Weathering the Perfect Renovation Storm

Living room

We’re in the midst of a perfect storm for homeowners who want to renovate their homes, improve their properties or carry out a build.

If you’ve tried to get hold of a tradesperson or any materials recently you’ve probably met this problem head on. Even ordering goods and furniture online has become a lottery. The surge in lockdown renovations has led to an increased demand for services and materials. This, in turn, has resulted in higher building costs, shortages of vital materials and long lead times. Several times in the past week I have spoken with companies who are not taking any orders at all as they are struggling to fulfill existing commitments and are awaiting materials themselves.

The delays have been compounded by Covid disruptions, by the impact of new Brexit regulations, supply chain issues abroad and even the ripples from the recent Suez canal blockage. If you’re improving rather than moving this can prove to be quite a challenge.

We’ve had to think on our feet here to ensure that our clients aren’t left high and dry. Without a crystal ball we don’t know which materials are going to be in short supply next. At the moment, as reported by Hugh Graham in the Sunday Times, the cost of construction materials has risen by 8 per cent in the year to March 2021. And I’ve read a couple of times in the press recently that HS2 has caused a shortage of cement and aggregate. Last year plaster was like gold dust and this year timber is becoming more elusive.

However, here are a few tips to help you manage your renovation project. Your tradespeople will be able to update you on any specific material shortages or delays :

  • try to book your trades well ahead of time. No-one will be available next week, or even next month, so plan for the autumn
  • for smaller projects, rather than booking a general builder, try contacting the trades you require individually. This is where a project manager comes in handy!
  • ask friends and neighbours for recommendations and use reputable sites such as checkatrade. Even if they’re busy, the tradespeople will usually get back to you to confirm future availability
  • build up relationships with local trades. If they’ve worked with you previously they’ll be happy to come back
  • split your project into bite-size elements. A busy tradesperson might be able to fit in half a day’s electrical work or tiling a bathroom in between bigger projects
  • be flexible – give your trades the option to complete the work over a period of time; you never know when they might have a cancellation, finish a job early or take on extra staff to meet demand

You can follow the progress of one of our current renovation projects in West Dorset; a tiny holiday cottage in Beaminster on Instagram. The project should be completed within two months and we’re working with local trades who will come in for a few days at a time when they can. The painter, for example, has several months’ worth of outside work to complete but he’s going to pop over when it’s raining to decorate the cottage inside.

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