RENOVATION DIARIES: Planning Process and Different Stages

You buy a house that is a renovation project, have 123556 ideas (Pinterest link here) on what you want to do with it, but what actually happens once you have bought the house and start making the plans and what actually is involved in the planning process*? This is our second renovation project (remember our old house?), but this time this is on a much larger scale. This not only means we will need some help with the whole process but also this will be hitting our bank account much harder than last time. As always we will try to keep the costs down where possible and DIY where we can.

STAGE 1. – DECIDE HOW YOU WILL USE THE SPACE

We both knew theoretically what we wanted to do with the house, the approximate layout and discussed how we wanted the rooms be used. We are lucky to have bought this amazing 4 bedroom house, that has a living room and a separate dining room. The kitchen may be on the small side and the upstairs toilet resembles a Harry Potter’s cupboard, but we had an idea on how to utilise the space with the help of an extension and building a dormer.

As I said, the kitchen is very very small in this house, it also is where the boiler and the washing machine is installed. Our fridge wouldn’t even fit in there and is currently living in the “dining room” next to the dryer. As we were creating new space for the kitchen and dining room area by building an extension, this room could now become anything we wanted it to be. Our initial thought was to turn it into a downstairs bathroom. After long discussions we both came to an agreement that a utility room would make more sense. We both knew we needed a downstairs toilet, but we did not need another large bathroom. We decided to have the best of both worlds and separate an area in the dining room for the new downstairs toilet and use the old kitchen as our utility room. This layout worked for us, someone else may have wanted to use it differently.

We also took our time when we were deciding which room will be our official living room and which one will become the sitting room/library and will link to the new extension. There are so many things to consider when making a decision on the layout, so take your time and think about how you will use the space and what is important to you.

STAGE 2 – MAKE A PLAN

Now you have had time to think about how you want to use the space, start planning. You don’t need to make any specific drawings but have an idea on the layouts and spaces you want to have in each room you are attempting to renovate. Take measurements and make sure things fit exactly how you want them to. We also spent ages thinking about which side of the extension we should have the kitchen and why. There are so many things to consider – lighting, window position, existing plumbing and drainage, garden, views, how the rooms will connect etc.

STAGE 3 – HIRE A PROFESSIONAL TO HELP WITH THE FLOOR PLANS AND THE PROCESS

Whether it is an architect, architectural technologist or an interior designer, it is worth spending money on a professional as they do this for a living and are more experienced in this field than you are. This will also mean, they will deal with the Planning Committee if there are any issues or problems and will know the do’s and dont’s of the planning world.

We knew what we wanted to achieve with this house, but needed to make sure that we are making the most of this house and the space we had and respect the old house in the process. After lots of research (and asking around as we do live in the Isle of Man and everyone knows everyone really), I got in touch with a highly sought after Chartered Architectural Technologist who’s had over 30 years experience in this field. We had to wait a couple of months as he was very busy, but we are so happy that we did because we’ve worked together and truly came up with an amazing concept for our dream home.

STAGE 4 – WORK WITH YOUR ARCHITECT/DESIGNER

This is so important, let the architect know what you want to achieve and don’t be scared to speak up. If something doesn’t feel right, tell them! It doesn’t mean that you are being fussy, it means that you know what you want and the architect is there to work with you to achieve your dream home. Good architects will make suggestions to ensure you are informed about alternative options, that may not have crossed your mind, but at the end of the day your decision is final (unless of course it is impossible to do!!).

Architects aren’t mind readers and they work with you to achieve the best possible outcome for you so let them know if the roof light is not the right size or shape, or you wanted black windows rather than white. This will save you money in the long term because changing your mind later on may prove more costly. At the end of the day – it is your house and you will be living in it! Luckily our Architectural Technologist is amazing and the plans he produced were pretty much perfect, after a few emails back and forth and a further meeting we agreed on the second set of plans and they were perfect! He also agreed with our plans and pretty much said he wouldn’t change anything about them, apart from maybe instead of the walk in wardrobe turn it in an ensuite for the selling potential. We did think about it for a minute, but decided that [for us] it made more sense to use the space as a wardrobe and not an ensuite as the master bathroom was right next door and there were only two of us living so didn’t really need a bathroom, 1 ensuite and 1 downstairs toilet!

He was also always available if we had any questions and was very helpful even when we had a few issues with the Planning Office.

STAGE 5 – WAITING ANXIOUSLY…

This is not a fun part.. You are basically stuck in a limbo land until you receive a confirmation from the Planning Office and fingers crossed your plans have been approved. In the Isle of Man this takes approximately 8 weeks. This is a truly awful part, I hate not being in control.. 🙂 You keep checking the online application status, see if there are any comments or documents uploaded, pressing F5 refreshing the page and nothing has changed. Most of the time, the decision will not be made until it is due, so you just have to stick with it and wait… You are hoping, waiting and itching to start but can’t do anything but wait.. so use your time wisely and jump on to the next stage…

STAGE 6 – FIND RELIABLE TRADESPEOPLE

The planning application is in, so you have around 8 weeks now to keep yourself busy and try not to go crazy.. This is the time to start looking at tradespeople and trying to get some rough estimates and quotes in for the work you are planning on carrying out. This can be a bit tricky, because you still don’t have the accurate plans that are required for the Building Control, which means all estimates are pretty rough. You should have the measurements and floor plans for the rooms, so this should give you enough information you need.

STAGE 7 – LOOK INTO MATERIALS AND CHECK THE TIME SCALES

Thanks to Brexit and Covid-19, there is a national shortage of pretty much everything in the building industry, the prices have also gone up so maybe not such a bright idea to take on a massive renovation project at this time!! Joking aside, now is a good time to think about various materials, tiles and appliances. If you are planning on doing some of the work yourself, you will need materials such as timber or plasterboard. Do your research and make a few phone calls. Even if it is to get a rough estimate and delivery times. Our planning has not yet been approved but I have already ordered the tiles as the prices were going up by £50 and some of the bathroom appliances we wanted would take 6 weeks for delivery (this could also backfire so make sure you have plan B if things don’t quite go to plan)!

STAGE 8 – APPLICATION – APPROVED OR REJECTED?

Your application is either approved or rejected.. If you are lucky enough to get all your plans approved – well done! If your application is rejected or runs into some issues, don’t worry. We had big plans on building and extension and a dormer to make the most of the space, however our planning officer for some unknown reason was against both.. It looked like it will be rejected in the first instance, by thankfully we had a good team and our Architectural Technologist was in conversation with the planning officer and we had to come up with plan B. Sadly, dormer is no longer a go, but after a few alterations to the extension, we are ready to submit revised plans, which hopefully shouldn’t take too long to be approved.

We have also finally come up with a plan for our bathroom, and although we no longer be able to have what we wanted we are still getting a pretty nice bathroom as a result of moving a few things around. Things don’t always go to plan, so there is no point to dwell on things and move on – make alternative plans!!

STAGE 9 – Building Control

You thought it was over once and you can start building your dream home now you’ve got the planning application sorted.. Well sadly, no… Next stage is applying for Building Control, this is a new topic and I will continue in my next post..Well done if you managed to get through to the end!

*Don’t forget we live in the Isle of Man, so the process might be slightly different depending where you live. This blog post shares our experience and is based on the Planning/Building Control in the Isle of Man

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