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Six Tips to Help You Pull Off Your Own Grand Design

Six Tips to Help You Pull Off Your Own Grand Design

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Grand Designs TV series. Since 1999, we’ve seen more than 300 brave Grand Designers inspire (and sometimes terrify) us with their self-build and renovation experiences.

The 20th series of the show is currently airing on Channel 4 and we’ve sought out some top tips from the presenter Kevin McCloud on how to tackle your very own Grand Design.

So, what are the key things that he thinks homeowners must do when building or renovating a property?

1. Invest in a good architect

With thorough preparation, you can ensure that your build comes in on time, within budget and is everything you’ve dreamed of. It should all start with making sure that you have the right people in place at each stage of your project.

An architect will be able to take your project ideas to the drawing board and create an individual design that suits you. They’ll also be able to help you with any potential hurdles and assist with planning permission negotiation so that you can progress on to the build stage.

Getting an architect involved is certainly an investment, but as Kevin McCloud said in an interview with Grand Designs magazine: “Hire a good architect and the fees will pay for themselves. They will be able to let you know what works in a home and, more importantly, what doesn’t.”

RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) has a handy Find an Architect tool to help you find one.

2. Find a builder and get references

Try to get quotes from several builders, with a full breakdown of costs involved. It’s wise to seek out recommendations for builders and to look at photos of some of their completed projects. Good builders are happy to send potential clients to see work they’ve done before so don’t be afraid to ask to visit a previous job.

“Professional trades are key – they do this for a living, so use recommendations and always check for references,” says Kevin.

The Federation of Master Builders also has a useful Find a Builder service where you can search for professional builders in your area.

And, when it comes to fitting your aluminium windows and doors, you can visit FENSA to find your nearest installer.

3. Hire a project manager

Project managers may cost around 10-15% of your overall budget but an experienced professional can cover their own fee by keeping everything to schedule, avoiding expensive mistakes and getting the best deals for you.

“Appoint an experienced project manager,” says Kevin. “They will know about important issues, such as negotiating with utility companies regarding pipes and cabling and will keep the build on schedule.”

It’s worth looking for a project manager through a trade association or professional body. The Association of Project Managers and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) are both accredited bodies for professional project managers and their websites are good places to look for one.

4. Make a budget and build in a contingency fund

Planning your project well in advance of the work will help everything to run smoothly. At this stage, you should be costing all the elements of your build so you can draw up a realistic budget. It’s wise to add in a contingency budget to cover unexpected changes.

“Add around 20 per cent to your budget to cover any unforeseen costs that almost always crop up,” advises Kevin.

5. Be eco-friendly

Building or renovating a home is your chance to seek out more environmentally-friendly products and Kevin says: “Go green – the build stage is the best time to cut long-term costs, add insulation and solar panels.”

When planning what materials to use you should start with the main elements that make the fabric of the building, such as roofs, walls, floors, windows and doors.

Aluminium is used widely in modern buildings because it is arguably the most sustainable building material in the world.

Aluminium has become a popular choice for windows and doors because it is strong and will provide years of trouble-free service before it requires replacement. It is also one of the most plentiful resources on this planet and is almost endlessly recyclable. What’s not to like?

6. Spend wisely

Whilst it’s tempting to choose elaborate or ultra-modern looking products, do make sure that your building materials are durable and won’t look out of date quickly.

“Don’t just go for the latest trends,” warns Kevin. “Incorporate elements that you know will make you happy and add value to your life in your new home; it’s not just about boosting the asking price.”

It really is worth investing in items that you love, so don’t compromise on the things that you can’t easily change later on. If, for example, you’ve always dreamed of having aluminium windows and doors, then try to allocate for them in your budget and make savings elsewhere.

You can see Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs Live at Birmingham’s NEC from 9-13 October where he’ll be giving lots of useful advice on new builds and renovations.


And, whether you’re starting out on your first renovation, building a new home, or simply looking for inspiration, make sure you check out the REAL Aluminium range. You can find your nearest REAL Aluminium retailer here.