Lessons from a Loft Extension - The Build
If you've come on over after reading my last post about things to consider before work begins on your loft conversion, then welcome! It's full-on, isn't it? It's tempting to think you've done all the hard work. But if my experience is anything to go by, you still need to keep your eye very much on the ball when the building begins.
So, what can you expect?
Spend, Spend, Spend!
I'll start with one of the more painful lessons. It's the one you've all heard before: expect to use (or even obliterate) your contingency budget. And if you don't think a contingency budget is necessary, you probably want to think again. I fooled myself for a very short while that I might have that pot of money left over at the end for 'the new things'. Oh dear.
Our contingency fund took about a £5K hit within the first few days. We didn't even make it through one week! The builders discovered that the outside wall of our house had moved so much over its 100 or so years that they needed to take down a big section and re-build it. Either that, or our loft wall would 'snake'. I don't know if that's a technical term but I got the picture and tried not to cry.
There's also a very good chance that you'll be tempted, and will sometimes succumb, to upgrading here and there and spending more than you planned. In our case, we did this with the built-in cabinet in our en-suite that our builders made for us, rather than sticking with the small free-standing vanity we were originally planning. I'm happy that we spent the extra money. It looks a lot smarter and gives us much-needed extra storage but it does all add up.
Another lesson is to expect surprises and be prepared for the possibility that your design on paper won't be possible to deliver as the build unfolds. This was true for us - and it was very stressful - but actually, good things can come out of it.
Our design included a run of wardrobes alongside one wall, giving us lots of storage so at last we'd be saying goodbye to the summer/winter wardrobe switch-around. But it was not to be. It turned out we needed a big upright steel for support and it was right in the middle of one of those wardrobes. So, we needed a change of plan. To add to that, our designs also hadn't accounted for a chimney stack that needed to stay, so the whole section of wardrobes in front of that would be very shallow - not really wardrobes at all.
As frustrating as it was to have to change our plans - and stressful because the pressure is also on to do it quickly - the end result does work really well, maybe even better. The shelves we opted for in front of the chimney stack break up what could have been quite a dull run of wardrobes. I also got a shoe cupboard - yes! The space in front of the steel is very shallow for a wardrobe, but perfect for housing shoes.
Keep Your Eye on the Details
The other thing to bear in mind is that mistakes will happen. In our case these were relatively small things like light switches not put in the right place, so not the end of the world but enough to become irritating if that's what you have to live with. It's tempting to let things go when you can see the big task your builders have in front of them, but I know we'd be regretting it now if it wasn't put right.
Similarly, with everything going on, it's easy for you to make mistakes too. I agreed to the position of our bedside wall lights and sockets that I later realised was wrong. It meant the bed would be in a position that left a really small gap to get into bed. I could have kicked myself. We took a small hit on moving those - plus everything was plastered and painted by that point so it was a bit annoying. We were so close to the finish! But moving the lights all of 13 centimetres does make all the difference. It's worth it in the end.
These are the lessons I'll be trying to remember when we next do a big project. I hope it helps some of you out there. There's absolutely loads to think about when you're doing a loft conversion and there's bound to be bits I've left off here which happen to be the thing puzzling you. It could be that I've covered it in my earlier post, but if not, let me know in the comments and I'll try my best to help.