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What to do when the builders can't get in

“Can the workmen actually get to my house?” might seem like a slightly odd question to be asking yourself before you start building an extension. But it is something you need to think about – preferably at the design stage, as it could actually limit the work you are able to have done. It may also affect the cost of the work if a lack of access means it's more time consuming or labour intensive. Yet it's something homeowners often overlook.

Building work involves some pretty large machines, so you’ll need to think about how lorries and diggers will get to your home and where the workmen will be able to park, unload bulky equipment, put waste materials (for example, from digging the foundations), and store their tools. It's a good idea to discuss this with your builders or architect before work starts – for example, a concrete pump is one option for digging foundations if access is difficult.

If you're building an extension at the back of the house, the workers need to be able to get into your back garden, and in terraced houses this can be difficult, although some terraces have an alleyway at the back. One option might be to ask your neighbours if you can temporarily remove some fence panels, or use their land for storage during the work. Another option is to use a crane to lift materials over the roof, though this can be expensive and in some cases you would need to get the council to allow you to close the road.

If all else fails and the builders have to come through the house, then pack up whatever you can on the route they'll be using – it’ll be much easier to clean up afterwards. Move furniture out of the way, or at least remove things like ornaments and books, which you won't then have to dust, and anything breakable. Cover everything with dust sheets, and protect your floor with polythene or old bits of carpet.

If you want your builders to have access to a neighbour's property, for example to point a wall, or you want to put up scaffolding on their property, you'll need their permission. Choose a scaffolder who is a member of the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation trade body – this will mean they have public liability insurance in case either your property or your neighbour's property is damaged. This is a must in itself, but should also go some way to reassuring your neighbours if they are not happy.

Architects Bluelime Home Design have been working on extensions and home renovations across south London and Kent for 13 years, and have offices in DartfordBromleyErithBexley and Croydon. Call us on 01322 517632 to chat about the architectural services we offer or to arrange a free architect consultation.

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