After 5 months of building work, our loft extension is almost complete. Hello third floor!
Extensions are the perfect way to get that much needed space without having to move, and although I’m happy with the final outcome, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
If you follow me on Instagram then you might have seen the two broken lights which were dropped by the builder and electrician (one from John Lewis and the other from Tom Dixon), after I ironically joked with the electrician to make sure he wore the white gloves provided with the Tom Dixon light.
It turns out you should never joke about these things, as a day later we got a watsap from the builder starting with ‘sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the electrician had an accident in your bathroom today’. Obviously my first reaction was shit, I hope the electrician didn’t die in there, I’m still yet to have my first shower. But then I read on ‘the electrician dropped your marble Tom Dixon light’. Que many FOR F*CK SAKEs!!!!! Then a month later the same thing happened when we asked the builder to shorten a chandelier over the stairs. What are the chances!!!?
Then came the poorly wired light switches which didn’t work two ways because my builder decided to change the light switches himself instead of getting the electrician back in (*She gets out the dummies guide to electrics for the builder and begs him never to touch the electrics again!*). The hot water tap which took 5 weeks to diagnose that it just needed a new restrictor on the valve. The radiator valves which went missing and had to be replaced. Luckily I had proof that they had been delivered so the builder had to buy new ones. (always keep invoices and emails). To the dirty grout on my newly grouted marble floor, because not one of the tradesman used their common sense to take their shoes off each time they did work in there.
Not to mention the false promises; ‘any damage to existing rooms will be fixed as new’, to the ‘at the end I’ll give the loft a builders clean’. Which turns out is just a spray and a mop and basically your own man power. Cheers guys.
But don’t get me wrong It’s not all been bad. The actual build has been amazing. The roofing and external tiles are brilliant and the decorating looks good once we finally got there with the decorator.
This is why building work is stressful and I wasn’t even project managing it. For those considering an extension I’ve compiled my list of do’s and don’ts to consider before taking the plunge and letting a tradesman come into your home. And if I’ve learnt anything then a good builder will take their shoes off before entering your home. A bad one won’t. It's called respect and if it isn’t there from the start then it probably never will be. Good luck!
- Read up on your local council guidelines regarding permitted and restricted permitted development in advance of having drawings done.
- Get recommendations of builders from your architect. Likewise, if you know a good builder, chances are they can probably recommend a good architect.
- Get at least three different quotes to compare prices.
- Go on recommendations
- Once you’ve short listed your builders, get recommendations of previous work and go see it. Ask yourself, is this the finish I want? If it’s not, then it might be a sign that the builder isn’t for you.
- Make sure you know the difference between a quotation – a firm price and what you can expect to pay for the specified works – and an estimate, which is much less specific. Always try to go for a fixed price contract.
- Check that the builder has relevant past experience and a good trading history; that he has an office address and that he is able to offer references; and that he has third party insurance.
- Read your builders contract. Make sure they haven’t missed anything off which you discussed.
- Ask your builder to give you a realistic project and payment schedule.
- Make sure you have the money quoted plus at least £2k extra encase your builder decides to bill you at the end for extras.
- Make it clear with the builder from the beginning that any extras are outlined throughout the project and new contracts are signed.
- Put structural works before cosmetic and aesthetic improvements and work from the outside of the house inwards.
- Pay attention to the style of the windows.
- Aim to get the shell weathertight as early as possible.
- Get a porta loo for the garden if you don’t want builders using your own. Remember this build could go on for months.
- Take photos of your house before the work starts encase any internal or external damage occurs throughout. You may need them to prove it wasn’t there before.
- Be afraid to challenge the first contract if things are missing which you discussed.
- Be bullied into paying for things which they break or loose. Keep emails of orders to stock check
- Pay for any work in advance.
- Change your mind or change things throughout the build. This will only add to the final cost.
- Be afraid to lay out ground rules. Ie take their shoes off when they come in. Where can the builders take their breaks? Have lunch? can they use your kitchen to heat up food etc.