Category Archives: House Project

And so it starts….but where will it end?

I’ve been wending my way towards this point for four years or so. Saving the pennies, appointing and working with an architect, discussing plans, going through the Planning process, getting approval from Building Control, navigating the Party Wall Act, choosing a builder, and most recently installing a new hot water system in readiness (thanks Dad for that bit!)

Although all these tasks have been steps on the journey towards our loft conversion, I’ve never really believed that it will actually happen. I know that sounds weird, but I guess it’s at least partly due to the fact that however stressful the journey up until now has been, I know in my heart that the real stress is yet to come. And of course the best way to deal with impending doom is bury my head as far in the sand as possible.

Sand or not, here we are. The loft is cleared out ready; the materials are ordered; scaffolding is going up in a couple of weeks and it is *just* possible that we could move into the new room at the beginning of the summer holidays. I’ve even got a vague colour scheme in my head and have started spending a lot of time on Pinterest in search of ideas I can nick inspiration….though I know from the bitter experience of friends who’ve had loft conversions that this might be a little premature.

You’d think I’d be excited to have the end in sight, after all this preparation and planning. But I’m not. Mostly, I just feel sick. How can I project manage something like this on my own?  What if the house falls down or something really awful happens? How am I going to keep everyone on an even keel when things go wrong? How am I going to hold everything together for everyone when we can’t move for dust and boxes? How am I going to deal with the Husband’s stress levels, already stratospheric before we have even begun? How on earth did I think that I could manage all this on top of everything else?

My lovely friend Lottie who blogs at The Secret Divorcee wrote a post last week about the ‘pinch points’ we encounter in life. In it she says :

‘Things are a bit shit. But the glory of getting old is experience; I know that this melancholy won’t last forever. I’ve been here before, and the knots eventually untangle, revealing a simpler, happier time.  I’m lucky enough to recognise that, although the day-to-day me is on the floor at the moment, there are some good things going on too…’

I’m also getting old, and usually I’m not too bad at waiting for the knots to untangle. But right now, I’m at the very pointiest end of the pinch and I’m finding it hard to see past everything that could go wrong in the next few months. I’m sure that as Lottie says a simpler, happier time will reveal itself. I just have to batten down the hatches and wait.

Wish me luck.

Building Control

Now that my Dad has plumbed in the cylinder-that-means-we-can-lose-the-water-tank (which, by the way, has transformed our rather limp shower into a veritable POWERJET, happy days!) I have been getting my head around what we need to do to get our work approved by Building Control. This isn’t the same thing as getting planning permission – though it’s only now that I’m dealing with it that I have fully understood the difference. I figured it might be useful to do a quick post on this in case anyone out there is starting a project of their own in the New Year – see how good I am to you?

Basically, planning permission (in the context of a house reconfiguration) deals with the external appearance of the development and its impact on the surroundings. Building Control deals with making sure that fire safety  and environmental regulations are adhered to, both for layout and materials, and that the plans are structurally safe. I haven’t been that interested in this side of the project so far, until it dawned on me that ‘structurally safe’ actually means ‘will not fall down join the middle of Sunday Lunch’.  Oh, see, NOW I’m interested – NOTHING comes between me and my roasties!

So, the good news is I now understand the importance of Building Control – and the bad news is that this means hiring a structural engineer (for a loft conversion, this can cost anywhere between between £300-£1,000). His/her role is to look at the architectural plans in conjunction with the existing structure of the house, and to provide a detailed plan, backed up by calculations, for the builders to work from.

At this stage, the overall costs can change quite drastically as the structural engineer’s calculations will dictate how much steel is needed for your project. Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll need at least a couple of steels put in to take the load away from existing joists; you may need more depending on the details of your conversion – we do because we’ve included a large dormer.

Once your Structural Engineer has made their recommendations and you’ve cried a bit at the price of all the steel, you will need to submit the plans and calculations to your local authority for approval before you start building. This is generally a much quicker process than applying for planning permission but guess what – it also comes with a cost – for our loft we are looking at between £400-£500. Huzzah!!!! It’s the throwing money out the window game!

When you submit the plans, you have a choice between asking for a full inspection or a ‘Building Notice’. Both options cost the same but if you are in a hurry, the ‘Building Notice’ route means you will be able to start work within a couple of days, whereas the full inspection will take longer – as the name implies, this will involve a detailed check of the plans along with a visit to your property, before approval is granted.

A note of caution here – if you start work on a Building Notice, you will still have in-progress inspections of the work; if at any point the Building Control Officer is unhappy with the work from a technical/safety/structural point of view, you will have to undo what’s been done and redo it to the appropriate specifications – this can add time, costs and tears to the process. Whereas if you go for the full inspection, and then stick to the approved plans, there is no risk of having to pull out the work already done – unless, I guess, something majorly unforeseen occurs but let’s not think about that!

Because we’ve taken such a long time to get to this point so a few more weeks don’t seem to matter, and because our house has some idiosyncrasies, AND  because we absolutely CANNOT afford the risk of taking stuff apart to redo it, we have decided to go for the full inspection up front – if it is straightforward, and if the Party Wall Agreements go smoothly (more on these at a later date…) we could be looking at a January start!

More soon….

House Project is GO!!!!

Saturday 25th October was a momentous day for the House Project…it was the day that the very first building task started!! Though it involved more bashing than building – bashing a hole through our back kitchen wall to be precise. I know, I know, our back kitchen wall is a long way from our loft, but if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know there’s a whole chain reaction thing going on here starting with the existence of a pesky water tank…

So here’s a picture for posterity of my lovely Dad doing the honours, and another of him and my girl in the kitchen, peering through under the cupboard to check the hole is in the right place…though not quite sure what they would have done if it hadn’t been!

House Project is Go!House Project is Go!!

More building related shenanigans to follow soon…thanks for reading!