Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Our new extension is coming along nicely. We are replacing an old conservatory with an open-plan extension. During the first week of building works our builders didn't waste much time (you can read about it here) and the room is already starting to look like an extension rather than a building site. Week 2 was no exception. Builders were working hard and the progress they are making is astonishing.

On week 2,  the builders continued insulating the walls, damp proofing the party wall and they also started putting up the framework for the roof. Also, steel lintels were installed to support the ceiling above the window and the double doors (picture below). Builders installed a timber frame on the roof and you can see where our velux window will go (the big hole in the middle). We decided to go for a sloping roof for many reasons. Mainly, because I find it looks better and gives you an illusion of space. I also find that velux windows look nicer in a sloping roof due to the angle. Also, insuring a flat roof can be a nightmare as well which is definitely worth mentioning.

Our windows and double doors also arrived this week which was very exciting! Velux is the most well known brand for roof windows so I didn't even bother looking elsewhere. Luckily, my builders agreed. We chose one large window (rather than two small) because I felt it will look better in a relatively narrow room and create more impact. Based on what I have seen so far, I think it was the right choice. We chose the window from Velux Integra range which is a remote controlled window. The window is so big that I think it's necessary to have an innovative open and closing system. It's just so much more convenient than having to do it manually (especially because it's so heavy). You can use predefined programs and it has (this is my favourite part!) a rain sensor in case you forget to leave the window open. How fantastic is that! The velux is positioned towards the dining room so that more light will fall into the dining room (as we agreed with the architects). It is in line with our upstairs bedroom window which seemed like the ideal position in order to keep things symmetrical.

Now, I was a bit worried about the double doors first. We decided to go with the largest doors we could get and I was worried they might look too big considering the size of the room. Luckily, they look perfect! In our plans we had double doors with two side panels but in the end I decided against it. The side panels would have restricted the view to the garden and I definitely don't want that! I'm all about simplicity. I think when you have a small/narrow space it almost always works better. One of my favourite things about the double doors is the chrome handles (my husbands idea). They look smart and stylish and even if I have to wipe off the finger prints every few days it's worth it for me. We wanted to make sure that the side window matches the kitchen window in style and it's actually quite a good size so we should be able to get plenty of natural light in this room.

We purchased the windows and double doors from Eurocell and I am very happy with the way they look. I asked the builders about Howdens and Wickes windows and they told me they are not very good quality which is why they don't like to install them. Fair enough. By the way, I wanted upvc coated door and window frames because they are easy to maintain and go with our contemporary look. Pine ones would not look right so it was a good idea to keep them white just like in the rest of the house.

Our builders also had to damp proof the party wall we share with our neighbour. Damp proofing can be done in many ways but we chose to do this by cavity wall construction. Basically, this means that the interior walls are separated from the exterior walls by building a cavity. You do need to make sure that the cavity is well insulated though! Building a cavity is the most effective way to treat damp in our case (and in most cases). Of course, the downside is that the room will be slightly more narrow but it's worth doing it right in the first place.

So, another week of building works is now behind us and I haven't lost my mind (just) yet. Noise levels are not terrible and so far the other rooms have been pretty much uninterrupted. There are a few decisions that I need to make for next week though; pick a radiator style, locations of plug sockets and switches which means I need to have some kind of a floor plan in place. As much as it's exciting, it's also very nerve wrecking having to make these decisions before the room is actually finished. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


It has been a bit quiet on the blog lately because our lives are pretty hectic at the moment. We are living in the middle of a building site as of last week. I wash rushing to get all the paper work completed before the work could start; planning permission, building control, builders, Party Wall Agreement etc. My husband left me in charge of our extension project and even though it has been fun planning it all, it has been pretty stressful at times as well. I just hope that everything goes well and that there are no major surprises down the road (which I am sure there will be knowing this house...)

So, our builders (which I will tell more about later) started a week ago. They are usually booked up a year in advance but we were lucky to get a cancellation slot. The weather is getting warmer here now so it's an ideal time to start the building works. Well, as ideal as it's going to get really.

