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Renovating a House: A Guide to Transforming a Home

Renovating a house might be the ideal route for you to create the home of your dreams, but you need to approach it in the best possible way. The house you decide to transform might look like it simply needs a coat of paint and a session with the lawnmower, but once you start, you could discover a host of costly problems.

Follow our tips to ensure that your home renovation project is a success—not a money pit:

Pick the Right Property

This is where the head must rule the heart. You may fall in love with a crumbling old house that’s full of character, but once you look into it, the cost of making it habitable might be prohibitive. The key areas of the building you need to investigate before committing to modernising a property are:

  • Damp

  • Structural movement (e.g., subsidence)

  • Electrics

  • Plumbing

  • Heating

Don’t even think of committing to a major refurbishment project without hiring a reliable professional to find out if the project is viable first. The more issues that need to be addressed with your planned project, the higher the cost of the renovation. And that’s before you even start looking at new kitchens and floors.

Proper pre-purchase investigation will flag hidden dangers, such as inadequate planning permission, issues with rights of way, flooding risks, or the presence of radon. Is it a listed building? If so, the cost of complying with the necessary standards for refurbishment may exceed your budget. Similarly, buildings that were constructed to a poor standard originally or that have undergone botched alterations may also represent bad value and should be avoided.

Allocate Your Budget

Once you have secured your property and are ready to start work, it makes sense to hire a designer to help you. Even if you are on a tight budget, hiring a designer will ensure that you are spending your money in the right places. A good architectural designer will draw up proper documents and drawings for the design and planning stages, so that your builder has a detailed guide to work on. Ideally, the designer will also do the survey for you and provide you with a list of recommended suppliers and builders who can complete the work.

Then, when it comes to the design, your designer may be able to save you money by suggesting changes to the existing layout instead of an extension. If the house is already quite substantial, it makes more sense to simply change the purpose and design of the rooms, removing internal walls and enlarging window spaces to flood the kitchen with light, for instance.

When planning how to spend your budget, the bulk of it should go on the fabric of the house. This means investing in features that will make it a more comfortable and durable space in the long term. Features like an expensive kitchen may create an immediate impression, but kitchens date quickly. Investing in proper insulation, efficient heating systems, new electrical wiring, and plumbing is not glamorous, but it will pay dividends in the long term, and doing the work now avoids the hassle and cost of making disruptive and expensive alterations later on, when you are living in the property.

Remember that you may be eligible for SEAI grants. The SEAI better energy home scheme provides incentives for insulation and heating upgrade works.

The Costs

Here is what you can expect to pay for your renovation:


Overall, you can expect to pay between €1,500 and €1,800 per square metre to renovate a house plus VAT.


Kitchen refurbishment averages between €8,000 and €10,000, with tiles costing between €25 per m2.


A new bathroom will set you back €8,000-€10,000, on average. This depends hugely on the kind of tiles, fixtures, and fittings you choose. Go for smaller cisterns to reduce water usage, and don’t forget to factor in the cost of taps and tiles for floors, showers, and sink surrounds.

Attic Conversion

Expect to pay at least €15,000 for an attic conversion.


For landscaping a large garden, expect a quote in the region of €7,000.

Get the Basics Right


If you need to insulate the house, do it at the same time as any rewiring or plumbing work. Your radiators will have to come out for drylining the walls anyway, so it makes sense to focus on your insulation first. Remember that if your house is more than 60 years old, it probably has lime plaster on the walls and will need a breathable solution that is triple the cost of standard insulation. You should also consider your BER rating: Sheep wool may be a more natural material than insulation board and it costs slightly less, but it does not perform as well as the synthetic material.


When it comes to windows, opt for triple-glazing if possible. The level of comfort achieved over the lifetime of your windows will easily justify the spend. Don’t just replace the glass: Replace the frames too; you can lose heat through these as well.

Electrical Rewiring

Do this when you are installing your insulation. Work out your lighting plan with your designer in advance so that you can tell your electrician where you want your light points and sockets to go. Remember to include more sockets than you think you will need. Other wiring considerations include security wiring for windows and doors as well as CCTV wiring, and possibly an external port for an electric car.


If plumbing is part of your renovation plan, remember to upgrade the boiler too if it is more than a decade old. You may also need new radiators. Upgrades to your heating controls may be eligible for SEAI grants. You may want to totally change the heating system and go with air-to-water. Again there is a grant available.

Final Thoughts

Remember that, even though your architectural designer and surveyor can give you expert opinions on what you should spend to achieve your aims, you are the client, so you have the final say over the financial outlay. Most clients underestimate the cost of renovation. You need to make a list of every item required, enter it in a spreadsheet, and then price it. There is no point in allocating €12 per square metre for flooring and discovering the particular effect you want will cost €25 per square metre.

Ready to Start Your Renovation?

Renovating a house is exciting—and challenging too. Talk to us today about your refurbishment plans and we will put you on the path to the home of your dreams.

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