We’re on the homeward stretch of the building alterations to our house and it has been a generally pleasant experience. I take my hat off to anyone who lives in their house for an extended period of time. Ours will have taken 2 months by the time it finishes and whilst well worth it, there are a couple of things I will remember for next time.
- Listen to advice from family, friends or professionals. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who kindly came bathroom shopping with me and asked me questions I would have never thought about. eg. Thermostatic showers – it is safer to have one than a standard mixer and helps to prevent scalds when someone else in the house uses cold water at the same time. She was also good at making me stand in a shower and pretend to wash hair etc and realise that 10mm is quite a difference. I also sat in some baths in the show room and this was also helpful in making decisions.
- Make sure that you have notified the relevant bodies (and neighbours) prior to building. For our internal alterations we had to :
- Notify our mortgage company of our intentions and gain consent
- Notify our home insurance company who have put endorsements against our policy. Once the building is complete, we need to notify them and they will remove these.
- At the very least, have a conversation with the Building Control department at your local council offices. Let them know your plans and ask whether you need special permission or to complete an application. We had to get a building notice and then half way through our building works, a building inspector came to make sure everything was ok and the work was according to information we had provided.
- Go and have a look at some of the work your chosen builder has done. Ask the home owners whether they are happy and how they felt the build went and how any issues were solved when they arose.
- Whilst budgets may be tight, it is always worth keeping in touch with your architect (if you have one). He doesn’t have to come onsite unless there is a problem that you can’t solve but having him on the end of the phone is so useful and well worth the money too.
- If you have animals (especially nervous ones that don’t like fireworks and loud sounds), check with your builder and find out which days they will be making a lot of noise, like drilling and angle grinding in particular. See if you can arrange for your animals to go to a friends or the kennel on those days as the noise can be very loud. Our 2 boys even cover their ears and so I would hate to know what it is like for our dogs. We have another friend who has been amazing and has had the girls (aka our dogs) visit on those days when the plumbers have been in.
- Let the builders know when you go out or come back in, especially let them know if you have children at home. This means that they need to know to look out for a child when carrying items around and also to watch their language.
- Whilst near impossible when working, being about for builders to ask questions saves a huge amount of time (and money) as things can be as you want them rather than how the builder thinks you want them. I have had numerous questions asked about how we want something finished off for instance, or if the measurements from the schematic drawings weren’t quite right, the builders would check if I was ok with how they thought it would work better.
- Whilst I am on the subject of builders, try and keep the relationship on the right track. Things will go wrong, but be realistic and practical about how it is remediated.
- Keep an eye on your budget!! It can be very easy when you hear small numbers when making changes but remember these all add up! And always check when something is quoted whether it includes VAT or not. And as they say always have a contingency. We used our contingency up very early in our build as we had to replace our hot water tank which wasn’t originally planned.
- Finally, in amongst all the dust and the mess, remember it will all be worth it in the end. Take up those amazing gestures of kindness from friends/family for a place to get away from it all so that you can enjoy the process.
We will have a phase 2 of our building works, but thankfully that is a few years off and in the mean time, I can’t wait for the next week or so to go by so that we can enjoy living in all of our home again. We had snow at the beginning of the building process and there is snow scheduled for the end.