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The First-Timer’s Guide to a Home Renovation in Ireland

Posted by wobstorage on January 30, 2024

Thinking of renovating your home for the first time? Don’t take on this major project lightly. Home renovations are serious business, especially for first-timers navigating this complex process for the first time. With proper planning and realistic expectations, you can avoid being over budget, overwhelmed, and overcome by the chaotic construction zone that your life has become.

This first-timer’s guide sets new renovators up for success by providing a realistic overview of typical costs, crucial planning steps, budgeting, time-saving tips, and hiring best practices. 

With insider knowledge on navigating a renovation from start to finish, you can avoid common pitfalls and make sure your project checks all the boxes on design, quality, and functionality without breaking the bank. Let’s get started!


Setting Your Budget

home renovating


Determining what you can realistically afford is the foundation of any renovation. Firstly, examine your current finances and savings to figure out what your spending cap will be. Be brutally honest with yourself here, as projects have the annoying habit of costing more than initial quotes.

To get financing ballpark figures, meet with banks to explore loan options using your home as collateral. Seek loan term lengths of 5–10 years to keep monthly payments affordable. You may also consult a financial advisor to discuss investing funds from other assets towards your renovation.

Once you’ve defined your levels of affordability, it’s time to take a deep dive into the murky sea of house renovation costs in Ireland.

Costs Involved When Renovating 

Here are some of the leading renovation expense categories and cost drivers to account for:

  1. Contractors: Contractors will be your biggest line item, accounting for 50–75% of the total budget, depending on the complexity of your project. You’ll need to hire specialists for plumbing, electrical, plastering, carpentry, painting, and more. Get quotes from at least three recommended contractors per trade to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
  2. Materials: The specific finishes, appliances, hardware, and furnishings selected impact how much you’ll spend. Research brands and products across high-end, mid-range, and budget categories before deciding. Keep a keen eye out for sales too!
  3. Waste Disposal: You’ll deal with dumpster rental and waste removal fees, from demolition debris to routine construction site cleanup.
  4. Permits & Surveys: Local municipality regulations often require surveyor assessments and permit approvals before any renovations can take place, particularly when changing home structures.
  5. VAT: Value Added Tax of 23% applies to most materials and contractor services for home renovations in Ireland. Exclude it from project quotes at your peril!

In Cork, some financial assistance for renovations is available via the SEAI Better Energy Homes grant scheme. This provides between €200 and €6,500 to Cork homeowners depending on energy efficiency upgrade investments made. Common ways to qualify for SEAI home renovation grants in Ireland include installing heat pump systems and solar panels or switching to renewable heating sources.

Planning & Permissions


An architect drawing up a home renovation design

Before the fun of demolition or construction can begin, you should invest time in defining your renovation goals and securing necessary approvals. Do you need more living space, storage, or an open floor plan? Are efficiency upgrades like insulation or triple-glazed windows a top priority? Outline your detailed project objectives and examine current pain points versus your dream scenario renovated home. 

You should verify if any planning permissions from your local county council are required, especially for structural changes. Extension projects nearly always need approved permits before breaking ground. Think seriously about hiring an architect to consult on policy requirements and create any drawings required for submission. For major interior and exterior modifications, the small upfront cost of hiring a professional can prevent any unwanted delays in getting that sign-off. 

With your goals defined, permissions in check and an architect onboard for any significant changes, you’re well on your way to turning your renovation vision into a tangible reality! 

Getting Accurate Quotes

The trick to staying on budget is getting multiple detailed contractor quotes upfront. For every trade, approach at least three registered builders or specialists for estimates based on your plans. 

For total transparency, ask for itemised breakdowns listing labour, materials, and VAT. Some contractors lure clients in with delightfully (but suspiciously) lowball quotes that lack full cost visibility.  Always double-check if VAT is included in totals or if it’s “accidentally” excluded. 

With proper quotes for each project, you can now accurately tally spending across the renovation and see where your plans fall within your budget. If certain projects exceed your affordability, the areas you need to scale back (or get more competitive bids for) become clearer.

Creating a Timeline

When planning your schedule, be realistic about durations and don’t let your initial enthusiasm lead to creating aggressive deadlines. Take the time to map out every project phase from demolition through finishing touches with expected start and end dates. Build in buffer delays between milestone phases since projects always take longer than quoted, especially for first-timers.

If you’re only available to oversee contractors on nights and weekends, make sure the timelines reflect actual working hours. Experiment with calendars to visualise how certain projects can run in parallel to speed up completion. For example, electrical and plumbing work can sometimes happen together across different rooms. Just beware of situations where Phase 2 cannot start until Phase 1 is finished. Your optimal timeline will balance speed and quality of work with your budget and availability. Revisit and adjust with your contractors as needed should any delays pop up.

Storing Your Valuables   

You’ll want to protect your prized possessions from damage due to the chaos of the renovation. Start by covering all your furniture and fixtures in work zones with protective sheets or bubble wrap where it’s easier. For electronics, carefully unmount TVs, computers, etc. and store them in padded boxes. Pack away decor items like vases, artwork, shelves, and rugs in boxes or temporarily move them to a dust-free room, far away from the action.

As for clothing, linen, and kitchenware still in active use, consider renting out off-site self storage units to securely house these valuables during construction. Self storage offers 24/7 security to protect your essentials from debris, dirt, and potential worksite accidents. Having items stored off-site also eliminates the struggle of working around clutter and keeping up with the normalcy of living conditions during the weeks or months-long project.

Monitoring Progress

Overseeing your renovation requires some regular project management from your side. Schedule progress meetings with your contractors weekly, whether on-site or by phone. Have them walk you through any work completed, compare it to original timelines, and address any lagging items. If delays arise from materials shortages or previous phases running longer than they should, discuss options to speed up efforts like adding crew members or shifting resources across projects.

Completing Punch Lists & Final Payment

As the work winds down, make sure to carefully inspect all completed rooms for any outstanding or defective work on your punch list. Document minor flaws like paint drips, scratched floors, missing wall tiles, or unfinished trim and provide them to contractors for rapid fixing. You’ll also want to spend a few days living in the new space to see that electrical, plumbing, appliances, and all lighting are functioning correctly and to your specifications before making that final payment.

Only once you are 100 percent satisfied that all contracted work is finished to your agreed standards with nothing outstanding should you approve the final invoice for payment. Submitting punch lists first guarantees your contractors will remedy any flaws and don’t disappear afterwards, leaving you twiddling your thumbs. For any major issues you discover after payment, your contractors should provide warranties of one to five years, depending on the trade, so make sure you have copies. Now you can fully enjoy the finished product your vision and budget made possible!

A Safe Second Home During the Transition 


Personal Self Storage in Cork

As you can tell from this first-timer’s guide, renovations demand that you juggle many moving parts over an extended timeframe. Rather than worrying about your valuables getting damaged or struggling to live in a construction site, consider using Wm. O’Brien Self Storage as a “second home” during the renovation.

With Wm. O’Brien Storage facilities are conveniently located across Ireland, in Cork and Dublin, where you can quickly stash furniture, electronics, clothing, and cherished items safely out of harm’s way. Self storage offers flexible solutions at reasonable rates by renting on a month-to-month basis that works with your project schedule. 

Contact us today to reserve your ideal storage unit and simplify your home renovation journey!