Crucial things to consider when prioritizing renovations of an old building or home

July 29, 2015

If you're thinking of renovating an old building, always carry out a maintenance audit prior to renovating. If you have a pre-purchase building inspection report (not all that common in rural areas), then chances are this will form an excellent basis from which to start. Here are the most important things to consider when beginning to renovate an old building.

Crucial things to consider when prioritizing renovations of an old building or home

Auditing your building

As you are now the owner, you can perhaps gain access to areas that the inspector could not, such as underfloor areas and ceiling spaces, or even be able to remove some wall linings to investigate potential problems beneath.

  • If no report was provided, or the report was only a very basic one, spend a few hours on your own audit to compile a written record of what, in your opinion, needs to be done.
  • You may not know how to do something and some things may be matters that will need further investigation.
  • It is important that things that need attention are noted for future reference. Discovering a fault six months after you move in provides a particularly unpleasant surprise.
  • Once you have your audit list, draw up a plan of action to ensure that tasks are completed in the correct order.

Prioritizing problem areas

Decide on your priorities and separate the urgent from the important. There will be some things that may be relatively important but that can be left for a few months or even years, though this can be influenced by the location.

  • In warm climates, problems pests that attack lumber need immediate attention as termite and rot attack proceed fairly quickly.
  • In cool regions, paying attention to damp and condensation problems is usually more important.
  • Identify which parts of your renovations are going to include major alterations or additions, and make them an integral part of the overall plan.
  • It is pointless to do major redecoration work on walls or rooms that you know are to be altered, demolished or moved within a year.
  • To make everyday living more bearable, a few large wall hangings will cover up the worst of the defects in the meantime.
  • Your list can always be reordered into categories of what needs to be done immediately, what can wait for three months, six months, a year or longer.
  • Items that should be at the top of the list include leaks in the fabric of the building — particularly at roof level — electrical problems such as exposed wiring and damaged fittings, plumbing problems including leaking rain gutters used for water collection, termite infestations, inadequate drainage and obvious structural defects that produce instability, such as leaning walls or unsupported chimneys.
  • Lower down the list come problems that can be put off safely for a few months. Typical examples of this sort include the treatment of rising damp, cracks that are not causing instability, replacement of rotted window frames, general drainage, ventilation (unless conditions are unhealthily damp under the house) and guttering that is not used for water collection.
  • Long-term maintenance can include an upgrading of the power supply, a new kitchen and bathroom, complete repainting inside and out and recladding of the roof and/or walls.

Keep in mind that all of these requirements can be shuffled around to suit your needs. Remember, too, that even with a major renovation pending, you can still do a quick-and-easy facelift to make the house look a lot better, for example by cutting the grass and pruning overgrown plants around the building.

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