Project House, the kitchen extension so far and tips for building works.

February 26, 2017

We're still a way off from finishing the new kitchen extension {I've talked previously about some of our plans for it here} but I wanted to share some photos of the building works so far and give some pointers for anyone else going through the same thing. We started this project back in December and it's amazing how quickly your brain forgets just how much progress has been made this far. I want to look back at it all, especially when it's all finished and you take for granted all the hard work it took to get there. This post may be interesting to some of you going through, or planning similar projects, but to others it probably just looks like a load of boring digger photos! It's amazing how much I've learnt about construction over the past couple of months. 
- A few points to note, our house is listed and in a conservation area so it took us 10 months to get planning permission for the ground floor extension, and a few heated battles with the conservation officer. If your house isn't listed then getting planning permission should only take 6-8 weeks.

-We're still negotiating with the council as to whether we can build a smaller second storey extension on top of the new kitchen but for now we were just so so pleased to be given the go-ahead to knock down that horrid 70s extension that we hated ever since we moved in and get on with our main dream since we first saw the house. A few of you have asked for a blog post on dealing with the council with listed buildings, I feel like we haven't won our battle just yet but as soon as we do I promise to let you know how we've dealt with it all.

- As part of the above we needed an archaeologist on a 'watching brief' when the foundations were dug. 

- Old houses open up a can of worms and cost a lot of money. We've had to pay out for historic building appraisals, underpinning of the main house to do these new works and the archaeologist. My husband has also spent hours writing planning and appeal cases to get where we have done, it really is a labour of love but we knew the house just wouldn't work for us without extending and opening the back up.

- Choose a good builder that you trust and get on well with. We chose one who lives on our road and found him via the works he was doing on other houses on our road, one of which was also listed and needed an archaeologist so he had some invaluable knowledge on this, he also knows the building control at the council well and they trust his work.

- Get booked in as soon as you can, the best builders get booked up way ahead of time especially over the summer months.

- The builders we've had have been a lot of fun with some good banter to keep spirits high. It can be a stressful time so you want people who you get along with. 

- Get a few quotes. Ben is in the property developing industry so knows what things tend to cost but you'd be amazed at how builders can really rip people off so talk to a few different builders to get a good overview on prices. Despite this, expect a few extras along the way. Most builders can only ever estimate a job but once they start there are likely to be a few unforeseen events that will add up a little. We've needed to go deeper on some of the foundations and needed an extra large crane for the steels that wasn't expected and as such have had the price go up along the way. 

-We've been project managing it ourselves and have had the builders in to do the groundworks, foundations, block work and steels and then Ben will take over with his team to finish it off from next week. This has helped us a save fair chunk of money overall.

- Choose your time for building works carefully. We've been delayed by a couple of weeks because of the freezing weather just after Christmas that went on for a couple of weeks and then had to set up an emergency marquee and gas heaters so it could carry on, with a nervous couple of days of worrying if the block work would be too cold to set. However, we always knew that Winter would be likely for this yet we still went ahead because this way it will be finished by the summer. We didn't want to wait for the Spring/summer to start as we'd then lose the garden for the best few months of the year and we quite frankly just wanted to get on with it! It was also lucky that because of the time of year our builder could slot us in.  

- Move out! On our first stage of renovating the house we moved in with my parents for five months to get it all habitable and how we wanted it. Doing it that way saved us time in the long run, by not living at the house we didn't have to worry about keeping it dust free or having a bathroom etc. This time we've stayed here and made a temporary kitchen. It's obviously not great but practical enough really aside from having a proper oven and having to take my washing round to my parent's every few days. I know that some people have it a lot worse with washing up in the bath/on outside taps etc, one of my requirements for the temp kitchen was that we got to keep the dishwasher and it definitely helps. I also feel lucky that we're doing this now before we have children to worry about. 

- We've made sure we've had a couple of sanctuary rooms, the lounge and our bedroom to keep us sane. And so far all of the building work has been outside so we haven't had to worry about builders boots or dust trashing the rest of the place. 

- Set rules on tea and coffee early on. Otherwise you'll be forever collecting up the cups. I do treat the builders to some donuts and cookies to keep them happy though. 

- And finally. Keep the mantra in your head 'that it will all be worth it in the end'. It's easier said than done sometimes and I'm vowing to myself that I'm never moving or house renovating again. I'm literally dreaming of the day that it will alll be finished and we can sit back and say it was completely worth it.

