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Top tips for attic conversion please

(28 Posts)
marilynmonroe Sat 13-Oct-12 16:58:07

hi all,

our attic conversion is about to start in a week or so and would like some top tips from all of you who have had it done. I feel a bit clueless and i am sure the company we are going with are good but there must be things that i have not thought of like extras etc.

What are your top tips for having builders in the house for 8 weeks?
What are your cleaning tips or do you just live with the dust until it's finished?
what extras did you pay for that you have not thought of/budgeted for?

Thanks all!

GobblersKnob Sat 13-Oct-12 17:01:51

Move out.



We had one done when I was about six months pregnant and it was a nighmare, but then maybe you will get lucky and not have builders who smoke in the house and piss out of the bloody windows.

The dust is horrific.

Brace yourself and good luck.

Our was fantastic when it was finished though. Think of it like a really long labour......

Kinora Sat 13-Oct-12 17:07:20

De-clutter your house as much as possible and try to get into the habit of closing internal doors. The dust gets everywhere.

Buy plenty of teabags grin

ISingSoprano Sat 13-Oct-12 17:10:16

Focus on the end result rather than stressing about the dust and the mess. It will be dusty and messy but it will be worth it. Buy big bags of tea bags and sugar and keep a tin of biscuits handy. Be nice to your builders and they will be nice to you!

Dededum Sat 13-Oct-12 17:17:32

Am sitting here in my Amazing loft, just finished two weeks ago....
Our builders were great, though not the cheapest.

Dust, dust, dust and more dust. I sneezed constantly for three months....
The more you tidy up the easier it is to clean, we have wooden floors so could mop down to help keep dust at bay.

Beware, I am not a very house proud person, but found myself accessorising our new bathroom with new towels because our existing towels are not the right colour etc.... Easy to spend unbudgeted money.

Recessed lights are great. We bought an expensive sliding door for our shower, my parents have done a few bathrooms over the years and the cheaper shower doors always break or stick. It cost £500 more than th cheapest but every time I have a shower in my lovely walk in shower I feel like I am in a hotel.

The kids are somewhere downstairs, can here them in th distance, And if I close the door.....

Buy extra sugar fo he builders. We never use it but they cleared us out.

Inertia Sat 13-Oct-12 23:07:59

Put sheets over all your internal doorways to try to reduce dust getting in to other rooms.

Give the builders their own kettle, tea, biscuits etc. is there a bathroom you can set aside for them ? We were redoing the shower room straight after, so just left that one to them and used the bathroom.

viktoria Sun 14-Oct-12 12:31:00

Depends on what sort of house you have - in ours the builders could not work from the outside and then just cause lots of mess when they finally broke through to fit the staircase. we needed an extra bean to go in right at the start which went through the existing staircase. we had only plastic sheeting for a roof for weeks. It was cold and felt wet throughout.

If you have stair carpets, either remove them for the duration, or cover them with the sticky stuff and dust sheets.

if you have to have electric smoke alarms fitted, please be aware that there will be some mess (not much, but it really upset me, as I tried to keep the house as tidy and clean as possible) in every room where it will be fitted (one of the floorboards in my son's room was damaged when it had to be lifted up by the electrician)

the door to our existing bathroom had to be moved to make way for the stairs, in the process one floor tile was broken, we had no spares and couldn't buy the same floor tile. we decided to have the rest of the floor taken up and replaced. when the other tiles were taken up, the tiles from the bath panel were damaged. we had to take all the tiles off the bath panel and have them replaced.

so those were extra costs - as was parking permits for the builders. electrician, plasterer etc.
we also hadn't budgeted to have our hallway re-decorated - needed to be done, it was full of marks at the end.

agree with previous posters - was a nightmare, but was worth it.
remember it's "only" 8 weeks of dust.
good luck

marilynmonroe Sun 14-Oct-12 20:36:13

Thank you all. Good advice there!

So like a long labour I'll just have to breath and pant through it!

ISingSoprano Sun 14-Oct-12 20:49:44

Oh yes, just like a long labour! Keep us posted.

oscarwilde Mon 15-Oct-12 11:58:20

It's worth getting top hinged velux windows rather than ones that are hinged in the middle. Less likely to get bopped in the head when they are open.
Make sure they don't build the internal walls on top of the chipboard flooring -nightmare if you have to have it up to check pipes or whatever. Get them to screw down the chipboard so it doesn't creak.
Get as much insulation up there as you can afford.
If the costs all go wrong, then paint the new stairs.

culturemulcher Mon 15-Oct-12 13:24:27

We finished ours a couple of months ago and it's so, so worth the hassle (and that's from someone who works from home and so couldn't escape the banging all day).

