Planning your Renovation – Six Key Points to Consider

Front elevation of a completed cottage renovation
Front elevation of a completed cottage renovation
A newly completed cottage renovation

So, you’ve bought a property to renovate – how exciting! You’re itching to get started, full of ideas, energy, enthusiasm and the illusion that ”it won’t take long’ . Whether planning a basic renovation, such as replacing the bathroom, installing a new kitchen and decorating throughout; or major surgery  such as removing walls, re-wiring, plumbing, replacing the windows and possibly adding an extension, planning is the key to a successful project and conclusion. The age-old adage: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is true for a very good reason. But there’s another saying: “The best laid plans of mice and men plans often go awry” and despite careful planning things often do.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your first (and maybe your last?) attempt at home renovation, I have listed some key points you must consider when starting your renovation project.

1. Invest money and time in the main fabric of the building.

Roof, walls, windows, doors, electrics, plumbing, gutters etc. are the ‘bones’ of your home. If this means having to wait until funds allow for the beautiful furniture and furnishings you would like, it is a wait that is worth it. A wall in a bad state of repair will not be improved just by painting it a different colour.

2. Does the existing floor layout suit your needs and lifestyle?

If not, draw a rough plan of the existing layout and look at ways this can be improved. It maybe as simple as hanging a door the other way round! Does a wall need removing? If so, then consult a structural engineer to ensure that it is not a supporting wall and consequently is holding your house up. If it is, then a qualified engineer will be able to calculate the steel support beam required to be installed by professional builders.  You or your builder will have to notify Building Regulations at the Planning Office who will carry out a site visit to inspect that the work is being carried out correctly, and if satisfied will issue an approval notice for the work.

A stairwell box taking up most of the third bedroom
An intrusive ‘box’ stairwell in a bedroom
En-suite converted from a small box room
The ‘box was reduced, doors moved making an en-suite

For structural alterations, it is advisable to employ professionals, including loft conversions and extensions. An architect is best for extension plans, but still show them your own rough plan of ideas of the sort of thing you would like at your first meeting. This is useful to the architect, and it avoids them going off on an expensive and unnecessary ‘Grand Design’-style tangent.

Ensure that you have a good working relationship with any professional you hire. Once you are happy with the design,  the plans will be submitted to the planning department of the local authority for approval. The decision process takes approximately 10 weeks. If the plans are not approved, changes will have to be made to your drawings and submitted again for approval.  This is the most frustrating part of any renovation. You just want to get started! But the law dictates that any buildings or extensions built without planning permission may well have to be demolished, the last thing anybody wants! There are some permitted development rights, which allow you to improve your home and build an extension, but ensure you check with your local planning office for details first.

An original 1930’s dining room
Before the renovations began. The original 1930’s dining room
Grey kitchen in a 1930’s house renovation
The window is in it’s original position. Walls were moved and an extension was built.

3. Plan Room Layouts

It’s never too early to start thinking about your room layouts. Starting by positioning your furniture around your floor plan will save you a lot of unnecessary changes later. Draw a scale plan with a scale ruler on paper or on a computer if you prefer, and position your furniture in each room. If  you struggle to visualise things in this way, you can also measure the room with a tape measure and mark out the furniture positions with sticky tape. You will be able to see if you have sufficient plug sockets in the right places for your needs, for lamps by the beds, or in the living room, computer, printers etc.

Do you need any additional forms of  lighting? Mark these on your master plan drawings and incorporate into your costs. If you are planning to change the layout of your bathroom consult a professional plumber,  bathroom installer or talk to a specialist bathroom supplies showroom. They will advise you if it possible to move the toilet etc. to another position. It’s not always as simple as you think, we often forget how the waste water is going to be disposed of! Likewise, visit a kitchen designer to help you plan your kitchen, but do take along your ideas and rough plans too. These professionals will make sure that there is no oversight in your plans.

Basic drawing of a living room layout
Basic room layout drawing will help on electrical requirements.

4. Plan your Budget

It doesn’t matter how big or small your budget is, this is key to a successful project. Remember to add about 20% of the total budget as a contingency fund, in case unforeseen problems arise.

