In 2014 Fraser Miles Construction designed and built a loft conversion for Guy and Ruth who live in Hangleton, a popular residential area of Hove. Thanks to Guy and Ruth who were happy to write up the story of their experience. Over to them…!
Our loft conversion: the search for space!
We had lived in Hangleton for a few years already and though our house was always a decent size, our family was getting bigger and like many we thought the best thing to do was expand our house! We didn’t want to move and we know from other houses in our street that a loft conversion was a viable option. What’s more, having poked our head up through the loft hatch to chuck odds and ends up there (as we all do, right?!) we knew, or at least thought, that there was a pretty good space just serving as a dumping ground. The time came…it was time to do some research and start the process.
A room of one’s own, and other motivations
Our two boys are great, but like all kids they make their presence felt! Toys spread around, more clothes drying in spare rooms on wet days, increased noise-levels (!) – all these things made us feel like our part of the house was continually shrinking. Our previously adequate bedroom was becoming their territory as much as it was ours. When the realisation dawned that they were actually only going to get bigger (and noisier) the deal was sealed.
Converting our attic: where to begin?!
Like I said, other boxes sticking out of roofs along our street, and Velux windows as fairly regular intervals was our first clue to the fact that we wouldn’t be the first in our neighbourhood to do this.
So this told us it was at least possible. As we dreamed of the extra space and different layouts we could consider, we turned to the frankly daunting task of finding someone professional and trustworthy to do the work for us. This is where things started to get difficult.
Actually we had had other significant work done on our downstairs by another Hove-based building company a couple of years previously and whilst the end result we were happy with, we had felt let down and misled quite frankly during the project delivery by poor communication. This had led to a higher than expected cost and delays. So, communication and trust was really important to us.
We did what you do, we got on Google and started researching and drawing up a short list. We definitely wanted someone local, and beyond that we wanted to get a good feeling about the company we contacted. We had a few leads on companies, stumbled across others and also received a number of mediocre sort-of recommendations from friends. Ignoring the latter we started speaking to the loft-conversion specialist short-list we came up with. It was a mixed bag.
Here’s a list of the typical types of responses and info we got:
- – The “It’ll cost you between about £30-£50k” response from a 2 minute phone call
- – The “we’re too busy, call us next summer, cheers, bye” phone call
- – The non-response to our contact-form through a website
- – The non-response to our emails
- – The non-response to our voicemails
- – The illegible “they-must-be-on-a-building-site-they’ll call-us-back-i-think” phone conversations
- – The quotes (hurrah!)
..and then Mat from Fraser Miles:
- – The visits, friendly chats, discussions, then fully broken down quotations with timescales response
Fraser Miles ticked all the boxes
Mat from Fraser Miles was the only one from four companies who got to ‘second-base’ who really ticked all the boxes and fell into that last category. Mat spoke to us clearly about what our options were and also about the process we needed to undergo first with an architect, applying for a party-wall agreement, and other paperwork. In short, he clarified every question we had and gave us a clear vision of how this thing was going to work. We also felt he was very trustworthy and understood our situation fully.
The quotation we got was competitive, and because it was presented as a full breakdown with a timeline, we knew where our money was going and what would be happening in the build and when. For us, this experience was very different from what the other companies we had contacted were offering. So it was a goer and we were excited as we made progress with the excellent architect that Mat brought to the project, developing plans and agreeing designs.
Outside-in: our first pleasant surprise
Having two Duracel-bunny sons constantly running and climbing round the house, and trying to run the household, and hold down two jobs in the process, we had been partly dreading the chaos of the build itself. So, it was good news to learn that actually no workmen would be coming through the house for the majority of the project. As with most loft extensions, access to the house is gained by scaffolding erected then a hold made in the roof from the outside, from which all access proceeds from that point. This all meant, that – apart from a small group of friendly plumbers, electricians, general workmen, and carpenters, all overseen by our single point of contact, Mat who was the project manager, all of whom we chatted to occasionally in the garden – we were able to get along with life in our house as normal.
Crane! Putting the steels in…
After a while, one morning a rather large crane came to visit. This was very exciting for the boys! (Including me). Swiftly and surely, a very large steel girder was expertly guided into our ever-changing roof space. This was followed by an hour or two of maneuvering and positioning taking all muscle and manpower available. A few sweaty-brows later, and a recovery round of tea and biscuits, the backbone of our new room in the roof was in place. We were getting closer.
A first look at our new loft room
What followed included the break-through from new loft-room to downstairs, followed by a very rapid installation of a staircase to allow us s first look. There had been a few options to consider in our design phase and this is what we opted for:
- – An ensuite bathroom
- – No built in wardrobes apart from a small cupboard
- – A loft space at the sloping roof end
These choices had allowed us to maximise space which was really our number one priority. And it was a great size! We were really happy and surprised at the space that had been created, and the new stairs up even created new light coming down into the main house! Bonus.
Attention to detail
In getting the design just how we wanted it and allowing us to achieve the most from our space with no compromises, Mat had stepped in once or twice with great ideas and solutions.
1 – Our ‘industrial’ sliding door
To reduce the impact on space we’d wanted a sliding door on our bathroom rather than a traditional hinged door. We also had a particular idea about this of course. Ruth had after all spent a lot of time on Pinterest working out the detail of our new oasis of calm and tranquility! I suppose ‘barn-door’ style was what it was called – our vision was of a quite industrial exposed steel oversized sliding mechanism at the top of the door. We looked around suppliers and interior-design shops, and of course B&Q and other DIY shops but kept coming up with nothing that was quite right. Not without spending a lot more money that is. We kept Mat informed of progress, he looked at Ruth’s Pinterest board and then said, “I’ll just make you one”. And he did.
He bought the steel pieces, designed the look of it, worked out the mechanism and how it would stop, and lock, and run smoothly and everything else. It was brilliant and is one of our favourite details in the room. This was typical of Fraser Miles’s approach – they really did go the extra mile. All that cost us was a very small amount for the materials too, a very small fraction of what we would have ended up paying otherwise.
2 – The cabinet under the sink
Our bathroom wasn’t huge and this was how we wanted it so to have more room space. The walk-in shower was more than big enough and overall it was perfect for what we envisaged. We did have to think this through though and the suite we bought for it came into that consideration. We found a sink we really liked. But we didn’t like the design of any of the under-sink cabinets that we could find for it! So we kept looking and researching and looking and researching and were coming up with nothing again. Then Mat again said – “I’ll just make you one”. So he took our brief and with no fuss or delay, soon whipped up a perfectly fitting, simple and elegant under-sink cabinet. Voila!
8 weeks from start to finish
Before long we were having our first night in our new room. It had been delivered on time and on budget,with some great touches and extra effort thrown in to ensure we got what we wanted.
Also, at no point were we made to feel like we were difficult customers. Mat understood that getting the room just the way we wanted it was important, and it was clear that it was important to him that he delivered that, no question. It goes without saying, we would fully recommend Fraser Miles and indeed have done to many friends. We have used them for other work since and will be again soon as we get ready to extend our house out the back into our garden. Those pesky children are still growing!