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Extension post # 2 – choosing an architect & builder

Tomorrow is day one of the build but we’ve actually done a fair amount of planning and prep to this point. Two of the main jobs have been deciding which architect to use and choosing a builder.


To architect or not to architect?

The very first step in sorting out our extension was to work out whether forking out for an architect was worth it. There’s nothing fancy about what we want to do so agreeing the plans with the builder was an option which would have saved us a few hundred quid. However, after several days of fannying around, we agreed that using an architect would mean we’d have A) a really well thought out design and B) a proper set of plans for builders to quote & build to. Too early to say whether it was worth it but it’s certainly given us peace of mind so far.

Alrighty, so once we’d decided to go down the architect route, we got a couple round for quotes. One of them we found online and came with good reviews, whilst the other was recommended by a colleague. We really should have got 3 quotes at least but the second chap who came round came across very well and from our research we found it was unlikely that we’d pay less. So that was it, architect chosen at a cost of £750.

We’re well chuffed we went for that bloke as he was really patient with us and drew up multiple versions of the plans. If you need an architect are near the York area let me know and I’ll pass on his details.

Choosing a builder

Once the plans were finalised we started contacting builders. Searching online is a tad overwhelming as there’s so much choice so we got in touch with a couple that we found through Google and 3 more that friends/fam/colleagues recommended. Five may seem a little OTT but the quotes varied by £17K so it was well worth it!

For each builder, we sent them the plans so they could have a look before they came round for a natter. You wouldn’t believe how different each of the builders were. A couple were very professional, another two were pleasant but didn’t come across well, whereas the last one cancelled twice and when he did finally come was really rude and actually a bit aggressive! So we went with the last bloke. Lol na we didn’t, he got a no straight away but that didn’t stop him pursuing us…

Anyway, we narrowed it down to 3. They each sent over a quote including a summary of all the work required. There was some back and forth to make sure that everything was included in each quote. The final quotes varied between £34K and £51K, bloody ridiculous. Although a colleague if mine recently had quotes for some building work that varied by £49K so what’s £17K between pals?

We based the final decision of who to use on the price, how we got along with them and the reviews/recommendations they came with. Initially we were focusing on how long until they could start but then realised that was daft – a long wait is probably a good sign. The frontrunner wasn’t the cheapest but we really wanted to use him so got in touch and proposed a slightly lower price. After a couple of days’ thought he came back saying that was fine and just like that, we had a builder.

We also had to find a structural engineer to calculate the steel required stop the house falling over. Not very exciting so in summary:

  • got a couple of quotes online and one from an engineer the builder recommended
  • quotes were pretty much all the same £700-£800
  • went with the bloke our builder recommended cos that was easy

Lockdown delayed things a little so it wasn’t until June that we were able to sign contracts with the builder and agree the payment schedule. But now it’s all in writing and tomorrow morning there’ll be a group of blokes (or perhaps ladies #2020) tearing up our garden. No idea what next week’s post will look like – perhaps a few photos of concrete-filled hols and a pie chart summarising our builders’ favourite biscuits, who knows.

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Extension post #1 – the plans

The next 3 months are going to be incredibly noisy, dirty and expensive. BUT, it will (hopefully) all be worth it. I’m not really sure what to expect so thought I’d keep a track of the different stages on here for your enjoyment but also for us to look back on in the future and laugh about how naive we were.

Before making an offer on our house we agreed that if we got it we’d add an extension. Like a lot of 1930s semis, it’s perfect for a rear extension and the fact that almost all our neighbours have extended makes it a no brainer.

It’s 10 months since we moved in and the build starts a week today so we’re well excited but equally pooping our pants. We’re happy with the plans, our builder seems sound, and the neighbours are on board so all is well, right…?


As you can probs imagine, we were planning the extension before we even moved in. It’s not so much that the house needed it, more that an extension seemed like it would make a huge improvement. Here’s the floor plan pre-extension.

It’s a very standard 1930s semi layout, nothing exciting going on except maybe the funky diagonal doors off the hall. Here’s what we plan on having done.

The extension will be single storey with a pitched roof and go back 3 metres across the width of the house (around 6 metres).

We spent a while working out how we could include a utility space and decided that by moving the side door along slightly (on images below), we could squeeze one in without impacting the kitchen space too much. It’ll be perfect for cleaning up a muddy Basil.

One of the doors is being replaced by a small window. This is currently and outside store which will be an understairs loo. No cat swinging will be going on in here but it’ll be great not to have to leg it upstairs every time we need a waz.

The kitchen will be L-shaped, running along the same wall as today with the sink facing out to the garden. There’ll be a cheeky island to fulfil Haz’ lifelong dream but tbh we’re most excited about having a dishwasher.