The easiest way to to do a budget is on a spreadsheet. List all the items, product codes, supplier, with possible delivery lead times of the items, and the price.  It’s also useful to have all your information in one place to refer to as the project progresses.  Knowing the delivery lead times of fixtures and fittings avoids a mad rush and panic buying when an item is needed and avoids delays. The most expensive items are not always the best quality, so shop around. Always get at least three written quotations from qualified and recommended trades people for the work for cost comparison. Do not ask for, or accept an estimate. An estimate is exactly what it says, and will no doubt cost you more than you have budgeted for. For ease of quote comparisons draw up a detailed  list of the work you require them to do, along with any drawings which can include details of your specific fixtures and fittings if they are to supply them. You will also want to know their expected start and finish dates.  A written contract or agreement of some type should be signed to avoid disputes by both parties. For large projects you may want to include a penalty clause, should work not be completed within the agreed time frame. Depending on the size of your project, it may also be a wise decision to appoint a Project Manager on your behalf.

Before - a sliding door separating dining room to a badly planned kitchen.
Before, a sliding door into a badly planned kitchen
After picture of a well planned kitchen in a small cottage
After – Dividing sliding door removed and a well planned kitchen installed

5. Keep to your Budget

This is a lot easier said than done, we all know this. By keeping to your master plan and by not changing your mind during the work or choosing more expensive fixtures and fittings will help avoid going over budget If you do change your mind on fixtures and fittings, when you update your spread sheet it will immediately show you how much you will go over budget, and perhaps you can make savings elsewhere to compensate. Be prepared to compromise.

6. Time Plan

Be realistic. ‘By Christmas’ is often quoted as a bench mark date. Christmas comes and goes and you’re still unfinished. Everything usually takes longer than expected.  As with any project have a start and finish date which is realistically achievable, and allows inclement weather to avoid stress and disappointment.

The start of a new kitchen installation
You don’t want to have a kitchen half finished with guests arriving.
Kitchen diner with central island
The finished kitchen now ready to receive guests

 

Be Prepared – For a lot of mess and disruption to your life, if you’re  planning to live in the property whilst work is being done. Be prepared for blood, sweat, tears and possibly disagreements and heated arguments.  As the project progresses you can get very tired and stressed. Keeping a sense of proportion and  humour is not always easy.  But the sense of achievement and joy when you’ve finished your home makes it all worthwhile.

 

Planning Your Dream D.I.Y. Wedding? Read This First!

Bride and flower girl at her Rustic Fusion Wedding
Bride and flower girl at her Rustic Fusion Wedding
Bride and flower girl at her Rustic Fusion Wedding

Whilst the U.K. basked in hot sunshine, thoughts turned to outside living, holidays and Summer being the main wedding season.  Whatever season you choose for your perfect wedding, the sooner you start planning the better.

Mention the word ‘Wedding’ and £££££ visualise in couples’ minds, along with their ‘dream wedding’; be it traditional, humanist, or civil service and their venue. Hotels will offer complete packages with flowers, set menus, format and D.J. which can be impersonal, especially if another wedding is going on at the same time in another room. Or indeed the hotel starting to clear your room before your wedding has finished because they have another wedding the following day exactly the same as yours, which needs to be set up. This hardly makes you feel that your wedding is special does it? Which it is. Very.

Many couples are now seeking alternative wedding venues from marquees, tipis, barns, woodland, as well as Church and Village Halls and pub function rooms. Most hire companies offer an empty space, perhaps with standard tables and chairs. Some will provide photographs of previous weddings held there and suggest local catering firms and florists etc. The list is endless and can be mind boggling.

 

So, armed with a budget be it big or small and an empty space, what and how do you choose? It’s similar to designing and staging rooms in your home – a blank canvas with a few fixtures and fittings to retain.

 

Weddings are big business and there are thousands of ideas on Pinterest, bridal magazines and wedding fairs to inspire, but what and how do you choose within your budget and chosen venue and how can you create it? A Wedding Staging Service maybe of help if you lack the time or creativity, whose services range from initial ideas to the full implementation package, depending on how much help is needed.

Firstly, think about yourselves as a couple, your lifestyle and who you are. Your likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests and how these elements could be introduced into your wedding. Once identified, the key most important elements will be clear. These can then be worked on to create a visually stunning venue, personal to the happy couple to reflect the couple and things special to you both.

Create a scrap book of things you like and a picture will emerge. Depending on your chosen venue, are there different areas to be considered and included other than the main reception room such as the ceremony area, or entrance? Now how do you put this altogether?

Draw a floor plan and create inspirational mood boards for each area, making decisions easier. You now have a plan. Implementing your plan will take time and commitment from all those involved.

Key Things to Consider When Doing It Yourselves.

1. Be realistic about what you or family and friends can do yourselves. Tap into any special talents and delegate specific tasks to talents.

2. If specialist skills are required from outside sources, then book well in advance.

3. Are the people helping reliable, dedicated and prepared to put in the hours required of them?

4. Allow plenty of time to decorate and set up the venue, remembering that you will also have to dismantle it it all by a certain time the next day. So allow for late hung over helpers!

