We are now on week 5 of our house renovation and extension and I thought I would write a blog post about the progress and how we have found it so far. I get a lot of questions about the renovation and what better place than to answer them here?
We bought our current house (I wrote a blog post about our new house here) back in August last year and it took us 7 months to move in. Extremely stressful times! We had it all…. People in the chain pulling out, our mortgage adviser going off sick with Covid and not relaying our mortgage case on properly to his colleagues.
Both me and my husband are self employed and when we finally got someone else to take on our mortgage case, they calculated it wrong so we were very close to losing this house altogether!
Thankfully our original mortgage broker (who seems to hold special powers when it comes to getting self-employed people great mortgages) came back from sick leave and we finally exchanged. All I can say is we had an extremely patient estate agent and an even more patient seller!
We moved in on the 8th March 2021 and it was a gloriously sunny day. I headed straight to the balcony to sit with a glass of fizz whilst looking at our sea view and knew 100% that all the stress was worth it! We now needed to start planning the renovations and the difficult part, finding a builder!
Renovation is Go Go Go
We knew what we wanted to do with the house when we bought it. It currently has the kitchen to the front of the house overlooking the road with a very large L shaped lounge/diner. We also have a second living room at the back of the house. We wanted to shift the kitchen to the back so it was connected to the garden and double it in size as we much prefer a kitchen/diner.
How did we raise the funds?
Firstly, we took out a larger mortgage on the house which left us with £30,000 after everything had been paid. Both me and my husband took out loans (around £20,000 each) to cover the rest. We also have £10,000 in savings for when it inevitably goes over budget. We’ve all watched Grand Designs, haven’t we?
Did we use an architect?
I set about planning the floor plan in SketchUp and realised that by moving the kitchen, we could potentially create a self-contained area to the side of the house and let it via Airbnb. Although we knew roughly what we wanted, we needed to get an architect in so they could turn our vision into a professional floor plan for the builder and work out the structural calculations.
We asked friends who live in the area for recommendations and were also contacted via post and email from local architects who *somehow knew* we’d just moved house. We got 5 architects around to take a look and give us a quote.
In the end, we went with one who also lives on the beach and has done several other renovation projects in the area, so he would know exactly what we would need to do. As our house (and all the others on the beach) are built on shingle, the foundations are built slightly different so he was able to guide us through this. He is an architect technician and charged us £1500.
Did we have to get planning permission?
We did! The permitted development rules when extending your home at the moment are 6 metres (and 8 metres for a detached house). As the previous owners had already extended our house at the back with a double extension, which added an additional living room and bigger bedroom, this would mean our new extension would go over the permitted 8 metres.
Our architect drew up draft plans of the extension and sent them to the council for approval. The council then sent over a planning officer to check out the area we were building on and approved it in 8 weeks.
How did you choose your builder?
This was probably one of the most difficult parts of our extension so far! The building trade in our area is extremely busy at the moment and with material costs going up in price or not available, we were struggling to find builders who had availability. We contacted 3 who were recommended to us and my husband went onto www.mybuilder.com after a friend recommended the site. It’s a great idea, you enter the job you need doing and then builders will contact you to arrange a quote.
The quotes varied greatly and, in the end, we went with our builders – Attwater Construction. They were able to start the quickest, but the main reason had to be that they were amazing at getting back to us and communicating! Something I find builders lack… If we had any questions or needed information, they would get back to us immediately, which gave us the confidence to go with them.
Why did you choose the floor plan? Did you keep changing your minds?
We knew when we viewed the house that the downstairs floor plan needed to change to work for us. We love a huge sociable kitchen where we can invite our large family around, so we had to move the current kitchen to accommodate that. The compromise with this house is we have quite a small garden so we didn’t want to extend too much into it.
The obvious plan from the start was to take down the large double garage and regain this space so we could extend, which also meant we could reclaim the double drive at the back and turn it into a bigger garden. This doubled our garden space and enabled us to extend.
However, as with everything, it all comes down to cost. Because of the double extension already in place, we have to put in large steel beams to hold up the back of the house. If we were to extend fully to create a rectangular room, we would also need more roof space and skylights, so our architect extended the right-hand side of the kitchen to give us space for a large island, but keep the footprint of the existing house to the left. We are then going to drop the internal wall to give us one large dining space.
I have changed my mind a few times since these plans have been drawn, but we know with the money we have and the space we need, this is the best layout for us!
Have you gone over budget?
What financial surprises are there?
Well, building materials soaring in price for a start, not helped by the combination of Covid and Brexit. Also, because of Covid, more people than ever are extending and improving their homes because we have spent so much time in them. Which means builders and building materials are in huge demand, hence the price rises.
There’s always added extras that you couldn’t predict as well. We had planning permission and a building control officer came round just as we were about to lay foundations and signed it off. The next day he was back saying we needed to halt construction because they had found a Southern Water map which said we had pipes (they didn’t know if they were water or sewage!) running under where we were extending.
Cue lots of questions…. 1. Why wasn’t this picked up when planning was put in? 2. How did Southern Water not know what they were? 3. If there was a pipe running under the area, it would have been under our garage anyway so how were they supposed to get access? And 4. The builders had already dug down 2 metres and had not come across any man holes according to the map.
So, we increased our indemnity insurance and cracked on, promising the building control officer that if the builders struck a pipe, we’d let them know. Funnily enough, they haven’t.
Do you think it’ll be done by Christmas?
This is the question everyone was asking. All I can say is, I hope so…
We’ve had a few setbacks, the non-existent man holes and our roof lantern and doors delivery being put back, but we should be done and air tight by Christmas! If not, we’ll be eating our Christmas dinner off our laps.
Is there a wine cellar?
That’s for our next renovation project! Haha.
Are you stressed living through a renovation?
Not really. Even though we’re putting an extension on this time, it is actually easier than our last house renovation because the current kitchen is still intact. We have boarded off the living room and mainly use the front of the house so most of the time, we don’t even hear or realise there’s building work going on at the back! In our last renovation, the whole kitchen was stripped out so we had to live out of our utility room, making meals with a slow cooker, microwave and kettle!
This is our 4th renovation and I’ve learnt; it is ALWAYS worth living through a renovation. You get to create the exact layout that you want and put your own stamp on it. I could never buy a house that was already “done”.
So, that’s it for now. If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments! I am a serial renovator and love it!