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!


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.