When Carl and I bought our Victorian Terrace to do up, we really didn’t know what we were getting into. Before taking on another project, we asked ourselves several questions to make sure we were really up for it. Here are the questions you will want to answer before you commit to a major house renovation.

1. Can you live in it and, if not, can you afford to live elsewhere, even if work takes twice as long?

Our first house was so small that we didn’t have the option to live around the work. Plus, so much of the work was major that we wouldn’t have been able to escape the dust. This mean that for eleven months (much longer than we planned), we were paying £595 in rent on top of our mortgage payment.

If the house is big enough, or in good enough repair to live in straightaway, then this isn’t an issue. But if you’re concerned that you won’t manage life on a glorified building site, you’ll need to budget for alternative accommodation.

The bathroom in the house was in quite a state and required complete gutting. It would have been tough to live there for any length of time without a working shower!

The bathroom in the house was in quite a state and required complete gutting. It would have been tough to live there for any length of time without a working shower!

2. Can you fund your project?

Do you have the savings, credit, or access to loans to complete a major house renovation? Costs can add up quickly – especially if you have trouble with the roof or windows. If you, or the surveyor, have concerns beyond basic redecorating, then get a quote before you commit and ensure your budget will be able to handle the expense.

3. Is this definitely how you want to spend your free time?

Just because you think that you will make money on a renovation, doesn’t mean it will be worth the personal cost. DIY takes time and it can easily crowd out other hobbies, time with family, or just leisure time. Even if you plan to outsource work to other people, it still takes time to obtain quotes, give instructions, and make decisions about finishes.

Plus, life doesn’t stop when you take on a project. Babies will be born, people get married, jobs change. Are your circumstances reasonably stable, or do you expect major changes that will challenge your commitment to getting your project finished?

The living room nearly completed. Wall down, radiator replaced and moved. New walls, new floors, new wires, new lights. Eventually a new door as well.

The living room nearly completed. Wall down, radiator replaced and moved. New walls, new floors, new wires, new lights. Eventually a new door as well.

4. Will you at least break even when you sell?

Especially if this is your first project, you will save yourself a lot of stress if you have a wide margin of error in terms of cost. No one wants to end up ‘upside down’ – having spent more money on buying and doing up a house than they are able to sell it for. If you don’t think you’re getting a bargain price with plenty of room for error, then it may be worth looking for another property.

5. Do you have the skill – or time – or money to get the work done?

If you don’t know what you’re doing, it is either going to take a lot of time to learn, or extra money to get a professional in. This isn’t necessarily bad, and the internet is rife with tutorials, guides, videos and resources to help you do everything from plumbing to plastering. However, you need to be aware of your own limitations going into it. If you don’t have a personality that tends to stick with things until they are finished, and you don’t have the money to pay someone else to do the work, then a house renovation may not be for you.

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The staircase was so dark you could barely take a photo. We had the stairs replaced (not a job we could do ourselves), took down a partition wall, and added a transom window above the door to the bathroom to add as much light as possible.


Ultimately, the decision to take on a major house renovation is challenging, and different for everyone. You have to consider your financial strength, your mental and emotional stamina, your general life circumstances, as well as the house in question.

Did you walk into a house renovation blindly? Or was it deliberate?

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