living on site during building works

Tips for living on site during a home extension – My personal experience!


re you considering extending your home or maybe a loft conversion and can’t move out? Here are some home extension tips I have learned after having been there not once but twice! First we converted the loft and the building work started when I was 5 months pregnant with my son and my daughter was 19 months. Yes, a baby and another on the way! We contracted everything so it is not as if I worked on the build myself! But nevertheless we were living or “camping” on site.

If I didn’t have enough, last year we adventured ourselves into building a side return extension that implied changing the whole downstairs’ layout. The kids are a little bit older but we also lived on site during the renovation works!

home renovation works


With property prices soaring and the hated stamp duty, no wonder that home renovation and extensions are more popular than moving home. I found this report on the subject of moving or improving very interesting, you might want to read it too. Renovating or extending a house is not cheap either so many of us (me included!) don’t have any alternative than living on site.

I have decided to share some tips with you about my experience and what to really consider when you are in the situation of having to live on site whilst renovating the house. Here are my tips:

Plan the living space ahead!

I recommend you to make sure you have planned where you are going to eat, sleep, etc. beforehand. When the home renovation or extension starts you know exactly where you are going to spend most of the time and, most importantly, where you are going to sleep!

When we renovated the downstairs of the house last year, we all slept in the loft. We moved up the kids’ beds into my home office and I temporarily set up my office into my bedroom. My daughter’s room became the living/dining room. The fridge and the sink were moved to the box room upstairs which was later going to become the laundry. Some friends lent us their camping stove and that was our set up!

Just think it as camping in your own home. One thing it is sure, the kids were really happy!

Tell your neighbours!

Be nice to the neighbours and let them know beforehand that you are going to carry out building works. I was very lucky with my neighbours as they really didn’t mind but you could fall out with them because of the renovations.

neighbours doors

Photo by Gleren Meneghin

Clear everything out of the area

Make sure you clear everything from the area they are going to work on first. Don’t leave anything that you don’t want to get ruined. I really mean it! In my case, we had to get the sofa, dining table and a few more things into temporary storage as we could’t fit it in the rest of the house. I had to use one of the bathrooms as storage and squeeze everything in wardrobes. Result… the area was empty.

Expect the unexpected!

As with every building work, there can be unexpected turns so be prepared! There will be a few of them even if you are very organised and think that you have everything under control.

Everything can happen, from delays due to material not turning up to more costly things such as having to dig the foundations deeper because of the neighbour’s tree! We certainly didn’t expect having to pay £1000 more to get the foundations deeper. Another thing we didn’t expect was to move everything from my son’s room which we were using as storage because the supporting beams had to go through that room and that meant removing a fitted wardrobe too!

extension foundations unexpected

Avoid the colder months

If I had to choose only one tip it would be to avoid the colder months. You really want the house to be air, cold and rain tight when the colder months approach.

We had both our extensions starting during Spring and they finished in Autumn just before it was starting to get colder. Remember, depending on what you do you won’t have heating for a while! I really wouldn’t recommend it during winter.

Water and Electricity are a must

In my opinion, without water and electricity, you really can’t live on site whilst your home is being renovated. If you really don’t have water for a day or two you can make alternative arrangements as we did and went to a hotel for a few days.

Tell your home insurer

Make sure your builder has insurance. Also tell your home insurer that you are going to be carrying out building works in your home. The last thing you want is for something to happen and end up with the insurance not being valid. So tell them upfront.

home insurance

Photo by Pictures of Money

Safety is key

If you are going to knock though walls, your home is going to be exposed to the elements and most importantly to outsiders! Make sure you have arranged with your builder some security measures beforehand.

In our case, when the builder knocked through the side and back walls, the garden gate was always locked and there was a big wooden panel that prevented intruders coming in.

I really recommend you reading this building security post from Martin, an expert local locksmith in home security who I have used after having renovated my home. If you are in the Barnet, North London or Hertfordshire area I really could’t recommend him enough! His blog posts on home security are excellent too. 🙂

building extension security tips

Dust gets everywhere

Dust, dust and more dust… and everywhere! I am not exaggerating, once the builders knock through the walls you will see and feel dust everywhere. A good thing is that we were sleeping in the loft when we did the extension downstairs and we didn’t have much dust there. The rest of the house had a bit of dust, mainly the stairs and landings. So, every day after the builders had left I was getting the hoover out! Having two small children I didn’t want them to be surrounded by dust.

Don’t invite family and friends

If you love socialising I recommend you to go to them instead. Unless you live in a mansion, forget about having family and friends over as it is tight as it is.

Your social live doesn’t have to suffer but you will have to get out more instead.

Go on Holiday!

This is what we did. When the school broke up we went on holiday to visit the family in Spain and France. The kids stayed abroad the whole 6 weeks so it was really good for them. My husband and I came back a bit earlier as we had to work! When the kids came back from their holiday the building works were nearly finished.

go on holiday when renovating a home

You can oversee the building work if living onsite

The main advantage of “camping” on site whilst having your home renovated is that you can be there to oversee the work. And if, like me, you work from home then you will be there when the electrician wants to know how many lights you want in your living room or where the switches are going to go. You are there and you can answer all their questions!

Remember it’s temporary!

Don’t stress… it is temporary. It will seem like an eternity sometimes, mainly if towards the end of the build you have days without builders coming as they are waiting for something or the other.

Arm yourself with patience and remember that it is TEMPORARY! The end result is going to be amazing and then you will forget about the dust, noise and people coming in and out of the house.

living on site during home extension

Have a back up plan

If it is too much or you need to move out for some reason it is good to have a back up plan. Can you stay for a few days with family or friends? How about staying in a hotel? Have you considered a caravan in your back garden? My garden is too small for a caravan but if you have the space a caravan could work for you!

Have you started your building works yet? Do you have any other tips? I would love to know about them and how your home renovations are progressing whilst living on site! Remember, be patient! The end result is going to be worth it.

Until the next post!

Yol x

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