5. Have everything labelled in boxes and provide a floor plan with a key where the decor is going. This allows helpers to know what they’re doing and saves time.

6. Tool box, Step ladders.

Indeed there are wedding planners and events companies who will take care of everything on your behalf, but more and more couples are wanting family and friends involvement in their wedding and is a key personal element, so decide which services are the right choice for you.

 

Ten Interior Design Tips Using Mirrors in Your Home

Ten interior design tips using mirrors in your home
How to enhance light, display and create the illusion of space

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’, is often quoted in jest. However, ‘never a truer word is spoken in jest’. So apart from using mirrors to check your spots (if a teenager), broccoli stuck between your teeth, shaving and make up application, which to be fair are necessary to daily life, let’s explore the possibilities.

 

 

  1. Use as a Focal Point. Hang one large or over sized statement mirror above a fireplace or behind a bed. (Please ensure its securely anchored to the wall capable to hold the weight). This will add impact to your room.

 

 

2. Use as a Display. Use a collection of mirrors with different frames and sizes and hang on one wall. This really does make a lovely display wall and a change from artwork.

 

 

 

3. Group Together. If you have two, three or five ( general rule of thumb is ratios of odd numbers, but a matching pair does work too) of the same style mirror, even possibly different sizes: these can be hung above an item of furniture such as a chest of drawers or console table to ‘anchor’ them. With the addition of a table lamp to reflect the light, and some well chosen ornaments you will create a lovely vignette.

Lamps placed in front of large mirrors creates a vingnette
Lamps placed in front of mirrors look stunning at night.

4. Light Reflection. This is a well known and loved interior design trick to add light to a poorly lit room from a window. Place the mirror on the opposite or adjacent wall to the window to reflect the light into the room.

 

 

 

5. Image Reflection. To visually help create the illusion of space, hang a mirror to reflect an outside view back into the room (only if its a good view mind,) or from an opposite wall in the room. This will help highlight the rooms best features.

6. Frames. Consider choosing interesting frames in a variety of shapes and sizes. Or you could choose frames with all the same colour. All will add interest and individuality to your decor.

 

 

7. Style. The frame will reflect ( sorry!) the style and look of the mirror, modern, antique, contemporary, traditional etc. So ensure that the style chosen will compliment your existing rooms decor.

8. Size Matters. Ensure you know where you want to hang the mirror, with approximate dimensions before purchasing. However, should you expectantly fall in love with a mirror whilst out, try thinking of at least one other place you could hang the mirror, to avoid a disappointing investment.

Colour washed mirror glass
Stunning paint washed mirror from Anthropologie.com

9. Mirrored Doors. Often used on wardrobe doors,  useful space saving and full length uses. Great for small walk in wardrobes to create the illusion of space, and ‘visually creating a sense of space’. Personally, if at all possible I would avoid hanging these opposite my bed. I wouldn’t particularly like to see myself sitting in bed. I also understand that it’s bad Feng Shui.

 

 

 

10. Mirrored Frames. Art work, paintings and photographs can look very effective framed with mirrored glass. These could be used as an alternative to mirrors for display purposes.

 

Set of pictures framed with mirror frames
Mirrored Picture Frames

Want It Done By Christmas?

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com

On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.

Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility  to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com
Detailed Bathroom Moodboard by Designsbykaty.com

So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.

First floor plans of a four bedroom house
You don’t need such detailed drawings unless major renovations are planned.

Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?

I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.

assembled cupboard carcass's
Kitchen install in progress not what you want at Christmas
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall

Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.

Tiling in progress in shower en-suite shower area
A half finished guest en-suite – not what you want when having guests
Completed Guest En- Suite
Completed Guest En- Suite

Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.

There’s  always next Christmas!

 

Larders and Pantries

Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars
Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars
A walk in pantry

Do you member a walk in cupboard in the corner of a kitchen with shelves for foods stuffs – the larder? Perhaps jars of conserves, a basket with fresh vegetables, meats and dairy produce and perhaps cakes too? In larger family homes there were large walk in pantries with stone or concrete counter tops, with shelves above. In some cases a sink too. These would be positioned adjacent to the main kitchen of course, for easy access in the usually north facing (coldest) aspect of the house. These were the mainstay of homes prior to refrigerators and freezers where fresh produce was kept to keep cool and lengthen their shelf life.

