Home renovation is stressful. If you are embarking on a major project, there will probably be times when you’ll be surprised at how emotional the whole thing is. Your home is your refuge, and it’s disturbing when it’s treated as just another building site. At times it seems as though there’s no end in sight.
You need to plan to minimise the disruption, and also your chances of suffering a complete nervous collapse.
Choosing your contractor
If possible, hire a main contractor who can be your contact point for the whole project but remember it’s your project, and you call the shots. The contractor may be in charge of slotting different items of work into the schedule, and setting a timetable, but you need to be happy both that it’s realistic and that you can live with it. You can discuss time-tabling when you’re obtaining estimates for the work and get a feeling for which companies are saying anything they think will please you to get the job, and which ones are taking the issues seriously and giving an honest opinion.
When you bought the property, you probably used an estate agent like Countrywide Scotland as a contact point to coordinate the different aspects of the transaction, and you needed to trust them. Your building project needs to be treated similarly.
You need to get several quotes for the work, making a schedule of what you want in as much detail as possible, and asking for itemised estimates with a time-scale.
Don’t choose by price alone. Ask for references and speak to people who have had the company work in their home. Choose a contractor that you feel comfortable talking to, and one that’s a good communicator.
It’s extremely important that you understand what’s going on. Decisions always arise in the course of work, as you won’t anticipate everything ahead of time, and you need to understand your options. You mustn’t feel shy about asking questions until you genuinely understand the issues. Don’t choose someone who makes you feel stupid.
Keeping your belongings safe
Before work starts you need to plan to make as painless as possible. Your home will be a building site, so fragile things, valuables and things of sentimental value need to be put away safely, or placed in storage.
The house will be insecure at times, so documents of identity like passports also need to be secured, as do financial documents like bank statements. Consider having your mail redirected while the work is going on. If the post arrives at a time when the front door is left open to take a delivery, a bank statement could go astray, with serious consequences.
Work out how you and your family will manage during the different phases of the work. How long will you be without a bath? Will you ever be without a toilet? Cooking facilities? Maybe you’ll have to treat it like camping, or maybe you’ll have to move out for a bit, but be prepared.
Children and Pets
Think about the safety of children and pets. Children can get into trouble on a building site. If they’re young, you need to try to confine them to places where the work isn’t going on. Think about how you can do that in advance.
Pets can be a problem too. Nobody likes to put their animal companion into foster care but it may be the kindest thing, just for the duration of the work. It depends on what sort of animal you have. A very passive cat may sleep their way through everything, as long as they have food, a litter tray and a comfortable place to sleep. But for more nervous and high-strung animals, the disruption may be too much for them and there’s a risk that a highly-strung cat will just decide to run away.
Be Understanding but Firm
The contractors have slightly different priorities from yours. They are primarily trying to keep afloat without turning work away. That sometimes means biting off more than they can chew in terms of different jobs. You need to make it clear that realistic time-tabling is essential to you. If things seem to slip, it’s up to you to point it out and to make it clear that you are aren’t happy. It’s in the contractor’s interests to keep you happy, as a bad reputation could be very bad for business. Countrywide Scotland
You will probably have to accept that this project, like most others, won’t be completed exactly on time. But you shouldn’t appear to be complacent about it.
It’s often near the end of the job that the builder seems to slow down. To keep the company going they need to be starting on something else just as they are winding down on your job. So when the job’s getting near to the end, make sure that you have a worthwhile retention in hand, so that the builder has an incentive to get it properly completed.
That should remain in firmly in your hands until the snagging list is finished, and you can heave a sigh of relief.
Allan Griffin has run a property maintenance business for a number of years and is more than happy to share his tips and insights to homeowners online. He is a regular contributor for a number of property and DIY websites.