Why You Need A Contingency On Property Refurbishments

Today has been a bloody nightmare to be quite frank. And it’s a good reminder as to why, when you are doing property refurbishments (no matter how small), you need to have a contingency budget and you need to be able to think on your feet.

So what was the problem? Well it was simple enough. While a flat was empty we decided that we would update the kitchen – which was looking pretty rancid. The flat’s located in a pretty nice part of London which deserves better than the crap we currently have in there.  I would show the photos but I’m too embarrassed – yes that’s how bad it was…

Anyway so I decided to bite the bullet and change the kitchen figuring that I could get an enhanced rental for my capital layout. So like any good developer I use a team of tried and trusted builders…and so I brought them down from Stoke to the Big Smoke. I tried to convince them it was a busman’s holiday – sadly they know me too well and saw through it…anyway enticed by alcohol and money they’ve made the journey.

So here we are in London with my Stokie lads ready to get going…and they work some I’ll tell you – no 5 0 clock finishes for my boys 🙂

So within hours of them being here we’ve ripped out the kitchen and we’re ready to start fitting the new one…or so we thought

But the stop cock located under the kitchen sink had other ideas…

It didn’t work full stop. No amount of wrenching, pulling, gas lamp heat, you name it we tried it – it wouldn’t budge.

And so we’re stuck. Without being able to shut off the water we can’t do anything. We call a plumber we know locally – maybe he can help with the magic of his plumbing expertise. Nope, he’s not interested he reckons the freeze packs won’t hold the mains pressure in our flat 3 storeys up and he’s not willing to try. It’s not worth the potential claim on his insurance he said – or some sort of claptrap such as that.

And so I call the estate management company of the block to request their assistance. I get them there in 2 hours…I won’t tell you what I said – but I can be very persuasive…but sadly not enough

Cue the estate manager at our flat at 19.45 today – who phone’s his boss, who speaks to me…who informs me that what is required is a “block shutdown” to enable us to change our stoptap.

In simple terms – they want to turn off the water to the whole block of flats. That’s fine. It’s a 15 minute job I think. Not so explains the estate manager “You will have to put your request in writing and once we have received that we will then assess your request and respond to you within 5-7 working days. We will inform all owners of the necessary shutdown. Your plumber will need to be on site at the time and day we decide. Oh and by the way there is a cost of £150 for us to enact this procedure”.

Holy shit – I don’t have time to write a letter and then wait 5-7 working days! I have my builders from Stoke waiting to fit the kitchen.

And so a major panic ensues…we get an offer from a cowboy who can turn the water off regardless of the block procedures (oh, but we need to cut the locks to the roof space)…and we have many plumbers who would love to do the job but just don’t have the time. And so money talks. I up the ante. I offer more money to get the job done. It works. The colour of money comes through.

I never budgeted paying over £350 for a new stopcock – but that’s what I’ve done – and that is what contingencies are for 🙂


  1. Sue

    My take on this is somewhat different – IMHO, you have been damned lucky you haven’t had to call on that stopcock before now! Why on earth didn’t you check something like that out when you first took over the flat? It was clearly a ticking timebomb. You could have had mains water flooding through the block, unstopped, for hours or even days…..

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