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Self-Building An Extension? (Builders So Expensive!)


mikthe20

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Advise you not to try self build. Put it this way most builders provide pretty shoddy work even after a lifetime of experience, so there is not much hope for the layman and indeed most houses are riddled with unsatisfactory work by both builders and DIY.

The next house I buy, top of the list will be one that doesn't need work. By extending you are creating work and probable trouble.

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Just built an extension. I would advise getting a builder to do the ground work, put the blocks up and get a roof on it. Ground work is staggeringly expensive, and there is nothing to show for it. Blocks are cheap, and they go up quickly. Roofs aren't cheap, but the opportunity for cocking it up is immense.

Once you have the shell, you can do the rest yourself. Plaster, plumbing, electrics can all be learned. Electrics need to be signed off, but it is not hard. You can fit bathrooms, tile stuff and nail down floorboards. Windows and doors are fiddly, but doable.

Basically get a professional to do the scary stuff.

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I think you need to make two objective assessments. One your practical abilities - might be a good idea to ask third parties prepared to tell you something you may not want to hear. The second is your tenancity to see projects through to completion. If you're someone whose bathroom light switch is broken, you're perfectly capable of fixing it but, you've had a new switch, still in its packaging, sat on a shelf for two years whilst continuing to use a special glove, left on the edge of the bath, to take the bulb in and out in preference to fixing it properly then don't touch a project of any size.

I'm in the DIY trade and do get a bit of a sense of what people get up to and I would say very few DIY efforts nationally produce professional level results in a timely fashion.

That said there's never been more information to make it possible available so I guess it just boils down to being realistic. Genuine enthusiasm for practical projects rather than money saving is probably the motivation that's more likely to make it work.

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Something that size at a guess would cost 10k labour (footer, bricky, plasterer, electrician, gas engineer) and between 5-10k materials (depending on what you use) round my way.

As long as you've got a clear idea on what you want and have some experience (or even just read up on building process) you could manage it yourself and provide some of the labour yourself (plastering, plumbing and first fit Leccy being the easiest to learn IMO)

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Make sure it does not end up like my conservatory. Somebody built it, but I would not call them a "builder".

A couple of Moroccan guys built a house in ten days in a plot near me. Roof and windows included. It was a pleasure to watch them work. They started at 7am and worked non-stop till 7pm except to eat some sandwiches at lunch. Once they'd done the walls they built a small crane and put the pre-built roof trusses on.

One of the walls isn't very straight mind. Not sure the new owners noticed though.

Only fly in the ointment, the house didn't have any road access as it turned out that a 20cm strip of grass between the road and their land belonged to me. Bummer.

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A couple of Moroccan guys built a house in ten days in a plot near me. Roof and windows included. It was a pleasure to watch them work. They started at 7am and worked non-stop till 7pm except to eat some sandwiches at lunch. Once they'd done the walls they built a small crane and put the pre-built roof trusses on.

One of the walls isn't very straight mind. Not sure the new owners noticed though.

Only fly in the ointment, the house didn't have any road access as it turned out that a 20cm strip of grass between the road and their land belonged to me. Bummer.

Sounds like they went for too many courses of bricks at once. I'd be surprised if the owners haven't noticed, I certainly take more notice of faults on my own house and don't even bother scrutinising the neighbours.

At the end of the day builders are constrained for time, they are certainly (by and large) very practical but not exactly artistic which is why you get so much dodgy looking and untidy work. Have you ever known a builder to be able to keep a tidy garden of their own, thought not.

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Sounds like they went for too many courses of bricks at once. I'd be surprised if the owners haven't noticed, I certainly take more notice of faults on my own house and don't even bother scrutinising the neighbours.

I should point out that they house was built of concrete blocks which were rendered. After rendering the "wobble" is harder to see. I never once saw the builders use a plumb or a spirit level.

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Thanks for comments - will definitely not be building myself but am looking for a less extortionate builder with a good reputation. May see if they can come in from outside M25 as seems a lot cheaper there even though not actually that far. Think local builders are used to dealing with the yummy mummies and City types who aren't concerned with the cost, or just think any build no matter how expensive automatically adds double the value to the house :rolleyes:

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I should point out that they house was built of concrete blocks which were rendered. After rendering the "wobble" is harder to see. I never once saw the builders use a plumb or a spirit level.

