Homes & Property

04 November 2010 2:00 PM

We've spent thousands of pounds so far... on rubbish

Cement-pouring So having paid a fortune to dig trenches three-metres deep for the party wall and to support the second-floor extension, we have to fill them all over again with a harder substance than mud and sand - bring on the concrete.
You know when you are driving around in London and there is someone blocking the whole road with a great concrete truck or while moving a skip, it's infuriating. Well, as I cursed the traffic I realised I was that person. Pouring 13 cubic metres of cement in London is never going to be easy in terms of road access, but we did it! We have foundations (pictured, right)! Now we can start to build something.
It was a close call last week as building control still had to come to our site before we could pour the cement – it took a lot of my feminine charm and persuasion (advantage of being a lady builder, is it "PC" to say that?) to get them through the door in time – and we had to keep the traffic (sorry SW6) and the cement truck waiting – a cost of £300. Infuriating on all accounts.
Lucinda-standing-in-what-is Husband and I had a budget meeting. I realised that we have spent nearly a third of our budget (he was well aware of this, being an accountant he knows where every penny has gone) – and we have less house than we did before (see image of me in the rear extension that we paid for, left!)

We are not water tight and we are now in the second half of our rental period. Quite frankly, a pretty depressing spend of hard-earned money really. We do, however, have a lot of cement!
What you realise is - and this should never be underestimated - is that digging and preparing land for building work are both expensive businesses. 
We have spent to date approximately £6,000 on rubbish - to get a skip - and to keep it on the road - comes and a price, and we have paid this price in full! Again a pretty depressing spend. 
This week the scaffold will go up – we couldn’t work on the roof and the side return at the same time because we needed to dig the foundations under where the scaffold needs to go for the roof. Time wise, this is far from ideal, because we urgently need to get the house watertight and the roof work done before the winter really starts.  Mainly because buying the boys hot chocolate to keep their spirits up in the cold and wet gets pretty expensive (soft touch, lady builder!).
The deposit is paid for the steel - there is a lot of it - about £10,000-worth to start with on the ground floor.  Can you imagine spending that amount of money on something so eternally ugly that you have do everything in your power to hide it in the house so it looks like its not there?
The question is, when does it get fun? When do we spend the money on the nice bits? That is, if we have any left...

20 September 2010 6:11 PM

Planning permission prompts a reality check

It has been a big couple of weeks, and the house looks worse than ever - mainly because there is not much house. We were, after much negotiation, finally granted planning permission.

Our roof terrace had to go - although our second-floor bathroom did get bigger. The council would only let us have one or the other - second floor extension or a roof terrace. Obviously, I wanted both - I had visions of sitting in the free-standing bath with French doors open, sun streaming in, looking onto my little balcony and relaxing.

The truth is, as with all clients, I had to remember the reality. The house is in England, so we have limited days of sun streaming in, the house is in a terrace in central London, so while I may have to deal with myself undressed, I am not sure the opposite terrace in SW6 really wants to - and I run a building company with a team of thirty workers - relaxing is not really an option much of the time. (Hence the writing of this blog at 5.30am).

I did however get some negotiation on a pair of French doors with a Juliette balcony - frosted glass out of respect for the neighbours!

StairsA blank canvas
The house is stripped in its entirety - down to its very bare bones, waiting for us to start all over again - once we have all the paperwork in place.

We took a decision to start work on our Party Wall award and engage our structural engineer prior to planning permission. It is a risk as you are paying fees, and if you don't get planning this could be wasted.

In our case, the side return and the loft conversion were not so contentious, so we took the decision to do this. The reality being that these two can take as long as the planning stage and the costs of mortgages, rents and time delays means that for us it is worth the punt.

Party Walls
Party Wall Awards are a legal obligation and should not be ignored. It is as protective to us as it is to the neighbour and we would always recommend doing a schedule of condition of the other side of that wall. While we all wish our neighbours were like the Kennedys, some sadly are more like the Mitchells, and you could become their cash train to having a newly-decorated house!

Terry Harriette is the man who lets me sleep at night (my poor husband, there are a lot of men in a lady-builders life). He is also the stuff of my steel-supplier's dreams - always cautious and always accounting for every unforeseen future order - the picture frames and beams that we order are by no means small. However, compromising on the steel that holds your house together is not something I would want, and although it seems expensive and even unnecessary, it is one area that I don't need to worry about.

RoofSoil tests
Terry always likes a Soil Test - I tried to tell him when the costs came through (in the grand scheme of things not very much) that I didn't want one, that's the cost of my taps... again, I revert to my earlier sentence about sleeping at night.

So the SAS are at the house, otherwise known as the Site Analytical Services. We have dug two deep trial holes so we can know how bad or good the soil is that our new steel picture frame is going to sit on.

It's now week two since we got planning permission - we have very little house left, still need final structural plans (because of the change on the roof), have spent over £2,500 on rubbish removal, £5,000 on drawings, fees, and party wall awards...

It's exciting, but its September... will we be in for April...?

11 August 2010 4:57 PM

The beginning: renovating a wreck in SW6

Exterior_300x200 The house is, to say the least, a wreck. It’s a project by any stretch of the imagination. Standing at about 1,200 square foot, we like everyone in London need to add more space (for both living and value).

Being on the up-and-coming side of SW6 (why we like it), and a little too far from the tube, means that a basement is not cost effective. Instead, all the rest is going on - a side return, loft extension, guest cloakrooms under the stairs, an extra shower room – you name it we are going to squeeze it in. As well as re-plumbing, re-plastering, re-wiring and almost a total re-build.

To get this little gem – an unmodernised  wreck - has not been easy. Having exchanged on our house in SW10 in January 2010, we have done it all. Nearly divorced at auction when my hand just kept going up, sealed our bids, raised our bids and we've been outbid (what property crash??).

Interior Then by a twist of fate an agent called me about a property – it’s not where you want, but what you want. The purchaser can’t exchange due to lack of funds (ah! property crash!), and the vendor wants to sell now, so if you’re quick, it’s yours. And so it is...

(Left) We have a long way to go with the interior...

Planning is submitted and we expect to hear back from the council in late August. In the meantime there is lots to be done, the first thing that we need to agree on is the money question.

Budgets – how honest should you be?  My view is always that you need to think of everything. When we quote for clients we try to let them think about the door handles, the taps, the curtains and the carpet.

Rear of the propertyI think that is why the birth of build and design has been so good – instead of having layers of people all spending your money there is only one invoice to be paid each time and therefore a good designer/builder (is that what I call myself?) should be able to juggle all the costs.

(Left) The rear of the property...

Keeping clients in budgets is easy – keeping myself in budget who knows. I am not sure how easy it is going to be...

10 August 2010 4:59 PM

About Lucinda

I run a build and design business in London called LJS Property (, offering a complete service from small property decoration to full scale redevelopment. Building strong relationships with our clients is paramount and they assist in all elements of projects from house searching, budget setting and interiors shopping.

Offering a combined build and design service is very important - it means that all the elements of a project work together. I enjoyed doing up my first flat in 2003 so much that I decided to pursue a career in property, realising there is a hole in market to provide a valuable service. I work across London with a team of 25 full-time builders, a wealth of subcontractors and with a workshop in SE16. Our complete service aims to improve the experience of building work.