The A-Z of home renovation
By Claire Spreadbury
A new beginning: Starting a building project feels exciting. You're creating a new section of your home, designed uniquely for you, which is pretty special.
Builders: The people who are going to take on your work need thoroughly researching. They'll all have different work ethics, set-ups and costs. Ask around and find out if friends and family would recommend builders they used - it's surprising how many won't.
Contract: Once you've made a deal with a builder and the work's secured, insist on a contract. This should tell you exactly what will be done when - week by week - and how much you need to pay at every stage.
Remember to only pay that money when work's completed as agreed.
Dirt: Strap in for a few months of filth. There will be dust everywhere. Some builders are better than others when it comes to protecting you from the dirt (for example, blocking off sections of the house so mess
can be contained to work sites) and cleaning it up. Your grass is also likely to get filthy (and slightly ruined) if they store tools in the
Extras: Beware - everything will have been priced up for you, but as the build progresses, there will be lots of additional opportunities for you to haemorrhage cash. The builders' costs, for example, might include
uber-cheap, ugly new radiators, but no doubt there'll be an option to upgrade to much prettier ones, for a price of course.
Frayed nerves: Going through a build is incredibly stressful, and you might well need to take on the role of project manager, which is almost impossible if you're trying to work and sort out your family at the same
time. Be prepared for difficult conversations with the builders too - if you're not happy with something, it won't change unless you speak up.
Getting cash out: You might not want to do any dodgy dealing, but if you're trying to haggle and the only way to make things more affordable is to supply a lump sum of cash, you might be tempted (though we couldn't possibly recommend it). Getting large amounts of money out of the bank can be troublesome. You may have your account blocked and be treated like a total criminal, just to warn you.
Holidays: A holiday feels so good in the midst of a build, but he warned - there might be a little less activity going on when you're not around. Builders often work on several jobs at the same time, so if someone else
is around and shouting louder, people may get moved off your project onto theirs.
Itemisation: When the builder gives you your contract, go through it with a fine-tooth comb to check if anything's missing. If you're ordering a new kitchen or bathroom, check the itemised list. You may
have spent days in the shop talking through it all and working out what you want with the supplier, but that doesn't mean they won't incorrectly order something.
Jargon: There will be lots of things you won't know the names of. When builders, plumbers or electricians litter their updates with words you don't understand, ask what they mean.
Keys: Your builders are likely to need their own set of keys, so be prepared to get a set cut, and to trust them in your home. Otherwise you'll need to remain in the house the whole time, and might just drive
Lost stuff: Anything you leave on site is likely to end up in a skip if it's not needed, and things like light fittings or thermostats - that are fixed to a wall that are being knocked down or worked on - can
easily get mislaid.
Mess: Strap yourself in for a messy few months. You'll have stuff on top of stuff, on top of stuff. It's a nightmare.
Never-ending: The builders might tell you eight weeks, you'll estimate 12, but when they're still at it during week 14, you might feel like you want to explode. Building work takes an awfully long time.
Open plan: This is the look so many of us are trying to achieve. Open plan living's what modern life is all about, a real home hub where everyone can be together, perfect for families and entertaining. Just beware, there are fewer places to hide mess so think about storage, and if you have a TV in your open space, that's going to take over, so you might need some screen rules.
Portaloo: They're not pretty but if having a portaloo stops dusty builders traipsing up your stairs to use your bathroom, you want to have one installed. Check if it's included as standard in your job price.
Queen-size tantrums and emotions: Nothing can really prepare you for the stress building work puts on your life. If you have other stressful elements to worry about too, prepare yourself for a tough few months.
You'll be snappy, ratty, emotional and generally quite unpleasant whenever you're inside the house.
Real-life blur: Once you're a good six weeks into a build, something happens to your brain. You're no longer able to retain any additional information that isn't written down, and have to take each and every day
as it comes. Planning ahead can no longer happen.
Skips: When you're having building work done, a skip is one of the first arrivals. Don't get too excited about using it to chuck out some big old bits of rubbish you've been hoarding for the last 17 years, though.
Generally, builders might let you pop in the odd thing, but if you take advantage, they'll charge you for the cost of the skip - which is hundreds. Prepare yourself for scavengers too; scrap metal dealers will
come and rummage at all hours, and some have better manners than others. Same goes for neighbours looking for matching bricks and tiles, and complete randoms hoping for treasure.
Timings: We all know a builder's schedule is unlikely to go completely to plan. Be prepared for timings to be, let's say, flexible. It's slow work - but worth the wait.
Under the ground: You might have to wave goodbye to bits of your garden or a beloved rose bush when it's dig up to provide the soak away. The tunnels and pipes are often necessary for plumbing work, but rest
assured, the garden will grow back (minus the rose bush).
Various people: Building firms use different people for different types of work, so you could see a lot of different faces over the course of the work. It's a good idea to try and get to know them all though, as
you'll feel easier about being in the house with them.
Wall cracks: When you knock down walls and do extensions, you put the rest of the house under severe pressure. Supports will be put in place to ensure it's safe but you will discover lots of brand new cracks,
around windows, across corners and over ceilings. This can be alarming but it happens. Wait for the house to settle (usually at least six months is advised), then fill in the cracks and redecorate.
X-rated language: It's not sweary builders you need to worry about, but your own language. Another side-effect of stress, it's likely your swear count will rise dramatically. Stay calm by organising time away from the
house, relaxing exercise classes like yoga or meditation, and mindfulness apps.
Yes please: Remember everything you say 'yes' to could cost you money. Some builders are more upfront about it than others. So if you're asked if you'd like something a bit different, be sure to check whether it's
included in the price.
Zoo-like behaviour: Most reputable firms will use good staff, but there's always the odd one - possibly the labourer doing all the horrible jobs - who might not be quite as tidy and polite as you might like. Be sure to give them mugs you're happy to throw away for their cuppas, prepare for mud getting everywhere and cover up any areas - like stair carpets and hallway - with sticky, plastic coverings. You'll
really appreciate it come the end of the build.