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  • Writer's pictureRobert Kent

Top Five Pitfalls of a Home Project

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

Most of us have all watched Grand Designs or Amazing Spaces and one thing that we find very interesting is that almost everyone on these shows runs in to the same challenges and make the same mistakes, such as going significantly over budget, having unrealistic time frames to complete the project and ignoring the advice of professionals with years of industry experience. We also see lots of people embark on a similar projects but they think they won’t make the same mistakes or encounter the same challenges even though they have similar or less experience than the people on these shows. For us this resonates with one of Einstein’s famous quotes on the definition of insanity “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result” and we implore our clients to learn from others mistakes instead of repeating them themselves.

During my 25 years of working in the design industry, I have had the opportunity to work on a multitude of different projects and based on my professional experiences these are the top five pitfalls to avoid on any building project.

1. Starting without a comprehensive strategy

We’ve all heard the phrase, failing to plan is planning to fail, however it is extremely common for people to just have a rough idea of what they want to do before beginning works rather than a comprehensive plan and having a holistic approach understanding how all decisions can impact on other elements of the project. As a small example if you were planning an extension, have you considered how the existing flooring will join with the new floor? Will you replace the flooring throughout? Are you going for under floor heating? How would that effect floor levels? Will that mean I will have to replace all skirtings and architraves? Does that mean I will have to redecorate? This is just one small area to consider, do you fully understand the implications and knock on effects of the decisions you are making and what affect this will have on the existing spaces overall? There are so many elements of a project to consider that are often completely overlooked.

2. Going to an architect first

Although this process isn’t always incorrect, typically people will engage an architect as their first port of call. Whilst an architect will generally be able to give their thoughts on if your project will fall within permitted development or would require planning permission, quite often a full design brief isn’t taken and the space planning of the area to be created isn’t considered at all during this process and aligned with a holistic design brief. We prefer to take a full and holistic design brief, establish your requirements and what you would like to achieve, we would then space plan the area and discuss how much room you actually require to fulfil the brief instead of the other way round. It’s also worth noting at this point that unless an Architect has specific interior design training or a specialist within there practice, then often the furniture used in plans is not of a realistic size and then when realistic size furniture is included then circulation spaces dimmish and the space don’t function as initially intended. Architectural joinery detailing and consideration as to how spaces interact with each other is also often overlooked.

3. Not aligning a financial brief with a design brief One of the major challenges on any project is working out how much what you would like to do (design brief) is going to cost to fulfil (financial brief). In our view until the conceptual design and specification has been completed it really isn’t possible to compile a full scope of works and a finishes specification so that your project can be tendered on. The most common mistake we see people make is coming up with a round number which is what they would like the project to cost (generally what they have available), which if you are able to remove emotion from the equation is an illogical approach. Our approach is to do the hard work up front (conceptual design & specification) so that when you start construction your project runs smoothly and without nasty surprises, but what we generally see is that people want to see building work happen as quickly as possible and they will make it up as they go along, which leads to the overspend and delays.

4.Saving on design fees will save you money

You may consider design fees an unnecessary cost and feel that you are capable of working with builders directly to save money especially if you are operating on the limited budget.

However, the truth is the best advice is more valuable when you have less to spend. Someone with deep pockets can afford to make mistakes, while if you have one shot you need to make that first attempt the last. You want to achieve exactly what you want the first time and to the highest level possible within your budget. Hiring people with the correct expertise means you can plan the whole project in advance and reduce the costs of hiring suppliers and contractors – ultimately saving you time and money while avoiding potentially disastrous errors. We often see that cost of the mistakes made on a project are greater than the professional fees that they were quoted and in this scenario they have to do all of the work themselves, have all of the stress of trying to do something you have don’t before and don’t have any experience in and at the end of it end up with a worse result overall. For us this is not the correct way to complete a project, we want our clients to enjoy this process and creating their dream home or work place, as oppose to it consuming their life and becoming something they despise by the end of it.

We see the same mistake made with other professional fees as well such as project management/coordination and procurement as well. 5. Looking at things in isolation instead of holistically When we ask people how they want to live? what do they like? Is their taste more classic or contemporary? Or is it somewhere in between, modern classic? Often we find that peoples definitions of all of these things are all different and more importantly often peoples tastes doesn’t immediately fit with the building they live in, for instance a period property with architectural merit externally and internally and the clients taste is more contemporary, if a huge amount of consideration isn’t given to how the two elements can work together and complement each other you will likely end up with unwanted end result. People also tend to look at images and magazines and say this is what I want my house to look like, but they do not consider if that interior actual suits the way they live, not aligning the two can result with a project that looks nice but doesn’t function very well, our philosophy it to achieve a result that encompasses both.

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