We'd never had building work done before, being DIY champs, so we had no idea what to expect. To assist others about to embark upon the same journey, I've prepared a handy FAQ covering all the essentials of the experience.
1. You will finally figure out the lyrics to Rianna 'Work' after hearing it a mere 1572 times a week blasting from the builder radio.
FALSE. It doesn't matter how many times I've listened to that song, all I hear is work work work work work and the rest doesn't make any sense. You will also become deeply familiar with Sia 'Cheap Thrills', Lukas Graham '7 Years' and Justin Bieber 'Sorry', which does not improve upon multiple hearings.
2. Oh no, they won't damage that part of the garden.
FALSE. The entire garden will be destroyed, front and back. When we were planning the work, Tom the builder asked if there was anything in the front garden I wanted to keep. The cherry tree, I said. It was a wedding anniversary present. Tom scratched his head and said he thought they should be able to manage that. I thought he was being sarcastic - how could the cherry tree, set well away from the main driveway and entry path, possibly get damaged? When I saw the chipboard barrier that Tom built around it, I thought it seemed overkill but I appreciated his efforts. Then the skip arrived and nearly crushed the cherry tree with one fell blow, the driveway seemingly became a second storage facility for Bentley's the building merchant, and several lorry loads of rubble were literally upended from the truck onto the driveway itself. Not in sacks - just poured onto the driveway like a river. We even had a truck take a great chunk out of the path by driving across it accidentally cos the driver didn't quite get the right angle. Basically the entire driveway becomes fair game for the builders, so don't bother doing anything to your front garden if you anticipate getting building work done at any stage in the future.
3. Oh, they'll be able to dig around the wisteria so we should be able to keep it.
FALSE. The wisteria will fall prey to the jaws of the digger on day one. Yes, possibly they could dig around it but careful building work costs more money as it takes longer.
4. They will have lots of other jobs on at the same time and will keep disappearing for days on end.
FALSE. If you have top-notch builders like ours, they'll crack on and get the job done, including all the snagging. No random disappearances to repeatedly attend the funerals of departed relatives here, thanks very much. Top tip - start your project in January. The previous project will have been 'done in time for Christmas' and with any luck you'll get a team of well-rested builders who have finished their last project, had a nice rest over Christmas, and are raring to go. I will add at this point that when you do major building work you are effectively inviting a group of strange men to move in with you (they are inevitably men unless you hire my lovely friend Sian) so it would be wise to choose builders you like on a personal level, as well as ones you can trust not to accidentally knock your house down.
5. The dust will get everywhere.
TRUE. Yes, yes it will. The builders did a brilliant job of controlling it as best they could, building giant floor to ceiling chipboard partitions with filler round the edges across all the openings, and rushing round with a vacuum cleaner when a brick accidentally came loose and a load of dust came through, but we still found a delicate layer of dust in our wardrobes. Having said that, this could well be because there is literally no point doing any housework while you have the builders in as it would be akin to applying lipstick to a pig, so quite feasibly the dust-in-wardrobe scenario was caused by our slatternly ways rather than the building work itself.
6. If you knock through from one room to the other you need to clear both rooms.
FALSE. We knocked through to the living room and I assumed we'd need to move all the furniture out so the bricks could fly. What actually happened is the builders screwed a 2x2 wooden frame on the living room wall a couple of inches wider and taller than the size of the planned opening, and then screwed a piece of chipboard to the frame and filled around the edges. They then carefully dismantled the wall from the other side (where the main building site was).
7. You will have a hole in your house for several weeks.
TRUE. You almost certainly will. I'd fondly imagined that the entire new structure would be built and made watertight before the connecting wall was knocked through, and maybe that's how it would work for a different project, but with ours, the order went something like this: foundations, new walls, support old building, remove walls and windows from old building, *aagh huge hole in back of house*, insert steels, build new roof, install bifolds, windows and roof lantern and finally *aah nice and cosy again*.
8. You will have a stream of people turning up at your door from morning until night.
TRUE. Between contractors arriving on site, deliveries from the local builder's merchant being dumped on your driveway, scaffolders turning up at 7am ("oh sorry love, is it too early for you?") and even Amazon deliveries arriving for the builders (fair enough, I get ASOS parcels delivered to my workplace so why not) that doorbell rang constantly, much to the utter delight of our Jack Russells. Additionally, all contractors, builders and delivery people will become very accustomed to seeing you in your pyjamas.
9. You will need to hand over the keys to your house.
FALSE. This can be avoided by having a baby the day the builders arrive, therefore necessitating someone being on the premises at all times with said baby. Alternatively, just get some keys cut. You know, whatever's easier.
10. It will all be worth it in the end.
TRUE. Full stop.
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