Arranging Service Amenities Before Making Home Alterations
Getting the Services in Order
Any alterations or improvements to services orlike , , plumbing, heating, television, cable, telephone and air conditioning should definitely be done before any decoration is started. Having to add pipes and wires after the walls and floors are finished constitutes a disaster.
Anyone buying an old house or apartment should get a surveyor’s (engineer’s) report on both the structure and services. He or she will give you a reliable indication of what must be done to the building right away and what can wait. However, it is also important to inform the surveyor of any changes you might be planning to make in the electrical supplies (or, for that matter, in the plumbing or heating), since this might make a vital difference to his or her comments on the current adequacy of the service. If for example, you want to install extra electric appliances — a new stove, perhaps, instead of an old gas one air conditioning units; a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer; a waste extractor, or a low-voltage circuit to provide special lighting for art and low lighting for the garden — the existing electrical sockets (outlets) might be far from sufficient, especially in an old apartment block. The surveyor can tell you so only if he or she has been informed that this is what you want to do. Ignorant of your plans, the report may state that the electrical services are perfectly adequate.
It will certainly assist any electrician and help you to get an accurate idea of costs if you take a clean copy of your room plans and mark on them exactly where you want to add any new electric sockets and their purpose — for a table lamp, heater, air conditioner, towel heater or whatever. Then mark on the plans where you need any special lighting fixtures, like wallwashers, framing projectors, spots of every description and wall lights, as well as where you want light in every room, and where you want switches and dimmers. If you do not want centre lights you must say so at the outset, and make sure that you specify that you would like the switches for lamps and wall lights to be near the doors, or you will forever be crawling around in the darkness trying to find them.
If you can decide at this stage exactly the fixtures that you would like, it will be an even greater help to your budgetary planning. Installing lights – especially sophisticated ones — in a number of rooms can add up to a surprising amount of money: totting up the prices for an ideal lighting scheme can definitely give you an ‘electric shock’! Nevertheless, since good lighting more than pays for itself in the long run in terms of looks and comfort — not to mention safety, especially if there are elderly people around — making sure that the lighting scheme you install at least allows you much flexibility as possible for the future.
Unless the building already has a mainsor you are doing a great deal of renovation, usually it is not worth the trouble of getting it laid on — although ‘bottled gas’ (or propane gas) appliances can often be an attractive option, particularly if you live in a remote area. That said if you already have a gas furnace or stove, it should be comparatively easy to run gas pipes to the fireplace for a gas-fuelled imitation coal or log fire: these can be surprisingly realistic.
The ease of installing mains gas supplies varies from country to country. In Britain it is not too terribly expensive and payment can be spread out over a long period. This is not necessarily the case in North America, where you would do best to stick to electrical supplies — unless, as I have noted, gas is already installed. Another factor worth considering, especially if your household contains very old or very young people, is that of safety.
Plumbing and Heating
If you want to add on a new bathroom, shower room, kitchen, cloakroom or lavatory, it is always best to try to plan the addition around existing plumbing, or at least beside an outside wall so that waste pipes can be accommodated. Renovating an existing bathroom to make it more luxurious — even just changing the position of the various fixtures to get more storage space or to make the room seem larger — is a complicated, dusty job which should certainly be finished before any decorative work is started. Equally, remember that items of bathroom equipment like baths, Jacuzzis, showers and double basins tend to be bulky, and so should be carefully measured to ensure that you will have no difficulties installing them.
It is likely that the house will already have an adequate heating system but if not you should call in an expert to give you advice and an idea of price. Much will depend on the height of the ceilings and the general age, size and condition of the house. A great many people, however, need or want to change the heating method in their homes — from ducted warm-air heating to small-bore hot-water heating, for example, or from units to be fitted into a wall rather than stuck in a conventional radiators to skirting (baseboard) heating. Window where they will make any sort of window. Consult your chosen contractor on this or talk to your local oil suppliers and heating engineers. In any event, all this should once again be planned and budgeted for in advance.
Air Conditioning, Telephone and Television
Air conditioning, if you want it is another basic service that must be installed in advance, assuming you want the units to be fitted into a wall rather than stuck in a window where they will make any sort of window treatment difficult as well as obstruct the view.
Although telephone-service installers are usually tidy and rarely leave behind a tangled mess of cables, it is still a good idea to get them in before you start the final decorations, just as it is important to get the television aerial (antenna), cable equipment, wall-mounted stereo speakers and other fitted equipment installed before your wall decorations are too far advanced.