Taking on a renovation project in 2022? Here’s what to do when supply is short and lead times are long

Pros and cons of living on site

When lockdown hit in March 2020, a lot of us suddenly became very aware of the things that needed doing in our homes. (Isn’t it staggering to think that was over two years ago now.) But lots has changed in the past couple of years, which mean that doing a project now, compared to three or four years ago, really is quite different. From long delays, price rises to shortages of skilled labour. With this in mind, I wanted to help give you an idea of what to expect when undertaking a renovation project in 2022.

According to the latest planning statistics, the pandemic saw a record number of homeowners taking on renovation projects. Research by estate agents Savills found that 247, 500 consents for planning applications were granted in England for the year to September 2021 – an increase of more than a third on the preceding 12 months.

While this is fantastic – we love a good renovation – this boom in construction does however put a strain on materials and skilled labour. Not only that – it’s now coming at a time when prices are rising on seemingly everything.

So, with all this in mind we wanted to help prepare you with what to expect if you’re thinking of taking on a project, this year – whether that be a large kitchen extension or bathroom renovation.

How long will it take?

The first thing to accept when thinking about doing a renovation project is that it’s more than likely going to be a long time until your project even gets off the ground. According to Fix Radio, a radio station for builders and tradespeople, reputable builders can have lead times of up to one year in the current climate. Construction materials can also take several months to arrive, as well as kitchen, flooring and other interior products – from sofas to washing machines.

Bear in mind that if you’re applying for planning permission, this could take around eight to 13 weeks to be granted as well.

Simply being prepared for these delays alone will help you feel less frustrated when they happen and your project overruns.

So, when you start to meet with tradespeople – whether that be a builder, interior designer or joiner – be sure to ask them when they think they’ll be able to start. But do your due diligence – if you’re lucky and they do have availability soon, why not investigate the reason as to why – it may be they’ve had a job fallen through, or they have a spare couple of weeks before a larger project. Knowing their timescale will help you finalise your plans.

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Use the wait for the project to begin to really nail down your ideas. Image: iStock

Communication is key

While factoring in availability can help you chose a tradesperson, some of the main reasons you should pick one is based on their skills, reputation and if you feel you’ll have a good working relationship with them.

To whittle down the choice even further, and certainly before signing on the dotted line, check they have a legitimate website or social media account, and are registered with governing bodies. For example, use NICEIC for a registered electrician; or for contractors, contact the Federation of Master Builders (FMB)

If you’re hiring an architect, it’s the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); for chartered surveyors you’ll contact the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and structural engineers are registered with the Institution of Structural Engineers; for plumbers, it’s the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), and for kitchen and bathroom designers your point of contact is the Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA).

They should also be happy to show you previous work in person. Once you’ve chosen your builder, ask to keep in close contact with them – from before works start right through to completion. This will help put your mind at ease that things are moving in the right direction – albeit slowly.

However, be sure to not pay all the money upfront, and to get a written contact before paying any money at all.

Within this contract, Sovereign Boss recommends having: the contractor’s name, address, phone number and license number, an estimated start or completion date, any agreements during the conversation including an estimated cost of labour or materials, and an agreement regarding cancellation.

Pros and cons of living on site
Taking on a renovation project means you’ll have to work with several tradespeople. iStock/ skynesher

Budget planning

During my time at Kitchens Bedrooms & Bathrooms, we have always recommended a minimum contingency budget of at least 10%. However, with costs rising so quickly and everything being so unpredictable at the moment, we believe it’s now much wiser to have a contingency budget of around 15-20% of the construction costs.

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This will be used not only for unforeseen structural, site issues or weather delays but to cover unforeseen price rises.

If your budget will only cover the renovation itself and not stretch to a contingency, then I’m sorry to say but it’s probably not a good idea to start your renovation project at the moment.

When discussing your spends, be open and honest and, above all, remember to be realistic – with both yourselves and tradespeople.

Overestimate costs, if anything, and prioritise areas you can’t compromise on but identify others where you could cut back. Finally, be sure to not only include fixtures and fittings in the budget, but labour, installation, and VAT – currently 20% – as well.

Be adaptable

Ultimately, at the moment there are things that might just not go to plan. So, being flexible, perhaps choosing different materials or suppliers if your chosen ones will take months to arrive, could help make the project stick closer to the budget and time frame.

That being said, you must be happy with your final choice, as changing it later down the line will inevitably cost even more money, and make the project drag on even longer. In the end – it’s a balancing act.

Seeing as it’s easier and cheaper to change plans before any work begins than it is to alter the scheme once it is being implemented, why not use the time while waiting for the project to begin to really nail down all the little details of the design, which you may have done during the build. You could even get a head start with specific apps to start planning your space. This way, you have everything ready to go when the time comes.

While taking on a renovation project has always been a big undertaking, it seems even more so right now – so really do your research, find the right people for the job, be confident in your plans, have a really healthy contingency and perhaps just know nothing will happen quickly. With all of this combined you will – eventually – have your dream home!

Good things come to those who wait.

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