Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Further demolition - Asbestos Garage removal

A week into it and we're on schedule.

Ceilings all removed, kitchen stripped, rear porch removed. The walls that runs along the lounge that separates the lounge from the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen will be removed once the RSJs have been installed. These we're delivered today and should be installed over the next few days.

Unexpected costs. I know everyone says budget an extra 10% at least as a contingency. I was hoping meticulous planning would mean that I could bring this figure down. 1 week into it and I have had to dip into this.

I wasn't aware of the garage being made of asbestos until I got the survey back from the bank - so the cost for removal wasn't in my original budget. I knew that asbestos had to have specialists to remove it. Unfortunately I had no idea how much this could cost.

My garage not only had asbestos walls but the sides were also made of asbestos- great more expensive to remove.
I received quotes varying £1000-£1200 plus VAT from contractors from around London with an average wait of a week. I was recommended Fred from Countrywide Asbestos removal. He came in just over half of what most London contractors were quoting- although he was coming from Staffordshire and managed to do the work 2 days after contacting him.

I emailed Fred some pictures and he was able to quote me based on that and including disposing of the contents inside the garage which was a large work bench and various pieces of wood.

Fred arrived at 8am and 4 hours later no more garage. It gives a much better idea of how much space we will have to play with .

I am worried that the study maybe a little too small so once the main external walls up I may revisit the size of the study and move the wall by 2ft and eat into the kitchen space a little more.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

So the demolition begins

So the work began today. Below is the wall that separated the existing master bedroom from the lounge. This was was non-load bearing so the builders knocked it straight down. The new wall will be reinstated but will be positioned two feet in the bedroom. Will make the bedroom a little more narrow  but as we're also taking the wall that divides the second bedroom and master bedroom down there will still be plenty of space for a decent size room.

A view from the lounge into the bedroom.

This is directly facing up into the loft. Luckily the loft has very good height so will make a good sized room.

This wall separates the lounge from the kitchen and the bathroom. This will eventually come down to make a larger lounge.

A panoramic of the downstairs. Apologies for the poor photos they were taken on my iPhone.

Saturday, 16 March 2013



For the outside I intend to use LED lights. The bulbs last for much longer than normal lights and cost very little to run as I tend to run these on max and throughout most of the night it was essential to get LED lights.

I will eventually have a driveway way built but this will be after the renovation of the bungalow itself.
I will have Lights by the doors, Pathway lights , drive way wall lights and plant uplighters. Hopefully that should be enough lights to help land a passing plane.

Inside Hallway

Nothing fancy here just standard downlighters.


Will be LED downlighters and LED wall lights.

I have gone with Lutron for the Downstairs living area and Master Bedroom

What does Lutron do? A Lutron Grafik Eye is the brains of the unit. It controls each zone. A zone is a set of lights. You can independently control the brightness of each zone and turn each one on and off. The Grafik Eye can also store 16 scenes. A scene is the specific dimming and turning and off of a particular set of lights. For example you can have a set of Zones come on only when you're eating - the lights above the dining table maybe be bright , with the downlights elsewhere dimming and the plinth lights in the kitchen altogether switching off.  What is a Keypad? A keypad is basically the Lutron Light swtich, the Grafik Eye is a fairly big unit so is usually hidden out of the way and you turn the system on and off by the using the Keypad. The Keypad can turn on 4 scenes at the touch of a button. You can set it so Keypad 1 turns on scene 1-4 and keypad 2 turns on scenes 5-8.

Why did I go with Lutron ? There are alternative out there that brand new are a cheaper option than buying Lutron, for example Rako. Rako is very scarce on the second hand market. With Lutron being around for longer there are more of them second hand on ebay. I managed to buy a Lutron 6 Zone, Grafik Eye , a 3 Zone Grafik Eye and 4 keypads for £370! Brand new I wouldn't have got much change out of £2000 for this.

Lutron offer pretty good support on line and you can download the manuals and wiring schematics from the website :



It's pretty straight forward to install and most competent electricians should be able to install it.

Lounge / Diner/ Kitchen

The lounge will have a Lutron Grafik Eye 3000 . The one I have for the lounge is a 6 zone unit. The GRX 3106. This has 6 individual programable zones and up to 16 scenes can be stored.