In an Edwardian house, I once lived in, we had a cellar, complete with a built-in ‘food safe’ which had a sliding door with fly mesh. This was so useful, especially at Christmas to store the turkey and ham. It was also a great place in which to hide ( outside of Christmas) which my children did when playing hide and seek. Except that it was too good – their friends gave up looking!

Above are images of a Georgian pantry meat or food safe and housekeepers pantry at Number 1 Royal Crescent Bath.  http://no1royalcrescent.org.uk/

As sleek and modern kitchens were introduced, along with more affordable refrigeration and later the freezer, the larder in the corner of the kitchen became obsolete and was knocked out to make way for the state of the art kitchen.

There is however, a return to the larder and pantry idea, and being re-introduced in many new kitchen designs, due to popular demand. These range from large ‘larder cupboards’ either integrated or free-standing with bespoke shelves and drawers to enable easy access to foodstuffs all in one place, hidden behind bi-fold, fold away doors or a sliding tamber, instead of dotted around the kitchen in various cupboards. Breakfast or drinks ‘stations’ too have risen in popularity, whose designs are similar to that of a larder cupboard. A friend of mine had a tea and coffee larder cupboard installed on her landing, so guests could help themselves to an early morning cuppa and chat, freeing up her kitchen so she could prepare the breakfast.

If you’re lucky enough to have the space, walk in pantries with bespoke fittings are popular too. These pantries can also include a sink and dishwasher to keep the kitchen clear whilst entertaining. Some pantries include wine chiller cabinets and fridges too. Although ‘white goods’ appliances generate heat, in which case it would be wise to install an air conditioning unit.

Remember you don’t want to have to walk the equivalent of 2 miles when preparing a meal, so think carefully how and what you cook and the frequency you need certain items to hand on a daily basis. This focus’ the design on the interior of the pantry to your requirements. If you don’t have an adjacent room to the kitchen suitable, but your kitchen is large, you could partition and area specifically for a walk in. Or build a wall of cupboards with everything hidden behind doors when not in use.

A kitchen plan including walk in pantry design
A kitchen plan which includes a walk in pantry design

Consider your lighting and sockets positions if you want to keep your coffee machine and toaster in the cupboard, a breakfast station if you like. Narrow shelves for herbs and spices – easily retrievable whilst in the midst of cooking. If possible, a cold stone, or concrete counter top which is cold and easily cleaned. Do you want shelves for storage jars, and preserves, perhaps drawers for fresh produce or items not used very often including crockery and large platters? Tailor the design to suit your kitchen working and lifestyle.

Bespoke larder and pantry designs available from Plain English, DeVol, Neptune, Martin Moore to name but a few who have now introduced these designs.

 

 

Design a Home and Garden that means Something to you

White Alliums' and dark tulips planted to gether

What does your home and garden mean to you? A place to relax, entertain and spend time with families. How do they make you feel? Our homes and gardens should create a feeling of happiness and well being – a haven of peace in a busy world, and reflect your personality and chosen lifestyle. Ha! in a perfect world I hear you say.

How often have you visited either a National Trust garden, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gardens-and-parks,  The Chelsea Flower Show  or an open garden as part of the National Garden Scheme charity fundraising, https://www.ngs.org.uk/ and become inspired to create a lovely garden of your own, only to become despondent on returning home, faced with your own small patch of turf? We’ve also been guilty on the first of the warm, sunny days of rushing out to the local nursery or garden centre and purchasing seasonal plants for instant display, only to find that you don’t actually know where to plant them? Like all home and garden projects it’s down to good planning, you are, after all, creating an outside ‘room’ extension to your home.

Create a Mood board, after all many interior mood boards are inspired by nature’s colours’, textures and movement. Ensure that your outside space compliments your interior space, a cohesive, seamless boundary between the two.

Garden Moodboard for inspiration
Garden Mood board by thepapermulberryblogspot.com

Ten Guidelines on Planning your Outside Space

  1. Budget – How much are you prepared to spend?
  2. Measure your site.
  3. Note the aspect, is it North, south, East or West? This has an influence over choice of plants, and where you want your seating and entertaining area to be.
  4. Hard Landscaping – Hedges, fences, decking paths etc. working within fixed boundaries. Do you want a water feature? Do you want outside lighting? These should be incorporated into you plan now to allow for electrical wiring requirements.
  5. Soil. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky most of us have ‘rubbish’ soil – clay, chalk, sand, silt, loams and peat. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=179 (It maybe full of stones and builders debris too). To identify your soil type go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/htbg/module1/soil_types1.shtml  which offer great information other than purchasing a soil acid test kit. It’s important to choose the right plants for your soil if they’re to thrive ( not just the pretty ones). https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/planting
  6. Collect ideas together you like from gardens, magazines etc. and think how you could incorporate some of these in your own garden. Also think about the transition from your interior to your garden. These should compliment each other and could be linked by either colour in the planting, fence or decking, or style of seating furniture and containers.  The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has an amazing website full of advice https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/design
  7. Prepare the planting border. Dig over at least fork deep, remove bricks, flints and anything else you may find and remove weeds. Then dig in well rotted manure. This is hard work, so not recommended on a hot day!
  8. Plan your planting scheme. Based on the aspect, space, soil type and desired final design and colour. Do you want a wildlife garden, attracting butterflies, birds and bees, a minimalist with maintenance to match? How much time, realistically are you’re going to spend gardening?

