Do you have home improvements in mind? New research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) suggests that homeowners should plan home renovations six months in advance.

The crucial consideration in how long home improvements take is not just the time working on the project but the delay waiting for a good builder to be available.

The research showed waiting times of seven months for an extension, five months to paint a full home interior, five months for a new kitchen or bathroom and six-and-a-half months for a loft conversion.

“A successful building project requires careful planning and our research gives clear guidance to consumers on likely timelines,” said Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB. “Not only do homeowners need to consider how long a project takes to complete, they also need to remember how long they should expect to wait for a quality builder to be available to get going on their project. If homeowners want to work with a good builder, they should be expecting to wait at least four months and as a general rule, the larger the project, the longer the wait.”

For this reason the FMB advise contacting reputable builders as soon as possible. Berry also warns about how to choose a good builder and spot cowboys. If they say they can start next week then this could be a warning sign. “Experienced and professional building firms are booked up far in advance and it’s always worth waiting for these firms if you want a stress-free experience and a quality finish,” he said. “We always recommend that homeowners ask for recommendations from family or friends, and ideally from those who have completed a similar project to the one you’re planning. If no personal recommendations are forthcoming, approach a professional trade association like the Federation of Master Builders.”

You should always ask for references from the builder’s previous clients and if possible, speak to them directly about the builder. As for payment, always use a written contract and never pay for the whole project up-front. If a builder demands large sums of money upfront or refuses to use a contract then this could be a big warning sign.

While your home is under renovation this can be a stressful time for you. Your home security is usually reduced and the chance of accidents increases. Unfortunately planning renovations can have an impact on your home insurance coverage. While your existing insurer may continue to cover you, you must let them know of any home improvements as soon as possible as there is an increased chance of damage or loss, an insurer may charge an increased premium for the period of renovations, and may add extra exclusions such as theft or third-party liability. If you are keen to switch home insurance provider to save money, or get a better policy, then this should be done in advance of any planned building work, as some insurers may not be keen to insure someone who is about to begin physical alterations to their home.