My Top 5 Tips for Living with the Builders – Part 1 : Before they arrive

You’ve planned your building project, accepted the quotes and the builders are about to start.  But have you sorted out the more “domestic” side of coping with the disruption once the work starts?  I’ve lived through several renovations and built a new house from scratch, so here are my top five tips for preparing for their arrival.

1   Work out where they are going to park.  Even on a kitchen refit, you can soon have two vans from the kitchen company, the electrician will have a van, and the plumber and the plasterer too – and that’s before the lorry from the builders merchant turns up with a delivery…..

It’s all very well telling the guys that’s it’s their problem, but if they have to park 1/4 mile away, they’ll waste a lot of time going back and forth (which will cost you more in the long run). If you can move your own car to make some space, or temporarily “reserve” the parking spot right outside your house, then it will all help.

Explain what’s going on to the neighbours and if you know the lady at No 24 absolutely hates anyone parking near her drive, then tell the builders that too. As the homeowner, you need to be the Master of Diplomacy to make life easier and happier all round – you need happy builders so they do a good job and you need happy neighbours as you’ll be living next to them!

2   Estimate how much dust and mess will be caused by the work, and then double it!  I strongly recommend clients box up as much as they possibly can.  You can live without a huge percentage of the things in your house, like ornaments, books, vases etc while the work is going on.  It’s so much easier to clean empty shelves, cupboards and surfaces after the work is finished, then unpack all your clean ornaments and books back onto them – much less effort than having to dust every single one!

Materials delivered to site have to be stored somewhere safely

3   In the weeks leading up to the work starting, hoard anything that can be used as a dustsheet or floor protection.  Old curtains, leftover bits of carpet, even large sheets of cardboard and polythene, all can prove handy, either to protect existing surfaces, or new finishes.

At this stage, the new wood floor has been laid, but needs to be protected whilst the work is finished

4   Work out where the materials for the job are going to be stored.  If you’re having a new bathroom fitted, then the new bath, shower screen, tray, loo and basin should all be delivered to site a few days (at least) before they are required.  But unless you have a vast bathroom, they can’t be stored in the room whilst the tiler is trying to tile and the plumber is installing new pipework.  Where are you going to put them, where they won’t get damaged or be in the way?  They’ll all come in big boxes making them even bigger than when they’re installed!  Think through all the large materials that are going to need storing for your particular project.

5   Have your old dustpan and brush, hosepipe and maybe even hoover ready for them to use.  You may well be thinking at this point that the builders should bring their own and in the ideal world, they would.  But take it from me, these are the things they are most likely to ask if they can borrow (or else they just help themselves to), because they forgot theirs/it got broken/left on the last job.  Your smart Miele vacuum cleaner and the pure bristle brush you lovingly bought from Labour & Wait will not appreciate being clogged with wet plaster.  Provide old/cheap versions and don’t stress that they should have supplied their own.  At the same time, find a big bin for their empty drinks cans, newspapers and takeaway coffee cups and sandwich wrappers.  This is not the moment to get too precious about recycling – it’s an achievement if they put the rubbish in one bin – don’t get picky and expect them to sort it into 3 different bins……..!

NEXT TIME – my top 5 tips for living with the builders once work starts

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