9. Now Buy your plants according to your list.

10. Compromise You maybe horrified by the price of your chosen plants, especially if selecting larger plants and shrubs for instant impact. Buy smaller specimens instead and be patient. Alternatively, consider scouring the clearance section for reductions, especially in the Autumn. O.K. they maybe going over for this season, but shrubs and perennials will come back next year to enhance your garden at a lower cost.

Be patient, gardens like homes evolve and grow over time. Below, are before, during and after picture’s of an overgrown and neglected garden, taken over two years.

 

The garden now, two years on. Just wondering how many beers had been consumed prior to cutting the lawn, judging by the stripes!

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House Before and After Pictures

Front porch of renovated 1930's house

I have now compiled ‘before and after’ pictures, with the occasional ‘during’ photo (remember it always gets worse before it gets better) which I hope you’ll enjoy and give you momentum to commence or  finish your projects.

The renovation and restoration of a 1930’s house is finished! Are you ever finished in a home? Probably not.

Front Elevation

Before – Sad and neglected                                        After – Restored and extended

Hall

Before - The original 1930s' entrance hall prior to renovations.
Before – The original front entrance hall prior to renovations.
Original 1930's entrance hall
Before – The original hall was dark and poky.
Acro props before steel beam is installed
During an internal hall wall removal.

 

After - The finished entrance hall in a 1930's house
After – The completed entrance hall

Sitting Room

Before - The sitting room with the original 1930's brick fireplace.
Before – The sitting room with the original 1930s’ brick fireplace.
After - The original 1930's brick fireplace cleaned up
After – The original 1930’s brick fireplace was retained, so too were the original Crittal French doors.
Before Original 1930's sitting room complete with Crittal French doors and brick fireplace
Before – A 1930’s sitting room with original Crittal French doors and brick fireplace.

Kitchen

Before - The original 1930's dining room
Before – The original 1930’s dining room
During - The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room has been removed.
The dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room has been removed, to be re-positioned.
After - the completed new kitchen
After – The completed kitchen
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall. Original servants bell box is re-hung – shame no staff though!
Open plan kitchen/diner/day room with bi-fold doors onto garden.
View into dining/ day room area from kitchen
Before- original 1930s' dining room
Before- the original dining room prior extension and renovation work – damp wall is now where clock is hung.

Living Room

Rear Footings 3rd feb 2015
Before – Laying the foundations
Painted Stove and Fireplace
During – Marking the wall for the multi-fuel stove
Trescotte Sitting Room Afer 073
After – The finished sitting room

Family Bathroom

Before- A tired and dated bedroom                         After – A family bathroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom during construction
The first fix electrics in the master bedroom
After - Large master bedroom with Heals four poster bed
After – The finished master bedroom
master bedroom with four poster bed from Heals
After – The large master bedroom complete with a four-poster bed from Heals.

The Loo

Before with original cistern          After – Re-sited and restored cistern

Guest Bedroom

Originally a landing with airing cupboard, bathroom with separate loo. Now a guest bedroom, painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ Farrow and Ball http://www.farrow-ball.com/setting%20plaster/colours/farrow-ball/fcp-product/100231

Rear Elevation

Before – An overgrown garden                           Waiting to mature!

However carefully one plans either a renovation or restoration project, it rarely comes in on budget – it’s usually over budget. This is not just because of unforeseen problems like discovering structural problems once the work has commenced, it can due to adding a few extra plug sockets here and there (it all adds up) or choosing high specification kitchen, bathrooms and fittings. Usually it’s because we’ve under estimated the basic build/renovation costs – raw materials labour plus VAT.  Comparing your projected budget spread sheet to the actual costs spreadsheet, helps analyse where you under budgeted or over spent.

