You've finalised the design, hired the contractors and booked your holiday - hurrah! But now you have to prepare your home for the incoming builders. A few points we'd like to stress, which occasionally get overlooked:
- Builders are not removal men. They will not empty the contents of your home into a container for safe keeping. They will try and stack what they can in a room out of the way, and cover it with plastic dust sheets, but this is no guarantee against minor dust contamination and scuffing. They will also not turn up and put all your effects into cardboard boxes, so please make sure you have packed away and stored all your general artefacts, small furnishings and clothing (yes, the dust will creep in through that 4mm hole at the top of your wardrobe and befriend everything.) Diligent contractors will move items out of the way, but there is no guarantee for their safety, and you won't be compensated if something gets lost or damaged. Please empty the areas where work will taking place before the builders arrive. We recommend double garbage bagging items and placing them in a sealed room.
- Every client we have ever had has underestimated the amount of dust unleashed by structural building work. Plaster dust is a superfine powder that travels great distances and likes to coat everything in a fine, sticky film. It has to be picked up with a dry, hollow fibre cloth, as wiping it with anything wet will just turn it back into plaster, and it is so delicate that vacuuming it up will ruin most domestic vacuum cleaners and void their warranty. I can not stress enough how far it spreads and how filthy it is. I know you think you will 'be fine' living in a building site, but we urge you to consider looking for alternative accommodation, as the stress of constantly being surrounded by dirt and grime takes its toll very quickly.
- Builders will be using your loo. Clients often forget that if you are having builders around, they need to go somewhere. If they are redoing bathrooms then they'll use one that isn't being done (usually your en suite). They will try to be clean, but muddy boots and dusty clothing might leave an impression. They will require loo roll, and probably lots of it, and they'll use what ever is there, so if you are precious about your aloe vera coated 4ply, please replace it with some standard rolls. Ditto for your lovely Aesop hand soap - they won't know it's £40 a pop and they'll have grubby hands to scrub.
- Your house will become a building site from the moment they enter to the moment they leave. It will cease being a home. Some clients find this emotionally challenging. Once they leave and we come in and clean and dress everything it will once again be a lovely space, but do be prepared to view it in a different (more dusty) light for the time being.
- Please be aware that your builders will probably require parking permits. Good builders should arrange this themselves and add the costs to your bill (yes, you pay for it). Others will turn up and demand permits on the day.
- Let neighbours know. Good, old school notes through the doors, or a quick knock and face-to-face chat go a long way pacifying neighbours. No matter how nice they are when you pass them on the stairs, they will start complaining to the council and trying to shut your build down the moment you start drilling and interrupting their Bargain Hunt watching. The aforementioned dust will also creep into communal areas and even inside their properties if you live in a flat, so be prepared to offer a cleaner at the end of the project, and warn them to tape up their doors.
- It's also good to note that rubbish will be sitting outside your property for short periods. Often it is moved off site daily, but will be lingering as it accumulates throughout the day before being cleared in the evening. It is also good to warn neighbours if it will be piling up in a communal hallway or area.
- If your contractor asks you to turn off the electricity or the water, they aren't really asking. They are politely telling you. If you are living on site and want them to work around your schedule (e.g. telling them "No, I have a big meeting, I need a shower on Wed and Thurs") then you might end up with huge delays to your project. Contractors hire in separate specialists and their plumber might not be available for when you decide you want it done, so you'll get them in 2 weeks time when they are next free.
- Please get lots of sets of keys made. Your designer needs one, builder needs one, you should also have a spare set for yourself.
- If you do decide to live in the property, give yourself a break away. It will make your life better having something to look forward to. Book that weekend trip to a spa before you start. You'll need it.
And whilst the building works may feel like they go on for years, it will all be forgotten when you move into your newly decorated home and reap the benefits. It's like child birth - you'll be planning your next renovation in a few months time.