POLL: What's the most stressful part of a renovation?

Emmeline Westin
4 years ago

A home improvement project can be lots of fun, but it can also induce quite a lot of stress. Thinking about a previous project that you've completed, or perhaps a project you're in the midst of, what's stresses you out the most about it?

Don't be shy!

Finsbury Park House, London N4 · More Info

Finding the right professional
Sticking to a budget
Deciding on a style
Keeping the home in order during the project
Unforeseen delays
Working with my partner
Other - tell us!

Comments (77)

  • Joanna Biddolph

    Septimus, it was transforming a loft but in a Grade II listed building so not just carpets/redecorating but RSJs (the biggest crane I'd ever seen), an overly vigilant local society, nervous planners and neighbours with competing interests (a party wall issue that the neighbour didn't understand) and it wasn't a kit that get's stuck on top of a building but bespoke and wonderful and still very wow factor. Everything was totally screened off and dust protected but that's the theory; in practice, dust creeps regardless of how thick the thickest plastic screens are and the noise penetrates from one storey to the next. I have nothing but praise for my very clever and talented architect and the contractors (a manager, a sparks, a plumber, a chippy, a decorator of the highest calibre) were all wonderful and I've worked with them all again. They can't stop noise or dust and both are very, very wearing. Eight months because of the challenges as mentioned above and the unforeseen which always arise. Getting the RSJs in proved to be far from straightforward and that was just the start.

  • septimus1


    In the scale of difficulty, new carpeting, painting a bedroom, fitting a new worktop etc are the least stressful operations and rarely result in much more than a headache, lasting for only a few days. Adding a new ground-floor extension to one's property is a lot more complicated and can cause divorces which I believe can be very stressful. Having a new house built is even more stress-inducing simply because there are far more people likely to say or do the wrong thing and upset one's day and, of course, for a much longer time.

    But making extensive changes to the loft of a Grade II building over eight months whilst continuing to 'live' there, where RSJ's need to be craned in, yet still coping with daily battles with neighbours, dust, dirt, noise and officialdom is way up at the top of 'stress-producing building experiences' in my humble opinion and you are to be congratulated for surviving to tell the tale! Take a bow Joanna but do not attempt it again! Good to hear some praise for your team, too!

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  • PRO
    Ann Nisbet Studio

    We find that living on the 'building site' is often stressful for our clients. Our advice would always be, if possible, is to move out during the renovation work.

  • PRO
    Mehtaphor Interiors London

    It is very easy to lose track of time especially when you haven't calculated unforeseen circumstances.

  • Joanna Biddolph

    Septimus, I'm in the middle of doing it again. This time a 1927 house that was lived in by one family (several generations) since it was built and with very little done other than a few newer sockets dotted around the place and a kitchen that had been dabbled with in the 1950s. So ... rewiring (through the hardest brick my electricians had ever encountered), replumbing including new boiler and first time ever radiators, new kitchen (contractor ordered randomly on another's account and disappeared owing me squids and the account he'd used unpaid), new bathroom in a new place, new shower room where the bathroom and basin were (plumber sacked as his team were not experienced and seemed only to have done a bit of DIY; many chipped tiles and ungrouted strips and corners), new loo where the old loo was (bad installation thanks to previously mentioned plumber) and now all the decorating to do and let's not even think how I'm going to pay for carpets throughout (it was lino which was deteriorating before my eyes - put down a table or chair, it stuck - melting into the decaying layers). And, yes, I'm living here throughout. I suspect it's like childbirth; one forgets the pain and goes through it again. Marvellous electricians; marvellous kitchen planner/fitter; marvellous carpenter; marvellous neighbours (gave them tickets to go up The Shard to thank them for putting up with all the noise). And a project that might never end, it seems.

  • septimus1


    If you are not too busy with all these personal building contracts perhaps you should offer your services as a full-time 'Project Manager' !

  • Joanna Biddolph

    No way, Septimus1! It's hard enough doing mine.

  • Cakelady
    The most stressful part of our two storey extension was getting planning permission. Our builders have been amazing and I've not found the build stressful. I'm finding making decisions about the interior quite stressful, flooring, paint colours etc.
  • shantung

    Complete renovation - inside and out including gardens. Most stressful element when the build uncovers additional items that have to be done and all monies are gone! and the place is in an unliveable state, so you have to go on with the build.

