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Posted in Blog post

Our first ‘Oops!’

It’s been a financially costly ‘oops!’ as well! 😬

I got a phone call from our local council where our planning application was submitted stating that as we’ve now decided to elect a private building regulations inspector that we are only entitled to part of the fee we’d already paid to cover building control duties.

This was news to me!

I asked Mr.H and he hadn’t got any idea why we’d had a phone call, so next stop was to question the builder.

Our builder informed us he’s hired a private building control inspector to take responsibility for our extensions compliance thinking we’d forgotten about it.

We must’ve originally paid our local council to take responsibility for visiting our building team to check the extension was in full compliance with building regulations. However, we completely forgot we already paid this money up front when we submitted the original planning application. It was back in early 2017 so I blame that!

Anyhoo, it means we’ve got to surrender just under half of the fee paid to the council for administrative services already rendered. We received the letter today saying we were entitled to £165.00 back from the total fee. But we’re not happy with that so I’ll be appealing the value we’ve been refunded on Monday.

Got to gear myself up for that phone call now! Worth it though, especially if we get more money back than they decided we were entitled to just for mere paperwork duties carried out. There’s not been a visit conducted!

UPDATE: The local council would only refund us the £165.00 as the other cost is their standard, published plans checking, consulting and approval free so I couldn’t dispute it 🙄

Posted in Blog post

Builder meetings

By my calendar we’ve had our builder over to the house three times to discuss the extension before it even started. The first being: is he interested? Turns out he was. Second visit: to discuss the build in as much detail as possible. Then the third and final visit was to discuss finer details, timescales and set a start date. It also gave him a chance to refresh his memory of the existing house layout and refer to the drawings to ensure he was familiar with the works required.

Having a builder that worked this extra time into the lead up to the build was invaluable as it set the tone of what we wanted and has helped since in being able to refer back to my lists (ooh I’m a list lover) of conversations we had in those meetings.

Posted in Blog post

‘Party Walls’ and undertaking building work

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 (relevant at the time this blog post is published) is an important one when undertaking any building work and whether it applies to you. It’s one that requires some reading and paperwork to get right.

We used this really informative UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/party-walls-building-works

It helped us understand what our responsibilities were and the timescales involved. There is a really helpful pdf booklet on there to explain in what instances you require to come to an agreement with a neighbour and also gives handy template letters and replies for each of you to sign.

Using the webpage and the booklet, you too, like us can save on hiring a party wall agent and write the agreement letters yourself and save some 💷💳

Our obligations are now complete in terms of our party wall agreement but it’s something that when undertaking your build you factor into your schedule.

So that’s another thing ticked off the list!…

Vision 

Architect 

Drawings 

Steel calculations 

Planning approval 

Approximate budget 

Builder selected ✅

Party Wall agreement signed ✅

Posted in Blog post

Why I’m a fan of tiered spending

Everyone has to spend to make their house a home. But it’s in what ratio that’s important for a budget conscious home owner.

That’s why I’m a real fan of tiered spending. I’ve recently done it to kit my sons bedroom out, and did a whole blog post about how I spent less on Master.H’s top bunk than the bottom but still achieved the same quality.

I have three levels of spending that I tend to have in my head…

Budget friendly

Fancied a splurge

Went all out

So, in my household item spend I tend to stick to budget friendly shopping, for example, I don’t buy main branded toilet roll. When it wipes your perverbial and gets thrown straight down the toilet I tend not to overspend on it. Likewise with anti-bacterial wipes, as long as they match main brands with their ‘kills 99.9% of bacteria’ criteria, I buy non-branded.

With these everyday savings I can then spend more on house to home purchases. And I’ll still apply my three tiered spending in my home too. So in my boys bedroom, for those of you who’ve followed me on Instagram, I bought budget friendly items for the top bunk (as it’ll be used sporadically for cousin and friends stopping over) and then fancied a splurge for my sons bunk at the bottom as it’ll be slept in every night and then went all out on the actual bed as it’s a London Bus Bunk Bed!

