Interiors: Splash some cash
Revamping your bathroom? Eleanor Flegg takes a look at what's available How to get the best out of renovation incentives for bathrooms
WHAT do architects, builders, interior decorators and homeowners have in common? They're all a bit confused about the new Home Renovation Incentives!
It may not be the easiest scheme to understand but it's good news for homeowners. Better still, some aspects of interiors, are covered – just be careful to read the small print.
So just how do you get the best out of the HRI for your interior? I'm going to talk you through some of the pros and cons with a focus on bathrooms (and some added bathroom design advice thrown in for good measure).
In a nutshell, the scheme offers tax credits on home improvements where you spend between €4,405 and €30,000 (before VAT), just so long as everything that you spend is subject to the 13.5pc VAT rate. And the work has to be carried out before December 31, 2015.
Kitchens, bathrooms and built-in storage units are covered under the scheme. So are plastering, plumbing, painting and tiling, just so long as all the VAT is paid at 13.5pc. You can't claim for anything that is charged at the 23pc VAT rate. This means that fridges, cookers or washing machines (known as white goods) are not included. You can't claim for free-standing furniture and some services, like architects' fees, which are paid at a VAT rate of 23pc and don't qualify either.
Also – and here's the catch – you can't claim for any materials that you buy yourself because you, as a homeowner, pay VAT at 23pc. If, for example, you're renovating your bathroom and buy a bath yourself, you will pay 23pc VAT. That money can't be reclaimed under the HRI scheme.
Here's where it gets complicated. If you ask your tax-compliant VAT-registered builder to buy that very same bath and install it, the cost of purchase and installation (both charged at 13.5pc) are potentially covered under the HRI scheme.
Then, in case it wasn't confusing enough, the cost of the materials must not be more than two-thirds of the cost of the entire job.
In short, to get the most out of the scheme it is best to decide what you want – shower, toilet, tiles, etc – and then ask your contractor to place the order.
This is where the DIY expert loses out. If you buy your own materials and do all the installation and fitting yourself, the HRI scheme won't save you a cent. On the other hand, if you're handy with your hands or you have a family member who is, then you're probably making a considerable saving anyway!
"There's another practical advantage in getting your builder to place the order," says architect Sam Mays. "It means that they are responsible for getting all the bits and pieces. If they've forgotten something, it's their problem."
This circumvents the familiar Ikea scenario of arriving home with everything apart from the one piece that holds it all together. The HRI scheme isn't the only thing you have to worry about if you're installing a bathroom on a limited budget. One bath can look very much like another but prices differ hugely and it's difficult to know where to economise.
"It's worth investing in the best quality taps and shower that you can afford. A cheap shower can be a false economy and if you need to replace it, you may also have re-tiling costs," Mays explains.
Fancy showers, however, come with a financial health warning. "A power shower at full throttle will wolf up your hot water in no time," says Mays. With water charges looming, it's important to think about the knock-on effects of showering. "Restricted flow showers, which give a good strong jet without draining the hot water tank can be a good compromise," he recommends.
If you're spending a little extra on the shower and taps, consider dispensing with the shower screen and buying a shower curtain. At B&Q, for example, a shower door costs between €159 and €490. A shower curtain from the same outlet costs from €2.95 to €40. "Shower doors are a nuisance," says Mays. "They always seem to leak, apart from the really expensive ones, and they need constant cleaning. Shower curtains are much easier to maintain and you can get some really cool ones."
Since nearly all bathroom suites are white, you can have a bit of fun with the shower curtain. Art lovers can get one printed with Hosukai's iconic Great Wave print or Gustav Klimt's Pine Forest (for around €45 from www.cafepress.co.uk).
Bathroom prices vary massively. B&Q offers entry level bathroom suites from around €400. A little further up the price ladder you'll find a greater range of styles and technologies. The Helena range from B&Q offers a 'supercast' bath for €490, which means that the acrylic shell of the tub is reinforced to make it both tougher and better insulated so that the water stays hotter for longer. The Helena range also includes a toilet (€424) and washbasin (€264). Moving up the ladder you'll find that a standard sized bath in reinforced acrylic from the top German brands like Villeroy and Boch begins at around €750 from Ideal Bathrooms. Larger baths cost progressively more, as do exciting add-ons like whirlpool jets. Expect to pay an extra €600 for this luxury.
Damian Farrell of Ideal Bathrooms points out that some of the top brands also have discount ranges. "Villeroy and Boch are an expensive brand but their O Novo range costs €2,580 for a complete bathroom," he says. The offer includes bath and shower, taps, basin and dual flush toilet and a heated towel rail, with the accessories coming from the Keuco range and the towel rail from Bisque.
Like many bathroom suppliers, Ideal Bathrooms work with teams of external contractors. "The price of the product remains the same whether you use these guys or not but there's a potential advantage in that they're used to installing the brands that we sell. We tend to give customers the names of all three of the teams so they can get the best quote," Farrell explains.
If you're planning to avail of the HRI scheme, you'll need to check that your builder is VAT registered and tax compliant. After all, the scheme is designed to weed out the nixer tap brigade.
But remember, if you want to claim on the scheme you'll have to be tax compliant too!