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10 top tips for a successful refurbishment by TV’s Melissa Porter

By Melissa Porter

- Last updated on GMT

Planning a refrub? Check out our top tips from Melissa Porter
Planning a refrub? Check out our top tips from Melissa Porter

Related tags: Lighting

Property developer, TV presenter of a host of home and building programmes and judge of the recent Liberis Great British Makeover competition, Melissa Porter gives her top tips on managing your own makeover if you’re planning to refurbish your business premises this year.

Tip #1 - Pre-planning

One of the most common mistakes made in a refurbishment is lack of pre-planning; it’s critical to the financial success of a commercial refurb. This is a business venture and a programme of works and comprehensive budget is a must. Decide the extent of your refurbishment; is it new furnishings and a lick of paint or more extensive restructuring that will require a builder, electrician or a plumber? If the latter, ideally have the works programme and budget managed by a competent quantity surveyor/project manager. 

Do some research into the style and look you want to achieve. Take inspiration from interior design magazines, visit showrooms or even competitors you like the look of. Consider using an interior designer to help you create the look you want that will appeal to your customers.

If you’re employing an architect, my preference is to utilise them to focus on creating an incredibly designed and laid out space. I employ a QS and project manager to manage the build and refurbishment.  An architect’s  skill is to design and remodel the exterior and interior. Use relevant skills for the specific jobs and deploy architects in the creative roles vs financial management. I wouldn’t ask my bank manager to host a kid’s party for me!    

Tip #2 - Choosing tradesmen and managing them

Use trades people who have been recommended to you. If you don’t know anyone to ask, contact builders and teams from projects you’re impressed by. Failing that, check out approved trader schemes or referral sites. The National Federation of Builders,, or the Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme are some of those available.

Get at least two quotes and always ask to see portfolios or examples of work. Review quotes based on any architects' drawings and your own work package to ensure all of the details are being included in the price. Also, check that anyone you work with has professional indemnity insurance. 

Notice the way trades people present themselves at this stage, as it will give you an idea of how they might work with you on the job. It’s important that you can work well with your new team.  

Once you’ve employed people, produce a detailed work package schedule that informs each individual of their roles and responsibilities, budgets and time-frames for completion of tasks. That way there can be no misunderstandings or arguments.

Tip #3 - Timing your refurbishment

Apart from the obvious like not removing a roof during the winter, there are ways to plan your build around potential adverse weather conditions. The most important thing is to work the rebuild around your business to minimise inconvenience to customers.   

You might decide to include a timing contingency for any delays, but my experience is that it is better to have a fair timing schedule and operate a penalty system for late delivery. Fairness works for me.  

Tip #4 - Best ways to stay within budget & getting finance

If it’s a big refurbishment, hire a quantitative surveyor or project manager who is an expert money manager. The crux of their role is to ensure the job comes within a pre-agreed budget and schedule. They itemise the responsibilities of  the individual trades and relevant work to be completed to the smallest detail, leaving no room for interpretation.  Meaning time frames are achieved, as are budgets and expectations.

If the job is relatively small or you simply can’t afford it to hire a professional, keep a detailed budget and stick to it. Be strict with yourself; look after the pennies is an essential practice to adopt when refurbishing.

If you need funding, consider flexible funding like a business cash advance. It’s a cash injection of between £2,500 and £300,000, that’s paid back only as the business earns through an agreed amount of credit and debit card transactions, so it fits with your cash flow.

Tip #5 - Ways to save money

Shop around and look for discounts or use salvage yards and reclaim items. During the strip out, weigh in any metal you get rid off and get paid for it! You can also save money by hiring a  quantity surveyor or project manager, and negotiating a fixed fee with your architect versus a percentage based on works costs.

Tip #6 - Choosing your interior

These days anything goes and a ‘stand out’ interior is part of what encourages people to try you out in the first place. Focus on creating a fabulous interior that matches the service and quality you’re looking to offer your customer. But make sure you know who your customer is first! Eclectic is a popular style currently, mixing contemporary with classics.

Tip #7 – Using colours

Be clear on who your target customer is and create an interior style accordingly to attract and entice them into your establishment. Remember red evokes feelings of rage, pink symbolises love, blue is calming, brown is comfort and grey is security.

Paint is cost effective and very versatile, although it can get scrappy quickly. Wallpaper looks very stylish and a combination of both can create a great look that’s very affordable. Pops and accents of colour are in style too.

Tip #8 – Lighting

Always use a certified electrician who has the expertise to create a lighting plan for you. Lighting has such a powerful effect over the mood and feel of a room and, in my view, can make or break a scheme.  Remember all the different types including: task lighting, accent lighting and general lighting of course.

Tip #9 - Floor covering

Ensure the surface is fit for purpose. 'Wow factor’ materials like glass floors look fabulous, but check functionality. If stilettos or muddy shoes are likely to be walked across the surface, can it be cleaned or remain in a fairly stylish condition until maintenance occurs. 

Tip #10 - Your exterior

Don’t blow all of your budget on the interior and forget about the outside of your premises. First impressions count hugely and your exterior look and signage are the first things your customers will see. Ensure any fonts, colours and styles are consistent with your website, marketing material and interior.

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