Is it pyramid shaped?

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Talking of 'wobbles' in walls. There is 5 story house in W14 which has a back extension and is split into flats. Job done in 1972 or 1973, can't remember which but I do remember hodding the bricks.

The brickie was in a hurry and there was no 13 inch damp course to be found when he was starting to build the extension. In those days the buliding regulations in Hammersmith specified 13 inch brickwork up to a caretain distance from the top of the brickwork. As he had no 13 inch he split a roll of 9 inch and laid that so taht it could be seen on both sides by the district surveyor.

Anyway, after the extension was build there was a bit of brickwork to be done at the top of the existing end gable wall. The brickie was not there that Saturday so the ganger decided to do it. Ther was not a lot to be done but it had to be done overhand and the ganger was no brickie. Result, a bulge in the wall.

Now, every time I am in that part of London I make a point of going past there to have a look. Last time I was ther would be abou 5 years ago and the gable end with the bulge had not fallen on anyone at that time.

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Redesign bricks and blocks to the same shape as Lego ones, problem solved (except that I find neat, smooth, precise lines really, really soulless in buildings).

Just build it out of Lego.

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Redesign bricks and blocks to the same shape as Lego ones, problem solved (except that I find neat, smooth, precise lines really, really soulless in buildings).

I always wondered why newer brick buildings looked so soulless compared to older ones. Thought it was the way the bricks weathered, but no, Ive seen older bricks usedon new buildings and they still looked crabp. Then I realised. Before cavity walls they used to lay two 'skins'and no cavity and tie them together with bricks running perpendicular to the skins. These known as bonds. You get various different types, Flemish Bond(most popular), English garden bond, etc etc. Now they just use what is known as stretcher bond. All the bricks lay lengthways. Soulless. I saw a new house built using English garden bond. What a difference it makes IMO. If all the new builds built used a more charecterful brick design I wouldnt be against them so much.

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I always wondered why newer brick buildings looked so soulless compared to older ones. Thought it was the way the bricks weathered, but no, Ive seen older bricks usedon new buildings and they still looked crabp. Then I realised. Before cavity walls they used to lay two 'skins'and no cavity and tie them together with bricks running perpendicular to the skins. These known as bonds. You get various different types, Flemish Bond(most popular), English garden bond, etc etc. Now they just use what is known as stretcher bond. All the bricks lay lengthways. Soulless. I saw a new house built using English garden bond. What a difference it makes IMO. If all the new builds built used a more charecterful brick design I wouldnt be against them so much.

Got a Streetview location for it? FInding anything built in the last hundred years that I wouldn't love to see demolished is rare (but there are exceptions). I'd put it down to the smoother, uniform look of the bricks themselves and fewer touches of detail. I also think that the lack of chimneys on roofs makes a very big difference. It can't just be materials though, even modern stonework (which will almost inevitably be facing) usually looks pretty soulless and very neat and regular, but that may be lack of weathering and old stone buildings might've looked like that once.

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Got a Streetview location for it? FInding anything built in the last hundred years that I wouldn't love to see demolished is rare (but there are exceptions). I'd put it down to the smoother, uniform look of the bricks themselves and fewer touches of detail. I also think that the lack of chimneys on roofs makes a very big difference. It can't just be materials though, even modern stonework (which will almost inevitably be facing) usually looks pretty soulless and very neat and regular, but that may be lack of weathering and old stone buildings might've looked like that once.

We just had the chimneys removed from a 110 year old house, if that makes you feel any better.....

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We just had the chimneys removed from a 110 year old house, if that makes you feel any better.....

I suppose if they're in danger of falling down and repair is impractical it's a lesser evil but roofs without chimneys are very definitely lacking and help contribute towards the dull monotomy that seems to be the goal for Britain.
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Advise you not to try self build. Put it this way most builders provide pretty shoddy work even after a lifetime of experience, so there is not much hope for the layman and indeed most houses are riddled with unsatisfactory work by both builders and DIY.

I think most shoddy work done by long time builders is because they either can't be bothered, they could do a professional job but can get away with not doing so, as most people now have so little experience of getting their hands dirty they don't have the competence to inspect the work they are paying for (for visible shoddiness) and demand it be put right. I think DIY build can be done to a high standard if you have some existing skills and are prepared to learn and put the time into building it properly taking your time.