Did we go over budget? Yes, we knew we’d go over budget when we decided to install the Sonas system. However, the original quote was less than the final invoice due to the time-lapse between the first fix and completion – the labour and equipment had increased in price. The quote was valid for 30 days only, lesson learned.  The building material costs were higher too, despite having a breakdown of these costs from the supplier which our budget spreadsheet was based upon. Generally, the majority of people under-estimate their expenditure.

With the uncertainty of property the market, and the impact Brexit may have, many home owners are opting to improve their current home instead of moving. Having had nearly forty years experience in renovating properties, although home values may dip from time to time, they always go up, and on the whole a good investment.

If you think I can be of benefit to you and your project, whether big or small just contact me.

Floor tiles on cloakroom floor     http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/patisserie/sucre-1 and entrance floor  http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/casino-floor/mode/grid

Artwork by Kim Major George  http://www.majorgeorge.co.uk/

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – As the Dust Settles

After - The completed front elevation of a 1930's house

As extensions begin to settle, and fresh plaster dries out, cracks annoyingly appear in your newly painted rooms and skirting boards will move slightly. One of the most time consuming things on a major renovation project is the snagging. How often have you gone round the house with a bowl of mixed filler, filling in accidental knocks (leave settlement cracks alone for at least six months – they will return or get bigger) odd scratches and holes, to find you’ve mixed up far too much filler. You dispose of the excess filler, only to discover more holes! These of course have to be sanded smooth and touched in with a little matching paint. We have an assortment of paint pots, brushes, filler and sandpaper stacked in one room specifically for this purpose. I will be very glad when these can be stored on shelves in the garage. It’s a good idea to keep the paint used in case of small minor repairs required at a later date.

Snagging goes hand in hand with what I term as ‘The Builders’ Clean’. This is a mega clean. Paint splashes on windows, doors and frames need to be removed with either a small amount of solvent (if UVPC frames) and scraped gently off glass with a razor blade to avoid scratching the glass. This is prior to actually cleaning the windows. The dust will continue to settle and reappear despite your best efforts for some time. However, it’s surprising what a huge improvement these small repairs and cleaning make to the finished house – it actually looks finished.

It wasn't as bad as Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations
Too be honest, it wasn’t as bad a this!

Finally, we were ready to lay the carpets to the first floor bedrooms, landing and stairs. I chose a plain grey carpet for all these spaces, creating a cohesive look. Grey is a wonderful neutral colour which can be teamed successfully with many other colours, which enables individual character and style for each room. Once the carpets go down, you really feel that the house is almost finished. I was also very pleased to see the back of the dusty floorboards (despite the repeated vacuuming) and noisy stairs. The carpet came from a nationwide carpet shop, who use subcontract fitters. Although we had quite a large area requiring new gripper, underlay and carpet fitting, the rooms were void of furniture, so it made the job a lot easier and quicker. However, I was disappointed to discover that the fitters don’t dispose of the waste and cut offs. They simply bag it up for the customer to dispose of. I have a skip, but what about everyone else? Another trip to the tidy tip? It would be even worse if you had old carpets to remove prior to fitting the new.

The rooms looked much better having carpet, and would have looked amazing if the fitters had bothered to vacuum the carpets before rushing off. There was fluff everywhere, which was also floating around as ‘tumble weed’ downstairs. What happened to pride in your job, leaving looking as best you can? As I was vacuuming the carpet, I noticed in several places that the paint on the skirting board had been damaged by the carpet fitter’s tools. More snagging!

The Sonos System has been connected to the speakers – we have music! Needless to say that my husband and son have enjoyed ‘playing’ with the radio and music selections in different rooms. We have had to have boosters fitted in a few rooms though, due to the poor broad band service speeds available. BT are currently advertising fibre optic service on the television. Why are they advertising a service which is unavailable to so many people?

I have recently received a letter from the local council notifying me that I’m now liable for the Empty Home Council Tax Premium. The council explained that it is one of their priorities to increase the amount of available and affordable housing in the borough. Councillors have introduced this council tax premium for properties which have been unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more to encourage empty homes back into use. They didn’t specify exactly how much more I had to pay, only that the increased charge would be 150% of full council tax for the property.

The house, when purchased was uninhabitable, and we received six months levy on council tax charges. During this time we had plans drawn up and submitted to the local council for planning permission (permission took twelve weeks) then we had to submit drawings to building control, which took another month, all before we could actually commence work, which took another six months before being habitable – just, (although not finished). Since the initial six month levy period, we have been paying the full council tax charges, despite being unable to move into the house, not until my present house has sold. I can understand and appreciate the councils intentions of encouraging occupancy of empty homes due to the housing shortage, but not all circumstances are the same. The extra council tax was certainly not in our budget or even contingency. Allow for it in your project!