I intend to arrange it as below

Zone 1 Downlights in the lounge
Zone 2 Floor lamps in the lounge
Zone 3 Downlights in the Kitchen & Diner
Zone 4 Pendant lights over Kitchen Island
Zone 5 Pendant lights over Dining Table
Zone 6 LED lights under wall units and LED plinth lights

I will install a keypad to the entrance to the lounge and another by the Kitchen.

There will be an additional 2 gang switch by the staircase to turn on the LED lights for the staircase and a Light above the stair case.

Downstairs bedroom and Study

Just bog standard downlights and Wall lights here.

Master Bedroom

Another Lutron Grafik Eye except this will be the GRX 3103. It's the same as downstairs but only a Zone system.

Zone 1 Downlights
Zone 2 Wall lights
Zone 3 Floor Lamp

The bedroom will have additional lamps by the bed but these will be switchable from the lamps themselves rather than being turned on and off from the Lutron Unit. I will have a keypad by the entrance of the room and one by the bed.


Lights on the wall lighting up the decking area. LED decking lights and uplighters lighting up the plants.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Heating & Hot Water System

What is in there now

Currently there is a gas fire in the lounge and the 2 bedrooms and hallway have electric convector heaters. The bathroom and kitchen have electric bar heaters which I haven't seen in decades. All of this is going to be removed.

Heating Options 

Ground Source Heat pump - Very economical , unfortunately very expensive to buy and would require a hot water cylinder which would take up space.

Air Source Heat pump - Economical I currently have one of these. Unfortunately I find the heat very dry. I also find that it doesn't really heat the bones of the building. So it's quick to heat up but also quick to cool down.

I have decided to go with a boring traditional Gas Combi boiler. The reasons being is that the boiler is cheap to buy  and service as they're so common, they take up very little space and the heat is comfortable.

Central Heating is quick to heat up which is what appeals to me.

Underfloor heating or Radiators

I looked into underfloor heating but decided against it. The main reasons being
- It takes longer to heat up
- Less efficient than a radiator

Underfloor heating is excellent at retaining heat but often with both of us being at work having the heat during the day isn't worth it to me.

Bathrooms and Kitchen

The bathrooms will have towel rads, the Kitchen will have a normal rad. To add comfort I will be adding electric underfloor heating to the tiled floors in the bathroom and the kitchen floor.

Unvented Hot water Cylinder

I have decided not to install one. They take up too much space which I don't have and I would rather install a more powerful combi boiler. The newer ones seem to be able to provide enough hot water for two showers providing the water pressure is adequate.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Choosing a builder

Choosing a builder is pretty hard work. You keep hearing about cowboy builders so you want to make sure you get a good job and most importantly you want to make sure you don't get ripped off.

Recommendations - This is the best place to start.   If you know of someone who has had work done by a builder,is happy by their work , better still if you can see the work start there.

Mybuilder.com  Is a great website to source a builder if you haven't any that has been recommended to you. You post a job, builders apply to you to do the job. You shortlist 5 and then they quote you. Builders have feedback on mybuilder.com from jobs they have done before so you have some reassurance of the quality of their work.

I used a mixture of the above.

Before approaching a Builder 

I had plans drawn up.  I was clear in what needed doing and what I would provide. To make it a level playing field I said I would provide the following:

Heating System - Boiler , Rads, Valves etc
All windows
Internal Doors
External Doors
Bi-folds - supply and fit (to ensure the warranty was honoured in case of any problems I opted for supply and fit rather than have something go wrong and the suppliers to blame my builders for fitting)
Light fittings
Plug points ( I want brushed steel)
Roof Lantern
Juliette Balcony and doors
Glass Balustrade for staircase

I've left it for the builders to supply the building materials like bricks, roofing, plasterboard , guttering.

I asked for a complete break down of all work they would be doing and to supply costs per job. This made me see who was more expensive than most.

For example one builder quoted me £5000 to remove a green house and a thin rackety garage. Most others were quoting me £1000.

Another builder insisted on supplying the boiler and rads- it was then I noticed in his quote he had allocated £9000 for this. Where as I had managed to find the same system and rads for £2700.

Be upfront 

Where problems start with builders I think is when the client can start adding things on to a job and expect for it to be included in the build at a later stage. Or the changes can add days to a job and delay the builder on completing the job and moving to a next.

Make a plan and try and stick to it.

I was upfront with all the things I wanted like building out the chimney breast and sound proofing the party wall.

I let the builder know many plug points I would want per room as well as if I was adding spot lights.

Be prepared for wild quotes. 

