We’re now well into our home renovation and recently we sat back and reflected on the progress we’ve made so far and what we’ve learnt. Having spent a long time planning the project, our experience has been relatively straightforward(ish) although not without its stresses (that’s a separate blog post) but I wanted to share my suggestions if you are about to undertake your own project to try and help your experience be as smooth as possible. This advice is written to assume you don’t have your own project manager, we chose not to – at 10% of the build cost we felt this was something we could manage ourselves.
Put everything into storage
Firstly, a strong recommendation is that you place everything you have into storage. We didn’t.
We thought we’d be ok by taking a couple of packed suitcases and our daily essentials with us to our temporary accommodation. Placing our valuables in a spare room at the In-Laws, everything remaining in the house was covered in dust sheets. Glassware was wrapped in newspaper and placed safely in boxes. Boxes were clearly labelled. So why do we think you shouldn’t follow the same approach?
You’ll naturally discover that whilst you aren’t living in your house they’ll suddenly be things you’ll need that are packed away (in my case in the middle of 40 very dusty boxes covered in layers of very dusty dust sheets!). A last minute trip abroad and I was scrabbling to reach my passport, I knew where it was but it felt like an episode of dusty Ninja Warrior trying to reach it! The children started a new sports club after school and would need to take their P.E kit in back packs. Their backpacks were packed away somewhere, we just had no idea where and searching through boxes covered in so much dust wasn’t appealing, so new cheapy backpacks were hastily purchased. There were at least 10 items we needed at some point in the 6 weeks we weren’t living there that we hadn’t anticipated we would need.
The other bigger reason for wishing we’d packed things into storage was that the builders had to move our belongings around as their work progressed from room to room. For example, the ceilings had to be taken down in all downstairs room so electrical work could take place, every time a ceiling came down the room had to be cleared of all contents. Therefore the builders would move everything out of that room to give them space to work, but also meant we have now become slightly lost as to where things are.
Stay as close to your project as possible
Being close to our project has ensured we have a clear understanding of what is going on each day, thus meaning we are aware of what decisions we’ll need to make and when we might need to decide things or purchase items such as lights. Each time the builder has come to us with a decision or question, our understanding and appreciation of the process, of what they are trying to do has meant we can make clear decisions there and then, so not delaying the build at any point. The more you know about what is happening the better. If you don’t understand the next job they’re about to work on, read up on it, so when they need to talk to you, you have the base line knowledge and can make an educated decision.
For example, when the builders were about to lay the floor in the new extension area we knew that if you wish to lay a wooden floor on to concrete, the concrete has to be below a certain moisture level. We’ll be laying oak herringbone floors throughout. By taking the time to explore the recommended approach to laying this type of flooring we were aware that if a concrete floor was laid we’d need to allow around 8 to 10 weeks drying time. An 8 to 10 week drying time would have delayed us being able to lay the flooring and in turn this would delay the kitchen being fitted. To avoid this, we spoke with the builder ahead and he happily arranged to lay a solid timber floor – with no moisture issues for us to worry about.
A contingency budget is an absolute must. Not just for unforeseen issues but you are very likely going to find that your plans do and will change. For us, our contingency has only been spent on some minor things but these have all had a mounting cost. For example, our radiators were originally going to be wall hung however to provide extra strength and ensure they were bullet proof (children hanging on them?) we decided to have feet put on the radiators. The downstairs cloakroom wasn’t originally in our plans for phase 1, however it originally had an overflow pipe that went outside, with the new extension now built where the overflow once was, it was easier and seemed logical to fit out the downstairs bathroom at this time. When you are doing the toilet you also want to have your flooring down so it made sense for us to do this now.
Another additional cost was deciding to add sound insulation to the ceilings, to minimise noise. We paid extra for the playroom window after discussing things with our glazing company, to match that window to the one above it, we needed to make the glass thicker so that it mirrors the window above. This meant the centre piece of glass is one piece rather than two with a split in the middle. Finally, we chose to have the wall chased to hide pipework – again necessary but additional cost. Considering we’ve been lucky to have not incurred any bigger, unexpected costs than this, a clear schedule of works listing every job in every room line by line was our saving grace. I really am thankful we planned and spent months on the schedule of works. Yet, even if you don’t have one, try to aim to set aside 20% of your build cost for contingency spends.
I hope these tips are helpful? Do you have any others based on your own experience? Whatever stage you are with your own project I wish you every success and hope its a smooth and stress-free experience.