How much should a home makeover really cost?

Transforming your home isn't always a cheap process, but spend your money well and you can achieve interiors that is comfortable, long lasting and add value.
Let’s work on the premise that, though our home needs to be personal and tailored to our needs, we also want it to make us some money — or at least, not lose money. This is possible.

A client of mine, prior to recent renovations costing £170,000, had his 1,205sq ft flat valued at £1.2 million. Weeks after completing the project he decided he missed not having a dog and needed to live closer to a park. He sold the flat in days for £1.6 million. The purchasers, from abroad, paid a premium as they could move in immediately. Personally, I would have kept the flat and forgotten about the dog.

How much should a makeover really cost
A stylish makeover, as with this flat, should include fitting real wood floors, not laminate

How much should a makeover really cost
£13,000: think of the bathroom as a wonderful; bespoke suit - made with long-lasting wool, rather than cashmere
Work out a budget
The simplest way to calculate the cost of a complete refurbishment is by basing it on square meterage. The plans offered by most estate agents indicates how much inside space there is, for example, 112 square metres in the case of our dog lover’s decently sized two-bedroom flat. Multiply the size by an allowance of roughly £1,100 a square metre.

The calculated figure should cover decoration, joinery (new wardrobes, storage and replacement doors etc), rewiring and fixed lighting, proper wooden flooring (not laminate), a certain amount of relocation of walls and a bit of structural work, plus professional fees; what I call the usual stuff. I have based this square meterage cost on the average spend on my last five projects — all flats between 110 and 170sq m. On top of that calculation you will need to add on the cost for each new bathroom, a kitchen and perhaps new heating.

Washing, cooking and keeping warm
In the bathroom I used decent German kit and, instead of covering the space in expensive marble, used high-quality porcelain tiles and a sliver of slate. In fashion terms, I had a bespoke suit made in long-lasting wool rather than cashmere. If integrated into a project, a decent bathroom similar to this one should cost upwards of £13,000.

Kitchen costs vary. It all depends if you are willing to be seduced by big-brand marketing or are tenacious enough to endure the Ikea process.

I prefer to commission a joiner to build a kitchen from scratch. You get more for your money, decent quality even under the shiny surfaces and get to employ someone in this country to make it. For a simple handmade kitchen, with a smart Corian work surface, expect to pay upwards of £20,000 sans your choice of white goods.

Finally, you might have to take into account the cost of an entirely new heating system. Most multi-bathroom homes will require a gas-fired boiler with a mega flow. You may want flat-fronted radiators too, or even under-floor heating. In central London, if using a larger established plumbing company, you should expect to pay upwards of £15,000 for a completely new system. I know — there goes the new car — but a limp shower spray is no fun. If you have only one bathroom you will save a lot of money by using a combination boiler.

Calculating the cost of add ons: flooring, bespoke wardrobes and decorating
If you plan to work on a project that doesn’t require an entire strip-out but a certain amount of renovation, you will need to look at the various trades and products required to realise the project. Price the bathrooms, kitchen and heating as previously. In addition, take on board that a decent wooden floor laid will be more than £100 a metre. For a pukka joiner to build a stunning wardrobe will be more than £5,000. I recently had a 90sq m apartment decorated, including woodwork and wallpapering done by well-trained decorators, for £10,000. On the same project re-wiring cost £8,000 and all the fixed lights and switches came to £5,000.

How much should a makeover really cost
£1,100 a sq m: a well-budgeted renovation will cover the cost of decoration, new floors, wiring, fixed lighting and moving a few walls - all done to great effect by interiors architect Dan Hopwood at this two-bedroom flat

Hire an expert to renovate your home
It is probably worth saying here that the best way to achieve a fully considered result with perfect finishes and a superb layout within a planned timeframe and budget, is to take on a professional to handle the job. By that I mean an architect or interior designer. Someone able to up draw plans and understand your needs, can cost fairly and execute the job well. Sensible people know that the 24-hour makeover with a budget of £1,000 is just for TV — and that a 30-minute walk around with a builder just will not cut it.

Hidden costs of renovating
The reality of how much work costs may come as a surprise, especially the hidden unknowns, such as plumbing or re-wiring. Many take the option of phasing works, perhaps doing the bedrooms and bathroom(s) in the first phase and the living room and kitchen in the second phase. I’ve done that and, frankly, it’s hell having to move out twice and it costs more money.

Others take the decision to buy their desired flat and, even if in a poor state, live in it before starting renovation works a couple years later. I’ve done that too: it can be a very long two years. However, it makes sense to to buy the best property you can afford, even if it needs work, and wait until you can afford to turn it into your ideal home.

And always remember that all the time, energy and money spent on a project will pay you a dividend in the long run.

Follow Dan Hopwood on Twitter @Danielhopwood

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