How to Minimise Disruption

Hugo Tugman, architect and founder of Architect Your Home, has designed and supervised hundreds of home extensions. Here are his tips for minimizing disruption:

Don’t dismiss moving out. While clearly there would be a cost of renting somewhere else, the builders will often be able to complete a project up to 20% quicker if they are able to work unhindered.

Phasing the project can help. I am currently undertaking a client’s project for a side and rear extension on the ground floor as well as a garden outhouse. We are building the outhouse first, so that all the stuff in the existing garage can be moved there, before having the garage demolished for the side extension. Once this is built, we plan to install a temporary kitchen in the new side extension before stripping out the existing kitchen and building the new rear kitchen extension.

If you are having a kitchen extension, it would be likely that you will be unable to use your kitchen effectively for a minimum of three to four weeks, and if the works are very extensive it could be longer. Setting up a sink, kettle, toaster and microwave in another room can allow you to ‘camp’ effectively without the need to move out, but you will need to plan your meals carefully.

One way to minimise the sense of invasion is to create an area for builders to be. You could let the builders set up their kettle and a few chairs in a garage, where they can arrive in the morning and also have their tea breaks.

Another way of protecting your privacy is to make your builders hire a portable toilet so they are not constantly using your bathroom facilities.

If your extension is at the rear of your house, is there any access directly through (via a side passage or rear gate) that the builders can use rather than coming through the house? I recently did a project for a rear kitchen extension where the client completely boarded off the main part of her house so that the builders would have no access inside at all. They arrived via the rear gate, used a portable toilet and the client’s life went on largely unaffected. It simplified the whole experience.

Hugo Tugman’s book Architect Your Home (Collins & Brown, £20) is available from Amazon and all good bookshops

Foundations – Low Impact Alternatives

It almost goes without saying that one of the most disruptive parts of the extension process is the provision of new foundations. The issue can be exacerbated by limited access. While strip or trench-fill foundation systems are still the most cost-effective form of foundation for a home extension, there are other options that significantly reduce disruption to the site.

Mini piled foundations are a good alternative for bad ground conditions — consisting of concrete or steel columns which carry the extension’s weight down onto solid ground. Mini piling has three significant advantages for those looking to reduce mess: there is no spoil produced and therefore nothing to remove from site; it is a dry operation; and mini piling machines tend to be smaller than other diggers, able to fit through doors and reduce disturbance. Visit for more advice.

Breaking Through – Keeping Dust Down

Extensions can be separated from the rest of the house for most of the project, minimising the impact on homeowners trying to get on with their lives. If there is a separate access, noise and mess can be more easily isolated outside. It obviously makes sense for you to leave the inevitable stage at which the extension is opened up to the rest of the house as late as possible in the project — not least for security reasons. It should definitely wait until the new extension is weathertight and fully lockable.

Most builders will break through with a disc cutter. One great way to minimise the amount of dust – not that the builders will like the idea – is to get them to only cut through the majority of the original wall depth, but not all. If they leave the windows in the new extension open, most of the dust will be able to escape externally. That way, when they knock through from the inside, get them to use hand tools to knock the remaining (thin) wall down. The levels of dust getting inside will be massively reduced.

“My DIY Extension”

Chris Gare built his own award-winning extension on a DIY basis. H&R asks him for his tips.

Why did you build your extension yourself, and how did you find it?
If you have never built an extension before, it can initially seem very daunting and it takes a lot of courage to actually start. However, if you plan well, a lot of the concerns will disappear. I think the main reason to build your own is for the experience rather than saving money — though the latter is a very good benefit!

Did the costs meet your expectations?
When I initially calculated the cost of an extension on a sheet of paper, I under-forecasted by over 50%. There were so many little items that I hadn’t thought of. Beginners need to allow a big contingency.

What about getting some expert advice?
If the extension is relatively simple, you do not need to pay an architect. I found that my local Building Control inspector was of great help as he told me what he was looking for as I went on — and gave me quite a few bits of advice.

Any tips for other DIYers?
In my innocence, I thought that building the inner shell of the extension using blocks would be much simpler than laying the outer brick shell. How wrong could I be! Laying blocks was a real torture as they absorbed the water in the mortar so quickly that there was no time to precisely align them before they dried out. I even soaked the blocks without success. With bricks, you can mess around for ages getting each brick just right without any problems — which is just not the case with blocks. If I did it again, I would probably use a contractor to lay the blocks, as they can do it so precisely and fast, or maybe use the heavy concrete blocks that do not absorb water so quickly.

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