To Tea or Not to Tea- Advice on Living With the Builders

Living at home when you are having an extension built can be a stressful time. It causes disruptions to many facets of life, from cooking and cleaning, to using WIFI and being able to run a bath. And then there are the builders...

By Larry Bohan on 24 Jul 2019

Building an extension can be one of the most rewarding things to do, but also one of the most challenging. It is no easy thing to carry on your day-to-day lives amongst the rubble, while sharing your home with your new workmen family.

Many choose to live at home during the work to save money and be more directly involved with the project as an overseer of sorts. For some it is the only option.

Getting the best out of your builders is a two-way street. It is important that the whole family feel comfortable around them in order to help the project run smoothly. After all, they could be around all summer

To increase the chances of this happy relationship forming, it is important you pick the right tradesman in the first place. A fair amount of vetting is necessary. Checking the builder's Public Liability Insurance should be a bare minimum.

Ask friends and family for a trusted, professional and, ideally, friendly builder who will clean up after themselves and try to minimise disruption the best they can. If that fails, head online.

Once you've found the right builder, there are a number of other little things you can do to minimise the stresses of living with builders.

Communication is Key


Before any work starts talk with your builder, plan a schedule of works. When are you going to lose water? When are you going to lose heat? Who is responsible for what? You don't want to be guessing these things half way through the project. This will go a long way to creating that healthy builder-client relationship.

Everything should be agreed in writing before works commences, including a payment plan if possible. Changes to contracted work should also be put down in writing.

It is vital you know all of the above so that you can prepare accordingly. If you need to ask their advice on any part of the works, do it. They are the experts after all. Exchange numbers with your builder. If they are late to site, call them. It is best when both parties keep themselves contactable and approachable.

To avoid any treading on toes, remember to set boundaries with your builders from the start. Where can they go around the house and where can they not?

The importance of communication extends to your neighbours too. Make them aware of start/finish dates and times. Update them if the project is going to overrun It is the homeowner's responsbility to keep neighbours informed, not the builders'.

Why not? Make sure you and your partner are singing from the same hymn sheet in regards to what you are telling the builders. Giving out mixed messages can lead to some, let's say, irregular outcomes.

Tea: Room Service or DIY?

There is a fine line between being friendly and being overly chummy with your builder. Making the workmen a cup of tea in the morning is a nice thing to do, but don’t fall into a trap of making them too many and causing them to start slacking. Do this and they might start thinking less about doorknobs and more about hobnobs. 

Keeping them sweet with the odd choccie or biscuit wouldn’t hurt, though. Likewise, complementing their work as they go along. Little gestures like this can make a big difference. It is important to remember your relationship is a professional one, but at the same time it’s more vital you don’t come across as rude or unwelcoming.

Why Not? If you’re comfortable with them doing so, let them make their own teas during the day.

The Battle of Portaloos

The topic of toilet sharing is one that often divides couples. One half prefers if the builder used their own portaloo, while the other half is more relaxed about sharing bathrooms.

Opening up your bathroom to the builders can lead to muddy footprints going up the stairs and unending scrubbing and hoovering. Portaloos are an extra expense for the builder, but the cost is not too unreasonable.

Why Not? Compromise. Offer to pay for the portaloo or part of the cost. Portaloo hire fees for a week are usually around the £23 mark.

Think of the Children... And the Pug

The constant hammering and drilling can be very stressful for your dogs. Unless you are considering putting them in kennels or leaving them with friends or family. It's imperative they are kept well apart from any work. A baby gate would be a smart investment.

With children, it's important that all safety measures are taken when around building works. Builders have sole responsibility for the safety of their work, but establishing strict no-go areas and making sure they pick up their tools and materials once finished should reduce the chances of accidents.

Why not? Let your kids channel their inner builders by giving them a high vis and hard hat when they enter and exit the building. It's safe and they'll love the dressing up.

Five Other Things to Consider

• Don't pay too much up front. If you need to pay a deposit it should not be much more than 20%.

• Pay your builder on time. Fail on this and tensions will inevitably rise.

• Create a makeshift utility room with your toaster, microwave, washing machine etc. The garage perhaps? 

• Is there an alternative access point in the home builders can get in from? This will benefit everybody.

• If your budget allows it, how about hiring a caravan for the garden with heating and cooking facilities.