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  • Writer's pictureAgi

Start your renovation project the right way!

My step by step guide for a good start and a successful renovation project.

The biggest mistakes homeowners (and inexperienced property developers) make when planning their renovation projects is simply not allowing enough time to plan ahead and meaning they end up rushing from the start to the end.

If you google "biggest renovation mistakes" it will give you all sorts of specific stuff that often happens on home renovations, but I will be talking about something completely different here. In my experience, all other mistakes are a consequence of not spending enough time on the planning phase.

The following advice COST YOU NOTHING while potentially (in fact, very likely) SAVES YOU TOUSANDS!

1. Things take longer than you think!

To be honest, much longer!

Potential clients often come to me too late. Most people underestimate:

  1. how long things take

  2. how soon trades people / contractors are available

  3. how long it takes to procure material, furniture, etc

The below timeline is showing the programme of the full renovation of a 54 m2, two bedroom apartment in London that I created as part of my fee proposal for full service interior design and renovation management.

The start date on this timeline is basically the day of the submission of my proposal and I showed the estimated time I allowed for the clients to make decisions. All together, it takes 8 months, of which the actual building works on site are only 3 months.

timeline of the full renovation of a two bedroom London apartment

So, you really need to think well ahead!

Good thing is, it cost you nothing.

Architects, interior designers, other consultants work on a project basis, rather than on time basis, so getting them involved earlier will not cost more to you. (Delays during the project will potentially increase their cost but it is exactly what you are trying to avoid by spending time on the planning and design stage early.)

2. Design, design, design

Even if you don't plan to hire professional help, you need to appoint yourself as a designer and think like one.

What does this really mean?

It can mean quite a few things, as design can be a very complex process. In a nutshell, by the end of your design process, you should end up with:

  1. drawings

  2. scope of works (ideally by rooms, just to make sure nothing is left out)

  3. exact list of materials and products (FF&E schedule)

This stage is much quicker when you have professional help as they have all the answers to questions that keep coming up while designing a renovation so you don't have to spend hours (days even) googling, wondering, going back and forth, and trying to avoid making decisions in order to not make mistakes.

If you enjoy designing, however, then now is your time to really enjoy yourself. While it is on paper, the limit really is your imagination.

The importance of the design stage is that by the end of it YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO. And this means another very important thing: you will have an accurate budget.

The best time to ask for quotations from contractors and trades people is when you can tell them what you want to do! Do not let them guess as they will overprice to cover their risk of not knowing or, alternatively, they will give you a quotation that sounds great but missing a lot of thing that become extra later.

I am sharing a scope of works and FF&E schedule template with my newsletter subscribers in the next couple of days, so be sure you sign up! (You can then unsubscribe any time!)

3. Make sure you have a realistic budget AND contingency

The best way to avoid overspending is to have an accurate and realistic budget!

Right, does it sound like a no brainer? Well, it might, but the hard truth is that most renovation projects will end up with 20% overspend.

Now, creating your budget is the hardest part of your renovation and I am serious.

I have spent a decade creating construction work estimates and I can tell you with great confidence that it is hard.

But, if you are aware of the anatomy of a budget and do a bit of research, spend time actually getting prices from min, 3 suppliers/contractors for each task, add reasonable contingency, you are off to a good start.

I provide this service to my clients - and so do some architects - and they find it invaluable.

It is just so great to know how much you will spend in the end instead of

  1. having a set amount of money and see how far it takes you

  2. keep spending not knowing where it will stop

Again, I quick budget estimate is part of my fee proposal to my clients, just because it is best for all parties if we know whether or not their expectations are viable.

Here is a very quick budget estimate of the 54 m2, two bedroom London apartment I prepared after our discovery call, as part of my fee proposal, BEFORE any design work took place.

BUT, this is not all!

While most people will get to this point more or less accurately, this £200k estimate is not a true reflection of how much this renovation will cost.

Why???? Because there is more to the anatomy of a renovation budget!

A typical renovation budget is made up of the following cost categories:

  • 15% consultants

  • 1% statutory fees

  • 49% construction works

  • 30% fittings and finishes

  • 5% contingency (minimum! but depending on your situation, this can be even 20%!)

source: this is a post I previously shared on my Instagram, read the full post and find other renovation related content there too

So, you see, in my budget estimate to my client, I only accounted for 79% of their project cost: construction works + finishing.


Let's just quickly review what makes a great start of a renovation project.

If you know what exactly you will do, allow enough time for everything that needs to be done properly, and have a budget that includes all realistic spending, you have reduced the risk of overspending and project delays massively and YOU ARE OFF TO A GREAT START!

Right, that is it for now. I hope you enjoyed and learnt a thing or two! Let me know in the comments!

Relax and plan ahead,

Until later, Agi

PS.: You can receive tips like this - and a lot more! - in my (almost) weekly Friday newsletter, sign up here!

BIG NEWS! My online course is launching in a few weeks! I am teaching you step by step how to plan and manage your renovation project successfully.


About Me


I am Agnes, a structural engineer, economist and qualified interior designer.

My friends just call me Agi. :)

If you are planning a renovation or remodel of your home or looking to buy a new one I am your go to person!


After spending over 15 years in the construction industry, first as an engineer and later as quantity surveyor / commercial manager on multi ten million GBP projects, I decided to set up my own business and help people, like you, to live in their dream home.


Your space should be designed around you and your lifestyle and not the other way around, so I strongly believe in designing your home from the "inside out".


Get in touch with me early in the process to start your project the right way.

My Signature Service includes full service interior design and renovation management.

I basically take on your project as it was my own home, from the first step to the last, saving you time, money and frustration.

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