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Useful category for filing purposes

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (14) Behind the Front Facade

The windows being installed
The windows being installed

When undertaking a renovation project it is advisable not to have any other major events going on in your life at the same time. However, life is rarely that simple and we have been busy these last few months heavily involved with our daughter’s wedding, dealing with an elderly parent with failing health and working on the house. Something had to give, hence my time for blogging. Time to bring it back up to speed!

From the front of the house it still looks pretty much like a building site. Safety fencing still in place, a bright blue portaloo sits next to a pile of debris waiting for a ‘grab’ lorry to remove it and a rather full skip.The house, although now complete with new windows and front door still awaits the render to be painted, the roofer to tile the garage roof and a porch to be built. Most of the activity has been taking place inside and to the rear.

I had wanted to renovate the original front door, but was persuaded to opt for a similar design in a composite material in French Grey  due to security and draughts. It was pointed out that what was the point of energy efficient windows with a draughty front door, the previous owner had hung a very heavy curtain in front of the door, so I relented. We are pleased with the new windows, despite our compromise on material. These were put installed  in stages, the sloping glass roof causing the most grief, due to fixing the glass to a steel beam. The sloping rear roof was finished off with a water proof fibre glass resin prior to the installation of the roof lantern.The seven-metre-wide bi-fold doors which open fully across the rear of dining / day room onto the garden are amazing. We are now fully secure and in the dry.

New window and door openings have been made where necessary and old openings either blocked up or adjusted in size in the existing house. The ceilings have been removed due to their poor state of repair. Partition timber frames to form new walls have been built and the electrician has finished his first fix. We did our own electrical drawings for the electrician and provided a key to the symbols so he knew exactly what he was quoting on. This is time consuming, but well worth the effort. Thinking about where you want your plug sockets for lamps etc. means knowing your furniture placement. Light switches too have to be placed for ease of use, and whether they need to be one way, two way or more. Do you want them dimmable?  It’s actually quite difficult as one often takes light switches for granted, until it’s put in the wrong place and plastered over! Lighting circuits for layered lighting, for task (bright lights for cleaning etc.), ambient (lamps ) which create a warmer, cosier atmosphere, or specialist lights to high light a feature or art work. It’s also worth discussing your plan with your electrician because often they will come up with ideas and suggestions. We wanted LED lights for energy efficiency and nickel plated ‘toggle’ switches. Although more expensive than white plastic, it’s the small details which make the difference to a house. I chose a matching nickle plate finish for the original door handles, which have come up beautifully.

I would advise where possible, to walk round the property with your electrician and electrical drawing close to the completion of the first fix to ensure that everything is where is should be, and to make any necessary changes before the plaster board walls and ceilings are fixed in place and plastered.  The electrician also suggested a media system with ceiling speakers. This sounded expensive. We researched various systems and options and makes. The Sonas System appeared to be a recommended system. We received a quote from a recommended company and asked him to quote for his extra wiring work involved. It was approximately £5k for the total package, including outside speakers for when entertaining. We oomed and arhed and looked at our original budget to see where and if economies could be made elsewhere. That’s quite a lot of economies to make! After much deliberation we decided to have the system installed and probably take us over budget, as it was better to install it now than a retro fit later.

The first fix plumbing, including the insulation and underfloor heating to the new sitting room, dining/day room, kitchen and utility room has been laid and the floors have been screeded. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on site this day and  the new screed floor level is flush with the original wooden floor in the hall and original sitting room which I wanted to keep and sand and re-finish. This cannot now be done because by the time the new flooring finish is laid over the screed one will end up with a marked floor level difference.

All the plumbing pipes (unconnected) and electrical wires (not live) have been bought out of the side of the house ready to be connected. This is because the new boiler/mud room has yet to be built. This is being built later to enable the digger to have access to the rear for the remainder of the terrace to be completed.

The problem with the slightly differing floor levels upstairs from the existing house into the extension were rectified by lifting some of the original floorboards and planing the joists slightly at and angle to meet the new floor level. The boards were replaced, and now there is no noticeable difference to the levels. Unfortunately this will not resolve the floor level difference on the ground floor.

When writing retrospectively it sounds very quick and easy, but as we all know it takes time, planning and dealing with compromises and sometimes set backs.