Can you give us a few more details on what you're having done?

I don't know if I'm the least house proud person that ever lived... but I didn't find the dust to be such an issue.

Things we 'over' spent on: £250 for deciding that we'd prefer render and paint on the dormer not 'shiplap' weatherboarding. £200 for fitted shelves. £20 for a better spec. of radiator. £500 mist, undercoat, woodwork and topcoat painting. £20 for safety catches on the windows.

Our builder gave us a fixed price, but I'd put some contingency money aside anyway, just in case. This ended up paying for the overspends above as well as carpet for the new loft room, hall stairs and landings and the other 4 bedrooms of the house... so all in all, I was pleased with the final spend.

I'd make sure you know exactly what finish the builder is going for. You may have beautiful wooden doors in mind - the builder is probably thinking £40 pre-painted, molded chip-board.

I found working with photos really helped. When we were planning the built in cupboards I printed off a couple of pictures from websites and the builder was able to make ones exactly the same. It saved days of 'kind of like this, but more like this' discussions.

I'd also say hold out for what you want. We had an odd 'v' shaped chimney breast in the attic that, for ease, the builder just wanted to plasterboard over. I held out to keep the shape in the room. We were able to build in shelves around it and it looks lovely - so much better than just a boring, modern-box shaped room.

Finally (because I'm on a roll now smile) I'd say beware of project creep.

Because we had carpenters and sparks in the house we found a huge list of odd jobs in the rest of the house. We ended up replacing banisters on the stairs, fixing some woodwork, having a new doors made, having another door shortened, installing two new light fittings in the kitchen and having another fitting moved in the hall. Not part of the original project but all adding up. Along with extra decorating, our 'overspend' came in at £2700.

culturemulcher Mon 15-Oct-12 13:26:41

Oh, and yy to mountains of tea, sugar and biscuits grin.

When the builders, etc, left it was a revelation to not have to make 5 mugs of tea at a time.

Mercedes Mon 15-Oct-12 23:29:11


We hadn't budgeted for;

hall and stair carper being ruined , despite the covering put down

5 months after attic completed deciding the family bathroom had to be re-done (as the new bathroom in attic looked so fab)

redecorating hallway.

But 8 years on we are so glad we did it and like labour have forgotten all the pain.

dabdab Mon 15-Oct-12 23:35:40

Don't do it when you are six months pregnant, and don't let your dh ask you, while you are mid-contraction and set up for a homebirth, if it is okay if the painter can come in the afternoon grin.
Be careful that the builders don't do 80% of the job and then feck off to start other jobs - leaving you hanging with various 'bits' to be finished off. Consider paying them in instalments rather than all at the beginning.

notcitrus Mon 15-Oct-12 23:50:50

Pay in installments. Get in writing what will be done for each installment, not paying on set dates!
Phone the trade orgs they claim to be in and see if they are really registered.
Ditto don't trust them when they say planning permission is sorted and the council is just being slow with the paperwork - that was a nasty shock 2 years later when the council sent an enforcement letter...

Yes this was the reputable local firm who did two other lifts in our street, but builder's partner did a runner with all their money. Luckily only a couple thousand of ours.

Inertia Mon 15-Oct-12 23:55:30

Definitely pay in instalments rather than at the beginning smile

And notcitrus is right, you should be seeing the plans, planning permission etc; the building control officer should be making visits at the appropriate times; make sure that absolutely everything is signed off by the authorities.

Have you got your party wall agreements in place BTW?

marilynmonroe Tue 16-Oct-12 12:59:41

Inertia yes party wall agreements all signed.

Some great points.

We are paying in installments after each bit is completed.

Will ask to look at all the planning permission as not thought of that. We only need a permit as its below 40 cubic meters.

I am expecting to redo hall and get new carpets as they have to get rid of a lowered ceiling.

I've stocked up on tea bags!!!

We have project manager coming round tomorrow before work starts on Monday! So excited!

kensingtonkat Tue 16-Oct-12 15:56:30

I'm looking to buy a house with a converted loft at the moment and we have seen a lot.

You really need to give some thought to the design as it segues from your existing building to the new loft space, and especially to the width of the staircase.

We have seen so many where the staircases, turns and doors are so narrow we'll never be able to get proper sized furniture up there (and goodness knows how the vendors will remove their furniture).

