Newlywed & renovating: building a rear extension

It started with a bang. No, I’m not talking about the creation of the universe, but our single-storey rear extension. Days after our first wedding anniversary, Marcus, my husband, and I got a call from our builders to say the works were going to start that morning.

We had received the quote just under two months before, after a host of other contractors had nearly crushed our dreams by estimating the cost to be way above – or, in one case, very much under – our budget.

rear extension

How the house looked when we bought it

Over the moon that our rear extension vision was back on the table, we followed this particular quote up by going over what was included, looked at reviews online, and went to see some of the builders’ previous work – something I always recommend to homeowners I meet.

Everything seemed good, so we paid the deposit and waited, as they were just finishing another job nearby. The contract stated they would deal with building regulations – which is separate from planning permission – do all the structural calculations for the steel beam required, and draw up the floor plans.

It also outlined that although planning permission wasn’t needed – due to the extension being covered under permitted development – they would liaise with our local authority.

Marcus and I had been looking for all of this – we were so busy planning the rest of the renovation while also both working full time, so knowing this was covered was reassuring.

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The project was to remove the dining room’s rear exterior wall and extend out by 3m, across the width of the house, to create an open-plan L-shaped kitchen-diner. The existing small and narrow space would be split to create a utility, accessed via the rear extension, and a cloakroom, entered from the old part of the house, to give us a much-needed second bathroom.

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The workers created the utility doorway out of the old kitchen window – we did everything else (including building a plaster wall) to keep costs down.

Before we knew it, builders were at our front door, the extension lines were drawn, a massive truck unloaded tonnes of building materials, and our garden fence was removed so the digger could start on the foundations.

Just as quickly, the first problem arose. Our next-door neighbours – who have been brilliant throughout – have an orangery, protruding by 3m.

Our builders found its foundations weren’t deep enough. To ensure our extension was supported properly – and to keep our neighbours’ house from collapsing – we could only go half as deep as needed for a section of our foundation and instead had to fit a steel beam underground. Good thing I followed my own advice and had a contingency budget.

Within a few weeks, the extension’s shell was complete. Finally getting a real sense of the space felt fantastic. Each day, it felt more like a room with personality – especially when the bi-fold doors and skylight went in. Sadly, things started going a little downhill. Once 85% of the build were complete, the builders had started a new project and were very hard to get hold of.

Rear extesnion

Marcus and I posing outside the extension

As there were quite a few small mistakes that needed to be rectified – such as an upside down air vent and the skylight’s safety screws yet to be installed – this quickly became very frustrating. Thankfully, after phoning them nearly every day, all is sorted and the final payment has been made. Throughout the process, we also realised a lot of things weren’t included in the quote after all.

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Spotlights for the “kitchen/extension”, for example: we thought this meant the whole space. In reality it was only for the new part, so our bill grew as we had to add in more to brighten the room. The quote also included the “installation of an extractor fan” – but when we picked one, they told us fitting it would cost more because joists had to be moved.

Despite some hurdles, we are really pleased with the extension. It is flooded with natural light and the quality of the works is good. However, we’ve learnt to really go through a quote with a fine toothcomb, that a contingency budget really is important, and to just keep on top of everything with your builders.

Now we have two great big buckets of plaster paint to smother over the walls and are eagerly waiting for our flooring and kitchen to be delivered. So watch this space – it’s starting to get very exciting.

Read more Newlywed & Renovating blogs in the series.

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