‘So how’s the build going?’ A question that I get asked fairly frequently. I then have to explain it hasn’t started yet… when considering we moved in just before Christmas 2017 this might seem like we’re twiddling our fingers to some people, to those of you already doing a renovation you’ll know this is no time at all. Now, I’m the most impatient person known to man yet for me I’ve been surprisingly OK about things… to date, I think having gone through a renovation before where we lived on the building site through the process and then ran out of money half way through, this feels a bit different.
But I’d be seriously lying if I said I’m happy living like this….. But it could be a lot worse, after all it’s warm (but the heating bills in this uninsulated abode are eye watering) and we are loving the location and garden.
So, why’s it taking so long? Why haven’t we knocked any walls down yet?
I’ll take you through the different stages we’ve been through so you’ll get an idea of the steps we’re taking.
First Steps – Survey Drawings
Determined to be proactive and on top of things we’d scheduled our very first meeting with an Architect the day after we moved in (December 2017), two hours after I’d had a job interview and in the midst of us unpacking our belongings – all in all a bit of a bonkers week!
That first visit led to us appointing our Architect who began by undertaking a measured survey in order to draw up the plans of the existing house (as it is now, which included accessible drainage and services). This is a really important step and from memory our Architect was on site for approx 4 hours doing this, he was very good at ignoring all the chaos in the house on that day!
The start of February 2018 was the first time we saw our first draft design drawing options (plans and elevations) – the potential design for the renovated house. It was a little bit like one of those Sarah Beeney / Kevin McCloud moments where you excitedly see your future home plans being unveiled and the fun process of asking questions; ‘What if we did this’ or ‘What if we moved this wall here?’ . It’s a fun stage yet also requires you to be very mindful of what you’ve got to spend and actually how you’re going to live in the space.
Getting Down To Detail
We went through a few iterations after the initial proposal and once these were captured, detailed design drawings were prepared by the Architect. These are far more detailed and are what a builder needs to do the job and of course, quote against and they also support the formal Householder Planning Application.
Our Architect then submitted the plans in the aim of getting planning permission, this stage takes a minimum of eight weeks. We were lucky here, I have had feedback from other Renovators that this stage of a process can be pretty slow – thankfully our plans were approved first time, after the eight weeks were up, with no objections. We did take care to keep our neighbours aware of our proposal and avoided springing any surprises on them.
At this stage I naively thought we’d be able to go out and start looking for a building contractor but nope! The next stage is the bit that took some time…….
More Drawings and a Schedule
The detailed design drawings have to be shared with the structural engineer to enable them to do their calculations. In laymans terms he works out what specification materials are required, what size beams are required, what block work and where etc – so how the house will be built.
Whilst all this was going on we began working on our schedule of works document. This isn’t as the name suggests a timeline schedule, its a document that you give to your building contractor in order for them to give you an accurate price in the first instance, and then for them to actually work from once the work starts. You need to identify what you want exactly regards fittings, such as sanitary ware, kitchen design (style, make type and if the contractors are supplying and fittings). Other areas of detailing includes lighting and power, and here it varies greatly dependent on what you want. Most likely, contractors will provide you with PC sums (Provisional costs) for items that are not specified, as typically at this stage most renovators generally do not know what they exactly want, or indeed have an idea of what is available. PC sums allows flexibility, however our Architect advised we added in more details where we could so that before entering any contract we are fully aware on what has been priced and what has not. We began this document at the end of May and only finished it in August.
My tips if you are about to undertake a renovation project:
You need to live in and get the feel of how your property works (or doesn’t) before you can make changes. After living in it, you WILL have different ideas. Also take into account any future living requirements, i.e, your children won’t always be toddlers….
Do not rush the process, if you do, you will get it wrong and make (costly) mistakes.
The more detail for the tender stage, the better – better like for like quotes, this takes away different interpretations from different contractors.
Budget for more than the Architect tells you it will cost and more than you expect to spend. We found that the indicative price we were given was under what all builders actually quoted.
Good builders have a real abundance of work and can be booked up 6 to 10 months ahead. Of the 5 contractors we spoke with 3 had 4+ jobs ahead of ours and were estimated availability of 6/7 months ahead. I’m generalising based on our location and this might be very different in your area however anticipate that your project won’t commence straight away. All 5 of the people we are speaking with have come to us via recommendation either through friends or neighbours and the final contractor we chose to work with we’ll ask to sign a contract.
Don’t be scared to be brave, push the boundaries of design and to try and make the house exactly how you want it. We’re having to compromise on a few things as our budget is totally blown but we are clear on what we won’t compromise on and how we want the finished property to look.
Speak to experts. We pulled in a lighting expert, BrightBox Lighting, who were recommended to us by an interior designer. BrightBox literally opened our eyes to the magic of what can be acheived through lighting. We now have a lighting schematic and plan for lights in all our key rooms.