As I continue with blogging and showing my house to home journey on instagram I’ll detail my purchases as I go through as ‘budget friendly’, ‘fancied a splurge’ and ‘went all out’ so you can see how I *try to keep within budget!

Posted in Blog post

Master.H’s bed

It’s been a couple of days since Master.H’s big reveal on his bedroom!! He’d not been allowed in for near to three weeks so he could have a mega surprise. He was super excited I have to say! There were lots of ‘Wow’s’ and an appreciative ‘Well done Daddy!’ As he knows Mr.H did his room from scratch, all DIY.

I’ve done quite a detailed post on my instagram page, detailing all the companies we sourced his bed and bedding from. All down to the waterproof sheets.

We’ve really tried to create a fun, vehicle themed room (he’s big into vehicles) that will also be future proofed. The navy blue and deep red help create an older feel whilst the vehicles themselves on his wallpaper are child like in design.

We obviously had a budget for his bedroom (as always) and we helped keep within this by doing a little hack to make everything work.

Apart from the actual bed, the next two most expensive items to kit it out are the mattress and duvets. Now, to help keep within budget, we bought less expensive mattress and duvet for the top bunk (where he won’t be sleeping). They’re still top in terms of quality but easier on the purse.

As the top bunk will be less frequently used as it’s going to be for friends and cousins, we could justify the difference in what we bought.

If you’re in a similar situation, this could help you too.

Posted in Blog post

To project manage or not to?…

Vision ✅

Architect ✅

Drawings ✅

Steel calculations ✅

Planning approval ✅

Approximate budget ✅

With a fair few jobs ticked off the list towards completing the ground works for the extension, we needed to get serious.

We needed to find an all important builder. This is of course the person/team of people we are handing over probably the heftiest amount of money we’ve ever paid anyone. Ever. We’re not lucky enough to be a total cash buyer for this project.

The amount of TV programmes I’ve seen where the home owners hand over the whole amount of money or there about upfront before a jot of work has been done, sometimes in actual, hard cash too, is unreal. Not a trap to fall into for sure!

Any good builder will ask for the total quote to be paid in chunks. It helps their cash flow and also helps home owners to keep tabs on costs.

Any job we ever get done, small or large, we tend to get three quotes as a minimum. For this, our biggest project yet, we got seven builders to quote.

We only got building firms to quote who had done work for people we knew well, family and friends. Firms that came highly recommended and their work had recently been done in the last 12-18 months.

Each builder we asked round to the house to get a feel of who they are, what their remits are and whether they were interested. We used the opportunity to explain in great detail what we wanted to achieve in the house. We then emailed through our drawings and calculations for a detailed quote. We asked for the quote to be itemised rather than one figure so that we could see where our major costs were and where savings could be made.

Once the quotes came in, we obviously combed through them carefully. We then realised that if we handed over the whole job we would go seriously over budget. The whole job being listed below…

  • Getting the shell up to be watertight: Digging out the foundations, ground works and foundations up to damp course, the shell ie blockwork/brickwork with ground and first floor joists, installation of steels, roof work, insulation, exterior render, windows, doors and knock through to the existing house 🔨
  • Install stud walls
  • Plasterboard and plastering
  • First fix: electrics and plumbing 🔨
  • Underfloor heating preparation
  • Floor screed 🔨
  • Kitchen purchase and installation
  • Laying choice of floor
  • Wall painting or papering
  • Second fix: electrics and plumbing 🔨

So, having done up two houses previously, third time a charm. We’d be doing it again, and like I said in my bio, never again. This is our forever home. We went through the quotes and focused carefully on the itemised list. We decided to get best price quotes from the same seven builders on just the jobs above highlighted with a 🔨. This helped change the quotes to make it manageable to get the shell up in the first instance.

The builder that came out as ‘the chosen one’ is the one that has come over as and when we’ve wanted to chat through the build more than once, came in reasonably on the quote and talked through parts of the build that could help us save.

Doing this though, one thing is now clear. We are project managing this build. Every contractor that we employ after the water tight shell is up will be managed by us.