I approached 17 builders. I didn't want them all to do a site visit and asked them to give me a rough quote from lots of photos , plans and a detailed spec list. All the builders were happy to do this and then from this  I would shortlist 4 or 5. 4 I shortlisted did a site visit before giving me an exact price.

Out of 17 builders 4 didn't get back to me- 2 of which were builders who had done work for close family- so goes to show don't solely rely on recommendations.

The most expensive quote was 160% more than the cheapest quote!

It's not a good idea to go with the cheapest quote. Especially if it is miles under what everyone else is quoting. They could be cutting corners somewhere.

I went with someone who had done an extension for my mum, 2 aunties and has been know to my family for years in the end. He wasn't the most expensive or the cheapest but the fact that he can clearly do the job ( he mainly does extensions and loft conversions) and has previously done work to a high standard for various family members filled me with confidence.

Get a Contract

I had a clear contract drawn up as well as payments made in installments at various stages. This way if the builder walks off at any point I will have enough money to carry on the job.

There is no reason a builder needs 50% of a job cost upfront. If he needs it for materials offer to pay for them direct to the supplier and have them delivered to you.

These are my tips. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Plans - Architect drawings

This is what I want to get to. ( please note 3d sketch up is missing the velux for the bathroom.)

I shortlisted a few Architects but went with Planmore .  Planmore are based in Bedfordshire so London wasn't too far them . Planmore came recommended to me from a family member as well as a friend who has used them to draw up their plans.

I arranged for a site visit with Ali from Planmore. He supplied plans a week later and then submitted them to the council for me  acting as my agent. This saved me grief and means the council with liaise with Ali over any potential issues should they arise. Ali was a pleasure to deal with, make any amendments very quickly. After sending the initial plans over, any amendments were made by sharing his screen and over the phone.

Current Layout

The current layout is as below. As you can see it's tiny. The second bedroom is barely useable, as once you have put in a single bed there is not much space to walk around. The entire bungalow is a little over 600 square feet.

Proposed layout for Downstairs

As you can see we intend to extend all the way along the side which currently houses a garage and along the side. This will add a little over 600 square feet to the existing lay out.

The entrance to the bungalow will now be from the front of the house rather than the side. From the entrance there will be a small hallway . From the hall way you will be able to enter the ground floor bedroom , a small shower room with WC and a study. We will be extending the side by 7ft 9".

We intend to remove the wall separating the two bedroom, thus making one larger bedroom. The wall that separates the bedroom from the lounge will be bought in slightly to the bedroom creating more space in the lounge to house the stairs.

The side extension will create space a study. As this study's wall will be facing the neighbours wall we cannot place a window in the wall as the only view will be a fence, therefore we are putting a velux window here instead.

The study which doubles up as my music room will have built in cupboards and will be 9ft 10" by 7ft 9".

From the hallway you will also now be able to enter the lounge. The lounge will basically be the entire downstairs of the existing bungalow minus the bedrooms. So the current walls separating the bathroom and kitchen will come down.

The chimney breast will house a small gas fire and will have TV on top. The projector screen be in house in a box above all this.

A new extension will be made going out 13ft 2". This will run the entire width of the bungalow which will be 26ft 2".

Along the rear wall will be 6 meter bi- fold doors and a roof lantern of 1.5 X 2.5 meters will sit above the area the dining table will be in.

The kitchen will run along one wall with a large island in the middle. There will be cupboard along the side wall for storage.

The stairs will lead to a loft conversion.

Loft Conversion

The bedroom will be 15ft 10" by 14ft"6".  There be doors leading to a Juliette balcony as well as floor to ceiling windows either side of the doors.

I didn't want to access the bathroom directly from the bedroom. The wife and I start work at different times and having an en-suite where we currently live means we wake each other when we're getting ready for work. By having to access the bathroom from the small landing upstairs means there are two doors in the way, suppressing any noise as opposed to one door.

The bathroom will be 8ft 2" by 11ft. I want to squeeze his and hers sinks in here. There will be a free standing bath as well as standalone shower. The WC will be a wall hung one. I prefer the look of these.

From the bathroom will be small walk in wardrobe. The bathroom and walk in wardrobe will have velux windows.

Front and Side Elevation

Rear and Side Elevation

Kit list, the Audio Visual Gear

I wanted a clean minimalist look with the Audio Video Gear. I've had years of AMPs, 5.1 speakers etc on show , but now want a clean look. Because of this I will be compromising on sound and will be going for ceiling speakers in the lounge, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. One of the bedrooms will double as my music room which will house a dedicated hi-fi.

