How to Renovate a House 2023 – Costs, Exciting Extensions and Floor Plans

a kitchen with dark navy island, blue kitchen cabinets, open shelving and wishbone bar chairs

I get a lot of questions about how to renovate a house. It can be an extremely stressful time, with budgets being blown, builders not turning up, and materials not available.  Are you sure you still want to carry out that renovation project? 

We bought our current house which needed renovating in August 2020 and it took us 7 months to move in. Extremely stressful times! We had it all…. People in the chain pulling out, our mortgage adviser going off sick with Covid and not relaying our mortgage case on properly to his colleagues.

Both my husband and I are self-employed and when we finally got someone else to take on our mortgage case, they calculated it wrong so we were very close to losing this house altogether! Thankfully our original mortgage broker (who seems to hold special powers when it comes to getting self-employed people great mortgages) came back from sick leave and we finally exchanged.

All I can say is we had an extremely patient estate agent and an even more patient seller!

a shingle beach with the sea, blue skies and a yacht sailing by
We moved to the beach, was it worth it?

With our exchange and move date set to the 8th of March, 2021, we decided to have a good house sort out before we moved. We hired a house clearance in London company to remove all our unwanted items and got professional movers in to pack up the rest of our house on the 7th of March, ready to move on the 8th.

I highly recommend using both house clearances and professional movers when you move house. It is good to start afresh when you start a new renovation project.

Although I always try to use the furniture we already have, if you are downsizing or your existing furniture will no longer fit, you sometimes have no choice but to either sell it or donate to charity. 

We moved in on the 8th of March 2021 and it was a gloriously sunny day. I headed straight to the balcony to sit with a glass of fizz whilst looking at our sea view and knew 100% that all the stress was worth it! We now needed to start planning our renovation project, house extension, getting planning permission, and the difficult part, finding a builder!

1960s house with a balcony, front lawn and hydrangeas
She has good bones

How to Remodel a House

We knew what we wanted to do with the house when we bought it. The kitchen was at the front of the house overlooking the road with a very large L-shaped lounge/diner.

There was a second living room at the back of the house that wasn’t really used and felt completely disconnected from the rest of the house. We wanted to shift the kitchen to the back so it was connected to the garden and double it in size as we much prefer an open-plan kitchen/diner. They are so much more sociable and work better for a family. 

The original floor plan
ground floor plans for a house renovation project
Our house renovation plans

How Did We Raise the Funds?

We took out a larger mortgage on the house which left us with £30,000 after everything had been paid. Both my husband and I took out loans (around £20,000 each) to cover the rest. We also have £10,000 in savings for when it inevitably goes over budget. We’ve all watched Grand Designs, haven’t we?

Did We Use an Architect?

I set about planning the floor plan in SketchUp and realized that by moving the kitchen, we could potentially create a self-contained area to the side of the house and let it via Airbnb. Although we knew roughly what we wanted, we needed to get an architect in so they could turn our vision into a professional floor plan for the builder and work out the structural calculations and planning permissions.

My original plan for the downstairs kitchen extension with the potential for an AirBnB let to the right of the property.

An architect technician can play a vital role in a house renovation project and bring several skills to the table including – 

  • Expertise and specialized training
  • Design skills that help with space planning, lighting design, and other design aspects
  • They can be cost-effective! Although architects may seem like an additional expense, their expertise will actually help you save money in the long run. They can help identify where you can cut costs without sacrificing quality or safety
  • Help with building regulations and planning permissions
  • An architect technician can also help to manage your renovation project, ensuring that it stays on track and on budget. They can coordinate with contractors and other professionals to ensure that the project runs smoothly and efficiently.

We asked friends who live in the area for recommendations and were also contacted via post and email by local architects who *somehow knew* we’d just moved house. We got 5 architects around to take a look and give us a quote.

In the end, we went with an architect technician who lived in the area and has done several other renovation projects locally, so he would know exactly what we would need to do.

As our house (and all the others on the beach) are built on shingles, the foundations are built slightly differently so he was able to guide us through this. He charged us £1500.

Did We Need to Get Planning Permission?

We did! The permitted development rules when extending your home at the moment are 6 meters (and 8 meters for a detached house). As the previous owners had already extended our house at the back with a double extension, which added an additional living room and bigger bedroom, this would mean our new extension would go over the permitted 8 meters.

Our architect drew up draft plans of the extension and sent them to the council for approval. The council then sent over a planning officer to check out the area we were building on and approved it in 8 weeks which cost us around £650.

looking back towards a house from the garden with decking in the foreground and a garage to the left
The double extension at the back with the garage to the right.

How to Renovate a House

Renovating a house can be a great way to improve its functionality, aesthetics, and value. To start, it’s important to create a renovation plan that outlines your goals, budget, and timeline. This will help you stay organized and focused throughout the renovation process.

You’ll want to hire a contractor or DIY if you have the skills to complete the renovation project (and we certainly didn’t!). Make sure to obtain all necessary planning permissions and follow building codes to ensure your renovation project is safe and up to standard.

Finally, be prepared for unexpected expenses and setbacks, as renovations can often be unpredictable.

With careful planning, attention to detail, and a bit of flexibility, renovating a house can be a rewarding and successful project and as we are now on our 4th renovation project, we have learned a lot along the way.

How Did You Choose Your Builder?

steel beams being inserted into where walls used to be in a house extension
House renovation project in full swing!

This was probably one of the most difficult parts of our extension! The building trade in our area is extremely busy at the moment and with material costs going up in price or not being available, we were struggling to find builders who had availability.

