A Crisis of Confidence

What have I let myself in for?

I am not the kind of person who goes out and builds a house. I haven’t done any voluntary changes or DIY to the house we live in.  I have always shied away from magazines about house and home and the DIY manual that we got for a wedding present from a rela tive has sat unread on the shelf.

I have to admit to replacing the toilet, and reflooring the bathroom. But that was only because our 4 year old picked up the cistern lid while investigating the workings of the toilet flush and dropped it onto the toilet, splitting the bowl.  I haven’t even changed the hall carpet – a wonderful black-watch tartan that I declared unliveable with when we moved in more than 8 years ago.

The only time I have tried something significant it was a full blown disaster.  Retrofitting a system to heat our water via a combination of wood burning stove and solar panels in our city terrace threw up unexpected structural issues, a chimney blocked with rubble and contractors who fitted the wrong water tank. This gave us firstly hot water with a dangerously over-pressured tank and then, latterly, no water pressure at all, not even a drip.  To fix it needed an entirely new hot water tank, and weeks of tinkering and tweaks. The tiny room which bore the brunt of the work stayed a shell for two years, a store room for junk and useful bits of scavenged wood that have moved house with us twice.

In short, I am not the kind of person you would expect to be piling into the proper challenge of building a house.

I have stayed away from ‘Grand Designs’.  The only times I watched, it was usually an unmitigated disaster.  I caught the very end of one where they were debriefing on the whole process of building their house  “…now our divorce has come through…”  I heard them say, and I switched off.  My house is no grand design anyway – it will be straightforward: design it, built it – simple.  How hard can it be?

So now comes the first big challenge of the project.  The costings. The thing is massively overbudget at the first budget cost stage: more than 50% overbudget. and that doesn’t include architect fees, getting water and electricity to the site, and a whole host of other things.  The costs itself deserves a blog all of its own and will put some thought into attempting to explain how it can possibly cost so much…

We now have a number of options to peruse that architect and Quantity Surveyor have worked up: changes to the specification; making the house smaller; and a combination of the two.  Tomorrow we meet with the architect to discuss the way forward so tonight it is decision time.

I have poured two very large glasses of wine, readied the pocket calculator, sharpened the pencil, and now we are going to make some hard decisions.  I’ll get back to you with the outcome.

Photo: looking north to Ben Nevis from Ardsheal penninsular walk from Cuil

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