The new render on the extension being stabilised prior to painting
The new render on the extension being stabilised prior to painting

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (13) Unforeseen Challenges

Front elevation with tiled roof
Front elevation with tiled roof

However well thought out and planned, unforeseen problems can arise during the execution of the works. It wasn’t until we reached roof level, when we had found a carpenter, accepted his quote, booked him in and about to order the joists, that the builders noticed a discrepancy with the architects drawings, that didn’t make sense. They looked at the engineers drawings and calculations and although different to the architects, didn’t work either. The roof structure was quite complicated, breaking into the existing, building around the existing chimney stack and creating gully’s.During a site meeting the builder suggested removing the chimney stack. This would save time and money and make the roof construction easier. The original brick tied fireplace in the small sitting room would probably rarely be lit, if ever, be used as an open fire. We could also remove the chimney breast wall in the bedroom above making it bigger and a less awkward shape.

The chimney breast was removed from the bedroom, which solved twp problems at once.
The chimney breast was removed from the bedroom, which solved twp problems at once.

The builder and carpenter worked out the calculations accordingly. Interesting though, you pay architects and engineers a lot of money for their services, and the experienced builders and trades notice the errors and sort out the problems.

The master bedroom is having a vaulted ceiling, so two steel beams had to be hoisted and maneuvered by a crane over the house into place. It was exciting to watch. I have to say how clever builders and trades people are, they think ahead. Piles of raw materials stacked ready to be made into a home.

The rear external wall from the existing house into the extension (master bedroom)  has been knocked through. However, the floor levels are slightly different. This could not be foreseen as the floor in the exisitng bedroom slopes very slightly. It is not enough to form a step, it’s more of a ‘trip’. Ideas and suggestions have been discussed, from laying more chipboard flooring on the extension floor, to lifting the original bedroom floor which slightly at one end. A decision hasn’t been decided, but needs to be made soon.

The roofers have arrived and we now have a roof! We were lucky with the weather whilst the work was in progress. The roof tiles we salvaged from the garage have been re- used at the front, which seamlessly matches the existing. Reclaimed tiles have been used elsewhere to blend in too. Whilst the roofers were tiling the roof, the rear garden was leveled , a crushed concrete base at the bottom of the garden for a patio area and path was laid half way down the garden.  Indian Sandstone slabs have been laid on top of the crushed concrete. This has been done now as the rear garden is accessible with a digger, prior to the small side mud and plant room being built at the side of the house. Raised vegetable beds constructed from wooden sleepers have been laid and filled with top soil.  Turf has been laid from the bottom of the garden, three quarters of the way to the house. No point in doing any more until the rear work on the house has been completed – it would get ruined. I always think that the transformation of a garden when the turf has been laid is like laying a new carpet in a freshly finished room, it completes it.

We are not in the ‘dry’ yet though, due to the windows. This has been quite a marathon. Architects drawings and sizes were sent to different companies for quotes. Some companies could supply the windows but the roof lanterns and sloping glass would have to be sourced from a different company. Some companies were helpful asking questions we hadn’t considered about ‘openings’ to meet building fire regulations and handle choices. Some companies just returned a quote without asking these important points or offering ideas, a little indifferent. The quotes varied too by several thousand pounds. However, the cost of our preferred  aluminium windows is prohibitively expensive.  One company came to measure the finished apertures, and then asked me which window cills I wanted, tile creasing’s or oak, (£106.00 per metre plus vat for oak). We assumed, as no one had mentioned it before that the cills would be aluminium. This was an extra cost on top of the window quote, and to be honest why have maintenance free windows with wooden cills which require maintenance? Tiles would be more durable, but the materials and labour costs still have to be added to the overall budget for the windows. Spending such a large proportion of the budget on the windows is not an option. The bi-fold doors, roof lantern and sloping roof will be aluminium for strength, but the windows will be UVPC. All windows and doors will be a dark grey RAL ( a universal colour chart chart in the industry) 7016. The window style will be as near as possible to the original Crittal window style to keep the character of the house. We have instructed a local family run company who manufacture and install the windows themselves. This way we have more flexibility in the required design.

The huge steel beam supporting the bi-fold doors and roof glass has been a sticking point. There are no details on the architects drawings showing how this should be finished to take the doors and glass. The architect, when asked for details explained that he had’t been asked for them, and would happily supply them for an extra fee! I have asked our structural engineer instead to provide the details. The builders can then do the necessary works for the window company to measure the apertures and make. As stated before, window companies will only start making the windows when the aperture is finished. This causes problems removing existing windows where the aperture is changing with security and the elements. Whilst the scaffolding is up and before the lower roof is built the soffits and fascias have been put on and the rendering applied. What a difference covering the block work makes. It is beginning to look like one house, at the back at least. Of course the biggest transformation will be when the windows go in.