  • PRO
    Lady Painter and Decorator

    It is always advisable to have a contingency fund, especially when refurbishing. 10-15%. A good tradesperson would usually advise this or inform their client that in their terms and conditions, that should any unforeseen extras arise, for whatever reason, a further cost would be incurred. This should always be discussed first.

  • briantaylor90

    The descriptions 'tradesmen' and 'professionals', used quite liberally in a lot of the above posts, are mostly inaccurate. The market at the moment is flooded with cowboys who should never be let anywhere near to anyone's homes - thankfully few get near mine after rarely turning up in the first place! One of the above comments is spot on - if you find anyone good, look after them as if they are your own family - they are a very rare breed indeed. Sadly, the boom and bust nature of the housing and construction industries in this country has resulted in very little proper investment in the next generations. As a result I generally wouldn't employ the services of anyone under the age of 40 or who hasn't done a proper apprenticeship. Better still, do as much as possible yourself!

  • septimus1

    Brian Taylor raises another stressful experience of home improvement projects and one that can really hurt.

    It's when you realise that your builder is in fact one of the 'cowboys' that you've heard about but didn't think you were dumb enough to be caught out by someone like that - but you are. He's long gone and even if you can find him you cannot get him (or your money) back. He might have got away with defects you didn't notice when you paid him in full or he might have substituted inferior/cheaper materials for those you thought you were getting and for which you paid him. Yes you can call in the Small Claims Court if it is a small sum but it is a pain to have to do that for say a couple of hundred pounds and it takes ages too. If its a largish sum calling in the solicitors is often the only option and there's a whole of stress involved there. We can't all call in 'Dom' and his TV crew so what do we all do? The majority of us have little option but to grin and bear it while the cowboy is off doing it again somewhere else. He's got away with it yet again and we are seething, thinking about bringing back hanging or those convict ships that used to sail to Australia or something.

    There's only one way to solve the problem - name and shame and make sure everyone in your locality/town/country knows about him - or does someone have a more workable solution?

  • apismalifica

    We've been working on the hall, took down a false ceiling a few weeks ago, now removing the original. Worst thing - the dust and dirt - pulling down ceiling - half a days work, and now another half day to get the plasterboard and sound insulation up, all ready for the plasterer. However, clearing away all the rubble, bits of wood with nails in them and general dirt will take another full day and there will be dust for months. Have sealed all the doors to other rooms but it'll still get into everywhere. You'd approve though briantaylor90 and I totally agree - have discovered a genius plasterer to finish it off, but doing almost all the rest ourselves. We employ people like structural engineers before taking walls down, a Gas Safe person to do the gas and central heating boiler, and get an electrician in to certify wiring (and do biggies like consumer units) but do most things ourselves. These days the actually have to be a qualified trade to do kitchens and bathrooms, but they will often be happy to finish what's started and issue a certificate if it's done properly. Once the ceiling is up, we'll then dismantle a wall which divides the kitchen and bathroom and take the rubble to the dump, wire the rest of the place and put in all the new CH pipes and hang the radiators and build the two bathrooms at the end of this 'hall' (and get them approved) as otherwise we will end up with the cooker and loo in the same room once we have taken down the dividing wall! Sometime this year we'll have a square hall where there was once just an odd L shaped hall and corridors, two new bathrooms, a new bedroom where the old kitchen/bathrooms were, and a new kitchen diner in what was a huge bedroom with a lovely Westerly view.... It all sounds and looks so easy on a website but in reality it's a lot of hard work. At least doing most of it ourselves means we know it's done properly. But, oh dear, the dust and dirt!

  • Kim Teasdale
    Most important factors when employing any tradesperson:
    1. Always employ the services of a referred tradesperson and if possible, go and have a look at their work.
    2. If you pay cheap, you pay twice. The cheapest is usually a cowboy and will cut corners wherever they can to make money.
    3. Get a minimum of 3 quotes from different people. There is no rush when decorating your home and it is important to get it done to a high standard so the job will last.
    4. Remember that the morse preparation you see, the better.
    5. Find out from your referrals if the tradesperson you consider tides up after themselves everyday. When we do, you will be able to see what has been done at the end of each day, and not a mess.
    6. Make sure from your referral that your tradesperson is a finisher completer and has an attention to detail.
    7. Save up as much money as you can before you start and always have a 10-15% contingency of the price quote set aside for emergencies and unexpected faults or extras.
    9. Talk to your contractor every day and ask for a schedule of works.
    10. Remember that you are investing in your home and that a great decorator is paramount to the finish of any project as this is what you will see at the en of it all and have to live with.
  • shantung

    As regards contingency fund. We had a large one, and it went, along with another property. We have not beern ripped off, but we sometimes wonder and hope it will pay us back in the future.

