Ever since we bought our house 8 years ago we’ve been thinking of converting our loft. The thought of it has always been bit daunting, I know -we are not talking about a huge extension – but still, the fear of living in a mess was that made us put it off for a bit. In reality a loft conversion should be straight forward and easy, not as bad as other building work, and these days it’s usually completed in 8-10 weeks so the disruption is not that bad. Unluckily for us, our builders were not great – more about that later- so our loft conversion has taken about 14 weeks and it’s still not completed. We still have a couple of snagging bits to be done and then all the decorating.
This was our first time dealing with builders, it has been a learning curve and an experience that will be useful if we ever decide to do any other renovations at home.
I wanted to share with you the lessons we learnt from our loft conversion. Hopefully they will be handy if you are thinking of converting your loft at some point or if you are going through it at the moment.
- Choosing a good builder is key – Yes, I know, it goes without saying but make sure you research and ask around, see what feedback you get. We chose a local builder, popular in our area and with great reviews in our local Facebook group. We were not very happy with them. I think they tried to fit in too many jobs and he just could not cope. It’s a bit of a tricky things with builders, if they are good they get super busy and then they might not be able to deal with so many clients. I’d also be wary of Facebook pages, you see people being recommended but I guess those with negative feedback refrain from commenting for fear of backlash, especially if you live in a small area where everybody knows each other.
- You will go over budget – No matter how much you plan and prepare you will go over budget. Even if you plan for extras there will be some other unexpected ones that will arise at some point in the project. You should really have at least 10% contingency money. Most of the extras we had to pay for were related to building regulations, which were not outlined by the builder during the planning process. A good builder should really advise you of all the extras during the planning process.
- Quick decisions – One day the builders are knocking down walls and the following you will have to decide on how many bedroom sockets and where to put them. Yes, this doesn’t sound like a major decision, but the impact will be long term. How many radiators do you need? Where will be be placed? Do you need 4 wall sockets or 3? No one of these sound life changing, but once they are in place it will be costly to move change them.
- Vision – Your vision is not the same as your builders! Unless you are at home checking on them all the time the builders will do the job in the easiest way for them. Sometimes during our project we felt they lacked common sense and things we thought were straight forward were not done the way we had planned it. Make sure you update them during every step of the process this will be the only way you will get the look you want. We wanted the tiles in our en-suite to be laid out in a particular way, making a nice pattern, so we printed some pictures off the internet and let them behind for the tiler to follow it.
- Price list for extras – This is something a lot of loft conversion builders provide. Unfortunately ours didn’t which meant we never knew how much any extras would be, and if they were a fair price. We were quoted what we thought it was quite a lot for a shower recess, we went along anyway because we didn’t want to regret not having one. If we’d had a price list for extras in advance it would have given us a better idea and we could have budgeted for it from the beginning. Basic fixtures and fittings were included in our quote, they were quite cheap looking. It would have been good to get a price for different options.
- Communication – Before you start the project check how will the builders communicate with you. You might be lucky enough that you might be at home during the project but most likely you won’t be around. Our builders have an app was used for the project. If used correctly, this would be a great idea. We were supposed to receive weekly updates through it but this didn’t happen. We had no updates through this medium for the first 7 or 8 weeks and then even if it was updated once a week it wasn’t always accurate. Communication is really important especially if any problems unexpected issues come up. Our box room wall was moved double what we agreed in our initial discussions and plans. We only found out when we got home one evening. A good project manager should have called us to at least let us know this was going to happen to maybe try and find another solution.
- Contract – Triple check that everything you discussed is included in the contract. If you have discussed any extras, make sure these are also reflected with the agreed price, or confirmation there is no additional charge. Go through a list of all the things that will need to be added or changed and make sure they are included, particularly with features you want replicated in your new loft, i.e – staircase spindles, doors, etc.
- Payment – Do not pay your builder in full until the work has been completed. Make sure you hold some money back until they have corrected all the issues and snags in the build this will give you some leverage to make sure they finish it.
Even though our builder didn’t live up to the expectations I’m pleased with the end result. I could have project managed the build better than he did, but then again he was trying to do too many jobs at the same time and this was the downfall. Would I recommend him.. I guess you know the answer.
When decorating is done, I’ll be sharing some more pictures, of the completed job. Pictures included in this post are of the new ensuite, which is the only room semi-finished.
Have you had your loft converted? Did you have a good experience? Are there any tips you’d like to share?