With the living room finished it was time to get the builders in to start on the first major building work – the utility room. I thought we were ready for this but, having not encountered such a big project before, I don’t think I fully understood the impact this would have on our daily lives, especially as the build was happening right next to the only bathroom in the house!
I had to keep reminding myself that this was a temporary measure and soon the days of washing piled next to the machine on the kitchen floor would be gone and, most importantly, we would be able to install a dishwasher in the kitchen.
We would add this extra space at the front of the house where the entrance hall currently was. This would mean the front door would need to stay (because of the listed grade of the property) but would be blocked up from the inside and access would be gained to the house around the side. We would then shave a bit off the hallway to create a good-sized utility space at the front of the house. This made perfect sense as the area at the front of the property was not used for anything except the storage of bins.
The building work for the new utility began with the digging of the footings, this didn’t really impact on us too much, we just used the back door rather than the front door. It was actually quite fun for the children to pop round and see how the builders were getting on, we had planks to walk along to get to the front door – I’m not sure the postman found this as amusing as we did.
At this point our building control officer came for a visit. After the go-ahead from her, the builders began breeze blocking the shell. We sourced bricks to match the original ones at the front of the house and although, to begin with they looked a slightly different colour, with a bit of time they have discoloured to match the older part of the house.
After a few weeks the builders were ready to knock the wall down and join these two sections together before adding the roof. They also knocked through a hole for the new front (well, side) door and the original door was to be shuffled forwards and blocked up from the inside.
This all happened over a few days and, although exciting, it was particularly stressful because we had to walk through the building site to get to the bathroom – interesting to say the least when bathing two toddlers in the evening.
Next the internal wall was built giving us a clear entrance hall (albeit smaller than the enormous one we had before) and a utility room. Things had started to get a little strange at this point and our builder would rarely show up to the house, we soon discovered that his father was very ill, so it was a difficult time for him.
Thankfully his labourer was more than capable of completing this part of the build. It did take time though; we would often be left for over a week with nothing happening and still dust everywhere and a building site to contend with every time we went to the bathroom.
The plastering and plumbing were eventually finished, and we ended up striking up a good working relationship with the plumber – we planned to use him for the bathroom.
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Over the next few weeks the building work for the new utility room continued at a slower rate – the floor was concreted, and the new window was installed – we went for the same wooden window with monkey tail handle that we had opted for in the living room and main bedroom. As the roof tiles went on (original to match the rest of the house) the space started to take shape.
The relationship with our builder deteriorated and it became obvious that he had too much on his plate, with numerous other projects to manage in neighbouring villages and his father to look after. After weeks of chasing him to get the other bits finished – internal doors, window sealing, making good the patio around the build and various other bits – we decided to pay him what we owed and move on without him.
It was a really difficult decision because we were relying on him for the next part of the build, but I felt that I needed to work with someone who could communicate effectively with me.
Building the utility room has been the hardest part of our renovation to date and looking around at the space we knew we would need to work hard to get the room we had imagined and with us both working and two young children, this was not going to be an easy feat.
We decided we would need to step away from our plans for the rest of the build temporarily and focus on one thing at a time. First on this list was creating a working utility room and finding a tiler.
Read more First Time Renovator blogs in the series.