  • Naheed Nurani

    Poor project management by the building company can be daunting and even if client is willing to drive that it does not work. The builders are often deployed at two separate projects without the clients approval or knowledge especially towards the end of a project. Implement time delays clauses at the beginning and sign into contracts to avoid frustration and delays

  • designhouseco
    I found the costvof materials to be rather stressful. we are currently redoing our kitchen and I got such a rude awakening at the cost of the plumbing items! Rearranging the hoyse while the carpenters work is tedious. It's a lot of lifting and at the end of the day, I'm exhausted. it is coming together nicely though so I'm excited to see the final product. Not looking forward to packing though! :)
  • PRO
    Artemis Conservation

    ensure you pick the right team for the project

  • PRO
    Wight Architecture

    Find and Architect that you can work with.

  • tiredoldwoman

    I had a new bathroom fitted on Friday . The team of 2 arrived 6 hours late, 3 workers short . They hadn't been informed of below the bath asbestos so work had to be halted , some poor communication between planner and contractor . They had planned to be finished by 3pm but were still here at 8.30pm . I had to step in and tell them the history of previous work so they could reroute things . They left a mess , the bath and toilet are leaking , the bath is dangerously slippy and of poor quality . Home improvement? I don't think so ! I cried the next morning .

  • PRO
    Assist Design Ltd

    Essential to have a builder/contractor on board who understands your needs, requirements and is willing to work closely with you, especially if you intend to stay in the property whilst the work is being undertaken. Equally, ensuring that the Architect provides the fullest package of information to the builder in advance. We've found that most people are okay with the design and planning stages but the actual work programme is by far the most stressful.

  • LouieT

    Wants versus needs are the hardest thing.

    Something usually has to give & it's stressful making hundreds of decisions based on budget, planning approvals, availability of items, significant others, trades coordinating, etc & the process is often likened to bearing a child...;)

  • PRO
    Fairacre Property Developments

    working all the little extras out is very difficult.

  • PRO
    Create Room Ltd

    Choosing what company to use is the most important factor so becomes very stressful.

  • PRO
    Architect Chartered Services


  • tiredoldwoman

    Have had some work done in my old rented home. New bathroom last week , it's leaking and I'm still in a mess . On Friday I got a call to say the windows are getting replaced , it happened yesterday , I'm in shock at the mess I came home to . Poor quality replacements, chipboard replacing real wood, holes around windows, rubbish, wrappings, plaster , sawdust all over the floor, blood all over the bathroom ! No communication from the company at all despite them having contact numbers and e mails . They didn't read my note that I left out for them re returning keys . I don't know if they're returning today , I've e mailed a complaint . I'm wheezing and my face has broken out in a rash due to the mess ! Oh dear ! Feeling better after writing all this , though !!

  • PRO
    Create Perfect

    I find that my clients often come to me because they have difficulties sticking to set budgets whilst still getting the desired looks or desired elements and pieces in their rooms.

  • PRO
    Artemis Conservation

    Communication can be a major problem. contractors need to manage clients expectations a little better. Remember a successful project requires teamwork and cooperation between all parties

  • PRO
    Mulcahy Ralphs Architects

    Paper is cheap, get it right on a drawing before you start

  • PRO
    John McCall Architects

    Delays happen when things are not properly planned - so get the design right first time and then stick to it. Don't loose your nerve part way through and trust your professional advisor/designer.

  • PRO
    Collins Construction & Project Management Ltd

    As Main Contractor I would agree agree with the designers comments of sticking to the plan and try not to deviate. this causes stress on the budget and program.

  • PRO
    Paragon Visualisation

    It's difficult to stick to budget as sometimes the most expensive materials/furniture are the ones that always seems to suit the style you are looking for...

  • PRO
    Wood Window Alliance

    We had a pretty much 'change everything' renovation. The biggest problem? BT.

  • Joanna Biddolph

    Oh, yes. Now you've reminded me. BT. It wasn't just the lack of speed and the inefficiency. My house still bears the scars of a shoddily installed lead from outside to in.

  • Sonia Bhayani

    I am in the beginning stages of my project, I am struggling with deciding on the style however I am sure my vote will be different by the time the project is underway!