We’ll have to make sure that we have the contractors ready to be called in to minimise delays. So all the contractors will have to be vetted and a range of quotes sought prior to hiring. Essentially the same process we’ve gone through to choose our builder.

Updates on this will be posted on my Instagram page as the build goes on.

Posted in Blog post

Budgeting the build

Always a tough one. Last year, after gaining planning permission we had to set a budget. We were clear in our head with our wants and needs for the project so now we needed to see what we could achieve within reason. For us, we have a couple of set ideas that we’re not going to compromise on…

  • The floor plan as drawn out by our architect.
  • The bi fold doors out from the kitchen diner to be flush with the ground outside (we won’t have a risk of flooding in our kitchen as we don’t live on a flood plain). And to help counteract we’ll have ample, well positioned drainage and the slabs outside will be slightly sloped away from the house.
  • The material of the bi fold doors, there going to be aluminium.

However, there are aspects of the build we are willing to compromise on to save money…

  • Instead of having the wall out between the existing lounge and dining room and a steel with pad-stone work etc – have a smaller opening with french doors instead.
  • Instead of a cranked steel beam in the new master bedroom upstairs to incorporate a gable end window to allow as much light into the vaulted ceiling – go with a traditional roof and have a portrait shaped window positioned as high up into the pitch of the roof as possible.

We had thought of a ball park figure of how much the work would cost but combined with this was to get quotes from builders and another crucial question to throw into the mix… To project manage or not to project manage?…

Posted in Blog post

The ground work (no pun intended!)

Ground work indeed. When we first bought the house in Summer 2016, we had the vision to what we’ve now had planning approval on. It struck us immediately that this house is a diamond in the rough.

First off, personally, we’re not a fan of walls (downstairs that is). We prefer open plan. So the main changes we saw needed to be made were…

  • Either french doors or wall out completely between the existing lounge and dining room
  • The existing kitchen would become a walk through, some where with larder units and an area for post to sit and action, and a cool chalk board/magnet area on the wall above for family planning, calendar and the like
  • That the rear of the house had the potential to be extended in its entirety, right across the back without impacting too much on the garden (it’s a decent sized garden, in two stages at the moment but we want to make it flat – another job right there! They’re adding up!)
  • The existing lounge to become a playroom for Master.H and Miss.H
  • The existing dining room to become part of an elongated ‘L’ shape lounge area of the kitchen extension
  • The extension to house the kitchen, a dining room table and part of the lounge area
  • Upstairs, the four existing bedrooms would remain the same but the vacuous space above our downstairs flat roof utility room could become a fifth bedroom, the new master bedroom. To go all out, we’d make it a vaulted ceiling, gable ended one with a walk in wardrobe and en suite
  • The main bathroom upstairs has a separate WC, and we’d make that as one

With all this in mind, we set about seeking planning permission from our local council.

This involved narrowing down an architect to do some floor plan drawings for both approval and building regulations and calculations (for steel RSJs as we are taking out walls).

We then interviewed many architects and design planners to find the one right for us. And I say interview because you have to ensure they’re the right fit for you and your wants/needs from your renovation project. Some were too big of a company and quoted prices way out of our budget for the drawings stage and proposed lots of 4D drawings which we just didn’t need. As soon as they started talking about having their ‘team’ look at our project I knew I’d missed the mark and invited them round to quote when they were too big of an outfit. Some were independent though, which on the surface could suit us but came across as inflexible. For example, when I proposed phoning them up for extra advice outside the drawings and calculations they intimated they would charge. A no go therefore for us. Some independents also tried to impose their ideas on us instead of being willing to work around our wants and needs for our family home. Again, not going to fly with us.

Eventually we found the one for us and commissioned our drawings and calculations with only one small revision required. Which shows we got the right architect for us, he ‘got’ our vision straightaway.

Then we had the nail biting wait to see if our local council approved it all, and they did, with conditions of course, but all very standard ones. Nothing out of the ordinary or specialist.

Stage one was complete! Yey!