When you know you don’t know what you know…

Sorry about the headline. But this is what my current Monday to Friday is like. There is clearly a lot I do not know with regard to renovation. I am not completely up to date with building methods. I didn’t know how to build a 4″ concrete wall or how to measure and hang ceiling joists. (I do now!). There is a lot of stuff I do know..(ask me about golf if you have a few hours spare)….but most of what I know seems irrelevant on this job.

And there is plenty of stuff that I didn’t know that I knew. And plenty of stuff that I know that I don’t know. Such as the Party Wall Act 1996 and Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992. Not a lot about the former, quite a bit about the latter.

I think in hindsight it would have been useful if I could have asked for some clarification on these subjects prior to the work starting but given that I didn’t know that I didn’t know much about this topic it’s difficult to know what questions to ask. Are you following?

I am going to give you a run-down of what I have learnt with regard to renovation in case it is useful to you in the future. Access to Neighbouring Land is really about being able to fix stuff that may only be accessible via your neighbours property – drain, tree, roof, wall, etc. This includes putting up scaffolding in order to reach your property. If it’s for renovation/repairs, they (sort of) must give permission once the necessary notice periods have been provided. If it’s for an extension, they don’t have to although most people are sweet enough to allow this sort of thing. Love thy neighbour and all that.

The Party Wall thing is all about working on the actual party wall. The first thing you need to find out is if the wall that backs onto your neighbours property is actually a party wall. Or it may be a boundary wall. Check your deeds, don’t just assume or take your neighbours word for it.

If you have used an architect it’s likely they will advise you if the work you will be doing is pertinent to the Party Wall Act. In short, the work needs to be on the wall itself from foundations or knocking a chimney down connected to the party wall, or changing the shape of the wall itself, etc. If you are not actually working on the wall, then there is no need for a Party Wall Agreement. If there is it can take months to sort so think about it as you are planning your renovation. Your insurers will need to know one way or the other.

So that’s the necessary and boring stuff.

My week is short and sweet from a physical point of view. Two and a half days of digging drains – truly physically demanding and so much harder that I thought it was going to be. It’s how awkward it is that causes the problems. Very narrow and pretty deep. Honestly something I have no wish to do again but alas we have one more effort next week.

The rest of the week includes a day of sandblasting wooden beams, old walls and a fireplace to bring them back to visual perfection (I hope). I am only on site for supervision and have a view from the caravan except at the end of the day when I will help to clear up. Then the next day is the very necessary wood treatment – required before we work on the roof. The beetles (I love you, yeah yeah yeah!) have seriously enjoyed themselves in this property and have probably had free reign for decades. It’s time for them to go and chatting to them sweetly hasn’t worked! The terminators arrive Friday morning.

Again, I am not allowed in the property during this process. I know it’s a necessity if I want the roof to stay where it is but it does seem tough on the little critters.

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” Voltaire.

I will be sitting in my caravan listening to Herb Alpert blow his stuff to ease my guilt.


Not really a builder. Nor a girl in the youthful sense of the word. Bitten by the building bug and keeping a record of the experience. Know a little but learning a lot!

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