The other side of the extension will be a chill out area with a sofa and coffee table. It’ll hopefully be really bright and have a lovely view through the bifold doors (my lifelong dream). The dining area will be set back in front of the fireplace.

The only other change is that at some point we’re going to add some internal doors between the living room and dining area. This is so we’ve got at least a bit of separation downstairs.


So that’s it. All very exciting and we can’t wait to see the progress. I don’t think any building project has ever gone fully to plan so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that any issues aren’t too horrendous. Next week I’ll add a post on how we went about choosing our architect and builder.

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Doing it up

Plans for our crib

If you’ve read the post about the condition of our house when we moved in you’ve probably got the impression that there’s a decent chunk of stuff to do. A lot of the work to be done is your bog standard decorating, but we’ve also got a few mini and not-so-mini projects in mind that we’re hoping will make a big difference to our home.


Full house redecoration

On the Rightmove listing photos, the house looked like it was finished to a pretty decent standard. It’s only when we viewed that we realised that every room is in need of some TLC. It’s a case of lots of little things adding up eg: most of the woodwork needs stripping & repainting/varnishing, there are holes & gaps everywhere that need filling, and wallpaper is peeling off in various places. Along with this, every room needs a lick of paint which will help highlight the picture rails and we’re going to put up wooden blinds in most windows. This is all going to take a while so we’re going to tackle one room at a time as I have the focus of a 2 year old and will jump from room-to-room otherwise.

Fitted wardrobes, shelving, other DIY projects etc.

The house we ended up buying is in a really lovely area. This meant stretching ourselves a little on the mortgage which means that we don’t have cash to splash. Pretty much anything we can do ourselves, we will do ourselves. I’ve got a load of ideas in mind which hopefully I’ll get chance to pick off inbetween all the other house jobs!

Flooring

Every downstairs room except the kitchen has relatively recent pine floorboards with a dark, badly scuffed varnish. This needs to get sorted out because it looks a mess. In the short-term we’ll be sanding and re-varnishing these with a clear varnish to show off their real colour.

All the bedrooms and landing need re-carpeting, except for the master bedroom where we’re going to pull up the carpet to show off the original pine floorboards that will look lovely once sanded and varnished.

Extension

This is the one that’s going to risk bankrupting us. Our four closest neighbours have all added single storey rear extensions, probably because the gardens are long so lend themselves to this. Our kitchen is pokey and we’d love to have an open plan area where we can cook/eat/drink/chill so we’re going to add around 3 metres to the back of the house. This space should also allow us to add a small utility room and as part of the work we’re going to sneak a loo under the stairs.

Extending Driveway

Something else that all our neighbours have done is knocked most of the front garden wall down and extended the driveway across the house so 2 cars can comfortably fit. This is something I’m keen to crack on with because it’s a middleclass-problems ball ache having to squeeze one car onto the drive and the other on the road.

The Shed ❤

Before the extension goes up the butters garage is going to have to go as it’s in the way. To replace this, me and J Leaf Snr are going to build a shed and we’re very excited to get cracking. It’s going to be used for storage and also as a workshop for me to potter about in. Haz is equally as excited about having a shed as it’ll mean she’ll have the house to herself most of the time.

Decking/BBQ zone

At some point we’ll get round to setting-up part of the garden for BBQs and general summer chilling. I’m thinking decking with a fire pit and a wooden frame over the top to hang festoon lights. This is another project I’m really looking forward to but it’s a luxury so other stuff needs to get done first.

Future stuff

Hopefully most of the things above will be done by the end of 2020, but everything seems to take longer than we think so let’s see. In the next few years, there are a few other things that we may end up doing. One is a loft conversion so we can add a 4th bedroom. There’s no need for this in the near future, but if Haz ends up getting the 8 children she wants then we’re definitely going need more bedrooms. Of course, we could move instead, but we love this location so much that I think a loft conversion would be a good shout.

My Dad has recently built a shepherd’s hut for my parent’s garden (give it a Goog if you’ve never heard of one) which is a beautiful thing. If I get time/can find the cash, I’d love to build a shepherd’s hut to put at the end of our garden under the apple tree. It’d be a cool place for family/friends to stay and we could put it on Airbnb to generate a few pounds.

Another garden project that may or may not happen is building a treehouse. Given that we don’t have kids, I probably don’t have an excuse to do this for a good few years yet. BUT, it’s definitely something I’d be keen to do and the apple tree is the perfect shape for a wee treehouse.


Reading that back is slightly alarming as it’s a lot of work and is gonna take a good year or two. But actually, I love having a project on and all this DIY stuff is pretty rewarding so bring it on.