Home improvements

Ever thought about adding a new kitchen, bathroom or even landscaping the garden? Most of us have, but it's not always plain sailing. And it's not cheap, so be sure there's a really good reason before you get cracking with the power tools!

Should I look at home improvements at all?

It depends on what you want to do, what benefit it’s going to have on you and your family, how it will affect your property’s value and of course, how you plan to fund these home improvements.

If you’re considering these changes as you’re approaching retirement, it’s important to weigh up the improved lifestyle you’ll lead against the cost of doing the work.

For example, if you’re thinking about perhaps modifying your bathroom to fit a walk-in bath, then that’s a huge advantage to you as you get older – but it may reduce the value of your property later on, and in the interim, the work has to be paid for.

On the other hand, if you’re paying high heating bills at the moment, then a new boiler (for which you may be able to get a government grant), or double glazing, or even cavity wall or loft insulation may be a very good idea. You’ll see the financial benefits almost as quickly as you feel the temperature go up in your home.

Here are a few of the home improvements (and a few general things to think about), that are often considered by people approaching retirement:

  • Better heating – as we said above, there may be government grants available to help you fund this - particularly if you have an old boiler which isn’t very efficient, or if your property doesn’t have enough insulation.
  • Better double-glazing – grants for improving window installations aren’t as widely advertised by the energy companies, but they do still exist. Even draught-proofing strips from your local DIY shop are inexpensive but very efficient.
  • Better kitchen – this is an improvement that could help you if you’re struggling with mobility issues and want to lower work-top heights for example. There’s usually a significant cost involved in updating or modernising a kitchen so get more than one quote, and don’t be afraid to approach local contractors as well as high street names.
  • Better garden – this is one home improvement that may bring more to you than simply an increase in the value of your property, it may give you hours of pleasure too. Again, talk to gardeners and landscapers about what you aspire to see happening over time, as they’ll be in a good position to predict the amount of work you’ll need to do to maintain the improvements. If you’re looking to reduce the amount of maintenance you do, don’t forget to check that any ‘hard’ materials are going to be durable – an improvement now needs to hold its value in the future.
  • Better carpets or flooring – this may sound strange, but it's important to make sure your floors aren’t causing you a problem as you get older. Old carpets are easy to trip over, and polished floors build up a patina over time that’s easy to slip on. But more important than that, while grants are available for some home improvements, it will be harder for future prospective purchasers to ignore as an instant expense (particularly if they have smaller children).

Do check with your local authority, to find out about any grants available – and ask if there’s a list of ‘approved’ or security-checked contractors available. Even if there isn’t, it makes sense to use professional tradesmen who are affiliated to a trade organisation. Plumbers, for example, should be registered with Gas Safe, and electricians should be registered as an electrical competent person.