Want It Done By Christmas?

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!


Design a Home and Garden that means Something to you

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!

Preparing Your Home For Selling

For Sale/Sold Sign by Zazzle

How long will it take to sell your home?

Spring is a popular time to market and hopefully sell properties, and once that decision has been made, you contact your local agent for a valuation. Agents valuations are based on similar properties to yours currently sold or for sale in the area.

Now, if you’ve lived in your home for many years maybe it  has become a little ‘tired’ or dated’, but would rather sell ‘as is’. Possibly at a lower selling price and taking longer to sell, rather than face doing any work, spending money, in the hope that a DIY enthusiast will see the potential and relish the challenge, some do, many people don’t see the potential or want to undertake the work.

You can ask your agent (if your home is tired or dated) for two valuations – ‘as is’ and ‘tidied up’. Depending on the individual agent, they may advise that it’s not worth spending any money or the effort, as the return will not out weigh the costs involved. Or they may be happy to advise on both scenarios. If the agent offers both marketing prices, you can work out your parameters of what you would be prepared or need to spend for the ‘added value’ and make an informed decision on whether you should implement the improvements or not.

Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the biggest influences on a sale. The view often being, don’t change it, as whoever moves in will rip it out and put in new. Possibly, either straight away, in time, or just don’t want the expense and hassle. Again, compare the ‘added’ value’ and costs, this will help you make your decision. Think about your target market: who is likely to want to buy your home? What will they be looking for?

Front path and door of Victorian house

Ensure the front of your home looks promising.

Whether or not you intend to carry out any updating, your home should still be prepared and ready to market for great photographs for the internet, brochures and actual viewings. Cleaning, especially bathrooms and kitchens, de clutter, windows should sparkle. De-personalise by packing away personal items (well you’re moving aren’t you?) so prospective purchasers can see how their belongings will fit in or not. Don’t be precious, be objective and try to see the house as a commodity rather than your home. If you find this difficult, ask friends ( however they may not be totally honest with you) Estate Agent or Home Staging Professional for their view and recommendations. Refresh garden containers with seasonal plants to brighten up dull corners of your outside space.

Case Study – Before and After of a ground floor flat which I completed last year for marketing and selling. The flat had become outdated and ‘tired’. This was the hardest job I think I’ve ever carried out, the flat had belonged to my dear mother.

The target market was an older individual or couple, perhaps downsizing or retiring, who would probably want to move straight in and not have any or very much to do.

Living Room

Working with a neutral palette to create a cohesive look in a small flat, all the rooms, including the paint work was painted the same colour. A new cream carpet was laid throughout. In the living room the 1960’s fire-place and surround was replaced with a smaller contemporary model. Although excess furniture and personal effects have been removed, we re-used some of the existing furniture and rearranged its layout.


Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the ‘before’, of the kitchen, but the units were dark brown wood, beige work top and beige speckled tiles with an occasional fruit or vegetable tile – a 1980’s throwback. The units were in good condition and the design layout worked ergonomically, it was just that it looked dated.  Painting the cabinets an off white, replacing the work top and changing the tiled splash back to white metro in brick style made the kitchen much brighter, more contemporary and up to date.

Guest Bedroom

The guest bedroom was originally very cramped and cluttered. By removing the shelves, wash basin and tiled splash back and a single bed more space was created. Freshly decorated walls and cupboards which were fitted with new knobs, and a new fitted carpet laid. Again,  some of the original furniture and accessories were re used during the bedroom re-design.

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom. The textured wall paper was removed, and the walls and woodwork were repaired and freshly painted in the same colour as the rest of the flat. The curtains and track were removed, leaving just the blind. The  furniture layout was rearranged, excess furniture was removed, and some items from other rooms were introduced. A new carpet was laid.

Shower Room

Small shower room

Shower Room

Although this work was done prior to the staging of the flat, it would have been necessary to include refurbishing the bathroom. The original pink bathroom suite was replaced with a large 1200 mm walk in shower, with room for a stool if required. The walls were tiled to full height on all walls. A vanity basin provides storage.  Extra storage ( not seen) was provided by a tall cabinet. The adjacent toilet has the same wall tiles and an extra high toilet was installed.

By investing time and money the property increased in marketing value by £35,000 and sold very quickly. But do your own sums, it’s all in the numbers!

Images by Sarah Maidment Interiors, Sign by Zazzle, Front door by rhsblog.co.uk Pots by www.etthem.se

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

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


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.


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

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!


Useful category for filing purposes

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.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (7) Behind the Scenes

Present front elevation of the house, waiting planning permission.

Present front elevation of the house, waiting planning permission.

The house stands empty, a shell of it’s former home in a plot with a few mature trees, but void of flower beds and borders. There it sits waiting for action to transform it into a home once more. It appears from the outside that nothing is happening, but nothing is further from the truth. A flurry of activity is taking place off site.

