Coming into the drier spell of the year, it’s a time that we often consider a refresh in our homes, perhaps thinking about those jobs to be done that have niggled all through winter, maybe you want to find a way to connect your interior to your outside environment, or perhaps you have decided it’s time for a complete overhaul of your home.
Whatever it is, it’s important to start with a clear vision, get the right experts on board and create a plan for the best results.
If you have no expertise in the area, the potential of making any big changes can seem daunting. The idea of form filling, planning permission, work schedules, juggling budgets, managing ideas can just seem too vast, so I spoke to Mark Butler of WD Harley for some pointers. WD Harley are multi-disciplinary project consultants working in Glasgow and the Loch Lomond and National Park who can help with project management, design development, planning and building warrant applications and contract administration.
Mark gave me a really useful outline of the process to follow that will help anyone thinking of making changes or renovations to their property. Firstly, define a brief. Mark explained, ‘By writing a “project brief” before you contact any designers you can come to agreement about the most important parts of the project to you and agree key spatial and aesthetic outcomes. The project brief can then be developed and amended as the project progresses but you will always have this to guide you and others through.’
Once you have your vision clear in your mind and an outline of how you want to pursue it, then you need to think about how you take it forward. Mark advises, ‘If the project is small you may only need a single designer (architect or interior designer) but in more complex construction projects you may need to employ other designers such as structural engineers, and involving a builder at an early stage can also be a helpful way ensuring a smooth transition from the design stage of the project through to the construction stage.’
It’s then vital to consider who manages all of this. The role of project manager is key and this decision can be the make-or-break of any project. Think very seriously and honestly about your skills and limitations here – can you really juggle the multiple trades required or do you need to hand this over to an expert? It will depend on the scale of the project. Mark said, ‘In most larger construction projects, alongside designers and builders there will be an individual employed as a “project manager”. This individual is often vital to the success of the project and although it is possible to employ somebody to fulfil this role, in most renovations this role is carried out by you.’
The next area to consider is planning and building warrants. You may have an architect or designer to help you with this, but make sure you are on top of it at an early stage – no-one wants to have to rip apart wonderful constructions because of a gap in paperwork and ticked boxes. So make sure that you are clear what permissions are required in the first place. Mark’s advice here is, ‘Although internal alterations do not usually require planning consent, in the West End many properties are located in conservation areas or listed buildings and do require consent from the local authority planning department. If the project will involve structural alterations or the installation of new sanitary fixtures you will also need building warrant consent from the local authority before you can start works. Developing good relationships with designers and builders early on, will help guide you through these processes.’
Then, you’re good to go. Mark advises, ‘Once you have obtained necessary consents for the projects you can start works and it is important that you or the project manager continue to pay close attention to the progress of the works and continue to communicate regularly with the builder and designers. If you obtained building warrant consent for the project the local authority will need to inspect the works after they are finished before issuing a completion certificate which you will need in the event that the property is sold.’
Ensure that you have picked your experts wisely. Whatever size of project you go for, much of the traditional architecture and tenements of the West End have their own special requirements to think of. The windows, plasterwork, woodwork and tiling all have years of craftsmanship to be considered and you need to be careful to select the right builder, tradesman or artisan.
An example particularly relevant for the tenement buildings is the elegant plasterwork many of us have in our homes. I asked a local expert for some advice in his area of expertise. David Fountain of Reproplaster told me, ‘Renovations of traditional properties can at times present themselves with specific challenges. Sometimes refurbishments require very simple adjustments to ornate cornices, for example the addition of a pipe chase, or reinstating half an ornate ceiling. Owners often worry that it can never be repaired but when the work is done you’d never know it was ever any different.’
David expanded, ‘As well as repairs, there is very often the scenario where ceilings have been lost in full, and it’s the reinstatement of traditional looking features which are required, but not necessarily match the existing. You may have acquired a property where they were already lost and its not even known what was there before or what it looked like. This is where our product list and expert knowledge comes in and we can help to guide through the process of making the right choice for your home.’