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    The Do’s and Don’ts of Flat Upgrades

    Being a flat owner isn’t exactly the same as owning your own house and sometimes you can find obstacles in your way when it comes to flat renovations. With flats and apartments making up approximately one-third of the Manchester housing market, and a large proportion of this property type being found in the city centre itself, it’s important to recognise the significance of  people wanting to put their own stamp on these homes.

    With more neighbours to consider and additional rules and regulations for building and planning works, there are obstacles when it comes to upgrading your apartment. But the good news is that flat renovations are still possible as these dos and don’ts of flat upgrades will showcase.

    Do: Check whether you have share of freehold or leasehold

    It’s important to understand whether your flat is a share of freehold or a leasehold agreement. There is an important distinction between the two and one is much easier to make changes to than the other. Carrying out renovations on a leasehold property is more difficult because in essence, you don’t own the property you’re renovating.

    You own the flat within the building, but not the actual building itself. As such, there may already be restrictions in place as to the alterations you can make. In a leasehold property, you are commonly restricted to minor works such as painting, decorating and refitting your kitchen or bathroom. However, major works such as replacing windows or knocking down walls to open up space will need to be checked.

    Renovating or upgrading your leasehold flat will involve getting in contact with the freehold management company or the designated ‘secretary’ of your building to discuss your plans and intentions. The permissions required to do renovations may also extend to multiple freehold owners in a given block of apartments.


    More people may have to agree to your changes than you may be aware of, so it’s essential to get their permission in writing. If you don’t have the required permission you may be forced to revert your flat to its original state.

    Don’t: Neglect to keep common areas neat and tidy during works

    When making any significant home improvement there are bound to be certain times when you have to use the common areas for moving debris, equipment and furniture around. It’s important to ensure that you consider the safety of your neighbours as you make your way through the building.


    Don’t block walkways with any sort of equipment or furniture, even if you think it’s only for a minute. This includes other obstructions like bins or trash which may require someone to step awkwardly over or around them.

    Health and safety is essential in densely populated buildings, so ensure that whatever renovation works you are undertaking do not spill out of your home and impact others. Consider the times you are doing work, ensuring that you stick to conventional working hours and aren’t keeping multiple neighbours up at night because it’s the only free time you have.

    Do: Keep your neighbours in the loop

    Flats and apartments are great places to live for a sense of community as you have many neighbours around. As part of that sense of community, it is important that you keep your neighbours in the loop about the work you are planning on doing. This is particularly important for work that impacts any shared walls, commonly referred to as a ‘party wall’.

    Party wall experts, Squarepoint Surveyors, say, “If you wish to carry out construction or building work on a party wall, you need to follow the framework set out by the Party Wall Act 1996”. The surveyors adds, “This act was designed to prevent and/or resolve disputes between neighbours in relation to alterations to a party structure”.


    Other ways to enjoy a successful flat renovation while keeping your neighbours on-side include using a reputable builder who is experienced in discreet work in apartments. Eco-friendly upgrades will improve your flat’s energy rating but may also spark neighbourly interest which may make them more sympathetic to your work, especially if it’s something they might consider doing themselves.

    Don’t: Plan for hard flooring

    Hard flooring is unfortunately something that many apartment owners can only dream of. While it makes a statement in most homes, hard flooring in most apartment complexes is typically banned. Your lease agreement will typically include a rule that prohibits hard flooring from being installed in your flat.


    It is a rule that is designed to improve the quality of life for those living below you, and generally soft flooring is a requirement to dampen the noise made when moving around. However, if you live on a ground floor flat you may be able to install hard flooring but it’s something to check in your lease agreement and to consult with any freehold owners.

    Do: Prioritise your lifestyle when planning

    When renovating your flat it’s important that you consider your lifestyle and how you need the space to function. Apartments commonly offer a finite amount of space, so it’s not possible to extend and create more room for yourself. That’s why it’s important to increase your home’s efficiency and functionality through smart design and planning.


    Try to approach your flat renovation as a whole, taking a holistic approach rather than focusing on just one area or zone. The structural changes, if any, should be done first, then walls and ceilings followed by flooring and finally the fixtures and fittings. This can create a home that flows together nicely, with each area working in harmony rather than siloed zones.

    Don’t: Get distracted by social media trends

    There is no denying that social media is a great source for interior design inspiration. With platforms like Pinterest and Instagram full of design ideas and lifestyle inspiration, it’s hard not to find stuff that piques your interest. While inspirational, the stuff you discover on social media isn’t always realistic and can sometimes turn your head mid-build.


    These social media homes are commonly lived in by wealthy individuals, styled by professional designers and use lighting tricks to make them appear magical. Finding a new trendy idea while you are already doing work can be costly as it will require more work and a change of plans.


    Trends come and go but you will remain living there, so design with yourself in mind. Create a living space that reflects how you want to live and what’s practical for you. Whether that’s a designated home office, open plan living or the latest gadgets and tech, your flat upgrades should be for you, not an Instagram showroom.

    Do: Take your time and budget accordingly

    It’s important to plan your flat renovation carefully, from getting the required permission to understanding the space. You will need to set yourself a budget to control your spending and shape your plans. Once the work begins you may feel like you need to complete it within weeks but you may be surprised by how quickly you can adjust to living in transition.


    To stick to your budget you may have to take a more considered approach and do some of the work yourself. However, this allows your renovation to evolve organically as you gain a better understanding of what you do and don’t need in your home.

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