I've watched the roof for a rear extension being built (single storey 4 x 4metre with a tiled hip roof) and I'd say there's nothing particularly skilled or scientific about doing a small roof like that if you have DIY experience and some woodwork experience/marking out/cutting, and willing to read up on roof construction basics.

I always wondered why newer brick buildings looked so soulless compared to older ones. Thought it was the way the bricks weathered, but no, Ive seen older bricks usedon new buildings and they still looked crabp. Then I realised. Before cavity walls they used to lay two 'skins'and no cavity and tie them together with bricks running perpendicular to the skins. These known as bonds. You get various different types, Flemish Bond(most popular), English garden bond, etc etc. Now they just use what is known as stretcher bond. All the bricks lay lengthways. Soulless. I saw a new house built using English garden bond. What a difference it makes IMO. If all the new builds built used a more charecterful brick design I wouldnt be against them so much.

Agreed, Flemish bond looks nice and is considered to be the strongest bond, but expensive to do. Header bond (seen on old cottages) is interesting when they alternate the colour of bricks, i.e reds and blues, or blues and yellow.

Modern stretcher bond is dull, and the bricks are always the same metric standard size, with miserable grey rounded pointing. The cavity wall method has prevented the interesting bonds from being used, as you would have to have an extra thick two-skin outer wall still do these bonds, or use half bricks on the outer skin to simulate the bond pattern.

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Agreed, Flemish bond looks nice and is considered to be the strongest bond, but expensive to do. Header bond (seen on old cottages) is interesting when they alternate the colour of bricks, i.e reds and blues, or blues and yellow.

Modern stretcher bond is dull, and the bricks are always the same metric standard size, with miserable grey rounded pointing. The cavity wall method has prevented the interesting bonds from being used, as you would have to have an extra thick two-skin outer wall still do these bonds, or use half bricks on the outer skin to simulate the bond pattern.

So you would need more bricks and you would need to pay the brickie a hell of a lot more for his the time and the cutting etc.

You have mentioned something that a lot of the 'self builders' here have missed re: brick sizes.

Bricks are mass produced as a standard size 215 by 65mm on face. With a 10mm joint that gives a nominal 'face size' of 225 by 75mm. This relates to the concrete blockwork 450 by 225mm size perfectly. Even stone is machine cut at 140 or 215mm courses to give a coordinating size with mortar joint of 150mm or 225mm - notice that we are working in units of 75mm all the time.

So mass produced windows and doors and lintels and cills work to these coordinating sizes. Cill heights and head heights are related to 75mm units.

As someone said - it is like lego. So stories of finding reclaimed odd size doors & windows and just building them in are not really practical if you want a neat job with no cutting which might look like a pigs ear. OK for TV but they don't let you know that the money saved would be offset by labour costs.

They did bring out a 190 x 90mm brick (I think) in the 70s to give a truly metric face size of 200 x100mm but brickies struggled with that for some reason and it never caught on.

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So you would need more bricks and you would need to pay the brickie a hell of a lot more for his the time and the cutting etc.

You have mentioned something that a lot of the 'self builders' here have missed re: brick sizes.

Bricks are mass produced as a standard size 215 by 65mm on face. With a 10mm joint that gives a nominal 'face size' of 225 by 75mm. This relates to the concrete blockwork 450 by 225mm size perfectly. Even stone is machine cut at 140 or 215mm courses to give a coordinating size with mortar joint of 150mm or 225mm - notice that we are working in units of 75mm all the time.

So mass produced windows and doors and lintels and cills work to these coordinating sizes. Cill heights and head heights are related to 75mm units.

As someone said - it is like lego. So stories of finding reclaimed odd size doors & windows and just building them in are not really practical if you want a neat job with no cutting which might look like a pigs ear. OK for TV but they don't let you know that the money saved would be offset by labour costs.

They did bring out a 190 x 90mm brick (I think) in the 70s to give a truly metric face size of 200 x100mm but brickies struggled with that for some reason and it never caught on.

That's a wonderful piece of knowledge! Did you know one horsepower is 746 Watts or 550 foot pounds per second?

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