The Renovation Game: Chris Farrow of Farrow Walsh Tells us how you can lay the foundations for a successful project
As director of Farrow Walsh, a Leicesterbased structural and civil engineering firm, Chris Farrow has helped hundreds of homeowners make their renovation dreams a reality – from Tudor properties to Victorian and Georgian townhouses, as well as barn conversions.
We caught up with him to find out how you can lay the foundations for a successful project.
DON’T BE TEMPTED TO DO IT ALL YOURSELF
Perhaps you have good contacts in the trade, or experience of the planning system, but it is important to get expert advice before buying any property you plan to renovate.
While basic surveys – like the RICS Condition Report or RICS HomeBuyer Report – may be adequate for general home purchases, they are not normally suitable for period properties and/or ones requiring significant work.
A RICS Building Survey or Full Structural Survey provide a more in-depth analysis, showing any problems and suggesting remedial action. The surveyor looks at the age of the property, timber conditions, brick strength, electrics and much more.
With the most expensive survey costing upwards of £600, it is a worthwhile investment if it saves you thousands in the long-run.
DO FOLLOW DUE DILIGENCE
Once you have bought a property, you’ll need to make sure the renovation complies with building regulations, so it can be signed off by a building control inspector, either from the local authority or an approved private firm. Fail to do so and the council could take those who carried out the work to court, where they face a hefty fine, and/or demand that the changes be reverted.
On top of that, you could struggle to sell a property that does not have a completion certificate.
DON’T GO TO A BUILDER FIRST
For small-scale renovations, including an extension, you might go straight to a local building firm – but your project may still need planning permission from your local authority. An architect will produce a set of plans designed to gain approval and help you through the planning process.
Even if your project does not require planning permission (as in the case of internal alterations), always consult a structural engineer, who can advise on the integrity of the building and highlight potential issues.
Barn conversions are popular at the moment, not least because former agricultural buildings are generally cheap to buy and offer countryside views. But vehicle access, the poor condition of the building and drainage can present challenges.
DO FIND AN ARCHITECT WITH RENOVATION EXPERIENCE
Always do your research to find an architect who has previously worked on renovation projects in the past, particularly if you are working on a period and/or listed building. Look for someone who will help you restore it in a sensitive way, making the most of original features.
DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY WITH BIG IDEAS
As you’ll know from the many home improvement shows on TV, it is all-too-easy to go over budget when ideas get out of hand. We might be called in when a property owner has been too eager to make major changes and has to obtain retrospective approval from building control or planning permission.
Without this, you might be forced to take down an extension or restore the building to its original state. While some local authorities are more receptive to an individual seeking retrospective permission than others, it is always better to get expert advice if your renovation contravenes any regulations.