I’m a DIY expert – how to avoid a home improvement nightmare that could cost you THOUSANDS

THINK carefully before diving into a DIY project or your dream home renovation could turn into a nightmare, an expert has warned.

Last year, almost half of UK homeowners made improvements to their property, it’s claimed. 

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These mistakes could make your DIY more DI-why?Credit: Getty

But without the right know-how, your renovation could end up needlessly costing thousands of pounds more. 

Property expert Sam Piplica, senior specialist, building standards at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, shares his tips on how to avoid the most common home transformation pitfalls.

Loft conversions 

Most people don’t know that converting your loft into an extra room affects your whole house. 

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So before you call in the builders, make sure your budget is big enough to meet the additional fire safety regulations that come with it.  

If you decide to add an extra floor to your house that will be above 4.5 metres from the ground, you’ll need to have a fire protected staircase. 

This applies to homeowners adding an additional floor above their first floor. 

All doors and frames that open out on to the staircase must be replaced with 30-minute fire doors and frames. 

The specialist door sets will remain fire resistant for 30 minutes keeping your staircase down from the loft and first floor safe as an escape route. 

Cutting corners by installing new doors into old frames is a risky no no.

Sam said: “Adding an extra floor to your property means you can’t safely jump from the building without risk of serious injury that’s why, to keep people safe, building regulations exist.”

If you’re adding a loft extension you need a Building Regulations Completion Certificate when the work is done. If you don’t have a protected staircase, you won’t get one. 

Without this certificate it will be difficult to sell your home.  

Outdoor upgrades 

If you fancy sprucing up your driveway, decking out your back garden or following last summer’s craze for outdoor kitchens make sure you don’t raise the external ground levels around your house. 

If you do, you’ll cancel the effects of your damp proof course which can ruin your home’s décor.

A damp proof course is found in the walls of your property and must be a minimum of 150 mm above the ground outside. 

It stops damp from the earth rising up the walls. If you don’t know what it looks like, its appearance can differ depending upon the age of your property. 

In older properties it’s generally made of slate or bitumen, a tar-like substance, or plastic in newer properties.

If your outdoor renovation project raises the outside ground level, rainwater can splash back up the wall above the damp proofing making it ineffective.

When getting quotes for a new driveway, ensure the quote includes excavating some of the ground and not simply laying paying over the top which would raise the ground level.

It’s okay to have a small area of decking close to the walls around the door openings, for example. 

But the rest of your decking should be built away from the house, around 200mm from the walls of the house.

Sam added: “If removing soft, green landscaping such as grass with hard surfacing like paving, consider drainage.  

“Some areas of the country, such as in London, will require planning permission to install a driveway and different rules apply to paving over your front garden compared with elsewhere around your house.” 

Historic properties 

Historic properties come with heaps of charm, but there’s often a catch. Before you rush ahead with any alternations find out if you need consent from your local authority listed building and conservation planning officer first. 

Costs are likely to differ depending on what work you do so it’s best to speak to the local authority up front.  

You’ll need to get listed building consent for any renovation that involves the demolition, alteration or extension of a listed building that affects its character. 

You may also need to use specialist materials for your home improvements.

“I cannot stress enough the need to understand the building,” said Sam.  

 “Your project can end up costing you more if you don’t use the right materials for the building. Modern building materials don’t always work with older properties. 

Whether you’re adding a porch or changing your windows something as simple as using cement mortar over lime mortar can negatively impact how water moves through the bricks. This could ultimately cause more problems for your home.” 

Sam recommends employing a professional who has previous experience with your property type and working closely with your local authority listed building and conservation planning officer. 

Garage conversion  

Converting your garage into a liveable room is a great way of adding space to your house.  

But be careful you’re not creating a flood risk. If your driveway slopes towards your house, without adequate drains in front of your garage room wall rainwater will be running towards your property. 

You need to install what’s called a linear drainage system; a long thin metal drain sunk into the paving that runs the length of the wall. 

Failing to do so could cost thousands of pounds of damage to your doors, floors and furniture if rainwater runs in.   

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