On the first day, they managed to demolish a good part of the old conservatory which was pretty impressive. The noise was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. There was drilling and knocking down walls so all pretty much what I expected but my daughter still managed to nap through it which was unbelievable.The builders had to leave part of the roof intact so the electrics wouldn't get wet in case it rained. You can see below how the room looked like after day 1. They certainly didn't waste much time.

By the way, initially I was thinking about going away for the demolishing part to avoid the noise/dust. In the end, I just felt I wanted to be around to see the progress each day. Call me crazy but I am actually enjoying this part and want to know everything that is going on each day. I might be the first woman in history to show interest in construction works but it's a nice change from decorating for sure. Also, I want to be around to answer any immediate questions that might pop up. My builders know that I am a bit of a perfectionist and explain to me honestly what we can and cannot do. Communication is really important!

Seeing the old extension in pieces was pretty liberating I must say :). I hated that room. We couldn't use it because it was so badly insulated and leaking. Whoever built it was in a rush and wanted to cut corners. Not ideal at all! In fact, my builders told me that most of the 1930s houses is London were built in a rush (pre-war) and that is why some of the decisions that were made make very little sense today. Interestingly, these houses are still standing today and some might even say that they are built better than new houses.

I definitely want to 'project manage' to an extend. It is our house after all and I think being around when the building works are happening gives you a great opportunity to make sure everything goes according to plan. Of course this depends on the size of your project. We are lucky that it is only one room that we are rebuilding. I haven't lost (yet) the access to the kitchen and noise levels have been pretty much the same when we did our kitchen renovation. The builders boxed away the room they are working on which I have found very handy (less noise and dust).

On day 2, the builders continued demolishing the old extension and dug app. 1 meter down where we could see the foundations of our house. It was quite a sight. It was exciting to see the amount of brick that was holding up pretty much the entire kitchen and first floor bedroom. Obviously, the foundations for the new extension will need to be deeper than that due to current building regulations. But, there is nothing wrong with the old ones and they have been going strong since the 1930s.

On day 3, the building inspector from the council came over to make sure the builders are building according to the plans (this is why I had to also apply for the building regulations). We hired Aztech Architecture to do the drawings for us in order to apply for building permission (you can read more about it here) but after having a chat with our builders we decided to change something on the plans. Now, we are only allowed to do this if the building inspector is confident that it will work and luckily we got a yes to go ahead. On the plans, the party wall with the neighbour was a brick wall. We obviously cannot demolish a wall that we share with the neigbour, but rather than building a cavity in brick, we are going to build it in timber so we don't lose too much of the width of the room. Initially, we were going to lose 300 mm, now it's down to 160 mm. I'm pretty happy with that. As long as our builder insulates and damp proofs the wall, there shouldn't be any reasons why this wouldn't work. It also saves the hassle from digging the old foundations next to the party wall which of course our neighbour was thrilled with so great result for everyone so far.

The builders had to leave the new foundations to settle overnight but on day 4 new walls started going up! I literally couldn't believe how quick these guys were. I have seen many houses being extended in our area and I have looked at our builders versus few other ones, and I must say that if your builder is taking too long to do their job they are either lazy or don't know what they are doing. Neither scenario is good let's face it!

On day 5, they continued laying bricks and by the end of it I could see proper structures (where the doors and windows would be) and it all became much more real. For us this is such a big project (biggest renovation we have done in this house to date) but by looking at the speed of things going up I can see that this is really a pretty 'easy' job for the builders (which makes me so much more comfortable).

We still have 3 weeks of building works ahead of us and probably towards the end I will be fed up with it all. It is getting more exciting though as I can really start to imagine what the room will look like. I do hope that all the endless hours googling extension projects, reading magazines and pinning ideas from Pinterest will pay off in the end. I don't want to get my hopes up but so far it's looking good!
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