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Understanding Building in Bermuda


The business of home building in Bermuda has been changing subtly over the past 30 years. An older Bermuda cottage was constructed of Bermuda stone, lathe and plaster ceilings, wood floors on floor joists with crawl spaces below that kept our rooms cool in the heat of the summer.

Fast forward to present day, where the inspiration to build a customized home in paradise is becoming increasingly popular. Renovating existing properties is also on the rise.  Designing your personal version of an island dream home can be very exhilarating and daunting at the same time.  But knowing what you’re up against and gathering valuable tips from subject matter experts, can go a long way in easing some of the uncertainty.    

Cut Cost, Not Corners

For independent, cost-effective quotes on renovation work, speak to contractors and your designer or architect early in the process. Waiting to budget the project until after completing your design is not the recommended way to start a project.

A quick budget analysis of your design options early in the process will allow you to determine if you can or cannot achieve your entire wish list.  If not, this is the case, a redistribution of the most critical components of the project can be established and not at the end when cash has run out.  Factoring in a 10 to 15% contingency, to cover budget extras or renovation unknowns is a rule of thumb that should always accompany your estimates.

With some strategic thinking about design, materials, and timing, it's not so hard to cut costs without cutting corners. The truth about renovations is that every little thing adds up so researching your material choices and vendors for deals will save you in the long run.

Keeping It Real

Efficiency not size, is what matters most in today’s home. Gone are the days when all the “nice to have” overtake the “need to have”.

If you can reorganize and equip your home, kitchen or bathroom for maximum utility and growth for your later years, you may not need to create more space but rather use the space you have more effectively  A designer can assist in providing upfront advice just by looking at how your house is arranged on the inside. You may come to realize that your home may already have sufficient space for what you want do, it’s just currently not suited for your style of living.

Do (some of) It Yourself

Reap big savings by doing some of the work your selves. Demolition of kitchen cabinets or items that you could do yourself will save you on labor cost. Recycling used fixtures and building materials can sometimes pay off, but look out for builders who won't guarantee their work if they have to use salvaged items because they don't want to assume the liability if something goes wrong. Knocking down may not be as costly as rebuilding, but you can still shave dollars by doing some of the demolition yourself—as long as you proceed with care.

Before you decide to take a wall out or worse still, sawing through live wiring or plumbing, ask someone for advice, or know when to stop the “do-it-yourself” work and consult your architect or contractor.

Build It Up or Knock It Down

Major renovating can cost more than building new. Carefully weigh up the best approach to renovating, and determine if demolishing and starting again is an efficient option. Don't schedule your reno in the height of peak demand times for builders - wait until there is a lag, and get the best price from numerous contractors. Be prudent to make sure you check references and obtain a firm price with final contract and schedule.  Using stock sizes in cabinets, doors, and windows will save you time and money.

While planning and designing your home, it is also helpful to confirm if your essential materials are available on-island or will they need to be imported. In addition to an increase in cost, imported materials may impact your building schedule and budget.  Timing the delivery of your materials is an art, and your contractor, architect and interior design team can be critical to ensuring it all flows smoothly throughout the entire process.

Good to Know

Depending on the scale of your project, your architectural commission will vary in meetings, site visits, and construction drawings for Planning and permit. You might be able to tap an architect's design savvy by having them undertake a one–time design consultation. For example, for a flat fee, some architects will meet with a homeowner, examine the opportunities, and sketch out a few solutions that can then be budgeted and utilized for banking discussions if loans are required.

A Small Works design program is the way to go here with a set fee for design and drawings for necessary permits. For larger renovations, Planning and Building permits may be required, therefore a qualified firm to undertake your drawings is a real cost saver. Ask about their drawings sets, review others they have done and remember you get what you pay for.