Also it's really heartbreaking to see a beautiful period staircase chopped apart and replaced with modern MDF spindles.

shattereddreams Tue 16-Oct-12 16:29:28

Think about how you will use the room.
We put spots in the eaves wall for bedside reading, an electric socket and tv point half way up a wall for the floating tv bracket and an electric point inside the wardrobe (we put ikea wardrobes in) so all my hair dryer and straighteners are put away but useable.

Print off pictures from places like wickes of things you like, banisters and doors and give them to the builder during discussions.

Go shopping now! It takes such a long time to choose your carpets, lights paint colours, Lino for ensuite etc and that they all complement each other.
I forgot mirrors!
Have things on site and stick huge labels on them, tap for ensuite, radiator main room type stuff.
Whilst builders are good at building, they might not be great at organising and communicating.

Ikea took 5 weeks to deliver. M&S furniture took 7 weeks!
Carpets needed 3 weeks notice.

And downstairs, clearly you will move children about in rooms so do they need decorating, new furniture etc.

Asinine Tue 16-Oct-12 16:40:41

I had doors into the eaves for storage which are fantastic, the whole house benefits as there is somewhere to put stuff which is used less frequently. I had built in wardrobes and shelves made with mdf and painted them white.

The mess was impressive though. They used a chute to chuck stuff down outside and the dust was right to the end of our street.

Agree about top opening veluxes.

Candiicakes Fri 19-Oct-12 08:51:08

If you're just about to start hopefully you've got a handle on whats included in the conversion and what's not. Your builders terms and conditions should make this fairly clear. You'll most likely have a package that provides for a loft converted to a room and shower room up to a plastered finish. You will probably have to decorate and tile, and supply all fixtures and fittings for the shower room. But there's lots to watch out for. For example when our loft was finished the central heating didn't work properly. It turned out that this was because the system had air locks etc and needed draining down. The plumbing came and did it but we had to pay for his time. Have you or your neighbours got satelite dishes.? We had to move these at our cost as the scaffold interfered with the reception. What about new fire doors to the rooms - we had to pay for these as well. Might be a good idea for you to meet your builder to go through the job one more time before starting to get a list from him of what extras could crop up. Best of luck.hope all goes well.

Brugmansia Fri 19-Oct-12 10:36:34

Just joining this thread as we received planning permission for ours yesterday (yay). Hopefully should start asap, but we need to arrange to meet with the builder to go through the details and find out when they can do it.

I'm currently 6 months so it looks very likely we'll be in the middle of the work when I'm due. Any advice on how to cope gratefully appreciated.

Brugmansia Fri 19-Oct-12 10:37:40

Missing word = pregnant after 6 months

WindUpBird Fri 19-Oct-12 10:38:20

I am 2 weeks in to a loft conversion and so far have been surprised at the lack of disruption. All the mess is outside, it is quite noisy but that doesn't really bother me. One thing that has been great is a portaloo for the builders! It was their suggestion and has really made such a difference not having them traipse through the house. I know it wil be messy when they cut through for the stairs, but the end will be in sight by then. Good luck!

aaa064 Fri 19-Oct-12 15:18:22

Here's what I have learnt:

1. If your house is going to be 3 storey after the conversion, you need to be very careful about the layout, mostly on the ground floor, meeting building regs. The problem comes where the escape route from upstairs might be through a flaming living room, and often you'll be told to make a separate corridor for the staircase. DO NOT GO FOR THE OPTION OF A DUMMY WALL around the staircase that will be removed after inspection: it's illegal and will invalidate your insurance. Also you and your family might die in a fire.

2. You can legally get open plan layouts, but if you really want control over that, go to an Approved Inspector instead of your local authority for building control. Particularly in London, but actually anywhere in England and Wales, this can make a big difference in what you can get. For example your local authority might insist on you having a full sprinkler system AND a load of extra fire doors, when there are "lighter" options out there that the Approved Inspectors will pass. I've had particularly good experiences with JHAI and Assure Building Control, both of whom seem to have well thought through but flexible policies. Do not go with NHBC if you can avoid it, as they act like an inflexible large organisation when it comes to building control. And sorry Scotland, NI and Isle of Man, the Approved Inspectors are not for you.

3. Do not start work without sorting out the building control side of things. Once you have started, you are stuck with your local authority - which might be fine, or it might not. Up until three days or so before work starts, you can pick from dozens of approved inspectors or even other local authorities to do your building control work.

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