Extension Diary

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Work starts

So finally, the spades appear and work starts!

On Monday the builders, Phillip and Merrick arrive and mark out where the footings are to be dug. Then they disappear, and arrive later with the "toilet" shed. Quite a grand portaloo! We were suggesting they get a sofa and a TV in there!

On Tuesday they start digging, and dig all day until they've dug out most of the footings. A nice clean job, and they cleaned up before they went home so didn't leave mud everywhere. Thankfully no big suprises (one good one - one pipe we thought went across the extension doesn't!) and the soil seems solid enough to hopefully keep the inspector happy when he comes to look tomorrow.

History - Getting ready to start

So the next step was to get building regs. approval. The guy who'd drawn up my original plans was still not replying to my calls or emails (it later turned out his wife was very ill, so he wasn't just being rude!) so I had to find someone else to do all the necessary work to get my BR. With a little trepidation, I got someone who was advertising their services on an Internet forum to do the drawings and calculations for us. MacPlans are based in Gateshead - but managed to do all my drawings and calculations based on the original plans and various other bits of information that they asked for. I was generally quite happy with their service, and their prices were reasonable. After a couple of months we got our BR approval, and we were ready to find a builder.

I spent a few weeks drawing up a Construction Brief and a General Conditions (contract) document, ready to send to builders interested in tendering for the work.

I sent an email round at work asking for recommendations, and together with a a few other recommendations from some of my neighbours, sent letters with plans, construction brief and general conditions to seven different builders. I got replies from five of these, who visited the site to have a look round. From these, three came back with quotes.

The first quote to come back was from a Polish Builder (this was a guy who'd appeared on a C4 documentary last year - Bobski the Builder, where he'd done a much better job than the British builder the documentary also followed). The quote was surprisingly high, and didn't include a lot of the work/materials I'd asked to be included. So I was rather worried now, as I thought he was going to give me the cheapest quote!
The next quote came in from a builder recommended by a number of neighbours and local friends. His quote was about 15K more than we'd budgeted for, so again, didn't look good.
And finally a quote came in from a builder recommended by someone at work. His quote came in just under the first quote, which was around our budget - but included all the work and materials we'd asked for. Now we felt much happier! I went and visited a couple of sites he was working on, and was impressed by the quality of work, cleanliness of site and friendliness of the staff. So after having a chat with my work colleagues who'd recommended him, I decided to go with this guy, Martin Clayton.
Work was originally meant to start in February. But the start was delayed a couple of times due to delays on previous jobs. Finally, towards the end of April, the builders finally turned up and work started.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

History - Getting Planning Permission

Together with the plan drawing guy, we drew up and submitted plans for our extension on the day we exchanged contracts on the house - we were eager to get going with the extension ASAP. After a few months, we got a letter from the council telling us our application was refused. Quite a bombshell, we hadn't antcipated any problems.

Their major objection was the distance from the side of the extension to our neighbours house. The local council specify that a 12m gap must be left between the rear and side of adjacent properties. The distance between our extension and our neighbours house was less that 12m.

But we'd never really thought of it as a rear-side relationship - the neighbours house is on a corner plot, so it doesn't have a well defined side and rear. What the planners had decided was the back, we would have called the side. I went to talk to the planners, but they weren't interested in my arguments.

So we had to go to appeal. The guy who had drawn up my plans stopped returning my calls and emails, so I was on my own. I spent a few months reading lots of appeals and researching the planning rules, drawing plans and elevations, and constructing 3D models with Google sketchup. I submitted my appeal in March, and a few months later the appeals officer came and visted the site to take a look round. The council planners didn't submit anything further to support their original decision.And within a few weeks the decision letter landed on our door mat. We'd won! I was chuffed - and we could finally move to the next stage of getting our extension built.

History - Finding the right house

We bought our house in the Autumn of 2007 - we'd sold our old house in 2005 and moved to a rented house so that we could take our time to find the right house for us. I had dreams of building my own house - but a few months of searching for affordable building plots in our area of the UK (about 30 miles West of London) brought that dream to a screeching halt. So the next best thing was to buy a house we could improve and extend.

The house we ended up buying didn't seem that great the first time I looked at it - I didn't even bother to arrange a viewing, as the garden was rather small, and we really wanted a large garden for our children to play in, and for us to garden in. The house went off the market as sold, but a few months later came back on after the sale fell through. I took another look and realised there was a park close by the house, so there would be somewhere for the kids to play. And it was only half a mile from our allotment we had recently taken over, so now the smallish garden wasn't such a problem.

And there looked like a good opportunity to extend. A double garage joined to one side of the house, with a yard behind it. So we booked a viewing, and started to get excited about the house. I found a local guy who could draw plans for the extension, and brought him over to have a look and comment on if there would be any planning issues. No problems he said. So we made an offer, and after a short negotiation agreed a good price on the house (the vendors had put an offer on their retirement home down in Minehead and were eager to move). I took most of October off work, and whilst my wife and children stayed in the rented house, I together with a motley crew of family and friends did a light refurbishment of the existing house, bringing it into the 21st century - and smartened it up.

We moved in on Halloween. And had a lovely trick-or-treat free night in our new house! We were happy!

Monday, 27 April 2009


Today we finally start work on our extension. We'll try and keep this blog up to date with progress over the coming weeks and months.