The secret life of your house

We look at two typical activities and tips on how to help them run smoothly while you are away.

Contrary to popular belief, the summer can be a very busy time for your home. With a little planning, you could easily organize a significant refresh or even more comprehensive works to take place while you are relaxing on the beach. Here are two activities you could consider and some thoughts to help you plan ahead:

Damp proofing:

The summer is the best time for damp proofing. Drying times are considerably reduced (allowing work to be completed by that all important back to school date) and with the family away, work can be done in the more active areas of the house without disruption to family life. Some things to consider:

  1. Professional damp proofing companies rarely take responsibility for stripping out and reinstating fixtures and finishes. Select a principle contractor who will not only produce the quality of reinstatement you need but can also demonstrate a good track record of managing well intentioned but messy damp proofing subcontractors.
  2. Discuss the principle contractor’s phase plan well in advance – and build in some leeway (even if you do so privately). Drying out times can be very unpredictable and the worst thing your contractor can do is to rush the decoration before the walls have had time to dry naturally. Trapped moisture will only lead to further problems.
  3. Removing old render is a very dusty process. Ensure the affected area can be self-contained, sealed off and ideally have its own exterior access. Assume the rooms adjacent to the work will also be exposed to fine dust so it is worth putting dustsheets over soft furnishings and sealing drawers and cupboards.
  4. Check your contractor has allowed for proper protection of finishes – particularly the floors. During the course of the works, a lot of sand is likely to be transported through your home. If this gets trapped under poorly applied protection it may lead to deep and untreatable scratches.


The other activity that people often undertake during the long holiday is decoration. Even eco-paint fumes are not pleasant, so it is common to carry these activities out when the house is unoccupied. Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Security is one the biggest concerns during the summer. People are more inclined to leave windows open or unattended. Discuss how you contractor will deal with security while you are away and ideally have a neighbor or cat sitter check that the house is secure every night.
  2. Put away smaller objects and houseplants before your contractors come on site. There may be a lot of furniture movement during the course of the project and reducing clutter will not only speed up the work but give the team one less thing to worry about.
  3. Furniture will be exposed to paint dust as well as wet paint. Try to protect items stored in cupboards with a spare pillowcase or something you can easily throw into the washing machine after work is complete.
  4. The majority of contractors will respect your home as they would their own but remember that they don’t know it as well as you do. If there is a delicate wallpaper or French polished door that needs to be carefully protected, discuss it in advance. Removing paint on completion is tricky, time consuming and can lead to bad feeling on a job that had otherwise gone smoothly for all involved.