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5 renovation jobs best left to the pros

Tempted as you might be to do it yourself, anything involving gas, new electrical circuits, windows and waste pipes is definitely best left to those qualified to do it.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


Once you’ve caught the do-it-yourself bug, it can be tempting to try and turn your hand to anything and everything that needs doing in your home.

But while doing jobs yourself can save hundreds of pounds in call-out charges, there are some renovations that need to be left to the professionals. 

Here’s a run down of the technical - and often dangerous - jobs that really should be done by the people who have the right qualifications.

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Jobs to leave to the experts

1: Electrical work

While some of us have to stop at changing a lightbulb, there are electrical DIY jobs that go further. 

However, for the majority of tasks which involve electrics, it's wise to use a qualified electrician.

The National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (or NICEIC for short) has reams of approved contractors on their books.

Each is assessed to the highest standards covering all types of electrical installations.

Find a NICEIC approved electrician here

It's not worth attempting DIY with electrics, as this is an area where a bad mistake could cost you your life.

And there are also strict rules and regulations that must be met to ensure wires don’t overheat and circuit breakers aren’t overworked.

Qualified, registered electricians have years of training under their belts. And they can issue an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) confirming that the work carried out meets the British Standards for electrical safety.

This not only offers you peace of mind, but is important when it comes to selling your home. 

Having a piece of paper to prove you’ve had electrical work done properly not only reassures your buyers but it can help a sale to progress smoothly. So hang onto your certificates.

Technically, you can still sell a home if you’re missing an Electrical Installation Certificate. But it could lead to delays and your buyers might even be advised by their solicitor not to buy your home.

Jobs which need EIC certificates include:

  • New wiring 

  • Changes to existing wiring

  • Electrical work in rooms where strict additional regulations apply, such as a bathroom

If you don’t have an EIC, you are likely to be in breach of local authority regulations.

You might have to pay another electrician to redo the work and issue a certificate.

2. Knocking down walls

Before taking a sledgehammer to a wall, it’s essential to ensure it isn't load-bearing.

Enter: the structural engineer.

Your engineer is likely to be a member of either the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) or the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Find a registered structural engineer with the Institution of Structural Engineers

Find an engineer registered with the Institution of Civil Engineers

Internal walls can support the structure and integrity of a building so it’s best to get the experts in before undertaking work like this.

If you're doing anything that could potentially impact the structure of your property, you may not need the full services of an architect, but you will need the expertise of a structural engineer.

Any load-bearing wall that's removed needs to be replaced with a structural beam to continue to support the floors above.

The installation of these steel beams (known as RSJs) requires precise calculations as to the required load they need to support, which is a structural engineer's speciality.

Even if the wall isn't important to the structural integrity of your home, it could still contain electrical wires, water or gas pipes, so consult a professional before you begin.

The work will also need building regulations approval from a qualified inspector.

Your structural engineer will supply you with a report showing the layout of your home, highlighting the load-bearing walls, appraising any structural defects and the general condition.

If the work you have in mind is simply the removal of an internal wall to combine two rooms, then you’re unlikely to need an architect. 

But if it involves an extension or the removal of more than one wall, it’s a good idea to consult an architect and get proper drawings done.

Unless your home is listed, you’re unlikely to need full planning permission for changes to the interior. 

If you’re taking out non load-bearing walls and you’re unsure if you need building regulations approval, you can check by contacting your relevant building control body.

If your home is leasehold, you may need to apply for a 'licence to alter' from your freeholder.

A licence to alter is written consent from the landlord for you to carry out alterations to your flat. It can be either a letter (a Letter Licence) or a formal Licence Deed.

So having an expert draw up plans and drawings can be useful in helping you to gain permission for the work.

Your Structural Engineer’s Report and details of building regulation approval can be helpful when you come to sell.

Your buyer’s solicitor might request to see them. So keep those documents safe!

