthly payments and then hold back a percentage (normally 10%) until all the work is finished. At the end of every build there will be a snagging list of things that need checking or finishing off and this can be up to 30 days after the build has finished. If the build is extensive and lots of steels have been put in then your architect may recommend a period of up to a year before you pay the final instalment as this gives the building time to settle.

9.Project Manager
I would advise using a project manager, preferably someone who works in the industry or who has experienced in the build process. If no-one is running the project, decisions will be made for you. This can be anything from the position of kitchen units through to the choice and position of down lights. Do not assume that the builder knows what you are thinking. It will cost more in the long run to change things and in some cases, it might be too late.

10.Creating your plans
I would recommend having these drawn up by an architect or draftsman as they will transform your ideas into workable drawings ready for the planning application. An architect will handle the planning application process for you and most will already have a relationship with the planning office and advise on what is likely to be passed or refused. Build it has some great design tools as well as tips for budgeting and build ideas.

15 tips for home renovation by Interior Stylist, Pippa Jameson

11.Planning application & letters
Leave plenty of time to get your planning application in and approved, standard time 8-12 weeks from application. If drawings are refused, allow time for the appeal or any necessary modifications and re-submission. Here is a basic guide to planning. Your application is open for anyone to look at online, if it’s a substantial build with major disruption, it’s worth visiting your neighbours ahead of any plans being submitted so that you can talk thorough your intentions, this could avert planning objections and prevent any potential delay should anyone choose to oppose your plans.

It’s worth looking online at other local applications as this will give you a guide as to what has been approved by planning in the local area. Once planning is approved and you have a start date, send letters to your neighbours telling them when the work is likely to start and finish. Continue to notify them of any major deliveries or road closures that might affect them. Put yours and the builders phone number on there in case they have any questions or concerns.

12.When to build?
In terms of timings then this can sometimes be dictated by when your builder is available.

Building in the Spring/Summer: Pros

  • Easier to be without heating and option to camp in the garden or temporary on site mobile home
  • Builders aren’t fighting against the elements as the weather is fairer
  • Tools can be left outside


  • Your garden may be out of action for the Summer
  • Your neighbors may have noise pollution while they are out in their gardens

Building in the Autumn/Winter: Pros

  • Builders and contractors tend to be less busy in the winter months and so their availability should be better
  • Less waiting time for planning decisions
  • You don’t miss your outside space


  • Builders can’t leave their tools outside
  • The build can be hampered by rain
  • Deliveries and work conditions are more challenging
  • Hard to be without heating

13.Build schedule
Ask your builder for a build schedule as this will allow you to plan ahead. Things like kitchens and bathroom can often have a 3-month lead-time from ordering to delivery. You might also have to move out for a while and so will need to make alternative living arrangements.

Order as many samples as possible BEFORE the project starts. Builders need decisions on tiles or paint and sometimes offer no notice, this is where it becomes overwhelming and rushed decisions are made. Far better to tackle this early on to give yourself a head start. Ask each supplier what their order time is and factor this in with your build schedule.

15 tips for home renovation by Interior Stylist, Pippa Jameson

15.Money saving tips

Ask if you can pay some parts in cash or run some bits through your business to save on vat. Look at end of line items with  kitchens, floors and tiles. Rummage around reclamation yards and Ebay. For any type of carpentry, ask your builder as he will often use someone who can build something bespoke that might work out cheaper – get a price first…

I’ll have lots of before and after pictures of my build soon along with more hints and tips for home renovating.

Good luck and try to enjoy the process x



Meet Pippa

Pippa Jameson is an author, tv designer and interiors expert. The previous interior editor on several leading UK titles, Pippa has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Throughout her 25-year career, Pippa’s unique and creative approach has won her commissions for large retail brands and celebrities to deliver exciting and engaging projects. 

She’s written the curriculum for the British College of Interior Design, produced and styled shoots for well-known brands including John Lewis, H&M & Team GB/DFS, worked as an International Stylist for leading paint brands in Asia, consulted on the launch and creative direction of major retail names including George Home and Wren, and most recently, published her first book, The Sensory Home. Pippa possesses expertise unmatched in the interior industry.