Renovating a property in Italy can often feel like a whirlwind of planning, meetings, and dealing with lawyers, building companies and local authorities. Each day of the renovation can bring new challenges and unexpected hurdles that need to be overcome, so it’s difficult to stay focused on the most important aspects of the project.
Most home renovation projects will involve all of the rooms in the property, at least in some way. However, there are certain rooms that you should focus more of your attention on to achieve the best value for money and a finished result that highlights the most attractive features of the property.
How To Prioritize Property Renovation In Italy.
In my view it is a good idea to prioritize which areas to focus first and so on. In case you run out of money or the renovation stalls for some reason, you at least have the important areas already worked on. The following are areas that you should renovate in the order of priority:
Structural Issues With The Property.
Most old properties in Italy have structural issues. It could be issues with the foundation, load bearing walls etc. My property is on the third floor of a palazzo. During renovation we noticed that in the bedroom the floor was slanted (it was a few inches higher on one side). This had to be corrected and delayed the whole process by several weeks.
The Essentials – Electric, Heating And Plumbing.
Unless it is a new build, you have to review the electric, heating and plumbing and make sure it complies with the latest code. This is very important. Energy efficiency is a big deal in Italy so you have to make sure that all your appliances and other devices that use electricity (like an air conditioner) comply with the latest standards.
The source of energy is also something that you have to think about. Electricity is very expensive in Italy. I have a tiny apartment in Volterra. I pay about 60 Euros per month even when I am not there. During renovation, my primary contractor suggested that I switch heating and cooking to gas instead of electric. Gas is much cheaper. But unfortunately my apartment did not have a gas connection. So I had to extend the gas connection from the apartment that was below mine. This has reduced my utility bills and also has given me an alternative if one or the other goes down for some reason.
Roof And Flooring Of The Property.
Any issues with the roof and flooring of a property has to be addressed as a top priority. My flat had a false ceiling when I purchased it. I never bothered to remove it and inspect the original roof before buying the property. During renovation, we demolished the false ceiling.
The original roof was beautiful (about 400 years old) but it had to be restored. We removed the tiles individually, restored it and weatherproofed the whole ceiling. We also removed the flooring that was installed in the 1970’s and exposed the original terracotta tiles. For the roof and flooring work, I got a nice amount back from the Italian government (super bonus).
Renovating The Kitchen.
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in any Italian home and often defines the overall style and functionality of the property. No matter whether you’re a family, a couple or living alone, much of your daily life at home revolves around the kitchen. Consequently, it’s usually one of the busiest rooms in the house and is always worth focusing a lot of attention on during any renovation project. During my renovation, we demolished the wall between the living room and the kitchen creating an open space concept.
If you’re renovating a ruin then you’ll have a completely blank slate when it comes to designing a kitchen. However, even if you’re renovating an existing property the chances are that you will want to make major changes to the kitchen and remodel it to suit your own preferences. This is because the style of the modern kitchen is very different from what it was just a few short decades ago.
In recent years there’s been a general move toward creating a more open planned kitchen space (most Italian kitchens are not open planned). For instance, instead of having closed cabinets and cupboards, most people are tending towards selecting open shelves and a more welcoming atmosphere. Another trend that you may want to consider is the inclusion of a breakfast bar where you and your family can sit together to have your meals.
When you’re remodeling a kitchen you should also think about the practicalities of its daily use. Kitchens are, as mentioned, one of the busiest rooms in the house and so you will want to use a durable material for the floors and workspaces. Hardwood floors are a popular option but so are elegant tiles and stone slabs.
You always need to think about the daily practicalities of the materials that you use. For instance, when selecting kitchen flooring it might not be a great idea to choose stone slabs if you’re renovating a property in Northern Italy. This is because winters can get extremely cold and the stone flooring will make the kitchen feel icy and uninviting. However, if you’re renovating a property in the South of the country, where summers are very hot, then stone or tile flooring will cool the room and make it more comfortable.
The workspaces in the kitchen are one of the most visible features of the room and are a critical aspect of the overall design. You could choose to have wooden tables and worktops over the white goods. Alternatively, you could opt for solid stone worktops which will instantly give the room a sense of gravitas and elegance.
When you are selecting the materials for the kitchen you should also be thinking about how easy they will be to maintain and keep clean on a long-term basis. Try to avoid creating a kitchen that is difficult to clean because this will only create problems for you in the future.
Renovating The Bathroom.
Europe is known for tiny bathrooms that are not practical. You should try to upgrade the bathroom to something that is more functional. You can incorporate some unique features, such as locally sourced hand-painted tiling on the walls, a stand-alone bath or a walk-in shower with a ‘wet room’ floor.