3. Bathroom plumbing 

It can be tempting to try and save money by DIY-ing expensive rooms like bathrooms. But when it comes to water, waste and safety it’s best to leave the plumbing to the pros.

The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) is a not-for-profit trade body for the plumbing and heating industry in England and Wales and is a good place to find one.

Search for APHC approved plumber

When replacing like for like, you generally won't need to apply for local authority approval. For example if you're:

  • replacing baths, sinks, basins or toilets

  • altering existing electrical circuits which are not close to baths or showers, including work on lighting and additional power points

Bathrooms and building regs

However, building regs approval is needed for bathroom work if you're:

  • installing a completely new bathroom, en-suite or cloakroom (for example if you're transforming a cupboard under the stairs into a WC - as new drainage is involved)

  • relocating existing bathroom appliances by more than a few centimetres

  • installing a new soil and vent pipe (the vertical pipe connecting the new bathroom fittings to the drains) or new connections to it

  • installing a new electrical circuit

And regarding draining, if you're planning to build a wet room, the gradient/fall of the floor will need to be steep enough so that the water drains away, and the pipes will need to work correctly to stop water pooling.

If you use a Competent Person, they can self-certify the work that comes under the scope of the building regulations.

Otherwise, you'll need to make a building regulations application to your local authority.

4. Window fitting

You might think replacing windows was a straightforward job. Think again. 

It’s not a simple swap, as it involves protecting the integrity of the walls or tiles around windows. 

What’s more, if windows are being exchanged for doors or larger openings, it can sometimes involve the removal of bricks, the addition of new lintels and other structural work.

It is often easier in the long run to make sure that any professionals you draft in to fit new windows are FENSA certified. 

Find a FENSA approved installer

A FENSA certification is your assurance that your new windows and doors will comply with building regulations.

This is covered under the government’s competent person scheme.

Having FENSA certification also means your new windows or doors will have been registered with the local council by your fitter, which means you won’t have to check with them first or invite an inspector in later.

You need FENSA certification or a certificate of compliance for any windows you’ve changed or you’ll hit problems when you sell your home.

As of 1 April 2002, any windows that are replaced must legally have these certificates.

If you cannot supply window certificates, your buyer’s solicitor might advise them against completing the purchase. So avoid the future headache and make sure you get the experts in.

If your fitter doesn't offer FENSA certification, you’ll need to check your plans in advance with your local authority and invite an inspector round to make sure the work meets building regulations. 

If the work meets building regulation standards, they will issue a certificate of compliance. If it doesn’t, then you might have to get the work done again, which of course, is expensive.

5. Gas and heating

There is no room for manoeuvre here: a new boiler must be fitted by a qualified professional.

There are strict rules and regulations around the fitting of boilers, radiators and any other system using gas.

There are some jobs, such as installing water pipes and radiators for a heating system, that can be done yourself. 

But the final connection of the pipework to the boiler must be done by a registered Gas Safe engineer.

Find a Gas Safe engineer

Using a Gas Safe registered engineer is in everyone’s best interests, both from a safety, liability and hassle-free standpoint.

Carrying out changes to a heating system or replacing a boiler requires building regulations consent.

A Gas Safe registered engineer can self-certify their work and provide the completion certificate when the work is done.

If you were to install a boiler yourself and a gas leak or something worse - such as an explosion - occurred, you could be criminally liable.

Most importantly, making sure your boiler and heating system are properly installed will protect you and your family.

Boiler manufacturers stipulate that installation should be made by qualified professionals.

This means that if you were to install it yourself and the boiler later broke down, they’d be within their rights to refuse repairs.

A registered engineer is highly skilled and will be able to both certify and register the new boiler with your local authority.

This will save you the hassle of getting regulation approval from a building regulations inspector.

You should receive your building regulations compliance certificate for a new boiler and heating system in the post from your local authority within 28 days of a registered engineer fitting the system.

Again, make sure you hang onto those certificates, as you will need to provide them as part of the legal process when you eventually sell your home.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.