Quotes for the Structural Engineers drawings have been obtained for the work which can be carried out on the existing house not requiring Planning Permission, but just Building Control. These drawings provide the calculations for the steel lintels and supports required, for builders to work to, and for Building Regulations to come and check, and sign off once satisfied that the work has been carried out satisfactorily. To remove a chimney breast (leaving the stack in situ) knocking out the  wall between the existing kitchen and dining room, knocking a wall out between the hall and new kitchen for a glass partition and doorway. Also to add enforcement in the attic roof area for extra support for the removal of the walls between the existing bathroom, toilet and airing cupboard, to make a bedroom. I also asked for a quote for the additional structural drawings and calculations for the work which does need to wait for Planning Permission. The choice was easily decided upon, in this case the price. One quote for the initial work was for £325.00 with no VAT, the other was £560.00 plus VAT plus disbursements (these being an unknown amount). The quotes for the additional structural drawings subject to Planning Permission i.e. structural calculations, for supporting beams, foundations and ground slab. One was £1325.00 with no VAT, and the other £1595.00 plus VAT and disbursements. As the drawings should be exactly the same, it was an easy decision. The drawings have been sent to a builder we know, and have worked with before, and a copy has been sent to our Architect to pass onto a ‘friendly builder’ he knows to quote on the initial work. It appears however, that builders are extremely busy and think our major stumbling block will be the availability for our planned schedule. We would like a builder to start the work the week beginning the 20th or 27th October, so this work can be finished prior to commencing the extension. We should receive our planning decision by the end of October, and hopefully it will be approved. If successful our Architect will prepare the working drawings. We will also require a Party Wall Agreement.  http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/mar/14/home-extensions-plans-party-wall This is an agreement drawn up between ourselves and our neighbour, because the extension will be less than 3 metres from their boundary. Photographs are included as visual evidence, so if any damage should occur to their property whilst work is being carried out, they will be covered for repairs and damage caused. I have two quotes already for a Party Wall Agreement, one for £650.00 plus VAT and one for approximately £1200.00 plus VAT, as I say, shop around.

In the meantime, the old kitchen units will be stripped out, leaving the sink and working taps for the all important cups of tea. The bathroom, and upstairs toilet will also be removed, leaving the downstairs cloak room in situ for the time being.  The existing radiators and plumbing pipes which are mainly lead will also be removed. All items I would like to clean up and restore to possibly re-use in the house, such as the basin in the bedroom in the new downstairs cloakroom and the original glass splashbacks I will bring home and store in my garage off site, to prevent from being ‘skipped’ or damaged by builders. Anything else salvageable which I shall not be re-using will also be stored off site and sold. Remember that copper and lead are valuable materials and these too can be sold and the proceeds put towards something else needed for the renovation. In one of the bedroom cupboards are some wrapped up bolts of fabric left by the previous owner. Much to the consternation of my husband,  these too will be bought home and inspected to see if I can re-use the material anywhere in the house or sold as ‘Vintage’ fabric. It will need to be laundered first.

Our Architect has arranged a meeting with one of his ‘friendly’ builders to look at the proposed plans and give a rough budget guide price for the extension and other work. This will be a guide price only, to give us an idea, as the  working drawings will detail the materials to be used for the structure, finishes and fittings. The drawings will also include electrical and plumbing requirements. These detailed drawings will then be sent to builders to quote on, so they are all quoting for exactly the same work, making comparisons easier. However, we are going to to our own detailed and scaled plumbing and electrical drawings ourselves. This is because we know where we want to place our furniture, bathroom and kitchen plan, the rooms functions and our lifestyle and how we want the space lit. My husband is a professional plumber who will install the bathrooms and domestic plumbing requirements. He is under the VAT threshold, hence saving 20% on the plumbing bill. The electrical drawings, along with details of switches and socket products required will be sent to the building  firm to add to their quote package and to individual qualified electricians. However, despite having detailed drawings some tradespeople will still ignore the details and take the easiest route for them, including placing a room thermostat in the centre of a wall. I don’t know about you, but I would rather look at a painting, or hang a mirror or shelves on a wall than look at a room thermostat! It has been done, and moving the switch once the wall has been plastered is an added cost. So keep an eye open as work progresses.

Ensure thermostats are place to the side on a wall so you can use the wall to hang pictures.

Ensure thermostats are place to the side on a wall so you can use the wall to hang pictures.

This decision is going to be unpopular with builders. Most builders use their own preferred sub-contractors who invoice the builder direct, and then in turn the customer receives a bill from the builder. Our Architect offers a service of preparing a tender/ negotiation and obtain competitive tenders from builders he has used and worked with before. These fees are based on 1% of the build costs plus VAT. The Architect will also prepare a contract between us and the contractor, issue certificates for payments, for practical completion and final certificate after checking the final account. Again this cost is based on 1% of the build costs plus VAT. This is a great service if you don’t have a clue abut building and renovation or really don’t have the time to project manage yourself. It should remove a lot of the stress and responsibility. Should you be more adept and have the time to project manage, and be able to do some of the work yourself, schedule the trades at the appropriate time, this will save you money. Be realistic about your time and capabilities. Some of the house renovation programmes on television are misleading. I would love to see the detailed budget breakdown on their costs for a substantial building project said to cost £88,000.00 and completed start to finish in just five months, doing most of the work themselves, despite having full time employment.

Outline of where the house will be extended. What's the cost?

Outline of where the house will be extended. What’s the cost?

So, I’m busy sketching, drawing, sourcing and putting details onto my spreadsheet. Don’t forget the exterior of the house and landscaping too at this stage. Incorporate outside and garden lighting, patios, terraces, paths and drives into the drawings. This is time consuming, but will save a lot of time later.The London Design Festival is on at the moment, and have taken the opportunity to visit some of the events. There has been so much to see, which I would have loved to attend, but time has not allowed. These exhibitions and shows are great for ideas and sourcing products. The Home Renovation and Building Show  http://www.homebuildingshow.co.uk/ is being held at Olympia from 26th to 28th October (this weekend). This is a great show to visit for ideas, help, advice, talks and lectures on different subjects and have specialist teams on hand to help you. Well worth a visit. If you can’t make it to London this weekend, the show is also being held on other dates around the country.