Kit in the lounge

Denon AVR 3313 

This amp has 2 video zone outs, meaning it can feed Sky in the lounge area to the speakers and TV, as well as feeding a Blu- Ray to a bedroom , and playing the Radio to speakers in the Garden - all at once.

It also has two video outputs for one zone- which means I can plug in my projector and TV to the amp and make do with out a HDMI switch.

I will have the Amp feeding the 5.1 speakers in the lounge and TV and Projector, I will use the 2nd Zone to feed Video to the TV in the bedroom and the 2nd Zone for music to power some Garden speakers. The Amp is also controllable by an iPad or iPhone.

Video Sources

Sky HD Box- this will feed into the AMP
Sony PS3 for both gaming and Blu ray discs
Mac Mini running Plex - I use a Mac running Plex to organise all my movies and TV Shows.
Toshiba HD-E1 - Yes i got suckered into buying one of these before the PS3 when I thought it would win the HD battle. It's still a great machine and does a great job upscaling DVDs so will have this connected too.

Projector Epson TW-3500

TV ,a new Samsung LED will be bought which has Smart Apps built in

2 TB ReadyNas Duo by Netgear
3 TB Apple Time Machine

Both the above will store movies for the Mac and music for the Sonos.

Bedroom/Bathroom/Kitchen and dining area

2 ZP120 Sonos Zone players - Multi room Audio , bought to the masses. The only multi room solution in my opinion.

One player will power 2 speakers in the master bedroom and a speaker in the en-suite and the other speaker in the shower room downstairs.

These will be controlled by two CR-200 controllers, an ipad and iPhone.

One player will power 4 speakers in the kitchen and dining area.

Speakers in Lounge , bedrooms and bathrooms will all be monitor audio. Yet to be determined which exact model.

Master bedroom will also have a Samsung LED 40"6000 Series

Music room

TDL rtl 3 speakers- I have had these for 16 years and still love them
Ariston RD-40 record deck
Linn Kolektor and LK140 amp
Linn Genki CD player
Sony 510 Mini disc deck

The guest bedroom and study will be wired for ceiling speakers but will not be connected to any yet.

All the equipment will be house in a the space under the stairs. With sonos running on it's on Wifi network , this means I do not IR repeaters and such.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

What I plan to do (pics of the bungalow as it is)

The bungalow looks as though it hasn't been touched since 1972. The fuse box is from around 1960, there is a hot water tank, but no boiler.

There is a gas fire in the lounge and the bedrooms have electric wall heaters. I intend to completely rewire  the bungalow .I will have Lutron Lighting in the lounge and master bedroom.

I will remove the electric wall heater and install Gas Central Heating , with a combi boiler for heat and hot water.

My plans are to extend along the side and the rear. The door is currently on the side of the bungalow. By extending the side I will put the entrance door along the front.

This will also create a small hall which will have a shower room which the downstairs bedroom can access . Past the shower room will be a small study. 

I will remove the current walls which divide the lounge from the bathroom and kitchen and open this up completely. An extension along the back and the rest of the side extension will make up the kitchen , lounge diner.

There will be 6 meter bi fold doors and a roof lantern in the rear extension.

There are currently two bedrooms but I will remove the dividing wall and convert that into one large bedroom ( further bedroom will be in the loft).

Stairs for the loft will be accessible from the lounge. The loft will have the master bedroom, en suite and walk in wardrobe. 

There will be a small server under the stairs that will feed audio and video to all the rooms.

So the journey begins

So this is where the journey begins. It's time I moved out of the rabbit hutch flat that served me well in my batchelor days and bought a house.

I live in leafy North London and love the area. It's a close enough to get into the City of London in less than half an hour and far away from all the hustle and bustle too.

At the beginning of the year I popped into a friend's house- he had bought a bungalow and completely refurbished it , putting a bedroom in the loft with master en-suite as well as an extra bedroom downstairs. I was blown away- it was a far cry from the typical OAP style bungalows most are known for.

After living in a flat for 3 years I had grown accustomed to living on one floor so a bungalow really appealed to me.

7 days later I had put in an offer which had been accepted on a bungalow a few doors down.

This was a great project bungalow which looked like it hadn't had anything done to it in the 40 years the owners were in it.

I preferred this as I didn't want to pay a premium for a bungalow in good condition when I intended on ripping everything out.