Liz, our Associate Director, has recently had some renovation work done at her home, by our favourite building contractor. Her top tips for a stress-free build:
- All your designs are in place
- You have accurate costs and details, including:
- Will you or the contractor buy the materials/ fittings, when are they needed on site for fitting, are they in stock, etc.?
- What is ‘unknown’ – such as the state of the plumbing once the floor is removed? Make a note to check this early on in the work, so you can obtain/ approve additional costs before additional work is done.
- Are your designs clear enough for the contractor to build accurately without your ongoing input? We suggest being on site when they arrive to explain in detail what you want. Give them time to set up (perhaps even offer them a coffee) before you bombard them with questions.
- Do you need any permissions – from the local Council/ neighbours/ Building Control/ freeholder? Make sure you have everything in writing in advance.
- Don’t feel confident to deal with these issues and/ or
- Can’t be available to answer questions at very short notice,
seriously consider hiring a project manager. Choose a company that understands your overall vision, so they can efficiently execute the design, saving you time, money and stress.
Move everything out of the contractor’s way and prepare yourself (mentally, physically and emotionally) for dust! Even the cleanest/ tidiest contractors will generate dust – you should assume it will go everywhere.
Our tips to limit dust and disruption-
- Move everything that can be moved to a different room
- Ask the contractor to move or carefully protect anything which can’t be moved.
- Keep doors and windows closed where possible and, if you’re living at the property, ask the contractor to tape around doors at the start of each day.
- Book a ‘post builder’ specialist cleaner when the works have finished.
Could you move out during the works? (This saves time and money as the contractors don’t have to clean up at the end of each day.)
If you’re planning to stay, be realistic about how each occupant will cope with dust, disruption and contractors in your personal space – every day of the week and often on Saturdays. I know our builders extremely well, yet even I struggled with them in my house at 8.15am on a Saturday!
Tell the neighbours!
Avoid being too specific about the work or under-estimate the timescale (as things may change as work progresses) – simply:
- Inform them there will be builders on site for a period and
- Ask them to let you know at once if they experience problems.
If problems arise, take details and say you’ll liaise with the contractor, before making any promises.
For example, your neighbour asks for no work before 10am, you agree, then the contractor tells you the project will take an extra week (because they lose 2 hours working time each day).
Often if you talk through the issue, a compromise can be struck that doesn’t waste time or money.
If you’re living at the property during the works – consider how to keep your children/ elderly or disabled occupants/ tenants/ pets safe and as undisturbed as possible.
- securely block access to areas under construction altogether
- ensure children/ pets are elsewhere when deliveries are made.
- if you want to enter areas under construction, check with the site manager first (before stepping into freshly laid cement/ trying out a new tap that’s not connected to a drain!)
- Safety of the builders – check your contractor has taken steps to ensure their workers’ health and safety during the works. Decide practical arrangements – which toilet/ wash basin they’ll use, where smokers should go, where tools/ rubbish are stored. (Also inform them there will be a dog/ cat on the premises to avoid issues with allergies or phobias. More advice on Renovating with Pets!) As a client, you have responsibilities under the Construction Design & Management regulations.
- Disturbance- if you pre-warn neighbours, etc. there will be noisy work throughout, you’ll save a lot of your contractor’s time/ your money negotiating to stop noisy works at certain times. Each local Council has strict and enforceable rules limiting noisy work in any event.
Never ask or encourage your builder to something unless you know it is safe. If your builder says scaffolding is required to do roof work, for example, it is required.