It’s vital to make sure that the bathroom is easy to clean and suitable for the weather of the region. In Northern parts of Italy, you’ll want a cozy bathroom that is well insulated and doesn’t get too cold during the winter. However, in Southern parts of the country, you’ll want an airy, cool bathroom that won’t overheat in the summer months.
Of course, it’s vital to ensure that the plumbing in the bathroom is properly installed and shows no signs of leaking before you start installing the tiling and other features. Any leaks, or problems with the plumbing, can cause major issues with the structural foundations of the entire property.
If you discover that there are problems with the plumbing after the renovation is complete it will be extremely costly to tear up the flooring to get it fixed. So make sure you get it right the first time around!
Renovating The Living Room.
This is often the first thing you see when you enter a house and will be where you and your family relax in the evenings. The living room should reflect the overall character of the property and be a lovely place to put up your feet and relax. Renovating the living room in Italy is important if you are planning to rent out the property short term. Short term renters typically use the living room a lot more than they do the kitchen.
There’s a huge range of different styles and interior design trends that you can use in your living room remodel. In fact, in many ways, you have the most freedom when it comes to designing your new living room. Even so, the living room shouldn’t be designed in isolation from the rest of the property otherwise it will feel strange and out of place.
For instance, if the living room faces onto the garden you should try to design it to make the most of the views. Alternatively, if you’re renovating a living room in a Northern farmhouse you might want to include an open fireplace and use warm colors for the walls and other features.
One of the top trends in the real estate market is a large, open-plan living room. This is also a good option if you’re planning to rent out your property to holidaymakers on a short-term basis. You should always try to design the living to be versatile enough to fit large items of furniture so that future owners can easily adapt it to their tastes.
Renovating The Master Bedroom.
The master bedroom is another central feature of any home. This is particularly true if you’re renovating the house to sell it for a profit but it also matters if you’re planning to live in the property yourself.
Any remodel of a master bedroom will always be primarily aesthetic and what you choose will depend on your personal tastes. However, in all cases, you should try to improve the quality of the environment for sleep and comfort. Adding additional features such as an outdoor balcony, large bay windows or an en suite bathroom will add significant value to your property and give the room a luxury vibe.
I am not big on spending a lot of money renovating the master bedroom. We don’t typically spend a lot of time in the bedroom. Technically we do but then we are not awake!!
Outdoor Spaces And Garden Renovation In Italy.
If your property has a garden then you should also consider how you can make the most of the outdoor space. Of course, much of the work in the garden can be done after the renovation of the property is finished. For example, you can add new plants, statues and other surface-level features later but you should get the major work done while the builders are still on site.
For example, if you want to install a swimming pool or a covered outdoor eating area then you should include this in your renovation plans. This will add significant value to your property and improve the quality of your daily life. Once these permanent features have been built you can either hire a gardener to plant the trees, flowers and lay down new turf or you can simply do it yourself.
Upgrading the outdoor spaces of the property will add major value to the property, particularly if you are in the warm, Southern parts of the country. Italians, and Expats, spend a lot of time outside during the summer so carefully planning your outdoor spaces will significantly improve your daily quality of life.
Should You Hire Professionals Or Do A DIY Renovation?
As a general rule, unless you are very experienced in DIY and construction, you should always hire a professional to help you! In the modern world, there are millions of DIY videos and guides on the internet and it can be tempting to think that you can just learn it yourself and get started on a major renovation.
However, there’s a lot more to renovating a property than simply watching a few videos online! This is particularly true if you’re working on a renovation in a foreign country where there will be regulations and codes that you might not even be aware of.
It’s a much better idea to hire a professional building company to get the renovation done for you, and while you can certainly play a major role in the creative design side of the project you should probably leave the heavy lifting to the experts.
Doing a DIY renovation will save you money but it will cost you a lot of time. There’s also a much higher chance of things going wrong if you try to handle everything on your own. Therefore, it’ll make your renovation much easier if you get the help of a Geometra and some reliable builders, especially if the renovation is complex and wide-ranging in scope.
Renovating A Property In Italy Is A Popular Option For Expats.
Renovating a property will guarantee that you get exactly what you want from a home and gives you the scope to incorporate all the styles, trends and features that you wouldn’t want to live without!
A well planned and strictly prioritized renovation should run smoothly and be completed on time without going over budget. It’s always vital to stay focused on the most important rooms in the property before you start to think about the smaller details which can easily be addressed after the main renovation is over.