B E F O R E - 

To me, the front of our house is beautiful. However the back is anything but. It's a mismatch of finishes and the old extension was a bland box added in the 70s. It was small, dingy and had just one window out to the garden. Our dream has always been to create a large living space with room for a kitchen, table and sofa, open it up with lots of glass to make it feel more 'in' the garden, create a utility room and redo the toilet and also to unify and pretty up the back of the house, creating a new patio area. We also knocked down the old garage and removed a couple of trees/hedges, we'll then put back a new garage and build a greenhouse {the very last thing on my list!}. 

D U R I N G 
- on day one the diggers arrived and the old kitchen got knocked down. Woop! 

- We had to get specialists in to remove the asbestos in the garage roof and we sold the garage on ebay {for free} which meant we didn't need to dismantle it ourselves or take up room in a skip.

Full on destruction

Then came the digging out for the foundations. We could really start to see the shape of it at this point.

The foundations had to go down to 8 feet in some areas because the existing basement they had to dig down to undisturbed ground. At this point the archaeologist came to check there was nothing of significance. Here he is in his quirky hat, such a legendary man.

I got accustomed to the lorry drivers, who were all SO friendly and nice, with various muck-away trips and block deliveries.

Once the foundations were dug in came the concrete.

And then onto building it all up with blocks and bricks. 

The council also told us that because of the extra deep foundations we'd need a beam and block concrete floor on one part of the extension which added a bit more time and money to the whole thing.

Then after Christmas the really cold weather came. 

We waited for a couple of weeks then got really frustrated by the weather so took things into our own hands with the marquee and heaters to get things moving again. 

One freezing but bright Sunday morning Ben and I assembled the marquee and hoped that the builders would think it would be warm enough to get the walls up. The gas heaters worked and it sped things along.

I loved the part where we could see the size of the opening for the glass doors looking out to the garden.

And then we had walls!

Next came the concrete slab for the floor, raising the level and smoothing it all off.

And finally, the steels arrived. The biggest the builders have ever specified, they'd been worrying for weeks how they would lift them and in the end had to hire a big crane to swing them over {!!} the house! 

It took eight men just to get them off the back of the delivery truck.

Watch this space for the next update. I can't wait for the roof to go on and then all the finishing bits, plasterboard, the doors going in, the floor screeded, windows, veluxes etc. I'm hoping it will be finished around April but maybe I should lower expectations and go for May? I have to keep reminding myself that as soon as it's finished we'll forget all of this ever happened. Until then I'll keep dreaming. 'It will be worth it in the end'.

Have you been through a similar thing? Will you be?

R <3 xx
p.s. sorry this has probably been an incredibly boring post but to us it's v exciting to us at the moment! 

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  1. ahhh Rebecca! I feel your pain, these things take ages but I bet you are pleased to see real progress! We designed and built our own house so I understand your excitement over concrete wagons arriving to pour the floors! Its going to be stunning when its finished, I cannot wait to see it all done and decorated with your amazing taste! I love a good makeover post... also looking forward to your garden posts as you have given me a lot of inspiration for ours, our garden still half resembles a building site but its getting there slowly! good luck with the rest of the build.

  2. Great post Rebecca, it starts to get exciting once you get the roof on and windows in.... We built our own home on the farm. We started works on the site in July 2010 and moved in with almost all interiors completed in December 2011. I also changed job and we got engaged in September 2011 and got married in Feb 2012 so it was a hectic few months towards the end. It was difficult to keep on top of things. My husband works full time at farming (7 days a week) and he also project managed the build and done a lot of the work himself late into the night. It was well worth all the hard work and so good to move in. Unlike yourself and Ben we didn't have any problems in relation to archaeology but as we are located in a protected natural heritage area we had to get ecological assessments and reports carried out.I am really looking forward to seeing how you finish the interiors. So far your home looks beautiful and I love following along your progress. The more beautiful interiors I see, the more I want to update my own home which is now over 5 years old. Best of luck with the progress and home to see more photos soon

    All things nice...

  3. This was so epic to read! I'm about to take on a very similar thing but I imagine at a smaller scale than yours – those beams are massive! Did you use an architect or did Ben design everything? It must be amazing to have him and his team doing the next stage – people you can trust.

    I'm kitchen shopping at the moment, how are you finding that?? Very excited to see the final rooms and decoration :)

    I'm blogging here and there about our progress too...

    Thanks for sharing this it's so useful! (especially the tea and coffee rules haha you're dead right!)



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