  • PRO

    living in a renovation project while its being done.

    recommend moving out getting a main contractor to do whole project to a deadline with agreed penalties.

    make sure you plan every detail and stick to your time plan no matter what. plan in a contingency budget so actual budget and move +/- a bit

    If you every have the choice/option....ALWAYS NEW BUILD

  • PRO
    Drapes-oxon ltd

    Finding out extra costs and delays once you have started

  • PRO
    New Revival - Construction Management

    Key issue is taking your time and making sure you have the right team that understand your requirements and can interpret them properly. A good professional to manage the team is critical otherwise your initial budget can be lost overnight.

  • PRO
    ANIstudio - Architecture and Interiors

    If it is a renovation of a new built house - to stick to your vision from the beginning to the end. If it is a Listed II building - the new details need to be perfectly in harmony with the old building. Making the details for like to like so the conservation officer accepts it.

  • PRO
    Bradley Building Services Ltd

    Unforeseen delays inevitably result in extra costs and time for both contractors and customers. This can easily sour the experience or your renovation.

  • PRO
    Garage Floor Tile Company

    The delays in choosing a style can be frustrating and it's unbelievable how much time you can waste deciding!!

  • septimus1

    The most frustrating thing about a building project? Finding that what you thought would fit, look good, be within budget and time constraints did not and never would have and you have no-one to blame, kick or scream at but yourself. Answer - get an Architect and unload your problems and worries.

  • apismalifica

    Regardless of what I said before, the most stressful part of renovations is the chaos at the planning office GRRRR!!!!

  • moiraford
    The planners!!! What drugs are they on??? Still trying to get permission for a modern mid century design in a small coastal village a year on. In the end it washes over you, and you can't get attached to a design scheme. Hey ho!!
  • garycostello

    The moving out and its cost,Will I be happy after spending 300k

  • PRO
    Arlington Interiors

    This gives an honest account directly from one of our customers, regarding her kitchen renovation project. Anne's Blog

  • Rose Williams

    It's a miracle when one bothers to quote at all ... as such, I now build walls, can plaster, and drive a digger lol... I tile, fit carpets, fitted the kitchen, all with only half of one of my lower spinal discs left.
    By the time you get a quote back, its more often a month or more down the line and have already hired a couple of lads on a daily rate doing things how you dictate after weeks of research.
    I hired a roofer to replace my cast iron guttering with aluminium ones, he put up new soffits and fascias BADLY, ran off to assume weigh in my old gutters and ran off with the money for my new ones - steep learning curve there, and a CCJ is no use getting my money back.
    I purchased a kitchen, it turned up in bad shape, then commenced over 8 months to get to court for my money back...
    Hired a tree co to remove a load of trees overhanging the house and clear the boundary... an old man cried about a tree that wasnt his anyway so the tree folk abandoned the job.
    Thankfully I have a great electrician and a reliable plumbing company, but only call them for either gas or. heavier electrical work.... the husband does to electrics and plumbing but he hates it and we do get it checked.
    I keep trying to find a good builder though. Everything takes so long and its physically and mentally draining on me.... I would MUCH rather have someone I can trust but no luck yet.

  • PRO
    Amber Jeavons Ltd

    As I recently found to my horror, the designer can find themselves in an equally horrific situation re renovations- When you send a proposal on a years renovation/build project and your timescale of 6 months at least for the entire house (its big!) And you're told...

    "I want 6 bathrooms and 2 downstairs loo's designed, specified and bought in 2 weeks! With lighting plans etc.......before you have even set out a mood board or signed a contract! (yours that you send out to clients!)

    Then they (the client) say... "Bathrooms are easy!!!! (You find out they have done one house with a build team they hired before, because they (the build team project manager) said, and they also said they expected me to start when I had suggested ie at least 2 months before.. So as far as easy.....

    Might be..... if you want this...

    But definitely not, if you want this..... (or something like it)

    Needless to say, I declined the job. I produce bespoke, curated interiors for clients who want something significantly different.... :))

  • sharonnormanton

    The lesson here is, only use recommended Tradesmen and don't expect to get anything cheap. The cost of materials these days has gone through the roof, coupled with 20%VAT, both the customer and the tradesmen are stretched.

  • Heidi Cullen

    Waiting for the money to come through and then the gap between then and them starting! I want my new bathroom now!!!!

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