Renovating made easy: Planning is the be-all and end-all

Planning your renovation in five steps

Renovating a home requires good planning. With these five simple steps, it's easy to prepare your renovation. This will reduce unexpected costs when renovating your home – as well as eliminate a lot of the stress.

1. Plan in enough time

Your plans might include a new kitchen, more efficient energy consumption, or maybe an additional skylight. Unexpected costs and surprises are often involved. So, it's important to prepare well before the renovation begins. This is the only way to make your home project a success. Good research and advice are therefore essential during the preparation stage.

It's also important to clarify what exactly is to be done. Any changes often involve additional work. If you remove a wall, the flooring will need to be extended accordingly. And is it really a good idea to demolish the entire kitchen? Aren't there parts of it you can keep? Should you replace the roof insulation at the same time as installing your new skylight? The important thing is to have a long-term perspective in mind rather than simply a short-term one. Finally, make sure your schedule is realistic – so that the party to celebrate the completion of your new kitchen isn't shrouded in construction dust.

2. Is a building permit required for the renovation?

You can't always do what you want when it comes to renovation. Depending on your project, you may need a building permit first of all. To find out for sure whether you need a permit for your planned renovation, it's advisable to ask the planning department at your local municipality. Permit requirements differ from place to place, and each canton has its own building laws.

A distinction is generally made between standard and simplified construction permit procedures. To enlarge a property, for example, you will need to obtain a building permit via the standard application process. When it comes to the conversion of rooms or changes to the facade, on the other hand, a simplified procedure is usually sufficient.

3. Ask the experts when planning your renovation

A specialist such as a construction manager or architect can organize a building permit. It may soon become apparent that there are constraints on your plans for your future home – for example due to cantonal building law or municipal building and zoning regulations.

In the case of lateral extensions, regulations specifying the distance to the property boundary and neighboring buildings need to be observed. In the case of larger and more complex projects, it's worth asking a specialist. As well as dealing with issues relating to building rights and permits, they will coordinate the various tradespeople. This will prevent down time and allow the building to be remodeled more efficiently and quickly.

4. Set a cost ceiling for the renovation

The cost of the renovation or remodeling should be determined before the work begins, so it's particularly important to have a thorough analysis of the existing condition. That way you can be sure you know exactly what needs to be renovated.

In addition, remember that specific parts, or optional fittings or materials, may not be available at all or may not be available when you need them. A compromise is often needed, which can increase the costs – or sometimes reduce them depending on quality. Also, it's best to obtain several offers from tradespeople in order to compare them. This is the only way to arrive at a specific cost estimate and set a cost ceiling. You can then start addressing the financing of the remodeling measures and see whether you need to increase your mortgage or take out a construction loan, for example. With the latter option, it's advisable to include a reserve within the credit limit in order to avoid having to apply for more credit later on.

5. Useful life: What needs to be replaced over time

Poorly maintained properties lose value. That's why they should be well maintained, and why certain building elements and appliances should be renewed or replaced from time to time. Even though useful lives vary widely, there are some empirical guidelines. Floor coverings and wallpaper generally look worn after ten years. After roughly 15 years, a new stove and oven are needed. The heating system usually lasts about 25 years. Another issue is whether you should switch to a more sustainable method of heating.

Windows need to be replaced every 25 to 35 years. Meanwhile, the facade of a house should be replastered every 30 or so years. Here too, it's important to investigate whether insulation of the facade or the installation of climate-friendly double glazing is worthwhile in the course of the renovation.

Renovation of the building: Which components should be replaced and when

When individual parts of the building should be replaced

a)     When choosing wallpaper or paint, it's advisable to use products that are breathable. This will help regulate humidity and the indoor climate.

b)    Depending on the condition of the parquet flooring, it may not need to be completely renewed. Sometimes it's enough just to sand the floor.

c)     The switch to fossil-free devices will pay off in the long term and will increasingly be required by law.

d)    When it comes to replacing roofs, it's worth thinking about solar and switching to photovoltaic or solar thermal systems.

e)    Old or damaged equipment must be replaced. It pays to switch to more energy-efficient equipment.

f)    Window frames suffer weather damage and need to be replaced. Replacing them also improves the energy efficiency of the building.

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