We contacted 3 who were recommended to us and my husband went onto after a friend recommended the site. It’s a great idea, you enter the job you need doing and then builders will contact you to arrange a quote.

The quotes varied greatly and, in the end, we went with our builders – Attwater Construction. They were able to start the quickest, but the main reason had to be that they were amazing at getting back to us and communicating!

Something I find builders lack… If we had any questions or needed information, they would get back to us immediately, which gave us the confidence to go with them.

Why did you choose the floor plan? Did you keep changing your mind?

We knew when we viewed the house that the downstairs floor plan needed to change to work for us. We love a huge sociable kitchen where we can invite our large family around, so we had to move the current kitchen to accommodate that.

The compromise with this house is we have quite a small garden so we didn’t want to extend too much into it.

new house renovation plans including the ground floor, first floor, north, east, south and west elevations
Our kitchen extension plans
a large kitchen with a built-in peninsula. There is blue forest wallpaper on the walls and a cosy seating area.
Our last kitchen was a huge sociable space and we loved it

The obvious plan from the start was to take down the large double garage and regain this space so we could extend, which also meant we could reclaim the double drive at the back and turn it into a bigger garden. This doubled our garden space and enabled us to extend.

looking down an overgrown drive with a double garage and the doors open
The garage had just become an inevitable dumping ground with the double drive at the back which we never used.
a double garage being demolished and making more room in the garden
The garage is down so we can make room for the extension
looking from the house down towards the drive and where the double garage used to be
Effectively doubling the size of our garden!

However, as with everything, it all comes down to cost. Because of the double extension already in place, we had to put in large steel beams to hold up the back of the house.

If we were to extend fully to create a rectangular room, we would also need more roof space and skylights, so our architect extended the right-hand side of the kitchen to give us space for a large island, but keep the footprint of the existing house to the left. We are then going to drop the internal wall to give us one large dining space.

a stud wall going in to divide the living room and dining room
Our builders put up a stud wall in the L-shaped lounge diner to create a snug living room at the front.
stud wall going up
Ready to be plastered and create our kitchen/diner. We are going to create a walk-in pantry to the left of this wall.

I have changed my mind a few times since these plans have been drawn, but we know with the money we have and the space we need, this is the best layout for us!

House Renovation Cost

Without bringing in the kitchen units and interiors here is a guide on how much our house renovation costs – 

  • Architect – £1500
  • Planning permission – £650
  • Builders including all building materials – £55,000 (including the steel beams, plasterer, electrician, and plumbing)
  • New Sunroof, bi-folds, and a window and door for the utility – £15,000
  • New flooring – £600

Have you gone over budget?


What financial surprises are there?

Well, building materials soaring in price for a start, not helped by the combination of Covid and Brexit. Also, because of Covid, more people than ever are extending and improving their homes because we have spent so much time in them.

This means builders and building materials are in huge demand, hence the price rises.

There are always added extras that you couldn’t predict as well. We had planning permission and a building control officer came around just as we were about to lay foundations and sign off the building work. The next day he was back saying we needed to halt construction because they had found a Southern Water map which said we had pipes (they didn’t know if they were water or sewage!) running under where we were extending.

the ground being dug for the knew foundations ready to be laid
No manholes here!

Cue lots of questions….

  1. Why wasn’t this picked up when planning was put in?
  2. How did Southern Water not know what they were?
  3. If there was a pipe running under the area, it would have been under our garage anyway so how were they supposed to get access?
  4. The builders had already dug down 2 meters and had not come across any man holes according to the map.
boy sat on a mini digger
The builder’s little helper

So, we increased our indemnity insurance and cracked on, promising the building control officer that if the builders struck a pipe, we’d let them know. Funnily enough, they didn’t.

foundations being laid for our house extension
Foundations being laid

Was the renovation project done on time?

This is the question everyone kept asking. How long did it take? 

We had a few setbacks including the non-existent manholes and our roof lantern and doors delivery being put back several times. But, other than that, it went relatively smoothly and we had our extension built and kitchen in just before Christmas.

All in all, it took around 4 months for the extension to be added on, all the doors, bi-folds and sun lanterns put in and the flooring and kitchen installed. Not bad!

looking down towards the bi-fold doors in the extension with the kitchen island and sink in view
It took another year or two to get the kitchen looking like this, but we are extremely happy with the results and think we got it done at a really good price!

Is there a wine cellar? 

That’s for our next renovation project! Haha. 

Were you stressed living through a renovation?

Not really. Even though we put in an extension this time, it was actually easier than our last house renovation because the existing kitchen wasn’t removed until we had our new extension and kitchen complete.

We boarded off the living room first and mainly used the front of the house whilst the renovations were going on so we didn’t really hear or realize there was building work going on at the back! In our last renovation, the whole kitchen was stripped out so we had to live out of our utility room, making meals with a slow cooker, microwave, and kettle!

kitchen being ripped out in a house renovation
The whole kitchen was ripped out in our last renovation and we had no oven or hob for 6 weeks.
the external wall and foundations going in for the extension
External wall beginning to go up
foundations going down for the new kitchen extension
Ready for foundations to go down
the walls going up on the kitchen extension
Utility to the left

This is our 4th renovation and I’ve learned; that it is ALWAYS worth living through a renovation. You get to create the exact layout that you want and put your own stamp on it. I could never buy a house that was already “done”.

So, that’s it for now. If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments! I am a serial renovator and love it!

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